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Monday, June 30, 2008

MIA: Missing in Atlanta



MIA: Missing in Atlanta by Debby Giusti
Publisher: Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense
Genre: Contemporary; Inspirational; Suspense
Length: Full
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Rose

HIS GIRLFRIEND HAD VANISHED

Granted, he hadn’t known her long, but returning war hero Jude Walker expected to eventually marry the woman he’d met during his last leave. Not find her missing. Or learn that her last known address was a homeless shelter in a dangerous part of the city.

The shelter’s temporary director, Sarah Montgomery, didn’t know Jude’s friend. But she knew the streets, knew the dangers—from drugs and prostitution to the most cold-blooded of criminals—right outside her door. Knew that the handsome, brave captain was in for heartache. And that falling in love with him was her riskiest move yet.

MIA: Missing in Atlanta, Debby Giusti’s third Love Inspired Suspense book, lives up to her motto of “Faith with an edge—cross my heart.” From the first appearance of Jude Walker, as he goes up to the address his girlfriend gave him as her own, to the conclusion, Ms. Giusti definitely delivers on her promise.
The setting, inner-city Atlanta, Georgia, is not the pretty, magnolia-lined streets you might think of when you think of a romance set in the south. It’s dirty, gritty, and the people are hard. But, there is still a remnant that seeks to make life better, personified by Sarah Montgomery, a woman heading up Hope House... where people work hard to get women off the streets and out of a life of prostitution and drugs. Sarah has made enemies, though. Not only the pimps who are angry about losing their girls, but also in the organization who funds Hope House.

The interaction between Jude and Sarah as they help each other out is compelling as they work together...and grow closer together. Sarah’s faith shines through without a lot of preaching and the affect it has on Jude is clear.

The story line is gripping and there are enough twists in the plot to keep you guessing who “the bad guys” are. I’m looking forward to reading Ms. Giusti’s backlist and books she writes in the future.



Rogue's Challenge



Rogue's Challenge by Jo Barrett
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Magnolia
He made a vow to fetch the woman back through time. 'Twas a task not taken lightly. But he had not predicted her stubbornness or her beauty. The petite woman with the tenacity of a mule may just find a way into his roguish heart.

Rogue's Challenge, the sequel to Highlander's Challenge, is a great all around read. The story of Jenny Maxwell and Ian Southernland is so well written I was disappointed when the book ended. The plot is quick, well paced, and engaging. I have not read Highlander's Challenge but was instantly drawn in by the wonderful characters and masterfully written plot.

Jenny Maxwell is a very likable heroine and an equal match for the hero, Ian Southernland. Ms. Barrett does a wonderful job developing both characters so their weakness and strengths are balanced. Ian is a powerful sexy alpha male who is multi-dimensional. When he resists the temptation to build a relationship with Jenny, I found it easy to understand and accept. Jenny has always fantasized about being a Cinderella with a Prince Charming, and is afraid to believe that Ian is in fact her Prince Charming. Her hesitation to accept this almost destroys their relationship. While she hesitates to give Ian her heart, she is totally committed to her friend Amelia to the point she tries to figure out how to make gummy bears in 1585 Scotland.

The secondary character of Amelia, Jenny's friend, is the reason Jenny traveled back to 1585 and finds her Prince Charming. The relationship between Amelia and her husband Colin is a sweet tribute to the saying 'love can withstand the test of time'. Amelia has taken on the task of liberating the women of 1585 Scotland which provided me with several laughs. I loved not only the brashness of Amelia but her humor, like when she told Ian that Jenny could care less if he was 'a result of an alien abduction'.

The relationship between Ian and Jenny is not just a sexual attraction. Ian would truly like to take care of Jenny; he is even willing to travel forward in time for her. And Jenny realizes for the first time what it is like to feel loved. Oh, the roadblocks of a good romance!

Along with a heart warming love story, Ms. Barrett offers plot twists and turns, and surprise 'villains' will keep the reader turning the pages.

The next books on my "to be read" list? Highlander's Challenge! This reviewer's suggestion for a great summer kick off is to fill a tall glass of ice tea and read Rogue's Challenge.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More Than Angels



More Than Angels by Lee Ann Ward
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Magnolia

When love is at stake, sometimes it takes more than angels to save it.

Penelope Ashton is a passionate young writer with too much experience with the wrong men; and, Jack Kirkpatrick—lover of the ocean and seeker of the father who abandoned him as a child—is a shrimperman still searching for happiness. When the two fall in love, it is a relationship marked with change and loss.

Meeting his estranged father and getting in trouble for a crime he didn't commit, Jack must choose between happiness and heartache. Striving to give Penny her dreams of becoming a published author, will he lose her forever to the murderer who is stalking him?

Traveling back roads, beaches, and the Gulf waters, More Than Angels is a romance that launches the reader into the terror of a deadly drug ring and a blistering summer of love in a southern town. When love is at stake, sometimes it takes more than angels to save it.

More Than Angels is a sweet read. The story is filled with likeable characters, a plot that has more twists and turns than a death-defying roller coaster, and a love story that will touch your heart.

The main characters, Penny and Jack, are surrounded by a wonderful cast of secondary characters. Rena, Penny’s younger sister, is spunky with plenty of grit. The love story between Rena and Andrew is a delightful addition to the strong main love story. Pete and LeRoy, Jack’s shipmates, add to Jack’s character and the over all dimensions of the story. The various ‘bad guys’ are clear in motive and reason for wanting to cause harm to Penny and Jack. Penny is a very likeable heroine and her story is as close to fairytale as it gets. Both Penny and Jack come from childhoods marked with struggle, but they aren’t ruled by these past events. Penny has dreams and Jack does everything he can to help her obtain them; never does self-doubt or doubt of their relationship inflict him. He is a hero of great character. Penny’s faith in Jack is as strong. Jack is know as a ‘lady’s man’ but when he pledges his love to Penny, she accepts it and never questions it. I enjoyed reading a love story where the love was strong throughout and the conflict laid in events.

The reason I gave More Than Angels a 3.5 book rating was the plot development. There were plenty of twist and turns. Surprise villains, drug smugglers, absent fathers found, brutal attacks, and meddling past loves; it was this constant string of events most of which I felt most were underdeveloped. So much happened that I felt some key scenes were rushed, so the characters didn’t get to fully experience the situation.

Ms. Ward offers a wonderful story of a love that cannot be shaken regardless of what life throws at them. When I finished More Than Angels, I knew the happily ever after was forever, that Jack and Penny would grow old together in a blissful love. My suggestion for a great summer escape is to fill a large glass with icy lemonade, find a shady spot and spend an afternoon reading More Than Angels.

The Winds of Autumn



The Winds of Autumn by M. Jean Pike
Publisher: Publish America
Genre: Contemporary; Paranormal
Length: Full
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Dandelion

Scorned by her zealot mother after being raped by a cult leader, eighteen-year-old Angel knows her only hope of survival is escape. On a rainy September night, she flees her mother’s home, unaware of the supernatural forces that guide her journey to Littlebrook, a poor, mountain village where nothing ever changes and nothing is as innocent as it seems.

Alone and afraid, Angel finds an ally in Don Hanson, the village doctor with a haunted past. Angel’s resemblance to Don’s dead wife, Mary, is the eerily powerful magnet that draws him to her, stirring his shattered heart to love again. But for Don and Angel, love comes at a high price, as Angel’s mysterious appearance creates a tempest in Littlebrook, awakening ghosts from the past and striking vengeance in the dark heart of an enemy Angel didn’t know she had.

I was captivated by this story of lost love, newfound love, and ghosts of the past from the opening pages. Eighteen year old Angel, struggling to escape a life of abuse, finds her savior in widowed Don Hanson, a country doctor who’s twice her age. As they grow to know one another, feelings change from friendship to love – but there’s a whole lot of conflict in this story, beginning with their age difference and extending to the mystery of Don’s former wife.

Ms. Pike does an excellent job of drawing out the characters’ feelings and convincing me that a love affair between an 18-year-old girl and a 35-year-old widower is natural and believable. I thought the pacing of the story was well crafted, and the placement of the flashbacks, which gradually tell the story of Mary (Don’s first wife) worked very well.

The cast of secondary characters is strong as well: in the tiny town of Littlebrook, each has his/her own personality which comes to life: Slim, the former football hero whose wife runs around on him; Shelly, the blonde bombshell who finds a life in modeling only to fall prey to Hollywood’s drug habits; Cora and Joel, the kindly farming couple who take Angel in; and Dorie, of course, the most powerful secondary character in this story.

Dorie wants Don – she always has, and she’ll stop at nothing to get him. She’s clearly unbalanced, though, and the one small problem I had is that Angel never picks up on that. She continues to trust and believe in Dorie throughout the story, never listening to the little voice inside that warns her Dorie’s up to no good. Considering Angel has dreams (and sees ghosts) which accurately show the past and predict the future, her intuition disappears at convenient times and allows Dorie too much power in the plot.

However, I still felt engaged by this story from beginning to end. I really enjoyed watching the ups and downs of Don and Angel’s relationship, and I felt fully immersed in the setting of rural New York in the 1950s-1960s. I would definitely pick up another book by this author. Don’t miss The Winds of Autumn!



Friday, June 27, 2008

Fool's Paradise



Fool's Paradise by Tori Phillips
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Dandelion

‘Twas no laughing matter…

When fleeing an odious arranged marriage, the Lady Elizabeth Hayward found herself under the protection of famed court jester Richard Tarleton. But even disguised as the fool’s boy apprentice, there was no hiding the fact that she’d fallen hopelessly in love!

Though Tarleton’s ready wit had won him royal favor, his tongue was tied in the presence of the sweet-voiced Elizabeth – at least about things that truly mattered. For how could he offer the queen’s own goddaughter a gift so lowly as his own foolish heart?

This Maggie Award winner, Tori Phillips’ debut historical novel, is as enchanting as all the others I’ve read by this author. Set in late sixteenth century England, it tells the story of Elizabeth Hayward, young goddaughter of Queen Elizabeth I, who’s fleeing an arranged marriage to a brutish Sir Robert La Faye. Not only does the man beat her, she suspects him of killing her father, as well. The first night she escapes her home, she discovers she is no match for the woods or for nature’s dark side, and so it’s lucky she runs into Richard Tarleton, court jester and also undercover spy for the English government. Tarleton takes Elizabeth under his wing and promises to deliver her to the safety of the Queen’s court.

To do so, though, she must be in disguise, so he chops off her hair, dresses her in boy’s clothes, and names her “Robin” – she’ll pretend to be his jester’s apprentice. So, poor noblewoman Elizabeth must learn bawdy songs, perform in taverns for pennies, and sleep in barns, all while following Tarleton’s lead in staying far from Sir Robert, who’s combing the countryside to find his runaway bride.

Of course, it’s only a matter of time before Elizabeth and Tarleton fall for each other – but their backgrounds couldn’t be more different. Still, their growing affection, set against the backdrop of their journey through forest and village, makes for a wonderful love story. One scene alongside a secluded stream under a blazing sun is particularly steamy! When they finally reach the court, you might think the hero and heroine have made it to safety, but in fact that’s where the true troubles begin. The pages leading up to the surprise ending will leave you unable to put the book down.

Ms. Phillips creates colorful characters in Fool’s Paradise, and the love story is both tense and satisfying. The historical setting is rich in detail, and I especially liked that so much of this novel took place in the small towns of the countryside, not just the formal royal court. The many minor characters in the taverns, nunneries, and schools along the way are memorable and add great humor to the story.

Fool’s Paradise is a fun romp through sixteenth century England, and I recommend it highly!



A Spirited Liason



A Spirited Liason by Carol McPhee
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Contemporary; Paranormal
Length: Full
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Erin O'Malley marches to the beat of her own drummer. With an 18th century privateer running interference, CEO Lance Dalton suffers the consequences.

Erin Parker clashes with arrogant businessman Lance Dalton in her desperate attempt to save her father's company from bankruptcy. If not for the mystical influence of an 18th century privateer, neither would learn that their destinies are intertwined in history.

The title A Spirited Liason gives a special clue about how the lives of Erin Parker and Lance Dalton become joined. In modern day Halifax,events are set in motion to create a spellbinding story that gives the reader a glimpse of eighteenth century happenings that influence present time events.

Ms. McPhee mingles genetics and environment to create memorable characters. Erin and Lance are beset at every turn as they each search for closure to miseries endured during their growing up years and for a true feeling of self-worth.

The “sins” of the parents do seem to be visited upon their children as this story of love weaves its way through deception, fear, fraud, death, despair, and discovery.

The storms, full of thunder and lightening, along the Halifax coast have nothing on the storms Erin and Lance create for themselves as they viefor a position of power in their dealings with each other. However, the love scenes create a very different storm. They touch the heart and warm the blood. Oh, yes!

The secondary characters,both alive and the ones long dead,play strong roles in propelling this delightful and intriguing story to its happy-ever-after. The spirit of Ben O’Malley looms big as life as he works to bring to fruition a union that will let him sail away and cross over to his rest.

Carol McPhee’s descriptions transported me from dry West Texas and set me down in a world of wheeling and dealing then to a magical island and a historical coastline of the northeast letting me experience the fog, storms, and natural beauty there. In this unique environment she introduced me to characters that I did so enjoy getting to know.

A Spirited Liason is a well-written treat to read.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Reluctant Petruchio



The Reluctant Petruchio by Kay Furness
Publisher: Awe-Struck Ebook
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Jasmine

Lady Kate Fitzlynn has spent her entire time since her come-out scandalizing society with her exploits and riding roughshod over her soft-hearted uncle, Sir Henry Wanstead. When she pretends to elope to Gretna with the engaged Lucius Sommers, Sir Henry is at his wits’ end. To his rescue comes the family friend Ally Lavenham, who persuades Sir Henry to let him act as Kate’s brotherly guardian and bring the spoilt heiress to heel.

Finding herself saddled with an infuriating dandy, Kate refuses to change her ways and promptly sets about making Ally’s life as uncomfortable as possible. Armed with her shocking friend Yolanda, a yellow dress and a truly hideous pair of buckled shoes, she leads her Petruchio a merry dance across London. But darker passions are at work, and Kate is about to find out that she is not as clever as she had thought.

Lady Kate Fitzylnn, rich in both money and looks, has it all according to everybody else. However, every day there is somebody that society is talking about: Lady Kate Fitzylnn. It is not about her looks or her money, but it is about her penchant for getting in trouble and her latest escapades. Being raised by her uncle, after her mother abandoned her following her father’s death, she has had a lot of losses in her life. Hence, her uncle was not every firm in raising her, resulting in a woman who is not satisfied with what she has, always looking for more excitement. And the excitement she craves always goes against the norms of what society thinks is proper and good.

Her uncle, at his wits' end, agrees to Ally Lavenham’s proposal to tame the wild Kate. Being a childhood friend of the children in the family, he has grown up with Kate and her cousins. However, he stipulates that he gets all authority in disciplining her. Will Ally be able to tame the spoiled and reluctant Kate, who does not want to be tamed? Will they be able to stand against the dark currents that are trying to pull Kate under as she suffers the consequences of some of her outrageous actions?

Initially, I found it a bit difficult to get into the story. I was very amazed at Kate’s actions and I could not imagine somebody acting out so much. But as the story progressed and I came to realize the reason behind her actions, the story became more real and interesting. I really liked Ally’s character. He is someone who is both confident and unsure. He is willing to do anything for his family and friends as evidenced by his agreement to take on Kate. But he is unsure, sweet and shy when it comes to matters of the heart. I had an immediate dislike of the heroine, Kate. But as her story unfolded, I found that I could actually relate to her. She often acted without thinking and that is something everybody can admit to. Everybody acts impulsively one time or another in their life; it is just that Kate did it more often and more outrageously than anybody I have ever heard of. I also enjoyed the humor and the wordplay between Ally and Kate. New author Kay Furness has made a strong start. I am looking forward to reading more from her!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Vineyard Mambo



Vineyard Mambo by Sarita Leone
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Contemporary; Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Mambo. Merlot. Murder.
Who killed Milton Falls’ nastiest neighbor? And why? Anna Romeo, vineyard owner and librarian, wants to know.

Used to be doors went unlocked, neighbors visited on porches and gossip centered around who had the biggest zucchini. Now that murder’s come calling all bets are off. Arson, burglary and cryptic tea leaf messages fill Anna’s days—and nights—with love, mystery and adventure.

Can Anna unlock the key to the murder that’s got everyone on edge? And, more importantly, can she do it quickly enough for the annual Zucchini Festival to go on as planned?

Only time—and a bit of luck—will tell.

Vineyard Mambo by Sarita Leone combines the best of the cozy mystery genre with romance. Busy, multi-tasking heroine Anna does not need to take time out of her busy schedule to gossip about gardening for heaven sakes - but when its murder, she makes time. Neighbors and friends band together in this zippy, unpredictable mystery. Anna, especially, seems to achieve something of a "wonderful bond" with sundry people (it's probably wrong to hope for her to find someone in town that annoys her.)

Though more gripping than the average cozy, Vineyard Mambo shares some light moments and some amusing secondary characters (and circumstances.) When usually the most interesting thing a neighbor does is get "het-up" about the width of their cheese slices, being discovered dead is quite out of the ordinary. As with any cozy, the obligatory cat Merlot puts in an appearance...and really tries to hang on to center-stage.

And the romance should not, of course, be overlooked. The very wonderful (and constantly charming) Tony seems a bit hard to pin down in the beginning. In fact, at first we gain a better sense of Anna's relationship with Merlot. However, once he makes the scene, Tony can seem almost too good to be true. Their relationship is oh so very heartwarming. In a story where suspicions and fears threaten to take over town (and folks start pulling out the old hunting rifle) we have to hope against hope that dear Tony has a good alibi, too. Well written, very readable, and unpredictable: You don't want to miss out on this wonderful mystery/romance, not to mention the unique local zucchini festival. Brisk Dialogue and strong characters make this story memorable!

Destiny's Perogative



Destiny's Perogative by Karen Michelle Nutt
Publisher: Tease Publishing
Genre: Contemporary; Paranormal
Length: Short Story
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 3 books
Reviewed by Dandelion

When Dr. Shay McCormick died, there was no white light, no loved one to comfort her. There was a half-man, half-jaguar there to greet her. He's a decedent of the nagual, a spirit guide. It isn't her time and he leads her to safety. Shay wants proof shapeshifters exist. Her curiosity leads her into a world of danger and to Gabriel Cruzado. Fate threw them together, but despite their differences, they work together, eliminating a threat to their future. Destined to be lovers long before he touched her soul and she saved his life.

This fast-paced story is a quick read, complete with high tension and an interesting cast of characters. The connection between Shay and Gabriel, forged early on in a dream state, extends through both their human and paranormal encounters. Ms. Nutt does a good job with her world-building, making the concepts of werejaguar culture clear to the reader. Gabriel must mate or he’ll shift into a jaguar forever and likely die – but although Shay is inexplicably drawn to him and willing to save him, there is not enough time for the proper mating rituals to take place. Gabriel’s brothers, also werejaguars, do their best to try and force the ritual, but time is running out for all of them, and this sense of urgency permeates the pages of “Destiny’s Prerogative” and keeps the action moving.

Meanwhile, however, an evil human is stalking were-creatures and killing them off, and it’s only a matter of time before Gabriel and Shay come into the killer’s crossfire. While I appreciated the heightened conflict, I didn’t feel that this secondary plotline was explored as fully as it could have been. It’s introduced early on in the story and then not again until almost the end, where it becomes an integral part of the conflict.

The other major flaw in this novella is the stilted dialogue and the many mechanical errors. It’s an interesting story, but it’s filled with typographical errors, misspellings, and word usage errors. At times I also felt the conversations between characters were forced and did not ring true. If not for those drawbacks, I would have given “Destiny’s Prerogative” a higher rating, because I did enjoy the plot and the central characters. Overall, Ms. Nutt introduces a foreign world and a captivating love story that paranormal romance fans will probably enjoy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Chasing Byron



Chasing Byron by Molly Zenk
Publisher: Highland Press
Genre: Historical, YA
Length: Full
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Orange Blossom

Innkeeper's daughter Mariah Woodhouse can't believe her luck when the dashing Lord Byron takes up residence in his country estate in her tiny hometown of Southwell, Nottinghamshire. To seem more appealing, she convinces her best friend, Walter, to pretend to be her fiancé. Byron takes the bait and soon Mariah is left to decide between two very different men -- the roguish lord and the shy library clerk who has silently loved her since they were children.

With a heroine named Miss Woodhouse, I should have known that I (a true Jane Austen fan) would enjoy every page of this story.

From the very beginning, I was intrigued by this title about wicked Lord Byron set in the year 1814 of the Regency period—a time of great literature like that of Wordsworth and Jane Austen. And when the heroine checked out from the lending library a book by ‘A Lady’ titled Mansfield Park, I knew this was going to be a good one. This historical romance was written surprisingly in the first person. How very novel—at least for me as a reader. I thought it quite daring by the author, but I have to say it was done so well I didn’t even miss the other character POV’s.

Mariah Woodhouse, daughter of an Innkeeper, is completely enamored of that scandalous poet, Lord Byron. In fact, she would very much love to have him marry her. The only problem is Lord Byron only pursues married or otherwise engaged women. The predicament is easy solved. She has her good friend and library clerk, Walter Weylons, pose as her fiancé. To her surprise the plan actually begins to work…or has it all horribly backfired?

Mariah is a terrific character, likeable and plucky, which is a good thing as it is her voice we hear throughout the entire book. She is a great romantic with imagined ideas of love and falling into that state of being. I really related to Mariah because she reminded me of myself as a teen in my love of the romantic poets.

I can’t say enough good things about Ms. Zenk’s writing. Chasing Byron is a page turner of a book, not only because of the engaging characters but also by the lovely prose. In fact, I read the entire thing in one day. Reading this book was a jolly fun time all through the eyes of Miss Woodhouse, yet also one that touches the heart. It was an experience I would definitely repeat. I’m almost jealous of Ms. Zenk. She must have had a glorious time penning this story. As this is her debut novel, I hope we will be delighted with more stories from this talented author in the future.



In the Shadow of My Heart



In the Shadow of My Heart by Victoria Pitts-Caine
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short story
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon
Katie and Charlie are star-crossed lovers in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee in the Civil-War era. Their fathers are bitter enemies but the two teenagers fall in love before Charlie leaves to join the militia after the battle of Shiloh. Charlie begs Katie to wait for him but he never returns.
Physical descriptions almost create a scenic vision for us, in Victoria Pitts-Caine's "In the Shadow of My Heart." With the Great Smoky Mountains as backdrop, the aura is a touching romance from the very start. Daringly written in a frank first person, we are immediately involved in and intrigued by the challenges facing "the Romeo and Juliet of the Tennessee Hills." Katie and Charlie seem to have more than their share going against their relationship. And, we must trust that each is, in their own way, the person they believe one another to be.

Heavily dramatic lines are probably not inappropriate for the times, but occasional heavy word choice here seems inconsistent at times and strikes a bit of an offbeat note. "I dared not look into his eyes, hence mine would have overflowed..." and yet, these lines also charm and enhance Katie's often sad reflections.

Ms. Pitts-Caine is an evocative writer, and readers will discover a deep empathy for our heroine.

The Captain's Wench



The Captain's Wench by Patti Shenberger
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Contemporary; Paranormal
Length: Short Story
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Orange Blossom

Romance author Meg Carroll has a problem. Her new home is haunted by an extremely sexy ghost who refuses to pass on. One who makes her think indecent thoughts about what being with this man would be like. Come along for the wild ride and see for yourself as Alex and Meg blur the lines between real and fantasy.

I am not a regular reader of paranormal stories. I’ve just never really gotten into this genre, but the premise of The Captain’s Wench fascinated me and I have to say Ms. Shenberger did not disappoint. It is a captivating story.

Meg Carroll is a romance novelist who buys on old house off Cape Cod. Little does she know that the house is haunted by the ghost of the previous owner. I always find it fun to read (and write) stories with a heroine romance author. Meg came across very real as she is similar to authors I know who, through the course of her life, need to get away from it all. I enjoyed the way Meg not only had to deal with the ludicrous idea of a ghost but also the sobering realities that went along with it. This story kept me turning the pages just to find out how Meg would deal with the situations Captain London threw at her. They certainly were more than she ever expected.

Captain Alexander London has for the past hundred and fifty years been cursed to remain fixed in his house. It was delightful to me, the reader, to watch the course of events unfurl as Meg arrived and broke his ghostly rut. The heroine impressed me as she remained undaunted by his presence. I also found it romantic that she was able to remind him that he was not only a ghost but a man. His reaction made for great reading because Alex is the epitome of the "tortured hero."

Though this story was novella in length, the author brings about a moving, emotional tale with fully drawn characters. Writing shorter lengths can be tricky but Ms. Shenberger has mastered it wonderfully. As I read this book, I kept thinking it reminded me of the old black and white movie from the ‘40s, "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." And as I checked the author’s website, she too had this in mind. If you enjoy paranormal stories and a sexy, ghostly hero, you really should give this one a try.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sizzle and Burn



Sizzle and Burn by Jayne Ann Krentz
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: full
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

When Raine Tallentyre made the mistake of revealing her paranormal abilities, her most recent romantic relationship came to a hasty end. Her Aunt Vella, a gifted but troubled soul, had told her years ago to keep her talents a secret. And now that poor Aunt Vella—her last blood relative—has died, Raine has resigned herself to a lonely life.

But when she journeys to Shelbyville, Washington, to clear out Aunt Vella's house, Raine's highly developed sensitivity leads her to a horrifying discovery: a young woman bound and terrified in a basement storage locker. The victim has survived, but the culprit is still on the loose. Without warning, a new man enters Raine's life—investigator Zack Jones. Surprisingly, Zack isn't repelled by her powers: in fact, he has them himself. While Raine hears voices, Zack sees visions and within hours of their meeting, Raine experiences an intense, thrilling intimacy—mental, emotional, and physical—she never dared to expect.

There's one complication, however: Zack Jones is working for the Arcane Society. This secret organization, dedicated to the study of paranormal phenomena, shattered Raine's family with an act of betrayal long ago, and she's not about to trust them now. But as a killer makes her his target, and a cabal of psychic criminals known as Nightshade operates in the shadows surrounding them, Raine and Zack must rely not only on their powerful abilities but on each other . . .

Sizzle and Burn by Jayne Ann Krentz is another winner filled with well honed suspense, fleshed out characters, and an ending with a truly multi-leveled and encompassing HEA.

Raine is a woman who is determined to live life as normal as possible. She refuses to deny her abilities but neither does she want to cash in on them. Her privacy is very important to her yet she doesn’t let it stop her from helping out the local police. Unfortunately, local police means one officer in question, Bradley Mitchell.

Bradley ends up being a secondary character because he can’t reconcile Raine’s talents with his reality, his belief in how the world should be. Doesn’t stop him from trusting her or consulting her, but as far as man/woman stuff? If she was a vampire, he’d be wearing garlic while denying she existed. Bradley does play an important role and his personal growth was a clever addition to an already meaty story.

Zack is another Jones man from the Arcane Society that was fun to get to know. He has what all the Jones men have: attitude, confidence, alpha presence and a paranormal talent that is off the charts. Oh, did I forget to say very sexy? Just so you don’t think he’s too perfect to be true, Zack has an incident in his past which has shattered his confidence in himself and he’s still trying to come to terms with it. When you find out what it is, I wonder if you’ll be amazed as I was. Not the fact of who the villain ended up being but that the villain was able to do what was thought impossible to do. Poor Zack. Good thing he’s got the hots for Raine.

Zack has one villainous entity to worry about and Ms. Krentz cleverly interwove his problems with Raine’s for a whole host of diabolical twists and turns. At one point someone gets fingered and sure, I knew it was a possibility that it was too convenient. It’s a classic ploy. What I didn’t expect was the truth. That was freaky. I don’t want to go into the secondary characters too much except to say that they are catalysts to some very surprising and shocking revelations. Good thing Zack and Raine team up because the scene with Zack and his quick reflexes was very exciting.

Sizzle and Burn is fine as a stand-alone; I don’t believe you need to read the previous books of the Arcane Society to enjoy this book. However, Fallon Jones, the guru of connecting the dots of obscure information still remains an enigma. How I would love to see a story with Fallon as the hero. I mean, he IS a Jones. LoL.

The conflicts, the resolution and the HEA are all satisfactorily told. The growth of the romance between Zack and Raine explodes and then simmers to the perfect point – love al dente. In fact, the ending is extra special and is quite a treat. Ms. Krentz’s mind is a wonder because not only did one story get wrapped up and tied with a solid happy bow, but she left a carrot dangling for the next book. It sort of left me with that “Oooh!” feeling.

Sizzle and Burn is a great addition to the Arcane Society series and one that would be a shame to miss.



Banner's Bonus



Banner's Bonus by Carol Ann Lee
Publisher: Awe-Struck Ebooks
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Chamomile

INNOCENCE MEETS HEDONISM: Emotionally scarred and embittered, Nick Banner knows he’s the wrong man for this job, but unless he gets a desperate friend’s daughter off-planet, she’s certain to be kidnapped. While it seems a simple enough task, experience has taught Banner that a female onboard will mean trouble. But a young woman accustomed to only the best? Purgatory.

Within the tight confines of Banner’s, Victorious, Tressa Loring battles a girlhood crush gone dangerous. As a sheltered teen, she secretly worshipped Banner from afar. Even his carnal reputation seemed romantic to her young eyes. But, now, she finds those old feelings unsettling. As wary of herself as she is of him, Tressa hides behind a cool façade and a feisty tongue.

Intrigued, Banner misses nothing: Her beauty. Her spirit…or her coy glances. Yeah, he’s noticed, and sexual tension smolders. As danger stalks them across the galaxy, Banner eventually finds himself falling for Tressa—the last thing he needs or wants. And when she ends up at a slave auction on Steel—a corrupt and depraved sanctuary for pirates, the notorious Nick Banner is willing to sell his soul to free Tressa.

Banner's Bonus is a rousing adventure that delves into power, corruption, redemption and fear as well as the strength of the human spirit. I was drawn into the story's energy from the very first page.

Tressa is the perfect balance of confident woman and naïve little girl, with a little soft-heartedness and fierce warrior mixed in to make her complicated yet adorable. Nick initially sees her as a haughty princess-type, but she uses her cool facade as a cover for the carnal way the man affects her. Even though she is young and inexperienced in life, I found it so appealing how she is willing to take chances to do what is needed to be done, especially in the face of grave danger. I think her actions were even more engaging because she acts in defense of Nick, even before she thinks she likes him. This facet of the story — her coming to his rescue, more than once — enhances the build-up of the romance for me.

Nick is a buff, brawny, rogue type with bulging muscles and battle scars, both to his body and his heart. In my opinion, he's the quintessential hero — he is drop dead gorgeous, but becomes a shameless playboy after a bitter heartbreak in his youth. What woman wouldn't put her self on the line to teach him to love again? Even with his reputation as a rapscallion, I loved that his true friends recognize his loyalty, dependability and trustworthiness, all qualities I admire, and it supports his drive to protect Tessa even when she exasperates him. One thing I absolutely hated about him, though — he smokes, and frequently! I couldn't believe it — a hero that smokes?? Here is this luscious beefcake, and all I can think each time he lights up is, yuck, dirty ashtray breath. What a waste! Heroes should never smoke — smokers won't miss it if they don't but non-smokers may be offended if they do. (Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.)

It does contain some violence but it is very well written. I winced in compassion as I read both the physical and mental affects of the many blows the recipient sustains during an intense scene. I enjoyed the complexity of the plot which includes many thrilling challenges for them to meet and overcome. The love story between Tressa and Nick is tantalizingly slow to mature but definitely worth the wait.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ethan's Flight



Ethan's Flight by Victoria Trout and Penelope West
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Historical; Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

After being falsely convicted of murder, young Bostonian Ethan Adams is freed by his brother’s daring rescue. The brothers pause their flight in St. Jo, MO, where, homesick and saddle-sore, they plan their future. Changing their names, they barely knock the dust from their clothes before they become involved with a beautiful pair of sisters—who have their own hidden dangers. Living with their aunt, due to their father’s impending insanity, the girls aid their conductor uncle on the Underground Railroad.

Will ETHAN'S FLIGHT garner them all a future, or will the danger drawing nigh and pre-Civil War strife tear their lives, and hearts, apart forever?

Witty dialogue introduces an indeed witty, charming, and oh-so irrepressible main character in Victoria Trout and Penelope West's Ethan's Flight. Nineteenth century America provides the backdrop and, in the early stages, Boston; it's coffee shops, "Old State House Buildings," and other notable places offer a real feel of the environment and times. Descriptions manage to convey not only a strong sense of place, but echo an aura of the emotions of the characters at the time. Later, travels westward will be equally descriptive.

The genuine attachment of the two brothers, Ethan and Edward, gives this work an undercurrent of warmth and hope. Friends and fancies alike seem infected by their humor and mutual regard, and it is clearly demonstrated by their constant teasing. From the first, the reader cannot help but enjoy the brothers' verbal dueling, and we find ourselves hoping that nothing disturb their friendship! It is into the midst of these moments - when we are being completely charmed, that a complete (although plausible) shock arrives, and the desperate mystery of this tale is introduced.

The intrigue is compelling. Trout and West have managed, in the first few pages, to so engage reader sympathy that the very moment disaster strikes, you will read on a terrific panic, as desperate as the characters themselves to see what happens! This is a real mystery, and to say much more about it would be to risk adding spoilers - so, mystery lovers will be thoroughly engaged!

Romance enthusiasts will not be disappointed either. Two lovely sisters, Stephanie and Debora and their (very!) involved family not only turn heads but will effect the direction of the brothers lives. Suddenly, everyone can see issues that are bigger than one single person, and their dedication to helping people will take the brothers, and this story, in a completely unforseen direction.

Beautifully written, engaging storyline and thoroughly admirable characters give this story a 4.5.