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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tempered Joy

Tempered Joy by Pamela S. Thibodeaux
Publisher: ComStar Media LLC
genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full
Heat Level: Sweet
Book Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Gloxina

All around rodeo cowboy and heir to the Rockin’ H Ranch, Ace Harris is determined not to fall in love. He’s only loved one woman in his life, his mother, and no one can even come close to filling her boots. Lexie Morgan thinks rodeo cowboys have rocks for brains and a death wish for a soul. A broken childhood and the death of her father and best friend leave her doubting and questioning God (despite her years of religious upbringing) and afraid of love. Can two young people who clash from the onset learn to trust in the healing power of God and find love and happiness amidst tragedy and grief?

The title of the book is truly what it is about. The struggles and hardships of life happen in this book. It is real for real people.

I found myself so caught up in the story it was hard to lay it down. I kept it right by my computer to read continually. One of my daughter's favorite sayings is "Life happens- deal with it." This book shows how so many dealt with what life brought their way and hung on to their faith or found their faith.

I totally was not prepared for the ending. When you get to it, get a box of tissues (seriously). I had tears running down my face because I had gotten so caught up with the characters. There were tears hoping everything would end okay and tears of joy at the end.

Beautifully written.

Mucho Caliente

Mucho Caliente by Francesca Prescott
Publisher: Siren BookStrand
Genre: Contemporary
Heat Level: Hot
Length: Full
Rating: LASR Best Book
Review by: Violet

Does Gemma dare wish upon a Latino superstar?

Thirty-seven year old Gemma hadn't reckoned on being seated next to Latino heartthrob Emilio Caliente on the flight to Ibiza. She's bravely dismissed her cheating husband's generous divorce settlement, opting instead for a creatively satisfying, financially independent, bohemian lifestyle on a Spanish island in the sun.

Falling in love with a pop music superstar eight years her junior was definitely not part of her plan. Common sense dictates staying away from Emilio Caliente and his cinnamon kisses: his life is in turmoil, his latest single has bombed, the press want to see him naked and his hellacious manager seems increasingly deranged.

But surely the chain of extraordinary events that insists on bringing them together is proof that love is oblivious to common sense? Does Gemma dare follow her heart and wish upon a pop star without undermining everything else she set out to achieve?

Gemma just went through a divorce from Richard, a very dull man with the ability to squash all her hopes and dreams in a single insulting comment. He laid a very generous offer on the table during their divorce but Gemma turned it down, opting instead for independence and the satisfaction she would get making it on her own. As she boards a plane to Ibiza, she has no idea how much her life will change. She couldn't have imagined that Emilio Caliente, the most famous Latino superstar in the world, would sit beside her on the plane. Her fantasies start to take on a life of their own as she strikes up a conversation with Emilio, leaving her to wonder if dreams come true.

I very much related to Gemma's character because she had so many insecurities, dreams and a steadfast opinion of what romance and love should be. A fabulously beautiful, zany, entertaining, and curious character, she constantly questions her own and everyone else's motives. It takes Emilio, a gorgeous hunk of a man and a Latin superstar swooned over by females the world over, to show Gemma she could have her pick of men and that her imperfections represent her individuality and attractiveness.

Emilio's character is the proverbial package with his sexiness, wit, charm and understanding. Did I mention sexy? He is the epitome of what women fantasize about. The hilarity begins with their first meeting and doesn't stop until the end.

The relationship between Gemma and Emilio strengthens as they journey together through many hilarious situations. The Caliente chicks, the outright nasty manager and the vindictive ex-husband lend a comedic twist to otherwise awkward situations. Mucho Caliente will make you laugh, cry, get angry and every emotion in between.

Francesca balances the perfect amount of imagery and comedy to ensure that even the worst cynic is left with a smile on their faces. Mucho Caliente is a laugh out loud hilarious read that left me wanting more and certainly transcended my expectations. So sit back, relax, crack open that book and be prepared to be whisked away to the world that is Mucho Caliente! This book is a must read for any lover of romantic comedy. I look forward to reading more work from Francesca Prescott. She has proven through Mucho Caliente her writing is comparable to most seasoned writers. I consider any of her books to be an automatic add to my to be read list. I give her the LASR Best Book rating because this is most definitely a book that I will be reading mulitple times as well as ordering for my friends.

The Wagonmaster

The Wagonmaster by Nita Wick
Publisher: Freya's Bower
Genre: Historical (American west)
Length: Full
Heat Level: spicy
Book Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Lilac

Medical school taught Dr. Adelaide Jennings that there is no cure for her father's consumption. Determined to reach him in Oregon before the disease claims him, Addie will risk anything. Even her own life.

Joshua Reynolds escorts people along the arduous and often dangerous Oregon Trail. He cannot force the members of the train to allow an unwed woman to join them. But the foolish doctor is determined to make the journey, even if she has to go alone. To protect the willful, spoiled young woman, Josh agrees to marry Addie in name only.

Together they embark on a journey that tests their mettle, challenges their beliefs, and inflames their senses.

Can Josh resist the temptation to make the marriage a real one? Can Addie ignore the fascinating attraction she feels for the wagonmaster? And will they make it to Oregon alive?

This wonderful western features the spunky Dr. Adelaide Jennings. Determined to get to her dying father, Addie hopes to join a wagon train headed west, but when they refuse to allow a single woman to travel with them she must come up with a new plan. So she approaches wagonmaster, Joshua Reynolds and asks him to marry her in name only so she can travel west with the wagon train. Once they reach their destination they can legally end the marriage.

Haunted by the death of his first wife, Josh is reluctant to get involved with Addie, but knows the independent young woman needs the protection that the wagon train could provide if she is going to head west so he agrees to her plan.

But as the train travels west, the reluctant couple finds themselves growing closer and Addie wonders if she truly wants her marriage to Josh to end. Josh also wonders the same, but haunted by his past and believing that he doesn’t deserve Addie, Josh is determined to let her go once they reach Oregon.

This touching story featured a wonderful couple that I truly loved. I felt for Josh and Addie as they fought their attraction. Haunted the past, Josh was reluctant to care for Addie and battles his feelings as he comes to know her better and tries to protect her. Addie also struggles with her own feelings for Josh as she fights to maintain her independence while falling for the handsome wagonmaster. I really enjoyed their relationship from the bickering to the passion and believe that they were meant for one another.

In addition to the romance of the story, I felt the book provided an interesting look at a female in a male-dominated profession in the past. As a female doctor, Addie faces prejudice from those on the wagontrain, but because of her experiences in medical school, she is used to the feelings and comments. Still, she earns the respect of those on the wagontrain as well as the respect of Josh as she helps them through illness and injury along the journey. I thought this situation was handled wonderfully and was believable.

The Wagonmaster is a great read for fans of western romances featuring feisty heroines.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Twist

The Twist by Lee Silver
Publisher: Siren Bookstrand
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: Full
Heat: Hot
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Zane Tollison's wife is running through their cash faster than he can make it. A "Hail Mary" contract with Clearwater Tobacco arrives in the nick of time to keep his fledgling consulting firm afloat, and to unchain him once and for all from his narcissistic wife.

Beautiful, brilliant, and estranged Kathy Davis is desperate for a new beginning. The feisty post doc bio-geneticist jumps at an offer from Clearwater, pouring her soul into a development that will revolutionize the tobacco industry.

The two are unwittingly reeled into a convoluted plan to steal $12 million. Zane is changing into a carbon copy of Kathy, a pawn in a bizarre genetic metamorphosis, entangling Kathy in a sinewy web of seduction and deceit. Forging a bond that will set the course of their destiny, they fight to overpower the diabolic hold that has taken over their lives.

In Lee Silvers ‘The Twist,’ you will discover you cannot read fast enough! Romance is tumbled through a whirlwind of corporate interactions with the intensity level cranked to ‘super-high.’

The author creates two incredible, powerful self-possessed, sensual and intelligent main characters, each good enough to carry any storyline forward. Then, the complex, fast-paced storyline powers them forward. Who would expect anything set against a backdrop of the corporate world to be so dramatic? The intrigue breathes through even the initial pages.

Consultant Zane should have thought about taking gifts from strangers: It takes him a while, but he realizes his easy-money contract is not so easy. His failing business and sad personal life leave him open for any opportunity that comes along.

Kathy Davis seems utterly, inescapably entwined in the tobacco industry… even though she is far from the hot secretary Zane at first takes her for! Although she is tiny, shapely, and snappy; she is also a bio-geneticist and, far from fearing harassment, she takes pride in--shall we say--appreciation of her appearance. She is also a surprisingly sympathetic woman, giving her a very human side. She has a measure of coarseness that doesn’t altogether fit the rest of her personality, and will surprise readers at times.

The author makes the most of Ms. Davis’ powerful personality. Her casual handling of male interest; indeed her enjoyment of it and quick responses give The Twist some lighter moments. Davis commands respect in her office, as she pushes the cutting edge of research into nicotine addiction. Yet, some of the inner workings of that industry must have escaped her, which is where Zane’s insights might pay off. Their first indications of the impact of gene research relating to DNA reactions to nicotine arrive when the impact hits Zane, personally.

Zane, by the end, is a far different man than the one who so disinterestedly ignores his wife at the start. In fact, many things, and people, are not what they seem.

You’ll guess and second-guess your way to the clever conclusion; Cigarettes can kill and the Cigarette industry is no laughing matter, either. Although the storyline may seem complex, Silver’s writing style creates straightforward, comfortable reading.

The Outsider

The Outsider by Ann H. Gabhart
Publisher: Revell Books
Genre: Historical, Inspirational
Length: Full
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by: Gloxina

She thought she was content--until a love from the outside world turned hers upside down.

Gabrielle Hope and her mother joined the Harmony Hill Shaker community in 1807. The community promised stability and devotion that Gabrielle wholeheartedly embraced. But when a local doctor must be brought into Harmony Hill from the outside, he sets into motion a chain of events that will challenge Gabrielle's loyalty to the Shakers.

As she falls deeper into a forbidden love for this man of the world, Gabrielle must make a choice. Can she experience true happiness in this simple and chaste community? Or will she abandon her brothers and sisters for a life of the unknown?

Soulful and filled with romance, The Outsider lets you live within a bygone time among a unique and peculiar people. This tender and thought-provoking story will stay with you long after you finish the final chapter.

Gabrielle Hope and her Mother join the Shaker Community when her Dad leaves them to work elsewhere. They receive notice that he is dead, but he is not.

From picture on front of book, I thought this was about the Amish. I was totally surprised to discover the Shakers are nothing like the Amish. I thought maybe I would not enjoy the book but decided to read it anyway. After getting through the beginning and learning something about the Shakers, the book took off and I could not put it down. It was definitely unique being I knew nothing about Shakers or had even heard about them.

The doctor, Brice, who is an outsider comes to aid when a fire breaks out in the barn. He tends to a young boy, Nathan, who is in love with Gabrielle. But for reasons within the Shakers Community, he cannot tell her. Events begin to enfold which cause Nathan to leave the Shakers and Brice to try and get Gabrielle to leave as well. But Brice does not push Gabrielle because of events in his past he has to deal with. Yet he continues to love her from afar and hope someday she will come to him.

As the book begins to take off, don't expect to get much sleep. Several nights I was up all night reading. The struggles with death hit the community and Gabrielle has a lot to deal with and finds it harder and harder. But this is the beginning of her eyes being opened to the fact there is more to the world than her little corner.

There were some very sad moments that make you want to weep and other moments when you want to cheer Gabrielle to make the right decisions. You feel for each of the characters and amaze at their strength.

All in all this was a book I wasn't sure I would read but glad I did. It is a book I highly recommend. Pick it up: you'll be in for a lot of surprises.

French Peril

French Peril by Mona Risk
Publisher: Cerridwen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: Full
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Books
Reviewed by: Larkspur

A summer job in France with room and board in a chateau owned by a handsome count. Can it get any better for Cheryl Stewart? The graduate student in Architecture is now officially on a mission for her sick professor.

Count François can't hide his disappointment when Cheryl arrives instead of the eminent professor. But the aristocratic playboy is not one to turn away a beautiful young woman. He allows her to manage the restoration of the chateau's chapel while keeping his search for a valuable historical statue a secret from the other students working on the project.

Soon things deteriorate. The professor is poisoned, the chateau's butler attacked and Cheryl's room burglarized. When Cheryl's summer job changes into a romantic involvement and dangerous treasure hunt, Count François is faced with a difficult choice. Is the priceless statue worth jeopardizing the safety of the impetuous young woman who has stolen his heart?

Reader Advisory: This story contains explicit sex scenes.

Ms. Risk takes us to the county side of France for her adventure which involves missing priceless works of art, murder and mayhem.

Cheryl Stewart a graduate student of architecture at Harvard gets a terse message from her ailing mentor to go to France and substitute for him in the restoring of a chapel damaged during World War 11. She encounters Francois Valroux a very handsome very worldly womanizing Count of the estate who is less than happy that Cheryl is filling in for her Professor. As the sparks fly between our two characters the danger escalates as they try to determine who is friend and who is foe.

I could have done with a little less of the pillow talk with all the darlings and sweethearts I found that it took away from the story and made it seem a little fake.

Still, that aside, "French Peril" was a good story with a solid plot and great characters. There is every thing you could want, intrigue, suspense and a good old fashioned love story. The author gives us lots of reasons to keep turning the pages.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Greater Art

A Greater Art by Ainsley Davidson
Publisher: Amira Press
Genre: Sci-Fi
Heat Level: Spicy
Length: Full
Rating: 3.5 Books
Review by Eglantine

Newly widowed, Merianne refuses to surrender her young Lesserblood daughters to the brutal Trueblood training. She knows her children cannot have the Talents. Fleeing the deeply segregated society of Incolai, she makes a new life for her family on a backwater planet. Her fragile peace is shattered when she learns the girls are Talented.

Without instruction, her children's unique sensory abilities might destroy them. The last thing Merianne needs is a man--least of all the enigmatic freesearcher, Thorne. But when the children are kidnapped, Merianne and Thorne are pitched into danger, intrigue and undeniable love.

Merianne came to the research planet Vuetha to escape dark shadows threatening her happiness. She wants to lead a quiet life, out of sight, under the radar. She has good reason for wanting to keep a low profile. Her three beautiful daughters have special talents, and the Truebloods want them. When a Freesearcher who looks just like a Trueblood befriends her girls, Merianne mistrusts him. But Thorne doesn’t even know what a Trueblood is. He slowly starts winning Merianne’s trust, but their fragile relationship is shattered when Merianne’s whereabouts are discovered and her beloved children kidnapped. Now his uncanny resemblance to the Truebloods might be the only way Thorne can regain Merianne’s trust, win her love and save her children. If he’s not too late. And if he survives.

A Greater Art explores deeper themes than just the relationship between a man and a woman. Through this well-crafted tale Ms Davidson takes an honest look at self-esteem, prejudice, heritage and destiny. She doesn’t go haphazardly for easy answers, either, giving the reader real food for thought.

I can’t put my finger on what made me feel the book didn’t deserve a full four stars. There’s just a certain choppiness to the writing you can’t pin down. Even so, the characters are three-dimensional and convincing. Thorne’s gentle spirit is balanced by inner strength and a sharp intellect. Merianne is a convincing mother willing to sacrifice everything for her children, but also has to face the fact that, while the Truebloods’ plans for her children might not be right, she does need help to guide their talents in the right direction.

All in all I recommend A Greater Art. It’s a good read with a solid, exciting plot which had me up way beyond bedtime.

The Best Selling Toy of the Season

The Best Selling Toy of the Season by Elaine Cantrell
Publisher: Midnight Showcase
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Books
Review by: Edelweiss

Can a beautiful unwed mother from the wrong side of town find happiness with a rich lawyer? Not if his family can help it.

Nikki Lane and Tommy Price come from vastly different social stations. He is a lawyer, from a wealthy, well bred family, in a smallish southern town. She is the unwed mother of two young boys, the daughter of an embarrassingly alcoholic father, and she and her kids barely get by on her pay as a minimum wage clerk in a discount department store. He lives alone in a four bedroom house in the best part of town, just down the street from the mayor; she and her kids live in the seedy part of town in a rented trailer. So I think you get the picture. What makes this story different and intriguing is that this is not a girl who is upwardly inspired by the attention of a wealthy, eligible bachelor. Nor is this a girl with the heart and instincts of a princess who has bettered her mind or aspirations yet finds herself saddled with meager means. No, this is really and truly a lower class girl, un-self-educated, unambitious, a girl who has made big mistakes with her life and is resigned to her station. Yes, she is beautiful; yes, she is principled, sometimes annoyingly so, but she has never so much as glimpsed longingly at the high society on the other side of the tracks. Not only that, she lacks any self confidence and is prone to social blunders of the first magnitude. So why is Tommy attracted to her? That is the question I kept asking myself. Fortunately the book is well enough plotted that I couldn’t resist reading on to find out.

A weakness in the book is that the dialogues are written in a metronomic cadence, so that the various characters are hardly distinguishable except for the attributions. But the upside is that this makes the fast paced prose flow even smoother. At one point, I did think that Nikki’s protestations of Tommy’s blandishing advances a little repetitive. But the author gives us a climaxing episode and a denouement that is satisfying.

Although a serious love story, this tale has demolition derby aspects to several social scenes that will make the lips of many readers lift in amusement.

Reunited by Murder

Reunited by Murder by Liadan Brodie
Publisher Champagne Books
Genre: Contemporary/Mystery
Length: full
Heat: spicy
Rating: 3.5 Books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Two people reunited and searching for the truth while trying to stay one step ahead of a sect of the Russian mob threatening to destroy them both. But one of them holds a secret that could tear them apart forever.

Liadan Brodie’s clever combination of murder, intrigue and romance, Reunited by Murder, offers a blend of romance and mystery.

Beau Arneaux is no stranger to envy – nor the teasing that accompanies it. On his ‘trial run’ as a field agent for the FBI (whether or not his captain likes it) he is forewarned of the involvement of a certain ‘S.C.’ Simone Carr and Beau have a certain family-friend type history and connection, and both now become embroiled in an investigation that started in their parents’ times. Simone is nobody’s fool, and far from trusting, but Beau, handsome, admirable Beau, is the love of her life. And Beau, for his part, discovers that Simone has grown up gorgeous. Too bad he’s suddenly investigating her and her company…and it’s not like there isn’t another handsome, six foot-five potential love interest in the picture.

Beau’s father’s involvement in the case, the FBI investigation, and more all manage to complicate what would seem could be a straightforward and really satisfying romance! The best part of Reunited by Murder is the anticipation!

The complexity of the mystery is challenging and over-involved, and teasing your way through that is less satisfying. Some parts indulge in sharing slow back story. A regular reader of police procedurals would likely find some parts overly inventive and unbelievable. However, the dialogue throughout is believable and extremely well-done-- moving the story forward and engaging the readers. Certain characters shine; you really have to love a man that makes lasagna!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Heated Romance

A Heated Romance by Candace Gold
Publisher: Highland Press
genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Books
Reviewed by Lilac

She battles blazing fires and battles for respect…

As a woman firefighter, Marcie O'Dwyer can never let down her guard. She knows it might cost her life. However, Ray Smith just might slip past her defenses. He poses the biggest her heart.

There is no room for her in his life...

Hard-hearted, Ray Smith has sworn never to fall in love again. Only, Marcie is slowly working her way under his skin. This woman has no place on the Squad. No place in his life.

Passions burn as bright as the fires they fight...

But can their attraction survive constant doubts, a misunderstanding and the threat of a maniac arsonist bent on murdering them both?

A fascinating romantic suspense, A Heated Romance tells the story of Marcie O’Dwyer, a female firefighter who has had to struggle to prove herself. Used to the chauvinistic comments made by some of her male coworkers, she is not surprised when a new transfer, Ray Smith seems to have a problem with a female firefighter. But even with his attitude, she can’t help but find the man attractive.

Having lost someone in the past to a dangerous job, Smith believes that a woman shouldn’t have such a dangerous occupation. Despite his misgivings, he finds himself falling for Marcie, but fears losing her. Doubts, misunderstandings, and a serial arsonist plague the couple and try to keep them apart in this suspenseful tale.

While written in third person, this complex story is mostly told from the point of view of Marcie. One of the many fascinating characters of the story, Marcie is a tough heroine following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather as firefighter despite the misgivings of her family, friends, and others. I really enjoyed Marcie’s wit and attitude and found her very likeable. We learn quite a bit about her and what makes her tick as the story seems to focus on her.

In my opinion, rather than the romance, most of the book seems devoted to telling us about Marcie and her life as a firefighter as we are told about some of her calls, her coworkers, and the things she puts up with as a female firefighter. Her interactions with and memories of her family also made me smile and understand her a bit better. I found some of this very interesting and had a chuckle or two at a few of the events and stories, but at times these things almost seemed out of place in the story and messed with its flow.

Personally, I wish more focus had been given to the romance of the story as I found Marcie and Smith’s relationship intriguing. At first Smith is hostile toward Marcie, but we soon learn the heartache behind his attitude. You could almost feel the tension between the couple and I enjoyed their sarcastic banter as well as watching as they handled all life seemed to throw at them. I felt their relationship took a bit of a backseat to the suspense and other aspects of Marcie’s life, but in a way it worked for this story as the focus seemed to be more on Marcie herself.

While the first part of the book seems to focus on the romance and Marcie’s daily life, the second part seems to transition into a suspense novel as Marcie witnesses something suspicious at one of the fires. Her life is endangered by what she possibly knows and I found myself anticipating the outcome almost as much as Marcie despite some obvious clues in the story.

In spite of my minor issues with the story, A Heated Romance as a whole is a fascinating story that I found enjoyable.


Redemption by Sharon Cullen
Publisher: Samhain
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Lilac

Love on the Edge, Book 2

Running for her life…to a man who’d given up on it.

“Go to Callahan.”

Pregnant, alone—and with no memory of who she is—these words are the only thing Hope can hang onto as she drives through a blizzard, searching for the reclusive Callahan. And when she finds him, she’s not sure which of them is more in need of help and healing.

Haunted by the brutal murder of the woman he loved, the last thing John Callahan needs on his hands is an injured pregnant woman. But with the storm bearing down, he has no choice. Opening his home to her, though, turns out to be far from simple. Her unconditional acceptance of him, scars and all, opens windows to his soul he thought were forever sealed.

Then he discovers Hope’s true identity, and realizes his past—and a powerful enemy—has come back to haunt them both. Even as he races against time to save her, John has to wonder…

Is Hope his redemption? Or his downfall?

Haunted by his past and used to solitude, John Callahan didn’t expect his day to be interrupted by an accident near his cabin. Thanks the accident and the bump on her head, the pregnant young lady driving the car has no memory of her identity or past except for the words “Go to Callahan.” Slowly, the young woman, Hope, regains her memory and the two realize that there is a connection between John’s past and her present as a common enemy is after them both. John soon finds himself playing protector to the young woman as they work to solve the mystery that surrounds Hope. As they spend more time together, John tries to keep his distance believing nothing good can come from a relationship between them. However, as they spend time together, his walls begin to weaken leaving John to wonder if she could be his salvation or if he should leave her be.

This was a wonderful story full of emotion, romance, and suspense. John and Hope both provide the other with comfort and help each other to heal. Their story is a touching one and I really enjoyed watching them come together. I could feel their pain and heartache as I read their story. Scarred emotionally and physically by the past, John was a wonderful hero that one could easily fall for. His relationship with Hope was believable and enjoyable to read.

The suspense of the plot was well-done as well and I anticipated what would happen next with each new discovery about Hope’s identity and the past. I enjoyed the various twists that the story took as more was revealed about the people after Hope and John’s past.

Redemption is a highly emotional story that I recommend to anyone looking for a wonderful read about two wounded people overcoming the past to build a future.

Recipe for Romance

Recipe for Romance by Rekha Ambardar
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: short
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Books
Reviewed by Lilac

If cooking is the way to a man’s heart, how does a man win the heart of a princess?

Princess Licia, heir to the throne of Oristano, a small principality on the Italian Riviera, has been on display in recent tabloids. Determined to make a lady of their daughter, her parents send her to the world-reowned Emory Cooking Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their theory? She may never cook a meal, but there’s something about chopping, dicing, sauteing and flambeing that brings out the nurturer in a woman.

A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and royal cooking assignments, masterchef Geoffrey Hanks is stunned to find the beautiful princess in his class. His first instinct is to turn in his chef’s hat and run. The reason? Ancestors of royalty have been known to say, “Off with his head” at the slightest provocation. What if this delicious princess’s parents have incorporated that handy refrain into their protocol?

Can love grow under such “throny” conditions?

In this really short read, Princess Licia enrolls in cooking classes taught by talented chef Geoffrey Hanks. Soon Licia finds that she not only has a talent for cooking but an attraction to her handsome instructor…an attraction that is mutual. But Licia knows that as a princess she must watch her actions and worries that the differences in their social standing could end the relationship before it even gets a chance to begin.

I was fascinated by the character of Licia in this quick read. She is tired of being treated differently because of her station in life and is determined to make others realize that princesses are people too. I enjoyed this story of princess meets “average Joe” and wish it had been a bit longer.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Oaks of Lindore

The Oaks of Lindores by Lori Shimer
Publisher: Awe-Struck Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Camellia

Tammy had not been born to the purple, although her father, Charles, had been related to the house of Lindores. Charles, a widower, had taken Tammy to a poor French village, where they could live on his dead wife's meager trust. When Tammy was eighteen, the Earl of Lindores and his heir drowned in a boating accident and Charles had, unexpectedly, succeeded to the title. Another branch of the family went to court over the succession but Charles moved back to England at once and took over the Lindores estate. He sent Tammy and her nursecompanion, Nevins, to live at the vicarage of Deems, entered London society himself and took on Clio Barrington, the most fashionable mistress he could find. When Clio gave birth to the son Charles had always wanted, he gave the baby his own name and got his solicitors started on petitions to legitimize the boy.

Tammy's future was settled by the earl's choice of Captain Kenneth Montrose, a relative of his wife's, for a husband. Tammy hadn't liked the idea of marrying someone she didn't know but the thought of a new little brother made everything easier. She agreed to go to London to meet the suitor.

Solicitors and barristers for the other branches of the family worked harder than ever, contesting Charles' elevation to the title as well as his recognition of Clio's son. Charles countered by securing his rents in a trust and stripping Lindores of the valuable oak timber so Little Lord Charlie would inherit its wealth no matter what happened in court.

Down-to-earth, unpretentious Lady Damarete (Tammy) arrives in London from her quiet life in the Vicar’s household in the village of Deems with a mission – to find her baby half-brother and his mother. Her guardian, the vicar’s mission is for her to choose a husband during her fortnight stay so someone else will be responsible for her.

Tammy, having inherited a sizeable fortune more-or-less by default, is a prize to vie for and four suitors have assembled at Tammy’s host’s home in London to do just that. Thus, the stage is set for some remarkable happenings.

Lori Shimer uses the mores of the time of Queen Victoria’s reign in England to create a fast-moving account of a young woman who has no rights by law but still finds ways to get what she wants while eluding many pitfalls. The undercurrents in the social flow in London does not deter her as she asks people from stable boys to the Prince of Wales where she might find her baby half-brother and his mother. While dealing with fortune-fortuning suitors and learning the social graces acceptable in London society, Tammy takes the reader on a sometimes tense but always intriguing adventure, an adventure on which she finds her soul-mate – finally someone of her own to love.

The major secondary characters are well developed and are influential in the outcome of events. Elegant, Doll, Nevin, Rowan, and Francis play important roles in Tammy’s finding a happy-ever-after.

The psychological undercurrents in The Oaks of Lindores, the real needs that drive the characters to do the things they do, reveal some poignant moments in the lives of the major characters.

Lori Shimer’s style of writing makes reading easy and fun – ENJOYABLE.

Perfect Strangers

Perfect Strangers by Jane Richardson
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
genre: Contemporary
Length: short
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Lilac

Reeling from the stress of a messy divorce and an unhappy Christmas, Anna siezes the opportunity to get away from London and spend a few days in Venice. When a waiter mistakenly assumes a quiet American with tousled hair and eyes darker than hot, sweet expresso is her partner, it seems only right they should spend the day together. Two perfect strangers in a perfect city, Venice works her magic on them both before they have to head back in sadness to their separate lives. It's another year, another Christmas, before they meet again; when they do, they realise that love, like Venice, is 'per sempre...' for ever.

Stressed from the holidays and a rough divorce, Anna heads to Venice for a few days of rest and relaxation. While at a café a waiter mistakes a handsome stranger for her partner. The attractive American and Anna decide to make the most of it and spend the day together as tourists. After a wonderful day and evening together they part as strangers since they didn’t exchange names and don’t see each other again for another year…as Venice and fate help bring them back together.

This was a sweet and short story about finding love when you least expect it. Anna and her stranger have a fascinating relationship that progresses throughout the day. It was interesting to me that they never exchanged names and managed to maintain their anonymity throughout the day’s events. The story is very short and fast-paced and I would have loved to have seen more between the couple such as what happened during that year they were apart and who exactly the American was; however, what we did get to see was very interesting.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, quick read about strangers finding love.

A Little R & R

A Little R & R by Morgan Ashbury
Publisher: Siren Bookstrand
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 3 Books
Reviewed by Lilac

When widow Rebecca Scott finally takes the vacation of her dreams as a 'dude' at a Colorado ranch, she never expects to lasso the heart of sexy rancher Rafe Lassiter. Time away from home and routine is supposed to give Rebecca the jolt she needs to plan the rest of her life. It is not supposed to be for sly innuendos, steamy kisses or sensual discoveries.

Rafe has always avoided the dudes, focusing his attention, heart and soul, on his ranch. Suddenly he finds himself playing host to the most appealing woman he's ever met. Before long, he yearns to corral Rebecca for good, but understands that taming this particular filly is going to require all the patience and skill he can muster.

Complicating his master plan are his brothers, her grown kids, and a secret hidden within the nearby Anasazi ruins.

Having decided to take a vacation for herself, widow Rebecca Scott heads to dude ranch in Colorado. Hoping for some time away for herself, she never expected to find a connection with one of the ranch’s owners, Rafe Lassiter. Rafe doesn’t care for the dudes that have come to the ranch over the years and usually tries to avoid them, but something is different about Rebecca. Instantly attracted to the widow, he makes it his mission to see that she enjoys herself and learns about ranch life hoping that perhaps she might make her visit a permanent one. Meanwhile, someone is using the ranch for some illegal activities unbeknownst to the ranch owners.

A Little R & R is an interesting read with many complex plots. The relationship between Rafe and Rebecca was well-done and I could sense the chemistry and attraction between the two. They seem to share an easy relationship with one another as if they had known each other for years rather than days.

In addition to the story of Rafe and Rebecca, there is also a minor secondary romance between one of Rafe’s brothers, Robert, and a young woman who works on the ranch. I would have loved to have seen this one developed a bit more or even had it given its own book as they are a fascinating pair. Rafe’s other brother, Travis, also shares a connection with Rebecca’s adult daughter hinting at possible romance between them, but the story ends before we can see what happens there.

Another storyline involved some illegal activities on the ranch, which didn’t really seem to fit the story. It didn’t really hold my interest as I was more focused on the romance between the lead characters.

While I did enjoy the book, I felt like some of the storylines were rushed or left unfinished near the end. There were quite a few loose ends that needed tying up, but perhaps that was the author’s intention. While there may have been too many plotlines, the wonderful relationship between Rafe and Rebecca is truly what make this a good read and help to make it worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Feathers on the Floor

Feathers on the Floor by Genene Valleau
Publisher: Awe-struck eBooks
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Hollyhock

Psychiatrist Julia Cabot's life has always gone according to plan -- until her husband's charming affability explodes into violence. Terrified for her life and the safety of her children, Julia runs. She finds an unlikely haven with a man her children think is the angel they wished for after they find FEATHERS ON THE FLOOR.

Former bodyguard Mitch Garrison is trained to protect, but something went fatally wrong five years ago when his wife was shot while helping an abused woman. Mitch's nightmares come to life when Julia appears, a jagged purple bruise marring her face. But when her ex-husband kidnaps her children, Julia and Mitch join forces in a journey that brings them face to face with their deepest fears and their most passionate desires.

This is a great read from beginning to end. Not many dull moments in this book. The author’s descriptions and tones make you feel as if you are a part of the story. You feel as though you can feel Julia’s pain and are just as afraid of her husband as she is herself. You come to feel as if you know the characters personally. The descriptions of the mountains and town are so it is almost like you can see them right before your eyes and as if you are a part of the town. It is a very inspirational and loving book that will make you realize there is hope. Do you believe in angels? Read this and you will.

It was a little hard to understand the part when they get to the motel and then when the kids first discuss the angel’s feather. You weren’t sure if it was after they were awake in the morning or if it was before Julia went to bed. It got a little confusing about the different villains and what part they played, the who’s who in what criminal offense. But neither one of these are enough to hurt the read.

As the story progresses you realize there are more villains in the story than just the abusive husband. There are twists and turns through the story to keep it very interesting. When the children get kidnapped, Julia and Mitch are thrown together even closer. The children are in danger and Julia and Mitch don’t have much time. Is luck on their side or are all the signs that lead them on the trail from angels? You decide. This is one story you will hard to put down. It is definitely one I would read again.