Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Julia London 'The Dangers of Deceiving a Viscount'

Merry Christmas fellow readers. Did everyone know that Viscount is pronounced 'vykount'? Am I the only cretin who thought you said the 's' in there? I was in line to check out while shopping with my Mom a few days ago and telling her how this book was rather tedious and she leans over and whispers 'vykount.' I replied, 'What?' And she looked embarrassed for me, as only a mother can and repeated herself. Well, who knew? (Apparently everyone, as my engineering spouse confirmed later.)

Enough about me, about the book. Determinedly mediocre. I liked Phoebe, I even liked Will despite his taking advantage of a servant in his house. But the fact that Phoebe continues to pretend to be a seamstress after they become involved is just too silly to be believed. From then I had a hard time caring about these guys. The sexual tension is fine and the writing isn't terrible.

Historical Romance 2007: 2 of 5 viscounts.

Image details: a viscount coronet courtesy of wikipedia.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Erin McCarthy ' My Immortal'

It wasn't completely horrible, but nearly so. Marley is a school teacher who spends two months in retreat at a monastery then leaves for New Orleans to find her ne're do well sister whose disappeared. Damien is a selfish arrogant 18th Century plantation owner who struck a deal with a demon to live forever. He regretted that decision pretty quickly but is required to encourage sin in humans as his price of his bondage.

So the scene is set for sex parties that nice little Marley gets to wander through while she looks for her sister and gets to know Damien. I haven't really read any erotica, a growing expansion of the romance genre, but I find this author's use of it's settings, at the same time painting female characters who like sex as bad, rather heavy handed. The overt morality as well as the use of the sexual deviance as titillation are to me, disingenuous. And let's not even get into the set up of Damien's punishment by his demon master. This plot device is so weak when Damien was freed from servitude, I could only think, WTF?

I guess I should have figured out that this wasn't going to be stellar when I felt the incredible urge to peek ahead a couple hundred pages.

Paranormal Contemporary Romance 2007: 1 out of 5 swampy plantations.

Friday, December 14, 2007

C.L. Wilson 'Lady of Light and Shadow'

When was the last time you read a series book and the second was better than the first? Yeah, excuse my squeeing silliness, but this book was delightful. It's pretty clear that some publisher convinced the author to split what was one book into two, but with publishing dates of Sept and Nov. I can live with that. This story deserves to make as much money as possible.

Is this a literary masterpiece? No it's not Atonement, but really if you like fantasy novels and like them even better when their is great love involved, and don't mind some hot sex wrapped in, these are the two books you MUSTread. I really don't re-read books and I immediately started over after finishing it. I just don't want it to end.

C.L. Wilson, I hope to goddess you are writing your little heart out right now!

Fantasy Romance 2007: 5 fold weaves all glowing bright.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

C.L. Wilson 'Lord of the Fading Lands'

I'm a sucker for fantasy novels, have been ever since I read The Blue Sword in seventh grade so it won't be too surprising when I say, I FRIGGIN' LOVED THIS BOOK. It's got everything you could want in a fantasy, a heroine whose plain and lanky and raised by a woodcutters family. She suffered seizures as a child so she's been avoided and made fun of most of her life. A hero who's mythic, the last Fey king who still can change into a Tairen (a large flying black leopard no less). He sees her in a magic crystal because she is the only one who can save the Fey from dying out. And then there are his cadre of leather wearing, knife throwing stoic warriors whom our heroine wins over with her inherent goodness. Oh this is better than Ben & Jerry's!

If you have ever liked a fantasy novel, read this one. It's a pure delight.

As an aside, this is the first romance/fantasy that I have come across that could fall into the much complained about category of 'not ending each book with a clear happily ever after in order to continue the story into a series.' I have the second book, Lady of Light and Shadows, so the To Be Continued, didn't piss me off too much. I'll let you know if the ending of the second book (since the third is not out yet) annoys me.

Fantasy Romance 2007: 5 out of 5 tairen souls.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tracy Anne Warren ‘My Fair Mistress’

This book is innocuous enough but nothing to write home about. The beginning was promising; the hero tries to scare some sense into her with an outrageous proposal that she settle her brother’s debt to him by becoming his mistress. It doesn’t hurt that he’s drop dead gorgeous; anything to save the family after all; so she agrees. He is shocked but not willing to back out and it doesn’t hurt that she’s drop dead gorgeous.

But then the book falls into a very familiar pattern. Evil guy killed his one true love years ago. He decides that he must protect heroine by breaking up with her so the same doesn’t happen to her. He pretends he’s bored, she is devastated. Then she turns up pregnant, she decides not to tell him since he doesn’t love her; he finds out and is horrified that she hates him so much she would have a baby out of wedlock to avoid him, yada, yada, yada. Going into labor while being saved from evil guy, yikes, this is what people make fun of when they think of romance novels.

The writing is good, the sex is hot but the plot is beyond pedestrian. I might try this author again some day, but not too soon.

Historical Romance 2007: 2 of 5 stars.

Friday, December 7, 2007

JK Rowling 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix'

I profusely apologize for the long lull. If I haven't lost your readership already I'll try to do better in the future. I decided I needed to preview the fifth book of Harry Potter before my eight year old dove into it.

I've always liked young adult literature, especially fantasy stuff and when I read the first Harry Potter eight years ago I wasn't impressed. The characters were flat and the writing pedestrian. So I turned away from the series until my daughter picked them up this summer. I followed her progress through books 1-3 then tried to keep her from going on with the vague thought that they might get too adult for her as the characters get older. When she ignored me and sailed through book 4 I figured I had to put my money where my mouth was and actually read book 5 if I was going to have some reason to tell her she couldn't.

So these books are damn long. I still have some of the same reservations about the characters being static but I will admit, this lady can sure write a page turning plot. An author that pulls me through over 800 pages that I didn't really want to read, that's impressive. I quite enjoyed the story by the end and decided that my oldest could probably handle it. She seems to be less affected by scary scenes in the book form than she is by movies so I gave her the go.

I think it's particularly interesting that she put aside the awesome Susan Cooper book, "Over Sea, Under Stone' in order to jump back into the Harry Potter books. She just couldn't get through it. That sort of sums up Harry Potter for me so far. Enjoyable, not sophisticated or nuanced like a truly good YA book. I guess it's sort of like the difference between romance and good fiction. And I of all people, know the value of a good trashy romance novel.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Albuquerque, NM

The family and I spent a long week-end in Albuquerque, NM with our favorite pathologist. She was there taking advantage of the large number of questionable deaths to explore her interest in Forensic pathology. In between seeing the sights, we were regaled with stories of suicides by the Rio Grande and heroin hotels in the area.

One entire day was spent in the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. The seismosaurus (the longest land animal that ever lived) skeleton was particularly impressive, and it was found just outside of the city of Albuquerque. The kids really enjoyed the display of the animals that lived in New Mexico 150 million years ago when the whole state was covered with a shallow sea. Our younger daughter's favorite thing was the 'cowboy movie' in the large screen theater and both girls enjoyed the full replica of the Mars Rover. You can control the camera on it and zoom in to see your own nose hairs if desired.

We stopped in at El Morro and El Malpais national monuments which both deserved more time. El Malpais has this lovely natural arch, La Ventana. And the lava tubes are very cool.

Probably my favorite stop was the Acoma Pueblo, otherwise known as Sky City. The visitor center is a really lovely building on it 's own and the setting of the pueblo up on a high mesa is wonderful. We didn't visit the casino, if you know my husband, you'll know why.

And we managed to fit in a visit to the Wild Spirit Wolf Santuary which does good work taking care of captive-bred wolves and educating people about the dangers of trying to have wolf-dogs as pets. It was an action packed trip, so no, I didn't get any reading done!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Madeline Hunter 'Lessons of Desire'

Madeline Hunter is the man. If you've read this blog a bit you'll know I'm in love with Julia Quinn's books for their humor. Well, I'm in love with Madeline Hunter for her angst. And I'm not a great lover of angst, but she does it so amazingly well. She's the frickin' master. Phaedra is the daughter of a free thinker. Her mother never married her father and she wrote pamphlets on women's rights and free love. When Elliot's family's secrets are included in her father's memoirs, he has to go to her to ask that she not publish them.

Not every Madeline Hunter book has been right on. Sometimes her historical accuracy gets in the way of her story, this one is damn near perfect. I really can't imagine a Madeline Hunter book that could be better than this one.

Historical Romance 2007: 5 out of 5 incredible stars.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Jayne Castle 'Silver Master'

Jayne Castle aka Jayne Ann Krentz aka Amanda Quick is a very good writer. She has a decent formula where the two protagonists team up to solve some sort of mystery/crime/murder. In this case the story is set in a future colony on another planet. The major change here is the psychic abilities that humans have developed on this planet.

If you like Castle's stories, this one's very acceptable but like many of her books, the romance, sexual tension and development of an attraction between the two main characters is lacking. The new world and the plot are distractingly entertaining, but that's not enough for me.

Paranormal Futuristic Romance 2007: 3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monica McCarty 'Highlander Untamed'

This book is a throw back to an earlier generation of romance novels. The hero is pretty progressive for a muscle bound medieval warrior type, the heroine is amazingly beautiful, and sweet and nice. The hero refuses to consummate the relationship despite his right to do so, on honorable grounds, which leads to a lot of sexual frustration on everyone's part.

In the end, I just didn't like the main characters. The heroine has some serious TSTL moments in her deliberations on their relationship problems. The hero is a little too muscle bound for me and the sister becoming an expert archer after losing her eye was a little too silly even for me, can you say depth perception?

That said, at the end of the book the author tells us that these are real historical people, and all of the sudden I wanted to like the story. Well, I'll give her points for research and really, the writing isn't horrible but the characters are poorly drawn.

Historical Romance 2007: 2 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Shell Lake, WI

Since Stewart is correct, the seal has been broken, I thought I would mention that the family and I are looking forward to a four day week-end in Shell Lake, WI this week-end. We'll definitely see this terrific representation of a Wisconsin Walleye (normally seen on a plate on Friday nights.)

I doubt we'll be hanging out on the lovely local beach but maybe we can catch the Museum of Woodcarving so the girls can see those bible stories they are reading all life size and shit.

We've rented a cabin a bit out of town. It looks awfully cute, I'll let you know how it goes. It's a 4 hour drive from Madison so I'll be loading up the girls with lots of distracting fun stuff for the drive.

Yay, our first vacation since February! Let's hope we don't end up doing this.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Birthday Dinner at Harvest

The spouse took us to Harvest Restaurant in Madison, WI for my birthday dinner. AND IT ROCKED. Normally Harvest is closed on Sundays, but once a month they have a fixed price dinner with some sort of theme. Our theme was Mulefoot pork which was truly amazing. I thought it was especially cute that the meat came from Strawberry Point, Iowa. This is not mulefoot, but it's a nice visual.

The dinner included six courses, with a wine paired with each course. Spouse and I had to walk around the block once or twice after dinner before driving home. Luckily it was a lovely night and with the capital lit up, it was very scenic.

5 major stars and really, what a bargain. I highly recommend the monthly dinner to anyone. And here is the cute chef who put it all together for us.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Shana Abe 'The Dream Thief'

This book is a wonderful example of a really good story that's woven around an epic love affair with a HEA worked in there as well. I am impressed. I imagine you should enjoy the fantasy genre to truly enjoy this story. I do, so I can't say if it would appeal to everyone.

Lady Amalia is a late blooming member of the drakon species. She sees the future in her dreams and hear's music from gem stones. Her hero is a petty thief who got involved with the drakon as a youth and now is their 'trusted' emissary to the human world they prefer to stay separate from. They head off together to find the legendary diamond Draumr. The diamond whose owner has the power to control any drakon.

Really, really liked this book.

Fantasy Romance 2006: 5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Elizabeth Hoyt 'The Serpent Prince'

Lucy finds Simon's naked dead body in a ditch near her home, only he's not dead. He spends some weeks recovering in her house and she turns the vicar down when he proposes after three years of courting.

Simon has some enemies who he intends to finish off, apparently they killed his brother. But he can't help himself when it comes to Lucy so he comes back and marries her. Once in London, she catches on that he's got a list of men he's tracking down and becomes rather upset by the whole affair.

The fairytale in this one was more entertaining than The Leopard Prince. Hoyt is a terrific writer, her dialog is first rate, although I will warn you her sex scenes are rather raunchy. I'm not knocking it, but if you have more delicate sensibilities, its better to be fore-warned.

The passivity of the heroine, well, if it didn't bother me, at least I noticed. Granted it's consistent with her character, she's perceptive, not an ass kicker. As with The Leopard Prince, I loved the beginning and middle of these books, the endings were a bit of a let down.

Historical Romance 2007: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Elizabeth Thornton 'The Pleasure Trap'

The heroine writes Gothic novels. The hero is approached by an old soldier friend to find out who is writing some stories being published in the paper about mysterious deaths from the past. It becomes a personal task when his family is the subject of the next story published. And thus they meet.

Overall the book wasn’t horrible, but the writing was too expository. In character’s internal dialog they continually dither. “ spite of what he said, no one wanted to be an open book that anyone could read at will. All the same it would be comforting to have someone to whom she could unburden her heart…She wasn’t that brave so she could hardly expect Ash to be different. For a time there she had felt close to him, until she’d mentioned his mother.” Even if people really think this way, it’s quite annoying in a novel.

Early on the hero accuses the heroine of not knowing how to write a male character. To which she replies, “You mistake my books, Lord Denison, my hero’s are mere accessories to my heroines.” I loved this comment but it’s ironic because by the end Lord Dennison is SO an accessory.

I never fell in love with either of these characters and I have to attribute it to the heavy-handed writing.

Historical Romance 2007: 2 of 5 stars.

Picture Attribution:

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Marilynne Robinson 'Gilead'

This book won a Pulitzer Prize so I'm well aware that I'm not going to be able to say anything more profound about it than what has already been said. But maybe by putting it here, I can at least bring it to more people's attention (yeah, the three people reading this blog :).

John Ames is a Congregationalist minister whose heart is giving out. Late in life he married and now has a seven year old son, so he sits down to write a farewell letter to him. I will say that it's slow reading with little plot. But as you read you are transported to a slower, more thoughtful place where you begin to notice the sun shining in the window and the motes floating through the air and to appreciate the small things we usually pass right by.

John Ames is an amazingly forgiving, loving, minister. He is mesmerized by the beauty of existence and presents the foibles of the people around him through a window of quiet common sense.

In the end you realize you've thought about some very important human issues, slowed your own frantic rush through life and spent time with a truly holy man. It's a story and character that stays with you for a long time. Lovely. Really lovely.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Christina Dodd 'Touch of Darkness'

After enduring the last paranormal from Christina Dodd ,whose heroine was really terrible, I was Not going to read this one, I swear. But then Erin bought it and gave it to me. Well, it was free, what can I say.

And surprisingly I liked this one. I liked the hero a bit more and definitely liked the heroine a lot more. The story starts in Scotland, who doesn't like that...the plot was moving right along. Then bam (so to speak), it happened again. What is Christina Dodd doing with the forced sex scenes? "Don't." "No" she whispered and "Damn you. Get off!" I just don't know what to think about this. Can I condone this because the heroine is emotionally closed and trying to get away from the 'threat' of Rurik's love. Or do I think a guy who forces you to have sex with him to break down emotional barriers is just an idiot, and a sicko.

It was easier to ding the last book cause I didn't really like the H/H. What to do....what to do. Help me out here people!

Paranormal Romance 2007: 3 of 5 stars.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Candace Camp 'The Marriage Wager'

Clever premise. Francesca Haughston, 'a reigning beauty of the ton' wagers the Duke of Rochford that she can help any young woman at Lady Welcombe's ball get a marriage proposal by the end of the season. He picks Constance, a spinster of 28 who is chaperoning her two younger cousins in their first season. Constance was nursing her sick father and so never had her own season on the marriage mart.

I liked that Constance runs into the hero before Francesca 'transforms' her and that they like each other right away. Dominic needs to marry money to keep his family afloat, therein lies the rub, as Constance isn't just on the shelf, she's poor too.

This book is well written, has enjoyable characters, has some sex and sexual tension to keep you going until things heat up. But in the end, you need something more than this to fill out 379 pages. It could have been shorter, or it could have been funny, or it could have had a more interesting plot. But it needed something.

This book had a lot of things going for it and was easy to read. I just can't give it a full five stars.

Historical Romance 2007: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, September 10, 2007

I'm So Sad

Dame Anita Roddick died at 64 of a brain hemorrhage.
More info here.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Kalen Hughes 'Lord Sin'

Despite the worrisome lame title and tag line "Special Value $3.99" across the top of this book, it was surprisingly enjoyable. The sex scenes were best described as luscious and relatively frequent. The writing was good and plot was fine. I enjoyed the heroine as the character I never knew I really wanted to be. She's not an ass-kicking warrior type (my other fantasy) but a strong minded feminine widow who rides and shoots and who is genuinely liked by her male friends for who she is, not as an object to be attained.

So what's holding me back from loving this book? Two things: the hero was probably my first Beta hero (at least since I've had the Alpha/Beta hero difference pointed out to me) and I have to admit, I liked him but I didn't LUVVVV him. But much more importantly, I bought these two being in lust, but they never actually spoke to each other. Nothing, nada. It took me a while to notice but beside setting up their bargain to sleep together for six nights (long story), they really hardly speak. I'm not looking for them to pour their guts out the first time they're alone but a little discussion of, I don't know, that they think the other is hot, or smart or well dressed or something would have been nice. That having been said, decent book and I would pick up this author again.

Historical Romance 2007: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Erica Orloff 'Blood Son'

I've always wondered if Silhouette and Harlequin books are required to be badly written or if I was just too snobby about it. Well, score one for the badly written camp. This book is from the Silhouette Nocturne series. The characters start out being just flat then progress to being TSTL. I'd like to use the picture of George Bush and Flat Stanley again but I'm afraid of offending my readership. However bat guano is pretty central to the story so.....

I'm not going to explain TSTL just so I can see what Stewart comes up with. Don't disappoint me!

Paranormal Vampire Romance 2007: 0 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Stephenie Meyer 'twilight'

I can't decide, should I just squeee with delight or should I review seriously. This is a totally, thoroughly, entirely, enjoyable book. It's on the light side and escapist in nature and it doesn't deal with any important world questions. Bella loves Edward because he is beautiful, and otherworldly and excitingly forbidden. Edward loves Bella because she is forbidden and surprisingly smart and interesting. Half the book is wrapped around their anticipation of touching each other. Now, I'll warn the romance readers, there's no sex per se. It is young adult literature after all. But all the anticipation is there, so I'm still sticking with the romance category. There is even a HEA, at least as much of one that also allows a couple more books.

Totally enjoyed every minute.

Vampire YA Lit/Romance 2005: 5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Robin T. Popp 'Immortals: The Darkening'

I've definitely jumped into a series with this one. And I'm about to jump right back out. Lexi is a werewolf who gets involved in a Coven's attempt to call the Immortals (protectors of light magic beings on earth) who haven't been called in seven hundred years.

I think my favorite part of the book was the hero's name, Darius. I will give the author credit for plot and good pacing. The characters on the other hand are so flat I could mail them around the country like Flat Stanley. The closest we get to angst or internal anything is that Darius's mother put a spell on him as he got called to earth so that he wouldn't have too much fun there, and if he completes a sexual act he loses all his memory. Yup, this actually becomes the 'big misunderstanding' keeping them apart for at least 2/3rds of the book. Jaysus! Eye rolling and snorting happening over here cause for some reason I keep feeling like I can't pan a book without finishing it. I'm going to have to rethink that philosophy soon or my poor husband's gonna find me one morning with pencils sticking out of my eye sockets.

Paranormal Future Romance 2007: 0 of 5 stars.

PS. Photo taken in Appleton, WI 2004. :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Melody Thomas 'Wild and Wicked in Scotland'

Alright, alright, I finally finished this endless book. Can I tell you how much I hate a heroine with blindingly white blond hair. I don't know, one of the Johanna Lindsey books had one and I couldn't stand her. Which one was that? Oh, HERE it is. Hated it and her.

Anyway, I will give this book credit for a decent though complicated plot line. I guess I just didn't like the main characters. They weren't terrible but I felt like the author kept trying to tell me things about their motivation that I just wasn't getting. "The thought flustered her. Not because either of them was incapable of love, but because love made them incapable." WTF? Is it just me or is this author trying harder to find a clever turn of phrase than to tell a story about these two people. Even if I could understand what that sentence means, is it an appropriate thought for a romance novel? And let me assure you, it does not fit with the overall characterization of our heroine.

Whatever, I've already spent too much time reading this book, I give up trying to pinpoint what I didn't like about it. I admit it, I'm not always a gifted reviewer. Sigh.

Historical Romance 2007: 2 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Not a Review...Sorry

I've been spending a bit too much time on the newly launched Romance Wiki site putting up pages for my favorite books, etc. And as I was digging around in the history of romance pages I found this.

If there is a perjorative term in romance fiction, "bodice ripper" is it. The term, officially, refers to a specific era in romance fiction where the hero forcibly "takes" the heroine, or rips her bodice in prelude to raping her. It is not clear why this particular scenario gained popularity, but today's romance authors and readers view the term "bodice ripper" with disgust due to the violent implications of the phrase.

There was a post a while back on Smart Bitches' web site talking about reclaiming the word bitch (as the only word in the english language that's exclusively female, their words, not mine) from it's pejorative history. If they can do it so can I. I'm a romance reader and I don't think of Bodice Ripper with disgust. I guess I always thought it was funny. Now...I haven't been lambasted in any media form for writing trashy bodice rippers lately, but it feels to me like the romance world is a little touchy on the subject. I fall pretty heavily into the 'don't-like-sex-scenes-without-pretty-overt-consent-for-both-parties' camp, but I think the term Bodice Rippers is quaint and funny. Am I wrong??

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rachel Vincent 'Stray'

If you were wondering why Ms. Vincent's book, Stray, is on my To Be Reviewed list when in fact it's not a romance novel, you are a more astute student of the romance genre than I am. I guess it speaks to the recent trend in genre bending, that I had to get almost half way through the book before I could be sure that a romance novel wasn't hiding in there somewhere damn-it. I'm still not positive but given my romance 'to be read and reviewed' pile, I think I need to cut bait.

I didn't finish the book but I might as well comment since I invested close to five hours in this one. Faythe is a English grad student and a werecat. She has a rather wide independent streak and when someone starts attacking female werecats around the country her Dad calls her home from school to keep her safe. The 'world creating' (or species creating) back story is engaging and I liked the book but the description of this close pride of werecats and Faythe's overwhelming need to be alone didn't gel for me. Her defining characteristic was completely at odds with her description of their species and her upbringing. If it's not nature and it's not nurture, Faythe is either a genetic mutation or a character created solely to echo American teenage angst. But then who am I to judge marketing versus literary integrity? Hell, I judge my romance novels primarily by the fantasy fulfillment quotient of the hero. You Go, Rachel.

[artwork attribution]

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sophie Jordan 'Too Wicked to Tame'

For the first ten pages I thought I was reading a parody. Her carriage stranded in ankle deep mud, our heroine sets off on foot, the skies open, a stallion comes pounding down the road, narrowly missing trampling her. Prone in the mud, she looks up into gray eyes as stormy as the sky flashing above.

Then either I was dying for a good story or the book actually got better. I really liked Lord Gray-Eyes and Lady Marriage-Is-Female-Slavery. I thought the big misunderstanding was believable but when Lord Gray-Eyes overcomes his own reservations, the plot spins into another almost parody of last minute physical danger.

Since I enjoyed 80% of this book, I'm giving it a decent rating. But more importantly I would pick up this author again. Promising.

Historical Romance 2007: 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Suzanne Enoch 'Twice the Temptation'

I'm beginning to wonder if I'm just crabby. Admittedly, I don't generally like multiple stories within one book, the length never seems quite adequate to develop the characters or story.

In the first story (1814) Evangeline inherits a huge diamond that comes with a bad luck curse. Then her carriage runs into Connoll and the story is off. He's drunk at ten in the morning, giving her a reason to be mean to him while he pursues her. Probably the biggest problem with this story is why a marriage-avoiding-Marquis suddenly pursues her so assiduously. But I can forgive this and the unlikelihood of them doing the nasty on a chaise lounge at a ball in the garden because I like these characters and they are funny.

The second story(2007) has Richard Addison, descendant of Connoll and Evangeline dating Sam, former cat burglar extraordinaire. Sam has gone straight and is organizing the security for a V&A traveling exhibition of gemstones that will be housed on Richard's estate for two weeks. While they are setting up she finds the hidden cursed diamond and the fun ensues from there. I just didn't like these two's dynamic, they are both rather tetchy and I was into Richard until he led her horse into a canter and wouldn't stop until she told him something. That's just mean. And the sex was abrupt. (FYI, I switched subjects there, there's no sex on the horse. Sorry to disappoint.)

Historical Romance/Contemp Romance 2007: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Marjorie Liu 'Soul Song'

I'll start by saying there is something so not threatening or sexy about a man who sings to kill or entrance. It made me think of cheesy weddings where the groom or bride (or both, horrors!) sing to each other. Hey, I like to sing, I love listening to singers, but given my reaction to the premise of the book, maybe I was biased.

M'cal is half human/half Krackeni (merman) and has been ensorceled by a not nice witch who compels him to 'work the streets' as a male prostitute, take the women's souls that hire him (by singing), and bring them back to her so she can use them to remain young. Kitala is a successful fiddle player touring the country. She has this unfortunate ability to foresee violent death in other people's futures.

And in the end they get together. There now, I've saved you the pain and agony of having to read this book. Okay, to be more specific, the storyline doesn't bother to develop these somewhat promising characters and the plot is disjointed and jerky in very annoying ways. And the hero bites off the witch's nose, "M'cal spat out the knob of bloody flesh. It bounced against the shag carpet, landed at Ivan's feet like an odd red button." Hey, I don't mind some gratuitous violence, but that's just totally gross!

The writing isn't terrible and I actually liked Kitala, our heroine who is, refreshingly, African American, I even liked her voodoo wielding grandma, but the rest falls way short of tolerable.

Paranormal Romance 2007: 2 out of 5 stars

Friday, August 3, 2007

Jo Beverley 'Lady Beware'

Hmmm. This book starts slow, but quickly you begin to really like the characters, and like them being with each other. Then the last fourth of the book kind of falls apart. There are two big evil moments, there are plot tie-ups that are anticlimactic to say the least, all while the hero and heroine are apart no less.

I can't fault the writing, the characterization is good, the plot is, well, acceptable mostly. I'm going to put it more down to pacing. If you are a Jo Beverley fan, Darien is a wonderful hero and Thea is terrific as well and you could probably forgive the pacing to have another book related to the Rogues. But if not, this could be skipped.

Historical Romance 2007: 3 out of 5 stars

[Hero's nickname is Cave Canem: Beware the Dog]

Friday, July 27, 2007

Laura Lee Guhrke 'And Then He Kissed Her'

Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about!

Obviously someone should punish me for my shortsighted judge a book by it's cover problems. This book was fantastic. Emma has worked for five years as Lord Harry's secretary, running his successful publishing company. When he rejects her third manuscript in a row without even reading them, she quits and his life goes to hell.

Emma is one of the most wonderful romance heroines to come along in a while. Harry takes a bit of time to develop into a man who is worthy of her. The journey is very enjoyable.

Some romance novels divert blood to certain parts of your body and well, that's fun for what it's worth. Then some leave you with your chest tight with giddiness. And some do both.

Historical Romance 2007: 5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jane Feather 'A Wicked Gentleman'

Jane Feather has always been a hit or miss author for me. She writes well, but sometimes she crafts a really good story and sometimes she just doesn't. I liked Lady Cornelia but the first half of the book was really slow, both from a relationship development standpoint and a plot perspective. The hero and heroine do manage to spend some time together but there is very little sexual tension or even any spark, leading me to wonder why they end up in bed together when it finally does happen. I even questioned Harry's incredible intellect (he's a spy and a code cracker) when he doesn't pursue the issue of the missing nephew more thoroughly.

This is an author who can write, and can craft reasonable character development. This story had neither a spark between the two protagonists, nor did it have a compelling enough plot.

Historical Romance 2007: 2 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 23, 2007

J.R. Ward 'Dark Lover'

I intended to only review books published in 2007 on my blog, since there are a lot of review sites out there with huge databases of older books. Well, since my readership pretty much consists of Anne and Stewart (oh I know you're lurking out there, Jean) I'm going to break that rule and throw one in for Anne about Vampires.

Also, it's my belief that to judge the usefulness of any review/er, you should know something about that person. So I'll say up front that I enjoy action films. I tend toward the female protagonist supernatural type, not so much the Die Hard type (although I really enjoyed Con Air with Nicolas Cage) but I come to them with different (ok, lower) expectations than I do when I see movies of other genres. I loved Underworld, was it silly? Of course!

That having been said, my ability to 'suspend need to snort out loud' when it comes to supernatural/paranormal books is pretty high. I haven't read a lot of the genre, so I'm still feeling out where I draw the 'this is a bad book/this is a good book' line. But there's a lot of material out there so I have a feeling it'll get pretty clear, pretty quick. (See Dark Seduction review)

I definitely enjoyed reading Dark Lover. I have to admit that my snort 'o meter went off a couple of times (The Black Dagger Brotherhood consists of Wrath, Vichous, Zsadist, Rhage, Phury, Torhment and Darius!!) But I genuinely liked Beth, she's not stupid, and thank goodness, when put next to a super alpha vampire hero, she doesn't need to prove she can fight harder than he can. Wrath is, well, a super alpha vampire hero with a little self loathing thrown in for good measure. The writing tends toward the colloquial "ya feel me?", the characters swear and they like loud rap music. The book is well paced, I liked the heroine and didn't laugh out loud at the hero, the secondary characters are decent, the sex is very steamy and of course you have simple, truly evil bad guys. For what it is, fun to read.

Paranormal Vampire Romance 2005: 4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Elizabeth Hoyt 'The Leopard Prince'

Totally enjoyable. If you suspend disbelief that an Earl's daughter would eventually marry a land steward in order to get to the happily ever after (with a 15 year old sister who still has to go out on the marriage mart.) Well, who am I to quibble. He's a mighty fine land steward.

My husband has a theory that every romance novel has a sex scene on page 169 plus or minus 5 pages. Well, he was testing the theory with this book and was a bit shocked at how steamy said sex scene was. Serves him right for messing about with my books! Great characters, the plot was a little distracting, and I have to agree with Aunt Euphemia that 'There certainly has been a lot of traveling of late. Back and forth between Yorkshire and London....' Otherwise an excellent read.

Historical Romance 2007: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Christina Dodd 'Scent of Darkness'

As much as I hate to get too serious (especially about a genre of books that's supposed to be, above all, fun) I think this book requires a bit more than a simple review. Bear with me. Forced sex in romance novels (we all know where the term Bodice Ripper comes from) has been viewed differently by every generation of readers and writers. After the bodice ripper, 'she hated him and told him 'No', but he knew she didn't really mean it' there came the 'I'll stop this torture when you tell me explicitly what you want me to do and sign this waiver saying you haven't had any intoxicating substances other than my incredibly potent presence in the last 24 hours.' Things have loosened up a bit from there, but it's my impression that the norm now is pretty obvious sexual consent from both parties.

Christina Dodd's Scent of Darkness involves demon offspring who change into predators at will as hero's. And she doesn't shy from weaving their predator instincts into their characters. Ann the heroine, never specifically tells Jasha no, but in two of their 'encounters' afterwards Jasha apologizes and characterizes his state as furious and that he 'gave her no choice..' While the first scene was a bit rough, and in the second, Ann was really mad at him when it happened... the actual sex scenes aren't that different than other scenes I've read recently. But I felt that the discussion of his 'forcing' her and apologizing without Ann specifically saying, "Get over yourself, I enjoyed it." brought the specter of bodice rippers too firmly into my mind. And more importantly why introduce a controversial element into the sex scenes that is so unnecessary to the plot and characters.

Otherwise the book is paced well, the plot kept me turning the pages, the warm russian family is nice, and I was only mildly annoyed by her being his secretary. Gotta ding this one for the principle of the matter.

Paranormal Romance 2007: 2 out of 5.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jacquie D'Alessandro 'Sleepless at Midnight'

I was avoiding reading this book because of the really lame cover and the equally lame title. Boy am I glad I feel this compulsion to read now that I have people depending on me, waiting for my insight. Er, well, maybe Erin cares. Anyway, Sarah is a spectacle wearing spinster who accompanies her sister to a house party at Lord Langston's estate. She catches a glimpse of Lord Langston returning to the house in the rain, carrying a shovel in the middle of the night. Hmmm.

The plot allows Matthew and Sarah to spend a lot of time together, their dialog with each other is wonderful, their internal dialog with themselves is even funnier, the sexual tension is terrific and follow through is great. You love these characters so much you don't even mind the slightly silly happily ever after. And Erin, there's a wolf hound in the story!

Historical Romance 2007: 5 out of 5

PS. Ann, I have a vampire story on tap!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mary Balogh 'Web of Love'

Ellen is married to Captain Simpson as the English army readies itself for the battle of Waterloo. Captain Simpson is Dominic's mentor and good friend for the last three years. When Captain Simpson dies in the battle of Waterloo, Dominic is wounded but returns to Ellen to give her the news, then collapses on her doorstep.

The first section of the book drove me nuts, all the characters sounded like they were in a 1940's movie, very stilted and overly dramatic without the gorgeous visuals. I was quite sure I was going to have to slog through the book just to be able to review it. But two things saved it for me. I am a bit of a sucker for the opps pregnancy plot device. I know some people don't like it, I fall for it every time; the hero is overcome with the magic of the woman he loves carrying his child, etc. etc. And then the character of Dominic, well he's lovely. And to be fair, this author is Welsh, so her dialog is probably more authentically English than I am used to reading, so that could account for the 'stilted' way I heard it.

My main critique would be Ellen taking two days of rain to process her husband's death and get over it. I mean really. The author could have let a bit more time pass so the heroine had a believable chance of getting over her guilt about loving someone new. Otherwise, sex was good although the plot mandates a definite lack of sexual tension. I ended up genuinely liking the hero and the heroine and the secondary characters are well drawn. Nice read.

Historical Romance 2007: 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Christine Feehan 'Safe Harbor'

I really wanted to like this book but I'm afraid Jonas is just too much of a jerk for me. He's portrayed as an overprotective special ops type but when it comes to Hannah, the very shy supermodel, he is just too obnoxious. In the first half of the book he yells at her constantly and if it weren't for their 'always meant to be together' status, I wouldn't believe that these two should be together at all.

Hannah is one of the Drake sisters (seven sisters of a seventh sister) and comes from a long line of magically gifted women. Hannah has a special affinity for controlling the wind, she is painfully shy, suffers from panic attacks and is a supermodel. Jonas has known the Drake sisters all his life, is like one of the family and doesn't want to get involved with Hannah to protect her from the bad guys he used to hunt when he was in special ops.

In the second half of the book, the plot gets going and Jonas gets less obnoxious so I can give this book a decent rating. If you enjoy this series, then you'll want to read this one, but otherwise, it's very skip-able.

Paranormal Romance 2007: 3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Liz Carlyle 'Never Lie to a Lady'

Interesting. New author for me. About a hundred pages in, I was a bit bogged down in the relatively complicated plot (okay not relative to a Le Carre novel; cut me some slack here). But the writing was good, and I finally got hooked on the characters. The heroine insists on running her family's shipping business, which seemed plausible since the hero is not too concerned with his 'place' in the ton. The sex was on the graphic side with a bit of lite bondage thrown in, which could offend some readers. But I thought it was done well. I usually like more sexual tension, but this was also in line with a heroine who knows her mind. And I have to say I loved Mr. Kemble, the assasin/interior decorator/comic relief to the story.

Not the funny light book I generally favor, but overall a very good read.

Historical Romance 2007: 4.5 out of 5

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Julia Quinn 'The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever'

"8th of June, 1819

I am informed that certain society matrons are under the impression that Turner holds me in a romantic regard. This would be cause for great celebration if:

1. It were true.
2. He hadn't responded by laughing and saying "Miranda is certainly the least intolerable girl in London."
3. He hadn't then grinned in my direction, as if I were expected to take that as a compliment.

I laughed, of course, because he was clearly jesting, and I suppose I should be grateful that he considers me a fine enough friend to tease.
But I do not wish to be his friend....."

Did I mention how much I like Julia Quinn's books? Her 'formula' (this is a formula genre after all) is that her characters are so damn witty. If I had to critique, I would say the end could have used one less page of Turner groveling. Otherwise, sex was terrific, plot was light but totally enjoyable, and even the secondary characters were wonderful.

Historical Romance 2007: 5 out of 5

Monday, June 25, 2007

Suzanne Enoch 'Sins of a Duke'

I really liked this book. I think I've finally figured out that I love books where the hero is just too incredibly perfect to be believed, and the rest of the book is competent enough not to distract from my enjoyment of the hero. Talk about an obvious epiphany. What can I say, I'm Midwestern, not known for our self reflection.

Sebastian is the most powerful man in England, when Josefina arrives from Jamaica, the new princess of Costa Habichuela on the Mosquito Coast, he's assigned official liaison to her family. Her father and she have spent two years devising a way to bilk English investors with a fictitious new colony. But her father gets so carried away in his role that he allows people to actually buy land there and sets up ships to transport them. Putting people's lives at risk makes Josefina see the error of her ways. While all of this is going on, Sebastian and Josefina are falling obsessed with each other. Sebastian devises a way to stop her father without getting the whole family thrown in jail or hung for their perfidy.

A shyster heroine is always dicey but this hero is so perfect you can put up with her until she regrets her actions and becomes a more sympathetic character. Overall, terrific read.

Historical Romance 2007: 4 out of 5

Friday, June 22, 2007

Danielle Steel 'Coming Out'

I just broke one of my long time, iron clad rules about never buying or reading Danielle Steel. I read a book of her's probably twenty years ago and I don't even remember what turned me off but I swore I would never read another. Well, it was so short and had such a cute cover, I gave in.

Was It Bad! Oh, my aching head. The monotonous description of the perfect lawyer mother of four who only takes cases about exploited workers and still makes sure she's home by 5 every day. Gag me with a spoon. Olympia is only outdone in her incredible perfectness by her holocaust survivor mother in law. Olympia has this unfortunate blue blood background so her daughters get asked to 'come out' at the most exclusive such event in New York. At the coming out ball her son tells her that he's gay. And I quote, "In a different way than his sisters, he had come out, too." The only time Olympia falters in her incessant wonderfulness is when she discovers one of her twin daughters has a tattoo. I so can not care about these people.

Contemporary book 2007: 0 out of 5.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Christine Feehan 'Shadow Game'

Peter Whitney started experimenting with orphan girls who showed telepathic abilities. His experiments went awry so he ‘sold’ off most of the girls, kept one and turned to other things. Twenty years later he tried again with a group of highly trained military men. Now those experiments have gone badly, he’s been killed and his daughter has to do what she can to save the men from further harm.

These are terrific characters, sexual tension was okay, follow through was good, and premise was okay. I hate to get too picky, but one of the basic rules of science fiction is that the made up conditions have to be consistent throughout the book. For example, Lily can’t touch people because their emotions and thoughts bombard her. She touches Ryland and sometimes it’s a mind meld and sometimes its not. Overall, enjoyable book but not amazing.

Modern Paranormal Romance 2007: 3.5 out of 5

Friday, June 15, 2007

Nora Roberts 'Angels Fall'

Our Heroine has become a drifter after surviving a mass shooting at the restaurant she worked in. She ends up in Angels Fist when her car gives out and takes a job in a diner as a cook. On her day off she witnesses a women’s murder out on a remote trail in the mountains. The local hunky murder mystery writer happens to be ten minutes down the trail from her and is the first person she can reach for help. The police find no traces of anything where she says it happened so her psychological health comes into question.

Disclaimer: I read this book while sick in bed with food poisoning and to be truthful I don’t really like mystery novels. It was well written, decent characters and suspenseful. I skipped about 150 pages in the middle and just read the end. But if you like Nora Robert’s mysteries you might like this one a lot more than I did. What can I say.

Contemporary Mystery Romance 2007: 2 out of 5

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jacquelyn Frank 'Gideon'

It seems particularly appropriate to be reviewing a romance novel about demons and vampires from Las Vegas. [Disclaimer CSI has nothing to do with this book, I just liked the pic.] This is the first book that I’ve read in the Nightwalker Series and I enjoyed it. Magdelegna is a ‘Mind’ demon who is empathetic to an extreme. She ends up ‘imprinting’ with Gideon who is one of the most powerful ‘Earth’ demons, he is a healer with convenient abilities to alter blood flow in others. Imprinting involves discovering you're genetically destined for each other (ie. MUST COPULATE). A nasty group of necromancers is beginning to attack the demons which occupies most of the plot.

The fact that the first sex scene is done without the hero and heroine actually touching is an obvious advantage of the paranormal genre. On the other hand, I have to wonder how the author is going to maintain this order of superlatives without running out of descriptive vocabulary. I’ll be interested to read another in the series and see just how sustainable or silly this construct becomes.

Paranormal Romance 2007: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Eloisa James 'Desperate Duchesses'

Clever book. Roberta's father writes elaborate poetry, has his mistress living with his young daughter and embarrasses Roberta at every opportunity. She decides she needs to go alone to London to find a husband. She throws herself upon the charity of Jemma, Duchess of Beaumont. Jemma's brother, Damon, is staying at Beaumont House and agrees to help Roberta trap the Duke she has already fallen in love with. This gives them lots of time together to get up to no good.

I have to say Roberta's blaise attitude toward her dalliance with Damon seemed a bit silly. While the book wasn't extremely funny, the plot was good and the main characters were great. The sexual tension and follow through were terrific. Above average book.

Historical Romance 2007: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Samatha James 'The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell'

Why didn't I like this book more? Annabel meets Simon in London when he saves her nephew from being trampled by a horse in Hyde Park. When they are caught kissing on a balcony at a social event, Simon does the right thing and marries her. They retire to his estate where Annabel learns that five years ago Simon's wife and two sons died in a tragic fire.

Simon is a good hero, he's tormented and reclusive but maybe a bit too tormented. At my age it's harder to believe that he just needs the love of a good women to get over it. Annabel is not particularly sympathetic. She finally gets through to him by yelling at him. Hmm, maybe if she had brought a bit more happiness into his life along with the sex? Perhaps I'm just beginning to think way too hard about these books! Ya think?

Sex scenes are well done, although sexual tension was lacking.

2007 Historical Romance: 2 out of 5

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Johanna Lindsey 'Captive of My Desires'

When Gabrielle's mother dies she heads to the Caribbean to find her father. Her ship gets captured by pirates but luckily her father ends up being one of them and quickly ransoms her free. After three years of living with him he sends her back to England to get married. Drew ruins her chances by proclaiming that she is a pirate's daughter at a ball one evening, she steals his ship to get back home and the rest is history.

This book stunk. The hero is a shallow jerk who changes how he feels about her but doesn't really change being a jerk. She isn't funny, strong, clever, or even that sweet. She sails off to save her father but has no plan. The secondary characters feel like they are being developed for some reason but it never materializes, and it's skimpy on sex. Yikes. Even the swearing parrot wasn't funny. I love swearing parrots. I'm a sucker for swearing parrots!

I finished this book because Johanna Lindsey was the first romance novelist I ever read. Not a great effort from her this time.

2007 Historical Romance: 0 out of 5

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Julia Quinn 'On the Way to the Wedding'

Disclaimer, I really like Julia Quinn. This is one of her best, dialog so witty you feel like you are falling behind as your read it. Lucy is best friends with the very beautiful Hermione. When the youngest Bridgerton male, Gregory falls madly infatuated with Hermione he turns to Lucy for help. This allows them to spend a lot of time together and allows Gregory enough time to finally realize Lucy is so much more fun.

Quinn is so skillful I didn't notice the lack of sex until well past the halfway mark in the book. There is even a (mostly) believable plot twist that was (almost) completely surprising. Gotta love this author.

Historical Romance 2007: 5 out of 5 stars