Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adele Ashworth 'The Duke's Indiscretion'

Total Spoiler Review

Charlotte is the sister of an Earl, but she is also an extremely talented opera singer. Colin is the Duke of Newark, and he's been madly infatuated with the opera singer Lottie English for three years. She's managed to elude his attempts to meet her at the theater twice, but he comes up with the idea to sneak back stage during a performance. Oh finally, a truly smart hero. Once Lottie finds out how much he wants her, she decides to approach him as Charlotte and propose marriage because she needs money to be able to tour Europe singing opera.

These two marry despite Charlotte's ownership of a priceless piece of music that she could have sold to finance her singing and the rest of her life, for that matter. What a relief to have a smart logical heroine. The real trouble begins on the wedding night. Colin buys her a 'costume' lingerie thingy with super high heels to match. He then proceeds to mistake her attempts to dislodge him (She's sitting on his lap. How is she unable to dislodge him? But I digress) for extreme throws of passion and her cries for climax. Hmmm.

Truthfully this in and of itself would not have put me off of this book entirely. But she tells him the next morning how painful it was, he gets drunk (I assume feeling guilty) but he has to confront her again and ask if she climaxed. She further clarifies how yucky this was for her. Okay, I'm thinking from his "I am a god damned idiot." that he's now got the picture. So of course, a couple days later he pins her in a carriage, kisses her senseless, demands that she admit she wants him or he will make love to her right there and then. (They are now stopped in front of their home and he's slammed the door on the door-opening servant.) Hmm. Colin talks to his friends who tell him he's a total loser, he put a get-up on a virgin, hello! This is yet another revelation to him so he finally decides he needs to seduce her.

You get the picture. But what astounds me is the author continues to have this guy pursue his seduction with commands and coercive physical measures. Um, is this supposed to be sexy? And if that's not enough, after he's gotten her to the magical climax, he thinks to himself, maybe coming on to another woman would move this along a little. I'm soooo in love with this guy. And he gets all excited about telling her about his secret life as a master forger but decides he'll wait to tell her that he does it for the government until she truly trusts him by letting him penetrate her. Wow.

Okay, fine, I didn't like the book. Not only did I not like either character but their development was inconsistent on top of it all. And the plot feels completely contrived because of the lack of logic to her needing to marry him, etc. Skip it.

Historical Romance 2007: 1 out of 5 dastardly girl friends.

image from clip art of dot com

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jennifer LaBrecque 'Yule Be Mine'

Kate was talking about taking on a Blaze Harlequin book so when I saw Yule Be Mine in my grocery store, I could not resist. Can I digress and tell you some one actually requested All Night With The Boss from me on Paper Book Swap. *snort*

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. I've mentioned before the lower standards I hold for Harlequin's (without more exposure, I really can't say if this is deserved or not) and this book totally delivered. Giselle had the hots for her brother-in-law but never would have acted on it. Then her sister's marriage breaks up (sister cheated on hero, conveniently enough) and a couple of years later, Sam tracks Giselle (the journalist) down and gets himself assigned as her photographer. They head off to Sedona, AZ with the strangely uncontrollable sparks flying.

These are sort of like paint by numbers characters, not as complex as a real painting, but not badly done all around. Sam's sole mission in life seems to be fulfilling Giselle's every sexual fantasy, to wit he gets some help from a magical amulet. I could have done without the magic which was worked in pretty clunkily (hey, I love fantasy/magical books, this was just poor execution). But it certainly facilitated the sex that he had a direct report on her every sexual fantasy through said amulet. Strangely enough the fantasies were hotter than some of the actual sex depictions. Well, maybe not strangely enough. :)

Anyway, overall decent writing (mostly), quite decent characters, silly plot, lots of explicit sex and I finished it in one night. What's not to like.

Harlequin Blaze Contemporary Romance 2008: 4 out of 5 purple ribbed vibrators with a curved tip.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crazy Lady on Campus

I haven't written a non-review post in a while and there's no time like the present. I can not resist linking to Jane at Dear Author's Romance Apologia Scale post and test, as it is hysterical. I'm an adult returning student (to college, not high school, although I've had that nightmare once or twice) and let me just tell you, I try to avoid bringing any additional 'crazy lady' attention to myself if I can help it. I read this post and had to put my head down I was laughing so hard, in the student union, during lunch time.

Really, if you are a woman and read at all, read this post. If you are a woman or man and you read romance (or any genre fiction) read the post and then take the test. And if you just miss the Cosmo quizzes, this one's for you too. You know who you are.

Let's just say I am such a Serious Sally and NO ONE wants to sit next to me in class! :) But I consider this an improvement on my previous Debby Downer status, so GO Sally.

Thanks to Jessica for the great link.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cathy Maxwell "In the Highlander's Bed"

Constance is unhappily enrolled in a girl's school in Scotland after she and her three sisters leave America to find a better life in London (who sold them that fantasy in 1808?). After her two sisters manage to become happily married, they farm Constance off to school where she gets picked on endlessly for her brash American ways. She determines to run away back to the Ohio Valley where life was good (other than the massacre that killed her parents of course.)

This heroine does not fall into the too stupid too live category, she actually includes money in her running away pack. And she doesn't fall into the angry category, she's mad about the hero interrupting her plans for an appropriate length of time but is rather reasonable about it. She actually falls into the too perfect to live category. I haven't seen one of these in a while. She gets kidnapped so this highlander guy can ransom her for a sword that will inspire the other highlanders to revolt against the nasty English. She's upset at her plans being disrupted for a while, then she decides their cause is noble, gets the women to clean up the camp, organize the cooking, take better care of the kids and generally whips this group into a useful army support organization.

The hero is slightly underdeveloped as a character, who has time when Constance is so damn busy, but I liked him overall. And the author just barely manages to navigate the difficulty of the Sure-To-Fail Scottish cause in the plot. Really the book isn't terrible but I found the characters , particularly the heroine, uninspiring.

Historical Romance 2008: 2 of 5 swords of inspiration.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Andrea Pickens 'The Scarlet Spy'

I hate to start this review with an excuse but there you are: I put this book on PaperBackSwap and it got requested right away so I don't have it to refer to anymore. And well, I've never been very good at retaining what I read (one of the main reasons I started this blog) so I'm afraid my incisive commentary may be a bit vague in this case. Of course that hasn't ever stopped me before. :)

The last of three Merlin's Maidens, Sophia has a strangely ladylike demeanor given her poor orphaned background. (emphasis mine) She was brought to a secret spy academy as a young woman and now she's ready for action (so to speak). She is sent into the ton as an Italian contessa to investigate a secret society of bad men involved in drug trafficking and misappropriation of military supplies.

Her boss asks entertaining rake Lord Osbourne to introduce her around, she's drawn to him but being the professional spy she is, she discourages his interest in her. The couple of problematic specifics I remember: when these two finally get it on, she has a Merlin tattooed above her left breast. Why would a secret spy force all be tattooed? And when she thinks to herself that she may have to sleep with the bad guy, was I the only one who thought, "Hmm, your cover as a widow is gonna be sort of blown, oh romance heroine virgin." And let's face it, virgins always bleed in romance novels. There were a lot more incongruous character development moments that I'm blanking on right now, unfortunately. And Osbourne is often on the edge of too stupid to live. I do wonder why is this less acceptable in a hero for me than in a heroine, not that I like it either way. The whole plot denouement was problematic.

The writing isn't terrible in this book (as far as I can judge) but the characters were less than inspiring, had development problems and the plot had several detail issues. The sex was fine but sparse. I might pick up another book by this author but not until I forget about this one. :)

Historical Regency Romance 2008: 2 of 5 misplaced duke's daughters. (saw that coming, huh?)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Laura Lee Guhrke 'Secret Desires of a Gentleman'

I have two exams next week so now is clearly the perfect time to read and review a few romance novels. :) Racy Romance Reviews has covered the seeming trend of obnoxious male commentary during sex, so I'd like to turn to the recent rise in rather long titles for romance novels. Am I being terribly bias when I let Julia Quinn get away with it because, well, she's so, you know, cool; but then have problems when it spreads from Kresley Cole to Edith Layton on to Laura Lee Guhrke? Truthfully I don't normally notice the title of these books but now that I have to type them into the titles of my blogs, well, I'm mildly annoyed.

What about the book? Yeah, yeah, don't get your knickers in a twist. (Don't you love that expression?) This is the third installment in the girl bachelor books from Guhrke, and I had almost the exact same reaction to this one as I did to The Wicked Ways of a Duke. Maria is the daughter of their cook and Philip and Lawrence are the sons of the Marquess of Kayne. When Lawrence imagines himself in love with her, Philip, the new Marquess, buys her off. Years later she is about to open a patiserrie when she finds that her perfect location is in a building owned by Philip.

All three of these books feature hero's who are less than likable. But unfortunately Philip is the least likable in many ways. Even so, I almost completely fell for his conversion, helped by the flashbacks he has and the sentimental plot device I won't reveal. But, strangely enough, his character falls apart for me in the emotional climax. This is so out of character for him I just couldn't buy it. *cringes in the bright light of reality* Maria isn't stupid exactly but instead of falling into the strong category for me, she falls into the angry category. Again, this is subtle, this isn't a terrible book, just not up to the initial promise of the characters of And Then He Kissed Her. So, read the first book, then if you have a lot of time on your hands, you can decide if you want to read the others. I'll buy her next book, but I'm kind of relieved this series is over.

Historical Romance 2008: 3 out of 5 chocolate tarts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Meljean Brook 'Demon Angel'

My apologies to Stewart, avid reader of this blog, but once again I'm reaching back for a book from an author whose name I see everywhere in very glowing terms. Despite the ridiculous cover and really, not very inventive title, I now get the addiction to Ms. Brook. Her world building is extensive, consistent, and interesting. She has taken the 'show me, don't tell me' creative writing directive to heart, to the extent that occasionally the only way to figure out what's really happening is by being patient. This led me to have a little difficulty getting into the book at the beginning. But for the patient, it's well worth it.

Hugh is so good he gets recruited as a guardian (quasi-angel) after his death. Lilith is a quasi-demon who tries to keep a low profile luring murderers to commit suicide so they will swell the ranks of Lucifer's Dominion. They spend 800 years trying to ignore their attraction while Hugh tries to figure out how to save her from Hell. Finally he breaks under the pressure of watching humans misuse their free will and of not being able to have Lilith, he kills her (he thinks) and he falls from his guardianship back into human form. That's when the book takes off. The sex is late in coming but highly satisfying once they get to it.

Not a light read, terrific characters, meaty plot and good writing.

Paranormal Romance 2007: 4.5 out of 5 hell hounds.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Loretta Chase 'Miss Wonderful'

Quick review of this one. I'm reading Chase's back stock slowly. And not too surprisingly this one wasn't quite up to snuff. Strong amusing early interactions, decent plot lay-out but the plot devolves into some kidnapping silliness, her father's delusions fade away, and the heroine has a major change of heart off screen with no real description of "why now?"

What did I like, smart funny main characters, and really, I loved the valet.

Historical Romance 2004: 3 out of 5 discreet coughs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Gena Showalter 'The Darkest Pleasure'

Having recently read an amazingly articulate argument as to why reviewers should not couch their reviews in self deprecating terms like, 'maybe it's just me', or 'you might like it but it's just not my thing' I'm a little daunted as I begin this latest review. My favorite romance genre is certainly historical but I'm pretty open to the paranormals as well. This third book in the Lords of the Underworld series was mediocre. I do think the first fourth of the book was a slog for me due in large part to my jumping into the series with the third book. But then I got caught up in a little of the mystery of the plot and more importantly, would these two overcome their difficulties and 'get together in the end?'

So complaints: convoluted world building since we have real mythologies woven into created mythologies; greek gods, titans, pandora's box, heaven and hell. One dimensional characters, especially our hero's view of our heroine, yikes, if he mentioned her fragile angelic beauty and glowing white tresses one more time, ugh. The internal/emotional difficulties preventing our couple from being together sort of evaporate, or never materialize. This is not a riveting way to resolve what is supposed to be a major aspect of the book.

What I liked: the external-to-couple plot was mildly interesting and was effectively resolved yet continued for purposes of the series. The hero is suitably alpha and totally devoted to the heroine in that 'must have you, you are my destiny' sort of way. There are a lot of gorey descriptions that don't result in death, since these guys are immortal within reason, which was fun in an entertaining unrealistic violence sort of way. And how else do I put it, the sex was hot.

Overall, what's the word I'm looking for? Meh.

Paranormal Romance 2008: 2.5 of 5 self inflicted stab wounds.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Julia Quinn 'Mr. Cavendish, I Presume'

It never fails that I just can't wait for PaperBackSwap to send me the latest Julia Quinn. I finally broke down and bought it, full price, at the grocery store. Can you imagine! Well, it was my birthday week so maybe I can be forgiven.

Did I mention my birthday, let's talk about that for a second. I started the day with my 5 year old waking me at 4am, and 5am and 6am. Then on my way to class, (Tuesdays I have to bike), I discovered my bike seat was all wet from the recent rain when it soaked through to my undies. Moments later my shifter actually cracked right off leaving me in a very low gear and feeling like a hamster on a wheel. My Sociology professor had very inconveniently scheduled an exam ON my birthday, the nerve, so I had to take said exam once I finally arrived. After the exam I walked out of the building and looked up and realized it was the MOST gorgeous fall day. I took the five year old out to lunch where there was no whining or screaming. (the kid is on steroids, this is amazing!) When we got back home said angel child went off to play, I grabbed Julia Quinn and sat in the fall sun on my lovely porch and read. Really 38 doesn't get much better. I even managed to finish up the day with drinks with some good friends at a hip and edgy bar. Well, as hip and edgy as Madison gets.

Oh, back to Quinn. I'm happy to report that I have a complaint. Not a complaint really but at least something I can say other than," Goodness, this woman's stories are brilliant." Quinn's endings are never her strong point, usually they suffice since the beginnings and the middles are so completely brilliant. But as long as I'm pretending to review the book; the sex scenes near the end seem to come out of nowhere because there isn't much build up to their desire for each other. We are told that Thomas thinks about Amelia 'that way' but we aren't shown through their own physical experience of their own physical desire. As a result the sudden physicality of their need at the end seems incongruous. Oh, it's nitpicky, no doubt there. I loved that Amelia stayed relatively weak willed, not something I would ever have expected to love, but that's the brilliance of Julia Quinn.

Historical Romance 2008: 5 of 5 bucolic Irish villages.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Talia Gryphon 'Key to Conflict'

Picked this up from the library, our heroine is a US Marine Corp Captain and a paramortal psychologist (she treats the mental illnesses of non-humans.) Our hero, well that's not entirely clear, but we know at least that he is a Romanian vampire. Gillian goes to Romania to help a vampire lord deal with his unresolved feelings over his fiance's betrayal and his rebirth as a vampire 400 years ago. She gets caught in the crossfire when Dracula picks this moment to decide to take over the world, because Count Aleksei is on the top of Dracula's hit list.

The set up is fine, world building is decent and I liked the book for a while. Gillian spends the first two thirds of the book being protected by Aleksei and his family. During this section it is pounded into us that vampires are out of human league as fighters, Gillian couldn't possibly defend herself, etc. When she finally runs away from Alexsei's protection (is this a smart move) she assembles her old comrades in arms, and heads off to rescue Aleksei's brother from Dracula. They have a ridiculously easy time doing the rescue, and so Aleksei has to admit that she's extremely competent. What?

Throughout the book we are told over and over and over about how great she is as an operative, as an empath and as a psychologist, but she keeps losing her temper and yelling at everyone, wandering off into the forest and the pyramids and barely surviving, generally having to be rescued by someone. I couldn't help comparing her to Patricia Briggs' tough girl characters who know their limits, and use that knowledge to survive and even win in tough situations.

Ugh, this book is 150 pages too long and runs out of ways to describe each successive male character's beyond amazing physique and looks. Boring. I believe this is a first book for this author. I wouldn't buy her second book, but maybe a fourth or a fifth. There were some reasons to hold out hope.

Paranormal Urban Romance 2007: 1 out of 5 tawdry togs for tasty trollops.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Crusie & Mayer 'Don't Look Down'

Clearly taking sociology is bad for my brain. (I feel compelled, as a brain surgery survivor, to point out that the last statement is a joke.) I was so intrigued by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer's website that I had to get their first collaboration, Don't Look Down. Let me start by saying, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

But what struck me was how I was not judging it by my typical romance novel standards. I think I was very entertained by the whole male vs female perspective/writing style thing. For example, I'm coming to realize that a successful romance novel for me generally involves a less than emotionally realistic male character. He needs to be smart and witty, sure, but he also needs to be (eventually) completely devoted to the heroine, whether he understands why he clearly needs her or not.

In this book, the hero is more emotionally realistically male, which fascinated me, but it didn't help me understand why he wants to be with Lucy (aside from physical attraction of course.) He's interested in Lucy, but why exactly? And truthfully if his attraction to Lucy is under question, why does she want him, other than the hero stuff. On the other hand, it's well written, decent plot, I liked the combat/survival stuff.

The sociology angle comes in that while I was reading this book, we were talking about classifications of people; why do we use the categories we do when describing someone? Gender, age, race, sexual orientation; and not, say, handedness or "ass man or breast man" for instance. That got a lot of chuckles from the men in the class. And I was reading an article about the 'hook up' scene on college campus's at the same time. This pattern of sexual contact first, relationship later, acknowledges human sexual needs but seems to be viewed differently by the two genders. Men appear to use it to satisfy sexual needs first, while allowing for the possibility that a relationship might develop, whereas women seem to use the pattern primarily to open the pathway for a relationship and secondarily to satisfy purely sexual needs.

So, why do young men engage in relationships? (And yes, I'm addressing the generic male, the group not the individual.) If being a husband and possibly a father is so dauntingly tied to being a good provider and heavy responsibility, and if young men are genuinely stymied when asked to look at their own emotional needs or to understand interpersonal relationships, why do they get involved with girls? Especially if they are in a social setting where sex is available without an emotional commitment. Really, this is a serious question.....

Oh, and back to the book, really liked it. Didn't love it. Contemporary Romance 2006: 4 of 5 Moot points.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Patricia Briggs 'Moon Called'

I read my first Patricia Briggs book this year and really dug it, and I'd seen a lot of fans of the Mercy Thompson books so I picked up this one, the first in the series. I don't know that I liked it as much as 'Steal The Dragon' which was all about the female protagonist, I barely remember the love interest in that one. Mercy is surrounded by men who love her. Older characters who are looking out for her, younger characters who have crushes on her and then the characters who outright vie for her affections, although she gives them little encouragement.

Mercy as a character is terrific, she's stubborn, smart but willing to act impulsively for things she thinks are right and worth some risk. She also thinks she knows the limits of her abilities (a smart/likable trait) but keeps finding that they might be wider than she thought (a lovely trait in a fantasy character).

There's the female teenage sidekick type character who needs to be rescued, a very convoluted bad guy plot, and a bunch of werewolves running around. I will knock the book for the overly convoluted bad guy plot, but I personally didn't mind too much as I was more interested in the character development and the world building. I have to guess that the author was as well.

The only other defect, although that's a strong word, was the number of males vieing for Mercy's affections. I mentioned I don't even remember the love interest in Stealing the Dragon, that's because that book was only marginally about love. This book spends a lot of time obliquely fixed on Mercy's possible male match-up's and while that tension drew me through a lot of the book, it's not resolved at the end. I knew this wasn't a romance novel, so I didn't feel cheated by the lack of resolution, but if it ain't a romance novel, maybe I can complain a little about the focus on (in this werewolf world) mates.

That being said, I love P. Brigg's female characters. They're tough, but use their smarts, not their brawn to get out of the trouble that their soft hearts get them into. I would highly recommend this book to lovers of urban fantasy/women protagonist fiction. This is a good one, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Loretta Chase 'Lord of Scoundrels'

This is a book I kept seeing on various people's 'best books of all time' lists. And having read a couple of Loretta Chases' other books, and enjoyed them, I couldn't pass this up.

Sebastian, our hero, is likely the most enjoyable yet truly badly behaved hero around. And their early interactions, especially how clever and funny the heroine is, are wonderful. Compared to some other Chase books, the first half of the book is funnier, the second half of the book is more old school romance. Well written, clever, basically realistic. I wasn't as thrilled with the second half of the book but Sebastian's abject fear of losing Jessica, which convinces him to finally act human, would warm the cockles of any woman's heart.

Historical Romance Reissue from 1995: 5 of 5 hideously overdecorated bonnets.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Elizabeth Hoyt 'To Taste Temptation'

Did I mention I've gone back to school part time. Ugh. Oh, it's fun, don't get me wrong, it's the "can I be here where there is no parking and can I be there where my children are waiting for me" that is stressing me out. Lots' more could be said about that but for now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I have really enjoyed Ms. Hoyt's books so I came to this one with high expectations. That said, I liked it, but finally had to decide I didn't love it. I really enjoyed this hero, he's an American in England who recognizes the unlikeliness of a self made man marrying an aristocratic woman, but it doesn't stop him from wishing it were otherwise. I wasn't too fond of his insistence on the moccasins but that's okay.

It's the heroine that I liked less as the book went on. She's lost her brother and her husband and so she has understandable difficulty putting her trust and love into another man's hands but she's also just sort of, well, not nice. In some ways her termagant character is refreshing but I prefer to see some of that bite mellowed by the process of falling for each other (at least that's what I'm usually looking for in the hero).

Anyway, my complaints are not based on writing ability, silly plot constructs (although Sam could have been smarter about his investigations) or even consistent characterization, which is to say, this is a well crafted book and you should read it. Was it my favorite from this very good author? No, but that's just me.

Historical Romance 2008: 4 of 5 German Fairy tales.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Loretta Chase 'Your Scandalous Ways'

What I love about this book is the hero. Francesca is smart and witty so I like her too, but James is smart, funny, physically commanding and can laugh at himself. He doesn't think he's immediately in love with Francesca, he's certainly in lust, but when he does admit he loves her, he's not tortured by it either.

Francesca was divorced by her terrible husband for adultery. She fled to Paris and eventually became the most sought after courtesan of her time. Now she is in Venice, currently between lovers. James is a British operative sent to retrieve some incriminating letters her former husband wrote. But he's not the only one after them, and the other party isn't as reluctant to kill to get them.

I have heard some criticism of the book because the heroine is a courtesan. Besides violating the basic tenet that romance novel heroines must not have had sex that they liked, I thought the author navigated the pitfalls rather well. Neither character is insecure about the other's past lovers. If the author had introduced that issue I think it would have bothered me more. Let's face it, James has slept with a lot of women in the name of duty, what is that but a patriotic whore.

The sex was great, the plot believable, the characters smart and funny, and the hero puts on the heroine's dress to deflect the killer's attention. I loved it.

Historical Romance 2008: 5 of 5 condums.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Naomi Novik 'Throne of Jade'

I have drunk the kool aid with these books. I've read some people are less pleased with the second book than the first. I can't imagine any series where the second lives up to the first, but I thought Novik does a credible job of keeping the plot moving along during the long sea voyage. I was transfixed by the attacking mob scene but did think the reason for the attack seemed generated out of whole cloth. Where does that expression come from anyway?

I still like Laurence, though his dogged 'serving his country' mindset, at the same time being willing to be court marshaled for Temeraire is a bit contradictory. I still like Temeraire, who wouldn't, although his naivete is making me worry for his future with the English.

I was a bit disappointed to have the political intrigue turn out to be relatively simple, but it's a second book. Bring on the third!

Historical Fiction 2006: 4.5 of 5 sea serpents.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Edith Layton 'His Dark and Dangerous Ways'

More alliteration. I liked this book but didn't love it. Simon is a former spy and he engages Jane to report the gossip she overhears where she teaches dance to young society children. I liked Jane but Simon was a bit verbose for a spy. Their dinners at a local inn are wonderfully atmospheric.

Writing was good, plot was basically reasonable, although I would have liked it if Simon had taken better care of her, he lived in France, why doesn't he have sheep guts...Character motivation was pretty realistic. If I had fallen more in love with Simon, I would have been raving about this one.

Historical Romance 2008: 4 of 5 rat catching sacks.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hannah Howell 'Highland Wolf'

I have a five year old in my house that I've mentioned before. She talks non-stop and has a habit, when I murmur Uh huh, to repeat herself, apparently guessing that I'm not really listening. Today the resemblance between living with a very talkative five year old and this book struck me full force. Ugh. "James suspected that when she felt she or some one she cared about was in danger, Annora could tell a complete lie without blinking, not just one of those ones where she just did not tell the whole truth or even failed to actually answer the question."

James has been on the run for three years after being accused of killing his wife and being declared an outlaw. His wife's cousin has taken over his keep and lands and is claiming James' small daughter as his own. Annora has been brought to the keep to take care of Meggie, James' daughter. She suspects all is not as it seems at Dunncraig and then falls for the mysterious woodcarver who has recently come to the keep to work.

Besides the scene where they run into each other in the ledger room, and Annora never thinks to question why this wood carver is sneaking around the laird's chamber, the plot is fine. The sex scenes are decent, other than James grabbing her in a dark hallway hours after he saves her from being raped in another dark hallway. I would assume that would be a slight turn-off. But it's the writer's verbose redundant style that drove me insane.

Okay, okay, other than being set in Scotland, this book is terrible. I read an earlier book by Howell and this one was an improvement, but that ain't saying much.

Historical Romance 2008: 1 out of 5 loose braes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nicole Jordan 'To Seduce a Bride'

With genre fiction it's my experience that if you fall out of the lovely suspension-of-disbelief bubble more than once or twice, the book becomes open to regular book criticisms and will fail miserably. This can happen due to bad writing, crazy plot twists, poor characterization, etc. I think this is what makes reviewing romance novels more prone to personal opinion than reviewing non-genre fiction. What keeps you in that bubble can be very idiosyncratic.

Anyway, To Seduce A Bride was terrible. I'm a sucker for the feisty independent heroine who rides and shoots and likes books. But Heath Griffin is so unbelievably condescending and smug, yikes. He tries to convince Lily to marry him for the entire book and when he finally figures out that he can't force her to TRUST him (emphasis mine) his last ditch effort is to publish his betrothal to a female friend to jolt Lily into coming after him. NICE! I lost interest way before this point, the endless telling, instead of showing, how wonderful these two were just wore me down.

There is a relatively uninteresting subplot concerning the demi-monde of Regency London. I think the author was very excited to discover all the different terms Regency Britain had for this group.

Historical Romance 2008: 2 of 5 Cyprians.

image by Greg Tucker stolen from Salon.com

Thursday, August 7, 2008

P.C. Cast 'Warrior Rising'

Fun, lighthearted, lots of snarky girlfriend scenes. It's not going to win any pulitzer's, and if Kat said "I'm not your typical ancient world woman, I am WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR...." (cue Helen Reddy) one more time I really would have had to complain. Actually, I am complaining. She keeps explaining her actions as those of a independent, take care of herself kind of woman, but really some of them are just stupid and risky (of herself and the poor slobs helping her across an active battlefield.)

What I liked? Achilles: intelligent, emotionally wounded, muscle bound hero. The depiction of the goddesses: Hera, Athena and Venus, fun but also capricious enough to be true to my memory of them in my highschool Myths & Legends class. Kat's best friend Jacky who is very funny. The sex scenes, and P.C. Cast's focus on woman power. And the cover art; I'm okay with a little man titty when it's done this tastefully (other than the placement of the word Rising, of course!).

Plot synopsis, Achilles is fated to die in the last year of the Trojan War. Venus, Hera and Athena decide the war has been going on too long and if they could just get Achilles off the battlefield, the Trojan's could win and end it. They decide they need a modern woman for the job, Venus finds Kat in the modern world just before she and her best friend are killed in a traffic accident, grabs their souls and transports them into bodies in ancient Greece.

The writing in this book is very informal, it's not a deal breaker for me but I know it is for some people. It almost feels like the writer paints herself into a corner, then has a little plot epiphany and fudges her way out again. Overall, if you aren't expecting too much, it's a fun ride.

Historical Mythology Romance 2008: 4 of 5 bersecker rages.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ed Park 'Personal Days'

At long last, I've completed Personal Days by Ed Park. Trying to review this book makes it clear to me that what I blog here are not really professional, objective reviews, but more my own likes and dislikes in books. I think you could argue that there is no such thing as objective reviewing, but I suppose I'm farther off the spectrum then say, NYT review of books. (gasp, say it's not so!) I do think I'm helping readers avoid truly terrible books, and pointing out really great books with enough info that readers can make their own evaluations about whether the book would be up their alley.....after all, I'd like to think this site is worth something. :)

Personal Days is a book about an office that is being restructured. The author dives deep into the dadaistic nature of business theory books, and the paranoia and weird relationships that develop in a sinking ship office. He creates a funny, surreal atmosphere that's close enough to reality that it's scary. This is a smart funny book.

But it's style was jarring and lacked a narrative that undercut my ability to like reading it. Problem with book, or problem with me? The last section of the book where all is revealed was crazy but my favorite part. It redeemed this book for me to a large extent.

Novel 2008: 3.5 of 5 CRO's.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Kate DiCamillo 'The Tale of Despereaux'

If you have children between the ages of 5 and 80, you should read this book out loud to them. A self aware take on fairy tales that revels in the beauty of stories and hope and dreaming. If you don't have children you should read this book to remind yourself why you started reading books.

My husband said, "I think the ending was pretty lame." I will admit it was subtle and maybe didn't live up to the promise of the beginning of the book but I think his pronouncement was a bit harsh, and perhaps if he had heard the complete book he would have been more swept up in the characters.

Children's romance, in the best sense of the word. 5 of 5 red eyed rats.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Naomi Novik 'His Majesty's Dragon'

This one is not a romance novel, definitely a fantasy novel, and totally kick-ass. I saw The Smart Bitches give it a good review a couple months ago, maybe longer, and I kept thinking, dragons and Napoleon? I just don't think I'd like it. If you liked the movie Master and Commander at all, if honor and brotherhood under fire turns your crank in the least, you have got to read this book. Really.

A friend of mine is a collector of hardcover versions of her favorite books. I like the feel of a hardcover book, but never felt the need to search them out. After finishing this book, I immediately went to see if I could buy all the series in hardcover. Captain Laurence is a British naval officer, he captures a rapidly hardening dragon egg from a French frigate and they know it will hatch before they reach land. If no one attempts to harness the dragon it will turn feral, a great loss to the aerial corps of his Majesty's army. None of the sailors wants to be the one to harness it because an aviator can never 'retire' from service to a normal life. They draw lots and Laurence is relieved when he does not draw the short straw. When the dragon hatches however it ignores the assigned harnessor, makes a b-line for Laurence and asks him why he is frowning. Thus starts their journey together.

Historical Fantasy Novel 2006: 5 of 5 acid spitting longwing dragons.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Madeline Hunter "Secrets of Surrender"

Madeline Hunter has long been one of my favorite authors. She consistently weaves the mores and realities of the historical time period she's using into her plot and storyline. Sometimes the required description and explanation for us non-historian's is a bit distracting or can feel convoluted within the context of the story, so I could understand if some people don't enjoy her as much as I do. But if you are a historical fiction lover and appreciate having the time period be more than just a notation at the beginning of the book, Hunter is for you.

It's 1826 and Rose's brother Timothy embezzled a lot of money from a lot of people and then fled to Europe. Her cousin's new husband paid off all of his victim's but it's just a matter of time before what he did becomes public knowledge. Kyle is a coal miner's son who was educated as an engineer and architect in France. He is now a man of business, making his living on the edges of polite society.

Rose makes the serious mistake of having an affair with a very nasty Viscount who puts her up for auction at a less than polite country house party. Kyle happens to be there and saves her by buying her.

Rose is smart, has fended for herself before but is also realistically swayed by various bad ideas that appear to better her sad circumstances. Kyle is physically powerful, quiet and has a razor sharp mind, he's always a couple steps ahead of me with the ramifications of each action. That's what I love about the Rothwell brother series.

The author writes people very well, granted these are very smart, self aware people, which might not be entirely realistic, but I think that is where these books fit so well into romance instead of historical fiction. This is fantasy by definition, right. The sex is down to earth, not quite as raunchy as Hoyt's books but still a significant part of their relationship, and yes, Rose is actually a romance heroine without a hymen! Amazing! Was it my favorite Madeline Hunter? Maybe not, but it's very, very good.

Historical Romance 2008: 4.5 of 5 lateral mining tunnels.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lauren Dane "Fire and Rain"

Um, wow. This was my first e-book. And my first book from Ellora's Cave. And my first book with a menage a trois. The phrase triple virgin definitely leaps to mind. Wow.......

Um, I'm sort of speechless and a bit mortified, so where to start? Laurent is the third highest ranking werewolf in the Cherchez Clan. Rain is a budding artist who is also the daughter of a crime boss out east. She ran away from her family and an arranged marriage and is in hiding in Seattle.

Laurent is an typical muscled alpha hero (although technically in the pack he'd be a Gamma hero). The interaction between the boys in this book reminded me both of the lame frat boys in college and the Vampires in JR Ward books, whom I found sort of endearing when with each other. Saving Laurent from being a complete jerk is this 'fated mate' phenomenon which makes him completely devoted to Rain's health and happiness.

I liked Rain's character, her independence but reasonable fear of her father's retribution struck me as realistic. I loved her first date outfit, where typically I skim over fashion descriptions. There were definite moments of awkward dialog, but most of it worked.

The sex. Well, Ellora's Cave publishes erotica, let's just say it was often, and quite explicit. And I won't be leaving a copy sitting on my desktop for my kids to accidently stumble upon. Yikes. Normally I would sort of evaluate aspects of the sexual representation in a romance novel but I'm out of my depth here. So to speak. I know you might not believe me but I haven't read enough erotica to be able to say this one's sex scenes were well written, this one's sex scenes weren't as good. So obviously I need to read more.

Paranormal Contemporary Romantica 2008: 3.5 of 5 angry jilted fiancees.

Disclaimer, rightly or wrongly I rated this book slightly higher than if it had been a full length mass market romance novel, sort of like I did with the Harlequin. I think it's in it's own category and while I don't know yet if all e-books are really well written, it's my guess they are not. Does that make sense?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Janet Evanovich 'Naughty Neighbor'

Fast, blindingly fast, whipped right along. Janet Evanovich is a new author for me and I really enjoyed how the book was so humorous, the plot moved right along, it's hard not to like a gorgeous down to earth but well dressed rich and famous screen writer type hero. If the heroine wasn't entirely fleshed out, and the pig mystery was solved a bit too simply, and the physical danger they seemed to be in evaporated from the story rather conveniently, and there wasn't much to the actual sex scenes, who am I to complain.

Oh right, I'm trying to be a reviewer here. Fast (did I mention that already) frivolous fun book. An afterdinner mint in the world of romance.

Contempory Romance Reprint 2008: 3.5 out of 5 stolen morning papers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Jacquelyn Frank 'Damien'

Gideon was a little too serious for me, Elijah wasn't really serious enough and now Damien. Hmm. Ms. Frank can write, and I quite enjoy the world she's created (although taking the lycanthropes seriously is a stretch for me). But none of these books has really been a solid hit for me.

Damien is reigning Vampire Prince. When he visits the newly discovered immortals library, he's the first one to notice that Syreena, sister to the ruling Lycanthrope queen, has been kidnapped and taken away to be tortured. He follows and puts himself at some risk to rescue her. The vampires are not going to like that he's become smitten with a Lycanthrope (were-people) who can turn into either a dolphin or a hawk and the Lycanthropes are definitely not going to like their princess sleeping with a vampire. In the course of their 'interactions' they exchange blood and find out that vampires can take on some powers of other types of immortals, and those immortals can get some vampire powers as well.

I really liked Damien's dark mysterious character (starting with his appearance in Gideon's book) but about two thirds in the book started to feel really long. I'm not always bothered by the 'fated mate' aspect of a book, but in this series I think the author is having so much fun telling the story about this world, she skimps on relationship building and relies too much on the 'well we're meant to be together so I guess we'll have to make the best of it, after all the sex is pretty good.' This isn't a bad series of books and I could see how another reader might really enjoy them. For me, they fall into the good but not great category.

Paranormal Romance 2008: 4 of 5 vampire torpors.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Robot Riley


This kid rivals Steve from Blue's Clues for my undying affection. Check out his cuteness on Youtube.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Karen Hawkins 'To Catch a Highlander'

Another story of the MacLean siblings who have been cursed to foment the weather with their tempers. Once the storms start they can't really control them, sometimes causing inconvenience and sometimes causing dangerous mayhem.

Sophia is the daughter of a one time gambler who has fulfilled his wife's last wish and retired with their daughter on a nice Scottish estate. But he manages to lose the estate to Dougal MacLean in a game of cards. Dougal arrives to inspect his new possession and Sophia entices him into a card game staking her virtue against the deed to the estate.

I really liked both these characters. Dougal was so in love with beauty you could almost believe him hanging around to find out what Sophia was up to. I enjoyed the author's choices with the outcome of the big game, and a few later plot twists even mildly surprised me. They take their time hopping into bed, but there is a nice amount of sexual tension and the consumation is thorough. Overall this is a well crafted, thoroughly amusing book.

Historical Romance 2008: 4.5 of 5 diamond necklaces.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Natalie Anderson 'All Night Long with the Boss'

I'll be a monkey's uncle. (What does that mean anyway?) I just finished a book called All Night with the Boss which I got solely to make fun of, and it really wasn't half bad. No really. I've read a couple Harlequins, most recently from the Silhouette Nocturne series and they have always been horrendously written. Not so with All Night with the Boss. It ain't gonna win a Pulitzer but at some point I stopped snorting at the Boss/Temp thing and just enjoyed the book. That's saying a lot.

I didn't even throw it against the wall when she gets pregnant with twins! To get me to care and believe in these two's relationship within such a short book is something, I must say. Not that it is a great romance novel, she's sort of annoyingly damaged by a previous relationship with a boss, but it's a nice light decently written Harlequin. Something I thought I would never see. I apologize to all the good Harlequin novels out there for judging you all by your covers.

But I have to mention that my book has "Harlequin Presents Pregnant Mistresses" across the top! That's some cover!

Harlequin Contemporary Romance 2008: 3.5 out of 5 inappropriate office liaisons.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Kresley Cole 'Dark Desires After Dusk'

Smart Bitches already addressed the ridiculous title of this book so I'll get straight to the story.

Cadeon is the ne'er-do-well brother of a deposed demon king. He feels he's to blame for his brother losing the throne, of course. Now hundreds of years later it turns out that his fated mate is this century's Vessel. She is a Valkyrie who is fated to have her first born be the greatest warrior of the century. And whether he fights for good or evil is dependent on who the father is. Sooooo, an evil sorcerer wants her in exchange for the only sword that can kill the guy whose now on Cadeon's brother's throne. Are you still following this?

This is all explained in the first two chapters, and the rest of the book consists of their travels to said Evil Sorcerer's castle, escape from said castle and reunion after the destruction of said Evil Sorcerer. Cadeon, is basically a nice frat boy and Holly is an OCD uptight school teacher type. It isn't until she moves into a Valkyrie sorority house that I realized they were perfect for each other.

Really the writing is decent, the characters aren't horrible, some minor plot issues (like the Evil Sorcerer really isn't going to care that Cadeon slept with her, HELLO!). But the characters aren't amazing either. Light, slightly amusing, not terrible.

Paranormal Romance 2008: 3 out of 5 glass shattering Valkyrie shrieks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jeaniene Frost 'One Foot in the Grave'

I enjoyed this book much more than I would have expected. Don't get me wrong, I'm up for the whole vampire romance thing, I just think when a sub-genre gets so popular there are a lot of books thrown at the wall to see which ones might stick. And since we all have to buy 'em before we read 'em, they're all sticking whether they should or not, if you can follow my metaphor better than I can.....

Cat Crawfield is a half-breed vampire (the only one known to exist) who works for a special branch of the government developed to kill vampires. Four years ago she ran away from the love of her life, a vampire, and now he's found her and is determined to not only protect her from a new threat, but to never let her get away again.

Cat is a strong, smart character and Bones (her love) is pulchritudinous (i.e.; gorgeous: I just learned that word and it so sounds the opposite of what it is, I love it), lethal, and wants nothing except Cat's happiness. That's hard not to like. If there were some hard to believe elements, why exactly did Cat leave Bones? or how is this group discerning which vampires to kill again? It's possible these questions were better answered in the first book of the series; truthfully they weren't large enough issues to stop me enjoying the story, and in genre fiction, that's pretty much all I ask.

Paranormal Romance 2008: 4.5 of 5 ghoulish resurrections.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I've Been Tagged!

I'm obviously a little new to the blogosphere having never heard of (cyber) tagging before. But one of my favorite not-always-romance reviewers Kate has issued a small challenge. Go to my nearest book, find page 123, read and transcribe the 5th sentence.

I'm not kidding that I was perusing "The Instant Intellectual" by Norah Vincent and Chad Conway having received it in the mail this morning and trying to remember why I bought it. I had finally zeroed in on a vague memory of wanting to give it as a gift, but to whom?? Anyway, I digress. Unfortunately there is a picture on page 123. But on page 122 is the word Literati with the definition, "The literary crowd. Intelligentsia." Hmm.

I received another book in the mail this morning and as it is sitting right next to The Instant Intellectual, I'll include it here as well. I recently requested, from PaperBackSwap, All Night With The Boss by Natalie Anderson (I am so not making this up) because I just could not pass up reviewing a book on a romance novel site with that awesome title. Page 123, 5th sentence goes like this: "She obviously needed time to cool off and think about things." This is the voice of our hero by the way.

Okay, Kate. Thanks a lot. I'm a little (a lot) embarrassed by both of these books.

So now I tag the Tanaka Park's. One book for each of you, dears. No wriggling out now.

And one of my favorite author's/commentors on romance. Gennita Low

And one of my early commentors who has the blog with best title picture EVER, Marg.

Have fun!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Elizabeth Hoyt 'The Raven King'

I know this will send Stewart into another tizzy, to see me violating my 'only current books' rule, but I've been meaning to read Elizabeth Hoyt's first book in the fairytale trilogy. Anna Wren is a widow who lives in a small English town. She finally decides that she must find some sort of employment if she and her mother in law are going to continue to make ends meet.

The Earl of Swartingham has recently returned to his childhood home, and after scaring away two secretaries he sends his land steward out to find a replacement immediately. Anna bumps into him in town and accepts the job before he can gainsay her.

While some of the plot could be called far fetched, I really enjoyed these two characters. It might have helped that Edward has a large dog and Anna liked to garden, but of the three Prince trilogy books I liked this one best of all. Smart and funny and (mostly) believable characters with some raunchy sex thrown in. What more could you want.

Historical Romance 2006: 5 of 5 agrarian societies.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Kimberly Logan 'Seduced By Sin'

Pet peeves, pet peeves.....Royce keeps calling Aimee 'mouse' and 'kitten.' I don't find this cute in the least. Lady Aimee is a retiring, rather plain, timid girl who was completely traumatized by witnessing her mother's murder ten years ago. She has mostly repressed the memories but lately she's dreaming of that night more often.

Royce is a friend of her father's who blew her off a year ago when she revealed her feelings for him after they had been friends for several years. He rejected her, not because she was eighteen and he is probably like 40 (okay, maybe 30) but because he has a darkness inside that causes everyone whom he loves to die. Very inconvenient I will admit.

Royce and Aimee are thrown back together when she becomes the target of an attempt on her life. Royce agrees to take her off to his 'end of the world' estate to protect her. You can't marry the chit because she'll get killed in some weird accident but you think it's smart to bring her to your house when there is an actual person out to kill her. What can I say.

In the end this book is pretty well written, the characters are certainly consistent, but the premise of their interaction; she thinks he couldn't want her, he thinks he must protect her from himself; is difficult to enjoy. I liked the fact that he is the one who is overcome by passion. Not terrible but not great either.

Historical Romance 2008: 3 of 5 murdering fiends.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Esri Rose 'Bound To Love Her'

I did finish How Green Was My Valley but I'm not going to review it until my book club meets to discuss it. Otherwise they've already heard everything I have to say.

I zoomed through Bound To Love Her last night. It's about Erin, who takes a neighbor's dog for a walk and meets up with an injured elf in the woods. Somehow they become bound to each other and he needs her energy to stay alive. She gets tangled up in the elves battle against a dark elf.

Fun book, hard to not like the idea of Legolas suddenly needing you, and the heroine is very resourceful and cool. On the other hand, Mr. Elf is pretty much off stage-left for much of the book, while Erin worries about their future and deals with the stalking dark elf. And the 'world rules' are a little fuzzy. The source of the bond between these two is never explained, for instance. If you like 'paranormal-urban modern romance' this is an enjoyable light book. It did bug me that the cover model doesn't exactly have long silvery hair.

Paranormal Contemporary Romance 2008: 3.5 out of 5 New Age Earrings.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lynsay Sands 'Vampire, Interrupted'

My friend Erica delivered some books and provided some new blood for me. (so to speak) This is obviously a later book in this series which may have affected my ability to connect with the heroine.

Marguerite is seven hundred years old and has spent most of that time in a nasty marriage with another vampire who could and did control her and read her mind. Her husband has finally died and she is starting a new career as a private investigator. While she is searching for her client's birth mother, she wakes up to find an assassin with a sword attempting to take her head off.

I was struck by how little it matters in this book that these characters are all vampires. There is an effort made to set up vampire rules for them, but their enhanced physical abilities aren't all that integral to their personalities. This isn't an entirely bad thing, but maybe a missed opportunity for the book. The sex was good, not much tension before consummation but that's pretty common these days. The mystery to be solved lacked any foreshadowing so it actually lost my interest. But I liked the hero and the heroine and I loved the scenes where all the guys got together and tried to give the hero advice. Somehow the male interaction was better drawn than almost anything else.

Paranormal Vampire Romance 2008: 3.5 of 5 lifemates.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Patricia Briggs 'Steal The Dragon'

One of my pet peeves, there are many, is when titles of books are inserted into the book awkwardly. Not only did I enjoy this book thoroughly, but the title is very cleverly taken from the story. I won't categorize this book as a romance, although there is a romantic relationship that develops, mostly because there is no sex. I know there is an entire section of romance that does not include coitus but those aren't the books I typically read or review.

Rialla is a former Daran slave who escaped to the mercenary nation of Siamin, where she is now a horse trainer. She is recruited to return to Daran posing as a slave again to help protect a Daranian lord who wants to end slavery in Daran, a dangerous endeavor.

I particularly liked how, while she has been trained as a mercenary (everyone is in Siamin) as a horse trainer, she is realistically less skilled in combat than some of her companions and more skilled in outwitting her enemies. The plot unfolds quickly and well. If you really enjoy fight scenes, these may not be riveting, but I liked the way they were more about smarts than gore. The characters are not completely stock and genuinely different from each other, not something you always see in genre fiction. And finally the world creation is terrific. I was completely sucked in and enjoyed the ride.

SF/Fantasy Girl Power 1995: 4.5 of 5 sylvan mages.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Julia Quinn "The Lost Duke of Wyndham"


Even better than the last one.

No, really!

Oh, fine, go read it for yourself.







Historical Romance 2008: 5 out of 5 Irish Highwaymen.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sabria Jeffries 'To Pleasure a Prince'

I am definitely feeling jaded. *gasp* I apologize fair reader, but I've got to re-charge my reading senses by inserting a decent book. I'm afraid my reviewing abilities are being worn down by nothing but trash.

Beautiful Lady Regina has dyslexia, Marcus the Viscount is the bastard son of Prinny, who avoids society ever since his mother spread nasty gossip about him as a young man. He's gained a reputation for being quite volatile so society calls him the Dragon Viscount. When his younger sister has her first season, Lady Regina goes to talk to Marcus to see why he has forbidden her brother from seeing his little sister. For some bizarre reason he agrees to a month long courtship between the siblings as long as Regina allows him to court her.

In my opinion, dialog is everything, and these two are terrific together. He is quite overbearing but she gives as good as she gets and doesn't back down. By the end his belligerence begins to wear however, and it would have been nice for his character to have been changed by her's more gradually. Of course this would have interfered with the BIG ARGUMENT part of the plot....

The sexual tension is very good, and consummation was terrific if sparse by todays standards. This book had a great start, then falls into some old patterns (misunderstandings, big argument for plot climax) by the end.

Historical Romance 2004: 4 of 5 dark dungeons.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Celeste Bradley 'Duke Most Wanted'

I think I need a break from romance. These books are starting to run together, well, more than usual that is. Sophie is the third grand-daughter of Hamish Pickering. She's in the running for a trust that will be given to his first female decedent who becomes a duchess. She's not all that interested in the money, just the time in London that the competition has provided her.

Graham is the fourth son of the Duke of Edencourt, does not expect to inherit, but becomes friends with Sophie. She has an unrequited tendre for him of course, but she's realistic about her chances with him until he announces he's going to marry. She is horrified enough to reach out to a dress maker who offered to transform her a few months earlier. Thus ensues the story.

The writing is good, the characters are well drawn, their motivation wanders a bit, the sexual tension is okay and the consummation is good. A generally good bit of fluff to pass a couple of hours, but again, nothing that makes it stand out in the crowd.

Historical Romance 2008: 4 of 5 Lementuer gowns.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Susan Wiggs "Charm School"

I so almost loved this book. In the eighties my favorite books were the heroines who stowed away on ships, where the crew came to love her because she's so genuine and nice, and finally the hero is shown the light of her gloriousness by how much the crew like her. Never mind the complete lack of any inappropriate advances by any of these PIRATES who've haven't seen a woman in five months. But I digress.

Charm school has the classic, wonderful, ugly duckling heroine. She's smart but a wall flower in a family of beautiful people. She runs away to sea with the unconventional southern captain, she gets some sun, becomes active and eats less, thereby losing some weight, and gains confidence by befriending every single crew member on the whole ship. The consummation is late in the book. It fit well with the storyline but I have noticed most books put it on page 3 these days, and I'm assuming there is some market research behind that decision. Anyway, I am a total sucker for these transformation storylines, I was even tolerant of some plot twists near the end that were a bit silly. BUT, when she starts into the "Why didn't I tell him I loved him. How could I not know I was in love with him." My snort-o-meter went off big time. This smart character would not have been thinking this drivel.

In the scope of a highly enjoyable book, this was a minor annoyance. And for those of you paying way too much attention to the rules I set down about this blog, yes it was published in 1999. I was snookered by the "re-issue." Usually I check for that but I missed this one and thank goodness I hadn't read it before.

Historical Romance 1999: 4 of 5 salty knaves.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Margo Maguire 'Temptation of the Warrior'

You may have noticed by now that my bar is pretty low for silly storylines, especially ones that stray into the fantasy genre. Here's another good example. Merrick is high chieftain of the Druzai, a people from another land. He must travel to the Tuath lands (regular humans) and to another time to find a magical stone that will help protect his people from a nasty witch's attack.

After arriving in 19th Century northern England, he happens across Jenny being attacked by some ruffians on the roadside. While he is defending her he gets hit on the head and loses his memory. Gypsies happen upon them, scare off the ruffians, and assume he's Jenny's husband.

I particularly liked this hero, I enjoyed the time they spent together with the Gypsies, I suppose I like the magic, the sex is good, the heroine is admirable, but in the last third of the book things bog down. It just takes too damn long to track down this magic stone. The heroine's dithering about whether to leave Merrick or not wouldn't have been too annoying if it hadn't been the exact same scene three times over. If you are going to repeat a moment of indecision, at least vary it a bit, location, time of day, motivation, anything! And the sections of the book where we read about the Druzai waiting for Merrick, completely flat, yuk. I enjoyed this book, I will pick up this author again but it wasn't without faults.

Historical Paranormal Romance 2007: 3.5 of 5 magical threads.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Catherine Coulter 'Wizard's Daughter'

This is where my lack of an English degree will show. Well, maybe it always shows in this blog, but this is when I'm aware of it as well. Rosalind was adopted as a girl by an English family after being found nearly beaten to death. Nicholas has dreamt of her all his life and when he comes to London to find her he knows he must protect her, and the easiest way to do that is to marry her. They fall in love, marry, and begin to try to solve the mystery of The Pale and their joint history of wizardry.

Nothing in the set up prevents this from being a good book. Even the characters are decently drawn, EXCEPT for their dialog. The disconcerting effect of the strange sounding dialog is strongest with hundreds of pages of exposure but here's a little sample: Rosalind says, "I agree, the Wyverly heiress wasn't the magic one, it was this ship captain, Jared Vail, he was magic and you know it, else he couldn't have built this magnificent house that must whisper of secrets and ancient magic rattling about behind it's walls. You also know it because you carry your grandfather's blood and his teachings,..." I wish I knew exactly what drives me insane about how the characters talk, the short choppy sentences, rambling on just to reveal plot details, passive voice? UGH!

I had this exact reaction to a Coulter book about ten years ago and swore never to read her again, but I thought for the purposes of this blog I would give her another chance. If you like Catherine Coulter, great, if you haven't read her before, in my humble opinion, don't bother.

Historical Paranormal Romance 2008: 0 of 5 pale wizards.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Nicole Jordan 'To Bed a Beauty'

My five year old is starting to read and while looking at the front of this book said, "Too Bad a Beauty? What book is that Mommy?" All mom romance readers must come to this point where they wonder if having all these trashy books around the house with half dressed people on the covers is really a good idea for impressionable small people. I'm not even going to touch the idea of those small people finally finding my blog, yikes.

This is one of those very decent but not special kind of books. It's heavy on the sex, light on the plot, but with a heroine who was consistently smart. At each point where the typical romance heroine would misconstrue the hero's intent or where she would typically lie to protect herself emotionally, she was refreshingly smart and honest, making me like her immensely. I didn't love the hero but I didn't dislike him which is sometimes enough.

I did have the annoying feeling that these two would not have been able to spend so much time together unchaperoned. This certainly makes the hanky panky easier to pull off but left me with that vague 'not so historically accurate' feeling which I can usually suppress. In the end the book was well written, had a terrific heroine, was an enjoyable read, but failed to jump out of the crowd for a higher rating.

Historical Romance 2008: 4 out of 5 rakish dukes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Loretta Chase 'Not Quite A Lady'

How have I never heard of this author? After starting this blog and spending some time on some romance websites I kept seeing her name and finally decided I needed to check her out. Count me excited. Clever, interesting characters who follow the basic confines of the genre, but bend the rules enough to keep the book interesting. Funny dialog, decent plot, good amount of sex; well, I'm very pleased. I can't wait for her next book.

Charlotte had a baby out of wedlock that she gave up ten years ago and she's made it her goal to never fall for anyone ever again, and certainly never to get married.

Historical Romance 2007: 5 out of 5 frothy hats.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Deirdre Martin 'Just A Taste'

The long awaited, much anticipated, finally completed, review of Stewart's request, Just A Lick. There isn't all that much to say about this one, it's an enjoyable light read that's not badly written. The characters are likable, the plot isn't too silly and it's fun to imagine yourself as a chef. There is sexual tension between our two protagonists but not much action until near the end.

Things I didn't like. Our hero lost his wife a year ago. That strikes me as way too soon to jump into another 'love of your life' relationship. When our hero has a minor breakdown and can't take Vivi into his bedroom, she reacts with anger. I would be sad and depressed if that happened to me, but anger? I felt like the cute French heroine went from saucy to bitchy about two thirds of the way through the book. She didn't become completely unlikable, but it was jarring given the characterization up to that point. And **(slight spoiler)** why does she dump him? Overall pretty harmless.

Contemporary Romance 2008: 3.5 out of 5 apple tarts.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lori Foster 'Hard To Handle'

I got this book from a friend and since I'm more of a historical romance novel reader, I had very low expectations. The first half of the book (save our hero's one-night-stand opening scene) was actually quite good. Harley is an extreme fighter who has had three title fights that he's missed, mom dieing, injuries, etc. He has retreated to his cabin in the hills to get himself ready for his next try at the title belt. The woman who rents him his cabin is the only woman whose never come on to him.....

Anastasia is a life coach whose got the hots for Harley but she's too intuitive to throw herself at him like all the other women in the area. When she acquires a stalker, Harley immediately steps in to take care of her, putting them in close proximity, etc. Hot, hard-fighting man protecting smart determined woman from mortal danger, yep, gets me every time.

Critiques: I have to mention his last name, Handleman, I mean really! Then there is Anatasia's pop-psychology drivel which became more annoying as the book went along, and finally the plot wraps up at warp speed at the end. Even his title fight is about two paragraphs.

Overall it's a quick light read with plenty of sex, very enjoyable.

Contemporary Romance 2008: 4 out of 5 extreme fights.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sherrilyn Kenyon 'Devil May Cry'

I'm here to prove you don't need a fully functioning brain to read romance novels. My first Sherrilyn Kenyon book was Upon the Midnight Clear, a shorter book that she wrote for Christmas publication. I liked the heroine but the emotional state of the hero and the relationship between these two were not engaging, probably due to the short length and quick writing. But since this writer is everywhere I figured I needed to give her another try.

I picked up Devil May Cry at the grocery store. Since this is book 21 in this series, I kid you not, I can live with the world/character quick downloads so as not to bore the people who've read, well, 20 of these books. And really the first half of the book, I liked. Ex-Sumerian fertility god had his godhood taken by Artemis, she's worried that he's plotting against her so she sends her daughter to check on him. Daughter Katra falls for him of course, but before they can attend to that they need to save the human race from the Sumerian demons who every thousand years need to be re-sealed into their prison by a Sumerian god. What's not to like.

Right around page 200 they start interacting with the bad guys, not fighting, but talking trash at each other for the most part. At which point Katra, who I've liked up until now, starts saying sarcastic things like, "Ooo, I'm the big evil. I'm gonna kill you all.....I'm just a demon windbag who likes to hear himself speak and I'm trying to intimidate you." Insert 'na na na', here. Then not too much later she and Sin are reviewing their plan of action and when he questions himself she tells him, '"I do know, Sin. I believe in you and your judgement." Sin was stunned by her conviction, and it meant more to him than he could even begin to put into words.' But on the next page the author gives voice to Katra thoughts as, 'Kat wanted to believe that, but in spite of what she'd said a minute ago, she wasn't sure.' I'm supposed to believe that these two are soul mates, that this relationship is the penultimate love relationship there is, that this is what I could someday experience if I'm lucky?? Seems to me I've had a couple relationships like this one and I do not want to read books about them!

I lost interest in the heroine when her voice changed from surprisingly honorable and truthful for a god, to trash talking sarcasm; and I lost interest in these two as a couple when the author allowed the plot development to get in the way of the relationship development. I didn't finish the last 150 pages, so it's possible that the book is amazing at the end but my life is too short.

Paranormal Romance 2007: 2 out of 5 demons.