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.