Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: "Marrying the Captain" by Carla Kelly

Marrying The Captain (Channel Fleet, #1)Marrying The Captain by Carla Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 1/2 stars

This was only my second book by Carla Kelly, but I can already say for sure that she is one of my favorite authors now. I love her writing and the way she fills her books with accurate and realistic historic details without turning them into a textbook... Well, that's how I feel after reading only two books, but I doubt they're exceptions to the rule. :)

Marrying The Captain (Channel Fleet, #1) is the first book in the Channel Fleet trilogy. The story takes place during the Napoleonic Wars and, unlike what I've become used to read in other Regency books, the H/h are common (but not ordinary) people: Royal Navy Captain Oliver Worthy, a simple country vicar's son who's achieved his current rank by merit, and Eleanor "Nana" Massie, a scheming lord's illegitimate daughter.

Nana's been living in Plymouth with her grandmother (from her mother's side, of course) and running the Mulberry Inn with her for the past five years, since her father tried to give her to one of his "friends" as payment for his debts. Oliver has the unfortunate luck of crossing paths with Lord Ratliffe, Nana's father and an undersecretary of Admiralty House, and is asked to spy on Nana - just to make sure she's doing fine, assures Lord Ratliffe. Oliver doesn't buy it, but fate plays its hand and he ends up staying in Mulberry Inn anyway - and as they say, the rest is history...

I loved Oliver and Nana. They were fully developed characters, admirable and flawed at the same time, and their falling in love was very poignant. At first, I was afraid Oliver's connection with Nana's father would lead to a Big Misunderstanding, but Ms. Kelly knows better than that and showed me that such plot device isn't necessary to add conflict to a story and keep it interesting. The uncertainties brought by war were enough to give my heart a little squeeze.

This was a very enjoyable read to me, slow paced at times but never boring. I never doubted Oliver and Nana's love for each other, even when they tried to fight it - for sensible reasons and not just for the sake of adding angst to the story. If I have one complaint, it's the ending: this book needed an epilogue, IMHO. Call me greedy, but I needed to see Oliver and Nana living HEA after the war was over. That's the only reason I couldn't give this book 5 stars. Hopefully, I'll get to seem them again in the next books, The Surgeon's Lady (Channel Fleet, #2) and Marrying the Royal Marine. :)

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Review: "Master of the Mountain" by Cherise Sinclair

Master of the Mountain (Mountain Masters, #1)Master of the Mountain by Cherise Sinclair

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 1/2 stars

The book description gives more than a good insight of the story - in fact, it tells the whole story! - so I won't bother writing a plot summary here. I'll just say that the premise was interesting, but I didn't like the way the story unfolded.

Rebecca was too hesitant and insecure - so much that I didn't know if she still considered Matt her boyfriend or not when she had sex with Logan. Before anyone shouts "Cheater!" at her, let me explain that Matt and Rebecca had an open relationship - even though she only became aware of that when the douchebag told her he was a swinger and asked her to join his swing club on a long weekend retreat - so she wasn't cheating on him when she decided to explore her sexuality with Logan. Even so, I still felt uncomfortable with her decision, mostly because she was uncomfortable with it too. She was clearly not a swinger and not into any kind of sexual sharing, so why didn't she break things up with Matt when she realized that? Considering he was "busy" with another woman (and therefore, didn't have time to speak with his own girlfriend) and how he was okay with her having sex with other guys, I'd have been fine with Rebecca breaking up with Matt "telepathically" until she could do it face to face. She did that (the "telepathic" breakup) later, but the damage - the way I saw it - had been done.

Logan was sexy as sin - and a bit scary for my sensitive taste. He was definitely a Dom with a capital D and wasn't afraid to push Rebecca out of her comfort zone. He never went over what he knew she could take, which was a relief - to her, not to me. And that's where I had some issues with this book. Logan and Rebecca were more than happy with their BDSM plays - well, she wasn't exactly laughing with joy when he punished her, but you know what I mean - and they really knew how to set the sheets on fire, but some of their sex scenes were out of my comfort zone. I shouldn't care - I mean, as long as everyting is sane, safe and consensual, everything goes - but I couldn't help being put off by some of their sexcapades. Since I read for fun and that affected my enjoyment while I was reading this book, I had to take that in consideration when I decided on my rating.

This was my third read by this author and I don't know where I stand when it comes to her books. I like her writing, but I'm wary of her stories. I loved The Dom's Dungeon, I didn't like Club Shadowlands (Masters of the Shadowlands, #1) and even though I thought that this book was better than okay, it wasn't a winner. What to do, what to do? I guess I'll have to keep reading. ;)

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: "Mistress Christmas" by Lorelei James

Mistress ChristmasMistress Christmas by Lorelei James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can always count on Lorelei James to deliver hot, steamy and fun stories. I just wish the cover of this book wasn't so, ugh, tacky. But hey, I've got it as an e-book, so why am I complaining? LOL!

Holly North is a shy accountant who, for reasons I'll never fully understand, agrees to don a dominatrix costume and fill in as Mistress Christmas at Sugar Plums, a "gentleman's" club - aka a high-class strip joint.

Detective Nick West isn't a regular at Sugar Plums - or any other strip joint, for that matter. He's there to take down the famous Mistress Christmas, who alledgedly robbed one of his friends during a lap dance. As his friend was too embarassed to press formal charges, Nick has to work undercover and off the clock, trick Mistress Christmas to give him a lap dance and catch her in the act of trying to rob him too. But one look at her has him doubting his ability to keep his mind - and another very distinct body part - focused on the legal matter at hand.

The attraction between Holly and Nick is immediate and combustible, and they don't take long to act on it. But neither knows who the other truly is, so what will happen when the truth surfaces? Is there any future for a relationship that basically starts with a misunderstanding and is based on deception? Well, this is Romancelandia. Need I say more? ;)

As expected, this was a hot, quick and very entertaining read. Nick and Holly were very likeable and the sexual chemistry between them was great, which always leads to scorching love scenes. On the "negative" side, the setup of the story annoyed me, because I don't think a shy accountant can pass for a seasoned stripper that easily. Anyway, that wasn't "bad" enough to ruin the read. All things considered, this was very good.

Note: The Wild West Boys series is kind of a spin-off of the Rough Riders series - the West "boys" are cousins of the McKay "kinky loonies" - but each series stands on its own and you don't have to read one to follow/appreciate the other.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

It's time for a nap!

I don't like Mondays, especially after a long weekend. I usually feel tired - I don't know why, considering all the rest I have, or should have had, during the weekend - and wish I could take a nap after lunch. If only I had someone like David lying on my couch like this...

Oh boy, I think I'm about to have a heart attack!!! *fans herself*

Review: "Feels Like the First Time" by Tawny Weber

Feels Like the First TimeFeels Like the First Time by Tawny Weber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow, the sex scenes in this book were very, very steamy! I didn't expect HQ Blaze novels to venture into (light) bondage and stuff like that, but I should have seen it coming when I found out that the heroine wears a dominatrix costume to go to her high-school reunion party. That was all good, but the story as a whole didn't work too well for me.

My biggest problem was its "high-school vibe": all the characters in this book, from the geeky hero and the angsty heroine to the arrogant football jock and the jealous cheerleader, acted like they were still in their teens and not in their late twenties, and I didn't care for it. Dex was sexy but too needy for my taste, Zoe was nice but too hung-up on her dreadful high-school years, and I felt that their relationship was unbalanced (his love was stronger than hers). My favorite character in the story was Dex's grandmother - the woman was a hoot! - and it's never a good sign when I'm more interested in reading about a secondary character than in following the H/h's relationship.

Overall, this was a so-so book that was saved by the love scenes. If you're in the mood for a titillating read and don't mind the teen angst, go for it.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Review: "Past Promises" by N.J. Walters

Past Promises (Jamesville, #7)Past Promises by N.J. Walters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The seventh - and so far, last - installment in the Jamesville series, Past Promises tells the story of former Army (Special Forces) operative Levi Mann, who was introduced in By The Book, and antiques and collectibles dealer Linda Fletcher, who was introduced in The Seduction of Shamus O'Rourke.

Coming from a wealthy but dysfunctional family, Linda Fletcher is the proverbial "poor rich woman". She was supposed to follow in her family's tradition, joining the prominent law firm that was founded by her great-great-great-grandfather more than a hundred years ago and marrying one of her father's associates, but that life isn't for her. The only person in her family who's ever understood her was her maternal grandmother, so now that the old woman has passed away, Linda feels like she has no family anymore. Her ruthless father, distant mother and uncaring brother don't count. As the sole heir to her grandmother's estate, Linda has packed her bags, cut her family loose and moved to Jamesville, ready to start her new, independent life. She gets a bank loan, which she'll pay as soon as her grandmother's will is settled, and buys a three story building: she opens Past Promises, an antiques and collectibles store, on the main floor, revamps the top floor for her own personal use, and rents out the 2nd floor apartment to a friend of a friend.

Levi Mann is the "friend of a friend". He's friends with Jonah Sutter (the hero in By The Book), who's married with Amanda Barrington, Amanda Sutter now, who's friends with Linda. Got it? It's a small, small world. :) Anyway, Levi is an ex-military man who also moved to Jamesville a few months ago, needed a place to stay and was willing to work in exchange for rent, and that's how he ended up living "with" Linda and developing a friendly relationship with her. He's got the hots for her, but he thinks she's too classy for him, the rough son of a drug-addict mother and unknown father. So he stays away... until her family starts to harass her. He doesn't know much about her personal life, but it's obvious to him that her family is a sore issue. He can't not try to help her and when he pushes her into confiding in him, the attraction that both of them have been holding off for months takes over and things get hot and heavy pretty fast. Neither thinks the affair will last - she's sure he isn't in Jamesville to stay, and he still thinks she's out of his league - but we all know they're wrong, don't we? ;)

Overall, this was another nice and "feel good" story by Ms. Walters. I liked both Levi and Linda, even though I didn't feel that I got to know him as well as I could. Levi's inferiority complex wasn't completely believable, especially considering that Linda didn't have a snobbish bone in her body and he knew that. Anyway, not much angst was put on that, so I'm not going to hold a grudge against him. He also didn't know the meaning of the word "privacy", but I kind of understood where he was coming from. Linda's family was a bit OTT in their nefarious dealings, and so was the resolution for her conflict with them. Her confrontation with them would have been enough to settle the matter and I could have done without Levi's final blow, but I guess Ms. Walters wanted to make sure they were down for good. Oh well, bad guys can never be punished enough...

Now that I have no more new books in this series to read, I can't help hoping that Ms. Walters isn't done with it yet and keeps writing about the good people of Jamesville. If she writes it, I'll read it.

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Review: "By the Book" by N.J. Walters

By The Book (Jamesville,  #6)By The Book by N.J. Walters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The sixth installment in the Jamesville series, By The Book tells the story of former Army (Special Forces) operative Jonah Sutter, who was introduced in A Legal Affair, and antiquarian and rare books dealer Amanda Barrington, who was introduced in The Seduction of Shamus O'Rourke.

After the death of her elderly mentor and grandfather figure Seymour Morton, who'd unexpectedly made her the beneficiary of his entire estate, Amanda Barrington has packed her old life in Vermont and moved to Jamesville, ready to start a new chapter in her life. Having spent most of her formative years being shuffled from foster home to foster home, Seymour was the only family Amanda has ever known. Now that he's gone and she's alone again, she feels a change of scenery is due and Jamesville, where her friend Cyndi (the heroine in The Seduction of Shamus O'Rourke) lives, is the place to start anew. She's barely moved into her new home when a tall, dark and handsome man comes knocking on her door... Oh yes, moving to Jamesville was the best move she's ever made, all right!

The man on Amanda's doorstep is Jonah Sutter, an ex-military man who was born in Jamesville but has only been back to his hometown a few months ago, after dedicating the last fifteen years to the Army. He's instantly attracted to Amanda, but he doesn't do relationships and doesn't want anything permanent. He knows she's a forever kind of woman, and therefore "dangerous" to his bachelor ways, but that doesn't stop him from trying to convince her to have a temporary affair with him. At first, Amanda is wary of getting involved with Jonah, because she isn't sure her heart can survive an affair with him, but when she's almost killed in an attempted robbery of her newly opened bookstore, she realizes life is too short and decides to give in to her attraction to Jonah and enjoy their affair for as long as it lasts. But will this be enough for her? Will she be able to prevent her heart from breaking when their affair ends? For she's sure it will end eventually. Won't it?

After being somewhat disappointed with the previous book, A Legal Affair, I'm happy to say that this series is back on track with By The Book. Jonah and Amanda were very likable, and their falling in love was believable. Their loves scenes were hot and, thankfully, not kinky at all. Sometimes sweet and classic vanilla is all I want... ;)

The story was fast paced and entertaining, but the mystery/suspense regarding who attacked Amanda was very simplistic. It was pretty obvious who the "perp" was and his actions didn't make much sense, but since that wasn't really the main focus of the story, I let it go.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable and easy read. I really like the "feel good" atmosphere that's part of the Jamesville series, and these books have become comfort reads to me. Well done again, Ms. Walters! :)

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Friday, April 6, 2012

David Gandy - Interview

An interview with David Gandy - one of the world's leading male models and face of Dolce & Gabanna - on the backstage at the FW10 Dolce & Gabbana catwalk show.

Review: "A Legal Affair" by N.J. Walters

A Legal Affair (Jamesville #5)A Legal Affair by N.J. Walters

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The fifth installment in the Jamesville series, A Legal Affair tells the story of Alabama cop Gill Baron, who was introduced in The Return of Patrick O'Rourke, and Jamesville lawyer Alicia Flint, who was introduced in The Seduction of Shamus O'Rourke.

Gill has just retired from the police force in Alabama after twenty years on the job. He's forty-two years old and slightly burned out, and that's how he ends up in Jamesville for some R&R while he figures out what he's going to do with the rest of his life. Then he meets Alicia, and suddenly he's got more than his professional future to think about...

Alicia has been born and raised in Jamesville, and she's content with her life. A successful lawyer, she's worked hard to build a solid reputation in a small town where being a female lawyer still makes some people raise their eyebrows. So she doesn't date and doesn't indulge in love affairs, but she's starting to feel restless. Her battery-operated toy isn't helping anymore. She needs more. And more is what she gets when she meets Gill...

Gill and Alicia are instantly attracted to each other, and act on it. They're strangers, and she doesn't want more than a one-night stand with him, but she's in for a surprise if she thinks she can shake him off once he finds out who she is. He wants to pursue a relationship with her, but she's afraid to risk her reputation. So where does that leave them?

This was only an OK read to me. Gill and Alicia were nice, but I didn't connect much with them. I couldn't understand Alicia's train of thought: one moment, she was saying she wasn't the type of woman to have a one-night stand with a stranger; the next, she was boldly taking Gill, a complete stranger, to her home - danger, danger! - and getting down and dirty with him. Oh, I know all about becoming overcome with lust and forgetting who you are and what you stand for, but I didn't buy it. The problem is, the whole story felt rushed, it lacked real character development, and the conflict was "forced".

Overall, this wasn't up to par with the previous books in the series. I hope this was just a minor bump in the road and the next books get the series back on track.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

David Gandy: becoming a Gentleman

February 13, 2012 - In an interview with Swide, David Gandy talks about his life and reveals to his fans that he is not only the best on the runway, but he is a real gentleman with a big heart off it, too.

Review: "The Seduction of Shamus O'Rourke" by N.J. Walters

The Seduction of Shamus O'Rourke (Jamesville, #4)The Seduction of Shamus O'Rourke by N.J. Walters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great installment in the Jamesville series! Can this series get any better? :)

Cyndi Marks, formerly known as Cynthia James, is returning to Jamesville after fourteen years, to settle her deceased father's affairs and to finally face her past. She knows people won't be welcoming her back with open arms, mostly due to her father's less-than-pleasant dealings with the town folks but also due to her own wrongdoings, but she's back to stay. As fate would have it, the first person she meets when she arrives is Shamus O'Rourke. They feel attracted to each other almost immediately, but this is one aggravation she doesn't need. Cyndi did some very hurtful things to Shamus's sister Dani and brother-in-law Burke in the past, and there's no lost love between Cyndi and Shamus's family. Plus, Cyndi is wary of being nine years older than Shamus. So she's got all the excuses she needs to avoid getting involved with him, right?

Not exactly, because Shamus is a goner from the moment he meets Cyndi and he won't let her go. His family is more than upset to see him pursuing a relationship with her and basically orders him to stop seeing her because they don't trust her. He won't cave to their demands, because he's learned the truth behind Cyndi's past behavior and, more than ever, believes she deserves a second chance. But his family isn't willing to give it. Will he have to choose between his family and his woman?

Wow, how the world turns! I absolutely hated Cynthia James when I read Discovering Dani and could never picture her as the heroine in a future book, so imagine my surprise when I found out that she was not only the heroine in this book but she was also being paired with sexy, lovely Shamus O'Rourke! This isn't going to work, I thought. How would Ms. Walters be able to redeem such a villainess?... Well, I stand corrected. Cynthia was more than redeemed, and I found myself rooting for her and cursing Shamus's family for the way they treated her in this book. That was some great writing, if I may say so.

As for Shamus, he was just wonderful through it all. It was nice to see that the easygoing teenager introduced in Discovering Dani wasn't as oblivious as it seemed back then, and I loved the way he made his family realize that. He was the "baby" of the family, the good guy always willing to give a helping hand and smooth things over, but he also knew what he wanted and how to get it.

There was a secondary plot involving some attacks on Cyndi's life - someone was more than unhappy with her returning to Jamesville - and it gave the story a hint of action and danger. But that wasn't the focal point of the story, so I wouldn't call this a romantic suspense novel, per se. This book was basically about Cyndi, and I think that 'The Redemption of Cynthia James' would have been a more apt title. Probably not as appealing to us romance readers, though.

Overall, this was an excellent read and I loved everything about it. I'm not sure I want to move to Jamesville anymore because those town people can be mean when they set their minds to it, but I'm definitely going to keep reading this series.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

David Gandy - Interview

December 5, 2011 - David Gandy speaks to UK during the 'Online Fashion Week' about his life, career and future ambitions from the London Eye.

Review: "The Return of Patrick O'Rourke" by N.J. Walters

The Return of Patrick O'Rourke (Jamesville, #3)The Return of Patrick O'Rourke by N.J. Walters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was dying to read Patrick's story since he was introduced in Discovering Dani, and I'm happy to say his book is a winner! Man, oh man! He was adorable when he was nineteen, but he's to die for now that he's thirty-one. He can do my laundry anytime he feels like it, that's all I'm going to say. ;)

For those who've read the first two books in the series and expect this one to be as sweet and "innocent" as those, beware: the love scenes in this book are sizzling hawt and way steamier than the ones features in the previous books! This is Ms. Walters as she's usually known, i.e., sexy, a bit naughty and oh-so-delicious... Suffice it to say that I'm packing my suitcases and moving to Jamesville! I know Patrick has already been taken - lucky, lucky Shannon! - but his brother Shamus is still on the loose... that is, until the next book in the series, LOL. Should I wait awhile before I read Shamus's book so I can pretend he's still available and make him the star of my dreams in the meantime? Nah! *runs to get The Seduction of Shamus O'Rourke*

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Monday, April 2, 2012

David Gandy's Spicy Interview

September 7, 2011 - Dolce & Gabbana's columnist Mondo Trasho has asked the questions that we have always wanted to ask David Gandy. She doesn't want to know about his favorite color, where he grew up or what he likes to eat when he is relaxing, no no. She is far more interested in what goes on between the sheets... and aren't we all?
THANK YOU, Mondo Trasho!

Review: "The Way Home" by N.J. Walters

The Way Home (Jamesville, #2)The Way Home by N.J. Walters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book in the Jamesville series, this is another sweet, "feel good" story that's miles away from the steamy hot erotic novels usually delivered by N.J. Walters.

Jake Tanner has a "business proposition" for his friend Rebecca Gentry: marriage. Jake's brother and sister-in-law have just died in a car accident, leaving their 4-year-old daughter Casey orphaned. Jake's been named Casey's legal guardian, but he would have taken her anyway because she's family. He needs help raising his niece and his brother's death makes him think that maybe it's time he got married and had children of his own, so Rebecca is the perfect answer to all these "problems". He doesn't love her - not in the romantic way - but they've been friends for seven years, he likes her and she's the only woman he will ever consider marrying.

Rebecca has been in love with Jake since she met him, and marrying him should be a dream come true. But his proposal is less than romantic and he makes it clear that even though he cares for her and their marriage will be a real one - after all, he wants kids -, she shouldn't expect him to love her. Ever. He doesn't do love, because life has taught him that you can only get hurt when you love someone. Can Rebecca accept Jake's "conditions"? Of course she can, because she believes he'll grow to love her over time. As this is a romance novel, it's a given he will but they'll have to face some bumps along the way, mainly because Jake's a bit thick in the head...

Oh boy, I lost count of the times I found myself wanting to shake some sense into Jake... He just didn't have a clue and kept making one mistake after another. At one particular moment, I actually winced when he went a little too far and said some cruel things to Rebecca. He didn't know when to shut up and when to speak up, and Rebecca refused to help him. Here's how one of their arguments went:

Rebecca: "It's not enough. I need more than that from you."

Jake: "What game are you playing? Tell me what you want me to say and we can go home."

She knew he didn't understand what she wanted and it wasn't something she could tell him. Either he loved and trusted her or he didn't.

Jake: "Tell me what to say."

Rebecca: "I can't. If you don't know, I can't tell you."

I know I shouldn't have, but I laughed out loud when I read that scene. I mean, "If you don't know, I can't tell you" is a classic, isn't it? ;) Strangely enough, I didn't hate Jake despite his jerk-ish moments. It was clear to me that he wasn't mean, he was just utterly clueless. Plus, there was a vulnerability in him that made him likable and he did make amends in a beautiful way, so I ended up forgiving him.

Rebecca was a bit too nice and perfect to be true, but I liked her too. Despite the fact that she accepted Jake's loveless proposal and was content with having only his friendship in return for her love for a while, she wasn't a doormat and wasn't going to wait for him forever.

As for the story's pace, there was too much telling and not enough showing at times. I also noticed that trait when I read Discovering Dani, but it didn't bother me then as much as it did now. It wasn't too annoying, but it was enough to dampen part of my enjoyment.

All in all, this was a pleasant read and I'm certainly going to keep reading this series.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

David Gandy on Jonathan Ross - April 30, 2010

He's drop dead gorgeous, funny and seems to be an overall nice guy. Purrrrfection in human form! Need I say more? ;-)

Review: "Discovering Dani" by N.J. Walters

Discovering Dani  (Jamesville, #1)Discovering Dani by N.J. Walters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very sweet, "feel good" story with a fairly simple plot: hero meets heroine, they develop a tentative relationship, a few conflicts arise along the way, but they manage to work everything out and live HEA. There are no mysteries to be solved and no dangerous villains to defeat, this is a straight contemporary novel set in a small town called Jamesville (I'm assuming this is a fictional town, but I might be wrong).

Dani O'Rourke is a 25-year-old virgin who's spent the last eight years of her life raising her younger brothers Patrick and Shamus. Dani and her brothers were left on their own when their mother died from cancer, no more than two years after they'd lost their father to a heart attack, and then 18-year-old Dani had to quit high-school, look for work and become the family provider. Dani doesn't regret her decision and doesn't think about what-might-have-been, because keeping the family together is what really matters to her. They don't live a luxury life, but they're happy.

Burke Black is in Jamesville on a sabbatical, after spending the last five months recovering from a car accident that made him realize how shallow and lonely his life is. He has no family and no friends, only business acquaintances and employees. He's already filthy rich and doesn't need to keep dedicating all his life to his business anymore. So he's sold his business and headed to Jamesville, where he hopes to spend some time relaxing while pondering what to do with the rest of his life. Then he meets Dani, and suddenly relaxing is the last thing on his mind...

Dani and Burke feel strongly attracted to each other, but they've lived completely different lives and have opposite expectations: she wants to build a serious relationship with him and isn't willing to sleep with him until she really gets to know him - remember, she's a virgin - but he's never done this relationship thing and wants to get physical as soon as possible. Naturally, he ends up acting like a jerk and hurting her, and must find a way to win her trust (and love) back.

Oh boy, how I wanted to smack Burke in the beginning of this story! He was cold, callous, and even though I felt he really liked Dani, he didn't have a clue about how to treat her. In time, I learned to understand (and forgive) him. He'd never met anyone like her before, so he was right to be p!ssed when he thought she was leading him on and playing with him. He also earned major points from me when he came around and set out to show Dani he was worthy of her love.

As for Dani, I really liked her from the start, even though she was too sweet and saintly to be true. If I lived in Jamesville, I'd want to be her BFF. I especially loved her relationship with her brothers and how well-adjusted they were, despite what they'd been through. I know Patrick's and Shamus's stories are books #3 and #4 in this series, and I can't wait to read them.

Overall, I really liked this story, but it had some problems. The biggest one was the way Dani kept jumping to wrong conclusions about Burke over and over again. I understood her insecurities, but she'd known that b!tchy Cynthia James all her life and she should have known better than to let that jealous tart needle her. In the end, it was kind of funny to see Burke address that issue when he proposed to Dani:

"Damn it, woman! I want to marry you. God only knows why, you jump to conclusions so fast. But there's no accounting for taste, is there?"

I also had some trouble adjusting to the pace of the story, especially near the end. I didn't need to read about all the wedding preparations, and those scenes felt like fillers to me. Maybe I was just anxious to get to Burke and Dani's wedding night, when they would finally make love for the first time, LOL. Fans of N.J. Walters's erotic novels should be "warned" that this single lovemaking scene in Discovering Dani is very tame and nothing like she's known to deliver in her spicier stories. To me, the whole scene was kind of old-fashioned, but sweet and fitting to the story.

All things considered, I really enjoyed this read and will definitely read the next books in the series.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: "Surrender of a Siren" by Tessa Dare

Surrender of a Siren (The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy, #2)Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tessa Dare is definitely on my authors-to-watch list now. I loved her debut novel, Goddess of the Hunt, and even though this sequel wasn't as amazing as the previous book, it was still a great read.

Sophia Hathaway has just abandoned her fiancé Sir Toby Aldridge at the altar, and she's decided to finally live her life as she wants and not as her parents and society expect. She seeks passion, adventure and excitement, and she knows she isn't likely to get that by marrying a man she doesn't love. So she packs her art supplies and four dresses, withdraws five hundred pounds from her bank account - oh, just imagine the look on the face of the bank clerk! -, wins another hundred pounds at a card party, leaves a letter to her family saying that she's eloping with Gervais, her fictitious painting master and lover, and buys a passage on the Aphrodite, the next ship leaving to Tortola. Sophia's plan is simple: pretending to be a penniless governess, Miss "Jane Turner", on the journey to her next employment, she'll be able to leave England - and thus escape her parents' pursuit - and buy the time she needs (not much, only a few months) until she turns twenty-one, when she'll assume control of her inheritance and her life.

Benedict "Gray" Grayson is, in his own words, "a liar, a thief, a libertine, and worse". He's no gentleman either, but he's the owner of the Aphrodite so Sophia has no choice but to convince him to accept her as a passanger on his ship. Gray is a former privateer, which is basically a pirate sanctioned by the Crown, but now that the war is over, he's starting a new life and this will be the first time the Aphrodite will sail the sea as a respectable merchant ship. Gray knows from the start that Sophia is going to be a threat to his decision to leave his womanizing days behind, but he's also a practical man and the Aphrodite can't afford the luxury of refusing passengers if he wants to make a success of his new business. So he takes the vexing woman to his ship, and this is how their journey begins.

Obviously, spending time together in close proximity for weeks and weeks makes it hard to control the growing attraction between them, and they end up falling in love with each other. Gray opens his heart to Sophia, and tells her things that he's never shared with anyone. On her part, she isn't that open, afraid that revealing her identity to him will turn him away. But the deception will have to end eventually. What will happen when Gray finally learns the truth? Will he be able to trust her then? More important, will he be able to trust his feelings for her? If she's lied to him all the time, does he really know her at all?

Kudos to Ms. Dare's writing to make this story work for me, because I'm not a fan of pirate/privateer heroes or deceitful heroines. Gray wasn't a privateer anymore, but this book took place mostly at sea so it was as if he still was. As for Sophia, she was almost a pathological liar and couldn't tell the truth to save her life. Strangely enough, I liked both Gray and Sophia despite all that. Sure, I wanted to shake them - well, mainly Sophia - a couple of times, but I found myself rooting for them all the same.

Gray was a true scoundrel trying to reform, and I love that kind of hero. He had lied, cheated, stolen his brother Joss's inheritance - not only once, but twice - and let his sister Bel down. He made no excuses for that and he would have done all of it again if given another chance, as he believed it was all a means to an end: to protect his brother and sister, to restore their family's fortune and to secure their future. Gray had some unfinished business with Joss, who also had some problems of his own, and I thought their relationship was one the best things of this book. I wish Ms. Dare wrote Joss's story someday, but I'm not sure it will happen.

Sophia, Sophia, where do I start? She was spoiled and selfish, but I couldn't help being charmed by her "vivid imagination" at first. Her plan to escape an unwanted marriage was, well, idiotic, but I was willing to go along with it because it was "in character". It made sense considering how her mind worked: Sophia wasn't one to go from Point A to Point B in a straight line. She needed a wake-up call, and Gray didn't mince words to give it to her after she almost died in one of her foolish antics:

"You—" He shook a finger at her. "You are so bloody stupid. You have no idea how damned lucky you are. Do you know what could happen to you, crossing the ocean alone with no money and no chaperone? Do you have any notion what a dangerous game you play, going addled with rum and then prancing before the crew like a common harlot?"

Ouch! I cheered Gray for trying to shake some sense into her, but I also felt kind of sorry for her. Yes, like the Aphrodite's sailors, I was still engaged by her "brainless" charm. But when she chose to drag her deception instead of coming clean when presented with the oportunity to do so, I had to take one star off from my rating.

As a minor complaint, the ending felt a bit rushed to me, even with the epilogue. Considering how Sophia based her postponing telling the truth on Gray's reaction to it, I was expecting a "bigger" showdown that what I was given. I wasn't disappointed, just surprised.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable read, with a wonderful hero, a likable but flawed heroine, an unusual (to me) setting - a ship! - and a story that had enough romance and action to keep me turning the pages almost nonstop. This was only my second book by Ms. Dare - well, it was only her seconnd book too, LOL - but she's already become one of my favorite authors. Her writing really talks to me.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Review: "Slightly Dangerous" by Mary Balogh

Slightly Dangerous (Bedwyn Saga, #6)Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 1/2 stars

As the last installment in the Slightly series, this was probably the most anticipated read of my recent reading history. To be fair, I didn't love all the previous books in the series, but I was more than ready to love this one. Why? Because it was about Wulf... *sighs*

As the story opens, Wulfric Bedwyn, the Duke of Bewcastle, is feeling somewhat morose and too old at thirty-five. His siblings are all happily married, procreating and living away in their own residences, his long-time mistress passed away a few months ago and he hasn't replaced her yet, and the parliamentary session has ended, leaving him to dread the lonely summer that awaits him at Lindsey Hall, his country estate. This unusual state of mind prompts him to accept an invitation to attend a two-week house party at one of his friends' sister's estate, something that's completely out of his character. He regrets his decision almost immediately, as he doesn't expect to find any enjoyment there, but he's a man of his word and he's accepted the invitation, so off he goes... only to have his already low expectations crushed right upon his arrival.

Christine Derrick is a 29-year-old widow who's only attending the house party as a favor to the party's hostess, Lady Renable. Considering that Christine's brother- and sister-in-law were also invited to the party and they pretty much despise her, she'd rather be somewhere else, but she couldn't refuse her friend's request. She plans to "hide" in the background and avoid drawing attention to herself, but disaster seems to follow her. It doesn't take long until she catches not only Wulf's attention but everyone else's too. She can't help it. She's just too "full of life" to sit quietly in the corner. Riiiight...

Wulf and Christine are complete opposites. He's aloof, haughty and the Duke of Bewcastle. She's bubbly, clumsy and a schoolmaster's daughter. However, they can't help falling for each other, even though they know they're completely ill-matched. So where does this leave them? Well, if you're familiar with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, you know what happens next. Wulf makes an offensive proposal, and Christine flatly refuses. He makes another offer, she refuses him again, and they part ways after exchanging some harsh words. But he can't forget her, so he eventually sets out to woo her and prove her that he's more than "just" the Duke of Bewcastle. He's also Wulfric Bedwyn, and the man behind the Duke is worth loving...

Oh man, what can I say? I'm devastated, but this book didn't live up to my sky-high expectations. As I said in the first paragraph above, I was ready to love it, so one could say I was even willing to accept minor grievances. Unfortunately, things didn't work out that way. It took me three days to finish this read, and that's bad considering I was expecting to devour this book in one sitting. So what went wrong?

In one word, Christine. I didn't like her for the most part of the story. She was supposed to be fun and loving, a big contrast to Wulf's character, but I think Ms. Balogh went a bit too far. Christine's antics made her look childish and foolish, not charming and endearing. Many reviewers liken her to Elizabeth Bennett, the heroine in Pride and Prejudice, but I kept picturing Lydia, Elizabeth's silly, idiotic sister. :( It was quite jarring, because Christine also had some moments of great maturity and wisdom. In the end, I just didn't know who (or what) she was.

Now Wulf, ah Wulf! I'm in love with the man! He was pretty much like he was in the previous books: icy and always in control. I was glad to see that Ms. Balogh didn't turn him into an overtly emotional hero only because he was in love. The glimpses into his inner thoughts were sufficient to show that, contrary to what everyone believed, there was a beating heart inside his chest and blood in his veins. Even so, he opened up enough to Christine to tell her about his upbringing and how deeply he was affected by the way he was "molded" to be the Duke of Bewcastle. That was a beautiful and powerful scene, and I had tears in my eyes when I finished reading it.

As for the plot, this book was clearly an homage to Pride and Prejudice, as many reviewers have already mentioned. I don't have a problem with it, as Ms. Austen's classic novel is one of my all-time favorite books, but Ms. Balogh didn't do the job as well as Ms. Austen when it came to making me believe that a hero and a heroine so unlikely matched would live HEA. Strangely enough, the sex scenes were part of the "problem". Wulf and Christine's lovemaking felt cold and I didn't sense any sexual tension between them, so I couldn't help picturing a lukewarm marriage in their future. Paired with the fact that Christine would definitely have a hard time adjusting to being the Duchess of Bewcastle, the whole scenario didn't scream HEA to me.

All in all, this was a disappointing read. Not because it was bad - it wasn't - but because it could have been so much better... I was poised to love it, but ended up finding it "only" slightly better than average. I know I'm in the minority here, as most readers love this book, so don't let my review influence you. If you're following the Slightly series, you definitely have to read this book.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: "Mistress" by Amanda Quick

MistressMistress by Amanda Quick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was only my third book by Amanda Quick, but I knew what to expect from her: a funny and charming story with a bright but quirky heroine who defies society's conventions, a brooding hero who's in need of an emotional makeover and a somewhat convoluted mystery to be solved while the H/h fall in love with each other. Mistress had all that, but it was by no means predictable. In fact, the mystery plot had some very unexpected twists, and I'm still a little dizzy.

Iphiginia (ugh, what a name!) Bright is a 27-year-old financially independent country spinster who's just returned to England after a year touring the ruins of Italy, when she learns that her dear aunt Zoe is being blackmailed. Determined to find out who the blackmailer is so she can put a stop to his/her unsavory threats, Iphiginia decides to pose as the unsuspecting Earl of Masters's latest mistress in order to gain access to his inner circle of acquaintances/friends. See, she's sure she'll find the blackmailer among them and she believes Masters is dead, so her plan is quite brilliant, isn't it? Unfortunately (for her), her alleged lover is very much alive and more than curious to meet his "newest mistress"...

Marcus Valerius Cloud, Earl of Masters, is a bit suspicious of Iphiginia's charade and doesn't buy her explanation, especially after he finds out that one of his friends is being blackmailed. But even though he thinks that Iphiginia is the blackmailer, he doesn't put a stop on her charade and plays along with her, decided to see how far she'll go. The fact that he's more than enchanted by her and wouldn't mind making her his newest mistress for real isn't relevant, because he lives his life by a set of simple and straightforward rules he formulated several years ago and never deviates from them:

#1 - Never remarry.

#2 - Never discuss the past.

#3 - Never explain his actions to others.

#4 - Never retreat from an objective or alter a decision.

#5 - Never get involved with virgins or other men's wives.

Little does Marcus know, but Iphiginia is going to make him break all his rules one by one in a short time. And he won't regret it. ;)

This was another great book by Ms. Quick, and I really liked Marcus, Iphigina and the whole cast of secondary characters. Marcus's sarcastic comments and Iphiginia's smart replies were so funny to read, I couldn't get enough of their witty banter. There were some serious moments between them too, especially when he finally broke Rule #2, but the lighter scenes were the ones that sparkled.

Marcus was a bit inconsistent at first: he was known to gather all facts before reaching a conclusion and making a decision - remember Rule #4, which made him a very judicious man - but he quickly assumed that Iphiginia was the blackmailer without any evidence to support that. Granted, he didn't stick to that misconception too long and he learned to trust her beyond doubt, but his initial behavior was frustrating. Overall, he was a well-drawn hero and it was very nice to see him breaking all his rules and becoming a better person in the end.

Based on the premise, I thought I would have a problem with Iphiginia because, let's face it, her plan to unmask the blackmailer was just "crazy". As I read the book, it started to make sense - I mean, the ton didn't know her and she could "retire" quietly after the charade was over, with no damage to her or anyone's reputation - so I was happy to go along with it. Plus, Iphiginia was a blast of fun and I can forgive a lot of nonsense when I connect with the characters in a book. That said, I wasn't fully happy with the way things ended for her...

Marcus married Iphiginia and they lived HEA, but she'd be forever viewed as "the mistress who got lucky and managed to marry her lover" because her true identity was never revealed to the ton. To be fair, I don't know what other ending would have been possible, since revealing that she was in fact a single woman pretending to be a mistress would have ruined her reputation, so I guess Ms. Quick had to settle for the lesser of two evils. Oh well...

As for the mystery part of this book, it was okay but some of the blackmailer's actions didn't make sense to me. At one point, I was so confused that I had to pause and wonder what the heck was going on. I got an explanation for that in the end, but it only made me think that the blackmailer wasn't the brightest person in the world. All in all, that wasn't a big deal because the main focus of this book was always Marcus and Iphiginia's relationship, and that was nicely written.

Final verdict: not my favorite book by Ms. Quick, but a very good read anyway.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: "Slightly Sinful" by Mary Balogh

Slightly Sinful (Bedwyn Saga, #5)Slightly Sinful by Mary Balogh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, let's get it out in the open: the premise of this book didn't sound very appealing to me at first. I mean, there's amnesia, deception, and another fake marriage - the fourth fake marriage/bethrotal in the Slightly series, and the fifth if you add A Summer to Remember, which is a prequel to the series. It should have been too much to take, right? Wrong! Somehow Ms. Balogh made it all work by making me fall in love with the H/h, and the rest is history...

The events in Slightly Sinful and Slightly Tempted, the previous book in the series, take place concurrently so it's a good idea to read both books back to back. I did, on the advice of my friends Beanbag Love and BJ Rose, and I had a lot of fun realizing how things could have been completely different if "this or that" happened. What's Romancelandia, if not a place full of what-ifs? ;)

Lord Alleyne Bedwyn, who's just embarked upon a career as a diplomat, has been sent to the front of the Battle of Waterloo to deliver a letter to the Duke of Wellington. On his way back to Brussels, Alleyne is shot, falls from his horse and suffers a head injury. Unconscious and defenseless, he's robbed, stripped naked by looters, and left to die in the forest.

Rachel York was working as a ladies' companion in Brussels when she fell prey to the so-called Reverend Nigel Crawley, who was actually a con artist and managed to steal all her meager funds. He's also robbed the life savings of four whores (I don't like using this term, but that's how Ms. Balogh calls them in the book) who are friends with Rachel, so now she finds herself having to live in a brothel with these "painted ladies" while they plot how to track down the conniving "Reverend" and get their money back. But they need money to afford this chase, and the quickest way to get some at the moment is to loot the dead from the Battle of Waterloo. So off they go to the battlefield, but Rachel decides to stay behind in the forest...

As fate would have it, the first "dead" body Rachel finds is Alleyne's, and when she realizes he isn't really dead, she cries for help. This is one of the what-ifs I mentioned above, as Gervase, the hero in Slightly Tempted, happens to be passing by right there and then, hears Rachel's cries, but doesn't stop because another man rushes to help her. What if Gervase had stopped? Well, both Slightly Tempted and Slightly Sinful would have been very short novels, LOL.

Anyway, Rachel takes the nearly dead Alleyne to the brothel with the assistance of Sergeant William Strickland, the man who rushed to her help in the forest. While nursing both men to health - Sergeant Strickland was also injured in Waterloo -, Rachel develops a special "connection" with Alleyne and, between moments of blessed darkness oblivion and painful consciousness, he becomes infatuated with her. He knows that he's feverish and at least partially delirious, but what red-blooded male wouldn't fall in love with such an angel? The problem is, when this red-blooded male finally awakes from his brush with death, he's got amnesia and doesn't know who he is.

Slightly afraid of facing his new reality alone and hoping to buy some time until he recovers his memory, Alleyne decides to join Rachel and her friends in their quest to recover their lost money. So off they go back to England, where Rachel is to deceive her estranged uncle and convince him she's married to a nice gentleman (aka Jonathan Smith aka Alleyne) so she can get her hands on her inheritance. Once in posession of the jewels her mother has left her, Rachel can sell some of them and finance the chase after the dastardly "Reverend". But when they arrive at her uncle's estate, things get a little tricky, and Alleyne and Rachel are forced to spend more time together than they've planned. Pretending to be happy newlyweds in love for a month for her uncle's sake is due to take its toll, isn't it? And what will happen when Alleyne recovers his memory? Will he be back to being the haughty Lord Alleyne Bedwyn and forget about the group of misfits he met in Brussels?

As I said in the first paragraph of this review, I loved Alleyne and Rachel. They were great together, and I could easily see why each fell in love with the other. There was a small misunderstanding in the beginning of their relationship, and Alleyne was aware of it and could have cleared it sooner than he did, but it wasn't bad enough to ruin the progress of the story. In fact, I understood why he chose to keep his silence and let Rachel keep her misconception about his feelings. It was just the way he found to resist his attraction to her.

I also loved Rachel's relationship with her uncle and her friends. Granted, those four "painted ladies" were unbelievably nice and kind-hearted - I could have bought one, maybe two "whores with a heart of gold", but four at once was too much - and I had to suspend disbelief with their antics at Rachel's uncle's home, but they made me laugh so they didn't really bother me overall.

As for the plot, I was okay with the amnesia and the deception in the beginning, but they lasted a bit too long. I got really nervous near the end of the story, when there were only three chapters to read and there was no resolution in sight. As it was, I was afraid the ending would be too rushed because there wouldn't be time to set everything right. Trust Ms. Balogh to turn my fears to dust! The ending was just perfect, and I admit that the scene where Alleyne was finally reunited with his family made me sigh like a ninny. I know this book is about Alleyne, but I have to say that his brother Wulf completely stole the scene there:

"Bewcastle had already seen him. His gaze was steady and silver-eyed and inscrutable. His hand reached for the gold-handled, jewel-studded quizzing glass he always wore with formal attire and raised it halfway to his eyes in a characteristic gesture. Then he came striding along the terrace with uncharacteristic speed and did not stop coming until he had caught Alleyne up in a tight, wordless embrace that lasted perhaps a whole minute while Alleyne dipped his forehead to his brother’s shoulder and felt at last that he was safe.

It was an extraordinary moment. He had been little more than a child when his father died, but Wulfric himself had been only seventeen. Alleyne had never thought of him as a father figure. Indeed, he had often resented the authority his brother wielded over them with such unwavering strictness, and often with apparent impersonality and lack of humor. He had always thought of his eldest brother as aloof, unfeeling, totally self-sufficient. A cold fish. And yet it was in Wulfric’s arms that he felt his homecoming most acutely. He felt finally and completely and unconditionally loved.

An extraordinary moment indeed."

Okay, I'd better stop now because this is no longer a review, but a rave from a die-hard Balogh fan, LOL. When it comes to her books, I just can't stop gushing about them. I. Just. Love. Her. Writing!

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: "Taking Chase" by Lauren Dane

Taking Chase (Chase Brothers, #2)Taking Chase by Lauren Dane

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Taking Chase is the second book in Lauren Dane's Chase Brothers series and it's older brother Shane's story.

Shane was introduced in Giving Chase, where he pretty much acted like a jerk and failed to endear himself to me, but I knew he would have to change in this book if Ms. Dane had any intention of making him a likable hero. What I didn't expect to see was how abrupt his change was, so it was hard to believe it at first. Right from the start of this book, previously callous and relationship-shy Shane was turned into a gentle and caring man who never hesitated to pursue a serious relationship with Cassie. Huh? Where was the guy who was so afraid of being cheated again that he avoided getting emotionally involved with any woman who might endanger his heart? I know that romantic heroes are supposed to reform when they meet "the one", but there's usually some degree of inner struggle before they take the fall. This didn't happen with Shane, and I was disappointed because I had been wondering how the mighty would fall since I finished Giving Chase. Anyway, once I decided to "accept" Shane's new demeanor without trying to understand it, it was easy to fall in love with him and wish him the best luck in his pursuit of Cassie's love.

Cassie was a difficult heroine to me. I really liked her at first and I completely understood where she was coming from, but she grated on my nerves with her OTT attitude when it came to refusing any help, which she saw as "managing", in her life. Come on, Shane was not only her boyfriend but he was also a cop, and only a stupid woman would refuse his help! She also annoyed me with the way she kept comparing Shane's actions with her ex's. Yes, she did that all the time, and no matter how many times she said she wasn't doing it, her actions said otherwise. Okay, Shane had issues too and dumped them on her now and then, so their relationship was bound to have some bumps along the way. But why was he the one who always made the effort to patch it up? He took the blame for everything, and I didn't think that was right.

As for the plot, the romance was slow paced - as it should be, considering Cassie's history - and sweet, but there were some jarring "holes" in Cassie's plan to build herself a completely new identity and escape her ex-husband's pursuit. Her being in constant contact with her brother was an extremely easy way for her ex to track her down, and I was actually surprised to see how long it took until her crazy ex finally caught up with her. Maybe I've read too many romantic suspense novels and I've become too jaded to believe that "normal" people on the run do make mistakes like that, but Cassie and her brother weren't acting on their own and had the assistance of people who were - or should have been - experts on the subject.

As it happened before, Ms. Dane's writing wasn't exactly to my liking. I still can't put my finger on it, but I found myself skimming through some scenes involving a secondary character, as I felt that they didn't add much to the story. Regardless, reading this book wasn't a hardship at all, as Shane and Cassie were engaging characters and I was really rooting for their HEA.

All things considered, this was a nice and sweet read, but I still haven't joined the "Chase Brothers's wagon". Oh, I love all the hunkalicious Chase men and I want to marry them all, but there was something lacking in the 2 books I've read so far. Anyway, I intend to read the next 2 books in this series - not because I'm particularly hooked on it, but because I'm curious about Marc and Matt, the remaining Chase brothers who haven't found their HEA yet. Plus, I enjoy reading "feel good" stories now and then, even though the Chase family can be a bit too sweet sometimes.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review: "Giving Chase" by Lauren Dane

Giving Chase (Chase Brothers, #1)Giving Chase by Lauren Dane

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After reading so many good reviews about this series, I finally caved and decided to see what all the fuss was about. Now I know... It's all about the hunky and sweet Chase brothers, of course! ;)

Giving Chase is Kyle's story, and what a charmer he is! Honorable, caring, passionate and protective, he's the son-in-law every mother dreams of - not to mention the husband every woman hopes to find. He doesn't fall fast for Maggie, but when he does... Oh boy, can I say what a charmer he is again?

Maggie doesn't fall fast for Kyle either. In fact, they've known in each other all their lives - that's a given when you live in a small town - but they've never been more than friendly acquaintances. In the beginning of this story, she actually dates other guys before hooking up with him. Naturally, all that is moot when Kyle sets out to woo and conquer her. Maggie has some big self-esteem issues - thanks to her b!tchy mother and sister - and Kyle has to keep convincing her that he's truly attracted to her and that he's in for the long haul. Is there any doubt about his persuasion powers? ;)

As the story begun, I was a bit put off by Maggie dating the creepy Alex and then hooking up with Kyle's older brother Shane, but that was short-lived - thankfully! - and once Kyle stepped in, those shenanigans were over. Kyle and Maggie made a cute couple, and she was definitely better off with him than with his brother. There wasn't much tension in their relationship, aside from Maggie's insecurities about herself, and I have to say, that was a bit dull. It was obvious they did get along and their love scenes were hot but, at one point, I felt like I was reading a premature extended epilogue. I mean, they'd already said their ILY and were basically living together 2/3 through the book, what else was going to happen? Well, I've never been happier to see a stalker in action when creepy Alex made his comeback near the end of the story, LOL.

Some people will think I'm crazy, but this book had a chick-lit vibe to me. Not in its structure per se, but in the way it seemed more focused on Maggie's overcoming her insecurities and becoming a more assertive woman than on her relationship with Kyle. Don't get me wrong, the romance part played a big role in the story, but the lack of conflict between Maggie and Kyle made the other parts of the story more interesting.

As for Ms. Lane's writing style, there was something "off" about it. The story didn't flow smoothly, and sometimes I felt like she was just describing a series of events instead of telling a story, if you know what I mean. Even so, her writing was good enough to make me care and root for the characters, so it wasn't difficult to keep reading.

All in all, this was an enjoyable, light and sweet read. It wasn't perfect, but it was entertaining. Granted, the Chase family was too good to be true, but it was nice to read an uplifting story about people who were kindhearted for a change. Many reviewers have said it before, and I agree: this book made me feel good, and sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: "Something About You" by Julie James

Something About You (FBI, #1)Something About You by Julie James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3 1/2 stars

When I added this book to my GR bookshelves, I put it in the "romantic suspense" shelf because what else should I think considering that the hero is an FBI agent and the heroine is an assistant U.S. attorney, right? Well, now that I finished reading it, I had to move it from the "romantic suspense" shelf to the straight "contemporary romance" shelf, because the suspense is almost nonexistent - the reader is aware of who the bad guy is and what his next moves are all the time. To be strict, the romance isn't that strong either - it was nowhere to be seen in the first half of the story and it didn't take my breath away when it finally started - but I think "contemporary romance" is the genre that fits this book the most.

Overall, everything in the story was kind of subdued, I don't know exactly how to explain it. Strangely enough, that didn't make reading the book boring and I actually had fun doing it - mostly because I liked the main characters (Jack, Cameron, his partner Wilkins, her friends Collin and Amy). I enjoyed "watching" their interactions and wouldn't mind having them as RL friends. Ms. James's solid writing helped the plot to move smoothly and easily, without major bumps in the way, but she could have used a bit more showing than telling. Jack's and Cameron's reminiscences about the past read like a recap sometimes, not the most exciting way to find out about a character's history.

All things considered, this was a good read. I didn't love it like many of my GR friends did, but it's still a book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone looking for a nice contemporary romance.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review: "Indecent Suggestion" by Elizabeth Bevarly

Indecent Suggestion (Harlequin Blaze, #189)Indecent Suggestion by Elizabeth Bevarly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, this was one smoking hot Blaze novel! *fans herself*

Turner McCloud (gotta love this name!) and Becca Mercer are best friends who have know each other since first grade and now work together at the same advertising agency. As the story opens, their smoking addition gets them in trouble with their boss, who doesn't allow smoking inside the office. They've tried to quit smoking many times before, with no success, so they - or better, Becca - decides it's time they took one final "drastic" measure to quit: to visit a hypnotherapist. The problem is, they arrive early to their appointment, the hypnotherapist mistakes them for another couple - who's seeking the hypnotherapist to help them with their sexual inhibitions - and, there you have it, Turner and Becca end up being hypnothized to respond sexually to each other.

Turner has been in love with Becca for years, so the hypnosis doesn't really change anything in him. On the other hand, Becca finds herself very unable to control her lust for him. Unlike Turner, she's not really in love with him yet, but she's always been attracted to him and the only reason she's avoided "getting horizontal" with him so far is the fear of losing their friendship. But now that she's been hypnothized to let go of her inhibitions, there's no stopping her. But as they get closer and closer and she falls in love with him, the truth about her hypnosis session comes to light and Turner wonders how real her feelings are. Is it all due to the hypnotherapist's indecent suggestion?

I really enjoyed this book. The writing was LOL funny - the opening scene was amazing -, the plot was a bit quirky, and Turner and Becca were adorable. And the love scenes... Wow, they were sizzling hot and borderline erotica. I wasn't completely comfortable with their love scene in her cubicle - I mean, at least get inside one of the conference rooms! - but Ms. Beverly's writing was so engaging that I gave it a pass. All in all, this was one of the best HQ Blaze novels I've read, and I'm going to dream about Turner tonight. ;)

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: "No Rest for the Wicked" by Kresley Cole

No Rest for the Wicked (Immortals After Dark, #3)No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I guess third time is the charm... At least, with the Immortals After Dark series. I wasn't impressed with The Warlord Wants Forever and A Hunger Like No Other, the first two entries in the series, but now I understand what all the fuss is about. To be honest, I wasn't "feeling the love" in the first half of this book, but things got much better in the second half.

Back in 1709, Sebastian Wroth was turned into a vampire by his brother Nikolai, the hero in The Warlord Wants Forever. That happened against his will, and Sebastian has never forgiven his older brother for it. When Valkyrie Kaderin the Cold Hearted shows up at his castle to kill him, he's more than happy to oblige... until he realizes she's his Bride, the one and only female destined to be his eternal wife. Now he doesn't want to die anymore. Too bad Valkyries hate vampires and Kaderin is the best vampire slayer on the face of the Earth, er, the Lore.

Kaderin isn't called "the Cold Hearted" for nothing. She hasn't felt any emotion in a thousand years, ever since her two sisters died by the hand of a vampire whose life Kaderin had just spared out of pity. Devastated by guilt and grief, she was given the blessing of feeling nothing so she could move on with her life. She's cold, fearless and ruthless, the ultimate vampire killer. But all that changes when she meets Sebastian and she starts feeling and experiencing emotions again. However, she isn't the least interested in consorting with a vampire, and she pushes him away.

Besides, she needs to focus on the Talisman's Hie, which is basically an immortal version of the TV show The Amazing Race. Kaderin is the Hie's reigning champion and has won every single edition of the deadly competition, so winning the Hie is a must. But there's more than pride and ego at stake this time around... This Hie, the winner will be given Thrane's Key, a powerful weapon that enables its possessor to time travel to the past. Here's Kaderin chance to go back in time and save her sisters! Her competitors are fierce, but she's positive she'll be able to defeat them. Sebastian offers to join her in the competition, but she flatly refuses his help. So he decides to enter the Hie himself and win the prize for her - after all, she's his Bride and he'll do anything for her. And while they're "globetrotting" in search of the talismans, he'll make her see they're meant for each other. Or will he?

Awww, I loved, loved, loved Sebastian! How could I not? He was adorable, protective, caring, honorable, and sexy as hell. And I think he was a virgin! I loved how he got all nervous and tentative around Kaderin, before he realized she wasn't fragile like the women he knew in his previous human life. I have to say I didn't fully understand why he didn't end his own life in all the three hundred years he lived as an unwilling vampire before he met Kaderin and found a purpose to live, though. I guess I should believe it was fate and he was just waiting to meet her, but Kaderin's behavior didn't make it easy to go along with that idea because she was so not worthy of him... Not in the beginning, at least.

I wanted to throttle Kaderin for the most part of this book. She was cold as expected, given her nickname, but I had a hard time figuring her out. I just couldn't understand how she remained imune to Sebastian for so long. At one point, she even lied to him and tried to use his feelings for her to get her out of a jammy so she could complete a task in the Hie. Thankfully, she came to her senses later in a wonderful scene that made my heart skip a beat. Was it enough to win me over? Not completely, but it was enough to stop me from wanting to smack her, LOL.

The pace of the story was a bit uneven to me. I struggled to get through the first half, when Sebastian and Kaderin didn't really spend much time together and I couldn't see how they would manage to fall in love if they didn't get to know each other. Following the Hie was fun, but it wasn't enough to hold my interest for itself. Once Sebastian and Kaderin started to interact more often, things improved. The second half of the story had a nice mix of action and romance, and I would have read it in one sitting if it wasn't for the darn power outage that took my country by surprise last night. All in all, the final half of the story saved the book for me and the ending had a nice tease - not exactly a cliffhanger - that made me want to read the next book, Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night. Yay!

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: "A Hunger Like No Other" by Kresley Cole

A Hunger Like No Other (Immortals After Dark, #2)A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first full-length story in the Immortals After Dark series, following the novella The Warlord Wants Forever that introduced the Lore, the mythical strata created by Kresley Cole "where those sentient creatures that are not human live". You don’t have to read that short story to understand A Hunger Like No Other, but I did and I think it helps to get a better grasp of the overall scenario as some events in the two stories take place at the same time.

Lachlain MacRieve is the Lykae King, a 1,200-year-old werewolf who’s been searching for his mate for a long, long time. For the past 150 years, he’s been imprisoned in the catacombs beneath Paris, where he’s been tortured by the Vampire Horde and subjected to die from the fires of hell only to be resurrected by his immortality - over and over again. The only thing that keeps him alive and somewhat sane is the thought of finding his mate, so when he unexpectedly scents her nearby one night, he finds the strength to break free from the bonds that keep him captive. When he finally escapes the catacombs and finds his way to the surface, then into a darkened alley, his mate is gone. He’s not defeated, though, because once a Lykae scents his mate, she’s his forever – and he will find her again… However, Lachlain has the shock of his life when he catches up with her one week later and discovers she’s, gasp!, a vampire. No, this cannot be! Lykaes and vampires are mortal enemies, so why would fate give him a vampire as a mate?

Emmaline “Emma” Troy is actually half vampire and half Valkyrie. Her mother Helen (of Troy?) was a Valkyrie who died when Emma was still a baby. As for her father, all Emma knows is that he is/was a vampire. Determined to finally find out his identity, Emma’s left the Valkyrie coven in New Orleans for the first time in her 70 years – wow, she’s almost a newborn compared to Lachlain! – and flies to Paris, where her parents are believed to have met and lived together for a while. Imagine her surprise when, one night, she’s kidnapped by a strange non-human male who seems to be a bit "deranged", to say the least.

Lachlain is torn between lust and disgust. His "beast" wants to claim Emma as his mate, but he’s having a hard time reconciling the fact that she’s a vampire. He ends up "convincing" her to travel with him to his home in Scotland, with the promise that he’ll let her go when they get there. He’s lying through his teeth, of course, as he has no intention of letting her go – ever! He’s only buying time, before she accepts her position as his mate. But there are people after her – not only her Valkyrie foster mother and aunts, but some bad vampires too – and Lachlain has to fight all of them to keep Emma safe. Not an easy task, when he has to woo her and convince her she belongs with him at the same time.

When I read the Prologue, I thought Lachlain would end up being one of my favorite heroes. I was sure he would be a dark, brooding and intense hero – come on, he severed one of his leg to free it from its bonds to get to his mate! – but that was not to be. He had a brief bout of "insanity" in the beginning, which was completely expected considering his 150-year imprisonment, but he recovered from it quite easily and I found it too unbelievable. Strangely enough, I wasn’t put off by his lying to Emma. I’m usually not a fan of deceitful heroes, but I was OK with Lachlain’s lying because it was consistent with his initial "madness". He kept lying later, when he was "sane" again, but that was another story...

As for Emma, she got on my nerves. She started out as a wuss – by her own words – and ended up as a strong and independent vampire/Valkyrie – kudos to her! – but the journey in between was uneven. I guess she was supposed to be funny and witty, but I found myself wanting to shake some sense into her a couple of times. Some of her conversations with her crazy Valkyrie aunts were hilarious, but I got tired of their antics after a while. There’s a time to joke around, and there’s a time to get down to business. JMHO.

I could have "ignored" Lachlan’s and Emma’s shortcomings if the plot had been engaging enough but, alas, that wasn’t the case. Some jarring inconsistencies kept pestering me while I was reading this book, and I just couldn’t get over them. A) Lachlain’s escape from the catacombs wasn’t as difficult as it should have been. I mean, not a single guard intercepted his way! B) Why did Lachlain waited 150 years to escape? Don’t tell me that he only felt compelled to do it when he scented Emma, because I can’t believe he didn’t find ending his torture as soon as possible compelling enough. C) Why didn’t the Vampire Horde go after Lachlain when he escaped? He couldn’t be that "insignificant", could he? D) Why did Demestriu, the Vampire King, … Okay, I’ll stop ranting now because I’m about to enter into spoiler territory.

All things considered, this was a fun read but, as it happened with The Warlord Wants Forever, I wasn’t wowed by the story. I’m feeling kind of weird here, because many readers love this series and I just don’t get it. I do love the idea of having all kinds of non-human beings living together – mostly at war but some in peace – in the same universe, the Lore, but that’s all. Ms. Cole’s writing was humorous and easy to read, the love scenes were hot and the story was fast paced and entertaining despite its inconsistencies, but I’m still unsure about this series. Does it get better? Should I give the next book a try? Decisions, decisions…

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