Tuesday, August 30

Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione


Book 1 in the Demonica series

www.larissaione.com

Eidolon is a demon doctor, and a succubus about to reach his Change. If he doesn’t find a mate soon (and one that won’t kill him twenty years down the road) he’ll go ‘crazy’ and try to impregnate every female in sight. When a human female is brought to his clinic, he has reservations about helping her – especially when he discovers she’s Aegis or a ‘Guardian’ who slays demons to protect the human race. Following his own moral code, Eidolon saves her anyway – but as he does he detects unusual demon energies in her body. The woman is none-to-happy to wake up in a demon hospital, but Eidolon piques her interest and her libido. However, Tayla (our lady-patient) knows she can’t let Eidolon live – after all, he’s evil and a danger to society. But when the lines between good and evil blur, her own side tries to kill her, and her own body betrays her to the demon side will her priorities change?

This book reminds me of how ridiculously, outrageously fun paranormal can be. The hero literally has a magic cock. Yes, out of all 400 pages of this book, that was the thing that jumped out (jumped out?) at me to start this review. Reviewers and readers love to joke about the ‘magic cocks’ we discover in the romance genre, simply because it’s so ridiculous, but usually the magi-cocks are just incredibly large or responsible for boinking the heroine to blissdom with its goodliness. This, my friends, was a truly magic wang because, and I kid you not, the sperm it ejaculates is a super-powerful, fuck-me-now aphrodisiac. Yes. Can you order up men like that? - because if so I’ll take one. Seriously, though, one has to give Ione credit for writing a real magic cock. That takes guts.

Holy hell, this book was sexy. And hilarious. And fun. It reminded me a lot of Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow (love, love, love) in style and voice. There was some sarcasm, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The book was pretty serious in its tone. I liked the premise of Ione’s book, with Eidolon working as a doctor in a hospital yet being an 'evil' demon. Her world-building was very well-done and I really enjoyed reading about different kinds of demons, the Aegis, and the mating/bonding habits of succubus demons once they hit their Change. Eidolon was a great hero, patient, strong, understanding, and supremely loyal. He was endearing in that tortured-hero I-need-help-but-I’m-too-damned-stubborn-to-ask way.  What he suffers for his brother, Wraith, is incredible, but part of me wonders why he doesn’t confront Wraith instead of simply martyring himself. I mean, I can appreciate a good martyr, don’t get me wrong. But I appreciate a good, necessary martyr – when the martyring is unnecessary it just makes said martyr seem stupid even as I was endeared to him for his loyalty.

Tayla was your usual strong, kick-ass heroine but she had some vulnerabilities that made her special. I enjoyed how naturally she came around to the idea that demons, just like humans, weren’t all black or white, good or evil. She was a surprisingly sensitive for a kick-ass demon-slayer and I enjoyed that she didn’t lose her kick-ass-ishness even after she fell in love. Secondary characters, including the Aegis, Gem, Shade, and Wraith were all really well done with depth, humor, and intrigue. The action was smooth, the prose well written, and the dialogue flowed. The only problem I had with the book was the length – I skimmed/skipped about fifty pages in the middle of the book because, honestly, I really wanted to know what happened (the suspense was excellently written) and Ione was taking WAY too long to get there. I was definitely hooked, but Ione might’ve lost me with all those extra pages. Unnecessary.

All in all, it was a great book, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading Shade and Wraith’s books, then take it from there.

Favorite Quotes:

“I'll bet you could make a woman throw out all her toys.” (Tayla)

"You're at Underworld General Hospital. As you can probably guess, we specialize in nonhuman medical care. Our location is secret, so don't ask." (Eidolon)
"UGH ? Your hospital is called 'ugh' ? Oh, that's precious." (Tayla)

“Sexy”ness rating: Wowza – Zing!

Overall Rating: B+

Bottom Line: A fabulous, compassionate hero, a kick-ass, sexy heroine, and all the world to keep them apart. A great book, I would definitely recommend it to any super-natural paranormal lover or anyone who was just trying on the genre. The world building was great and easy to understand even if you’re not a regular wanderer into the paranormal genre.

Pages: 389
Published: June 20, 2010
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Sunday, August 28

K.I.S.S. and Teal

Hey everyone! Avon has been promoting their 'K.I.S.S and Teal' campaign lately, which starts on August 30th and goes until February 28th, 2012, and I thought I'd join in the promotion! K.I.S.S. and Teal is a way for romance readers, through Avon, to support the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Avon has already donated 25,000$ to the Alliance (YAY AVON!) and has promised to donate another 25 cents per book bought that is part of the 'K.I.S.S and Teal' promotion between August 30th and February 28th. They'll donate up to another 25,000$ - making a maximum total donation of 50,000$ to the Alliance. What a wonderful way to support those women in our lives who have struggled with this cancer - and the many other brave women struggling with other cancers.

So what books (you can also buy them as e-books) will be part of the promotion? Here's a list:


   The Deed - Lynsay      Viscount Breckendridge   Star Crossed Seduction -
             Sands                to the Rescue - Stephanie         Jenny Brown
                                                  Laurens

     In the Arms of a        A Night of Surrender -   One Night in London -
  Marquess - Katherine          Tessa Dare                 Caroline Linden
            Ashe

The Seduction of Scandal -
        Cathy Maxwell

For more information on these books, or the K.I.S.S. and Teal Campaign, visit this link: Avon Romance 'K.I.S.S. and Teal'. If each of us buys those books, it's another 1.75$ for the Alliance - and I'm sure many, many hours of sweet, sinful romance for all of us! So add these to your TBR list and start snatching them up as soon as August 30th hits!

Guilty Pleasures by Kitty Thomas



http://kittythomas.wordpress.com/kittys-books/

So I wanted to review all Thomas’s books before Awakening came out, and I managed pretty well – 3 out of 4? Guilty Pleasures, while not my favorite of Thomas’s simply because it was a little more predictable than the others, was still fantastic and a definite buy for any lover of serious BDSM (this goes far beyond a few swats on the ass, ladies). Thomas writes classy BDSM erotica – which is so amazing because classy erotica is really hard to find. Her stories include great character development, excellent dynamics, stimulating plots, and lots and lots of hot BDSM sex.

Vivian Delany and her husband, Michael, live a totally boring, vanilla life – when they even get it on, that is. Vivian hasn’t had an orgasm in years and Michael, despite being pretty talented in the bedroom, is frustrated by his wife’s unresponsive bed manner. Finally, the tenuous hold Michael has on reality snaps and he orders Vivian to see a sex therapist. He’s made her an appointment already, and Vivian doesn’t dare disobey no matter how disgruntled she is. The therapist sends her to a massage therapist by the name of Anton saying she needs to loosen up and learn to enjoy touch. Anton, however, is more than just a massage therapist – and Vivian doesn’t find out about his darkest pursuits until it’s too late to turn back. Caught in a world of ownership and 24/7 BDSM Anton and his goons (who are, of course, incredibly attractive and not named Igor or something equally nasty and villain-like) mold her into the perfect slave. But will she be able to keep up with her good behavior when she gets sold to her new master?

What I seem to like best about Thomas’s books is her ability to write the psychological submission to perfection. Long after Vivian’s body submits, her mind holds out, and I loved watching her mind’s defenses slowly crumble – her protestations gradually quiet. The submission of a person’s mind takes much longer but is even more essential than the body’s submission. Without it, there is no ‘perfect slave’. What I also loved was the contrast between Vivian’s old and new lifestyles. When you compare her at the beginning and end of the book, her situations are relatively similar in everything but her submission. And yet, she is so much happier. Thomas shows how, for some people, submission truly is the happier way of life (although she does include a disclaimer stating that she doesn’t condone kidnapping or dubious consent, etc).

As usual, the writing and pace were superb, the sex scenes and erotica splendidly written with the perfect balance between too much and too little description. Too much and the reader doesn’t get to fill out the fantasy to their liking, too little and the reader has no idea what’s going on. The care and thoughtfulness of the Doms in this book was really intriguing, even as it was scary (the level of premeditation was truly creepy). In the end, another splendid BDSM erotica read by Thomas and be sure to look for my review of Awakening coming next week!

Favorite Quote:

“We are not selling broken dolls no one wants to play with.” (Gabe)
 “Sexy”ness rating: *eyes glaze over*

Overall Rating: B+

Bottom Line: If you like intense BDSM books and you don’t mind situations of dubious consent or kidnapping, this is a good book for you! The psychological elements, as well as the sexual, emotional, and physical ones, are phenomenal.

Pages: 226
Published: Dec 20, 2010
Genre: BDSM erotica

Saturday, August 27

The Season and Romance Reviews Today

Hi Everyone! You know that feeling of 'making it big'? That's how I'm feeling right now!

 First of all, my pudding made a heart. Do you see that? It's PERFECT! It's a SIGN!!! (Avenue Q, anyone?)

But onto the REALLY exciting news: Romance Reviews Today and The Season have both officially accepted me to be reviewers on their sites! Terrie and Bev are both really sweet (and, um, Bev writes really awesome historical books. So I'm trying to be professional and not SQUEE every time I see an email from her. I don't know how good a job I'm doing...) and I am SO looking forward to reviewing for them!

Reviews of books received from their sites will also be posted on my site, a few days after being posted on The Season or RRT! This is a really exciting, important opportunity for me and I'm REALLY ready to melt into a puddle of goo over how excited I am. Ecstatic, honestly. I'm so honored to be part of this online community at such a young age, and I can't begin to describe to you how happy I am.

So look for reviews of books sent to me by RRT and The Season, and don't forget that I still review for Siren's Song. YAY!

Tender Mercies by Kitty Thomas



http://kittythomas.wordpress.com/kittys-books/

Kitty Thomas writes BDSM books with the ‘wow’ factor, and she never fails. I’m eagerly awaiting her September release, Awakening, which is to be a little more toned-down than her usual fare, I’ve heard. Anyways, Tender Mercies was phenomenal and scary. Grace Warner loves the BDSM lifestyle, but she’s tired of playing around with people at the local club. She’s been talking with this super-handsome guy, Lucas, on webcam for a year. He lives on a secluded island that acts as its own country – where women have no legal rights and are legit slaves with no protection via the law. Entranced by BDSM that goes farther than play, Grace finally gets on the plane and travels to the island. There, her torture begins - Lucas is the opposite of charismatic and charming. But despite months of agony and nightmares, Grace is still not completely broken when she’s sold to her new Master – Asher Collins. Asher is rumored to have killed his last slave – what will happen to Grace once she’s in his care?

Asher was incredible. Sweet and sensitive, but still a Master, he does his best to help Grace recover her human identity after her torture with Lucas. He’s very attentive and caring, a true discipliner but not unprincipled. He complimented Grace and together they were a lovely couple. It was like watching a gorgeously choreographed dance – you can’t tear your eyes away from the absolute beauty and you never want it to end. I was enraptured from page 1 to the end. I loved that Grace helped heal him even as he helped heal her. I loved how much he appreciated her for her personality as well as for her submission, and how he didn’t take advantage of her. I loved how protective he was. In fact, I just loved him all together. He was loveable and a great example of how a Master should be focused solely on the needs of his slave, beyond the submission.

The book was filled with Thomas’s signature dark, erotic flair and the BDSM elements with Asher were really well done (the one’s with Lucas were sadistic and creepy, so it’s hard to call them well done even though they were well written). Lucas was definitely an ass, and a sadistic one at that. I wish we’d seen a little more of the Island and its culture and how it worked, but it didn’t detract from the story that we didn’t so I can’t complain. It was just so interesting. The writing, as always, was phenomenal and thrillingly dark. If you like BDSM books in Thomas’s questionable consent style, you’ll like this one. Asher’s treatment of Grace is so sweet and unusual and Grace is such a gorgeous submissive specimen. His kindness and her gratitude, as mentioned previously, are well-matched and make this a must read for any BDSM lover.

Favorite Quote:

master chuckled. “Mine’s bigger than yours. I’ll bet that’s true on multiple subjects.”(Asher to Lucas)

“Sexy”ness rating: *swallows dazedly*

Overall Rating: A

Bottom Line: If you like BDSM books, this is definitely one to pick up. Kitty writes excellent dark erotica, and I would recommend all of her books to any BDSM kink fan.

Pages: 220
Published: May 6, 2011
Genre: BDSM erotica

Friday, August 26

Enslaved by Cassandra Dean

This review was done on an ebook copy provided by the lovely ladies at Sirens Song Reviews. Check out my post on their website at: Enslaved by Cassandra Dean


http://cassandradean.wordpress.com/books/enslaved/

Lucia’s father owns slaves, but most especially he owns gladiators. One named Marcus has shown particular promise, and Lucia’s father has great aspirations for him – but first he must learn of the Gods. Determined to have Marcus learn, Lucia’s father demands that she teach him all she knows about the Roman gods and the glory of Rome. However what starts as innocent teaching turns into love. But soon enough, life and society catch up with Lucia and her slave – can their love survive the distance thrust upon them?

This book sounded really interesting – mostly because of the unique time period. Historical romance is a genre dominated by one time period and place – Regency England. Other, much more minor, time periods and places include the Wild West/American Frontier, Medieval Europe, and the European Continent during the 1800s. Very few people write romances set in Rome, and for that reason I was definitely intrigued. And the novella was just as good as I hoped – in fact, I wish it had been a full-length novel.

The first thing I noted was that Dean is excellent at world-building. I am no particular expert on Ancient Rome, but to me it seemed like the story was historically accurate. I was immersed to the hilt in historical cities filled with gladiators, sinful excess, and coliseums. I found the time and place fascinating, and so well-written that for time and place alone I would’ve kept reading – simply because it was unique and different, daring and bold. I liked that Dean wrote in first person (from Lucia’s point of view) and I truly enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes. To be honest, I generally dislike first person so the fact that I was able to enjoy it here was another surprise. Dean clearly writes very well.
           
The book was too short for my tastes, especially for all that happened during it; it moved at an incredibly fast pace – so fast I almost felt rushed. I still enjoyed and savored every page, every moment, every word – and I desperately wanted to see more. Dean was very good about marking how much time had past – either using the age of characters or by actually stating it, which was important. The story takes place over the 15 or so years of Lucia’s life, and without the marking of time I could’ve been very lost. Dean seemed to be cognizant of her reader’s possible confusion while writing, and filled in any holes almost immediately – making it an easy, fast, and fun read.

Marcus is interesting, sexy, romantic, and surprisingly contemporary. I got a generally modern-esque feel from him, probably due to the fact that he’s a self-made man and a scholar. He was patient, sweet, and adorable with a certain little girl who served as a secondary character. I liked Lucia, and felt bad for all she suffered before her HEA, but it was Marcus who really caught my eye. Some people may be bothered by a few of his actions but I enjoyed how real he seemed – and how he was able to admit he had needs, and that one of those was for comfort.

What else is there to say? Good characters (Oh Marcus! *fans self*), a great location and time period, and a wonderful romance – put this book on your to-read list right away!

“Sexy”ness rating: Hot. Like, burning coals hot.

Overall Rating: A- (on the novella scale)

Bottom Line: A really interesting setting, well-developed characters, and a super-fast pace makes this novella a definite TO-READ.

Pages: 138
Published: July 15, 2011
Genre: Historical (set in Rome)

Thursday, August 25

Booking Through Thursday: History

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly bookish meme! This week's question is:

1. When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL.



1. Well, I read historical romance so I clearly like history - but I don't like reading plain old history books. Maybe because they do remind me too much of my school books or because they don't include the romantic element that I love. The same goes for historical biography. I am afraid to say that history and historical biography bore me greatly and I much prefer to live in my fantasy, completely fictional historical romance world where everything ends with a HEA. 

Jennifer's Garden by Dianne Venetta


Related to Lust on the Rocks

www.dianevenetta.com

Jennifer Hamilton is stressed. Her mother is dying, Jen is getting married, and she has to keep up with her job as Cardiologist at a local hospital. To top it all off, she has to turn her dirt-packed backyard into a suitable wedding location ASAP because her mother wants to see Jen married in a garden, something her home currently lacks. Desperate to find a landscape artist who can do the job fast and do it well, Jen asks fellow doctor, Michael, for a recommendation. But the man who shows up at her door, Jackson Montgomery, can’t possibly be the landscaper – this scruffy, unsophisticated guy doesn’t even take notes for goodness sakes! With few other choices, Jen hires Jax to take care of the garden. As Jen and Jax grow closer, will Jen calm her unruly emotions and marry Aurelio or will she risk leaving her mother’s last wish unfulfilled by postponing the wedding and trying for true love instead?

So Jennifer’s Garden had a lot of unfulfilled promise. I look forward to reading more from Venetta who is so clearly a very talented writer and I have the feeling this book doesn't show her writing at its best. A bunch of issues decreased my level of enjoyment while reading Jennifer’s Garden. The first, which I will mention only lightly, was the grammatical inconsistency of the book – although this is becoming more common in both indie and publishing house books, it’s still annoying and unacceptable. Being a grammar-policewoman, anything more than three grammar mistakes really starts to bother me because I expect more from my authors, editors, and publishers.. So that’s something to make note of – if missing quotation marks or extra commas don’t bother you, you’ll likely give this book a higher rating.

Let’s switch to the positives for the moment. Jackson was phenomenal sexy, sweet, extraordinarily sensitive. I found Jackson was a lot like one of my very best friends, whose name also starts with J, in his casual nature, his sensitivity, and his witty charm. He was well developed, fairly consistent, and adorable. I really liked him - can you tell? Jennifer, unfortunately, was his opposite and not in a good way. She was a surface character, one who has no depth of personality or feeling, and her behavior was inconsistent. Her character changed erratically, and I couldn’t understand the reasons why her behavior was random and unpredictable. She didn’t inspire much tender feeling nor did I ever grow to love her or feel her worthy of Jackson. Jennifer was not a character I could connect with, and her inner struggles didn’t make sense to me. Secondary characters, such as Sam (Jen’s BFF), were incredibly fun, added color to already beautiful prose, and were well-developed.

The thing I loved most about this book was the prose and the descriptions (though they were occasionally repetitive). Venetta describes the garden and other scenes throughout the story with incredible detail and clarity – and yet she somehow saves it from being boring. The garden truly came alive in my imagination as my mind filled with images of flowers in hundreds of brilliant hues and the sounds of rushing water and birds. I loved the garden scenes – loved them. Occasionally the book was repetitive and redundant in its descriptions, which was frustrating, but I found I was never bored by descriptions of the garden.

The repetition issue ties in with another setback – Jennifer’s Garden was way too long. I found myself wishing I could skip chapters just to get to the end. The book moved, literally, at a snail’s pace. There were a lot of little side-conflicts I didn’t enjoy and I found myself wishing Venetta had cut a hundred pages from the book. Few books have ever moved so slowly for me, without losing my attention completely. Some of the phrases were cliché and melodramatic which lent this mostly-realistic book a slightly silly edge. Jennifer’s fiancée’s role is really under-done, and that worried me. It seemed like he would’ve been her first, and most major, concern. While she mentioned being worried about him when thinking about Jax, I couldn’t really feel that she was worried since she seemed to think of him last. If I had a fiancée and I was thinking about another man, my first thoughts would be about my fiancée – not my last.

Another thing I thought worth mentioning is that most of this book is about self-discovery, not romance. The romance between Jax and Jen develops slowly and kick-starts rather suddenly late in the book. Jax and Jen have to come to term with grief of different kinds, and with their life goals and plans. To me, that seemed to be the main focus of the book – not the growing feelings between Jax and Jen. In the end, I would keep Venetta on your to-watch list because she has definite potential even if Jennifer’s Garden is simply average.

Favorite Quotes:

“…What will you do all day long?” (Jen)
“Enjoy life.” (Jax)
“Doing what? Other than dancing, I mean.” Jennifer didn’t mean to be rude, but he was still young with a lot of years ahead of him. How long could he spend floating around the middle of nowhere?
“Living. Breathing. The basics.”

“…I can’t drop everything I’ve worked so hard for because my imagination is running off in frivolous directions, doing unthinkable things–” (Jen)
“He’s that good?” (Sam)

“Sexy”ness rating: Yummy

Overall Rating: C

Bottom Line: The book was well-written and fun, but a bit long and drawn-out with a few too many side-plots. While mostly enjoyable, the book was more focused on self-discovery than romance (or at least it seemed that way to me). For all you Indie supporters – Diane is an Indie author!

Pages: 448
Published: May 5, 2011
Genre: Contemporary

Wednesday, August 24

In My Mailbox 1 + End of August RAK

Hi everyone! So I received a book via RAK this month, and sent out a total of 17 to two different people.

So here's what I sent out:

To Shanyn @ ChickLovesLit I gave two of my favorite ever YA romantic comedies:


And from her I received:





THANK YOU, SHANYN!





I also sent out a bunch of books to Harpreet Singh over at A Spark of Interest - Books for Teens. I was just cleaning out my bookshelves to make room for new romance and thought I'd give-away a few of my old but good YA books. So here's what I sent her:





















So all in all it was a pretty great RAK this month! Moving on to my FIRST In-My-Mailbox, done by video! Just click the play button and enjoy my In-My-Mailbox (and library bag and Kindle) for August!



Friday, August 19

Breathe by Donna Alward


www.donnaalward.com

Jace Willows and Anna Morelli shared a special relationship when they were teens and even children, but after Anna married her father's first choice they grew apart. Now Anna is a rich widow with two kids (Matteo and Aurelia) and Jace is the bachelor owner of a successful winery called Two Willows Winery. Anna needs some time to regroup away from her family's censure after her husband's death - but with no one else to go to, she is forced to turn to Jace and confront their painful history. Will the time she, Matteo and Aurelia spend at Two Willows help her or hurt her - and can it possibly rekindle a relationship with Jace with so much hurt between them? Can they clear up all their previous misunderstandings, especially with Anna's two kids messing up Jace's bachelor pad?

One thing I find I really enjoy about Alward's novels is her ability to write real problems and conflicts that are well-written melodrama. However, instead of feeling like the characters are being cheesy and going over-board in their hurt, I find that I really enjoy how truthful and honest the characters are about how much hurt they suffered. In comparison to many other romance authors, Alward seems to be exaggerating the emotions in her story - but I find that she can really make it work. Alward writes some of the most human romances I’ve ever read, and I truly appreciate the realistic edge to her books dealing love in life – instead of love in fantasy.

For example, Anna Morelli has two kids with her deceased bastard of a husband. In many novels the heroine somehow remains childless through her first marriage only to have oodles of kids with the hero at the end. I like that the author writes Anna with two kids from her first, loveless marriage – and that she loves them a lot. To me, that was important, unique, and gratifying – children don’t just occurs from love matches, but that doesn’t mean you can’t love them. Whether that was Alward’s intended message or not, it definitely made this book even better.

I especially loved our hero, Jace Willows. A self-made man and confirmed bachelor, I love how completely unselfish he was. He was sweet, romantic, dark and soulful – but also very male in his insecurities and confusion. He loved Anna very much, which was clear from their first encounter outside his house, and despite all his male pride, he will do anything for her to show her he's worthy of her now. I enjoyed watching he and Anna fight, as an added layer of humor. I could see and understand where both of them were coming from in their disagreements – in essence I could understand their misunderstanding – and I enjoyed watching them struggle to 'get' the other person and their point of view. It was incredibly endearing how Anna couldn't possibly comprehend Jace feeling unworthy of her and how Jace couldn't comprehend Anna's need to work and contribute. For her part, Anna was also a beautifully crafted character – a meek, timid princess turned fierce mama-warrior for her kids. I liked watching her struggle, even as I felt immense empathy for her and her situation. What is it like, Alward asks her reader, to have everything you want in life except for the things you most crave – approval and love?

The dialogue felt a bit flat to me at times, as though I understood what Alward wanted to say but she didn’t quite get it out. The prose was occasionally stilted and awkward, but most of the book flowed smoothly so it was pretty forgivable. I loved watching all the sadness and hurt that Jace and Anna carry around turn into love and healing together – though the process isn’t all roses and sunshine. I liked the underlying theme of love vs. money that the author wrote – which is more important and what do you need to make a relationship thrive? It was an especially intriguing question when applied to Jace and Anna’s relationship, I thought, and I liked the way she introduced it and worked through it to the conclusion. All in all, Alward has written a true winner that will pull on your heart-strings, curl your toes, wet your eyes, and remain in your memory for a long, long time.

Exquisite. Simply exquisite.

Favorite quotes:

To be honest, I was too engrossed in this story to make highlights or notes when there were awesome quotes. I couldn’t stop, not for a second. Fast-paced and completely absorbing, this book with captivate you from start to finish.

“Sexy”ness rating: Sweetly sexy

Overall Rating: B+

Bottom Line: If you like realistic, well-written romance this is a book for you!

Pages: 192
Print Published: December 2011 (e-book: October 9, 2010)
Genre: Contemporary

Tuesday, August 16

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Book 1 in The Elder Races series



I was really looking forward to this book, and it did not disappoint. Hailed as one of the best paranormal romances of the year, I was ready to be blown away - and for the most part, I was.

 
Pia Giovanni is blackmailed by her ex-boyfriend into stealing something from Lord Wyr Dragon dude Dragos Cuelebre. Dragos, extraordinarily displeased with this discovery, takes it upon himself to find the thief of this most treasured and valuable item (honestly, I would recommend this book just for the hilarity of seeing exactly what she stole. I loved that). After finding the lovely lady, Dragos determines he doesn’t want to kill her - but someone else might. They embark on a dangerous journey together as unlikely companions that fall in love in a funny, light-hearted, very contemporary romance.

I loved Dragos. He’s the ultimate Dragon, Alpha-male, OCD control freak, lover, you name it. He was male in his uncertainties and I liked how well Harrison infused his character with Dragon reasoning and logic. He was a very powerful, intense character and I liked him a lot. Pia confused me occasionally, and I wasn’t such a big fan of her - though I admired her strength, determination, and her honesty. They made an explosive couple in and out of bed, and they were a pleasure to read about. Their banter was witty and humorous, their conflicts equally amusing and very realistic. I only wished I’d felt a bit more depth to their emotion. I felt like Harrison was only grazing the surface of what was a very deep well of emotion and that disappointed me.

I truly wish this book could’ve been longer. I loved the romance plot, watching them grow in their capacity to love one another instead of just lust and watching them begin to explore and admire one another’s characters. I liked how Pia got used to Dragos violent, bipolar moods and calmed him, and how Dragos learned to respect someone else’s wishes instead of doing exactly as he pleased.The romantic journey, especially on Drago’s part was especially cool as this old as time being learns something new about life and love. The action plot was extraordinarily well-written and very suspenseful. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire book because the dramatic tension simply never let up.

The secondary characters were also amusing - Tricks the Dark Fae was fun and snappy, and I’m looking forward to reading her book. The Gryffons and other Wyrs were each well-developed and unique in their personalities. Graydon and Rune, in particular were excellent additions to the story and the bad guy was your typical self-assured evil villain. The ending, where Pia is brave and clever, was one of my favorite parts. I also loved it when she told Dragos her Name and he promised never to use it against her. Her trust and his possessive nature were beautifully intertwined to make this book extraordinary. I could’ve used a little more explanation on some of the Wyr stuff and the significance of mating and being able to change into one’s Wyr form, not being a paranormal reader for the most part. However this book was still very good as I mostly understood what was happening and anybody who reads paranormal a lot will love LOVE LOVE this book.

Favorite quotes:

“That’s my long, scaly, reptilian tail - and it’s bigger than anyone else’s.” (Dragos)

“I’ve had it up to here with your mulish bad-tempered crap, Tiago! I’ll thank you to remember my name is not ‘Tricks goddammit’ or ‘God damn you, Tricks.’ Henceforth those phrases are against the law - when you yell at me again the next one out of your mouth better be ‘Goddammit, ma’am’!” (Tricks)

Well, Dragos, it’s one thing to agree that we’re mates, but I don’t know about marriage,” she said. “I read Cosmo. You eat people. I think divorce court might call that the definition of irreconcilable.”

“A dragon just gave me a piece of jewelry,” she said. She took another swig and handed the bottle back to Graydon. “Have I been added to his hoard?”
He shook his head and drank too. “No, cupcake,” he said. “I’m pretty sure you’ve replaced it.”

“Sexy”ness rating: Hot - like, really super hot. He’s a dragon. What would you expect?

Overall Rating: A-

Bottom Line: This book is a definite to-read for paranormal romance lovers/dragon lovers. Dragos and Pia’s relationship is amusing, the story is fast-paced, suspenseful and fun, and the journey they share is well-written if a bit shallow for my tastes. Pick up this book on your next trip to the book store!

Pages: 328
Published: May 3, 2011
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy

Wednesday, August 10

Long, Lean and Lethal by Lorie O'Clare


Possibly in series with Tall, Dark and Deadly; Strong, Sleek and Sinful

www.lorieoclare.com

Long, Lean and Lethal is a book of mostly average devices with occasional extra-ordinary moments. Special Agent Noah Kayne is FBI, sent to Lincoln Nebraska to work with local police as part of a murder investigation there – or several murder investigations, actually. With a possible serial killer who seems to be targeting swingers that are part of a local club, the FBI decides its time to stop playing around and send in the big guns. Local Detective Rain Huxtable, however, is more than a little angry that her investigation is being taken over by the feds – even angrier when she finds out she has to go undercover with one of them, masquerading as his wife. Noah’s wife, more specifically. Rain does NOT like Noah, which is perfectly fine because Noah does NOT like Rain.

All is not well for this ‘married’ couple, but it does get better – and hotter. Noah and Rain have an angry, combustible relationship that leads to some great burn-me-up-sex. Noah has skillz, and Rain is more than appreciative even as she struggles desperately to hold on to her tough outer shell and dislike for Noah. While I liked  both the characters, Rain and Noah fell a little flat for me and the transitions from angry and resentful to partner were a little too quick and convenient. Noah’s character was pretty good – compassionate, smart, and tough and Rain, for the most part, was consistent but she occasionally acted in strange and mysterious ways. I could’ve used a more emotional take to their romance, with a little more depth and a little less lust. I did like the strength Noah gave Rain, however. That was the part of their relationship I liked the best.

The secondary characters were mostly the other members of the swinging club that Rain and Noah infiltrate as part of their investigation. While amusing and intriguing (occasionally in a morbidly fascinating sort of way) I found that the dynamics of the club were never fully explained, so when the killer was revealed I was a little confused as to his/her motive. It also made the story seem like a series of snapshots – vignettes – rather than a fluid, connecting story where the characters were perfectly entwined in their world. I really liked the glimpses we got into Susie’s mind – I thought she was really interesting, again in a creepy way. 

The suspense was only so-so. I’d figured out who the killer was about halfway through the book, but it was still pretty sudden how Noah and Rain found out. I also had issues figuring out exactly what Noah and Rain were discovering while undercover. Besides having really hot sex, what did they accomplish of value? Not much. The suspense had a lot of holes in it – so any true lover of suspense will find his/herself vastly disappointed in the plot. The book meanders around a half-there suspense plot which was find by me – but anyone who reads suspense regularly will have a harder time with the plot, since it’s pretty unrealistic.

Favorite quotes:

God forbid she suggest he read the manual. And she was pretty sure it would be an even larger crime if she picked up the book and started reading it and advising him.

“Fuck you,” she grumbled.
“It crossed my mind.” (Noah)

“I always pay on a date,” he (Noah) informed her.
“Some date.” (Rain)
“You don’t think I know how to take a lady on a date?”
… “Just because it’s been a while doesn’t mean I don’t know how to show a lady she’s worth something.” (Noah)

“Sexy”ness rating: Hot. Very erotic power-struggle sex. Angry sex. Fun and yummy sex.

Overall Rating: B-

Bottom Line: A good book for people who like pretty light suspense and don’t mind a few holes in the plot. Great sex, good characters, a fun and easy read.

Pages: 372
Published: September 29, 2009
Genre: Suspense/Contemporary

Monday, August 8

Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell




One thing I find fascinating about Anna Campbell’s books is that I always get more than I expect. I pick up the book, read the synopsis, and place it in my basket thinking I’m getting another fluffy, sweet historical romance. Not so, fellow readers. Every time I pick up an Anna Campbell book I am dazzled, stunned, turned into a puddle of adoring goo, and sucked into the intensity and passion that it seems only Campbell can pull off. From sweet and endearing heroines to dark and tortured heroes the stories Campbell writes are unstoppable forces in their complete and utter power over one’s imagination and emotions. Campbell holds me in thrall with yet another book to be highly praised – Captive of Sin. May I just say, and pardon my French, Holy Shit.

Wow. This was an incredible book. If you like angst, if you LOVE dark, tortured heroes you will love Captive Sin. The intensity of this book is unmatched. Throughout the book, the hero’s despondency is so beautifully, painfully clear as is his amazing strength of character. I actually found myself crying once or twice during the story for the pain he suffered, for the shame, guilt and humiliation he still suffers. He was the consummate survivor, gentleman, and savior with a hero’s grace and modesty. He tortures himself long after his physical torture ends for the death of his friends and his own personal loss. His character is so complex, so deep and full of pain. He was inspiring, and I was in love with him literally from the first page to the last. The scene where Gideon reveals his scarred body and hands to Charis (our heroine) for the first time is so poignant, so rife with pain and sadness, I had to look away from the book for a moment. The emotion was simply overwhelming.

Lady Charis Weston’s strength is quieter, and at first I thought the hero would overshadow her. But her simple fierceness, her refusal to give up, her determination was more than a match for the hero’s pain and sadness and I found her to shine brightly despite the hero’s clear center-role in the story. While Gideon’s journey is the central part of the story for most of the book, he didn’t do it alone and Charis is always there, supporting him as he overcomes his brokenness. Even though she didn’t share center stage, she was prevalent and stole her own spotlight. She was incredibly strong for him – for them – and her kindness and understanding are incomparable. Gideon needed someone else to be strong for him and Charis was there for him just as he’d been there for her. Mutual support, love, bravery, and strength.

The romance was the main plot, with undertones of the hero, Sir Gideon Trevithick, helping an abused, scared Lady Charis (also known as Sarah Watson) escape her evil, fortune-hunting step-brothers who are really mean and nasty *sticks tongue out at Felix and Hubert*. Gideon and Charis’s story was incredible – the patience, the pain, the sadness, the hopelessness that all gets transformed into radiant happiness and tremendous love at the end. It was really just incredible, captivating, riveting - it stole my breath from my body and I hung in a state of altered reality somewhere between Modern Day USA and Regency England. Every moment of their journey felt like a crucial moment, and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book, hardly able to read fast enough to ensure that a HEA was lying in wait for this beautiful couple. This book was definitely of the caliber I’ve come to expect from Campbell and far surpassed any other angst-ridden book I’ve read. The only thing that pulled this book down from an A+ was two turnabouts to Gideon’s character that felt a little too sudden to me. Campbell came very close to pulling them off, but in the end, the explanation I needed wasn’t quite there, leaving this book at a steady and solid A-. Wow, ladies, is this ever one for the keeper shelf.

Favorite quotes: To be honest, I want you to read this book yourself. Any quotes, taken out of context, won’t mean as much as they do in the book, and this book is so intense I want you to feel the intensity yourself when you read it – no samples ahead of time.

“Sexy”ness rating: Slow at first, but hot, Hot, HOT at the end!

Overall Rating: A-

Bottom Line: If you like tortured heroes, this book is literally the book for you. In fact, if you like Regency, if you like romance in general pick up this book! Charis definitely teaches us all what it means to love with all one’s heart in the most intense romance I’ve read to date.

Pages: 372
Published: November 2009
Genre: Historical

Sunday, August 7

Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell


 

www.annacampbell.info

This book confused me, I won’t lie. There were so many parts of it I loved – and so many parts of it that I wanted to hate, yet couldn’t seem to bring myself to dislike as thoroughly as I had hoped I would be able too. The most notable example of this was the hero. Do not doubt me when I say I really wanted to hate the Duke of Kylemore for how he treated our heroine. Unfortunately (or fortunately, rather), due to Campbell’s excessively exemplary writing skills, I still found myself pitying and rooting for him even as I detested him. Throughout the story I disliked him intensely, yet Campbell made me feel his anguish, his torment, his abject unhappiness with his entire life.  Although that doesn’t excuse his actions in the least – which included a sadistic kidnapping, emotional abuse, and rape (just in case you’re wondering what could make me dislike a hero so thoroughly) – I did feel less intensely about his actions throughout the second half of the book which led me to simply dislike him, rather than hate him with the passion I generally reserve for rapist heroes.

Let me recap the plot, then continue on with more of what I liked and abjectly hated. Verity Ashton, otherwise known as Soraya, became a courtesan at 15 – and is now 28. After taking the Duke of Kylemore as her lover for the past year, she flees London – and him. Hoping to have a normal life as a chaste ‘widow’ living with her brother, she goes to the country, content to a quiet, virtuous life. The enraged Duke, however, was not ready to give up his beautiful Soraya. He tracks her down - then kidnaps her. Taking her to his estate in Scotland, he vows to make her pay for her betrayal (which is an extreme term, most definitely) and all the pain she caused him. Bound hand and foot, Verity has no choice but to sit in his carriage and think on the fate that will meet her upon arriving at one of the Duke’s isolated Scotland estates. And what a terrible, sad, terrifying fate it is. The poor woman.

I loved Verity. She was giving, kind, strong, honest, and very determined. My heart broke again and again for all she’d suffered in life – and continued to suffer throughout the book at the hands of the Duke. Even though the Duke was very, very cruel to her she recognized his brokenness, and helped him. I know I never would’ve been so kind to a man who had brutalized me, so her Christian spirit was admirable, as was her sacrifice. Unfortunately, the love on her end felt more like Stockholm Syndrome (though the hero hadn’t been even remotely kind to her – EVER – so I suppose that can’t be it). However the hero, Kylemore was an abomination. Even towards the end, when he’d clearly changed a lot of his nefarious ways, I didn’t feel his need for forgiveness, or any real remorse over what he’d done to Verity. That was what ruined the book for me – there was no groveling, begging, not even a ‘will you ever forgive me?’-tearful-scene. If there was some unspoken truce, I couldn’t tell. All I could see was him playing brutally with a woman for most of the book without regret then securing her love to feed his obsession. Even as I felt sorry for him, I loathed him for all the terror he put Verity through, seemingly without regret. Rotten childhoods and lust are no excuses for rape, and his behavior was inexcusable. Many people felt that Campbell showed them the true man inside ‘Cold Kylemore’ and that they sympathized with him enough to forgive his transgressions. I couldn’t do that – but you might be able too, in which case the rest of this book is fantastic!

It speaks to Campbell’s extraordinary writing ability that I didn’t despise this book from the minute of the rape to the finish. The plot was excellent, the scenes are gloriously written and suspenseful. I paused several times during the book to admire just how concise, clear, and yet eloquent her syntax was. Up until the very last page I was engrossed in the story, even as I was repulsed by the hero’s behavior. This book is a daring debut, full of Campbell’s beautiful writing style – but not a love story I enjoyed. Rape always bothers me, and will continue to bother me, and it made the hero seem just as crazy-insane-mad as his father had been. This book might still work for you, especially if you agree with the heroine’s forgiveness and aren’t as put off by rape or loved the bodice-rippers of old (Love’s Tender Fury, anyone?). I am happy that Verity and Justin’s relationship worked out for his sake. I am also glad that I read this book by such a stunning author – but overall I was not happy with the romance. Campbell writes an excellent dark, tortured hero but this was one hero whose personality I couldn’t learn to love.

Favorite quotes:

I’m free, I’m free, her heart chanted in time with the gray waves lashing the shore.
I’m free. I’m independent. My life is my own at last.
I’m free, but becoming uncomfortably damp…

“Thank God,” he whispered as he peered over the ledge.
She clung to the precarious slope about a dozen feet down. The cliff didn’t fall away in a sheer drop, but the stony surface was unstable and she could slide to the base of the ravine at any time in a deadly tumble of rocks.
“Hold on,” he looked directly into her terrified eyes, desperate to instill what strength he could.
“Of course I’ll hold on!” she snapped back.

“Sexy”ness rating: Incredibly, enticingly hot for the most part.

Overall Rating: D+

Bottom Line: This book was good – and it had a lot of extra potential that could’ve been realized if I’d gotten the apology I was looking for from Kylemore. His boorish, brutish actions were unforgivable, and I needed a really, really good apology to soften the annoyance and disgust I felt. Unfortunately, the distaste of his rape lingered in my mouth throughout the story, tarnishing this otherwise beautiful work.

Pages: 375
Published: April 1, 2007
Genre: Historical

Saturday, August 6

Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord by Sarah MacLean

Thank you to the lovely Shanyn from Chick Loves Lit for getting me this book this month as part of the RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) program hosted by BookSoulmates. It is much loved and appreciated.

Book 2 in the Love by Number series



www.macleanspace.com

So I was a bit hesitant in picking up this book. I had loved both book one and book three in the series, but had heard some pretty negative things about this one. After the absolute incredible-ness of books one and three, I wasn’t ready for the disappointment of reading a bad book from this author I’d come to revere. However, I shouldn’t have doubted Ms. MacLean’s writing abilities. Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord far surpassed my expectations and was definitely on par with the rest of the series. I absolutely loved it. I think part of the reason I loved this book so much was how well I could identify with the heroine, Lady Isabel Townsend.

Ms. MacLean develops extraordinarily complex characters and while I loved Nicholas St. John, the hero, for being sweet, kind, protective, and just all-around wonderful, the character that really made the book for me was Isabel. Isabel is a loner in her work – she takes pride in the fact that she does her work and is able to accomplish it by herself. She helps others as a hidden way to help herself. She doesn’t know how to accept help because its never been offered to her before, so she’s gotten used to doing the things that need doing alone. She also struggles with her own self-worth having a father who didn’t love her and a mother who blamed her for her bad marriage.

To me, Isabel’s character was very clearly built off her life experiences to turn her into a brave, strong woman on the outside, but a uncertain, unhappy woman on the inside. There have been times in my life where I’ve felt exactly like Isabel, and in many ways we are all like Isabel – two faces, two halves of ourselves that don’t really mesh. The private half is the more vulnerable for all of us, and for Isabel it’s more vulnerable and private, and thus separate from her life, than most. I loved her complexity, her fears, and how Nick overcame them and burrowed past her tough outer shell to her heart of gold. I loved how she could be honest and frank about most things – things that had to do with her being a protector and guardian – but that she would attempt to lie to herself about any sort of weakness. To me, she reminded me of myself – unwilling to let go of the slightest amount of control for fear it will make the entire world crumble.

The secondary characters were humorous, an adorable comedic relief. ‘The girls’ at Isabel’s home are as funny as Isabel is quirky (another thing I love – she’s very ‘lady tom-boy’). The romantic plot is mostly devised of Isabel’s struggle to trust and let go, and Nick’s struggle to help her realize that he can be a valuable partner in life. James, Isabel’s younger brother, is perhaps the cutest ten-year-old boy I’ve ever read about. I loved how he was an integral part of the story without overwhelming the main characters. A little more about Nick – I loved his tender side, his willingness to help Isabel through her struggles. I thought him delightful and supportive throughout the entire book, and with his good humor and sparkling wit (and innate sexiness, let’s not forget that!) he was the consummate gentlemanly romance hero.

There was only one discrepancy that niggled at my mind as I read the story. In the beginning, one of the statues in Isabel’s home (Voluptas) is describe as having a hand over her breast – as if shy or some such thing. Later in the book, her posture has changed (one hand in the air, the other across her stomach), and unless this book is like Night in the Museum where everything comes to life at night, MacLean and her editor failed to notice that small issue.

What was there to dislike about this book? There was more witty banter in this book than in all the historical romance I’ve read in 2010 combined. The seduction is slow, sweet, and sexy, the plot is fast but doesn’t rush, the characters are the perfect balance of bitter coffee and smooth cream with sugar and a little spice. MacLean has indeed discovered the perfect balance in her writing – between dialogue and description, light and dark, comedy and serious emotion. Every time, she delivers extraordinary characters you truly care about, a plot you’ll enjoy, and of course a romance that will make your toes curl. *sigh* MacLean has struck again with perfection. Hearts everywhere will break as Nicholas St. John has been well and truly landed in this stunning, captivating novel.

Favorite quotes (there were so many!!!):

“Lost, along with our horses. Where do you think this place is keeping them? Bath? The only excuse for taking so much time to fetch a horse is death.” (Nick)
“Death of the horse? ” (Rock)
“I was leaning toward death of the groomsman who went looking for it.” (Nick)

“Good. You’re awake.”
Of all the possible intruders, Nick had not expected to find the young Earl of Reddich crouching low beside his bed, unblinking.
“It would seem so.”
“I’ve been waiting for you to wake up,” James announced.
“I am sorry that I have kept you waiting,” Nick said dryly.
“It’s not a problem, really. I don’t have lessons for another hour.”

“I have never had the pleasure of removing breeches from a lover.” (Nick)

 “Sexy”ness rating: Sweet, passionate, tender, and sexy. 

Overall Rating: A

Bottom Line: This book is as good as both the other books in the series – in fact, this entire series is a hit! Nick and Isabel are strong and realistic, the secondary characters are funny and unique, and the story is both fast-paced and deep. A fantastic book, and series, by Sarah MacLean that any historical romance reader must, must, must pick up!

Pages: 358
Published: October 26, 2010
Genre: Historical

Links to reviews of Books 1 + 3: