Monday, May 30, 2011

Review: "Kiss of Snow" by Nalini Singh

Kiss of Snow (Psy-Changeling, #10)Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First off, let me say that I'm completely biased when it comes to Hawke, so don't expect this to be a sensible and impartial "review". ;)


Hawke alone deserves 5 stars, and I'll just be honest and say that I'd love this book even if the plot was utter crap - which it isn't, of course.

I became obsessed feel in love with Hawke the moment I met him in Slave to Sensation, the first book in the series:

Hawke was muscular and he was lethal. A predator to the core. His eyes were the same icy blue whether he was in wolf or human form, his hair a thick silver-gold that had nothing to do with age. It echoed his pelt. Of all the changelings Lucas knew, it was Hawke who resembled his beast the most in humanity.


Lucas, the hero in that book, was yummylicious on his own way, no question about it, but it was Hawke who grabbed my heart then. I'd been anxiously waiting to read his book ever since, but I knew it would take some time before he was ready...

Sascha took a breath and let her eyes flutter shut. (...) The wolf's emotions struck cold terror into her heart. She'd never felt such pure, unadulterated rage. Dark and violent, it was a scar across his soul. Hawke could function, could rule, but this man would never love, not so long as he was blinded by the red veil of blood and death.

Cold, dangerous, ruthless, tortured... Is it any wonder I fell hard and fast for him? *sighs*

Sienna was introduced in that book too and I immediately sensed she would become a major player in the series, even though she only had a few lines. I didn't see any sexual spark between Hawke and her - thank the gods, because she was only seventeen back then - but it was clear that he let her get away with more than he normally would.


The tension between them became more evident in Visions of Heat, the following book in the series, and I began to wonder what Ms. Singh had in store for them. Hawke's description of Sienna was almost like a declaration of love:

"Sienna's so damn much trouble, I'm starting to think the brat's a she-wolf in bloody disguise."

Aww, comparing her to a she-wolf... High compliment coming from a wolf, don't you think? ;)

The tension escalated in Caressed By Ice and I had no more doubts about their pairing.

Sienna could make Hawke lose his cool faster than any other man or woman in the den. (...) Hawke's face darkened. "Keep that damn brat away from me — she's more trouble than a pack of rabid cats."

Yup, it was true love, LOL.

Naturally, Ms. Singh had to throw another major obstacle in their way...

"Can I ask you something?"
Hawke rubbed a hand over Brenna's back. "Go on."
"Why haven’t you taken a mate?"
Hawke didn't respond for a long time. "She was two years old when we met. I was seven. I knew she was my best friend straight away. As I got older, I also knew she would grow up to become my mate."
Brenna didn't want him to continue, a horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"She fit me in a way no one else ever will. And she died when she was five and I was ten."
A single tear rolled down her face. She wished anything that she could turn back time and save that life, because mating was a one-shot deal. Hawke had found the woman who was meant for him. That didn't happen twice.

No, no, no! What kind of future Hawke and Sienna could have if she was never to be his mate, the one and only woman in the world meant for him? Oh, the pain!

Ms. Singh, who must be a sadist (I say that with love, LOL), did nothing to soothe my poor nerves in Mine to Possess, as neither Hawke nor Sienna made a single appearance in that book. Big bummer!

Fortunately, Hawke and I didn't have to stay apart for long, as he was back on the scene in Hostage to Pleasure. Sienna was still MIA, but one particular dialogue between Lucas and Sacha made me perk up and smile like a ninny:

"That damn wolf. He sent you a present last week."
Sascha smiled at the thought of Hawke's flirting. The SnowDancer alpha did it only to jerk Lucas' chain. "I never saw any present. What was it?"
"How the hell should I know? I stomped on it and threw it into the deepest crevice I could find." Lucas smirked. "Then I called him to ask how Sienna was doing."
She burst out laughing. "Wicked, wicked man." Everyone knew Sienna Lauren was the short fuse on Hawke's temper. The Psy teenager appeared to have made it her mission in life to get on his last nerve. "What did he say?"
"That she's planning a party for her eighteenth birthday." The laughter in Lucas's tone told her exactly what Hawke had sounded like as he shared that tidbit.

Woohoo! Sienna was turning eighteen and Hawke wouldn't be able to hold her at arm's length anymore. But what about the darn mating bond they could never share? Oh, the agony!

As expected, a eighteen-year-old Sienna proved to be dangerous - but not only to Hawke. A Cardinal Psy with undisclosed powerful abilities, her conditioning and shields were crumbling, putting everything and everyone around her in danger.

"I'm the horror in the closet, Sascha, the nightmare even Psy hide from."
"Your uncle has extremely powerful abilities — he's learned to control them. So will you."
"I’m not like Uncle Judd. I'm worse. You know it and so do I. One slip and boom, I take out the entire den."
Sascha held the girl closer, disbelieving. Cardinal Psy with furious combat abilities were beyond deadly. Sienna could possibly take out the SnowDancer den if she lost her grip on her powers. "You've been trying to manage it?"
"I shut up everything inside. Everything. I thought if I could hold it, just hold it, it would be fine. But it's not."
"Why?" she asked. "Why are you losing control this badly?"
The answer, when it came, broke Sascha's heart.
"Hawke." It was an almost soundless whisper.

So, another obstacle was thrown on Hawke and Sienna's way... As a Psy with a strong and virulent ability, she couldn't exist without Silence. But she couldn't hold on her conditioning and be around Hawke at the same time either. Darn! Wasn't the impossibility of a mating bond between Hawke and Sienna bad enough? *pouts*

To my dismay, Branded by Fire ended with Hawke and Sienna apart. It looked like their story was over, especially after she started hanging around with a gorgeous, loyal, charming DarkRiver cat. Hmmm...

Once again, the sadist in Ms. Singh kept me on the verge of a breakdown when neither Hawke nor Sienna made an appearance in the following book, Blaze of Memory. They weren't even mentioned! That was cruel! I needed to know if they were really over, if Sienna had found a new lover, and if Hawke was free to be mine. Mine!

Bonds of Justice seemed to cement their separation. They were still MIA, but at least they were mentioned:

"Kit would be the better choice for Sienna," Lucas said in a quiet tone that did nothing to hide the depth of his concern for everyone involved. "Hawke isn't going to be easy on any woman he takes as his own. And the fact is, he lost the girl who would've been his mate as a child. I don't know if his wolf will allow him to accept another female on that level."

As much as I wanted Hawke to be mine, I can't say I was happy with that. Despite all the obstacles, I still wanted Hawke and Sienna together, but I began to wonder if Ms. Singh was laying the ground to introduce a plot twist - like, Hawke's mate's unexpected "resurrection"... :-/

Silly, silly me! Play of Passion put things back in place again. Hawke and Sienna were definitely meant to be together, yay! The stubborn man was still trying to fight the unwavering pull, but his wolf was tired of waiting and ready to claim what he saw as his:

(...) he surrendered to the wild hunger within and headed out for a run in wolf form.
He'd barely cleared the doorway when he caught a scent that instantly ruffled his fur the wrong way. She smelled like autumn fire and some rich, exotic spice. Far too potent a scent for someone so young, someone from whom he should keep his distance. Instead, he drew the spice-laced air into his lungs and ran at a ground-devouring lope that brought him to a small rise from where he could watch his prey.
He should step back, should move in the opposite direction.
He should.
He turned and angled down through the trees until he appeared on the path beside her instead. Jerking back in surprise, Sienna stared at him with wide eyes. When he did nothing but wait for her, she continued on the trail, shooting him small looks filled with suspicion until it became clear he was intent only on keeping her company.
Then her stride relaxed, and they walked.
In silence.

Sweet!!! Call me crazy, but I can't resist a stalking hero, LOL. And as soon as I finished reading Play of Passion, I started counting the days until the release of my beloved Hawke's book. Oh, the anticipation! Four and a half years, that's how long I had to wait for it. What if it didn't fulfill my sky-high expectations? I'd die! (I'm such a drama queen, LOL.)

Then, to my surprise and utter joy, I was able to get an early copy of this coveted gem, Kiss of Snow. Finally! I'd finally get the answers to the questions that had been plaguing me... Would Hawke be able to claim Sienna as his mate or would they have to settle for a "regular" relationship? ... What would happen when she was no longer able to keep her destructive Psy abilities under control? ... How would the Psy Council's dissolution affect the world? ... Would there be anything left after the Pure Psy unleashed their massive attack on the changeling packs? ... Did the book answer all those questions? Well, you know I can't won't tell you. ;) But I'll let you know this: the series is definitely not over and I can't wait to see what will happen next.

As with almost all the books in this series, there isn't much I can say here about the continuing story arc that started in Slave to Sensation without giving away spoilers, so I'll keep this short. Unlike some of the previous books, Kiss of Snow showed that the Psy weren't as "weak" as the Changelings (and I) had thought. By "weak", I mean that as much as the Psy had been presented as ruthless and deadly before, I'd never fully felt a real threat to the Changelings. That changed in this book, as it was shown that the Psy could take down the Changelings. Plotwise, Kiss of Snow marks the end of the original story arc of the series. I'm sure all the major players we've met over the years will still be around in the next books, but the series' main focus is likely to change after the latest developments in the Psy-Changeling war.

Considering Hawke and Sienna's history, Kiss of Snow is filled with sexual tension. They had been dancing around each other for a long time, and it was time to set things right. Hawke, the man and the wolf, had reached the breaking point. He still tried to convince himself to let Sienna go, thinking she deserved better than a man who couldn't give her the mating bond, but the thought of seeing her with another man was enough to drive him insane. He couldn't let her go, not after he claimed skin privileges...

"You want to dance?" Husky words that stroked along her skin like the softest fur.
She nodded.
"Then we dance." Reaching out, he switched on the vehicle's sound system and input a selection before stepping out.
Her door opened as a slow, smoky ballad began to play. "Come."
Not sure this wasn't all a dream, she placed her hand in his and, fighting the wild rush of sensation engentlered by his touch and his scent, allowed him to tug her around to the front of the vehicle. "Arms around my neck."
The command released her voice. "I thought you weren't being alpha here."
"I'm not." Oh.
As she raised her arms, she realized her boots gave her enough height to cup his nape with one hand, while she placed the other on the muscled warmth of his shoulder. When he shifted position so that his jaw rubbed against her temple, her heart began to thud fast as a jackhammer.
Teeth nipped at her ear.
She jumped.
"Pay attention." A rumbling growl.
"Sienna." A deep murmur against her skin, his lips brushing her temple. "This can't be. You know that."
"No," she said. "Not tonight." She wanted to dance with him, be a woman in the arms of a man who made every part of her awaken in a hunger she'd never expected to feel and who, for this magical moment, was hers.
His jaw, heavy with stubble, rubbed against her temple again as he shifted his hold to press her closer. Then, as the music played, as the night grew softer and quieter, they danced.


Oh Hawke, you romantic beast! Call me "baby", chase me, bite me, mark me... You've ruined me for other men!

As for Sienna, her maturity came as no surprise to me. She was "only" nineteen, but she was no teenager. Sure, she had a couple of hissy fits that could be labeled teen-ish, but she was mostly old beyond her years, due to the life she'd had before her defection from the PsyNet. So the age issue - Hawke was thirty-four - was never a problem to me. She was strong, level-headed, unafraid to go after what she wanted - and willing to cut loose if that was proven to be out of her reach. She was done hanging around Hawke and waiting for him, so he either claimed her or stopped acting possessive about her. Good for her! If only she had more time before her deadly Psy ability took over...

Sienna unleashed:


Now, I have to say that I could have done with a little less sexual tension. Hawke and Sienna were on the verge of going for the ultimate skin privilege only to be interrupted so many freaking times, I was pulling my hair in frustation when they finally managed to go through with it. Halfway through the book, I began to worry about his health. Thankfully, dying from blue balls is only a myth, or he'd have perished on the spot. ;)

Besides the two main storylines (Hawke and Sienna's relationship and the Psy-Changeling war), there was also a surprising (to me) and sweet secondary romance between Walker, Sienna's uncle, and Lara, the SnowDancer healer, that made reading this book even more enjoyable. I liked both of them and was very happy to see them together.

And for those die-hard fans like me, who have been following this series since the beginning, you'll be glad to know that all the heroes and heroines from the previous books had their share in Kiss of Snow. A few of them were only mentioned, but most shared some scenes with Hawke and/or Sienna. Lucas and Sascha's participation was special and I was thrilled for them. And for those who love Judd, well, get ready for a smoking hot scene with the Man of Ice. Yowza!

Last but not least, let me tell you how much I loved the final scene in the book:

"What's your full name?"
Hawke's wolf flashed in his eyes, the ice blue glittering with the same amusement that had his cheeks creasing. "What brought that on?"
"I refuse to be in the dark. Tell."
Leaning down, he nipped at her jaw, a quick, affectionate bite that had her jerking. "No distracting me, I want to know."
Another small bite before he whispered it in her ear.
She blinked.
He growled, but it was playful. "Don't you like it?"
"It's beautiful, you know it is." Perfect for him.
"What about me?" she asked. "Do I take your last name?"
"Do you want to?" A tilt of his head, the wolf watchful but not demanding.
She considered the question with care, thinking of who she'd been, who she was now.
"Yes," she said at last, "but I'd like to keep mine, too. It's a part of me."
Lips against her own, a wolf's kiss. "That works fine for me... Sienna Lauren Snow."

I think I'll have to change my last name too. Dina Snow. Yeah, I like the sound of that. ;)

Considering how much I had anticipated this book and how high my expectations were, I'm glad to say I was more than satisfied with it. Ha, what an understatement! I loved it! Loved. It! It wasn't perfect and I thought Ms. Singh could have handled a couple of things differently, but that didn't dampen the enjoyment of this read.

Final verdict: It's a keeper!

Note: As I was writing this, I was aware that it was nothing like a review should be. It was just my gushing, incoherent and deranged collection of thoughts on Hawke, my favorite shifter ever. What can I say? I had to pay hommage to him and I hope I did him justice.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: "Mr. Impossible" by Loretta Chase

Mr. Impossible (Carsington Brothers, #2)Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very fun historical romance set in an "exotic" location (Egypt), with charming and adventurous characters. The 2nd book in the Carsington Brothers series, Mr. Impossible is about Rupert Carsington, the reckless 4th son of the powerful Earl of Hargate.

Here's what we learn about Rupert in the 1st pages of the book:

In the month and a half since the Earl of Hargate’s fourth son had arrived in Egypt, he had broken twenty-three separate laws and been jailed nine times. For what Mr. Carsington had cost the
(England) consulate in fines and bribes, Mr. Salt (His Majesty's consul general) might have dismantled and shipped to England one of the smaller temples on the island of Philae.

He now knew exactly why Lord Hargate had sent his twenty-nine-year-old offspring to Egypt. It was not, as his lordship had written, “to assist the consul general in his services on behalf of the nation.”

It was to saddle someone else with the responsibility and expense.

LOL! Yes, Rupert Carsington is the ultimate "Mr. Impossible".

When Mrs. Daphne Pembroke, a 28-year-old widow who's (secretly) a linguistic genius and has been trying to solve the mystery of Egyptian writing for years, seeks Mr. Salt's assistance to rescue her kidnapped brother Miles, the "helpful" consul general finds the perfect opportunity to get himself rid of the troublemaker Mr. Carsington and offers the gentleman's services to her. Daphne isn't sure about Rupert when she meets him because he seems to be, well, dim-witted, but she takes him anyway - after all, she's intelligent enough for both and all she needs from him are his brawny body. No, not for that! At least, not right away. ;)

That's how Rupert and Daphne get together and start their adventurous quest for her brother Miles - and what a bumpy and fun ride that turns out to be!

Cliché, but I have to say it: Rupert and Daphne were perfect for each other. He was tall, dark, handsome and, yay!, not as stupid as he pretended to be. She was a bookish, no-nonsense, beautiful woman "trained" by her deceased husband to hide her figure and her passions. He made her laugh and set her free of her misconceptions about herself, and she helped him find a purpose in life: to love her and make her happy. Yup, that was it - and that was my "problem" with this book. I loved Rupert's antics and his sense of humor was contagious, but I'm not sure I got him. I didn't undertand why he acted the way he did, pretending to be an idiot when he was clearly an intelligent man. What good came out of it? His family thought he was a helpless hellion. They loved him, but I don't think they respected him much. Luckily for him, Daphne saw through his façade and fell in love with him. :)

Besides Rupert and Daphne, this book also has a charming set of secondary characters. Daphne's crazy servants were hillarious and the villains - yes, there was more than one - were conniving and ruthless. I was surprised at the body count in this book, but Ms. Chase didn't dwell on that so I decided to let it go. I wasn't going to let that pesky, gory "detail" ruin my fun, LOL.

As for the plot, this story had it all. Action, intrigue, suspense, humor, romance, mayhem, you name it. All events were aptly connected in the end, even the ones that were mentioned for no obvious reason at first. I love it when an author keeps all the facts in line and doesn't get lost somewhere in the middle of the road. (Yes, Lora Leigh, I'm talking to you! LOL) The ending was a little vague to suit me. The HEA was there, but I didn't get enough of it to see what kind of life Rupert and Daphne will have. I can't say more, you'll have to read the book to understand (or not) how I feel about it.

Overall, I had a great, fun time reading this book. It didn't make my keepers shelf, but I highly recommend it for everyone who loves fun historical romances.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: "Slow-Play" by Carol Lynne

Slow-Play (Poker Night, #2)Slow-Play by Carol Lynne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Poker Night series features a group of 6 gay men (Zac, Bobby, Trey, Angelo, Marco and Kent) who have been friends for almost 4 years and get together to play poker, drink beer and have fun every other Saturday. As the series starts, they're all single, but it's obvious that each of them is destined to find their HEA as the series progresses.

The 2nd book in the series, Slow-Play, is Bobby's story and picks up right after Texas Hold 'Em ended.

Bobby Quinn comes from a wealthy family, but his relationship with his parents and his half-brother is strained at best. Unfortunately, unexpected circumstances have forced him to accept a job from his obnoxious half-brother, taking tourists on charter cruises around the San Franciso Bay. He hates working for his half-brother and catering to all those rich tourists, but his surly mood is boosted when he meets this new client, Dr. Jules Peters.

Jules is Bobby's friend Eric's boss. At 43 years old, he's somewhat older than Bobby, even though the book doesn't state the younger man's age clearly. Jules has lived a very lonely life since his partner Morgan died 16 years ago, and Bobby is the 1st man to spark his interest after all those years. He's also a very wealthy man, which could be a problem considering Bobby's prejudice against rich people.

So there you have the main conflicts in Bobby and Jules' relationship: Can Bobby believe Jules' love for him, considering the older man has been mourning his deceased lover for such a long time? Will Jules' wealth raise Bobby's insecurities?

As it happened in the previous book, all conflicts here were quickly solved, mostly because Bobby and Jules didn't hold much back and talked openly about what bothered them. Okay, they had a few misunderstandings along the way, but they cleared them up soon enough and didn't hold a grudge. If I had one big problem with the story, it was how long Jules had mourned his 1st lover. 16 years is a long, long time! That made me doubt how quickly he fell for Bobby. Anyway, I loved both Bobby and Jules, so I'm willing to let a lot go just because of that.

This was another sweet, feel-good entry in the series. It was better than the previous book because there was no more need to introduce all the characters, something that almost always "harms" the 1st book in any series. As I already knew all the players in advance, all I had to to was relax and enjoy this story. :)

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: "Miss Wonderful" by Loretta Chase

Miss Wonderful (Carsington Brothers, #1)Miss Wonderful by Loretta Chase

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Knowing that several readers think that this book is one of Ms. Chase's weakest releases, I didn't have high expectations when I started reading it and I admit I decided to read it only because I wanted to read the next books in this series and I'm OCD about reading series in order. Well, I owe my OCD a big thanks, because I really enjoyed reading this book.

The Right Honorable Edward Junius Carsington, Earl of Hargate, is worried about his 3rd son, 29-year-old Baffle to All Human Understanding, the Honorable Alistair Carsington. The "boy"'s Episodes of Stupidity have cost his lordship a small fortune over the years and it's time he put a stop to them. So Alistair is given an ultimatum: he must find a way to earn his own money to support his expensive way of life or his younger brothers will be "robbed" of their inheritances so their father can keep paying his bills. Of course, the Earl of Hargate's fortune isn't in any danger, he just wants his son to "reform". Faced with such ultimatum, Alistair decides to join his friend Lord Gordmor in business, hoping to become financially independent as requested demanded by his father. That's how he finds himself in Derbyshire, to convince the landowners to approve the building of a canal in the area.

Miss Mirabel Oldridge, the 31-year-old spinster daughter of the largest landowner in Derbyshire, is strongly opposed to Lord Gordnor's canal - and she isn't shy to state her position when she meets Alistair. Even though she's "a mere woman" and has no vote in the matter, Alistair's sense of honor demands that he seek her approval because, due to her father's absentness, she is the actual manager of the Oldridge estate. Unfortunately, she refuses to explain why she's so set against Lord Gordnor's canal, telling him that that would give Alistair an unfair advantage in the negotiations, so he's given no other choice than to spend time with her in order to extract, understand and counteract her reasoning. And thus the battle of wills begins...

The title of this book should have been "Mr. Wonderful", not "Miss Wonderful". Alistair was charming, honorable, funny and oh-so-wonderful. (Sorry, but you knew this was coming, LOL.) He was definitely a dandy, but he wasn't shallow. It was clear that his obsession with clothes and fashion hid something deeper, something related to his war days and his almost death at the Battle of Waterloo. I loved him!

On the other hand, I had problems with Mirabel. She was capable, practical and smart, but she confused me. I finished the book without understanding why she was so opposed to the canal. Even after she finally told Alistair what allegedly bothered her and he made all the changes in the project to appease her worries, she kept protesting and fighting the whole deal. Why? Just to be contrary? Silly woman! I also didn't like all the tricks she used to thwart the building of the canal. One of them was particularly too ruthless and I don't know how Alistair forgave her that easily. He should have made her grovel... and grovel.

Given the premise of the book, I expected the confrontation between Alistair and Mirabel to be the primary focus of the story. Gladly, I was not disappointed. Even though I wasn't Mirabel's biggest fan, I enjoyed her interactions with Alistair, loved their easy banter and, especially, the way Alistair was driven to distraction by Mirabel's lack of fashion sense. She dressed dreadfully, her hair was constantly on the verge of falling down, and he went mad trying to control the urge to fix her. Funny stuff, LOL.

All things considered, this was a very good read. I loved Ms. Chase's writing, Alistair was great and the story was fun. Too bad Mirabel wasn't as wonderful as promised by the title.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: "Texas Hold 'Em" by Carol Lynne

Texas Hold 'Em (Poker Night, #1)Texas Hold 'Em by Carol Lynne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Poker Night series features a group of 6 gay men (Zac, Bobby, Trey, Angelo, Marco and Kent) who have been friends for almost 4 years and get together to play poker, drink beer and have fun every other Saturday. As the series starts, they're all single, but it's obvious that each of them is destined to find their HEA as the series progresses.

The 1st book in the series, Texas Hold 'Em, is Zac's story.

Zac Grainger is a high school football coach and the regular host of the bi-weekly poker night. As he answers his door for the pizza delivery guy during one of these poker nights, Zac's interest is more than piqued by the tiny little blond Adonis holding up 4 pizza boxes at his door. Mmm, yummy! Zac will definitely be ordering pizza more often. ;)

Eric Stanton is a medical intern who moonlights as a pizza delivery man for his uncle, so he can make enough money to pay back his student loans. That means that he's basically dead on his feet most of the time and has no social life. He doesn't fall in lust with Zac at 1st sight, though. Not that Zac isn't yummy enough, it's just that Eric is barely awake then. (I couldn't help thinking how dangerous it is to be driving when you can barely keep your eyes open, but anyway...)

When Zac and Eric meet again - because, you know, Zac's been ordering pizzas all week so he can "catch" his blond Adonis again -, Eric is more alert and reciprocates Zac's interest. But how will they make it work considering how hectic Eric's life is? Will Zac's instinct to take charge and fix everything scare Eric away? Will Eric realize that there's more to life than work?

That was the basic conflict in Zac and Eric's relationship. I was glad to see them working it out fairly quickly, even though a little more angst would have added more depth to the story. I loved Zac and all his poker buddies (especially Bobby and Marco), but Eric was too "intense" (aka stubborn) for my taste. All in all, this was a sweet, feel-good read. I liked CL's writing and will read the next books in the series.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: "The Wicked West" by Victoria Dahl

The Wicked WestThe Wicked West by Victoria Dahl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this quick, sexy little read. Sheriff Tom Hale and Mrs. Lily Anders were made for each other: he was a closeted Dom trying to control his kinky urges and she was a wicked sub bent on making him let his "inner beast" run free and spank her into orgasmic oblivion.

The sex scenes were all good and steamy hot, even though their kinkiness was slightly tamed - I mean, there was no "backdoor" loving, which I admit I had expected to find considering the premise of the story. Mind you, I'm not complaining, I'm just sayin'... ;)

I liked Ms. Dahl's writing style in general, but the way she described some of the sex scenes turned me off. So, I knew that both Hale and Lily got off on pain - he enjoyed delivering it and she loved receiving it - and that was more than OK for them. Ms. Dahl left no doubt that Hale's punishments hurt Lily, the harder the better. They were in heaven, while I was cringing like a wuss... You see, I live in my own delusional little world where pain has no place in the bedroom, so I need my authors to sugarcoat the BDSM scenes for me. It was all in Ms. Dahl's choice of words: if she had used the word "pleasure" instead of "pain" and "hurt", I'd have been blissfully happy - despite the fact that those words were synonyms in Lily's mind. Anyway, that's just a quirk of mine and it didn't bother me enough to ruin this read for me.

All things considered, this was still a very good and enjoyable story.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: "The Wedding Journey" by Carla Kelly

The Wedding Journey (Signet Regency Romance)The Wedding Journey by Carla Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 1/2 stars

This was my first book by Carla Kelly and now I'm wondering why I've waited so long to give her a try. I have to thank my dear GR friend Danielle for bringing this book to my attention. :)

Captain Jesse Cameron Randall, assistant surgeon of Marching Hospital Number Eight, has been in love with Elinore "Nell" Mason for years, but the battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars are no place to woo. Plus, he's just too shy to act on his feelings. Fortunately, fate decides to get these two together and plays its hand...

Due to her father's irresponsability and her mother's weakness, Nell has been taking care of her family since the tender age of ten. She's no stranger to the hardships of war, but things get worse when her mother finally dies after a long-suffering illness, her father proves himself to be unreliable once again and Major Bones (ugh, what a despicable man!) sets his sleazy, lustful eyes on her. Nell could have been fairly safe against Major Bones if it wasn't for the upcoming retreat. Thanks to Nell's father, most of his fellow officers wouldn't care about his family under ordinary circumstances, but during a retreat, they would be concerned only about themselves and their own families, so Nell would be completely left on her own and an easy prey for Major Bones.

In order to protect Nell against Major Bones' clutches, Jesse marries her right before the retreat. Obviously, the heinous Major isn't one to accept defeat easily and, taking advantage of his position, manages to trick all the English Army Units into leaving Jesse's medical unit (and some sick patients) behind during the retreat. And that's how Jesse and Nell's wedding journey begins... Will they be able to escape the approaching French Army and reach the Portuguese border safely? Will Jesse agree to an anullment and let Nell go once they're there? Will she want to leave then?

This was one of the best Trad Regency novels I've ever read. I loved Jesse, the ultimate beta hero. He was painfully shy, kind-hearted, protective, average-looking and quite unique. When I learned that this story took place during the Napoleonic Wars, I expected to find a chest-thumping, know-it-all, bigger-than-life alpha hero. Boy, was I wrong! Jesse was nothing like that and while I love an alpha hero, I couldn't help falling hard for him. I think that the fact that most of the story was told from his POV helped me to really connect with him, as I got to see how much he loved Nell, cared for everyone else and struggled with his feelings.

As for Nell, I liked her and she was perfect for Jesse, but I'm not sure I got to know her very well. She was as good-hearted as him, calm, efficient and, thankfully, not bound to hysterics. Not that I'd blame her if she was, considering what she went through on her "honeymoon", LOL. It was easy to believe she fell in love with him - hey, I did! - but something was missing. I can't quite put my finger on it, though.

All the secondary characters were well-drawn, adding more depth to the story. Captain Mason (Nell's father), Major Bones (the master villain), Major Sheffield (the chief surgeon), Harper, Wilkie, Leger, the Spanish peasants they met along the journey... All of them had individual personalities and lives, and it was interesting to see how the war affected each of them. Some sad and heartbreaking moments there, that's all I'm going to say.

All in all, this was a very good read, with remarkable characters and a story with the right amount of romance, action, suspense and drama. This wasn't a light read, as Ms. Kelly didn't skirt around the dreadful consequences of war. That doesn't mean that this was a heavy read either, because somehow these people found a way to lighten the mood now and then. Not in a silly and inconsequential fashion, but in a heartwarming way.

I really enjoyed Ms. Kelly's writing style and I'm definitely going to track her backlist, even though I don't see myself reading her books back to back. Why? Because I need some smut every once in a while and a steady diet of Trad Regency novels would make me very antsy, LOL.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review: "Shadow Game" by Christine Feehan

Shadow Game (GhostWalkers, #1)Shadow Game by Christine Feehan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn't expect to love this book because most readers think this is one of the weakest books in the series, but I guess I'm not "most readers", LOL. I loved it!

Ryland was the perfect hero: protective but not overbearing, and not shy or afraid of his feelings for Lily. Once he knew she was the woman for him, there was no turning back. Lily wasn't so "perfect" - either physically or emotionally - but that only made her more real to me. Her fascination, as a scientist, with her father's work, despite some of the horrors behind his actions, was understandable and fit her character. Speaking for myself, I wouldn't find it hard to react like her because, in concept, his father's project was fascinating.

And that's the main reason I loved this book: the plot. It's PNR but it's so close to reality that I can see it happening. I found myself paying close attention to all the scientific "mumbo jumbo" uttered by Lily, even though a couple of times I couldn't understand what she said. I guess I'm some kind of science geek to love that stuff... ;) Anyway, all the talking and researching gave the book a slow pace at times - especially in the beginning, when Ryland and his team were still locked up in the lab - but, in the end, I thought that was important to "set the stage", so to speak.

Final verdict: It looks like I'm hooked to another series! :)

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: "Desert Warrior" by Nalini Singh

Desert Warrior (Silhouette Desire No. 1529)Desert Warrior by Nalini Singh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not a big fan of Sheikh books but I'm a huge fan of Nalini Singh, so I had to read this book. I don't regret reading it - it was a good, average book - but it's a blessing to know that NS's writing has vastly improved since this first release.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: "A Fine Specimen" by Lisa Marie Rice

A Fine Specimen (Previously Released as A Fine Specimen by Lisa Marie Rice

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love LMR's heroes and Alex Cruz is no exception. :)

This book was lighter and funnier than I was expecting, with Caitlin's clumsiness a source of constant teasing by Alex, and it had all the markings of a romantic comedy. But being a LMR book, it had to have some gun fighting at the end - not a big one, but climatic enough to make Alex realize his feelings for Caitlin.

I really liked this book and will keep LMR as one of my auto-buy authors, but I'm beginning to wonder if she'll ever reach as high as her amazing Midnight series again. Talk about some hard shoes to fill...

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: "Wild Thing" by Anne Stuart

Wild ThingWild Thing by Anne Stuart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to the reviews I read before starting this book, I knew that I had to check reality at the door to enjoy it. All I can say is, I'm glad I did. Wow, what an unbelievable plot! I won't go into details here - you can read Holly R's review for a better take on the story - but I think I mastered the eye-rolling thing while reading this book, LOL.

Since I knew what to expect and braced myself for it, I ended up having some fun. Libby's initial non-stop babbling and subsequent silence treatment were funny, even though completely out of character - I mean, the woman was supposed to be a genious but didn't act the part. As for John, I never got to "know" him, since he was mute and "unreachable" for more than the first half of the book. In the end, I'm not sure their falling in love is believable and that (almost) always ruins a book for me.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: "Hold" by Zannie Adams

HoldHold by Zannie Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gasp, this steamy novella from EC has a plot!!! Is it the end of the world as we know it? LOL!

From the book blurb:

Convicted by the Coalition of a minor crime, Riana is sentenced to life on a prison planet - no order, no safety, just a primitive hold filled with criminals vying for dominance. The only way Riana can survive is to give herself to the strongest man there in return for protection. By desperate instinct, she chooses a mysterious, handsome loner named Cain. She offers him her body and can only hope he'll be able to protect her from the other inmates who circle her like beasts.

She never dreams she will come to take pleasure in Cain. Or want to offer him her heart as well as her body.

I admit that I started to read this book expecting to find a flimsy plot hidden behind a bunch of scorching sex scenes, so I was more than pleasantly surprised when I realized I'd been way off the mark.

This story was dark and sometimes violent, as life in a prison dominated by dangerous criminals should be, and some events could have been disturbing if I hadn't ditched the rose-tinted glasses I usually wear when reading romance books. Don't let that scare you away from this book, though. Ultimately, it's still a romance book, with a great plot, a sexy and dangerous hero, a likable heroine, a believable love story and, yes, hot sex scenes. It even has an epilogue, even though I think the story would have been better wihtout it. Yeah, I know I complain when a romance book doesn't have an epilogue, but in this case, the epilogue didn't fit the story. Does that make sense? No? Well, you'll have to read the book to understand what I mean. ;)

"My" Cain - dark, dangerous and delicious:


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Review: "Woman on the Run" by Lisa Marie Rice

Woman on the RunWoman on the Run by Lisa Marie Rice

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was another good book by LMR. I loved both Coop and Julia, even though I didn't understand at first how she fell in love with him since he barely talked to her and, quite frankly, he didn't know what foreplay was - I mean, he knew what it was but just didn't have enough control to dedicate himself to it, LOL.

The thing that bothered me in this book was the amount of scenes dedicated to the villain bent on killing Julia. There were too many of them, to the point that it was annoyingly distracting, and they didn't add anything to the story. LMR made a point of calling the villain "the professional" all the time, trying to keep his/her gender a secret until the end, but I had him/her figured out right from his/her first appearance. No biggie, but not good for the "suspense" part of the book.

I had some good laughs with this book - it was funnier than I'd thought, in a good way - and I closed it with a smile on my face. Very nice!!! So far, I haven't read a LMR book I didn't enjoy. :)

Final note: This book is pretty tame, considering that it's an EC release. The c-word is used a few times, but this book is neither erotica nor romantica.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: "One of the Guys" by Shiloh Walker

One of the GuysOne of the Guys by Shiloh Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my 2nd book by Shiloh Walker and I loved it!

Brian is a wonderful hero, always caring and supportive, and he falls hard and fast for Jaynie. Well, not really "fast" if you consider the fact that they've known each other forever, but once they hook up after she's finally dumped her less-than-worthy fiancé, Brian is a goner. His insecurity about Jaynie's feelings only makes him more adorable and it was a good reprieve from the over-confident heroes that inhabit Romancelandia.

Jaynie takes longer to fall for Brian and she never says the famous 3 little words - "I love you" - to him, not even at the end of the book. This would normally bother me but, in this case, I thought it was very fitting to the story. She's spent 10 rather happy, though oblivious, years of her life with a guy that ends up being a jerk and a cheater, so it's only natural to see her being a bit wary about her new feelings for Brian - especially if you consider that, by the end of the book, they've been together for less than a month. BUT regardless of Jaynie's unspoken words, I have no doubt in my mind that she loves Brian and that they'll live HEA. :)

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: "Falling Angel" by Anne Stuart

Falling Angel (Rita Award)Falling Angel by Anne Stuart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a lovely and wonderful book!

I wasn't too sure about it at the beginning - everything and everyone was too nice, it was almost nauseating - but when Carrie's past was revealed and Gabriel's emotions surfaced with a vengeance, I was sold! I'll go further and confess that I even shed a tear - or two - when he asked for his "second miracle". Call me a masochist, but I love it when an author makes me hurt like that. :)

This was my first book by Anne Stuart and I'm very, very surprised. It was nothing like I'd expected. Having read about her gamma heroes all over the net, I'm not sure if this book is a good example of her work. I loved it and I'd like to read other books by her, but I don't know where to go from here.

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Review: "Tempting the Beast" by Lora Leigh

Tempting the Beast (Breeds, #1)Tempting the Beast by Lora Leigh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was better than I'd expected. I really liked the story around the Breeds "creation" - it was a bit out there sometimes but, hey, it's PNR so not everything has to make complete sense, right? LOL

As for the very steamy sex scenes, the barb thing was too weird for me, but I somehow managed to "erase" it from my mind... I think.

Even though I've only read this one book so far, I feel I'm going to become addicted to this series. I just have got to know what's going to happen with all the Breeds and how/when the Council will be defeated for good!

The good thing about discovering a series so late is, I've got a huge backlist to track down and keep me entertained for a long, long time... :)

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: "Coming in Last" by Shiloh Walker

Coming in LastComing in Last by Shiloh Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first book by Shiloh Walker. If this is a good example of her writing, it surely won't be my last. :)

I loved everything about this book: the hero and the heroine (Jamie and Andi were great, both of them), their lovemaking scenes (pretty tame for an erotica, but wonderfully written), the plot (very realistic, without all the adrenaline-packed, gun-fighting action that many books have) and even the secondary characters (Mick, Jamie's cousin, wasn't just a "decorative" character and actually played an important part in the story). Yeah, I loved it!

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Review: "California Cowboy" by Maggie Casper

California CowboyCalifornia Cowboy by Maggie Casper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OMG, this book reminded me of Diana Palmer - with the heat turned on, that is... ;) All her trademarks are present:
1- a domineering alpha hero who loves to yell at the heroine "for her own good";
2- a virgin and supposedly feisty heroine who, deep down, only yearns to be loved by the hero; and
3- a somewhat weak "trauma in the past" that keeps the hero and the heroine apart - except for the lovemaking, of course! - for the most part of the book and is quickly resolved right before the HEA.

It was formulaic, predictable, quick and one heck of a fun ride. Gotta love that, LOL!

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Review: "Where's My Hero?" by Lisa Kleypas, Kinley MacGregor, Julia Quinn

Where's My Hero?Where's My Hero? by Lisa Kleypas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Short review for these short stories...

Surprisingly - for me, at least - Kleypas's story was my least favorite. It was good, but I think it could've been better if it had been written as a full-lenght novel. Jake and Lydia needed more time to sort things out, IMO. But it was very nice to revisit Derek and Sara (Dreaming of You), who are one of my all-time favorite couples.

I loved MacGregor's story. Simon was a favorite character of mine since I "met" him in Born in Sin and I was happy to see him find love with an adorable lass like Kenna.

Quinn´s story was good too. Light and entertaining, as usual. Ned and Charlotte were very likeable, and his "poem" at the end of the book cracked me up. I finished the story with a huge grin on my face, and that's a good thing.

Having read all the books that had featured these heroes/heroines before, I enjoyed reading their way to the HEA in this anthology. I don't know if readers who haven't would miss any background info to enjoy it, though.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Review: "All About Men" by Shannon McKenna

All About MenAll About Men by Shannon McKenna

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The 1st story, Something Wild, was good but a bit scary. I mean, Jacob acted like a stalker most (if not all) of the time and I thought Annie should've been more careful around him. Good thing she fell in love with him, because she wouldn't have been able to get rid of him otherwise.

The 2nd story, Meltdown, was really good. It had the markings to push me the wrong way - the insta-f*cking and the insta-HEA (Mac and Jane were "in love" less than 12 hours after first meeting each other and were engaged a few days later!) - but SM made it work. Besides having a lot of sex, Mac and Jane really talked to each other and I believed they were going to be good together in the long run. Oh, and I loved the scene where Jane kinda "scared" Mac sexually, because it took some of the edge off of him and put them on the "same ground", so to speak.

The 3rd story, Touch Me, was the weakest. I didn't like either Jonah or Tess very much. Jonah, I couldn't trust him after he lied to get her into his beach house and I really didn't buy his "excuse". As for Tess, she was just an emotional mess and I couldn't care less. In the end, I think they deserved each other.

My recommendation: don't buy this book, get it from the library, read the 2nd story and forget the other 2. The stories aren't related, so you won't miss anything by doing that.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review: "Taming the Beast" by Amy J. Fetzer

Taming The Beast (Silhouette Desire, #1361)Taming The Beast by Amy J. Fetzer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the book blurb:

Summoned like a serving girl to the king, Laura Cambridge was hired as nanny to Richard Blackthrone's secret child. Rumors about this hulking recluse didn't daunt Laura - he beauty-queen past had taught her the inner person didn't always match the facade. But Richard's heart was as painfully scarred as his chiseled features...

To Richard, lovely Laura was like candy dangled in front of a baby - he was offered the sweet, but denied the taste. Yet sometimes grizzly bears enjoyed a taste of honey... and the love of Jane Eyre. So Richard dared to woo his green-eyed goddess, gambing that - like Jane - Laura would one day declare, "Reader, I married him."


This is one of the best Beauty and the Beast stories I've ever read. Considering how short the book is, I was happily surprised to see the depth of emotions Amy Fetzer had managed to pack in it.

Richard was a very angsty hero, physically and emotionally scarred, and Laura and his daughter Kelly were perfect in helping him realize he should stop hiding from the world and start living again.

If there's one thing I'd "complain", it would be Laura's behavior near the end of the book. It sounded a little off and I didn't understand how she came to the conclusion that Richard didn't love her. Anyway, it was just a silly moment on her part and, all things considered, it didn't bother me that much because I was already in love with the book. :)

This is definitely a MUST READ to everyone who loves an emotional and enchanting love story!

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: "Last Virgin in California" by Maureen Child

Last Virgin In California (Bachelor Battalion) (Silhouette Desire, No. 1398)Last Virgin In California (Bachelor Battalion) by Maureen Child

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a quick and funny read. Kevin and Lilah were likeable enough (but a bit stereotypical) and the storyline was enjoyable (but nothing new). What I found "different" was, he couldn't tell she was a virgin when they made love for the first time and she was kind of "disappointed" by that, because all the heros in the romance books she'd read had known the heroine had been a virgin, LOL.

You could say this book is your typical Harlequin/Silhouette novel: nice but not unforgettable.

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Review: "Night Hawk" by Lora Leigh

Night Hawk (Elite Ops)Night Hawk by Lora Leigh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's a really, really short story, and there's no closure. It reads like a prequel to the next(?) book in the Elite Ops series. I need to read Wild Card, the first book in the series, before I decide if I'm going to embark on this series or not.

EDITED TO ADD: Well, I've reread this short story after finishing Wild Card and things are clearer and better now. Am I going to read the next book in the series? I'm not sure.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Review: "Wild Card" by Lora Leigh

Wild Card (Elite Ops, #1)Wild Card by Lora Leigh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Based on everything I'd heard about Lora Leigh's books, I started reading Wild Card with some caution. But I'd also heard that this book was very good and not too heavy on her usual "style", so I decided to give it a try. Well, I'm happy I did. :)

I loved the setting and the story. I was surprised by the identity of the villain who had been leaking all the info to the bad guys (I won't go into details here, for it would be a major spoiler) and I was literally sitting at the edge of my chair when the final showdown came. I knew everything would be alright in the end, of course, but I felt anxious nevertheless. I could see the whole scene in my mind, very exciting!

I liked the cast of characters too, even though there were so many secondary characters that I didn't know who was who sometimes. Although I haven't read the Tempting SEALs series yet, I know some of those characters had their stories told in those books and now I wonder if I should go back and read them. It was also quite obvious that other secondary characters are going to "star" in the following books of the Elite Ops series, and I'm definitely going to check them out. :)

Now, the "bad" news... Noah and Bella grated on my nerves more time than I'd care to count. I could understand how hard their lives had been, but they took their "silence" a bit too far. Why couldn't they talk about their past more openly? It was okay to hold a grudge at first, but it got tiresome after a while and I just wanted to smack both their heads.

As for the sex scenes, wow, can you have too much of a good thing? Well, you can! I confess, I skimmed through several of them because they were distracting me from the action. I like a hot, sexy "interlude" as anyone else, but there's no need to go "over the top".

All things considered, I've enjoyed reading this book and I'm open to try other books by this author - as long as it doesn't contain either BDSM or ménage, that is!

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Review: "The Proposition" by Judith Ivory

The PropositionThe Proposition by Judith Ivory

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is unusual, to say the least, but not in a bad way.

When I read the scene at the tearoom, where Mick and Winnie first met each other, I thought I was in the middle of a slapstick or a "cartoon-ish" farce and braced myself to read that kind of comedy. Then, Mick and Winnie started singing their lines in the garden and I thought, okay, it was a musical. Finally, when Mick showed Winnie how he caught rats, it was like watching an "Animal Planet" show. At that point, I decided to relax and simply enjoy the book with all its quirky antics.

This book is full of overlong descriptions and insights into Mick's and Winnie's minds, and that was distracting. At times, I had to go back a few pages to remember how the scene started and what they were talking about. BUT, strangely enough, that didn't bothered much because I was in the right mood for a slower-paced read.

I really liked Mick, one of the most unusual hero I've ever met. He was full of life, funny, loving and not one bit tortured. I thought Winnie was kind of snotty and cold at first, but she grew on me and I ended up liking her too. And when they finally made love, wow, it was so good to see them having fun with it. Winnie wasn't overly sensitive about it, which I found totally believable considering how old she was and what her role in society was. I mean, she was a Lady by birth, but she wasn't living like one and she didn't have any false hopes about it.

The HEA was a bit "over the top" (everything was "tidily wrapped with a pink bow"), but I liked it. It was in tune with the overall feeling of the book, a happy "fairy tale" with likeable characters.

This was my first book by Judith Ivory but I can already agree with readers that say she's an "acquired taste". Her writing isn't like any other author I've read. It worked for me in this book and I hope it works in her other books too.

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