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Monday, December 31, 2007

Review: Calamity Jayne Goes to College

Calamity Jayne Goes to College
by Kathleen Bacus

Back in college for the fourth time, reporter Tressa Jayne Turner finds her quest for higher education thwarted by a new mystery, a campus criminal, a crazy roommate, a botched betrothal, and a hot guy who wants to save her from herself.

This is the fourth installment in the Tressa Jayne Turner Mystery series, but it's my first encounter with this spunky cub reporter/amateur detective. It will not be my last! I'm looking forward to catching up with what has happened before and, also, the upcoming books.

Not only does Kathleen Bacus bring Tressa Jayne (or "Calamity Jayne", as she is dubbed) to life, in all her blondeness, but she also "blesses" her with multiple men in her life. What is a girl to do?

In Tressa's case, get into a load of trouble while solving the mystery in good old Ellery Queen style. All the clues are there for the savvy reader to discover, but (in this reader's case, anyway) they are subtle enough that the villain is not revealed too soon.

The mystery and suspense is lightened by the humor Kathleen Bacus brings to play in the interactions between Tressa and the other characters. I read some of it to my husband and he laughed so hard as some of the situations they found themselves in, he almost had to pull off the road.

If you enjoy a mystery with a bit of humor thrown in, this is a book for you.

Reviewed by Rose


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Review: Color the Sidewalk For Me

Color the Sidewalk For Me
by Brandilyn Collins

As a chalk-fingered child, I had worn my craving for Mama's love on my sleeve. But as I grew, that craving became cloaked in excuses and denial until slowly it sank beneath my skin to lie unheeded but vital, like the sinews of my framework. By the time I was a teenager, I thought the gap between Mama and me could not be wider.

And than Danny came along...

A splendidly colored sidewalk. Six-year-old Celia presented the gift to her mother with pride—and received only anger in return. Why couldn't Mama love her? Years later, when once-in-a-lifetime love found Celia, her mother opposed it. The crushing losses that followed drove Celia, guilt-ridden and grieving, from her Bradleyville home.

Now thirty-five, she must return to nurse her father after a stroke. But the deepest need for healing lies in the rift between mother and daughter. God can perform such a miracle. But first Celia and Mama must let go of the past—before it destroys them both.

When Celia Mathews’ father suffers a stroke, she must return to the town where she grew up and face a past that, for seventeen years, she’s tried hard to leave behind.

Though not your traditional romance, Color the Sidewalk for Me is a story about love. It covers almost all the kinds of love relationships that can exist, and the complexities involved with them. It is a coming of age story, about a young girl finding love...and losing. And then, of overcoming anger and past hurts, and discovering the path to forgiveness and ultimate contentment.

This is a book I want to read over and over again. There are no fantastic car chases, buildings exploding, or bodies turning up dead. But Brandilyn Collins has formulated her characters so well that I really cared about them and could not stop reading. I just had to find out what was going to happen to Celia and her mother, or Celia and her love, Danny.

This is a Christian book, and though it is not a light-hearted read, there is no sex or gratuitous violence, and it is appropriate for women of any age. In fact, there is a spirit of emotional and spiritual healing throughout the book that anyone who reads it, male or female, could benefit from even if they don’t face the same problems as Celia. I highly recommended it.

Reviewed by Violet

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Review: Christmas Angel

by Johanna Riley

Zacharius is an angel. Literally. His job is to protect and serve, not play Cupid. He bucks under his new assignment until he finds out that his charge is Katelyn Leary. Her brown eyes and winsome spirit urge him to ignore his reservations, and take her in his arms. But how can an immortal ever be with a human, and how can he find her a mate, when he wants to fill the position himself?

This is a wonderfully woven tale of loss and learning to believe and love. Kate is drowning in the grief of losing her father and visits his grave daily. She is so wrapped up in her grief that her father’s spirit is worried she may not ever find love on her own.

Enter Zach. Zach is a kind, committed, caring guardian angel. I liked the way his feelings for Kate developed. He was very real to me, from his dialogue and thoughts to how he was described physically. I could really picture him.

While I would have preferred to have more description of Kate and the pain she had been dealing with for so many weeks, I still felt she was a believable character. Her reactions were right on the money – especially in her dealings with Zach.
I was truly surprised by how much I enjoyed this story. The flow of the story was great, the characters were relatable, and the love that grew between them was what a happily ever after is all about.

Reviewed by Aster

Review: Lethal Memoirs

Lethal Memoirs
by Lori Derby Bingley

As senior editor of a major publishing house, April Matthews has often read books about murder and mayhem. However, when her brother is accused of murder, her mother goes missing, and an anonymous manuscript describes in detail an event she spent years trying to hide, she is stunned to realize that the man who killed her father is now after her and her family.

Caleb McKinley is the arrogant and ambitious assistant DA, and is determined to prosecute April’s brother for murder. When he finds the manuscript describing what happened all those years ago, he is forced to take matters into his own hands. Problem is, once April’s in his arms, he finds it hard to believe she could be capable of anything but love. Could he be wrong?

This full-length suspense/romance novel is set in busy, present-day Seattle, but events that happened years ago color the lives of many of the characters. The manuscript April Matthews receives proves to be Lethal Memoirs of her family’s past. This manuscript, along with a brutal killing and the arrest of her brother Aaron for the killing, sets the fast-paced, heart-pounding action in motion.

The lives of the many characters become so entangled, I found myself reading fast as possible for fear some of them would get strangled in the entanglement before I could get back to the. Suspense builds steadily as the subtle unraveling of the intriguing plot takes place.

As April tries to clear her brother Aaron of the murder charge, she encounters the ambitious, prosecutor Caleb McKinley ADA, who is bent on sending Aaron to prison for the murder. She doesn’t want to like him and certainly doesn’t trust him, yet she is drawn to him physically and emotionally more than she ever was to her now-dead husband, Victor.

As the complications pile up along with the dead bodies, April comes to realize the manuscript she received is tied to the events now happening that involve her brother and her mother, Abigail, as well as herself. It forces her to confront long-buried memories of a traumatic even that happened when she was just a child.

Caleb, using all his abilities, which are many, also uses his connections with law enforcement and every other source he can think of as he strives to protect April while he finds the truth about Aaron and the many killings. April objects to his high-handed ways that she feels are keeping her from clearing her brother’s name.

Only when Caleb and April begin to work together do they find the thread that is a constant in the Matthew family’s lives and are able to unravel the web that has been so subtly and patiently woven around them.

As I zipped along from one chapter to the next, I came to know each of the many characters and, at times, grieved for them and the choices they made.

This story held me in its grip to the very end.

reviewed by Camellia

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Review: My Shadow, My Love

by Sharon Horton

When Cassie Dahlgren first entered the police academy, she expected she’d eventually be chasing down criminals in her chosen career. She never knew that the criminals would be chasing after her. She’s on the run from her former boss, Luther Carstairs, who has proven he has a taste for murder…and his eye on her.

The Technicians are independent from the police, but they work with the police. Rick Jarrett is a seasoned and shrewd Technician who takes his job of protecting people very seriously. When Cassie comes to him as a witness to a senseless killing by a madman, she awakens not only his protector’s instincts but also other feelings he’d almost forgotten he was capable of. Together, Rick and Cassie seek justice and, in the process, find a new, beautiful life for themselves.

From its volatile opening, MY SHADOW, MY LOVE is a true love story seasoned with suspense. Two strong personalities are drawn to each other like magnets. Cassie, with her innate ability to recognize the good and evil in people, finds herself propelled into the world of Rick Jarrett, a Technician who strives to protect those unable to protect themselves. Rick, hardened by years of dealing with the dark side of humanity, is blindsided by his instant attraction to Cassie.

Sharon Horton weaves a multitude of characters into the suspenseful events that often keep Cassie and Rick from each other as their love suffers growing pains. The abhorrent crime of trafficking in human beings puts both of them and their unborn child at risk, as they feel compelled to infiltrate the criminal operation.

This love story embodies the emotions we see in real life—jealousy, fear, hate, and ambivalent feelings toward friend and family relationships.

If you need a read to up your heart rate then let it ease up just to up the rate again, MY SHADOW, MY LOVE is a good choice.

Reviewed by Camellia

Review: How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire

How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire
by Kerrelyn Sparks

So what if he's a bit older and usually regards a human female as dinner, not a dinner date? Yes, Roman Draganesti is a vampire, but a vampire who lost one of his fangs sinking his teeth into something he shouldn't have. Now he has one night to find a dentist before his natural healing abilities close the wound, leaving him a lop–sided eater for all eternity.

Things aren't going well for Shanna Whelan either...After witnessing a gruesome murder by the Russian mafia, she's next on their hit list. And her career as a dentist appears to be on a downward spiral because she's afraid of blood. When Roman rescues her from an assassination attempt, she wonders if she's found the one man who can keep her alive. Though the attraction between them is immediate and hot, can Shanna conquer her fear of blood to fix Roman's fang? And if she does, what will prevent Roman from using his fangs on her...

What a hoot! This was my first Kerrelyn Sparks novel, and surely won't be my last. I didn't know what to expect, but being a big fan a paranormal romance and, in particular, vampires I couldn't wait to dig in.

I wasn't disappointed.

Poor Shanna Whelan, our heroine. Ever since she witnessed a brutal--and bloody--murder, she faints dead away at the sight of blood. This little quirk certainly wreaks havoc on her ability to be a competent dentist. But, that's okay, since she works the night shift at a 24-hour dental clinic and spends more time counting the ceiling tiles than working.

Poor Roman. He loses a fang trying out a new invention for vampires and has to have it replaced before sunrise or his body will heal and he'll be forever lopsided. One-fanged. Where to go? To the Shanna's clinic, of course.

I love Shanna's character. Within the parameters of the book's reality, she behaved just as most anyone would when confronted with the idea that vampires are out there. She's got one doozy of a temper, as well, and lets it rip with great regularity. She's strong (blood aversion aside), smart and real.

Roman is the perfect tortured soul. Having committed atrocities in his past, he's doing his best to make up for them now. And, until he realizes there is no chance he'll get away heart-whole, he fights his feelings for Shanna.

There are some unexpected twists, fantastically three-dimensional secondary characters, and a great set-up for the many sequels that follow. Good versus evil is a factor here as well, though occasionally Ms. Sparks shades them a bit.

I finished this book in one quick gulp and, the moment I finish this review, I'm grabbing book two and reading like a maniac. If you haven't read this highly entertaining, funny paranormal romance with plenty of heat, you're missing out. Grab a copy and prepare to be entertained.

Review by Poppy

Friday, December 28, 2007

Review: Egyptian Heart

Egyptian Heart
By Kathryn Meyer Griffith

Maggie Owen's a beautiful, spirited Egyptologist…but lonely. Even a trip to Egypt on a grant to search for a necropolis beyond the Gizah pyramids doesn't make her happy. Love is missing.

Then she uncovers Ramose Nakh-Min's tomb and an amulet from his sarcophagus hurls her back to 1340 B.C.—where she falls for Ramose, who serves Pharaoh Akhenaton, and who she's destined to love. Maggie's mistaken for a runaway slave and stands out with her fair coloring and jinn green eyes. Some say she's magical. Evil. Some try
to kill her.

She's fallen into perilous times. The people, angry that Pharaoh Akhenaton set Queen Nefertiti aside and forced them to worship Aton, instead of many gods, rise up against him. And Maggie's caught in the middle of it.

Desperately in love with Ramose, she finds a way to remain with him— and to make a difference in his world. Maggie has finally found love.

This story had me entranced within the first ten pages. Every historian’s dream come true, to actually step foot back in time and live with the ones you study. Maggie Owen is a geek, and proud of it! The author made her a character you can relate with, which makes the story believable -– despite the fantastical time travel.
The only thing that bothered me about this story, was the choppiness between the dreams/reality/past & present. Maggie has a hard time deciphering between her dreams & reality and the past & present; which made some chapters harder to get into. Despite that, I had a difficult time putting down the story and cooking dinner.

I was impressed with the authors research into the Egyptian culture and history; the details, names were quite well done. This was my first book by this particular author, and I have added her to my watch list for future reading.

Review by Iris

Review: In The Blink of An Eye

In The Blink of an Eye
by Catherine Stang

Is prosecuting the biggest case of your career worth your family's safety? District Julia Davenport has asked herself that question everyday since a dangerous criminal she is gearing up to prosecute is unexpectedly let out on bail. He has threatened her in the past and would do anything to keep his case from going to trial. In order
to protect herself and her daughter, she must now rely on a man who has his own secret motives for protecting them. A man who in many ways may be far more dangerous to her than one she fears.

In the Blink of An Eye starts with every parents worst nightmare....your child being kidnapped. Ashley is returned safely to her mother and then the roller coaster ride begins. Catherine Stang does a wonderful job of weaving a plot filled with twist, curves and even a loop-d-loops. In the Blink of An Eye is a great combination of both suspense and romance in equal parts.

Julia Davenport is clever, strong, sexy, and a wonderful mother. She is a character that will pull the reader in quickly. Julia's charm stays steady through out the book. Flynn is the one that will keep the reader guessing. Is he a hot good guy or a hot bad guy? Is he willing to shed his snake skin for Julia? The sexual tension between the two is instantly established and keeps escalating through out the story. Flynn's dark side will intrigue the reader.

The secondary characters of Julia's daughter Ashley and Rogan are great. The relationship between the small girl and her 'super friend' Rogan is delightful. Their relationship adds an entire new layer to the story. Ashley is wonderfully written little girl, neither a whiner nor a brat. Rogan is the prefect balance for Flynn.

Ms. Stang offers a great cast of characters. A cast that is fully developed and well rounded.

In the Blink of An Eye is a great read for a long cold winter night. The romance is hot enough to take the chill off the coldest of nights and the suspense will definitely conquer the winter blahs.

Reviewed by Magnolia

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Review: Fairytale Bride

Fairytale Bride
by Michelle Chambers

To those lucky enough to hear, the Blue Moon may speak at midnight, and it may grant your wish…

On one such night, in sheer desperation, Maddie Elliott set aside skepticism and doubt to make a wish under the magic of the Blue Moon's light… The magic brings Maddie, through a secret garden gate-to a world unknown to her, but whose sights and sounds overwhelm her senses with strange familiarity-to her heart's desire. To her wish. Incomprehension and confusion fill her heart when she meets the Earl of Ruglen. The Law of Attraction couldn't possibly be wrong, yet how could she long for someone whom she wholeheartedly despised? Surely, the Blue Moon was mistaken.

Maddie Elliot has had more than her fair share of heartbreak and disappointment. To escape a bad relationship she makes a wish upon the Blue Moon, and finds herself in an unfamiliar world. Suddenly she is thrust, literally and figuratively, into the arms of Lord Ruglen. Lord Ruglen reminds her too much of that which she just escaped. A lot of confusion then ensues for both characters.

I enjoy Regency romances; just something about that time is intriguing. Michelle Chambers does a nice job of capturing that time in just a few pages. And I enjoy time travel, so the two together is nice. I did find the character of Maddie, a bit unlikeable at first. I dislike the type who can’t fight physical attraction despite it seeming wrong. But she does find her own strength towards the end.

The character of Ruglen to me was the more likeable of the two. Despite his haughtiness, a sign of his time and station in life, he was very clear about his intentions, and let Maddie know that from the start. He isn’t doing it to be cruel, more as a defense against things entirely out of his control. The two go hot then cold a little more than I prefer, but it seems to work for them. The ending was a bit of a surprise, and it tied up all the loose ends nicely and answered all the questions that kept me a bit confused while reading.

All in all the story was a nice quick read, I would have enjoyed seeing more of the budding romance between Maddie and Ruglen, but all in all the story was fun. A quick fix type read when you just need to sit back for an hour and lose yourself in a little romance.

Reviewed by Zinnia

Review: A Girl, A Guy, And A Ghost

A Girl, A Guy, And A Ghost
by Sherrie Kelley

A GIRL: Traci Nettleton is in seventh heaven when Brad Davidson, the gorgeous quarterback on the football team asks her out. Then she gets a mysterious e-mail that threatens to ruin everything.

A GUY: Brad loves hanging out with Traci. She’s cute, smart, and funny. But she seems a little jumpy around him lately. Is she hiding something?

A GHOST: How can Traci be getting e-mails from her best friend who died two years ago? Is someone playing a cruel joke, or does Corky really need her help? Traci plans to find out – her new romance with Brad depends on it.

I loved the premise of this story. I've only just started reading much YA and jumped on this one the moment is was offered. I wasn't sorry I did.

The author has a great voice for YA. Her teen characters were perfectly drawn, and believeable. I do have to admit that Brad was a little too perfect, but what a dreamy guy to have as a hero.

Traci is already having a rough time--Her mom and dad have divorced and her mother embarrasses her on a regular basis. Her best friend is a little on the silly side, her previous best friend drowned just a couple years before and she has a crush on the quarterback.

But when weird messages start showing up on her computer that can only be from her long-dead friend, Corky, it really sends her into a tailspin. Worse, there are dozens of messages and they all say the same thing: Can you come over today?

Scared? Traci was...

I had such fun reading about Corky's pranks and 'big brother' protection of Traci, of Traci helping Corky with the problems he was facing, and of Traci trying to establish a relationship with Brad while Corky watched (and sometimes did more than watch!).

I did feel like the reason Corky's dad had left the family was a little over the top for such a light, fluffy book, but it didn't ruin my enjoyment one bit.

Sherrie Kelley has a great voice for YA, and I hope she decides to write more. I'll be on the lookout.

Review by Poppy

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Review: Escaping the Past

Escaping the Past
by Julianna Stephens

Lou Smith would be the first to admit that she’s the luckiest woman on the face of the earth. She lives on a farm where manners matter and the farm hands all come to eat when the dinner bell rings. Life is comfortable – so comfortable that it seems almost too easy. But Lou comes with a past, one that she will be forced to face, or die trying.

Lou’s early years were never easy. She lived a life of poverty and depravity, never staying in one place for very long. She grows up quickly when she suddenly becomes a mother and is thrust into the world alone. She resolves to try to un-live the life that her mother lived. And it seems to be easy to avoid sex, love, and danger. It’s easy until she meets Brody Wester, that is.

Brody is a handsome, successful surgeon who is way too busy for family. In fact, it’s been twelve years since he’s been home. He’s forced to face some demons from his own past when Lou calls him home to attend his dying mother. But his mother is not the only person who holds his interest.

From the outside, Lou Smith looks like an average twenty-seven year old woman. She has a successful career, a family and a daughter. But she has a secret. Most women do have secrets but Lou’s secret is more powerful than most. And it’s coming to find her.

Characterized by speed, 'Escaping the Past" by Julianna Stephens is an escape unto itself. Fast action and zippy dialogue means you won't want to put this one down. Most important is the determined and highly movitated main character, Lou (Louise) who captures our sympathies at once, and pursues her goals in varying levels of desperation, throughout. The vagaries of fate allow her that chance encounter with a good Samaratin, but she cannot rely on chance. Her history is intriguing, and only slowly revealed. Her immediate predicament is plain, but how she landed in it, less certain.

Daily life, references to horses and various stable duties create a pleasant backdrop, as do scattered, enriching details, like the smell of honeysuckle hanging in the summer air. The slightly southern sense - foods, friendships, words like 'hun' are just enough. The accurate horse tacking details add to ones' sense of reality, so riders will like this tale, although some editing program likely insisted on reigns instead of 'reins,' on occasion.

The very superior antagonist is not only unlikable, he is so unlikable, detesting him is entirely enjoyable. (And, I for one, never did warm up to the smart-mouthed, superior ass, even after he starts to dredge up slightly forgivable qualities.) But hating him goes on hold, at least for a little while, when suddenly - Lou's past returns, and we remember desperation.

This work has great, near-thriller moments, also wonderful moments of compassion and sharing. It is, in turns, intriguing, annoying, and terrifying. Yet, Stephens pulls off moments of humor, equally well. (There isn't anything quite like riding double...) I recommend this story and can't wait to see what Stephens comes up with next.

Reviewed by Snapdragon

Review: Cathy's Angel

Cathy’s Angel
by Pamela S. Thibodeaux

Single mom Cathy Johnson is tired of running her life alone…what she needs is a well-trained angel to help out. Jared Savoy gave up the dream of having a family when he discovered he is sterile. Can a confirmed bachelor and the mother of four find love amid normal daily chaos?

Though Cathy’s Angel is a very brief story, author Pamela S. Thibodeaux delivers a nice romance and inspirational message in the span of a few pages. Cathy is trying to do it all, raise and support four young children on her own. Jared is a newcomer to the neighborhood, a bachelor who longs for a family. When they meet on a jogging path, and Cathy injures her ankle, Jared is more than happy to step in and take care of things for her. As the two main characters share the responsibility of caring for Cathy’s children, they also find themselves falling in love. Both deeply religious, they are truly thankful that God has provided them with what each needed most.

This is a sweet story, though I felt that Cathy’s unfriendly attitude toward Jared at the beginning changed too quickly once she agreed to let this complete stranger come into her house and take care of her children. And while Jared is certainly a nice guy willing to come to her rescue, I wasn’t sure I believed that he would give up the rest of his life so completely after knowing Cathy for only a matter of hours.

Aside from the very fast way these characters become involved with each other, the story progresses to a sweet and satisfying ending. Readers looking for a quick, inspirational romance will find their happy ending in Cathy’s Angel.

Review by Dandelion

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Review: Saving Grace

Saving Grace
by Patrice Moore

Detective Patrick Hess is on a mission to find Margo, the missing ex-wife of a powerful man in Buffalo, New York. His search takes him to rural Oregon, where he focuses on a woman named Grace McNeal. Circumstantial evidence makes him believe that Grace is the woman he is seeking?but he's not quite sure. If Grace is indeed Margo, then she's done a remarkable job of altering not only her circumstances but her appearance as well.

Grace, exhausted from trying to run a farm single-handed, hires on a man who says he is an author seeking farm experience for a book he is writing. She is leery of her decision to bring a stranger onto her farm, but after four years of hiding from an abusive, stalking ex-husband, she feels she can relax enough to hire help. Little does she know that the very man she hires is the man her ex-husband has sent to find her. How can Grace learn to trust Patrick in time to face the very real threat of her ex-husband discovering where she is?

Intrigue starts Moore's "Saving Grace", a full-length, contemporary romance. Curiousity overwhelms the private investigator... as well as the reader. Just what is the reason does he have for pursuing what seems to be an ordinary woman? Grace, lovely and ordinary, small-town Grace we are to discover, is far from ordinary, and not really a small-town girl, either. From her furtive and cautious behavior, we get a tiny glimpse of a very real, and very enigmatic personality. Grace is only gradually coming to grips with inner demons, results of her past. Described as 'urban', she is struggling to earn a living and keep ahead of the financial demands of her small ranch. She needs a friend, a helper, a companion... and someone who could perhaps be more. However, deception starts this would-be casual, even working relationship... and we can see the dangers that she cannot. Deception is no way to kick off a romance...

The lovely setting out in the rural backwoods of Oregon is pleasantly homey. The farm-orientation of once city-girl Grace provides an interesting contrast to the person she is imagined to be. The many-layers of Patrick, the private investigator, as well as Grace's doubts all manage to generate a constant aura of suspense. This romance takes many an unexpected twist.

Moore brings to life multi-faceted characters in this romance. Her descriptions are lively and engaging. Changing points-of-view, which can be problematic, are handled smoothly. Events are plausible. Overall however, it is the depth of her characters that make this work shine.

review by Snapdragon

Review: When Johnny Comes Home

When Johnny Comes Home
by Kim Watters

Audrey Roberts's masquerade is about to end in disaster. For years, she's written love letters to Johnny and signed them with her sister's name. Now, the man she adores is coming home to marry his pen pal and Audrey is left to face the consequences of her deception.

Injured during D-Day, Johnny Davenport is shipped home. His only plan: to find the woman whose love letters kept him sane and hopeful throughout the destruction of war. Nothing will stop him from drawing out the beautiful, shy girl he left behind and making her his wife.

But once the true writer is revealed, which sister will he claim?

In “When Johnny Comes Home,” Ms. Watters gives us a lovely, heartfelt story about what happens after war, when a soldier comes home and discovers that the woman he left behind is not the same one who waits for him to return. This was a very satisfying read, aside from some minor editing issues. The setting, post-WWII small town America, is well constructed, and the main characters are flawed, injured by war and its fallout, but extremely likable. You will root for them to fall in love!

Reviewed by Dandelion

Monday, December 24, 2007

Review: Laird of the Mist

Laird of the Mist
by Paula Quinn

They call him The Devil, but his kiss is heaven.

Protecting Her Was His Passion

High-born though she is, Kate Campbell isn't afraid to draw her sword. When raiders strike, she rushes into the fray…and is lucky when a mysterious Highlander shields her from a deadly blow. Swept onto his stallion, she soon discovers that her rescuer is her clan's most hated enemy: Callum MacGregor, the man they call The Devil. Yet she can not ignore his achingly tender touch or the way his fiery gaze leaves her breathless…

Possessing Her Would Be His Pleasure

Callum MacGregor has taken many Campbell lives, but he's never saved one—until now. Mesmerized by this spirited lass, he wants her by his side—even if it means holding her ransom. As his fingers graze her sumptuous curves and tangle in her unruly tresses, Callum realizes Kate Campbell is his most dangerous foe of all. For he can't make love to her without betraying his kinsmen and his honor…and surrendering his heart forever.

Paula Quinn, in Laird of the Mist, has created a Highlander hero who completely absorbs the reader. Callum MacGregor is the quintessential Scottish laird whose main goal in life is the protection of his clan. Outlawed by the English, stripped of his name, he nonetheless continues as laird of the clan MacGregor.

When he meets a daughter of the clan Campbell, his sworn enemies, sparks fly. Ms. Quinn weaves historical accuracy and romantic fiction into a thoroughly satisfying read. When I closed the covers of this book, I felt bereft...I had not gotten nearly enough of this couple.

Ms. Quinn's characters are richly drawn, from the main characters of Callum and Kate, to the supporting characters of Graham Grant (whose story is coming out in 2008 and I'm looking forward to it as well), Callum's sister Maggie, and Kate's brother Robert.

When you finish Laird of the Mist, you will feel like you are leaving friends you know well. And, friends you want to revisit again and again.


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Review: Tree of Buried Secrets

Tree of Buried Secrets
by Cassie Exline

Julia races to their rendezvous site as if the devil is nipping at her heels. Tonight she and Alex are going to elope. Her heart soars when she spots Alex waiting for her by the apple tree. She calls out his name and he hurries to her, wrapping his strong arms around her. Instead of fleeing, Alex wants to make love to her one more time at the same spot where they met, fell in love, and surrendered to their desires.

The white blossoms serve as their bed, releasing a heady fragrance into the night air, and the tree as a witness. But a thunderous crack shatters the night, spawning years of torment, generations of secrets. Julia never told anyone what happened that night, but today might be the day she confesses.

Tree of Buried Secrets is an interesting story that moves back and forth between present and past. The main character, Julia, is now in her seventies and reliving her youth, much to the confusion of her two children, Edward and Fiona. Turns out there are secrets aplenty in Julia’s past, including the answer to who fathered her two children and what became of Alexander, her first true love.

While the flashbacks at times are slightly jarring, and in some cases unnecessary, they do show the love Julia felt as a seventeen-year-old and still feels in her elderly years. For the most part, the questions that continually surface keep this story moving along at a fast pace. The love scenes between the teenage lovers are quite explicit, though, so be prepared! Tree of Buried Secrets is a tribute to the idea of “one true love,“ reminding us that even the march of time and messy family secrets cannot change the most powerful memories of all.

Reviewed by Dandelion

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Review: Tis the Season

Tis the Season
by Deborah Tompkins

Where was the man who could win her heart? The man who could carry on the Kris Kringle legend? Somehow she couldn't mesh the two. The man of my dreams and my father just weren't the same man.

I found Tis the Season to be a really original idea! Kris is an only child and the only girl in the direct Santa line, and it's up to her to sift through all the men in the whole world to find, fall in love with, and marry, the next Santa. By the time we meet Kris, she's become discouraged that she's become so focused on finding the right man for the job, whether or not he was the right man for her. Kris isn't jaded, though. She's determined, and she keenly feels the stress that the importance of her task puts on her. It's a joy to watch her on her journey.

I felt that the author should have had a little more wiggle room to work with, though. Although novella is a good length for a holiday story, this one felt like a summary of a novel in a lot of places. Important scenes were glossed over with exposition when some dialogue and action would have illustrated what was going on a lot better. And the ending was a little abrupt. I felt that there should have been more of a denouement for maximum satisfaction.

That said, Tis the Season reads like a Frank Capra film and is just as heartwarming. It's the perfect last-minute addition to any contemporary romance reader's holiday reading list. Especially fans of Debbie Macomber's Christmas themed books and readers of Harlequin/Silhouette's holiday selections.

Reviewed by Daisy

Review: Bachelor Bid

Bachelor Bid
by Stephanie-Anne Street

City slicker Benedict Laverton finds he has top billing at a country town’s charity bachelor ball. To escape the ordeal, he persuades one of the organizers, single mother Rosy Scott, into bidding for him with his own money. That’s fine, except Rosy experiences an acute adrenaline rush and doubles her bid to win the prize. When she goes to the stage to claim her man, Rosy not only has to face Benedict’s stunned disbelief that she’s spent a cool $10,000 of his money, but she has to kiss him too – and properly! After their spectacular kiss, Rosy’s adamant that anything more to do with Benedict would only end in teas, but Benedict has other ideas.

I have to say, first, that I did enjoy this book. The dialogue moved at a steady pace and the story was a cute, fun idea that kept my interest. I liked the development of the characters as they went from not wanting any kind of commitment to wanting the ultimate commitment. It was sweet and funny as well as touching at moments.

Benedict Laverton is a reluctant hero. He comes to his mother’s rescue, after she tells him she desperately needs his help, and finds himself shanghaied into top billing in a bachelor auction. This is not his idea of a fun evening, he feels like a man being circled by sharks… with chum in the water! Desperate, he locates the one female in the crowd who seems totally disinterested in the prospect of bidding and propositions her… sort of. He gives her a check to use to bid for him so he can get out of the “intimate dinner for two” that comes with the winning bid. From that point on his plans go awry. He is a funny, determined hero who realizes rather quickly that Rosy is something special, and he wants to keep that special in his life.

Rosy Scott is a single mother, who is active in the charities and causes of her small town. She never participates in the bidding on the bachelors, and is usually too busy helping out to pay much attention to the goings on. When Benedict Laverton surprises her with his request, she almost lets him fend for himself. How uppity to think he can get out of a commitment he’s already made? She has no idea he was railroaded into his gig. As the bidding starts she sees the panic and her soft heart kicks in and Rosy takes pity on the city slicker. Then, she gets carried away, and doubles his idea of a reasonable bid--to the sum of $10,000 of Benedict’s money--and gets pulled into the most bone-melting kiss of her life.

Rosy is a spunky, tough lady who has had to go it alone long enough that she doesn’t really need a man in her life. Well, at least she doesn’t think she needs a man, but this Benedict Laverton bloke won’t stay out of hers.

Now, let me get it out of the way. I did have a few issues with this story, but none that were major. While the conversations and interactions between characters were sometimes downright fun and fast-moving, I also found that some of the situations were a bit predictable. Just a point in fact; everything is finally starting to move along well between Benedict and Rosy and then there comes the “big misunderstanding”. You know which one, the one that seems to just destroy any chances of happiness for the couple. While I knew that the author would work it out, I was still a bit disappointed that it wasn’t presented differently, in a more creative way. The end result was very satisfying, however, and I quickly got over my pique.

This was a great read, all in all, and I enjoyed the author’s perspective on Ben and Rosy’s relationship. I found that the first kiss, in front of a live, loud audience, was one of the best first kisses I’ve read in a long time. The added aspect of Rosy as a single mother held my interest as she struggled with what was best for her children versus what her heart wanted. It was great fun to try and figure out how the adults were going to respond to the antics and questions of Rosy’s precocious boys. As a mother, I’ve been in a few of those situations and found a good chuckle at what could happen next, not to mention the menagerie of pets that Rosy and her boys seemed to collect. The pets had their own foibles that added more hilarity to some unexpected situations. In conclusion, I have to say that this is a fun read that will ultimately leave you smiling in the end.

Reviewed by Viscaria

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Review: Holiday Spirit

Holiday Spirit
by Donna Michaels

Every year, during the winter solstice, a door is opened for ghosts to move on. And every year, Lucius Beamount and his ghost wife, Hattie Mae, pass up the opportunity in order to help mankind. This year is no exception. Jeff Grayson and his wife Carolyn need to be reunited for a very special reason. The bumbling fun begins when Jeff leaves L.A. to fly home to surprise his wife—who's on a plane bound for California to surprise him. Little do they know they're about to encounter some Holiday Spirit.

This was a really sweet holiday tale about a couple trying to make their way across country to be with each other for Christmas. The trouble is, they’re about to criss-cross the country and miss each other.

While I enjoyed the married ghost couple, Lucius and Hattie Mae, and found their interactions to be sweet and quirky, I wished the story had put more focus on Jeff and Carolyn. Instead of developing Jeff and Carolyn as characters, the ghosts were more developed and had more dialogue.

This is a quick, charming story that is full of holiday spirit, even if it is a little light on the romance.

Reviewed by Aster

Review: Merry's Christmas

Merry's Christmas
by Patrice Moore

One night of passion in high school between Merry Donovan and Joe Moro--the boy she had loved from afar--was all it took to create a new life. Afterward, Merry gave their infant son up for adoption. Joe never learned he had been a father.

Ten years later, an ex-lover dumps a two-day-old baby on Joe's lap and disappears. He hires Merry, a professional nanny, to care for the infant….never recognizing her as "Mousy Merry" from high school. Joe is determined to keep the baby despite the fact he has no proof he is the father.

Merry can't understand why a single man would want to keep a newborn… until she learns the heart-wrenching secret behind his affection for the child.

But Merry has a secret of her own--and it threatens to destroy the first Christmas Joe has ever celebrated.

The magic of Christmas is about to change Meredith 'Merry' Donovan life forever. Having just lost her job as a nanny, she finds herself working with a Santa that is very 'friendly' toward his female helpers. The store owner is none other that Joe 'Jazzy' Moro, her high school fantasy.

Both of the characters of Merry and Joe experience vast growth and change. I would have truly loved this story if Ms. Moore had not tried to limit it such a short time span. Instead of the HEA happening the first Christmas, waited until the second. I think if Joe and Merry had spent a year together their growth would have drawn the reader in more. Merry has a lot of anger toward Joe. Anger that just seems to melt - Christmas magic. The character of Joe is deep and complex but he also speeds through the hurdles blocking him from having a meaningful relationship.

Joe and Merry's back story is weaved through out in small doses so not to slow down the pace of the story. The pace is quick yet rich in detail. Merry Christmas is rich in detail with a story that could have happen with the help of Christmas magic.

Reviewed by Magnolia

Friday, December 21, 2007

Review: Belinda's Love

Belinda's Love
by Weta Nichols

Rich Wells has been shot in the Nevada Territory desert and found by Belinda Asher and her brother while hunting for their stray cow. Belinda slowly nurtures Rich back to health, and an attraction blossoms between them. They move to the booming silver mine town of Pioche, where Belinda is a maid at a local hotel and Rich is chosen town sheriff. But is all well?

Rich burns for revenge against the rancher who shot him, and his family is prejudiced against his relationship with Belinda. Will violence and hatred destroy their new life together, or can Belinda’s Love triumph over all?

Lawlessness, prejudice, and love permeate the pages of BELINDA’S LOVE. This novel takes the reader to Pioche, Nevada in 1875 where “bad guys” abound as the lure of the Nevada silver mines brings in a motley assortment of people. Both the newcomers and the old-timers are less than admirable in their dealings with their fellowman.

Early in the story, I felt like an old western movie was unfolding on the pages. For a time after the heart-stopping beginning, the mundane events slowed the pace of the story, but pertinent tidbits kept cropping up to tempt me to read more.

Belinda, a half Indian/half Spanish beauty, saves Rich after he’s shot by the ruthless, powerful rancher, Rawlins. Belinda, an untried maiden when it comes to love and carnal desire, doesn’t know how to handle her attraction to Rich. Feeling anxious for her because of her naiveté, I found myself wanting to give her some “motherly” advice from time to time.

Rich, who came west to escape the constricting mores of the wealthy society of his family in Philadelphia, is attracted to the lovely, kind, young woman who put herself and her family in danger to save him. While the attraction is mutual, the difference in their cultural backgrounds proves to be a formidable obstacle.

The contrasts between the simple life Belinda’s family lives and the more “refined” life Rich grew up in and, to some extent, developed in the west, set the stage for Rich and Belinda to examine their budding relationship. While no highly dramatic conflicts occur, the subtle, everyday events undermine Belinda’s hopes for a life with Rich.

Belinda’s low self-esteem, due to the way people treat her because of her ethnicity, is a strong thread in the makeup of the story. At times, I read with a sense of urgency as I looked for her to become aware of her own self-worth. Prejudice, as it was at that time, comes through loud and clear. Both men and women are culpable and inflect much underserved cruelty on Belinda and her family.

The parade of adversaries that both Belinda and Rich have to deal with kept me turning pages.

If you enjoy a story of the early days of settling the West and of how love blooms among a multiplicity of thorny problems, BELINDA’S LOVE is it.

Review by Camellia

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Review: Jinxed

by Sharon Horton

Since being widowed at an early age, Kendra Duchaine has led a quiet life as a teacher in her hometown of Claremont, Washington. Though at times lonely, she considers herself content until a chance encounter with the town's most prominent citizen turns her life into a frightening game of Cat and Mouse. Convinced her dilemma will be shrugged off due to the status of her ardent admirer Kendra feels she is alone in dealing with her problem. For months she's managed to ignore the multitude of letters, phone calls and expensive gifts, hoping in time her admirer would become less ardent. Her hopes fail one morning when she finds he's left a rose on her doorstep. In despair, and feeling her life must be jinxed, she reluctantly seeks help. Little does Kendra know, a 'Jinx' of another kind is in her future.

Kendra's help comes in the form of, 'Jinx' Jenkins, a police lieutenant who, in a twist of fate, is also a widower. After listening to Kendra's story, Jinx is doubtful he can help, explaining her admirer might be too formidable an opponent for a police lieutenant. Yet, it's as that police lieutenant that he knows he cannot deny anyone help. It's as a man Jinx cannot deny he wants to help Kendra.

Very few books hold my attention the way this one did. Honestly, I read it in record time simply because it was too good to stop reading. I wanted to put it down, but I just couldn’t do it. Attention to detail, tight plotting and dynamic dialogue coming from realistic, interesting characters makes Sharon Horton’s Jinxed a winner.

From the first pages I was completely enamored with Jinx, who is one of the most attractive heroes I’ve met yet. And Kendra is smart, sexy and incredibly likeable, the kind of woman any of us know and love, or aspires to be. I felt her pain over losing her husband, and experienced the joy of her opening herself up to accepting love a second time. This story is highly suspenseful while being deeply emotional as well. There is nothing not to love about Jinxed. I sincerely look forward to reading more from Sharon Horton.

Review by Peony

Review: Prince of Thieves

Prince of Thieves
by Tamelia Tumlin

She stole his ring…

In order to save her son's life Cheyenne Lawson must get arrested. Soon. When a customer leaves an expensive heirloom on her table she seizes the opportunity to steal it hoping to get caught. She does, only to find out it belongs to a very sexy Arabian prince with a trust issue. Now she must pay for her crime in a way she never expected.

Then she stole his heart…

Prince Kareem bin Ishmail doesn't want a wife, but with his small desert country on the verge of financial ruin, he needs one. At least a temporary one. When a lovely waitress steals his family ring, he seizes the opportunity to solve his dilemma by giving her a choice: life in prison in his desert country or a temporary marriage. With the sultry Arabian nights and her soft sensuous kisses, he suddenly finds himself wanting to make their mariage a permanent one. If he can learn to trust and love again. Will the charming, spirited thief steal his heart too?

This book begins with a fast-paced, stage-setting scene and continues at breakneck speed to its satisfying conclusion. Cheyenne is a waitress who thinks she has only one option open to her when it comes to saving her young son, Cody. She does what she thinks she must do in order to ensure a future for the two of them, stealing a ring from a customer in the Mexican restaurant where she works. As luck would have it, the subject of her thievery is a Prince, and after she is arrested the Prince drops all charges against her. Cheyenne believes she is free to go, but when she leaves the police station she is met by the Prince himself. Kareem is ready to mete out his own brand of justice. He proposes Cheyenne marry him, satisfying his needs while taking care of her current financial woes. It is an unusual proposition, but one that may work if Cheyenne can hold on to her heart.

I enjoyed this story, loved the selflessness of Cheyenne’s intentions and actions. Kareem is truly a hero and his father, the King, is a sympathetic character. There are a number of wonderful points about this book. The dialogue is well written and realistic, the characters evoke emotional commitment and the premise is a good one.

There are issues that I need to mention with regard to the editing in Prince of Thieves. I am like most readers in that an occasional punctuation or word usage error can be easily overlooked. When they invade nearly every page, however, these issues draw the reader away from the story. In the end, they become annoying. While this tale is interesting I wish there had been more attention paid to the mechanics.

Prince of Thieves by Tamilia Tumlin is an entertaining tale that is sure to please. With its themes of selflessness and familial obligation, it is heartwarming and touching. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to reading more from this author.

Review by Peony

Review: Scenes from a Holiday

Scenes from a Holiday

If singles events planner Nicki Heller thought she was confused before about what she wants from her relationship, then a blow to the head certainly isn’t helping matters. The doctors have assured Nicki’s family that she’s on the mend. But for now? Well, let’s just say she’s in, uh, a Hanukkoma. Trapped in the unconscious world of Menorahville, she’s celebrating Hanukkah on an endless loop…along with a date from hell each night.

Like anyone else in the world, Carrie Pilby used to make a lot of resolutions she didn’t keep. But this New Year’s, it’s going to be different. She’s going to be different. Really. The twenty-year old genius is determined to be less geeky and more social and has imposed a new rule for herself: leave the apartment at least twice a week. Hey, she has to start somewhere…

A country Christmas isn’t exactly at the top of Emma Townsend’s “Dear Santa” list. Flannel and work boots? No, thanks. She’s a dignified Manhattanite now. So how did she end up in “winter wonderland” yet again? It’s family tradition, and she can’t let her parents down. This is it, though – the last year she forsakes her life (and fashion) for ornaments and tree trimming. No matter how good-looking that guy in her yard is. Wait, where did he come from?

These three chick lit novellas are an entertaining holiday trilogy that’s perfect for this time of year! The authors capture the spirit of the season – or, more accurately, the frustration of the season, for a single girl – in light, easy reads.

In The Eight Dates of Hanukkah, Nicki Heller is a successful events planner for the singles scene, who on the first day of Hanukkah breaks up with her boyfriend, opts to work late, and ends up confronting a robber and getting knocked into a coma by an over-sized menorah. She spends the next eight days trapped in Menorahville, which looks a lot like New York City filled with desperate women who can’t wait to get married. Suddenly, Nicki realizes that, just maybe, she’s been too hard on the singles in her life and on the one guy, Mark, who actually wants to commit to her.

This novella was my least favorite of the three. Nicki is a fun character, but slightly neurotic and self-absorbed. I also wasn’t crazy about the over-abundance of exclamation points in every chapter. Nicki’s highly dramatic, woe-is-me attitude got a little old. Still, her discovery at the end of the story – that she has everything she needs in her life already – was a nice, “It’s a Wonderful Life” ending to this story.

Carrie Pilby’s New Year’s Resolution follows the adventures of twenty-year old Carrie, a genius who graduated Harvard early and is now trying to develop a social life and meet a man in Manhattan. I really enjoyed this story. The first-person narrator is likable in her insecurities, and she tries so hard to find a way to meet other people that the reader has to feel for her. She does meet Nolan, a smart, well-read vegetarian who seems right for her in theory, but really, she just wants to get down and dirty with Kurt, the brainless hunk she meets in a bar one night. Still, with the help of her over-the-top, best friend Kara, Carrie discovers that staying true to herself is the best way to meet someone else. The whole story is fun and sincere.

Finally, Emma Townsend Saves Christmas is a great tribute to the charm of New England small towns that drape themselves in holiday cheer from October to January. Emma is a farm girl from Vermont who escapes to New York City, becomes a high-powered lawyer, and meets rich Eric Wesson. The only problem? Each year she has to go home to the town of Bethlehem, population 226, and help her family with the annual Christmas Faire. Emma can’t stand the event, and she wears Anne Klein heels and Diesel jeans in protest. But when she discovers that her high school crush, Tim Latch, has signed on to help with the Faire this year, things change. This story was a heart-warming look at what is important during the holidays and how touching family traditions can be. Emma and Tim make a charming if unlikely couple, and the many scenes where Emma’s pretentious attitude is turned upside down are quite funny. Emma’s cousins, along with the townspeople, steal the show and remind this character that Bethlehem, Vermont, really does embody the spirit of Christmas, flannel and all.

All three novellas in this trilogy are entertaining and heart-warming, especially at this time of year. Scenes from a Holiday reminds readers what’s important all year round: family, friends, and staying true to oneself no matter the circumstances. Enjoy!

Review by Dandelion

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Review: The Noel Bandit

The Noel Bandit
by Sydney Shay

Two days before Christmas, seventeen year-old Melinda Kent is bound for New York when a prankster hits her home, the Lucky Lake Ranch. Soon the welcome sign reads ‘ucky ake Ranch’ and other signs have been tampered with, including the ‘adies room’, the ‘riding trai s’, and the ‘stab es’, thus dubbing the thief, "the No-L Bandit".

This crook doesn't just steal ‘L's, but the spirit of the holidays. Melinda, with the help of the stable hand, Kyle, is on a quest to find who is responsible.

If only their attraction for each other didn’t get in the way...

The Noel Bandit is a charming holiday story set on Lucky Lake Ranch, where someone is stealing all the “L” letters from the ranch’s signs. Despite her father’s insistence that she help solve the mystery and protect the ranch, seventeen-year old Melinda can’t wait to leave and join her mother in New York City…except that she’s fallen for Kyle, the ranch hand her father and brother suspect of doing the stealing. Amid the mystery of the “L” thief, Melinda and Kyle find time to dance in the moonlight, play in the snow, and dream of a future together.

Ms. Shay gives us a sweet young adult tale with well developed characters and just a hint of mystery. The minor characters of Tucker and Russ, Melinda’s father and brother, are nicely developed and realistic. Kyle is a charming, mature guy who knows exactly what he wants - and goes after it. Despite a bit of uneven pacing, readers will enjoy this story of young love, set in the rugged winter weather at Christmas-time.

Review by Dandelion