Wednesday, September 28

End of September RAK



Book Soulmates



RAK September is pretty much over, and I'm happy to report that there was lots 'n' lots of awesome books exchanged this month!


So here's what I sent out:

                                      To Danielle at Ramblings           To Alyssa at  
To Mariya Davis:                 from this Chick:               Reader's Refuge:

And this is what I received!

From Alyssa at Reader's Refuge:











From Danielle at Ramblings from this Chick:

And from Liza Kurlykova:











Thank you to the WONDERFUL ladies who sent me books this month - and thanks to BookSoulmates for hosting this! See ya'll next month for another fabulous RAK!

Tuesday, September 27

A Scandalous Propostion by Wendy Soliman



www.wendysoliman.com

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

This book came scandalously close to not being finished. I had so many notes of annoyance and frustration marked that it was almost comical to look over my angry scribbled-upon page. The characters were completely inconsistent – for example our heroine’s personality: a timid spy who feels guilty for telling a little white lie of omission? To a stranger she doesn’t know? Adam was an annoying asshole hero, especially in the beginning when he determines he has been hurt by the fact that Florentina (whom he met when she was being chased by a mean, angry man) doesn’t tell him that she’s a courtesan. Well, I don’t know about you fellow readers, but if I were Florentina the first thing out of my mouth when a man I don’t know offers me a ride isn’t “hey thanks, and by the way I’m a courtesan and, if you’re who I think you might be, I’m also your mama’s companion”. Um, no. That’s really not how people work. Adam draws conclusions not based on fact but on his own piggish misconceptions and stupidity and I disliked how he was used only to move the story forward and awkwardly place the heroine in his arms. Adam is FAR from a gentleman. He's an arrogant, self-serving hedonist who is no better than those he claims to protect Florentina from.

So, without further ado lets go into the bashing section of this review (I know, you thought we were already there, didn’t you?) where I detail and rant about all the things I was immensely displeased with in this book.
For example, this actually historically accurate use of the word ‘ain’t’.
“Well, I know nothing about that, and what’s more I ain’t interested.”
Spoken by the current Duke of Southsea, Adam’s brother James. When I read that I was more than marginally appalled, having never encountered the word ‘ain’t’ spoken by a Duke in a historical before (or anyone else for that matter). Now, it turns out that this is actually a historically accurate fact according to Wikipedia (which provided me with a very comprehensive look at the history of the word) – in 19th century England peers would use the word ‘ain’t’ if they were familiar with another peer. However it was only used once throughout the book and it was, in my personal opinion, entirely inappropriate and shocking. Part of writing a good story is writing one that is believeable and likeable to the average reader. For example: people in 19th century England did not smell good and rarely took baths. However, in historical romance novels there’s usually a bath drawn a day and everyone smells like jasmine and sandalwood. While that’s not necessarily accurate, it’s what the readers want to read and in romance you can bet your bottom dollar you want to write what readers want to read. So that word, while accurate, was jarring and aggravating since I find ‘ain’t’ irritating even in ghetto romance.

The story and plot don’t make sense – they’re stupid, too-easily-solved, and unrealistic. The characters are flat, contradictory, one-dimensional… especially the Duke, the new Duchess, and our villains. Florentina was wimpy, weak, and TSTL – not the strong, passionate, courageous woman I’d hope she would be. Adam was an arrogant, self-confident bastard whom I hated with a burning passion. He believes himself the most intelligent, fiercest man alive yet has all those typical insecurities ‘she doesn’t love me, I’m not good enough’ etc. He can fix any problem and was a pathetic attempt at perfection that failed miserably. He was thoroughly unlikable and un-relatable. Their relationship was awkward, clumsy, and forced instead of a natural ebb and flow, give and take banter.

The sex scenes (which were, unfortunately, numerous) were weird, clichĂ© and very purple – and the author uses the word ‘bayonet’ to describe Adam’s mighty wang – as in 
"Open your legs wider, Mrs. Smith. I don’t want to hurt you with my bayonet.”
Um… no. No, no, no. No thank you. Call it what it is, or at least something attractive. Otherwise I have an image of her being speared by a long sword on the end of a gun and that is NOT sexy at all. There was also, I kid you not, this fascinating quote:

“Florentina sat up, plump breasts bouncing straight into his hands."
What are they, puppies eager to be petted? I don’t know about your twins, but mine don’t bounce straight into people’s hands. Can you see it? Adam waiting with his hands at the right height, palms up, Florentina sitting up suddenly and *BOING BOING BOING* straight into his hands! WTF? The imagery was just so warped and strange and purple I had to laugh. That should not be the mood of an intensely emotional scene – but that’s what you get when breasts start bouncing themselves places like bunnies or puppies or bouncy balls… One last beautiful example of this author’s terrible ability to write a sexy sex scene that I think speaks for itself:
“Taking a leaf from his own book, she ignored the strawberries and lapped gently at his creamy testicles…”
In the end this book had nothing to recommend it. No intrigue, no plot, flat characters, confusing, contradictory personalities, an awkward romance that read more like erotica than romance, and really creepy, non-sexy words that ruined the possibility for good erotica. Seriously, ladies, don’t pick this one up – and if you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Creamy testicles, bayonets and bouncing puppy breasts indeed.

Favorite quotes:

“…An odious little man insisted upon carrying a cage full of pigeons inside the conveyance, regaling us at nauseating length about the amount of money he’d get for them at market. The wretched creatures didn’t stop squawking the entire time.” (Florentina)
“Cooing.” (Adam)
“I beg your pardon.”
“Pigeons coo, Mrs. Smith. They don’t squawk.”  
“I beg to differ. I was subjected to their squawking for an interminable amount of time and so know what I’m talking about.”

“Oh, you’re sometimes infuriatingly infuriating!” (Florentina)
“Only sometimes?” (Adam)
“I dare say if you work at it, you’ll be able to make your infuriatingness a permanent facet of your charcter.”

“Sexy”ness rating: Um, definitely a scorcher rating - but I found it awkward and clumsy, not hot.

Overall Rating: F

Bottom Line: This book could’ve been average - there were C- moments interspersed throughout. However the book was mostly irritating, dull, flat, and uninteresting. The characters were one-dimensional and the entire book held no appeal.

Pages: around 375 (at best guess. This book is on my kindle) 77,000 words
Published: September 12, 2011
Genre: Historical

Tuesday, September 20

Desired by Nicola Cornick


Book 5 in The Scandalous Women of the Ton series

www.nicolacornick.co.uk

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC review copy!

This book was great – and very disappointing. The book was well on its way to being an A+ book, and the first 90% deserves that A+ rating. The last 10%... not so much. The absolute disappointment made me want to give this book a superbly low rating, but Cornick really does write a fabulous book and I can’t justify giving this book anything less than a B.

Teresa, Dowager Marchioness of Darent, has been married three times already – and isn’t looking for a forth. Scandalous and secretive, Teresa is an enigma to the ton who both slander and slight her. However Viscount Rothbury, better known as American foreigner and Captain Owen Purchase, sees just enough behind the supposed ‘featherbrain’s mask to be intrigued as to Teresa’s real personality. Only problem? Owen is hunting the mysterious reformer, Jupiter, who creates slanderous cartoons of government figures and he has a hunch that Jupiter and Teresa might be one and the same. But when Teresa comes to him with a surprisingly desperate marriage proposal, how can he refuse? Teresa and Owen embark on a journey together through deception and secrets, fear, scandal, and discovery – can they possibly be headed towards a happy ever after?

So lets start with that first 90% and all that was awesome. The heroine, Teresa (Tess) is done to perfection. I loved her duality – she was complex, believable, and both pitiably weak and strong. I loved how hard she tried to be Wonder Woman and how she almost succeeded. She was a lovely heroine, struggling to keep control when the world kept stripping it away and struggling to keep her dignity when the world is so quick to condemn. Tess was heartbreaking and lovely. Then there’s Owen, our hero, who is possibly the kindest, cleverest, sweetest, most trusting and patient hero I’ve ever had the complete pleasure to read about. I was in love with him as soon as I saw him. He had wicked bad boy charm but he also knew how to be sensitive and caring, and that gave him the perfect blend of dark coffee and cream. Their relationship, and the romance, was adorable and so touching I almost found myself crying during some of the scenes. There were a lot of unique settings in this book, as well, and the plot was fast-paced and never boring.

I loved the banter between Owen and Tess – they were both very clever and cute. I loved their honesty (although it did take a while to get to the honesty). I also loved that Cornick didn’t tell me the story – she showed it to me in one of the best examples of show-not-tell I’ve seen in years. I was incredibly involved in the characters and the story. The secondary characters I actually didn’t like that much, but they didn’t show up very often so my unease with Joanna, Justin, and Emma was like white-noise in the background. The first 340 pages of this book had me ecstatically happy.

And then. Oh, but then dear reader. This book had pretty much maxed out its drama-meter before the last 40 pages. There was a lot of drama, a lot of emotion, but the book had been winding to a very satisfying, enjoyable close that would’ve been a little anticlimactic but very peaceful. But no, Cornick could not resist the last, final drama that didn’t even truly conclude the novel and instead opened up another who can of worms and question. I won’t tell you what this massively annoying and completely unnecessary drama was, because it would be a spoiler. But suffice it to say that I was annoyed with this drama, it ruined the end of the book for me, and I found myself ready to throw my Kindle across the room because I was simply so upset that this absolutely wonderful book had just been ruined. Although I loved this book, the last forty pages of Desired will forever leave a desperately bitter taste in my mouth. On the whole, I would recommend Desired - but I would stop reading around page 340.

Favorite Quotes:

“Warned you that I might want to sleep with you?” Owen raised his brows. “It is the done thing in many marriages.”

“On the contrary, my lord,” Owen said. “I never felt more grateful to be an American than I do now.”

“I have the special license,” he added. “We may marry whenever you choose.”
Tess jumped snatching her hand from his. A tremor of disquiet shook her. “Marry?”
“It tends to follow a betrothal,” Own pointed out.

“Sexy”ness rating: *fans self*

Overall Rating: B to B+

Bottom Line: This book was so, so good and I thought it unique, fun, and very well-written. Except for those last thirty or forty pages this book deserves an A+ rating and I would definitely recommend it on the hero alone. The perfect mix of bad boy seduction and sensitive, sweet gentleman. Oh, Owen. *sighs*

Pages: 384
Published: November 15, 2011
Genre: Historical

Monday, September 19

The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski



www.christinamandelski.com

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy!

It’s certainly been a while since I’ve read a Young Adult romance and The Sweetest Thing had me recalling all those cute, sweet moments with clarity. The story revolves around Sheridan Wells, a teenage girl whose life is NOT going her way. Sheridan has a talent for making cakes, and spends most of her time after school at the bakery. She uses her mom’s ‘spirit’ and memories as a guide to make each cake perfect. Sheridan’s father, Donovan, is a phenomenal chef who is struggling with the burden of single parenting. Sheridan’s mother, Margaret, left them when Sheridan was young to go jet-setting around the world with a lover. Sheridan still loves her mother, however, and can’t see her flaws – and spends all the time she’s not at the bakery searching for her online with the help of her best friend, Jack.

Then her father drops the bombshell – he’s finally got noticed by some big wigs in New York who have offered him a TV show. He’s going to move then to NYC, after filming the pilot episode of Sheridan’s Sweet 16 in St. Mary (the small town in which they live). Sheridan is beyond upset, hates her father, and swears he can’t make her go. Especially once Ethan, the school’s most popular jock with god-like good looks, asks her out. Ethan is great and totally yummy, but why is Jack acting weird all of a sudden? Can Sheridan convince her dad to stay in St. Mary? Can Sheridan find her mom, and convince her to come home? Along with a million other conflicts and dramas, these are some of the critical questions in regards to the plot of The Sweetest Thing.

Sheridan is our typical teenager – a little bit selfish and myopic, but she still means well and tries her hardest to keep her head above water when she feels like life is trying to push her under. Struggling to enjoy the life she’s been given, finish school, figure out this ‘dating thing’ and find her mom, Sheridan certainly has her plate full. Sheridan harbors a lot of resentment towards her father, and it’s easy to see both his selfish side through her eyes and how much he struggles to do what’s right and be a good parent. I loved watching Sheridan and her father bond towards the end of the book – it was adorable, and very, very touching.

The Sweetest Thing is never lacking in plot devices, and the story moves at an incredibly fast pace. With lots of drama it’s easy to see how Sheridan feels that life is out of control. Sheridan’s relationship with Ethan is super-sweet while it lasts – but it’s Sheridan’s relationship with Jack that takes the cake. Anyone looking for a fun, cute YA romance can definitely pick up The Sweetest Thing and find their tastes more than satisfied.

Favorite Quotes:

“You know I’m not jealous,” Jack says to me after she’s gone. “But that guy has gone out with at least one girl in all the major cliques. Next it’s band geeks, chess club, and cake decorators.”

Whoever had the brilliant idea of forcing adolescents to mess with covalent bonds first thing in the morning definitely wasn’t playing with a full deck.

“Sexy”ness rating: Sweet – a few kisses

Overall Rating: B

Bottom Line: Cute, adorable and fun, the book accurately portrays a teenage girl’s struggles to find her mom, love her dad, and sort out all those complex high school relationships. Filled with drama and love in all its forms, The Sweetest Thing lives up to its name and is, truly, an adorable YA romance.

Pages: 336
Published: May 10, 2011
Genre: Young Adult

Thursday, September 15

Mark of the Sylph by Rosalie Lario


Book 2 in the Demons of the Infernum series

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4843915.Rosalie_Lario

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy!

This book pretty much blew my mind and there was so much awesome-sauce to talk about that I don’t think I could even cover it all. Lario isn’t from one of the big publishers and while I hate to stereotype usually the best books come from the big names. Lario, however, writes one of the most compelling, engrossing, deeply romantic and totally sexy paranormal romances I’ve read to date. With great action, touching sacrifice and sweet seduction combined with wonderful writing, voice, style, and character development this book literally has it all. I was in love with this book, its characters, and the world Lario built that from start to finish and I literally couldn’t put it down, even to eat. I have no doubt Lario is going to do great things with her amazing talent, and I am literally on the edge of my seat waiting for book three. The only thing I would caution: before reading Mark of the Sylph you really have to read book one, Blood of the Demon. It’s not a good standalone but Blood of the Demon is almost as good as this book, so it really isn’t a hardship to have to read the series in order. Which you should do. STAT.

Maya is a kick-ass librarian who lends books by day and, occasionally, kills demons by night. Taeg, a half-demon half-faerie Otherworld being, comes to her library while researching some old legends about a mythical sword and wonders at Maya’s absolute distaste for him when most women are attracted to his charm and good looks. Taeg soon discovers the truth – Maya can see through his glamour to his true demon form (fear not, ladies, his demon form is also sexy and attractive!), and she carries a deep grudge against all demons. However once Taeg discovers Maya's ability, he realizes that he needs Maya to use her rare ability to see through glamour to help him locate the sword which is purportedly able to destroy a book that keeps his sister-in-law in danger. But while Maya isn’t inclined to help a member of the race she so despises, Taeg just might be able to convince her to surrender to his will…

The characters in this book are phenomenally developed. I immediately felt connected and in sync with all of them and I liked them very, very much. In fact, I was in love with Taeg for all his flirty, bad boy charm. I liked Maya, because she really was an excellent fighter, admirable and strong, and sarcastically witty. Taeg was fantastic and a great hero - he let Maya fight and wrestle when she needed it (whew, that was sexy!) and held her close when she needed that instead. He was in tune with her, and his journey to falling in love with her was absolutely adorable and yet really super-hot. And I mean, wow. The sexual tension in this book was beyond smoldering. It was a frickin’ inferno. My Kindle was overheating.

As I believe I stated in my review of Blood of the Demon, Lario has created a fabulous world that is fascinating because it is extremely unique. I especially appreciated how well Lario knew her characters – like she’d sat down and had coffee with all of them and took notes to figure out who they were, deep down and on the surface. It was obvious Lario was closely connected to her characters thus making them so well-developed and all show, no tell. Lario also really seemed to come into her voice in this novel, more so than the previous one which was a little shaky. I really can’t begin to describe to you how wonderful this book was, in all ways - dialogue, plot, romance, the whole she-bang. Lario literally has made me a fan for life with her Demons of the Infernum series. I am overjoyed with her creativity, her imagination, and her ability to paint the world and characters in my mind with vivid detail and color.

In conclusion: all I can say to my fellow readers: Go out and get this book. It’s a wonderful, necessary addition to your bookshelf. The story is touching and hot, poignant and sexy, sweet and bad-ass. Mark of the Sylph is a book I will continually revisit; and I will cry and laugh out loud every time I do.

Favorite Quotes:

The woman had more moves than a horny teenager on prom night.

When he spoke, his voice came out a sexy rumble. “I like what you’re wearing.”
“I’m not wearing anything.”
“Exactly.”

“You’re the one who wanted to turn our conversation into a Bruce Lee flick,” he said to her, “I just wanted to talk.”

For one long moment she lay there, too caught off guard to answer. She pushed against his chest. “Get off, demon.”
Taeg lifted his head and curved his lips into a wicked smile. “Is that an invitation, sweetheart? Cause I’d sure as hell love to.”

“Sexy”ness rating: Oh. My. Holy. Deity. *faints* I need a Taeg. Stat.

Overall Rating: A

Bottom Line: If you like unique and flirty paranormals with fun, intriguing plots and fast-paced, touching romances (and, of course, a to-die-for demon hero with mad sexy skills) then hot damn does Rosalie Lario have a book for you.

Pages: 268
Published: September 4, 2011
Genre: Paranormal

Saturday, September 10

In My Mailbox 2

Hi, and welcome to my second video in my mailbox - a meme hosted by the Story Siren! I'm super excited because I went to Borders and got a bunch more books before their closing (which really makes me cry) plus I got a few from review sites and authors! I've also got a TON in the mail on the way to me, thanks to fellow RAK-ers and authors. So, click below and watch me rant and ramble. And talk about how much I love Anna Campbell. If you haven't read her books, just BTW, please go out and buy them. Not only is she the sweetest person you will EVER met or get to know in some fashion, but her books are truly phenomenal. She writes that dark, tortured angst-y hero like no one ever has before.

 Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, September 8

School

Hello everyone, and thanks for stopping by and being faithful readers/followers. I have some important news to tell you. In the next 10 months, I will not have dropped off the face of the earth. In fact, you will see some occasional posts, author interviews, and reviews. However, as the title of this post suggests, I am going back to school. This is high school, for all of you who are confused.

This year I will be challenging myself far beyond anything I've ever done. I will continue reviewing, if I can, for The Season, RRT, and Sirens Song. I will be stage managing shows at my school. I will be working a job. I will be taking 6 Advanced Placement (AP) classes. In general, I'm going to (shortly) begin working my very tiny ass off. Clearly, the number of reviews will decline significantly if not disappear altogether. I may not be able to update my blog more than once a month, or twice. I will keep all prior commitments that I made to people, but I will not be accepting new challenges. As of today, reviews, guest blogging, and author interviews that I am not already committed to, are done.

What does this mean for you - a reader of my blog? This means that, from now til June, you might need to look elsewhere for consistent reviews. I will likely be updating frequently during the four school breaks that I have (Thanksgiving, Christmas, President's Week, Spring Break) but other than that I've got WAY more that I need to do, and this blog falls at the low end of my priority list FOR THIS YEAR. However, this blog is very important to me, and reading will always be very important to me. This blog is on my low-priority short-term list, but on my high-priority long-term list. After this June, I plan to make this blog one of the more important things in my life. Unfortunately, my obsessive school plans were already in place before I started this blog and therefore they have to come first. Obviously my job and college will come first too. But this blog will come before many other things in my life once high school is over.

I'm very excited for the time when I can really start working on this blog and promoting it the way I want too, and I'm sad that I can't do that this year. I've truly enjoyed blogging actively for the past summer months, and I'm upset that I have to let it go. But it won't be for long, and I hope you will all stick around for my return to glory next summer when school is finally over and a new chapter of my life begins.

Thank you for your readership.

Tuesday, September 6

How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart by Donna Alward


www.donnaalward.com

I do so enjoy the emotion in Alward’s stories. The drama is so vivid it’s almost surreal, and yet somehow I’m still able to connect to the characters. In How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart Megan Briggs has just returned home after receiving treatment for breast cancer. With one breast removed and her hair gone thanks to chemo, Meg is feeling less than pretty when she runs into neighbor Clay Gregory, her old friend and crush from her adolescent years. Even as she tries to stay away from him due to her fear and shame, she finds herself unable to resist his charm and their past closeness. As it happens, Clay’s Aunt is getting married and he’s without a date to the wedding so he asks Megan to go with him. When she shows up in a knockout dress, he sees her for the first time as a woman, not a kid sister or a sickly girl. But is it too late for romance to blossom?

I loved Megan and Clay, even though I was occasionally annoyed with them. They were both very human – they didn’t always make the right choices for themselves or in regards to one another and it led to a lot of extra challenges and hurdles on the path to their happy-ever-after. Often I like my heroes and heroines to do exactly what they’re supposed to do all the time, and get annoyed when they’re ‘stupid’ and mess up. But the reality is that we all mess up. Alward gives us a taste of realistic romance and How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart showcased a lot of the drama that is omnipresent in real life, especially when real life includes cancer. The entire story was loaded with love, caring, fear – the emotions that build relationships and tear them apart. Watching delectable Clay and sweet Megan weather such an emotional hurricane was wonderful and inspiring.

Now, of course, let’s get to the important part of the review – the romance. I loved watching both Megan and Clay grow out of their fear and Clay grow in his support and love, and they made for a heart-warming, if occasionally heart-breaking, couple. Clay and Megan are so comfortable in their friendship that the new dimension of romantic attraction is really hard for them to assimilate, and Alward handled the contrast between comfort and uncertainty beautifully. The sexual tension (which, by the way, is never resolved so those of you looking for ‘warm’ sensuality level romance, here’s one for you) is dramatic and smoldering throughout the book as soon as Megan steps out in that red dress. Whew, was it steamy! Of course, with Megan mastectomy, there was plenty of emotion interlaced with the lust, making for an entirely touching romance all around.

There were only a few things that bothered me in this book, and to be honest I was so enamored with Megan’s strength and Clay’s struggles that I barely noticed the occasional inconsistencies and annoyances. The book is pretty smooth, overflowing with emotion, and is definitely a worth-while read for any lover of Alward’s style, cowboys, or best-friend-to-lover romances. Alward writes consistently stunning romance novels and How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart is no exception – make this one for your keeper shelf.

Favorite Quote:

“I’m telling you, Meg, weddings make women stir-crazy. All of a sudden they think everyone in the universe should be paired up.” (Clay)

“Sexy”ness rating: Warm (no sex, but plenty of Unresolved Sexual Tension)

Overall Rating: B

Bottom Line: A fun, flirty best-friends-to-lovers romance, this book was deeply emotional as the hero and heroine overcame their fears together. Any book with cancer in it will be emotional, and this book was a stunner. Plus, the cowboy was super-sexy.

Pages: 192
Published: October 4, 2011
Genre: Western Contemporary

Monday, September 5

Barely a Lady by Eileen Dreyer


Book 1 in the Drake’s Rakes series


http://www.eileendreyer.com/index.shtml

This was an incredibly emotional book. Wow. So, the Earl of Gracechurch, henceforth known as Jack, was once married to Olivia Grace before divorcing her after claiming she cheated on him, gambled notoriously, and that her baby isn’t even his after catching her in a ‘compromising’ position with another man (who, by the way, he killed in a duel). While Olivia is innocent of all the crimes Jack accuses her of, she still gets tossed out onto the streets, penniless with her child, and has to work to make her way for five years while numerous other tragedies occur in her life. Olivia is working with a duchess, helping soldiers after the battle of Waterloo, when she discovers Jack barely alive on the battlefield – wearing a French uniform. Working against her desire for revenge she takes him to the duchess’s townhouse where he wakes – with no recollection of the last five years. Jack believes he and Olivia are still happily married and can't imagine what he could've done to have lost her. What will he do when he discovers the truth? And will he ever remember the years that led up to him donning the Frenchie colors – a truth that puts them all in danger?

Whew. Let me start off by saying that I was so glad that Jack remained Jack throughout the story, and did not turn into Jack’s brother or Jack’s eerily look-a-like best friend or something like that. All too often the injured scoundrel of a husband (or ex-husband in this case) is reformed during his illness – only for us to discover it’s the older brother of said injured scoundrel, and oh by the way the heroine has already slept with him four times so they might as well get married. That vastly improved my mood and my opinion of this writer that she took the hard road – the one fraught with difficulty and peril – in repairing the hero and heroine’s relationship, especially after such strain. The theme of this story: Love, truly, can always find a way.

That being said, while the plot was enjoyably unique it was boring on occasion and way too long. I literally skipped about 50 pages because, while I was thoroughly invested in both the characters and the storyline, nothing was happening. I understand that Jack is still healing from his injuries, but the middle of the book was S-L-O-W. At least 70 pages could’ve been trimmed away without diminishing the value of this work at all. In fact it most assuredly would’ve made it better. While I cannot judge the whole length because I don’t think I’ll ever go back and read those 50 pages, I can tell you that I didn’t feel I was missing them (other than a few plot lines that inched forward during those 50 pages, I barely even notice that I’d skipped them). The romance was sweet at the end, tough in the middle, and harsh at the beginning. It was a truly emotional tale, and even if I wasn’t happy that Jack was included in the HEA, he did make a concerted effort to right his past wrongs – even if nothing he could do now would make up for what he had done in the past.

Jack was kind of annoying. I found I hated how gullible, untrusting, and doubting (and unfair, unjust, unintelligent, annoying, ridiculous, judgemental… gr!) he was, and I hated how he treated his wife. He was always suspicious of the wrong person and I honestly wanted to throw the book against the wall several times on his behavior alone. While I’m glad that Dreyer was able to inspire such a wealth of feeling in me, perhaps making me hate the hero just a little less vehemently would’ve been a plus. To me, Jack will never EVER be good enough for Olivia, who was intelligent, trusting, calm, rational, strong, supportive, and should’ve left the damn Frenchie-coated man for dead. In fact, were it I who had stumbled upon Jack, I would’ve gotten the officials to hang him myself. Nasty, nasty man. Olivia was so magnificent in her ability to forgive Jack and trust him again, opening herself up again to all the hurt he’d piled on her before. It’s hard to have a satisfying HEA when you feel the hero is totally unworthy and will never be able to make up for all he put the heroine through (which, by the way, she came out of better not bitter. Olivia dealt with the ridicule, humiliation, pain, and desperation with grace and I found her truly inspiring) but I did try to find some smidgen of satisfaction in me, if only for Olivia's happiness.

“Sexy”ness rating: Hot

Overall Rating: B-

Bottom Line: While good, this book wasn’t fabulous. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more Dreyer works, as I definitely want to see if her writing improves and condenses as she continues writing. A very emotional tale, the heroine is strong and inspiring but the hero is gullible and doubting and I wasn’t very happy that she got HIM as her HEA hero.

Pages: 392
Published: July 1, 2010
Genre: Historical

Awakening by Kitty Thomas


(isn't that a beautiful cover?)

http://www.kittythomas.com

I love Thomas's work, plain and simple. Thomas really writes such stunning novellas, and this one is no exception. Awakening is told from the first person point-of-view of a mermaid named Nerina. Nerina, an essentially curious mermaid, swims too close to the shore of the island on which the humans live and gets caught in their nets. After avoiding becoming supper, she instead becomes a pet as Master Kyros refuses to throw her back to the sea. Instead, he becomes intent on changing her from mermaid to human – which myth says can only be done if the mermaid experiences real desire for a human. Nerina doesn’t believe the myth, but Kyros does and she has to stay until he gives her up. Can she truly enjoy Kyros’s touch and become human or will Kyros kill her when he discovers she’ll never be able to give him what he desires?

Again, Thomas gets right inside the head of her characters, delving as much into the psychological as the physical part of desire. The psychological change, the change in Nerina’s attitude towards humans, desire, and Kyros, is really the most intriguing portion of the book (though Kyros is, of course, masterful in his ability to bring about physical desire in Nerina as well). The contrast between hardness and kindness, between forced and wanted, are blurred in this piece. Fans of Thomas’s more hard-core BDSM works won’t find this one as stimulating as far as BDSM elements go, though Thomas still writes a non-consensual sex and kidnapping piece. There is little other plot to this novella, which is good. Thomas focuses all her verbiage and power into Nerina’s transformation and what that means for her life – and the dynamics of her relationship with Kyros. I loved how Nerina still retained her mermaid mind throughout the story and her submersion into human culture.

I’d like to touch upon one more thing Thomas did fabulously – world building. The mythology, the mermaid culture, and Kyros’s castle were all built with incredible class and detail. I could see the hallways and rooms, understand the myths and their tellers, and got a pretty good handle on the fabulous mermaid culture that Thomas builds (far different than the Disney-princess version, I assure you). It was just one more phenomenally written part of Awakening that I really enjoyed. Well-researched, well-developed, and well-written, this is another Thomas must-have for any fan.

Favorite Quotes:

He swam toward me like a shark, his eyes filled with purpose. I was faster, so I kept eluding him. Finally he stopped swimming, realizing the futility of the chase. “Nerina, if you don’t come to me right now, I’ll order the pool drained. Then we’ll see who is the fastest.”

Salty. Primal. It was like the sea. Somewhere deep in my mind, I knew he could be my new ocean.

“Sexy”ness rating: Sexy

Overall Rating: A-

Bottom Line: If you like Thomas’s work, which includes unclear or completely non-consensual sex, kidnapping, etc (not for the faint of heart) you’ll love this new one from her. Awakening is another fantastic stunner, and I loved the mythical edge to this story.

Pages: 21,500 words
Published: August 25, 2011
Genre: Dark Erotica

Dangerous Highlander by Donna Grant


Book 1 in the Dark Sword series


www.donnagrant.com

The McLeod brothers captured my heart with their desperate, sad situation. My heart broke for Quinn and Fallon especially (the brothers of our hero, Lucan) seeing as they had such a hard time adjusting. But they all lost their family, their lives, their sense of self and their happiness. Unfortunately, empathy was one of the few emotions this book made me feel. I couldn’t feel the love blossoming between Cara and Lucan, nor could I understand some of the feelings of our protagonists. There was some silliness in this book that I just didn’t appreciate, as well.

Cara meets the McLeod brothers when, as she gathers mushrooms nearby, she starts to fall off a cliff. Lucan saves her from death and brings her to the castle, where the brothers argue about what to do with her, then end up protecting her from an attack. The book revolves around Cara learning about and understanding the gods inside each of the McLeod brothers, and helping them. She also learns about her own magical powers (she’s found to be a druid) and Lucan teaches her how to defend herself in case of another attack. While I felt the suspense, the attacks were too long and drawn out, clearly to give Cara time to learn to fight. I would have thought that Diedre (our villian) would’ve been smarter in her attack strategy, if she was as all-powerful as we were told. It made the plot slow, and a bit boring, on top of being unrealistic.

There was a lot of silliness in this book that I didn’t understand. For instance, the McLeod brothers have been in hiding, from everyone, in their castle for the last three centuries. Apparently, neither Deirdre nor the other Warriors thought to look for them in the castle. That would be the first logical place to look! Of course they returned home! They’re highlanders! And if you had 300 years to look for them, wouldn't you circle back to the castle on occasion just to see? Also, Cara discovers she has powers when she accidentally almost kills a plant (when she was angry and touching one). She then gets all freaked out about her powers. Why? It’s a plant! If I discovered I had powers that could potentially save me from being taken captive by an evil drough I would be hoping about trying to learn everything I could and explore. Her reasoning and fears, in that regard, didn’t make much sense. One of the things I hate the most in books is when things don’t make sense. It simply ruins the world-building and character-building. I mean, come on. Who WOULDN’T look at the castle? Seriously?

Finally, the characters were not consistent, nor well developed. With the exception of Quinn, I didn’t form a real bond with any of the characters and couldn’t see any real depth. There were also several inconsistencies in regards to Cara. At one point she pulls the typical heroine move - the ‘I must run away because my presence puts the hero in danger’. Then later in the book, with no significant thought-process to indicate why there would be this sudden change in though, Grant writes something like this: ‘he was just trying to protect her - the least she could do is cooperate.’ from Cara’s view. Huh. Where, Ms. Grant, did this new attitude come from? There were also occasional grammatical errors - talking in third person for a sentence, using the name of the person when speaking when they’re standing right next to you (not to gain their attention or anything), etc. It was enough to make me take note, but not so bad as to make me rant about it. Still, the silliness and stupidity, the inconsistency and lack of depth, and the inability to make me feel much beyond empathy leaves this book solidly at a C.

“Sexy”ness rating: Hot

Overall Rating: C

Bottom Line: The book was good, but I was feeling the lust more than the love. I had a hard time feeling the characters connect with one another. I felt plenty of empathy for both Cara and the McLeods, and felt fairly connected to them. The plot was interesting, but too slow and occasionally unrealistic. An average read.

Pages: 339
Published: December 29, 2009
Genre: Historical
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Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter


Book 4 in the Rarest Blooms series


www.madelinehunter.net

I think the thing I loved most about this book is how intelligent the characters are – and how well-developed every nuance and facet of their personalities is developed. Daphne and the Duke of Castleford are well matched in determination, willpower, smarticles, and passion and I loved watching them grow in their love for one another. One decent spark was all that was needed before the two fell into an explosive passion worthy of a gasoline-fueled fire. And Castleford... oh my, Castleford. Wow. So, onward, my dearies, to the plot.

Castleford has just mysteriously inherited four small estates from his deceased, but still sanctimonious, cousin – each with tenants who board for mysteriously little rent. The man who bequeathed the estates to him asks only that he continue to allow the tenants to board at that mysteriously little amount for the rest of their lives. Determined to get to the bottom of all this mysteriousness, Castleford sets to the first of the estates where he discovers a little flower shop run by a woman that sets all his previous mysteries to shame – Daphne Joyes. Never has he met a more intriguing woman – a woman that can match and entertain him every day of the week, including Tuesdays. Her intelligence, her wit, her will are all unmatched and Castleford simply must have her. But Ms. Joyes may be the one person the Duke of Castleford cannot buy…

Castleford was an incredible character. Not only was he seething with intelligence but he practically oozed charm and gorgeousness. I was drowning in him every time his name filled the page. He was a character, surely, and a delicious one at that. I had only wished he’d lived up to the reputation he’d set for himself in the earlier books – he was a little less witty and charming (and outrageous) in this book that the previous ones. He was seductive, however, and dangerous in that without-a-care rich-bad-boy way. I loved his compulsion with Tuesdays and how that played out in this book, and I liked his manipulative ways. I found them more amusing than dastardly, especially because he usually uses his manipulative intelligence for good rather than ill. He’s a much better man than he, or the world, believes him to be and that endeared him to me greatly.

The Duke has never had to work for anything and is desperately bored and in need of a challenge, which is definitely what the lovely Daphne turns out to be. Not wooed by wealth or charm (or a wealth of charm, which Castleford certainly possesses), Daphne is the epitome of the strong, resilient, wonderful heroine who continually saves herself and everyone around her even when it is nigh impossible. It was very clear to see why Castleford loved this strong, self-possessed woman – and she deserved his love. She was an amazing woman, and I delighted in her company throughout the book.

The only unfortunate thing for this book was that it didn’t live up to my high expectations. The plot was interesting, though a little chaotic, the characters were humorous and fun, the romance was gratifying and passionate. But Daphne, and especially Castleford, had been built so high in the first three books I didn’t quite feel they met my expectations and I found myself underwhelmed and a little disappointed. Castleford was much less exciting when he got his own book. In fact, at times he felt more comfortable than dangerous. I think this book would have gotten a much higher grade had I not gone into it with my hopes so high, but the feeling of un-met expectations left a slightly bitter taste to the book long after I’d finished and for any lover of this series, it will probably do the same.

“Sexy”ness rating: Yum-tastic *sighs* Every girl needs a Castleford.

Overall Rating: B

Bottom Line: While this book didn’t live up to my high expectations, it was definitely a good and worth-while read! Castleford is the supreme rake and Daphne is challenge. It was entertaining and enjoyable, an excellent way to round out this fantastic series that I would recommend to any historical romance lover in a heartbeat.

Pages: 359
Published: April 26, 2011
Genre: Historical

A Scoundrel's Surrender by Jenna Petersen


So here's a big thank you to the lovely ladies over at Romance Reviews Today for sending me this book for review! Here's the link to my review on their site: A Scoundrel's Surrender by Jenna Petersen


http://www.jennapetersen.com/

Alright, so this is generally something that doesn’t matter to me, but still annoyed me greatly with this book – the cover. THE COVER DOES NOT SAY HISTORICAL ROMANCE – at all. In fact, it broadcasts contemporary, what with the highlights in the girl’s hair, its modern-esque layered cut, and her heavy eye-makeup which I am certain did not exist in the 1800s. Let’s face it, even the way they’re postured screams contemporary! So boo and hiss, Avon, for your idiotic cover. You normally do so well. However, let us not hold the cover against the author and her writing when there are so many good parts of this book. I mean, really, this book could’ve been covered in saran wrap and it wouldn’t have affected my reading experience.

So what was bad? The book was underwhelming, and a little disjointed – a series of photographs rather than a panorama view. The setting was poorly done, so I found myself floating around in the space of Petersen’s London without an anchor. I found myself watching dances at balls when there wasn’t clear context or reading about tea at random. To be honest, however, the floating effect was only a lingering annoyance – like a flying buzzing around while you watch TV. It definitely wasn’t overwhelmingly distracting, and I found, for the most part, I enjoyed the book and its scenes even though I had issues following the protagonist’s London life. The passage of time was also a problem in that it wasn’t marked clearly, but again it wasn’t overwhelming. However these were simply minor annoyances.

For most of the story, I found myself struggling with the humanity of our protagonists. I truly didn’t like Caleb at the beginning of the story – he was rude, selfish, and wallowing in self-pity. I didn’t particularly like Marah either, though I empathized with her and felt her pain, so I was less annoyed with her. I was worried about how much I could possibly enjoy the book – after all, if I don’t like either of the main characters can I really like the book? Yes, it turns out. Yes I can. What made this book so incredible is that Marah and Caleb made each other better. I liked them better together than apart. Marah helped Caleb become less selfish – more thoughtful and compassionate – and Caleb helped Marah stop hiding from herself, her family, and the world in general. Together, I grew to like them for their combined strength and it was a unique, touching approach to romance. I also found, as I reflected on the book, that I appreciated the human faults that Caleb and Marah have because while they made the romance less whimsical and more realistic.

The best part of this book, the part that really made it for me, was the happy ever after. Caleb’s considerate behavior showed he was finally focusing his energy on someone else and their needs, wants, and desires. He’d finally let go of his hurtful selfishness and I could really see his inner beauty. I was sold, during the happy ever after, and finished the book very confident that Caleb and Marah had many, many gloriously wonderful years ahead of them. I was also confident in the strength of their relationship – one thing that Petersen shows really well. Other positives worth mentioning are the well-written emotions, fun secondary characters, and really hot sex scenes. Overall, there was a lot of good in this book – but while it was good it wasn’t fabulous, and its underwhelming nature makes it a bit unmemorable. An ‘eh’ read.

Favorite quote:

Justin was on his feet in a moment and Caleb couldn’t help but stare. His normally dark and dangerous brother had just lit up like a candle glowed within him.
“Victoria,” Justin breathed…

“Sexy”ness rating: Really, exceptionally hot

Overall Rating: B-

Bottom Line: The book was enjoyable, but not great. Unmemorable with exceedingly annoying characters that somehow became less annoying together making for a wonderful HEA.

Pages: 372
Published: July 26, 2011
Genre: Historical

The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville


So here's a big thank you to the ladies over at Romance Reviews Today for getting me the copy of this book! My review is posted on their blog, here.
Book 3 in The Burgundy Club series


www.mirandaneville.com

There was a lot of good and a lot of not-so-good in this book. In an effort to end on a positive note, I’ll start with what I didn’t like after a brief plot summary. Celia Seaton has just been fired as a governess, and to make her day even worse, she’s now been kidnapped, forced to strip down to her chemise, and locked in a hot attic. But Celia is no quitter and neither is she a shy English miss – she makes a daring escape only to find the man who ruined her marriage prospects in London a few years ago, Tarquin Compton, unconscious on the floor of the cottage she was taken too. After reviving the man, who has no recollection of his past or identity, she decides to play a trick on him and invents a past for him – as well as a future for the two of them. Yes, the fictional ‘Terence Fish’ and Celia are engaged to be married – but first they must make their escape together!

What follows is a mystery that includes another kidnapping, a beautiful countess, a bitch of a duchess, a baby with a silver rattle, a mysterious ruby, and an on-again-off-again engagement. What didn’t I like about this book? I was bored. The suspense wasn’t built well and I could not feel the love or kinship developing between Tarquin and Celia. I had a hard time feeling any sincerity, anywhere, in this book. The characters didn’t have complexity or depth and I felt like I was running through water when trying to enjoy the writing. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, felt their behavior often contradictory, didn’t feel the inner conflict/dialogue when there was any, and felt many of the characters to be completely stereotyped cookie-cutters, with nothing unique. Perhaps Neville’s writing style doesn’t work for me, but I found the book fairly dull and unromantic with characters that simply went through the motions of love and romance without any real feeling. To be honest, the entire book just felt flat and it made the HEA boring and a bit… unhappy for me.

What did I like about this book? I liked how unique it was. In the historical romance genre there are about ten commonly used plots, with small discrepancies that make those books slightly different from one another. Don’t get me wrong, I love those ten plots – but I love what Neville did even more. With a totally unique premise, what with the kidnapping and flirty little lies, I found that I was supremely pleased with the uniqueness of Neville’s ideas and imagination. I found the book’s plot to be refreshing and that definitely added to my interest of the book, so even as I was bored I wasn’t so bored as to stop reading entirely. All in all, this being the second Neville I tried and didn’t like, I probably won’t try another – I think my favored style of reading and her style of writing just don’t click The banter, I will admit, was very fun but the rest of the book simply couldn't hold my interest.

Favorite quotes:

“Your home is in Cornwall. Near Falmouth, on the sea.” (Celia, telling ‘Terence’ about his family and past)
“A suitable location for a family of Fishes. Are we big Fist or little Fish?” (Tarquin)
“You told me your family is highly respected.”
“But the question is, how big is the pond in which we swim? And how many are in the shoal? Am I an orphan Fish? An only Fish? Do I have living parents or close relations?”

After Celia shows up in Tarquin’s room:
“You didn’t seem to mind. I came to tell you something and you just grabbed me.” (Celia)
“I was asleep. I had no idea what I was doing.” (Tarquin)
“If your valet came in while you slept would you pull him into bed with you?”

“Sexy”ness rating: Sexy, but includes words such as quim and pintle. Hm. Not as awkward as mons, but it comes close…

Overall Rating: C-

Bottom Line: If you like Neville’s work, you’ll like this one. I loved the unique plot, but overall the characters and romance fell very, very flat.

Pages: 373
Published: July 26, 2011
Genre: Historical

Saturday, September 3

My Man Pendleton by Elizabeth Bevarly



http://www.elizabethbevarly.com/books/

This book was SO funny. I literally spent most of my time reading doubled over on the couch, gasping for breath. Kit was hysterical, Pendleton was amusing – it was all ridiculous and so much fun I could hardly stand it. It was a really light romance, but not so annoyingly light that you wondered if the romance was just a fling. I could definitely feel the seriousness of the growing relationship between the protagonists, but layered on top of it was a lot of humor, sarcasm, and wit. It was like a really good cake – lots and lots of yummy vanilla frosting covering a wonderful chocolatey cake layer beneath. You know the cake is there even if you can’t physically see it, because you know its supporting and holding up the frosting. The depth of their relationship was visible in how the light camaraderie was supported by a wealth of feeling.

So Kit has a really stupid father and some seriously over-protective older brothers. Growing up super-uber-rich had its benefits but it also has its pitfalls. For example the fact that every boyfriend she’s ever had has been run off by her father and brothers who think that the guys are only in it for the money. Her father even paid Kit’s (now ex) fiancĂ©e to not marry her a few years back. Well, now all that protection has come back to bite Kit’s father and brother in ze butts. Kit’s mother is the one who officially owned the family fortune, and she just passed away. Instead of having the 90-something million dollars entrusted to her husband and children, she put a rather… uncomfortable… clause in her will. Should Kit get married before the 2-year anniversary of her mom’s death, the money will go to the family – should she chose to remain alone, the money will all go to various charities that Kit’s mom has selected.

Clearly, Kit wasn’t the only one angry with the guys. So, almost a full two years after the reading of the will, a man named Pendleton comes to work at Kit’s father’s office, completely unaware of the hostile situation he’s just walked into. Kit’s father thrusts him at Kit (amusing), makes him go fetch Kit when she runs away (amusing), and pats Pendleton on the back when he suspects him of boinking Kit to cohabitational blissdom (you guessed it - amusing). The entire book had a silly, unrealistic feel to it, which made it so surprising that I liked it. I found myself really enjoying the flow and the funny, the silly and the insane. It was totally not my type and yet I loved it!

Kit is pretty spoiled if you take a deep look at her character, but she’s also hurt and immature because no one’s helped her grow up. Most importantly, however, she's alone. She has some daddy-issues that leave her a little less than self-confident at times, and she’s definitely experienced some deep betrayal in her past. I thought she was cute, sassy, and charming in a high-maintenance yet adorable way. Usually I hate spoiled heroines, but Kit was simply too cute and I found I really loved her despite her faults. Pendleton was funny, sweet, sensitive, and most of all supportive. He sensed the loneliness and hurt in Kit and helped her through it, without being too sappy or a push-over.

Secondary characters are amusing and quirky, but the story really focuses on Kit and Pendleton and their issues. The plot was pretty silly, as mentioned earlier, but it’s a really loveable plot all the same and there was only one very small part of it that gave me pause and bothered me. All I can say is that if you like light, fun, humorous romance this is a good one and I’d recommend it. I got it free on Smashwords so if I were you I’d run over there and look it up!

Favorite Quotes (I’m spoiling you and including four):

“You mean wild animals drinking from the mixture allegedly made it taste better?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No. I mean little critters falling into the mixture, drowning and dying in it made it taste better.”
He hesitated only a moment this time before remarking, “Ah.”

“But don’t start with all that ‘endearing’ stuff again, okay. It makes me nauseous. No offense.” (Kit)
“Oh, none taken. It doesn’t bother me at all when a woman tells me I make her sick.” (Pendleton)

“…And you won’t have a car for me to get out of if you lose your job. The repo guys will come and take it back to Status Symbols-R-Us…” (Kit)

He bit back a growl. “You used up all the hot water,” he finally got out. “Again.”
She dropped the sponge and rested her chin on her forearm. “Well, of course I used up all the hot water. What fun is a cold bath?”
“No, I mean you used up all the hot water while I was in the shower. Again.”
“Bummer. I hate it when that happens.”

“Sexy”ness rating: Explosive yet sweet

Overall Rating: A to A+

Bottom Line: This book was funny and it didn’t lose its steam. I could barely contain my laughter at Kit’s selfish, yet completely outrageous and hysterical, behavior. We all need a kick to the behind, and that’s exactly what Kit got in My Man Pendleton making for a fun and flirty romance.

Pages: 384
Published: 1998
Genre: Contemporary