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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Walker: The Rodeo Legend by Rebecca Winters



Walker: The Rodeo Legend by Rebecca Winters
(Codys: First Family of Rodeo series)
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (215 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Poppy

Out of nowhere, Walker Cody swoops in and saves Paula Olsen's toddler son from a dog bite. Before she can properly thank him, the handsome Iraq War veteran fades into the crowd.

Walker's in training to retake his World Champion Bulldogger title. The practice rides are bruising, but still don't knock thoughts of a certain beautiful young widow and her little boy out of his head. And Paula's shocked to realize she has a bad case of Pervasive Walkeritis.

Survivors' guilt and ghosts from their pasts stand between them. Walker's need to prove himself on the rodeo circuit runs deeper than bragging rights. But can Paula risk her healing heart on a troubled man who deliberately puts himself in danger?

Looking for a Harlequin American a little different from the norm? This is it. I’m a big fan of the American line – I love the sense of community and large cast of characters, so was thrilled to review this book. What I found was a story a little less fluffy than usual. One that addresses some pretty serious issues that are quite relevant to our time.

Our hero, Walker, has just returned from the Middle East after having been seriously injured. He suffers from significant PTSD and has flashbacks which can happen anywhere and without warning. When we meet him for the first time, he saves a little boy from a dog bite but the action sends him back, mentally, to the war. It isn’t pretty.

Our heroine, Paula, was widowed by the same war that has psychologically scarred Walker. She struggles daily with the fear of losing someone else she loves, and also deals with raising a baby on her own. When Walker saves her child, Clay, from a dog attack she wants to thank him – but he’s there and gone so fast, it’s almost like she dreamed him.

This book gripped me with its realism from the start. I didn’t want to stop reading it until I discovered how Walker and Paula were able to come to grips with those things that were hurting them. I will admit that things got a little frustrating for me when the two main characters spent almost no time together for a good sized chunk of the book – this IS a romance after all – but things sped right back up again once they began to become friends.

Friends? Yep. That’s right. At first, they simply enjoy being together. Walker likes Clay, Clay like Walker, Paula enjoys the insight Walker gives her into being a soldier (something her husband never did). They slowly grow to know each other, and it’s a wonderful thing. Truly, two people couldn’t be more perfect for each other, even when Walker starts competing in the rodeo again and Paula questions whether she can deal with him putting himself in harm’s way on a regular basis.

This book offers a slow, realistic courtship between a man and woman with wounds that need to heal. Understand this: there isn’t some miraculous healing that occurs in this book – only the beginning of one, that we know will continue due to love and acceptance.

This is a warm, sweet, real story. And one I highly recommend.

The Ghost and Roman Trent by Jeanne Savery



The Ghost and Roman Trent by Jeanne Savery
Publisher: Cerridwen Press Publication
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (134 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Book Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Orchid

In 1806, Roman Trent proposed to Serena. When told to go away, he went all the way to India. His years there didn’t dilute his love for Serena, however, nor his interest in her theories of education. Now Serena has fulfilled her dream, establishing a school, and at last Roman has the opportunity to start his own—right next door to Serena’s, on property willed him by the late Lord Everston.

Now the ghost of Roman’s benefactor—along with Jenna, the ghost’s earthly love—must ensure things go right for Roman and Serena. Unfortunately, their efforts to bring about true love are complicated by another woman’s determination to marry Roman…and made nearly impossible by Serena’s vow to never marry anyone.

Regency with a difference. Set in the period of the Prince Regent with its social codes and restrictions, this book blows a refreshing breeze through the conventions of the age. The hero and heroine step outside the accepted roles of lady and gentlemen, but not enough to outrage anyone.

I have not read any of the previous novels in this series but found this didn’t cause any concern as The Ghost and Roman Trent stands alone and is a complete novel. A young man and woman fall in love, which is typical... but, the unusual part is the ghost who is determined to play matchmaker. Roman asks the dower-less Serena to marry him. She thinks he’s asking out of pity and refuses him. She then tells him to go away. Unlike most men, he does as he’s told and goes!

The book starts when he returns to find Serena has sworn never to marry. This is really the core of the story. Both hero and ghost set out to make her change her mind. Even her own grandmother is hoping she’ll listen to another proposal. Serena’s steadfastness to what she believes to be her true focus in life, is put to great strain as the story continues.

This is a really good read. The characters come across as real people, which is often not the case in Regency romances. With these characters I could imagine giving Roman advice on how to deal with the problem of Serena, and telling Serena to wake up and see what’s under her nose.

I would love to read other stories in this series and will certainly go looking to see what else is available. Well done Ms Savery. Definitely a book for lovers of Regency.





The Arrival of Lily Curtis by Rachel Brimble



The Arrival of Lily Curtis by Rachel Brimble
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (260 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

At the mention of an arranged marriage, Elizabeth Caughley feels her life is over at the age of three and twenty…so she hatches an escape plan. She will reinvent herself as a housemaid. Overnight, Elizabeth becomes Lily - on the understanding if her attempt at independence fails, she will return home and marry a man of her parents' choosing.

Viscount Westrop will ensure his legacy is passed to his own son one day. Even though he feels insurmountable pity for the unborn child already, he knows how much pain a broken promise can cause and will do what is right. But with the arrival of his new housemaid, his plans are thrown into disarray. Lily is funny and feisty and the most beautiful creature on earth - Andrew is thunderstruck. But if anyone suspects how much he wants to ravish her and endlessly love her, Andrew's lineage will undoubtedly be in peril.

A lady hiding in plain sight gets the adventure of her lifetime by falling in love with the very kind of man she tried to run from.

Get ready for a cast of characters that bring to life a delightful tale of romance sure to bring smiles and sighs to a reader. First I met Elizabeth a/k/a/ Lily. She’s a well respected young lady who has just finished her last season. I got the sense that she enjoys life and wants to experience everything she can but her parents are of a mind that enough is enough. As with all good and caring Regency era parents, they want her taken care of and settled. Back in the day that meant marriage to a person of their choosing. That’s when the plot and the conflict start to unfold for a reader. I got the sense that her parents really do love her and even when they try to stand firm, she has them wrapped around her little pinkie. For the next thing I knew, Lily a/k/a Elizabeth is embarking on an incredible journey of full discovery and surprises. When Elizabeth communes with her inner Lily, her personality shines. She’s spunky, saucy, tart and definitely not the type of person to be subservient. She tries though. But no matter how docile she attempts to be, she is what she is and that is what makes her character so adorable.

Andrew is the hero. He’s a nice balance of duty and guilt, and yearnings he thinks will go unsatisfied. He’s loyal and has a heart as wide open as the sea. He doesn’t treat his servants as peons but as real people who happen to be in his employ. His butler, Nicholas, is a prime example. Somehow I don’t see just any type of guy being willing to have a man work for him who has Nicholas’ personality and quirks and yet he does. It’s part of Andrew’s charm. He’s loyal to those he calls friends but the one major aspect I respected is that he didn’t have blinders on. He’s well aware of the debauched behaviors that thread through the Ton and that knowledge is key.

I enjoyed the growing relationship between Andrew and Lily. It seemed Lily seduced him not with come hither looks and sultry caresses but with her attitude, her spark and her innocence. Her bearing and her way of speech intrigue him because he senses she’s more than she’s telling. And I admired his forgiving nature. He’s a special man and a very likeable character. I thought Andrew and Lily were a perfect match. In regards to their getting together in the biblical sense, the buildup was sensual and the delivery delicious.

The secondary characters were the servants, which were a delight. Each played a role in helping a reader know the hero and heroine and provided pushes and tweaks to the plot. There’s another character that is not so nice. I am impressed with Ms. Brimble’s use of profane speech at one point. It was perfect. What I mean by that is, it was used with a deft hand to illustrate the villain’s diabolical and twisted mind. After the proper and quite dignified manner of most interactions in the story, its appearance made an impact on this reader and truly set the stage for some nasty goings on.

I really wanted to have a rating higher for this story because I enjoyed myself immensely while reading.

There are some editing issues that pop up sporadically so it’s not perfect. Then there was the whole notion of a young woman actually getting away with making that deal with her parents. Not only did she get it but they helped set it up. For that time period, I’m of the opinion that that would never happen for real. It just seemed too farfetched. Once I got past that notion and concentrated on the story and the budding fascination Andrew and Lilly have for the other, it ceased being a major head-scratch. I was having too much fun.

The Arrival of Lily Curtis is a fun and entertaining read filled with characters that come alive. Their dialogue was clever and spirited, or in the case of the villain, very diabolical and twisted. It’s a true romance between two people who think they have to settle for less and end up getting more love and happiness they ever dreamed of. It’s a happy story with an adorably romantic and cute wrap up after a very intense and dramatic climax. This book is well worth taking the time to read and I’m glad I did.







Monday, August 30, 2010

Bad Heir Day by Wendy Holden



Bad Heir Day by Wendy Holden
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary, Comedic Satire
Length: Full Length (323 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Book Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Anna’s boyfriend is impossibly handsome, impossibly rich, and generally just impossible. When he inevitably dumps her, she vows to give up men and throws herself into her career as an aspiring novelist. Which is how she ends up working for Cassandra.

The social climber from hell, Cassandra has a huge mansion, a philandering rock star husband, Satan for a son, and a bestselling writing career that has massively stalled.

So when dashing Jamie, charming heir to a castle in Scotland, offers Anna an escape beyond her wildest dreams, she can’t believe her luck. And she probably shouldn’t…

Anna’s sense of self-worth hits tock bottom. As a “wanna-be” writer, she cannot seem to write anything but entries in her diary nor can she make a relationship work. Heeding advice from Geri, a girl she meets at a wedding, Anna takes a job as a writer’s assistant. Her life takes major turns not the least of which is being a nanny to the eight-year-old horror, Zak, the writer’s son.

Zak and his parents, the writer Cassandra and the aging rock star Jett, make the term dysfunction family come to life. Happenings in their lives are not for the faint-of-heart to read. Caustic humor about the “one-ups-man-ship” of the wealthy and of secret habits flabbergast at times.

Geri pops up often as Anna works toward “finding herself”. Geri’s irrepressible optimism, creative thinking, along with her uninhibited life style brightens even the gloomy old castle on the dreariest of the isles of Scotland. She sees possibilities that no one else even dreams of. She even enlivens the repressed Jamie whom Anna believes to be hopeless.

Ah, finally, Robbie, the poet, adds a touch of mystery, then, Mrs. McLeod and Nanny help stir the happenings on Skul Isle. These characters influence Anna’s finding her way and quite remarkably bring hope for Cassandra, Jett, and Zak.

Wendy Holden writes a fast-paced, witty satirical comedy that reveals the imperfections of people but also shows how they rise above personal flaws and defeats to find fulfillment in their lives.









One Fine Cowboy by Joanne Kennedy



One Fine Cowboy by Joanne Kennedy
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (383 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Tiger Lily

He’s got a way with horses…and with women...

His heart is as wild as the horses he trained…

Nate Shawcross is perfectly content to spend his days training wild horses. So when a beautiful greenhorn unexpectedly shows up for a seminar from the famous “Horse Whisperer” of Wyoming, all Nate wants to do is send her packing…

The last thing she expects is a lesson in romance…

Graduate student Charlie Banks came to the ranch to learn about horse communication, but when she meets the ruggedly handsome cowboy, she starts to fantasize about another connection entirely…

Nate needs to stay focused if he’s going to save his ranch from foreclosure, but he can’t help being distracted by the brainy and breathtakingly sexy Charlie. Could it be that after all this time Nate has finally found the one woman who can tame his wild heart?

Can a horse actually bring two people together? And can love last when both parties aren’t sure things will last at all? You need to read One Fine Cowboy to get the rest of the story.

I loved Joanne Kennedy’s first book Cowboy Trouble, from page one and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this story. I wasn’t disappointed. One Fine Cowboy delivers. I felt like I was right there in the corral with Charlie and Nate. Both are characters that will claw their way into your heart and you won’t mind one bit.

Nate was my favorite part of this book. He’s not a chatty type of guy. He keeps his emotions close to his chest, unless it concerns Charlie. I loved how she made him so tongue tied yet so sure of himself. He does the whole tall, handsome, and silent. But when it comes to her, he’s consumed by his love for her.

The secondary plot in this story really hit it home for me. They all have to do with horses and when someone is harmed by an animal with such power, it’s devastating, not only because the person was hurt, but because the animal can be harmed as well. Ms. Kennedy writes the scenes, though dangerous, with a touching quality that really got to me. This is one book for my keeper shelf and one I’ll recommend to all my friends.

If you want a sweet yet spicy romance about two people who love each other more than anything, you need to read One Fine Cowboy. I give it 5 books.









Apparitions by Raven Bower



Apparitions by Raven Bower
Publisher: Under the Moon
Length: Full Length (296 pgs)
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery/suspense, contemp, sci-fi/fantasy
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 3.5 Books
Reviewed by Tulip

Bailey Khane is a renowned author visited by ghostly guests-murder victims seeking the peace of the grave. Unbeknownst to her, they were all slain by the same man. Caught between the growing shadow of his knife and the unholy fury of the dead he has left in his wake, she is forced to call upon obscure knowledge of the occult, superstition and myth to survive. When Andy Bennett searches for the answers to his sister's murder he is drawn into a web of horror and shambling corpses-with Bailey high on his list of suspects. Sheriff Jay Carson and Deputy Raines fight to form a line between their citizens and the creatures that crave to destroy them.

Bailey Khane is an author of fictional novels that deal with the horrid murders of young girls. Andy Bennett is absolutely certain that one of Bailey's stories is written about his sister, Erika, and her brutal demise.

Bailey is haunted by the spirits of these slain young girls, especially by Erika. They come to her as apparitions and she witnesses all of the carnage that was wrought on these victims. She lives in a remote cabin on a lake in White Sands, Michigan and surrounds herself and her guardian dog, Thor, with all of the silver and other weapons to avert evil from entering her realm. She is the loner in the town and her neighbors are either scared of her or think she belongs in a looney-bin. I found myself very tied to Bailey throughout the book. This character could be seen as a hippy-ish kind of woman, but I grew to understand the terror that she is witnessing and slowly, I was drawn into her nightmare. I could not help myself and really felt that she was doing everything that she could to help the victims of this outrage by making her surroundings stronger, and therefore, making herself stronger in her heart.

Andy is a private investigator and sincerely believes that Bailey Khane is the person responsible for the death of his sister. He finagles an opportunity to stay in her beach house, so that he can uncover the truth. Andy's character is a little deceiving at first. I didn't want want to like him because of his agenda to get back at Bailey. But eventually I did come to like him after he actually witnesses some of the mysterious doings surrounding Bailey.

Things progress from here and we learn the truth behind the murders and the evil taking place under the guise of someone whom no one would suspect of such evil. The story gets going right away, and I was drawn right into the terror and pain that the characters were living. Raven Bower did a great job of bringing these characters to an understanding of each other and that was one of the reasons that the story kept me reading.

The evil character is very evil and very aptly portrayed and written about. Evil incarnate! The character was so self-centered and really thought that his was the only way to live in this world. I was really thrilled at the end of the book that he got the treatment that was so appropriate for him.

This novel is very fluid and written with real flair. Nothing is left unresolved and every side story is finished. Raven Bower pulled me right into the story from the get-go. I sincerely hope that the author continues to write, as I believe there is a real place for women writing this particular genre. The genre itself seems to evoke male author names, and knowing that women are willing to venture into the horror genre, without vampires or werewolves, just horror on a mind and physical level, is so pleasing to me. You can't get much better than a good horror/ghost story. It brings me back to being a kid and wanting a good scare.



For the King's Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick



For the King's Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (501 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Camellia

When Roger Bigod arrives at King Henry II’s court to settle a bitter inheritance dispute, he becomes enchanted with Ida de Tosney, young mistress to the powerful king. A victim of Henry’s seduction and the mother of his son, Ida sees in Roger a chance to begin a new life. But Ida pays an agonizing price when she leaves the king, and as Roger’s importance grows and he gains an earldom, their marriage comes under increasing strain. Based on the true story of a royal mistress and the young lord she chose to marry, For the King’s Favor is Elizabeth Chadwick at her best.

Disenfranchised while still in their teens, both Ida de Tosney and Roger Bigod are at the mercy of the self-centered King Henry, then King Richard, and finally King John. The unquenchable desire to realize their dreams drive both of them makes some bitter choices. Although they must fight different battles, each of them refuses to remain a victim of the machinations of royalty during turbulent times.

Ida pays an incredibly high emotional price to be allowed to marry Roger, the man she loves rather than someone the king picks for her. Her deep need to feel safe, loved, and secure gives her courage and fuels her efforts. After the marriage, she does not rely on her striking beauty, but uses her intelligence, talents, and industrious nature to help Roger as he strives to regain his earldom even s she nurtures their children and manages a large household during his long absences. Her loneliness is overwhelming at times.

Roger pledged to service the king in his efforts to regain the earldom his father lost in rebellion. His legal knowledge and his military prowess keep him at the king’s beck and call for months on end. He knows this is the price he must pay to get his earldom back.

His and Ida’s love is tested to the limit and family ties are stretched almost to the breaking point. His pledged service to the king, evading the traps his stepmother and her sons lay for him, and working to keep his holding prosperous while the kings strip England of her wealth to further their own agendas test his and Ida’s physical and emotional mettle again and again.

In For the King's Favor, medieval England throbs with festering political and religious sores as well as an infestation of the seven deadly sins in the extreme. The characters and their deeds linger in the mind long after the last word is read.

Elizabeth Chadwick weaves a tapestry of a tale that is spellbinding. She weaves in a multitude of characters that use their astuteness to maneuver through a maze of intrigues conflicts in the powerful plot. With historically accurate facts, she weaves a background bustling with life that encompasses all levels of the society at the time. Best of all, she weaves in a love story that fills the heart with joy and satisfaction making the whole tapestry shine with hope for the future.
For the King's Favor is one for the bookshelf.







Friday, August 27, 2010

Devil in a Red Kilt by Elysabeth Williams




Devil in a Red Kilt by Elysabeth Williams
Publisher: Black Lyon Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Time Travel, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (225 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Lavender

Their Happily Ever After
Deserved a Second Chance …

For more than twenty years, Evan and Evie MacDonald were the couple “meant to be.” Their marriage now in tatters, they throw one final family Halloween party to honor Evie’s recently deceased mother. But, as Evan’s hand hovers over divorce papers, the ancient Celtic secrets Evie’s mother always spoke of spring to life.

Transported in flames to thirteenth-century Scotland, Evie and Evan land on opposite sides of the feud raging between Clans MacDonald and McLeod. Dubbed the Red Devil, Evan’s skills as a leader and warrior bring him into the enemy camp—and back to Evie. Now, faced with an ancient evil they never imagined, the two must rekindle the “forever and ever” kind of love they once felt, and bargain for a bit of Fae magic to flip the hourglass right side up again—before time runs out.

Devil in a Red Kilt by Elysabeth Williams was an entertaining read and at times, hard to predict -- which is a good thing.

Of all the aspects of this story, I loved the hero, Evan, best. He was really something. Sexy, Scottish, full of honor and integrity, he had such deep love for his wife. Despite their marital problems and temptation thrown his way, gorgeous Evan didn't stray.

I liked Evan's family too, the teenaged kids, and his Southern wife, Evie. She's a great cook and full of spunk. I was sad when she misunderstood a situation with Evan and wanted a divorce, but the conflict kept me reading.

The sexual tension throughout was well done and tasteful. I loved how Evan kept trying to find his way back to his beloved wife's heart. I could feel his passion and frustration.

Then comes the really cool part: Evan and Evie are thrown back in time to Medieval Scotland and the real adventures begin. They are, of course, on opposite sides, ending up with families who are against each other. But Evan is continuously put in bad situations and proves what a real man he is.

There are many touching, charming moments throughout the story, and true love is present. When Even has to take the blame for someone else¹s murders and approaches Evie and the family she¹s staying with, excellent tension occurs. I kept waiting to see how Evie would react to him when they met up again.

At first this was a good thing. I enjoyed the tension at first, but it was taken a bit far. When they were in the same room, more than once, for one reason or another, his identity was kept from her. I started to get frustrated with this. Also, there were big chunks of 'telling' one of those things I don't really like, and lots of head hopping and some point of view issues that distracted me.

However, I very much enjoyed the story overall, the joyous moments particularly, and the interesting twist concerning the Fae. What a great, romantic story! I'd definitely recommend it and will look for this author's work in the future.

Isaiah’s Haven by N. J. Walters



Isaiah’s Haven (Legacy Book 2) by N. J. Walters
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (174 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Holly

Love comes howling when—and where—you least expect it.

Legacy, Book 2

Isaiah Striker puts family first, the pack a distant second. Which is precisely the reason he’s in noisy, crowded Chicago instead of alone in his beloved woods. One look at the owner of Haven nightclub, however, and a simple favor for his brother turns into something else entirely.

Meredith Cross holds her small pack together with sheer determination. After years on the run, they hide in the glare of the city’s nightlife. Isaiah may heat her blood, but she can’t afford to risk the lives of the outcast half-breeds in her care. Once exposed, every bounty hunter and werewolf purist in smelling distance will hunt them down.

But when their sexual attraction spirals out of control, a moment’s distraction is all it takes to lead danger right to Meredith’s door. For Meredith there’s only one choice: her pack.

But Isaiah knows his mate when he sees her. And he’s not giving up without a fight.

I love N.J. Walters’ wolves. I fell in love with them in the first book of this series, Alexandra’s Legacy, and Isaiah’s Haven gave me another marvelous reading experience.

Family first, pack second is Isaiah Striker’s philosophy. He has felt guilty for years for the disappearance of his younger sister, and he vowed to never let family down again. He plans to go to Chicago to pick up the belongings of his sister-in-law and take them back to Wolf Creek in North Carolina. Then he passes by the door of a small club, and a smoky, sultry voice catches his attention.

Meredith Cross has been hiding in Chicago for a while. She is alpha of her small pack, and she takes their protection very seriously. Meredith, her two sons, and four half-breed wolves make up a tightly knit group, but until Isaiah comes into her life, they are all she’s ever needed. When danger threatens all she holds dear, tough decisions must be made.

Ms. Walters brings such vitality to all of her characters, and she kept me on the edge with the fast paced action in this story.

Meredith is such a splendid character, so torn between duty and love. She wants Isaiah, but not if it costs the safety of her pack, her family. I loved her protective nature, one that extended to Isaiah when the fight finally came to them.

Isaiah is determined to protect what is his, even if he hadn't actually claimed her. The patience and honor he shows throughout this story drew me to this character, and I loved watching him slowly open up and become the man, and wolf, he was meant to be. The passion between these two characters would peel wallpaper off the walls, it is so hot.

There is also a sub-story here, involving what seems to be one of the hunters, and we learn his agenda at the end of this one, which seems to assure more from this delightful world of wolves, and hunters, and purists. Meredith and Isaiah are perfect together, and they deserve the happy ever after they fought so hard for.

A fantastic book for shifter fans -- do yourself a favor and grab a copy of your own.