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Friday, August 29, 2008

Captain Wentworth's Diary

Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange
Publisher: Berkeley
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Orange Blossom

During his shore leave from the Navy, Frederick Wentworth falls in love with the elegant and intelligent Miss Anne Elliot—only to see his hopes of marrying her dashed by her godmother.

Eight years later, Wentworth has realized his ambitions. A wealthy captain, he has pushed his memories of Anne to the furthest recesses of his mind—until he sees her again. And though Anne's bloom has faded, Wentworth is surprised to find that his regard for her wit and warmth has not.

I must qualify this review first by revealing that I am an avid Jane Austen fan. Now, there have been (and continue to be) so many Austen ‘spin-off’s’ written that it really should be its own genre by now. Some of them are great and others not so much. When I learned that a new retelling of Persuasion had been written by the same author as Mr. Darcy’s Diary, I was immediately intrigued. You see, Persuasion is my very favorite book and Captain Wentworth, my favorite literary hero of all time. I very much wanted to love this book, yet I worried whether this author would be able to deliver the Captain that I had learned to know and love through the writing of Miss Austen.

I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed. Ms. Grange presented the Captain just as I had imagined him in my mind. I was completely wrapped up in the story from beginning to end even though I knew exactly how it would conclude. I mean, I had read the original book after all. The Diary books are all written from the point of view of the heroes from each of Jane Austen’s novels. Since those were primarily written from the heroine’s POV, this gives us insight into the personal thoughts of the hero. In this addition to the series, Wentworth is written just as he should be: good natured and humorous with a bit of an edge at certain moments.

Any fan of Austen and especially Persuasion will love this book. The author allows you more intimacy with the characters and into scenes we never got to see in the original. For instance, the book begins in 1806, the year Wentworth and Anne meet and fall in love. In fact, over a hundred of the first pages of the book are dedicated to this part of the story. It’s wonderful reading Wentworth’s thoughts and following him as he experiences falling in love with all his youthful ardor. In the middle of the book, we switch to the year 1817 which is where J. Austen actually began her story, and we see Wentworth and Anne older and more mature but just as much in love.

I must applaud Ms. Grange for creating such a well-written and researched retelling of a story I love so dearly. Her tone and language compliment the Regency-era original to perfection. This book will entrance and enthrall. I know it held me captive to the very end. This is a bookshelf keeper to be read over and over.

Destiny's Denial

Destiny's Denial by Sky Purington
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary; Historical; Paranormal
Length: Full
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Verbena

Caitlin Seavey relives the same nightmare every night for three years. Then one day, the dream seeps into reality when an ethereal Scotsman visits. Horrified, she confides in her grandmother, who then gives her a two hundred year old novel titled Fate’s Monolith. It tells the tale of her distant relative’s journey to medieval Scotland and could only be a myth. When Caitlin discovers a family heirloom in the attic she soon learns the book is based on truth.

Chieftain Ferchar Mac’Lomain found what he was looking for. Caitlin. He should have left her alone. For to bring her to Cowal will spell disaster-—a foreseen threat to himself, his clan, and Caitlin. As a visionary, it’s his obligation to protect her. As a man, he’s determined to ignore his heart. Can he thwart his destiny? Or will he forever be a slave to the gods of old?

If you like romance AND time travel you will love this book! I loved it and am anxious to read more by this author. The story is well written and moves right along at a fast pace. The setting alternates between New Hampshire 2007 and Scotland nearly 200 years earlier. There appears to be a mysterious connection between the past and the present that has affected several generations of Caitlin Seavey’s family. When true love calls it can reach through time and join both parties in each time period with some interesting results.

Caitlin and her brother Shane are transported to an earlier time and bring back with them a missing piece of history. The plot twists and turns. You are involved as you try to piece together the magic and match the family histories and the characters.
All of this keeps you constantly paying attention. I like having a story that fascinates you and makes you keep up with it and this one definitely does.

Of course Caitlin and her Mac’Lomain chieftain Ferchar are hot ticket items. The sexual tension snaps and vibrates through the entire story. Caitlin manipulates her 21st century womanhood in such a way that at one time she has three Scottish chieftains after her! I loved the language, I loved the men, I loved the descriptions of a Scotland that I have never seen. You can see the physical land clearly. As the story unfolds it carries with it not only Scotland’s history but a wonderfully dear description of daily lives.

And back to the two main characters: Caitlin and Ferchar. They are from different time periods and have found each other somehow. Caitlin’s character shines through all her actions. Her bravery and straight-forwardness will endear her to you. The use of her modern language will clarify for you the intent of what is meant. She embodies the spirit of modern women. Ferchar is magnificent. No other way to describe him. The man makes your heart pound. Why? Physically tall, muscular, forthright, sexy, strong…oh I could go on at great length. Did I mention I read this story twice?

The hero and heroine strike sparks from the very beginning and I was definitely rooting for The author has skillfully woven a tale that pleases on every aspect. I loved it!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Willow Creek

Willow Creek by Carolyn Lampman
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Nicki Chandler was too busy fighting natural disasters on her homestead and trying to avert a range war to worry about romance. She was more likely to chase a man off at gunpoint than invite him in to tea. Then a handsome stranger with a mysterious past came looking for a job. In desperate need of a strong back to help with the work, Nicki reluctantly allowed him to stay, completely unprepared for the assault he would make on her heart.

Falling in love was the last thing Levi Cantrell expected when he took a job on the tiny homestead. Nicki Chandler ignited longings within him that he couldn’t deny but would she still want him when she found out who he really was?

Willow Creek, a western romance set in the late 1800’s at the end of the Cattle Baron Era, tells of love that grows during those harsh, turbulent times. These were times when men could be shanghaied and pressed into cruel servitude for years, times when homesteaders settling in the west lived in danger of being killed if they thwarted the ambitions of the powerful, old-time ranchers who had controlled the open range for years.

Nicki Chandler, a farmer’s daughter who strives to do the work of a man while trying to hide her femininity, finds herself drawn to a supposed drifter whom her sick father hires. Her undisciplined temperament that stems from bitter childhood memories impedes her maturation and causes her and others lots of grief.

The plot of Willow Creek seems familiar but the way Carolyn Lampman weaves this story which is full of diverse personalities keeps the reader turning pages.

Both the primary and the secondary characters come to life as Ms. Lampman weaves the threads of actions and reactions of the fledgling Nicki, her deaf/mute cousin Peter, her adopted cousin Liana who is half-Chinese, her wise Aunt Emily, the Cattle Baron, his daughter, crude mean cowboys, and the ever so yummy drifter Levi Cantrell.

All the characters work out their destinies while struggling with drought, dried-up creeks, wildfires, grasshopper infestations, tornados, failing cattle prices, and finally the crushing blizzard of 1886-87.

Willow Creek is an American West love story that doesn’t let the reader breathe that happily-ever-after sigh until the very last page. If you enjoy western love stories this one is a keeper.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Druid Quest

Druid Quest by Cornelia Amiri
Publisher: AweStruck Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

In first century AD Britannia, after burning the oaken groves and the druid priest, the cold, cruel Romance move to crush Queen Boudica’s revolt. The future of the mist covered isle and its brave people rest in the hands of two druids whose views are as different as fire and ice. Yet they find love together.

Arch Druid Rhys is a master of the sacred mysteries but a novice in the ways of the heart. Sulwen, a sacred druidess, discovers Rhys, the shape shifter, has evoked a basic, feral desire in her, only to find the goddess may soon exact the unfathomable price of taking him from her. Though their love is as potent as their magic, is it strong enough to survive their desperate quest?

The Druid Quest takes the reader to the age when Rome ruled Britain, AD 43-410. The story is set in A D 61 at a time when the Romans strived to eradicate all Druids. Ms. Amin stirs a wide-range of emotions with this novel. She shows the reader a way of life fraught with cruelty and hardships yet infused with loyalty to family, cultural values, and country that make people willing to fight and die in an effort to protect them. She also touches the heart with the compelling love that Druidess Sulwen and Archdruid Rhys share.

With the mention of Queen Boudicca of Iceni, I found myself wondering if the story was set in a real or fictional time so I checked. History records show: “In AD 60 the Iceni rose up under the leadership of Boudicca, destroying the Roman towns of Colchester, London, and St Albans. The crushing of the Boudiccan revolt was followed by a period of expansion of the Roman province….” The Romans finally came to control all of England, southern Wales and southern Scotland.

The unusual names and the multitude of gods and goddesses slow the flow of the story at times but not enough to dampen the desire to find out what happens next. Cornelia Amin writes scenes that come alive when battles rage and the people celebrate. Moreover, the love scenes with Sulwen and Rhys sizzle and make the heart rate kick into high gear.

The Druid Quest offers shape shifting, a hint of dragons, magic, and the indomitable spirit of the druids to survive and help humanity. This is a story I’m glad I had the opportunity to read. It is a story of faith, hope, and love.

Flavia's Secret

Flavia's Secret by Lindsay Townsend
Publisher: Bookstrand
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Cherry Blossom

Spirited, young scribe Flavia hopes for freedom. She and her fellow slaves in Aquae Sulis (modern Bath) have served the Lady Valeria for many years, but their mistress’ death brings a threat to Flavia’s dream: her new master Marcus Brucetus, a charismatic, widowed officer toughened in the forests of Germania. Flavia finds him overwhelmingly attractive but she is aware of the danger. To save her life and those of her ‘family’ she has forged a note from her mistress. If her deception is discovered, all the slaves may die.

For his part torn between attraction and respect, Marcus will not force himself on Flavia. Flavia by now knows of his grief over the deaths of his wife Drusilla and child. But how can she match up to the serene, flame-haired Drusilla?

As the wild mid-winter festival of Saturnalia approaches, many lives will be changed forever.

There is nothing more uncertain than the existence of a slave in Roman times. When your life depends on the whims of your owner, you will do everything to protect a master who is fair and kind. But what happens when that master if found dead under dubious circumstances? The rumor flies among Flavia's household that all the slaves belonging to a murdered Roman could be executed in the most painful and gruesome manner, and she will not allow her friends, her family, to be hurt in any way.

But what can she do when the new master takes possession of the estate, land, buildings—and slaves? Secrets pile upon secrets, and it's not only the helpless community of slaves who are trying to hide something, but the master himself seems to stand apart from the rest of the Roman nobles. What could there be that a proud and powerful Roman soldier wouldn't want known about himself?

In this wonderfully researched historical novel that gives us a rare look into a seldom described period, Lindsay Townsend weaves romance, intrigue, and historical fact into a unique and compelling story. The Roman town of Aquae Sulis, which we know today as Bath, springs to life in its ancient incarnation. Lindsay manages to present the classical world not with a modern bias, but through the eyes of those who were born and grew in it, those who find it ordinary and natural.

The unusual time period gives the story a hue of fantasy, but the plot, the character's reactions, the motivations are solidly grounded in reality—both in the psychology of the characters and in the logic of the historical time. And Lindsay Townsend populates her ancient city with a colorful cast. Even the most minor characters are given due attention and spring to life for whatever short part they are called to play. The more important ones are unforgettable. Lindsay excels at adding the right small touch to make each one come to life and be remembered.

Flavia's Secret is also an emotionally satisfying read. The story pulls the reader in to share the events and to empathize fully with the main characters. It is impossible to put it down once you've started to read it. Moreover, Lindsay Townsend has achieved what all writers strive for—the reader will wish the story would go on forever.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hot on His Heels

Hot on His Heels by Isabel Sharpe
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Your eyes meet...instant chemistry! That's a manhunting moment, and the chase is on...
When Tracy Richards ran into a drop-dead gorgeous stranger on the beach, just locking eyes with him had her relearning the subject of chemistry. Her friends insisted she track this guy down, and The Manhunters club was born!

Paul Sanders, the intended, had his own agenda, though, and the luscious Tracy was a dangerously determined distraction. But she was hot on his heels, and for the life of him he couldn't deny that she was the sexist distraction he'd ever faced! He could run, but he couldn't hide his ...excitement.

Have you ever read a book where each page you turn touches you in that spot that recognizes a kindred spirit, a perfect moment? A book where the author gets it right every time? Hot on His Heels did that for me.

I kept waiting for a boring cliché, a moment of forced angst, a word or scene that didn’t quite fit the plot or the characters and it never happened. I kept thinking: this is fun, this is just right, this is clever or this is so sweet –but never so sweet my teeth ached.

Tracy Richards has a chip on her shoulder; she wears rose colored glasses about her past because she’s afraid to accept the future. She’s cute too. Her friends are a great combination of personalities and she shines because of them. Or in spite of them.

Paul Sanders has a chip on his shoulder too but he’s not unrealistic about it. He’s just not recognizing the sheer scope of it. He has a smaller circle of friends and one in particular, Dave, who is a friendly pain who schemes on behalf of Paul’s happiness.

Dave has a spotlight moment that ratcheted up the “happy” meter and I ended up smiling with a goofy grin. He’s too adorable for words.

There are no bad guys in this story, only bad misinterpretations, typical human folly and misguided intentions that backfire because they don’t know each other that well. The conflict is very easy to relate to because we do it too, though not on the grand scope as in this story.

As with any good Harlequin Temptation, when Tracy and Paul get together, they are very compatible in and under and over the sheets. And for some scenes, when they refer to their sexual antics in another place in the book, I got the giggles.

I got a kick out of Ms. Sharpe’s phraseology, for example, “The Undignified Dance of the Very Very Joyous”. I enjoyed the author’s clever turn of phrase and most of them left me chuckling.

If you are looking for a book that can make you happy, light-hearted, laugh and sigh in romantic satisfaction, then put Hot on His Heels on your TBR list, or To Buy ASAP list – it’s well worth it.

Into the Flame

Into the Flame by Christine Dodd
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Contemporary; Paranormal
Length: Full
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Meet Doug Black—the Wilder brother who’s been missing for centuries. With no idea of where he’s from, he’s become an angry young cop with the ability to transform into a cougar. in search of others like him, he comes across a beautiful woman who may hold the secret to his destiny...

This is the one I’ve been waiting for – the exciting conclusion and destruction of the pact made centuries ago between the morally corrupt and evil human males of the family Varinski and the devil.

I hoped that this story would top Into the Shadow but had no hint it would surpass my expectations as much as it did.

What a great angle – to find a man no one ever knew was missing – and connect him with a family he’s always yearned for, dreamed of, but had given up hope on. I found Officer Doug Black a wonderful contradiction in terms. He stumbles through his life and manages to become someone who protects the innocent, fights the bad guys and who stands up for what is right. How ironic that he is a Varinski-- sworn to the devil and the ultimate evil in human form. Doug has no clue.

Someone has more than a clue and that someone is Firebird Wilder. In the last book, Into the Shadow, she discovered a painful and shocking truth. In this final installment, Firebird is still reeling from the revelation. She is hurt, is furious and she has some tough decisions to make. I found it admirable and a testament to the love and sense of self which her parents, Zorana and Konstantine, instilled in her. She is a young woman who will not break. And isn’t that what we as parents want for our kids? For them to be able to stand on their own and stare down adversity and survive? Ms. Dodd captured that to perfection.

Add to that the fear and deception she’s already mired in and Firebird lands herself in the role of tortured heroine. I found her character courageous, fallible and reachable.

The prophesy ends up tying in through Firebird which amazed me. Through a person not related by blood to the Wilder/Varinski family, a normal human female is destined to do the impossible. Ms. Dodd added a mystical touch which charmed me and gave me goose bumps.

Ms. Dodd also wove the culmination of the prophecy throughout all the books and she even dropped a few hints in this story but I never put them together; until it was all over of course -- 20/20 hindsight. The author also did a nice bit of foreshadowing in this book but I still found myself pleasantly thrilled and entertained by the surprise when all was revealed.

The villains do justice to the vile Varinski name and even a minion or two gets thrown in to keep me on my toes. There is a surprise there for those readers who’ve enjoyed this series since book one.

The relationship between Doug and Firebird is fraught with very human issues -- trust and miscommunication among them. When the lovers reunite from their conflicts, it is beautiful and heart-achingly romantic.

The highlight is the much awaited showdown and what a melee it was! Brothers Jasha, Rurik and Adrik, along with their spouses, and their parents Zorana and Konstantine, come together for the day of reckoning. It is action packed and rife with suspense and grand gestures of heroism. The writing was tight and well choreographed. Expect heart palpitations as you read.

For me, this series has been a five book rating all the way and this in no less true for Into the Flame. The Darkness Chosen series is a winner from first book to the last and Ms. Dodd has garnered herself a dedicated fan.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Saving Tampa

Saving Tampa by Jo Webnar
Publisher: Highland Press
Genre: Contemporary; Mystery/Suspense; Paranormal
Length: Full
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

For as long as she could remember, Rachel Cunningham feared and hated her psychic ability.

When a strange man accidentally touches her, she sees the death of thousands. Rachel knows the FBI won't believe her, but she has to try. Lives are at stake.

Special Agent Arrons dismisses her information as a publicity stunt, yet his conscience nags him. When Rachel identifies an Al Qaida cell leader, Arrons puts his career at risk and issues an alert.

Together they race against time to prevent a terrorist attack. Will the terrorists' threat succeed, or will Rachel and Arrons find the solution in time to Save Tampa?

Psychic Rachel Cunningham receives a terrifying vision from the touch of one individual. She does not doubt the accuracy of her vision - nor question the horrifying threat to the lives of thousands. Her own history has given her cause to believe. However, finding a way to convey the danger to the disbelieving agents of law will be another challenge altogether.

Special Agent Arrons not only doesn't believe; he doesn't want to believe.

Saving Tampa is an absolute page turner; not only does the thrill of the threat pervade every page, but the challenges to the emotions, beliefs and abilities of the main character Rachel are relentless. The many smaller threads within this really flesh out the story, like that little hint of attraction between Rachel and 'her' special agent. We don't even know if we should hope for them to get together, or if their personal life should be important at all; because, indeed, the two of them are a little busy with saving the world.

Rachel is a caring and driven person ... and Hawk (Agent Arrons) is devilishly attractive. No matter how much you love mysteries and will be moment-to-moment anticipating their investigative efforts, savoring the romance will be part of the reading pleasure here.

Secondary characters, including Ralph the dog, round out the story beautifully, with deft touches of humor and-or insight. Realistic scenarios play out among the many characters, and even relatively minor relationships (like Hawk's with his ex-partner Soderland) will prove important. The operations of FBI headquarters in Florida, and specific places- like among the boats at the marina, are realistic and interesting.

Saving Tampa is a great read, with wide appeal. Webnar's ability to create engaging characters is eclipsed only by the power and pace of her storyline.

Secrets of Sebastian Beaumont

Secrets of Sebastian Beaumont by Pinkie Paranya
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Her grandmother’s will compelled Danielle and Sebastian Beaumont to forge a marriage of convenience. Distrustful of one another, they could not deny the passion that flared beneath their marital façade. They could not remain enemies when a stranger threatened to take everything away.

Secrets of Sebastian Beaumont introduces a sultry, sexy hero, a way of life that includes a clash between two classes of people, and a huge measure of suspense in spine-tingling gothic tradition.

Paranya's occasional moment-to-moment physical descriptions will melt you - heart and soul. You will wallow in sensual delights - only to join heroine Danielle facing sad facts of prior promises - and eminent danger. Departing New York for the little Known La Cieba, Danielle imagines stepping into a third-world, disaster-torn country, although she is reassured on her flight. Still - her trip feels like a strange passage to some unimaginable world... and so it becomes. Her first impression of Sebastian is faintly hostile, even if that's mostly because other so revere him.Sebastian, for his part, might be forgiven for finding our heroine a bit sweet and shallow, but she does grow to her role, and in her understanding. The changes in Danielle's perceptions as the story carries forward are rewarding, although we might somewhat doubtful of her earliest outlook. Dialogue, at the start, seems predictable. However, the story is engaging and will carry you on, to discovering that the main characters are both much more than they seem at the onset.

Paranya's luscious prose makes any description feel blushingly real:

"She held on for dear life and suddenly felt an unfamiliar zing of pleasure course through her body as her senses were overcome by the lush jungle along the road, the bright birds, and the smell of the loamy soil, vegetation, and flowers."

Our heroine Danielle must adapt to a very different culture, in a world that seems more vibrant than anything she has experienced before. More: Sebastian himself, seems more vibrant, than any man one could imagine. The fact that they clash seems predictable, although their predicament is anything but.

Secrets of Sebastian Beaumont is beautifully written and intriguing from the start.

Surprises, secrets, and suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end! Reading Paranya's work becomes an irresistible indulgence.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Eternal Pleasure

Eternal Pleasures by Nina Bangs
Publisher: Dorchester
Genre: Contemporary; Paranormal
Length: Full
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

THE ELEVEN—an alliance of ultimate predators. Primal, lethal, irresistible.

THE PROPHECY—an ancient Mayan prediction that the world will end on 12-21-12.

THE PREY—where can you hide from pure evil?

Kelly Maloy opens her car door to much more than a great looking stranger at the Houston airport. Terror, desire, and a horrible truth climb in with him. She’s only supposed to drive Ty Endeka around the city for a few weeks. Too bad no one tells her that once day fades she’ll become part of a battle fought in the darkened streets with an enemy that isn’t human. And the sensual man who feeds her fantasies hides a soul that gives new meaning to animal magnetism.

Eleven Gods of the Night…

The only creatures more deadly are the ones they’ve been summoned to destroy.

Nina Bangs is getting serious. Her past series have been sexy and humorous but this new series, of which Eternal Pleasures is the first, is intense, unique, exciting and full of growly alpha males whose stories are just begging to be told.

Eternal Pleasures introduced me to a panorama of men who aren’t men. At one point I felt this story is what could happen if Sherrilyn Kenyon’s alpha Dark Hunters merged with Jurassic Park. I got to meet Fin and he has that same mystique as Acheron but ends up being much more -- scary and intimidating. He’s other and unknown. In fact they all are other and it’s that which hooked me.

There are hints of Ms. Bangs’ distinctive writing style in how she presents the internal dialogue for the heroine, Kelly Maloy. She’s feisty, courageous and inquisitive, and I enjoyed her personality. When Kelly is first made aware that something wasn’t quite right with Ty, the process of disbelief to belief made for good reading. I never thought her TSTL (too stupid to live) and in fact she does a better job of facing her fear than Indiana Jones. I have no idea if that was a background inspiration for Ms. Bangs but that thought popped into my brain at one point. I thought it was pretty cool.

Ty is about as unique a character and hero as you’ll find anywhere in paranormal romance stories. He is the ultimate dominate personality. Well, one of them anyway; there are a few other guys who vie for that position and they’re so serious about it, I found them endearing. Ty’s journey from totally clueless about women and emotions to realizing that what he’s feeling is more than lust is quite romantic. His inner turmoil, struggles and balance of nature are what make him a good counterpoint to Kelly.

Ms. Bangs’ world building in Eternal Pleasures did not leave me wanting. I met some of the Eleven and some of the allies. In fact, how the allies came to be allies was another level that added to the story without diluting the focus. This book is about Ty and Kelly, of that there is never any doubt. But when I got to meet Neva and Macario, it added another interesting element. Jude was fascinating and Seir pole axed me. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? And yet, all the rules, the goals, the characters and world within they all live were presented in a concise and entertaining way making this a book easy to read in one sitting.

The villain is only one of many and the final confrontation does not end as you would expect with men and beings as strong and willing to throw themselves into the fray as these guys are. It was that unexpected and unlikely weapon which had me admiring the creative process of Ms. Bangs. Guns and shedding blood isn’t always the answer. Well, maybe a little blood.

If you are looking for a different kind of hero, a love that transcends age differences and a conflict which demands the best from its characters, then Eternal Pleasures is your first step on what promises to be a series bound for your keeper shelves.

Daughter of the Sorcerer King

Daughter of the Sorcerer King by Shereen Verdam
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Short story
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Peony

Samara is furious when her father, the Sorcerer King, advocates a boy from a foreign kingdom as his successor simply because three witches foretold the event. Then the king asks her to escort the child safely back to his realm. If that were not bad enough, as if Samara were incapable of discharging the distasteful duty, he insists a knight accompany them on the journey home. But when a grieving dragon steals the child, Samara is afraid her father will never forgive her this mistake, or worse, think she had intended the boy harm. Desperate to rescue her charge, she turns to her too-amorous knight-escort for help.

I was captivated by the first lines of “Daughter of the Sorcerer King.” With an opening of mysticism and intrigue, and set in a wonderful castle, this story drew this reader in and held my interest until the last dragon had been taken care of. And I say that loosely, because the author is very clever about taking care of dragons in this story!

Well written and filled with vivid details, this is a tale of a woman’s journey toward her destiny—despite that destiny having taken an unexpected twist. The characters in this story sparkle. Samara is brave and intelligent, Jack honest and courageous and Sir Hugh is all anyone would think a man in his position should be. While this is very short, it is very good. Highly entertaining! Castles, dragons and adventure, all in one small, sweet package.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Wooden Nickel

The Wooden Nickel by Alisha Paige
Publisher: Wings ePress
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

When eleven year old Louise steps into a bread line in the middle of a dusty Texas town during The Great Depression, the last thing she expects to find is a filthy hobo-boy taking pity on her. Fourteen year old Cliff gives her his last piece of change, a worthless wooden nickel.

In the school yard, Cliff boasts of his adventurous hobo existence, traveling from town to town in search of work. Louise offers the old barn at the back of her parents’ property as a hideout for Cliff and his brother, Hank. The years slide by as Cliff learns the art of reporting, studying under Louise's father, a well known Southern newspaper man. Puppy love blossoms into real love as Cliff falls head over heels with his boss's daughter. War begins brewing three thousand miles away and Cliff is sent to bring home the news. Will first love survive war, the Holocaust and years of separation?

The Depression era coin proves to be worth far more than the five cents etched beside the wooden buffalo as it becomes a symbol of faith, hope and love, weaving in and out of their lives time and time again.

How far can puppy love go? In Alisha Paige's tantalizing new tale, The Wooden Nickel, the harshest of economic settings becomes the backdrop for an endearing -and we hope - an enduring love.

The Great Depression leads into the war years, and throughout, it is not only love, but hope that sustains our characters, Cliff and Louise. Cliff is that everyman of his time, self-possessed, gentlemanly, even though his background might suggest otherwise. The expectations of the times have a strong bearing on each of the main characters, not only on how they live but on their expectations for themselves. Re-creating The Depression years required more than an understanding of events, but an empathy for the mores of the times - and here Paige does not disappoint. Her characters are wonderfully true to their times, although Louise will also give us the bonus of perceptions from a later time, as well.

The descriptions - from life in small town Texas to the struggles of war marching on Europe, are well-visualized. The pace will meander, and the very beginning is a trifle slow, with perhaps too much dwelling on back story. However, the characters built from this are intriguing, and once the first pages are past, it is no effort to keep reading.

Fans of historic time-periods will thoroughly enjoy The Wooden Nickel, but romance fans will find a delightful, old-fashioned sort of love, fashioned in these pages. You will enjoy the time, the events, the places -- but you will simply love Louise and Cliff. Love is truly the center of this delightful novel, and readers will find themselves full of hope, too.

Romance by the Book

Romance by the Books by Tina Gallagher
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Magnolia

After a disastrous marriage, real estate agent Maureen O'Connell is content reading about love, passion, and her ideal man in a romance novel. How will Finn Ryan convince her he's better than any character in a book?

Romance by the Book is anything but romance by the book. It’s a story of a romance filled with up and downs and the happily ever after that comes when you stick around.

Maureen is a heroine that is slow to bloom but it adds greatly to her character’s growth. She has been hurt - badly - and is not sure if she’s ready to step out again. Besides, Maureen knows all about her dream man - what he looks like, what he kisses like, and that he is going to be one hundred percent faithful. The problem is he lives between the pages of Desire, a present from her best friend Jen for her 29th birthday. Maureen’s character is witty and very likeable. While she is still carrying the scars of a past relationship, it’s not done in a whiny manner but in one that endeared her to me.

Finn is, well, he is the hero straight off the pages of a romance book. Finn’s character is much deeper than what is first let on. Again the character growth of Finn is compelling and totally drew me in.

Both Finn and Maureen approach this relationship with extreme caution so when the first road block comes along they aren’t sure if they want to push past it. But they do and all those that crop up after.

Jen is Maureen’s best friend and in all honesty reminded me a lot of me, so I really liked her. She provides humor to the story as well as being a loyal friend to Maureen.

While the backbone of Romance by the Book is a solid romance story, the amazing character growth is what drew me in and kept me reading. Maureen and Finn are most definitely not follow-the-dots characters. A great read.