Beginning January 1, 2013

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

June Book of the Month Poll Winner - A Dance to Die For by Rebecca Lee Smith

A Dance To Die For by Rebecca Lee Smith
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (294 pages)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sunflower

Annabel Maitland believes in destiny and following her heart--Trent Sheffield realizes his destiny is to believe in her.

Annabel destroyed her dancing career trying to save her friend Quinn's life. Convinced Quinn's death was no accident, Annabel follows a clue to a North Carolina mountain inn and discovers that everyone who knew Quinn wanted her out of their lives--including the sexy innkeeper whose laid-back charm and megawatt grin take Annabel's breath away. But trusting her heart means ignoring evidence that plants him firmly on the suspect list.

The last person Trent needs working for him is an impossibly long-legged dancer whose sharp wit and silver eyes keep him scrambling. He's falling hard, but Annabel's connection to his ex-fiancée makes him question her motives. When mysterious accidents threaten Annabel's life, they must unearth Quinn's killer before it's too late. But what if Annabel was the target all along?

Read the full review here!

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Saint Comes Stumbling In by Bonnie McCune

A Saint Comes Stumbling In by Bonnie McCune
Publisher: Inspired Romance Novels
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (255 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Can a discarded wife find confidence, success and even a new love? A patron saint might help.

Thirty-something Joan Nelson has more to contend with than a biological clock or an identity crisis, for her husband of twelve years has fled. Despite her ardent belief in a conventional marriage, she finds herself deserted for a younger, slimmer woman. Lacking any skills or education, she’s thrust unprepared into the nightmare challenge of making a living for the first time in her sheltered existence.

A job as a receptionist in a law firm is the first rung on the ladder to her independence. Yet the taste of success sours when Joan considers the emptiness of her personal life. How can she reconstruct her damaged life and heal her bruised ego? Ill-equipped for the singles scene, she embarks on a confusing, sometimes frightening, lifestyle.

But when Joan stumbles on a crime perpetuated by a charming cad, she must defy her boss, jeopardize her newly won stability, and reject her friends. Her namesake, Joan of Arc, provides a model of courage and insight. If she risks danger and uncertainty, will she discover that independence and adulthood can be both enjoyable and fulfilling? Does optimism beat pessimism? Who would have dreamed her final victory could solve a childhood puzzle while it brings her true love?

Bubbling with humor and replete with growing pains of a divorced woman, A Saint Comes Stumbling In takes the reader on a vicarious journey with Joan Nelson. She goes from a stay-home wife with limited marketable skills, whose self image is in the cellar, to being a capable, confident, much loved lady. The zigs and zags, stumbles, falls, and scrambling back up to try again make the reader keep turning pages just to see what will happen next.

Joan’s almost manic-depressive personality has her operating at “sky high or dirt low” most of the time. Her stages of grief, her self-deprecation, and her self-improvement projects keep her emotions on a roller coaster ride. In her self-centered world, she seems blind to both her mother and her longtime friend, Kevin’s unfailing support.

Dolores, her ever optimistic friend, coaxes Joan out into the “hunt-for-a-man” world where Joan is exposed to segments of society alien to her way of life. The descriptions of these encounters tickle the funny bone.

Joan’s obsession with Scott Clark, the young, handsome lawyer, sets her on a self-improvement phase that her friend Kevin organizes for her and helps her to stay on target. As they interact, the reader soon realizes Kevin has one agenda and Joan has another—fun to see how things evolve.

A few of the episodes in A Saint Comes Stumbling In are a little too-far-out, yet ridiculously funny. Overall the story is a rite of passage story about a “late-bloomer” who is slow to recognize her own worth and see the true love that’s been waiting in the wings for her to mature.

Bonnie McCune entertains with a special charm. She writes in first person that fits the self-centeredness of Joan at this stage in her life. The multitude of funny events, disasters, and the metamorphosis of Joan make the reader’s journey with her delightful. It's like riding on waves of both subtle and blatant humor with an undertow of the devastation divorce can bring to a woman. Good Reading!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

For Better or Hearse by Ann Yost

For Better or Hearse by Ann Yost
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (252 pages)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sunflower

When Daisy Budd and her slightly dysfunctional sisters decide to turn a mortuary into a fashionable wedding boutique, they expect some opposition. After all, towns like Mayville don’t care much for change. But when a body shows up in the mortuary’s fountain, Daisy knows it's time to leave the bridezillas behind and solve the mystery. Nick Bowman, disinherited son of the town’s leading family, is back after a seven-year estrangement. He's determined to protect his late grandfather’s reputation by locating some loot supposedly hidden in the mortuary’s cellar. But Nick’s quest is complicated by the new owner. Daisy doesn’t trust his motives and she’s uncomfortable with the sparks the two of them generate, especially since Nick used to date her sister. When a second body shows up at the mortuary, Nick and Daisy need to work together to find the truth—but what happens when their inconvenient sparks become flames?
It's all a matter of life and death, but it seems someone wants to make it more about death. For Better or Hearse sizzles with suspense, charm, and a whole lot of fun.

Daisy's life has had it's share of downfalls. She seems to be the ring leader of her sisters, the glue that keeps their bond solid, the one that steps up and takes care of her family, putting her own dreams aside. Their latest venture is turning inherited property into a happily ever after dream- creating perfect weddings. The protective way each sister is with one another is heartwarming. They really look out for one another in every way possible. That bond is unbreakable, beautiful. Ms. Yost puts a major emphasis on the family ties element in this book.

The story's hero is Nick. A bit of a bad boy, womanizer, or so we're lead to believe. There must have been some bad blood between Nick and the sisters, because no one wants him to come around. Though it seems he's everywhere these days, much to the womens chagrin. The further into this novel I went, the more I liked Nick. Sure, there's a few moments where I wondered about him and his intentions, but overall he won me over.

For Better or Hearse packs a mixture of romance, suspense, laughter, and adventure. The tension between Nick and Daisy sizzle, leaving a lot of intense moments where they either wanted to strangle the other, or fall in love.

Ms. Yost writes with charm and emotion. Her stories are enjoyable, fast paced, and uplifting. This one is no different. It's another for the keeper shelves.

Need a bit of witty romantic suspense in your reading queue? For Better or Hearse is a story you can laugh with and enjoy. Why not rush and get yourself a copy?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Virgin's Revenge by Dee Tenorio

The Virgin's Revenge by Dee Tenorio
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (253 pages)
Heat Level: hot
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sunflower

If you can’t beat ’em…seduce ’em.

A Rancho del Cielo Romance

Amanda Jackman’s love life is the stuff dreams are made of...which is fitting, because it’s all in her head. Thanks to six oversized, overbearing brothers who treat her like the family jewel, she’s lived in a padded little box.

Determined to get a life before she needs a padded little cell, she sets out to throw off the yoke and live on her own terms. Except she seriously underestimates the lengths to which her brothers will go to keep her safe and sound.

Cole Engstrom’s life might just be at an end. Cornered by all six of the massive Jackmans—men he normally considers his friends—he learns he’s their choice to marry their sister...or else. Make that first choice, but not the last.

Rather than watch Amanda’s brothers club their way through potential mates, Cole figures it’s best to just play along for a while and buy her some time to find a man of her own. It’s a good plan. Until Amanda figures it out—and decides he’s the one to relieve her of her “sheltered little virgin” status. One seduction at a time...

What do you do when an older brother and friend meddle in your life? Revenge, of course! What a perfect set up for this light-hearted, wonderful romance.

It's not easy being the only girl in the family. Amanda has SIX brothers! That might be cause for a bit of a buzz kill for any guy that dares get close to Amanda. Hence the reason she's lived far too sheltered a life. It takes Amanda the duration of this book, but step by step, she begins to branch out on her own and do things her brothers would go crazy over...and do! I felt for her. I have an understanding of being too protected. Amanda comes off as a doormat sometimes, but she does grow during the story. She gains the ability to stand up to others that push her around. I admired her for that.

Cole, a family friend, is the hero of the book. He finds himself in a bit of a predicament...what else could he do? Cole and Amanda have known each other for a long time, little does either know what's in store for the both of them.

The Virgin's Revenge is a feel good, romantic comedy story that also has plenty of character growth. With reading this story, it's my first time being introduced to the author's work, and I very much enjoyed this. There's plenty of situations that made me laugh and smile, and I wanted a victorious, happy ending for Amanda and Cole!

The secondary characters play a strong role throughout the story. Amanda's oldest brother, Locke, for instance. He's a bit of a pushy, stuffy man even though I knew he had honest intentions. He's a character that intrigued me and I have hopes for a story of his own. I'd love to know what drives him to do some of the things he does.

Overall, The Virgin's Revenge captured my heart. I was left with a smile on my face after I finished it. This is the type of story I can turn to again and again in times of needing a comforting laugh. If you like a contemporary fun story, hurry and grab The Virgin's Revenge for your own.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jesse by CH Admirand

Jesse by CH Admirand
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (326 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Loneliness Will Take a Man Places...

Jesse Garahan has plenty of Irish charm, but having had his heart demolished twice, he's sworn off women forever. Until the fateful day he meets Danielle Brockway and her tiny daughter on their way to their new home in Pleasure, Texas.

But There May Be Places He Doesn't Want To Go...

Fiercely protective of her little girl, Danielle isn't about to let Jesse get anywhere close enough to hurt either of them, no matter how much longing she sees in his eyes...

Trouble comes in threes, but it is so worth it.

I've had the honor of reading all of the books in CH Admirand's Secret Life of Cowboys series. It's hard to choose which book was my favorite, but Jesse just might be the one. I laughed, held on for dear life, and ended up grinning more than a couple of times. Then there's the heat! Ms Admirand's stories are sure to require a glass of something cold while reading. This one didn't disappoint.

What I enjoyed the most about this story was Danielle. There seems to be a trend of heroines who come out of the gate claws out and ready to rumble.I like a hard edged heroine, but Danielle, for all she's been through, is more mature. She's got a strength that doesn't come from bluster - it comes from having a kid. Nice change of pace. Then there's Jesse. He's the baby of the family and he's never felt like he's been enough. He's easy to relate to. Who hasn't been in that sort of situation, being in the land of giants and feeling like you'll never be enough? I have. I enjoyed the ways and means he uses to become enough. Lacey was a nice addition to this story. Sometimes spicy romance doesn't really have room for kids. Okay, that sounded bad, but sometimes it seems like kids are thrown in for flavor. Not at all in this story. She really shined. I liked it.

If you're looking for a series with characters that aren't exactly as they seem, then this might be the book for you. If you want heat and a healthy dose of heart, then pick up a copy of Jesse. It's a really good read.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Perfect Storm by Lori Foster

A Perfect Storm by Lori Foster
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (442 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

He never saw her coming…

Spencer Lark already knows too many secrets about Arizona Storm, including the nightmare she survived and her resulting trust issues. But in order to expose a smuggling ring—and continue avenging his own tragic past—the bounty hunter reluctantly agrees to make Arizona a decoy. Yet nothing has equipped him for her hypnotic blend of fragility and bravery, or for the protective instincts she stirs in him.

Arizona wants to reclaim her life, which means acting as bait to lure the enemy into a trap. Sure it's dangerous, especially with a partner as distractingly appealing as Spencer. But as their plan—and their chemistry—shifts into high gear, Arizona may discover there's an even greater risk in surrendering her heart to a hero….

Toughness overload!

I know when I open a book by Lori Foster, I'm in for a treat. This book met my expectations. It's hot, sweet and packed with action. The writing is tight and kept me in my seat. Yeah, I stayed up late to finish the book because I couldn't put it down.

Spencer and Arizona are quite a pair. I'd read people complaining about the age difference between them. She's rather young (21), and he's a tad older than her, but it's not unrealistic. I didn't see the age difference as a deterrent. Heck, I forgot their ages from time to time. I liked both characters and felt this installment in the series was a strong one.

Ms Foster's story deals with human trafficking. This is not a subject for the weak spirit and might not be for all readers. The things Arizona was forced to do are hard to stomach. Ms Foster writes it with a fluidity that kept the topic from being too harsh or preachy. I liked how she handled things. To that end, Arizona struggles with her past. There are moments when it didn't come across to me that she'd been through some really rough stuff. That said, I can't assume how anyone whose been in the situation Arizona's been in, how they would deal with life. Sometimes she came across a bit immature and other times almost too tough to believe. I saw this behavior as a coping mechanism and it didn't bother me as much as it could've.

Still, there is a lot of tenderness and a great deal of heat in this book. Reading how Spencer and Arizona have their story is quite touching. I'm glad I got this book for review and will happily read it again.

A Life Worth Living by Lorrie Kruse

A Life Worth Living by Lorrie Kruse
Publisher Storyteller Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (392 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Snapdragon

A Surefire Way to Jinx Your Future… to perfectly map it out and then expect your journey to go as planned. Twenty-six year old home builder, Matthew Huntz, is on his way to making his dreams a reality—gorgeous fiancée, perfect job, and the house he’s always wanted. Until the accident. Paralyzed from the chest down, with his life’s GPS offline, Matt is forced to recalculate his path in life.

In A Life Worth Living, Lorrie Kruse shares a look at an ordinary man becoming exceptional - not because of injury, but largely through deciding on who and what he values most.

Matthew wakes to a different world...or perhaps, more correctly, as a different person, in a world he will see forever from a different perspective.

Matthew's sweet, strong personality is evident at the outset. Any reader will quickly feel an emotional attachment to him. We soon grasp details of his history and understand him to be a good person... and yet, we are there at the start of his personal journey. His growth is partly from needing to cope, but also, from rising to meet challenges. His spinal cord injury changes his choices, but not who he is.

This story isn't what you might expect; not at all. I set off, I admit, with trepidation because of the title. I thought this would be a story about disability, about heart-tugging yet predictable struggles and overcoming. Yet, it's not: it's neither predictable nor precious. It's not about disability.

Matthew's injury doesn't change the people around him: for example, it doesn't make his girlfriend a better or more genuine person. He still has to work, and must cope with people who antagonize him, (in fact, the believability of characters, in general, contributes enormously to this work). Quality conversations move the story along and reveal a lot about various individuals. If I had one complaint, it's about the total number of characters - some lesser players contribute little and might have been omitted.

Life and its various incidences are what change Matt, not his disability. It never forces him to become a different person, he decides that himself... and his choices bring him to second chances. Abby is a woman who understands disabilities -- but more importantly, about the need for two people to be sincere.

This is Matthew's story. It's about his family and his dreams and his love. Ultimately, this is a wonderful and moving story that shares both disappointment and achievement, joy and pain.

Ms. Kruse has a straightforward writing style that makes for comfortable reading. She presents injury and life struggle details in a realistic (and perhaps uncompromising) manner. Do read.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Only When the Loon Sings by Beverly Wells

Only When the Loon Sings by Beverly Wells
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (392 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Searching for true happiness, as well as escape from a controlling family, Morgan Prescott answers a Brides Wanted ad and leaves New York City's high society life for the wilds of Washington Territory. Her spirit and intelligence carry her through the shocks that await her--streets of ankle-deep mud, life in a one-room cabin, the hazards of cooking--but they are no help when she loses her heart to the one man she can't have.

Private investigator Luke Kincaid, a major stockholder in the Union Pacific Railroad, goes undercover as a logging camp foreman to apprehend the railroad's saboteurs. All he needs is a mock wife to strengthen his act, but once he agrees to Morgan filling the role, he finds himself longing for much more--a love he's forbidden to accept or give.

Luke Kincaid fits in well with the big, intrepid lumberjacks out in the majestic timberlands of Washington Territory in the late nineteenth century. In a ploy to strengthen his cover while investigating sabotage, he orders a bride along with the other men—picking the woman with the a background that he thought would appreciate his plan. Due to a mix-up the dynamics change and his private, controlled emotional world takes a direct hit. The desperate, determined, Morgan Prescott, who at first seems haughty, can laugh at herself, so Luke does the best he can with what he has to work with. While she does not fit what he had planned, her situation touches him in a unique way and she stirs a part of him long denied.

Morgan hoped for a good partnership, a friend, and maybe even love, only to find her hopes and plans are torpedoed when Luke says he's not free to marry; he's engaged. His calm proposal as to how both their needs can be met gives her ego one more blow, but she has survived worse. Besides, the handsome, green-eyed man with a sense of humor and an air of mystery about him intrigues her and makes her heart do somersaults—he draws her like a magnet.

The vast array of secondary characters is vital to the unfolding of the plot. They augment the danger, add suspense and mystery about the sabotage as well as furnish humor and offer true friendship and help to each other. Sarah, old enough to be Morgan’s mother, is a godsend. She helps Morgan, who’d been pampered all her life. Though very accomplished in many areas, Morgan doesn’t even know how to make coffee much less how to make bread, desserts, or how to cook meat. The humor and near-disasters that occur as she learns is delightful entertainment, especially when the two women cook all one afternoon and lace their coffee with whiskey.

The unshakeable bond the lumberjacks and Luke have is evident time and again as they battle saboteurs. It's amazing the respect each has for the others skills in the dangerous lumbering business where one mistake or misjudgment can cost a life.

When the action moves to the San Francisco area, a whole new set of dynamics come into play. With the addition of Lucy, Luke’s terminally ill fiancee, comes new emotions that overwhelm Morgan—guilt for coveting the dying woman's fiancee, humility when Lucy likes her and wants her to stay, and heartbreak as she sees Luke’s dismay over Lucy whom he loves.

Beverly Wells brings to life the timberlands and the bustling lumbering camp. She takes the reader heart-stoppingly close to the dangers the lumberjacks accept as part of their jobs. Her descriptions stir the senses. Of course, the loons on the lake in Washington Territory and near Luke’s home bring wonder an a touch of magic to the story.

Morgan gave up wealth and privilege to be her own person and to be true to herself. Luke put his life on hold to be true to Lucy and denied his needs and wants. How these two cope with difficulties and conflicts as they strive to do what is right and maintain their integrity make Only When the Loon Sings memorable.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sunny Days for Sam by Jennifer Shirk

Sunny Days for Sam by Jennifer Shirk
Publisher: Avalon books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (186 pgs)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Sunnyva 'Sunny' Fletcher is a firm believer in fairy tales. With the recent debt she's acquired, the hope of something magical happening in her life is the only thing keeping her going. She needs a job fast. So when Sunny learns the sexy new vacationer in town is looking for a nanny, she starts to believe she just may have a fairy godmother after all!

Internet guru Sam Calloway is only in town for the summer and needs a nanny for his two small children. However, the beautiful and inexperienced Sunny is not exactly the kind of caregiver Sam has in mind. It doesn't take long for Sunny's tenderhearted and bubble-blowing ways to soon have the children -- and Sam -- enamored with her. She's a dream come true. But after what Sam's been through, he's stopped believing in fairy tales long ago.

Sunny manages to work her way into Sam's closed-off heart, but at the end of the summer, will the workaholic dad go back to his life in New York City, or will he decide his days are much sunnier here with Sunny?

If a reader loved the film, Enchanted, then this story should appeal because Sunny’s character is as chipper, optimistic and loving as a person could wish without being mired in over-sugary or tooth-ache inducing sweetness. Sunny Days for Sam is the kind of book that's perfect for a rainy day or when life hands you a platter of sour grapes. It’s uplifting, happy and truly romantic.

There's a delightful cast of characters who bring this story to life. Credit goes to the author for some wonderful passages of descriptive prose and the creation of vibrant secondary characters. Kim, Sunny’s best friend, comes to mind. She’s key in prodding Sunny to action, to think about consequences or supporting her when the heroine is having her heart broken. She’s pragmatic, feisty and means well. Other important secondary people are the hero’s kids, Emma and Cole. They are the catalyst for much of what happens in the book. These children are not props; they’re vibrant, provoking and adorable. I loved their dialogue, and how real they seemed to be. The best name in the whole book is, Flea. The author certainly had me perplexed as to his role. What a tease! Flea was a fun character and I enjoyed his contribution to the conflict. A real surprise was the grandmother. I was getting into the groove of not liking her and thinking the same things the hero thought. A friendly warning, Ms. Shirk is devious.

The conflict deals with personality clashes, assumptions and battered emotions. It has internal angst, disbelief and a lack of trust combined with two people who are so different yet so incredibly right for the other. There’s misdirection, miscommunication and misunderstandings. In short, it’s a story about people who experience what humans do in real life. And like the real thing, happy endings do happen, but sometimes the couple has to go through a lot to get there.

Like, meeting the bad guy, who isn’t bad in a criminal sense. He’s more like a sullen, bully of a child in a man’s body doing stupid things and eventually gets stood up to. I’m not going to say who is involved in the eventual face-off but it certainly contributed the right amount of drama and emotional impact that made this story stand out.

All of this revolves around, Sunny, a down on her luck lady with dreams and hope. She makes the best of things whenever she can and doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Readers are going to get a kick out of how the hero and his children meet her for the first time. It’s one of the reasons why I referred to the move Enchanted in the first place. Unlike the movie, Sunny is very aware of the world, its pitfalls and the slimy snakes that populate it. Even with that knowledge, she refuses to let it poison her disposition. That steadfast positiveness actually takes strength of character to accomplish and Sunny has it in spades.

The role of the grouch goes to the hero, Sam. He doesn’t intend to be. He doesn’t even see it. His kids, as young as they are, are totally aware and try in their own way to make him hear them. But adults get mired in work and their own emotional pain so they get lost with no way of knowing that they are. How do you get a man so set in his ways to wake up? How do you approach him without incurring his wrath? There are no easy answers, same as real life. Sunny and the kids stumble about a bit until one fateful day, Sunny acts out of character. It shocked Sam. It made the kids cheer. And that is when the next phase of the romance began.

Equally heartfelt, completely engrossing and very emotional, the story of two people falling in love even when they’ve convinced themselves that they shouldn’t or couldn’t, is so well written, it was a breeze to read. I enjoyed getting to know Sam and Sunny. I liked their interactive dialogue as well as their internal monologues.

It’s true that some readers may think everything gets smoothed out too easily or conveniently and I can see how that opinion might be formed. But I preferred the book as written. There are days when I can’t handle harsh words or harrowing escapes and threats; where all I need and crave is a story that can take me to a different, softer place. There I can find enjoyment, entertainment and a reason to smile. I found all that in more in Sunny Days for Sam. The title is also a very clever play on words.

Pick up your own copy of Sunny Days for Sam for a sweet and refreshing change of pace. This book has characters that will touch your heart and a love story that is delightful. The eventual courtship of Sam and Sunny is filled with tender moments, wonderful laughter and wistful sighs. It’s a definite pleaser.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Reluctant Marquess by Maggi Andersen

The Reluctant Marquess by Maggi Andersen
Publisher: Knox Robinson
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (248 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Charity Barlow wished to marry for love. The rakish Lord Robert wishes only to tuck her away in the country once an heir is produced.

A country-bred girl, Charity Barlow suddenly finds herself married to a marquess, an aloof stranger determined to keep his thoughts and feelings to himself. She and Lord Robert have been forced by circumstances to marry, and she feels sure she is not the woman he would have selected given a choice.

The Marquess of St. Malin makes it plain to her that their marriage is merely for the procreation of an heir, and once that is achieved, he intends to continue living the life he enjoyed before he met her.

While he takes up his life in London once more, Charity is left to wander the echoing corridors of St. Malin House, when she isn’t thrown into the midst of the mocking Haute Ton. Charity is not at all sure she likes her new social equals, as they live by their own rules, which seem rather shocking. She’s not at all sure she likes her new husband either, except for his striking appearance and the dark desire in his eyes when he looks at her, which sends her pulses racing.

Lord Robert is a rake and does not deserve her love, but neither does she wish to live alone. Might he be suffering from a sad past? Seeking to uncover it, Charity attempts to heal the wound to his heart, only to make things worse between them. Will he ever love her?

To be a penniless orphan looking for a way to make a living or be a marchioness is a decision Charity Barlow must make; to live with wealth and magnificent homes or perhaps be a governess in someone else’s home, living in the shadows and teaching someone else’s children.

It seems expedient to marry the new marquess. He's strikingly handsome and willing to postpone consummating their marriage until they get to know each other better and then only for siring an heir and a spare. Also, it's what her deceased godfather wanted. However, Charity believes marriage is a sacred institution, plus she always dreamed of marrying for love.

Robert, the new marquess of St. Malin, sees marriage as inconsequential and doesn’t believe in love. His proposal is upfront with Charity. He will marry her to keep his vast inheritance, but he will continue living the life he likes—mistress, gambling, racing, and London Society entertainment pastimes. He’s determined to keep his freedom but magnanimously offers her all the perks of being a marchioness.

Maggi Andersen takes the late nineteenth century mores of London Society, a self-centered young nobleman, and a countrified, intelligent, kind, ‘all-alone’ young woman and creates a captivating story of love—in a time when love and fidelity were SO out of fashion.

The petite, delicate Charity tackles the task of being a marchioness full-steam-ahead, hoping to make her husband love, trust, and respect her. She showcases all the fancy clothes and exquisite jewels he feels befit a rich marquess’ wife. She sits for a portrait that he commissions. Moreover, she copes with the gossip, flirting, and one-upsmanship that ebb and flow in the ton. Still, her husband is remote, though flawlessly courteous. He neglects her until she “made a mistake”. In a jealous rage, he berates her.

Wow, does he find out his Charity is no little country mouse. When he roars at her, she roars back at him with accusations that hit home—like, he's spoiled, pompous, self-centered, careless and unkind toward her.

Robert, stuck in an emotional time warp that goes back to his early teens and with a mindset of the privileged nobility struggles with “keeping his freedom” while learning to manage his estates vast wealth, and keeping his enticing little wife at bay emotionally.

As his metamorphosis makes him complete, he finally becomes a worthy hero to the generous heroine who berates herself for not being more appreciative of things he did for her before he realized he loved her.

While Maggi Andersen uses the usual elements found in romances set in this historical era in English, she weaves them together uniquely so The Reluctant Marquess sparkles and captivates. She captures the reader’s senses with delightful metaphors and compelling comparisons. The scents, sounds, etc. of London compared to those of Cornwell take the reader into the settings to feels the differences. This unique parallel is rather symbolic of how Charity and Robert’s relationship unfolds. While in London their relationship is polluted with all the trappings of Society, but in Cornwall it is fresh, clean, and pure; strong enough to find that happy-ever-after. Good entertainment.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Highland Legacy by B. J. Scott

Highland Legacy by B. J. Scott
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (235 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Faced with an abhorrent betrothal, Cailin Macmillan flees her father’s castle and quickly learns that a woman traveling alone in Medieval Scotland is an easy target for ruthless English soldiers. When Highland patriot Connor Fraser comes to her aid, his steadfast dedication to king and country is challenged by his overwhelming desire to protect Cailin—even if he must marry her to do so.

Accused of murdering one of her attackers and determined to rely on her own resourcefulness, Cailin dresses as a lad, intent on seeking refuge at the camp of Robert the Bruce. Can she elude an enemy from her past—a vindictive English lord bent on her utter demise—or will she fall prey to his carnal intent and be executed for a crime she did not commit?

No halfway measures in this story; it practically jumps off the pages with action, heart-in-the-throat close calls, and love scenes that heat the blood and send it racing. Highland Legacy reaches out and grabs one’s attention and emotions and doesn’t let go until the very end.

Eighteen-year-old Cailin McMillan, feisty, intelligent, and tenacious, decides the outside world she knows little about has to be better than her father’s cruelty and his despicable plans for her. She finds the horrors and hardships she suffers along with the danger that nips at her heels often rival her father’s treatment. The tapestry of her life is dark indeed, until Connor Fraser, a Highlander warrior comes to her rescue. He brings a touch of light to her dark story—a light that grows to a glowing golden love, albeit, not without going through the fires of refinement. To her he is magnificent—one of God’s masterpieces.

Connor Fraser has pledged fealty to Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland. He knows death stalks him as he rides into battle after battle. Consequently, he wants no wife that could be his widow at any moment; nor does he want to love someone. The hurt of losing his parents and two brothers is still a raw, aching pain in his heart.

He's laird of the Fraser clan since Alasdair chose not to accept the responsibility when their oldest brother died. Big, crude, insensitive Alasdair is older than Connor, but leadership is not for him. He sees the world from a very different angle than many, but he never fails in his loyalty to Connor. Bryce, the younger brother, is far more civilized yet just as loyal and good in a fight as his brothers. These three are a force to be reckoned with.

Set in the early fourteenth century when England was determined to place Scotland under English rule, Highland Legacy bristles with hostilities, intrigues, and vicious inhumane treatment of people. During this era, English law allowed nobility to get away with murder and all kinds of horrific treatment especially to women. It curdles the blood to see the absolute lack of value placed on women during this time.

The antagonist, Lord Borden, borders on insanity in his vendetta against Cailin. He and Cailin’s father are the darkest threads in the tapestry of the heroine’s life.

But, while extreme cruelty stalked the land at one end of the continuum, at the other end, extreme love that knows no bounds is strong and true, a bright golden thread that eclipses the darkness. The breathtaking, earth-shattering love Connor and Cailin share is spellbinding. WOW!

B. J. Scott’s Highland Legacy is exciting, graphic, sometimes humorous, and always gives a sense of urgency. While not a long story, it is chocked full of compelling characters and has all the elements one expects to find in a historical set in the Highlands during this era. Ms. Scott’s writing style engages the senses and emotions without let up. Good reading!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The World is a Stage by Tamara Morgan

The World is a Stage by Tamara Morgan
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (274 pages)
Heat Level Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Iris

Danger comes packaged in bulging muscles…and a codpiece.

Games of Love, Book 2

Highland Games athlete Michael O’Leary is famous for his ability to charm a woman right out of her pants. Maybe a little too famous. When he’s sidelined with a knee injury, his wingman pounces on the chance to take full advantage of Michael’s idle time.

Trying out for the local adult-themed Shakespearean production seems simple, but there’s a catch. Michael must woo the notoriously demanding lead actress, Rachel Hewitt, thereby freeing his friend to pursue a courtship of Rachel’s sister.

Rachel hates the thought of handing over the lead role in her admittedly scandalous troupe to someone so wholly uneducated in the ways of the Great Bard. But she’s in a bind, and the only one who can step up is a man who looks way too good in a codpiece—and knows it.

To add insult to injury, he refuses to take the role until she agrees to take his place in some barbaric warrior race. She’ll do it, but not with a smile. Unfortunately, the hardest part isn’t antagonizing her Scottish foes. It’s resisting the one man who seems determined to line and cue her heart—forever.

What could be better than a hero in a codpiece?

My first observation is that I was disappointed that this was not the naughty, saucy Shakespearean romp the back of the book promised me. My second is this story is so much more.

Ms. Morgan did not write careful, thoughtful characters. These folks are crude, loving, angry, talented, caring, vulgar . . . I could go on, but you get my point. Because these characters tend to read as “real”, this story can be difficult to read at times. When Rachel, our heroine, does something stupid, one just wants to yell at her. (I might recommend reading this away from other people if you tend to talk to your books while reading them!) The flip side includes crying, longing, and cheering for and with her.

Speaking of characters, our hero, Michael is definitely one who grabbed my attention. Hard headed, deeply loyal, with an amusing propensity for limericks, he tends to be on the vulgar side at times. Those who can be easily offended should beware. However, despite his vocabulary, and his occasional stubborn hard-headedness, he's a wonderful hero in so many different ways.

The secondary characters are no less well-crafted. From Rachel’s sister Molly, to Michael’s best friend Eric, to the girls’ mother and Michael’s uncle, they all leave a piece of themselves with you.

The addition of the Highland Games is a unique touch, and allows for some lovely descriptions of eye candy (as well as their hard work). It also gives Michael the opportunity to wear a kilt (and who amongst us doesn’t love a man in a kilt?!)

Yes, there is more than one happily ever after, but the way they get there is definitely a roller coaster ride. If this roller coaster is one you want to hop on, you may want to purchase this book rather than borrow it – I think you’ll want to visit these folks again!