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Monday, February 28, 2011

Solo Honeymoon by Jillian Chantal

Solo Honeymoon by Jillian Chantal
Publisher: Bookstrand
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (139 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Emma Chauncey finds her fiancé naked with one of her bridesmaids on top of him three days before her wedding. Burned by the experience, she takes a friend on her honeymoon. They travel to an Italian villa where Emma plans to nurse her broken heart.

Wealthy, titled, and handsome women’s shoe designer Dario de Luca is also at the villa. In disguise as a dance instructor, he’s determined to find a woman to love him for himself, not his wealth and title. Sparks fly between Emma and Dario, until she learns his true identity. Hurt that another man has lied to her, and distrusting her own judgment, she flees. Dario follows her to New York. But Emma’s former fiancé is back with an agenda of his own. Can Dario convince Emma he’s the man for her even though he lied about his identity? Can he convince her she deserves true love?

Emma Chauncey, having naively chosen a scoundrel for a fiancé, feels sad and mortified but she had no intentions of taking anything off the arrogant, pompous Dario who has the audacity to call her “the groomless bride”.

With her best girl friend Gwen at her side, Emma determines to use the honeymoon suite in the Italian villa to get over the despicable ex-fiancé Calvin and put her life back together. Gwen, with her irrepressible, wicked sense of humor, her “appreciation” for men, and her never-failing cheerleading for Emma, makes Solo Honeymoon sparkle with laughter and a joy for life.

Dario, with a deep need to be loved not for his money, title, and prestige, but for himself fails to be open and honest with Emma, even after they call a truce and find they are compatible in so many ways -- and, WOW, and what ways they are. His sin of omission sets off a firestorm and his overbearing relatives add fuel to the fire. Emma runs. She refuses to be a victim of a liar again.

Crude slang is a little detracting at times, but Jillian Chantal does entertain with delightful humor, an ominous undercurrent of Calvin’s dark side, and a special need that drives much of Dario and Emma’s actions. As Ms. Chantal whisks the reader from Italy, to England, then to New York, the action reaches a fever pitch.

Emma’s wounded, shriveling heart gets shocked back to adrenaline-pumping life when Calvin and Dario both show up in New York. Bone-chilling fear, deep-down joy, and a happy-ever-after to shout about makes Solo Honeymoon a delightful way to escape the mundane world for a while and celebrate LOVE.

Gender Divide by David Boultbee

Gender Divide by David Boultbee
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (282 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Orange Blossom

Ryan Peters is an anomaly. In a world where women live four times as long as men do, Ryan is one of a few men with a similar lifespan. This difference in lifespan has had profound consequences on the world balance of political, economic, and military power and has created a social Gender Divide that threatens to tear the world apart. Determined to close this Gender Divide, Ryan will sacrifice anything to succeed. The Gender Divide has already cost him the one true love of his life and even though he has a second chance, he won't let that stand in his way. He is even willing to give up his own life... and in a sense he already has.

On futuristic Earth, cars fly and women are on the top of the food chain. Men are designated the weaker and less experienced gender. They are stuck under corporate glass ceilings and women have the lucrative careers and high paying jobs. They dominate most fields, run the governments and corporations. What has given women the edge over men? They live three to four times longer.

Ryan Peters enters the world of Delphi Inc., the largest biotech company in the world. There is something Ryan is hiding. He’s not like other men. He’s been altered to lengthen his life expectancy to something similar to women. Olivia Morgan is CEO of Delphi and the woman Ryan loved forty years ago.

There is a sense of secrecy about Ryan from the very beginning. You know that he's older than he appears (and age is a big deal in this world) but you wonder what else he’s hiding? What is his agenda at getting hired at Delphi and entering back into Olivia’s life?

Olivia struggles with her growing attraction to Ryan because she had a relationship with (who she believes to be) his father 40 years ago. She doesn’t know Ryan's secret. As a reader you are engrossed in this relationship, wondering why Ryan is pretending to be his own son, how he's stayed young and why he's keeping a it a secret even from his former lover. The big question becomes what happens when Olivia finds out the truth and what it will all mean.

I must admit that I haven't read much sci-fi in years, but I took a chance on this title and was not disappointed. Though there is a bit more telling than showing in the prose, the story carried along very well so I didn't find it distracting. The plotline that women live longer and gain an edge over men because they no longer menstruate might sound a bit far fetched but the way it is explained made it totally believable.

I do have to put a warning in here for romance readers. This book contains a love triangle of sorts and events occur that might offend the standard romance reader. But as this is officially a sci-fi novel it is perfectly acceptable. However for this reader, with this switch in affections, it made this new coupling a bit anti-climatic by the end. It was hard to know which relationship to root for.

The book itself was quite entertaining, well written and each page keeps you guessing. I found it very interesting to read a book by a man about how women now dominate the world. I felt drawn to the sophisticated style of writing which I found addictive and will be looking for more from this author.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tinseltown by Stephanie Taylor

Tinseltown by Stephanie Taylor
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (129 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Lights, Camera…Sparks!

A-list actress Deb Atkins hasn’t allowed her glamorous lifestyle to go to her head. She owes this to her wonderful family, who keeps her grounded. So, for Deb, not just any man will do, especially if he’s part of the Hollywood elite. Most actors have one thing on their mind, and happily ever after isn’t it.

Until she meets Zach Sparks, her new co-star.

Zach Sparks is famous not just for his acting skills, but his quick wit and good looks. One glance at Deb, and he's smitten. After a drunken night at a Vegas premiere after-party, one thing leads to another. The result: marriage.

Deb is appalled by her actions. So much so, she and Zach can't get along on the set. Their director demands they spend Christmas holidays together to work out their differences or they're both fired. Driven by selfish motivations, they don't expect to fall in love over Christmas or for their marriage to turn into a real one. But can their tenuous relationship withstand a bigger test than either of them ever imagined?

Tinseltown kicks off with sparks all right.

Deb Atkins, actress, falls for ... what a surprise: her leading man. And, with all honesty, we have to wonder just how she managed to fall for Zach Sparks. He may have looks, but he's angry, resentful and obnoxious. He's also all too ready to blame her for all his problems. From Deb's first conciliatory remarks, we really just want to suggest a sharper pair of spiked heels and a boot up the ...

However, he's got it all: looks, charm, intelligence, and better - he's attracted to her. We certainly establish that. So, what could be better? Well... this reader would suggest a little more heartfelt romance right at the start, but the power of sexual attraction is definitely believable here and no one could complain that Tinseltown suffers from a dull moment.

Gradually, we sort out how it all started: with Deb's comment about her "nightmare" mistake, following their first big date and drunken decision. I have to admit she was pretty unfeeling with her comment - so it's hardly surprising that things go bad. In light of this, perhaps we must soften a bit about Zach... and certainly it becomes clear that they both "rushed it" and had their whole deal turn into what will apparently be just another "Hollywood Romance."

Or will it? There are moments that give us hope, then moments when we feel they are both too shallow for words. Their mistakes 'make them even' as if love were some sort of competition...and yet we cannot deny that a certain feeling continues to exist between them -- even if that feeling is what fuels the conflicts! At no moment does this story become predictable.

The cast of characters is limited, but important - film director Stephen lays down a challenge that neither of them may be able to rise to, and the dialogue throughout is strong and interesting. Semi-friend Brad provokes strong emotion as well.

This is a fun and fast paced read, and tension certainly builds as the story progresses. The odd light-hearted moments might have brought some contrast, but overall this is a solid read and Ms. Taylor manages to deliver a few surprises, too. Do add this one to your reading list.

The Valentine’s Fae by Emma Shortt

The Valentine’s Fae by Emma Shortt
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (81 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Book Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Lily

A Valentine’s Fairy who doesn’t believe in love, a human who can’t let go... can one wish change them both?

It’s her first year as a Valentine’s Fairy and Amelia has been given an impossible task. Gavin Peters wants his ex-girlfriend back but Fae magic can’t make people fall in love. If Amelia is to complete her task she’ll have to get creative, and that creativity will have to include ignoring her own rapidly developing feelings for the human she’s been tasked with.

Gavin has pined for his ex for months so when the mysterious Amelia offers him a wish he knows exactly what to request. But when his ex returns Gavin begins to wonder if what he’s wished for is really what he wants. Can his Valentine’s Fairy grant him another wish and if so will he be able to ask for what he really wants?

How can anyone not like a fairy who grants wishes? Gavin Peters doesn’t – he doesn’t like his secretary one bit; he scowls and shouts at her, tries to hold his temper, fails and wishes with all his heart his old secretary – and ex-lover – would return. But then he doesn’t know that Amelia, who wears tortoise-shell glasses (yes, tortoise….), boring brown or beige ruffled blouses and sexless skirts, is a fairy.

And he is also unaware that she’s in disguise. OK, Amelia might not be the most beautiful of fairies but to a human, her dainty figure, pointed ears, silky white-blonde hair and sparkly wings should be irresistible. Fairies and humans can marry, didn’t you know that? Amelia might be the Valentine’s fairy but she can’t make someone fall in love. All she can do is grant a wish, which is a shame because she – yes, Amelia who doesn’t believe in love – is finding herself more and more smitten by her boss. And when she finally gets him to make his wish, she’s appalled to find that he wants his ex-lover back.

Ms. Shortt creates a beautiful fantasy world of faedom with sparkly fae dust, dainty naked flying fairies and a fragrant wishing pool. This is where her creativity came to the fore – she has created a world that I personally would like to read much more about and these seemingly fragile creatures are full of delightful sass. The humans are, to my mind, less three dimensional: Gavin behaves like an ass from the start, making it difficult to warm to him, although he is obviously a hottie; Kerry, the ex-lover, turns out to be a caricature of a screeching harpy. I was also a little disheartened by the unnatural dialogue between the two fairies near the beginning.

The plot is simple, as it should be for a story of this length, and gently paced. I kept on reading because I was curious about the outcome which the author keeps you guessing about right to the end. The sex scenes (I won’t reveal between which characters) sizzle enough to keep the most rampant satisfied and humor glitters like fairy dust throughout.

This is a delightful read with a “feel-good” factor and I recommend it to anyone looking for an entertaining read. In the meantime, I’m currently on the look-out for any disguised Valentine faes lingering about.

Fairy Tales Can Come True by Silver James

Fairy Tales Can Come True by Silver James
Class of ’85 series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (84 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Going home for her 25th class reunion isn't on Alex London's radar until her assistant pulls out the fairy godmother card. News correspondent, Deke Carpenter would rather cover the nearest war than attend the reunion--yet deep down he hopes to encounter the girl who got away, Dorothy Reagan, now well-known fashion photographer, Alex London.

Alex, on the other hand, has hopes of seeing the boy she carried a torch for all these years--basketball player Marty Keegan.

In one whirlwind weekend, surrounded by the ghosts of high school past, Alex and Deke discover each other and the unwritten rule of fairy godmothers everywhere: Fairy Tales Can Come True.

Will Alex stop hiding behind her camera?

One of the things I liked most about Fairy Tales Can Come True was that I found the basic idea of going to a high school reunion very relatable. While I’m sure many people are very excited to attend such an event, I’m also sure just as many people experience a mix of dread and anticipation, like Alex and Derek. Alex dreads seeing the people she went to high school with since she was never very popular, but she also hopes that she might see the boy she had a crush years ago. It is an opportunity she can’t pass up. Derek also has some reservations about attending the reunion, but also decides to go on the chance that he might see someone special, Alex.

I thought that Alex was a very interesting character. Throughout the story, she keeps trying to bolster her confidence by telling herself that she isn’t the same person she was back then. However, as I read the story, I became convinced that Alex was very much the same person she was back then. She’d run away to a different continent, and changed her name, but inside, she was still an insecure teenager. In a way, part of her is still living in the past. Even the excitement of seeing Marty is rooted in the way that she remembers him all those years ago, but is her memory accurate? Even though she was apprehensive about going to the reunion, I liked the fact that she faced her fear and went anyway. I enjoyed watching her face the past and come through the experience a stronger and more confident woman.

Derek was a great hero and was much more confident about his place in life than Alex. He’s a successful reporter based in New York. His mother still lives in his home town, so he returns to the area periodically. He isn’t very close to any of the people he graduated with, but he doesn’t harbor the same fear that Alex does in attending the reunion. To Derek, high school is a thing of the past, and while he’s excited to see Alex, I liked that his excitement is very much about what the future might hold if he and Alex were to become involved.

One of the things that I alternately liked and didn’t like about the story was that many of the secondary characters were stereotypical. On one hand, I didn’t like this aspect of the story because that meant that these characters weren’t very interesting. On the other hand, I can see how keeping those characters a bit generic can let the reader fill in their own details. For example, as the reader learns about Alex’s crush on Marty, they might remember a boy they always had a crush on.

I also liked the message of Fairy Tales Can Come True. High school is a unique time that shapes a person, but it doesn’t control the rest of their life. In high school, Alex discovered her passion for photography, and Derek discovered his talent for being a reporter. However, Derek doesn’t let memories of high school control his life. As the story progressed, it was a pleasure watching Alex learn to let go of some of her old fears and memories too.

Fairy Tales Can Come True was an enjoyable short story. Anyone who’s ever faced the challenge of going to a high school reunion is sure to relate to Alex and Derek’s predicament. I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, fun read.

Chance’s Game by Eve Langlais

Chance’s Game by Eve Langlais
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (192 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Holly

Breanna is a rare sort of shapeshifter even for a world where magic is rampant. Rare enough that she catches the attention of the God of Chance who sends her on a quest to free magic. Simple you say? Not for this girl who has to keep avoiding the men who would claim her, while getting to know a twin she never knew she had. And then to make things even more fun, Chance throws in a super sexy wizard to go on the quest with her.

Magic, danger, meddlesome gods and romance await, and when their quest is done, the world as we know it, will never be the same again.

I love stories of mischievous Higher Powers, who like to meddle and play with mortals, like this one with a very bored God of Chance.

He might be bored, but he also realizes that the spell holding the Realm and The Other Side apart is starting to go wrong. So he decides to play a game with his sister, Aphrodite, or Mindy as she has decided to call herself now, and when these two play together it means headaches for mortals -- two specific ones in this case.

Mindy’s goal is to make them fall in love, while Chance needs them to find the box holding the spell cast so long ago, a spell that is turning dark, and sucking the souls of magic folk to power itself.

Breanna is an independent young woman, determined not to ever let a man control her. She is a shape shifter, but one of the most unusual, as she can become almost anything she want to. This makes her a rare commodity, and she has to evade her less than welcome suitors. Breanna intrigues Terrence, but since he is of the same mind to never marry, he finds her most captivating.

When the God of Chance throws his dice, these two are charged with saving magic in both worlds, and stopping the useless deaths of magic folk all along the barrier. When their lives keep intersecting, they finally agree that they must journey together to stop this evil once and for all. Can a wizard and a shape shifter meet the challenge? Will time together soften both of their hearts, with Mindy’s help, of course? Will all of the coincidences be explained, and happy ever after win out?

Much of this story was lighthearted fun, especially the interaction between the main characters. I enjoyed the inner debates Breanna has, trying to convince herself she isn’t attracted to Terrence while growing to admire him more as they travel together on their quest. I found the attempts by her would-be suitors to be wonderful comic relief through most of the book, and the lengths one goes to try and wed Breanna turns dangerous.

Breanna is an independent woman at a time when women are not usually so bold and forthright. She has a sharp wit and an equally sharp tongue, causing many of her own problems. She is also strong and crafty, and once she realizes the stakes of the quest, she lets nothing stop her. I enjoyed watching her slowly fall under the wizard’s charm-without a bit of magic used.

Terrence is just as determined as Breanna to stay away from marriage, although he does find her a challenge, and wants to break through her wall. He is tall, blond and gorgeous, and content to let his brother be the married one. But, like Breanna, when he knows the true nature of the quest Chance has set them on, he refuses to fail. I loved watching him with Devon, the gay unicorn; that really made me giggle.

I believe this is a second book in a series, and I do wish I would have read the first book, because it gives background to some of the secondary characters in this one, like Breanna’s long lost twin sister she never knew about, and Terrence’s brother Sinclair.

But this can be enjoyed on its own merit, and I recommend this for those who want more magic in their romance. Do they save the Realm, remove the boundary and have a happy ever after of their own? You will want to read this one to find out.

It Happened One Bite by Lydia Dare

It Happened One Bite by Lydia Dare
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (390 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

From a castle in the rugged Scottish Highlands to the glittering salons of Edinburgh high society, the playground for the rich, titled and undead will never be the same when ultra-correct gentleman vampire Lord Kettering and feisty witch Blaire Lindsay make sparks fly.

It Happened One Bite is a sexy and delicious story about redemption, twisted truths and a romance that had waited twenty years to explode into passion.

Blaire is not a typical woman of her times. She’s actually pretty special and unique. Her friends don’t think she’s odd, neither does her family. But she also has a legacy to live up to and she thinks she knows what she needs to do. After all, as is custom, her mother taught her everything she knows, right? This unexpected journey she takes to the castle her brother inherited proves that history is a bit skewed and there are a few little secrets her mom kept to herself. What Blaire doesn’t know is about to bite her in her cute and perky little derriere.

I found the heroine tended to worry things too much and that lent itself to the conflict. I like her spunk and her willingness to throw herself into the fray. Once she figures a few things out, she’s rises to the occasion and doesn’t back down, even when she should. In fact, in spite of knowing she should she goes where angels and fools fear to tread. Sometimes I was exasperated with her and other times I applauded her fortitude. Blaire certainly isn’t perfect so it’s a good thing she has her loving family around to keep her grounded.

Her family consists of her older brother, Aiden and her younger, Brannock. Siblings can be annoying and aggravating and the author depicted that aspect with vivid clarity. I rolled my eyes so often whenever Brannock interrupted and shouted and made Blaire guess certain things instead of just coming right out and stating the facts, that I thought my eyes would get stuck rolled up in my head. I knew the heroine loved her family but did they have to grate on my nerves so much? I mean, the wooing and cooing from those two sisters towards Aiden and the way he acted in return just about made my teeth grind. Gah!

Thank goodness there was balance with the hunky and tormented James, Lord Kettering. Oh, I liked him. I got the giggles when the state of his dress first was explored. How mortifying for him. I actually enjoyed reading about his background and how he came to be as he was. The absolute best was watching him fall for Blaire – and I mean that in the literal and figurative sense. Blaire shows him an interesting physical art she is excellent in and I enjoyed his reaction. James has a sense of duty, caring and resignation about himself. His ennui about the state of his existence is about to get turned upside down and around and its telling is quite romantic and sweet. Yet, don’t think that James is a sweet guy. He’s a man and a fighter through and through and his mettle gets tested.

One thing that really had me enjoying this story is when Alec MacQuarrie showed up. If a reader followed the other series with the Westfield brothers then they’ll remember he was heading up this way. If this is a first time visit for a reader, let me give assurance that this book can stand on its own. But I remember the guy and I’m also sure I remarked that I liked him as a character and I hoped to see him again. Boy, did I get my wish and then some. On the other hand, I bet he’d not be too happy with me. Why? Let’s just say that Alec’s visit didn’t go as smoothly as he probably expected. It made for exciting reading, a wonderful plot twist with a guarantee that his story is going to be an auto-buy for me. I never saw that coming.

And Ms. Dare did it again. The villains were nasty and one was truly evil, however, I never expected to feel any sympathy or sadness for any of them. I won’t say which one. I took me a minute to figure out why one of Blaire’s good friends was so sad about the big confrontation. And when I thought about it I got a pang in my heart. It was actually tragic and a wonderful bit of emotional writing that truthfully was genius. I know now what it means for Alec’s future and I’m excited and worried at the same time. But for one of the villains, it was epic. A reader simply can’t be unmoved by such a revelation. I actually had the urge to sniffle.

The happily ever after is exactly that. It’s happy, it’s satisfying and it’s not what I expected. Despite the sometimes plodding movement of the tale at certain points and the annoying habits of some of the characters who do not divulge important facts without a song and dance and make the dissemination of information akin to a complicated root canal, I was entertained and I did enjoy the reading experience.

It Happened One Bite is the unveiling of another exciting foray into historical romance flavored with paranormal spice. It was great seeing some of the previous characters from the Westfield brothers’ adventures and it brought a sense of community and continuity to this new venture. I thought the ending to be romantic and bittersweet. The mystery gets revealed and Blaire and James sort of get Aiden’s blessing, which had a humorous edge to it. I had a very nice time visiting with Blaire and James and can’t wait to find out what happens next. I’m glad Ms. Dare has created a new world for fans to enjoy.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

This Can't Be Love by Debra St. John

This Can't Be Love by Debra St. John
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (258 pages)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Sunflower

After the disastrous end of another dead-end relationship, all Jessica Hart wants is solitude and time to heal at her grandfather's mountain retreat. Instead she finds Zach Rawlings.

Zach has made himself at home at the cabin. He's house-sitting while the owner is away, and the temporary nature of the job suits him perfectly. For Jessica, Zach is everything she wants to escape.

As she gets to know him better, she realizes there's more to him than meets the eye. His patience and tender concern begin to heal something deep inside of her. But can she trust her heart to a man like Zach?

Jessica Hart made mistake after mistake for many years of her life, and it's left her a mess. The title of her story is so appropriate. It fits the book well. This Can't Be Love is an emotional awakening for a woman who doubts her every move and bottles up everything inside.

Though I don't agree with everything Jessica does, I relate to her on so many levels that it's scary. Her long string of bad relationships start out in her teenage years, and she kept the truth hidden from those she loved the most. As I read on, I learned new things about Jessica, as she slowly opened herself up physically and emotionally to Zach. The tension sizzles as she tries hard to get Zach's physical affection.

I feel for Zach. What is a man to do when he wants someone so bad, but is torn between doing the right thing or giving into his desires? He doesn't know what to make of stubborn, reserved Jessica, and the fact that she's driving him wild with need and frustration at the same time doesn't help. Slowly, brick by brick, he breaks down the barriers that guard her heart.

Debra St. John sets the stage for a battle of dealing with inner fears and demons, acceptance, and coming to terms with the past. The story and characters tugged at my heart while reading. I enjoyed this book very much, eagerly turning the pages, wondering exactly how the author was going to settle the inner conflict between the two. Sometimes I wanted to cry, and at times I wanted to scream, “What's wrong with you?”. I felt what Jessica and Zach did, and with the ending, I found myself sighing in relief, satisfied.

If you like a contemporary, passionate and emotional read, then laugh and cry along with this one. An author who can make the reader feel so many things is one that has staying power in the writing world.

San Antonio Rogue by Cindi Meyers

San Antonio Rogue by Cindi Meyers
Publisher: Aspen Mountain Press
Genre: Historical (American)
Length: Full Length (265 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Lieutenant Michael Trent was not the marrying kind – in fact, he was a notorious rogue, known for romancing the ladies and barely skirting the bounds of legality. But when his commanding officer orders him to marry lovely Ellen Winthrop, he determines to do his duty by her and protect her on the journey from Texas to California by way of Mexico.

As for Ellen, she only wants safe passage with the Army to California, where she hopes to locate her wayward father. But the handsome lieutenant distracts her from her goal – and all thoughts of propriety. Alone for so long, Ellen wants more from her husband than a marriage in name only. Will she be the seduced – or the seducer?

A dilemma that Ellen Winthrop and Michael Trent grapple with is whether breeding defines a person or if one can make his or her own destiny regardless of parentage. Past experiences cause this damsel in distress and this dashing rogue unease about their future.

Assumptions and deliberate omissions create a tenuous environment for Ellen and Michael. Their agreement, made to help each of them out of a tight spot, keeps them in close proximity to each other, setting off needs, desires, and concerns new to both of them.

Rather than marry her disgusting, creepy cousin and live with the stigma that has colored her life, Ellen runs. She travels alone from England to South Texas where she makes a decision that sets her life on a new course. Ellen looks like a lady and acts like a lady, but she is no shrinking violet, she is a survivor. Not afraid of work and very capable, she never fails to keep up her end of the bargain she and Michael make, but soon knows that she wants so much more with the handsome lieutenant.

Michael Trent is every inch the West Point officer, but deep within himself his childhood traumas and insecurities taunt him. His self-esteem had too many blows early in life, so Michael knows he is not what any Earl’s daughter would want for a “long-term” husband. He and Ellen maneuver around their doubts and fears as love weaves its magical web around them with gentle determination.

Some of the secondary characters like Dr. Sullivan and Katherine create stories that delight as their lives are entangled with Ellen and Michael’s lives. The crude, disreputable Texas Ranger Dunleavy creates intense situations that make the adrenaline pump. His Scottish heritage and almost barbaric ways make him an unusual individual. His hatred for Michael and his attraction to Ellen create events that reveal much about the values, hope, fears, and dreams that each of the three have.

Cindi Meyers weaves in a delightful humor that makes San Antonio Rogue sparkle. To me, a few things don’t weave into the story smoothly such as the meeting of Simon Leland and the somewhat repetitive introspection of Michael and Ellen. However the beautiful imagery and descriptions make me feel as if I’m right there in the setting, which is sometimes harsh and other times breathtakingly magnificent, as the characters deal with life-threatening situations, with hardships, with the joy, and the ever-so-special, ever-present love.

Mistaken Bride by Regan Taylor

Mistaken Bride by Regan Taylor
Book 2 of the Bride Series
Publisher: Awe Struck Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full Length (227 pgs)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Aloe

Hastening west with the information that will clear his brother's wife of murder, the last thing Deputy U.S. Marshal Kendrick Parker expects when he arrives in St. Louis is to come face to face with the notorious Black Bette Barclay. Knowing the San Francisco Marshal's office has a warrant for her arrest, Kendrick arranges to bring the dastardly woman as far as his brother's home in Adler Creek, Wyoming where he will turn Bette over to fellow lawmen. To avoid bringing undue concern to his fellow wagon train travelers, Kendrick concocts the story that Bette is his wife, Mandy.

Journeying to St. Louis to take a position as a school teacher the last Amanda Davis expected was to be arrested for crimes she did not commit. Well almost the last thing. The absolute last thing she expected was to be loaded on to a wagon in a train heading west and told she must pose as the wife of the too good looking Marshal. Prim, proper and a tad prickly she quickly learns nothing irritates the Marshal more than using her extensive vocabulary. While her verbal jabs tend to mostly irritate Kendrick, he cannot help but notice how Amanda is with the children on the wagon train, taking time each night to give them lessons.

After nearly drowning in an icy river, Kendrick takes ill and is forced to stop at a homestead to heal. He soon realizes he has the wrong woman...or is it the right one?

Kendrick couldn’t believe it. He was in town just for a quick visit on his way to his brother’s place and runs across Black Bette in the general store!

Ms. Taylor grabs your attention in the first chapter and keeps her characters hopping all the way through her novel. The two main characters are strong in personalities and Kendrick is as stubborn as a man usually is. He KNOWS she’s Black Bette even if she claims she’s a new schoolteacher – after all, she looks just like the picture.

The author does a good job of providing the correct historical detail for the time period. Travelling by wagon train was common then because stagecoaches often got robbed or broke down. You were safer in groups. It was fun to see how Ms. Taylor slowly developed the romance between the cynical Marshall and the misunderstood schoolteacher.

The other characters in her story have their own personal problems to deal with and while I thought I knew how the story would end, I wasn’t so sure that I took it for granted. The story moves at a good pace, the sharp back and forth conversations between the Marshall and his prisoner, and the attempt to pretend they are newlyweds to make their trip better accepted makes this an enjoyable read. Especially with the other women’s womanly advice for newlyweds...

I enjoyed this enough book to see if I can find more in this series to read. This was a well-done western romance.

Perfect Strangers by Katie O'Sullivan

Perfect Strangers by Katie O'Sullivan
Publisher: Moongypsy Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (278 pages)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Sunflower

Dumped by her boyfriend in a made-for-the-tabloids bar scene, reporter Jane Peterson decides her life needs a total change. A new town, a new career path… and a new attitude toward men when she accepts her best friend’s dare to kiss a perfect stranger.

Because of his famous father, Keefe Walker is no stranger to the tabloid press. He’s kept a low profile for years, painting houses and drifting through life without much thought to career or future. Until he meets Jane. She’s everything that scares him. And everything he desires.

Sometimes it takes a perfect stranger to make you realize what you truly want.

Jane Peterson doesn't seem to have good luck on Mondays. And on this particular Monday, it appeared as if that run of bad luck would continue. Keefe Walker had the same frame of mind about Mondays. Who knew that the events of this particular day would lead to an eventual meeting for the two strangers?

I connected with Jane immediately. In the beginning, Jane was an awkward, cautious person. She didn't seem to have a whole lot of confidence. Her fresh start in Cape Cod changed that. As I read on, I watched Jane grow as a character because of the situations Jane is put in, from the persistent man who won't leave her alone, to the media and police questioning her move when someone is murdered.

Keefe is also another cautious character. I sensed that he had issues with reporters, and the fact that Jane is one made him very wary. A few things drove me crazy about Keefe, but overall I liked him. At one point I thought he was acting like a jealous, insecure teenager. But his caring for Jane and learning to trust her helped him become a better man.

Ms. O'Sullivan creates a wonderful feel for the small town life. Despite the trouble that arises, I found myself longing for the kind of small town life that Keefe lived in, and wanted Jane to become a part of. The supporting characters were wonderful and heartwarming. Some had their quirks and mysteriousness, but most were open and friendly.

This book is a wonderful mix of contemporary, mystery and suspense. I found myself turning the pages eagerly, looking at every character and wondering how they fit into the mysterious puzzle. The plot had plenty of twists and turns to throw the reader off, and wrapped up very nicely.

If you enjoy a contemporary suspense in a small town setting, filled with characters that are bound to steal your heart and make you smile, then don't be a stranger. Pick up this great read!

That Kind of Magic by Ceri Hebert

That Kind of Magic by Ceri Hebert
Publisher: Amazon
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (212 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Larkspur

What's a witch to do when she refuses to use magic to find love? Beautiful Wiccan Charlotte Noone has a shop for magical supplies and a goddess who's pushing her to find the man of her dreams. When Patrick Riordan, a straight-laced non-believer enters her life, Charlotte falls madly in lust with him. Despite their very different lives, neither can stop the erotic journey they’ve embarked on, but will it be enough to break through their barriers so they can accept that love itself is magical?

One True Love spell: in one large cauldron, mix together one sweet non-spellcasting witch with one straight laced total non-believer, slowly add in sparks of attraction. Now stand back and watch the fireworks.

Ms. Herbert gives us a sweet, sentimental love story, infuses it with a little betrayal and a lot of non-conformity with a good splash of woo-woo and, other than the woo-woo it could be your normal everyday love story taken off any daytime soap or romance TV channel. Happily, that woo-woo gives it the edge that makes it hard to put down. In fact, I read this story in one sitting.

There’s also not too much as to make this modern day bewitched tale too unbelievable. The author uses easy to read and understand dialogue and yet gives it that air of sophistication with her detailed, expressive and descriptive scenes that will jump right off the page for her audience. She also gives us a full range of characters from the eclectic to the sublime and a varied range in between who all very much belong in this tale and add to the story.

Her hero, Patrick and heroine, Charlotte are very improbable recipients of their Happy Ever After, but the author makes her readers see just how great they are together. The romance will make you laugh, make you cry, make you yearn and make you feel the emotions. Her love scenes are sexy, sensual, edgy and fiery yet the love comes through with each touch. Aside from one part in the novel that the author failed to make me believe in, it is a nearly flawless piece of romance.

If you like your HEA with just a touch of magic, look no farther. If you love strong heros and even stronger heroines, this is your read. If you like to be scared thinking maybe this time the HEA won’t happen, there’s enough angst in here for you. If you want to have a read that gives you great characters, a wonderful story and an even greater ending That Kind of Magic fits the bill.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

To Desire a Wicked Duke by Nicole Jordan

To Desire a Wicked Duke by Nicole Jordan
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Historical (Regency)
Length: Full Length (357 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Passion ignites in Nicole Jordan’s delectable, dazzling conclusion to The Courtship Wars.

Two years after losing her beloved fiancé to war, Tess Blanchard feels ready to chance love again. Thus she’s aghast when a threatening scandal forces her to wed her longtime nemesis, Ian Sutherland, Duke of Rotham. The impossibly arrogant, irresistibly seductive nobleman is the last man Tess could ever imagine loving. Making matters worse, she discovers secrets in Rotham’s wicked past that send her fleeing London for his remote castle in Cornwall.

Having long desired Tess, Ian is exasperated that the ton thinks he’s driven his reluctant new bride from their marriage bed and follows hard on her heels. Naturally, their spirited rivalry leads to glorious, pleasure-filled nights—complicated by a mysterious ghost who haunts Ian’s castle and Tess’s vexing insistence that he play matchmaker to her friends. But can blazing desire between two warring hearts turn into wedded bliss and timeless love?

Society’s rules in Regency England, during the early nineteenth century, mixed with Tess Blanchard’s desire for passion and the Duke of Rotham’s long-denied desire for Tess make a captivating romance that propels the reader along with both internal and external conflicts, humor, and an irrepressible primal connection that engenders an exquisite love.

The Duke of Rotham, known as the Devil Duke, seizes the opportunity to kiss Tess after four years of wanting her while keeping his distance. Male primal need takes control. Common sense and caution exit leaving passion, desire, and fiery need to take center stage. All his womanizing and worldly ways did not prepare the Duke for the way he feels when he kisses and caresses Tess.

Tess comes alive at his touch. The emptiness she’s felt for so long is filled with the Duke’s scent, taste, and the marvelous sensation of his mouth that feels like heated silk as it makes her melt with pleasure and wanting. His caresses make her oblivious to all else. She had experienced a youth’s love with her fiancé Richard before he was killed, but she’d never felt anything like the passionate, blood sizzling demands of the Duke’s touch that makes her shiver in exhilaration.

When they are caught by Lady Wingate, Tess’s benefactor, the Duke takes control and says they will marry to save Tess’s reputation. He is well aware of the double standard in their Regency society. More than that, he already has a reputation that could hardly be degraded more—whether justified or not.

These two strong personalities, both determined to protect themselves from hurt, deal with conflicts in unique ways with each of them trying to keep the upper hand. With humor, tears, and fears, they enchant the reader with a spellbinding love that flourishes in spite of all the contrariness.

The secondary characters make entertaining, delightful additions to the untangling of what is true and what was thought to be true. They supply some unexpected twists and turns in the plot. Fanny Irwin and the Loring sisters are delightful.

Nicole Jordan brings a sparkling, fresh touch to Regency romance. Her character development makes Tess and the Duke come alive. Their depth, emotions, and steadfastness endear them to the reader.

To Desire a Wicked Duke crackles with conflicts, sizzles with sensuality, and lures the reader in with incredible love (and that love scene!) It kept me up late and I never missed the sleep.