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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Seduced by a Highlander by Paula Quinn



Seduced by a Highlander by Paula Quinn
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (347 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Fern

SINS THAT CAN'T BE FORGIVEN

Tristan MacGregor is famed throughout the Highlands as a silver-tonged seducer and an unrepentant rogue. Bold and charming, he's dallied with many women, yet none as mysterious as the lass he steals a kiss from at king's court. Little does he know this beauty is one of his clan's greatest enemies.

PASSION THAT CAN'T BE DENIED

Isobel Fergusson has despised the bloodthirsty MacGregors ever since they murdered her father. She's horrified to learn that the handsome stranger she kissed is of this clan. But Tristan means to possess her at any cost and Isobel's body turns traitor at his touch. Can a man she's sworn to hate be the only one she can ever love?

As a fan of Scottish historical romances, I was extremely excited to be given the opportunity to review Paula Quinn’s Seduced by a Highlander. To my delight, I soon discovered this was a book that had all of the fundamental elements of a sweeping romance, as well as a few surprises along the way.

I fell in love with the hero, Tristan MacGregor, from the start. You know he’s a man who is accustomed to women fawning over him, but from the moment he meets saucy Isobel Fergusson -- the daughter of his sworn enemy -- you learn there is far more to the man than meets the eye. As someone who has suffered an extreme and unforgettable loss, he also has a compassion for others that runs very deep. Due to this, Isobel fascinates him. She’s as proud as he is, equally complex, and though she denies it wants him as much as he wants her. The first few chapters establish this chemistry and, in a wonderfully paced story that focuses on romance versus sexual tension, I found myself unable to put the book down.

The secondary characters are equally complex and are also given proper time to shine. In some circumstances an abundance of characters can become confusing or take away from the story. Not so here. Instead you are given the opportunity to watch two families who have suffered start to grieve, accept, and heal. I loved the scenes with Isobel’s brother’s and Tristan, as well as scenes involving Tristan’s family when he reveals his love for his enemy, mends old wounds, and guides everyone toward a future that doesn’t include bitterness or resentment.

Seduced by a Highlander is a must read for historical romance fans, especially those with a love of Scottish heroes and unforgettable love stories. While there is plenty of angst, there is also a lot of heart. I was thoroughly engaged from start to finish and read the entire book in one sitting. That is rarity for me, especially when reading a full length novel. Once I was introduced to Tristan and Isobel, I couldn’t stop reading until I knew how things worked out for them. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series, and fully intend to purchase the first book which I somehow managed to miss. Seduced by a Highlander has established Paula Quinn as a must read author on my TBR list.

Operation Prince Charming by Phyllis Bourne



Operation Prince Charming by Phyllis Bourne
Publisher: Love Spell
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (290 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Raiting: 4 books
Reviewed by Fennel

With his fiancée out hunting bigger game, Detective Hunter Coleman realizes that good manners are no match for basic instincts, and he's got all the charm he needs to win the woman he really loves.

Take the social climbing Erica, partnered with the down to earth cop, Hunter Coleman, and what do you get? A woman demanding that the cop ‘go get himself a makeover’ to impress her new friends, that’s what!

Author Phyllis Bourne, ensures that the social climbing Erica forgets the saying, ‘Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.’ Then she adds Ali Spencer to the mix as the cop, Hunter Coleman’s, instructor and mentor.

Ms Bourne ensures nothing goes smoothly for Hunter and Ali, and poor Erica! Well she, too, had lessons to learn. For her, the outcome was not so good. The road travelled by Hunter and Ali was a stony, but they learned from their experiences.

If at times the story faltered, the reader soon connected to the characters again. All her characters feel as though you could meet and talk to them in passing on the street.

Charming by title and charming by read, I did enjoy the book.

One Night … Nine-Month Scandal by Sarah Morgan



One Night … Nine-Month Scandal by Sarah Morgan
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (184 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A sleek Ferrari in the sleepy English village of Little Molting was always going to create a stir—but for schoolteacher Kelly it only means one thing. Her ex, Alekos Zagorakis, has stormed back into her life the way he left it: completely on his own terms.
Four years ago Kelly stood, bridal bouquet in hand, realizing that her gorgeous groom wasn't walking down the aisle to meet her. Now he's come back to claim what's rightfully his—and that includes one night with Kelly….

But it's a night that has lasting consequences!

Mix together a third grade teacher and a shipping tycoon who has no experience with kids and you find a story filled with emotional mayhem, chaos and quite a bit of humor.

I had so much fun reading this story mostly because Kelly is such a funny person. She’s got these habits that would drive some people nuts but she’s such an endearing personality that you can’t help but think she wouldn’t be the same without them. She’s just being herself. Her comeback quips to Alekos were sometimes so off the wall that they left me chuckling. And he was left bemused and perplexed and a bit bowled over because Kelly is so different from anyone else he’d ever met. In fact, the opening chapter is what sold me on this story in the first place. The interaction between Kelly and her best friend, Vivien, showed two characters that really were great buddies and had a fun George and Gracie type dialogue that flowed back and forth between them. It provided a warmth and sincerity to the tale. The author never let me down; that quirk in Kelly’s persona shined throughout the book. She’s not all sunshine however, she’s got one heck of a temper but even then, she bleeps. It’s one of the best scenes and elements in the story and remembering it puts a grin on my face every time. Thing is, can such a sunny disposition even have a dark side? Only a reader will know.

Alekos is a complicated man. Self made, he has a take no prisoners attitude for business and he applies that to all elements of his life. His first big scene in Kelly’s classroom had me giggling. I knew right away that here was a man that needed balance and a healthy dose of feminine chaos to spice up his life and Kelly fits the bill marvelously. He is so self controlled that I also knew that he was hiding something. Sure enough, Kelly and I find out that inside this handsome and compelling man is a depth of feeling trapped inside with no way out. As a reader of romance books, I knew a catharsis was going to hit the fan eventually and I enjoyed how Ms. Morgan handled it. The scene with the gifts was tender and actually highly emotional. I do believe I sniffled at that part. Alekos is a wonderful tortured hero who needs saving.

As for secondary characters, Vivian is the most important and relevant in the whole story. Kelly and Alekos are so interesting, they pretty much carry the book by themselves.

When the hero and heroine come together in the physical way it’s very romantic, passionate and steamy. There are moments of heated sensual buildup and explosive culmination sure to please the palate of romance readers especially those who thrill to those alpha Greek men. Ms. Morgan didn’t disappoint there either.

One Night …Nine-Month Scandal was an absolute joy and pleasure to read with characters I delighted in reading about with depths that made me care about their happiness and well-being. I thought the ending was perfect and in Kelly’s words, made me feel ‘warm and fuzzy’. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to romance readers who like laughter and sighs mixed in with their oooh’s and aaah’s as they read a good book because Ms. Morgan delivers on every count.

A Chesapeake Shores Christmas by Sherryl Woods



A Chesapeake Shores Christmas by Sherryl Woods
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (285 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

After years apart, Mick and Megan O'Brien are finally ready to make it official…again. Most of their grown children couldn't be happier about their rekindled love and impending marriage this holiday season. Only Connor is a holdout. Driven to become a divorce attorney after what he views as his mother's abandonment of their family, Connor's not about to give his blessing to this reunion romance.

The last thing Megan wants to do is hurt her family again. After all, is she really sure she and Mick can make it this time around? And when an unexpected delivery causes chaos, it seems only a miracle can reunite this family.

Of course, it is Christmas—the season of miracles.

Memorable characters and exquisite writing makes A Chesapeake Shores Christmas exceptionally good reading.

Megan wants to remarry Mick but she wants to be a partner not a possession to him. Making it happen may be next to impossible. Mick’s controlling, I-know-best attitude had made him a successful, rich man but had negated Megan’s value in their marriage until she ran to save her sense of self, but their love for each other never died.

She’d tried to communicate that she and the children needed him to be a part of their lives not just a good provider. Communication did take place, but each person interpreted the words from his or her own perspective. It reminds me of a song from ‘back when’ that said, everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word they are saying. The lack of understanding brought heartbreaking results—a divorce that colored the lives of Megan and Mick’s five children.

Older and hopefully wiser Megan tries to mend family ties that she rent asunder when she divorced Mick and allowed their five children to stay with him—a decision that cut deep wounds in her heart—wounds that bled afresh each time her children rebuffed her.

The children, now adults, play major roles in the reconciliation efforts of Mick and Megan. Connor, the youngest and a divorce lawyer, is an antagonist deluxe. His pessimistic, judgmental attitude not only threatens his parents’ happiness, it also threatens his own happiness.

Families squabble, but the O’Briens have developed it into an art form.

Consequently, Megan’s being strong enough to stand up to Mick’s bulldozer ways gets tested over and over again as he works to make good on his claim that he has changed. An even tougher test is holding on to her convictions while dealing lovely with Connor who has deep-seated anger and abandonment issues that make him truly cruel at times. The other children add opinions to their parents reuniting which makes for some volatile family gatherings. However, great-grandmother Nell and tiny baby Mick just may be two of the most pivotal characters that influence the resolution of some major issues—these two wield lots of power.

Sherryl Woods’ character development reveals such true-to-life emotions that the members of the O’Brien family seem like neighborhood friends that weather some of the toughest of life’s emotional storms, never giving up, and never taking the easy way out of problems. A mixture of ‘muleheadedness’, we-will-survive attitude, and an abundance of both family love and romantic love makes A Chesapeake Shores Christmas a story with its share of Christmas miracles. When the chips are down, love wins the day, but not without a ton of conflicts that make a spellbinding story.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rebel by Claire Delacroix



Rebel by Claire Delacroix
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Futuristic, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (416 pgs)
Heat level: Sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Having sacrificed his wings in a bid save humanity, fallen angel Armand has a bold plan to assassinate Presidential candidate Maximilian Blackstone. When things go awry and his partner Baruch is gravely injured, Armand fears that he will fail in his task and forever lose the chance to rejoin the angels in Heaven.

Theodora is a wraith, a woman who officially doesn't exist. She lives in the shadows, taking risks to earn the bounty placed on dangerous assassinations—bounty that buys the chance at a new life for those she loves. Captured when her latest hit goes horribly wrong, Theodora finds herself the prisoner of a strong, arrogant stranger.

Soon enough, these two solitary souls find their missions—and their hearts—entwined. But in their desperate attempt to save the world, will they be able to save each other

Claire Delacroix’ Rebel is a powerfully original jaunt into a future world… and for its principle characters, it’s a case of ‘back-to’ an Earthly realm, instead of off to some fantasy realm.

The physical realm has little appeal (or none) to Armaros/Armand, one-time angel. Deceit landed him in this realm of dirt, but we see that from the first, he holds himself to a golden standard. He will not stoop to sin, even to get rid of evil. His companions are an odd lot, the also-just-recently-mortal Baruch, and the suspiciously confident (and bossy) Tupperman.

‘Armand’ is rightly suspicious of his companions' personal agendas (to say nothing of their modus operandi), but nevertheless, immortally – a return to the celestial – depends on fulfilling his mission. He is motivated… and we are intrigued. Rebel kicks into action right from the first line, and with a unique set of circumstances, too.

In order to save the world, they must prevent the ascension of a new, and horrible, president. Their Mission: Kill Maximilian Blackstone. But isn’t it a sin to kill? We are confronted with Armand’s conundrum at once. Later, we start to wonder. It’s unclear if there is anything in this despicable radiation-infested world worth rescuing. As we – through Armand - become more involved in the odd political struggles of New Gotham, we gain a picture of the widely different groups. The abrupt introduction of Theodora the wraith, shocks Armand. At first, she seems to envelope evil, as she plots to kill… well… can’t give that away! Then we discover the sub-human that make up some part of the populace; the poor Shades. Even the ‘police’ are far from what we would consider ‘normal.’ At times the odd characters don’t know quite what to believe – so readers feel rather the same way!

Throughout, Delacroix uses references like New Gotham, fallen angels, and wraiths, to say nothing of some medieval type settings, which evoke emotional responses on the part of the reader. No one could miss the Gotham/New York/Batman hint… but it is just that, a hint. Symbols and references to old mythologies bring a subtle depth (sometimes in a conflicting way) to this tale. When the trumpets sound and the angels splash down from heaven – is it the worst thing possible, or the best? Lucifer has his theories… but we may not, (by then) agree.

Delacroix deserves congratulations for the extreme originality, both of setting and in her characters in Rebel. I have to confess the plot seemed a little convoluted, but you never for a moment consider not reading further. Rebel weirdly captures an almost-religious fantasy and makes believable even stranger superstitions. These mix with compelling characters to create the unusual.

I would call this a ‘must read’ just for its originality alone.

The Texan's Irish Bride by Caroline Clemmons



The Texan's Irish Bride (The McClintocks, Book 1) by Caroline Clemmons
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (330 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Cenora Rose O’Neill knows her father somehow arranged the trap for Dallas, but she agrees to wed the handsome stranger. She’d do anything to protect her family, and she wants to save herself from the bully Tom Williams. A fine settled man like Dallas will rid himself of her soon enough, but at least she and her family will be safely away from Tom Williams.

Texas rancher Dallas McClintock has no plans to wed for several years. Right now, he’s trying to establish himself as a successful horse breeder. Severely wounded rescuing Cenora from kidnappers, Dallas is taken to her family’s wagon to be tended. He is trapped into marrying Cenora, but he is not a man who goes back on his word. Ah, but what is he to do with a wife and her wild Irish family?

Irish lore, signs, superstitions, blessings, and toasts add tasty seasoning to the hardworking, stark life on a new Texas ranch. Even better, Cenora brings a completeness to Dallas’ life — a life that has deeps wounds from past events.

Dallas McClintock, after doing an honorable deed, gets trapped into a marriage he doesn’t want, cannot afford, and thinks he doesn’t need. He is focused on getting his new hard-earned ranch up and running. He has no time for a wife and certainly not a bunch of in-laws. Yet, his own personality and past experiences dictate that he reach out to these people in need of his help.

Beautiful Cenora feels guilty about her part in trapping Dallas into marriage, but she’ll do whatever she must to save her family and herself from the villain Tom Williams, the self-proclaimed leader of the Travelers.

The secondary characters play huge roles in the lives of Dallas and Cenora. The clashing and blending of the Irish Travelers' philosophy of life with the hardworking ethic of ranch life create conflicts that seem insurmountable. Yet, Caroline Clemmons infuses the plot with subplots, back-story, and the inner thoughts, and struggles of Cenora and Dallas that captivate and titillate the senses. The breathtaking love scenes make one want to read in a hurry to get to the next one.

Caroline Clemmons’ development of the characters brings them to life so the reader feels the hurts, disappointments, fears, the need to act honorably, and, for some, the need to be overbearing and dishonorable. Amid all the conflict, she weaves in a love that snuggles down into the heart. Dallas and Cenora’s love blooms into a love that encompasses so much more than just the two of them. The blending of the O’Neill and McClintock families makes compelling reading.

The Texan's Irish Bride sizzles with emotions. There is love, hate, family loyalty, and forgiveness in abundance. This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

Lord of Always by Cynthia Wicklund



Lord of Always by Cynthia Wicklund
Publisher: Cerridwen Press
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (210 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Camellia

How does a good and honorable man atone for wicked deeds he committed when he was neither good nor honorable? How does he tell the woman forced to marry him of the supernatural event that transformed his life, cleansing him of the darkness? Above all, how does he convince his wife that he loves her, that he too is worthy of being loved, when all she feels for him is hatred?

Evan Richmond, a spoiled, debauched aristocrat, is confronted by an obligation he can’t ignore. He must marry, and Brenna Hilliard is to be his bride. On his wedding night, Evan commits an unforgivable sin, stirring the wrath of something beyond this world. In the guise of a raging storm, he is “struck” unconscious. When he awakens his life is forever changed, for he no longer carries the soul he was born with. Another has taken its place.

Thus Brenna is faced with a choice. Does she reject her husband because of whom he has always been…or love the man he is becoming?

Breath-catching love scenes, eerie happenings, and characters that range from enchanting to sickening make Lord of Always sizzle with emotions.

Naïve Brenna, a victim of circumstance, quakes at the thought of marriage to Evan Richmond, Lord Rutherford, but, little does she know how bad it will be until she finds herself in a willow grove on a stormy night where eerie, supernatural things happen. Change occurs. Evil is thwarted but still lurks ever threatening to gain supremacy again.

The wealthy, depraved Lord Rutherford, much in need of redemption, consorts with his twin sister Geline to make Brenna’s life miserable even though she is his betrothed. When it seems his actions have gone beyond all reason, the supernatural power that must be watching over Brenna intervenes. My goodness, what an intervention!

The story takes a dramatic turn at this point. Evan Richmond, Lord Rutherford, is different when he wakes. He is a complex character that is sickened by what he had done in the past and senses he has a second chance after a long, long time. His is an astonishing and sometime painful journey as he deals with his depraved, despicable past while trying to build a life with integrity and convince Brenna they are meant for each other. The inner conflicts of both Brenna and Evan are major.

The antagonists give Lord of Always an undercurrent of evil that seethes just waiting to corrupt all that’s good. Geline, totally possessive of Evan, is a psychological mess that gets even messier with the encouragement of Jason Frickers, a self- proclaimed religious leader. The price she pays for her deeds is high indeed, not to mention what happened to Jason.

Cynthia Wicklund has an alluring writing style that makes scenes come alive whether they are scenes of evil doings or scenes of incredible lovemaking. She creates a compelling story with the premise of a chance at a “do-over” to make right a love that went awry in a time long ago.

Lord of Always is a story to curl up with and read long into the night savoring every minute of the journey toward a happy-ever-after.

The Spy Who Saved Christmas by Dana Marton



The Spy Who Saved Christmas by Dana Marton
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Genre: contemporary, holiday, suspense/mystery
Length: Full Length (224 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Fennel



In one unforgettable moment, Lara Jordan broke all the rules in her play-it-safe handbook and spent an incredible night with Reid Graham, a practical stranger. But before she even had time to bask in her fearlessness, a suspicious fire stole him away and left her pregnant, heartbroken and alone. Until now.

Walking back into Lara's life after two years was never on the operative's agenda. Unfortunately, remaining "dead" was no longer an option once their baby boys were kidnapped. Now, Reid had to convince Lara she could trust he'd sacrifice his own life to bring their children home for Christmas--without admitting the mission might just come to that.

Looking for some edge of your seat excitement, plenty of heat and lots of action?  Look no further than this wonderful book from Dana Marton.  I can't say enough good things about it.  Let's start with the opening! What an opening. I was caught up and asking questions by the end of the first sentence, never mind the first page. And the pace rarely slackens. It is a book you will want to read to the finish without interruption. So when you pick it up be sure your friends and family understand you DO mean ‘no interruptions’.

Lara knows what she wants and when she is finally free to follow her dreams she doesn’t expect them to be derailed at her first sight of Reid Graham. Nor does she expect to understand her late mother’s concerns about her need for independence. Reid turns her world upside down in more ways than one, and Lara learns to cope with the curves life has thrown at her. She is no longer the young innocent full of dreams. She’s all about reality, which is just as well, for life is about to throw the granddaddy of all curveballs in her direction and she is no longer independent. She has responsibilities and dependents – infant twins - whose lives are threatened.  She is prepared to do anything necessary to ensure their safety.

Not only has the author presented a heroine to die for, her hero isn't bad either. Reid is a loner and his job is not appropriate for a man with family ties – but then, he doesn’t know he’s a father until Lara erupts into his life again. I followed the author’s skillful portrayal of Reid changing in a completely believable way before my eyes. His every thought and action is believable and understandable. His emotional struggle with his past beliefs and today’s reality endear him to Lara and her babies as well as to the reader.

The writing rarely slows beneath hectic and yet at no point did I feel overwhelmed or hustled by the constant velocity. Emotions are packed into every page. Mystery and intrigue ensure you’ll keep turning the pages. There’s love, betrayal, hatred and retribution, death and renewal, friendship and camaraderie. This book has it all. This book is a keeper and I strongly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Doorway to His Heart by Jo Barrett



Doorway to His Heart by Jo Barrett
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (168 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Book Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

The world rarely grants anyone a second chance, but that is what Emily Mayfield receives when she walks through a mysterious door at the end of one life, over far too soon, to be cast into a new one. Only problem is, the woman staring back at her from the mirror is not Emily Mayfield.

Viscount Westmore knows his wife to be a conniving witch who lives to humiliate him, but from the moment she awakes from her illness, her actions has him doubting everything, even his own heart.

Life is precious. Cancer victim Emily Mayfield, knowing she has precious little of it left, visits her much-loved England to do her last concert then visits old estates. She collapses while touring the estate once owned by Viscount Westmore. She wakes up in a different body, in a different time, and with a husband and daughter.

Doorway to His Heart, a story of reincarnation with a twist, becomes a “second-chance” story of two troubled individuals that approach each other with extreme caution.

Emily, now in the body of the cruel, unfaithful Millicent that had flaunted her affairs and kinky sex life to humiliate her husband, is frantic until Michelle, the six-year-old daughter whom Millicent disliked appears. This delightful child becomes Emily’s confidant and champion.

Emily decides to embrace the life she’s given--a life that is cancer free. However, overcoming Millicent’s past is a challenge. Emily is afraid if she tells anyone what happened to her she will be put in Bedlam, so she tells Michelle she cannot remember things that happened before her sickness. Michelle, thrilled to have her mother’s attention, supplies information. Emily also finds Millicent’s journal that helps her understand the dynamics in the household and the viscount’s attitude.

Barnaby, the Viscount Westmore, avoids his wife having learned the hard way that she loves to humiliate him in front of her friends and in public. He is a gorgeous man that women are attracted to but he refuses to be unfaithful to his depraved wife who is openly unfaithful to him.

Barnaby is suspicious of the changes in his wife when she comes out of a coma—she’s nice. He is sure she is setting him up for a bad experience. He watches for the old Millicent’s personality to re-emerge. In spite of himself, he is drawn to his beautiful wife that is a joy to be with. Her intelligence, humor, common sense, and concern for others amazes him. Love wiggles its way in and settles down to stay.

Jo Barrett writes with a delightful, subtle humor. She lures that reader into a web of uncertainty, confusion, and a love that seems pre-ordained.

Doorway to His Heart kept me wide-awake until late — just had to finish to see how a twenty-first century single, career woman copes with life in a distant past where she has a husband, daughter, and a disgusting past. And, oh, yes, I loved the love scenes.  A good book I thorougly enjoyed.