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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Wild One by Danelle Harmon

The Wild One by Danelle Harmon
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (192 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

"The bluest of blood, the boldest of hearts; the de Montforte brothers will take your breath away."

England, 1776: Lord Gareth de Montforte is known as an irresponsible rake with a heart of gold. When he takes a bullet for boldly thwarting a stagecoach robbery, he is stunned to discover that the beautiful young woman he has heroically rescued, Juliet Paige, is his deceased brother’s American fiancée, accompanied by her infant daughter. Despite his brother the duke's refusal to acknowledge Juliet, Gareth is determined to do right by the courageous woman who crossed an ocean to give her baby her rightful name. But Juliet is wary of marrying this black sheep aristocrat, even while she is hopelessly charmed by the dashing devil. Never has she met anyone who embraces life so thoroughly, who makes her laugh, who loves her so well. And, even when it seems the odds are against them, Juliet has absolute faith that Gareth will go beyond the call of duty, risking his life itself to give her and her daughter a home — and a love that will last a lifetime.

Something old is new again. Welcome to the rerelease of the de Montforte series; about four brothers who are as different as night and day.

Lord Gareth de Montforte is known in the town of Ravenscombe as the Wild One, and is always out to have a good time with his fellow troublemakers from the Den of Debauchery. They are men who are rakes and wastrels.  But Lord Gareth’s view of life changes when he intercedes during a robbery, saving a little boy's life and becoming a hero.  He's deeply affected by the courage of one of the other passengers, a woman. That fateful night, he became smitten. Then he discovers his angel is none other than his dead brother’s fiancée, Juliet Paige from America. Enraged by his brother Lucien’s decision not to honor his dying brother’s last wish, Gareth will do what needs to be done. He will protect this woman who has captured his heart. He only hopes he can become all she needs and desires.

Juliet knew coming to England was a bad decision, but she was determined to follow her fiancé’s last wish for his child to be raised with his family and to carry his name. She has never been one to accept charity, so believing herself to be unwelcome, she departs Blackheath Castle. She decides to leave and make a better life for her and her daughter Charlotte. She may be running away from her daughter’s family, but she is also running away from the feelings she is beginning to have for Lord Gareth. Feelings she should not be having, while in mourning for her beloved Lord Charles.

Unknown to these two people, their lives are not in their own hands. While their feelings may seem real; can they have a life together when their futures are being manipulated by another?

I enjoyed this story. Juliet was a true American with strength, courage and determination and Lord Gareth was noble, fun and had a heart of gold. Ms. Harmon drew me in with the plot, characters and her great writing. I fell in love with these two people. They had to battle their feelings and discover that, maybe just maybe, they are perfect for each other. But it wasn’t just this couple that riveted me. The community of Ravenscombe, the Den of Debauchery and especially the rest of the de Montforte family is what captured my heart. They, as a whole, had me turning the pages nonstop and wanting to pick up the next book, The Beloved One.

I think for me the most delightful thing about The Wild One is that the other books in the de Montforte series have already been written. This series is being rereleased in eBook format and I can’t be happier. There is no waiting to discover what wonderful things are going to happen to the other brothers. I will admit that I devoured the whole series in a matter of days. While the novels individually are great, the series as a whole is much better. I would highly recommend getting all the books, because when you are done with one, I can pretty much bet you are going to want the others!

On a side note for readers, there is also a sister in the de Montforte family, Nerissa. When the books were originally written, over a decade ago, her story had not yet been told. I am happy to report Ms. Harmon is writing her tale as of spring 2012. I am officially one very happy camper!

The Wild One is classic historical romance. While this novel maybe over fifteen years old, it is timeless with its tale and shouldn’t be missed. It is filled with history, love and a splash of sexual heat. The Wild One is a very good story and the de Montforte Brothers series is remarkable.

MacGowan’s Ghost by Cindy Miles

MacGowan’s Ghost by Cindy Miles
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (316 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Gabe MacGowan a sexy, brooding, guilt-ridden widower and father to mischievous seven-yearold Jake is the proprietor of Odin's Thumb Inn and Pub in a misty Scottish seaside village. He decides to sell the inn and move, not only to give his son a more stable environment, but to escape the ghosts who haunt him in particular his dead wife. Gabe hires Allie Morgan, an easy-going and fun-loving American, to oust the spirits who are chasing away potential buyers. Odin's Thumb is bustling with frightened tourists, quirky residents of the village, and dodgy yet lovable apparitions including the ghost of a sea captain who fancies Allie. Allie knows she can help Gabe chase away his own ghosts, but can she help him rediscover life and love?

Ghostly chaperones, sexy Scottish Highlanders, and a terrified inn keeper keep an intrepid American woman on her toes and test her sense of humor while leading her on a path of discovery that will change her life. MacGowan’s Ghost has so much to offer a reader with its richness of characters, dialogue and scenery, not to mention a sensual build up that keeps the emotional tension taunt, that it’s a book a romance reader can visit again and again.

First off, there are the ghosts. The whole plot revolves around them and they do a fine job of keeping the heroine, Allie, from doing what she was hired to do. In fact, they make a counter offer. It’s adorable how she not only understands them but eventually counts them as friends. How can ghosts be friends?

Ms. Miles explored that to my satisfaction and amazement. So much history, love and compassion surrounded them that I sometimes forgot they were ghosts. I felt really bad for one of them because I think he fell in love, but it couldn’t ever be realized. Poor guy, he knew it too but that didn’t stop him from doing certain things. I respected him all the more for it. Authors work magic; I wish Ms. Miles could someday work it for him.

The man who does benefit from love is the hero, Gabe. Actually, the truer phrasing would be that he eventually benefits from love. The author put him through the wringer emotionally and he has to deal with some very unpleasant things from his past before he can truly live for the future. It starts off innocuous enough but eventually he’s faced with an evil he has no idea how to handle. Fear rules him for a lot of the story and a reader will find out why. It was a very powerful plot conflict, and effective. In spite of that drama, he is a wonderful, manly and seductive man. I enjoyed learning about him, how he views his home, family and village. I also liked how completely Allie bowled him over and made this competent and virile man so tongue tied, he could only stare. Ms. Miles did a wonderful job of describing his eyes. I was hard pressed to decide which was the sexiest part of Gabe MacGowan, I liked everything about him.

Jake is Gabe’s son and he’s another contributor that affects Allie’s decision making. I liked how the author utilized the young and vibrant character because it brought more depth of emotion to the telling of the tale. Throw in a doting aunt and a loving mother and grandmother, toss in an exuberant brother and pesky prospective buyers for the inn, and a reader has a full stage of personalities to be charmed and entertained by.

Speaking of secondary characters, I had no idea that Ms. Miles had written other paranormal romance stories. When I met Gabe’s neighbors, I was agog. How did I miss more great sexy Highlander stories? I have no idea if it was intentional or not but the author set up an awesome hook for investigating her back list and I assure you, I’m going to. They were hot!

As for Allie, the heroine, she’s a peach. She’s presents as a chipper, optimistic and caring individual that refuses to see or speak ill of anyone. She is charming, delightful, cooks well and has the serious hots for Gabe. At first she comes across as too perfect. As Gabe and a reader get to know her, small tidbits of darkness start to show up. Eventually, I found out how she came to be the way she was. It was horrific, scary and totally fascinating. Ms. Miles has a great imagination and this book benefited from its genius. There is a lot more to Allie Morgan than just an effective ghost mediator/interpreter/ouster.

As much as I adored this book and stayed riveted to the pages until the late evening hours, there was something that made me snort. I liked Gabe’s eyes, and I mentioned that earlier. This is an extremely sensual romance that only became spicy at one point or moment in the book. It was mostly build-up and teases. One technique that was over used was the stare or eye-lock between Gabe and Allie. It got to be sort of freakish because it was used so much. I understood the author’s intention and in the beginning it worked like a charm. After awhile, though, his staring made me uncomfortable, like he was a vampire working woo-woo. Fortunately, there were many more wonderful techniques and descriptions that pushed my happy buttons and it all worked out.

I’d be lax if I didn’t mention the humor. This book was loaded with it. There are plenty of opportunities for a reader to giggle, chuckle, groan or throw their hands up in exasperation every time Drew put in his two cents, which was often and much to Gabe and Allie’s consternation. For me, it was fun.

MacGowan’s Ghost is a wonderful read with plenty to keep a fan of romance basking in its sensual glow. The characters are endearing, well rounded and entertaining. The plot was intricate and woven well throughout the tale and the relationship between Gabe and Allie was everything I could have wanted. I enjoyed the dialogue and the clever schemes the author thought up to deter the sale of the inn. The happy ever after is at first touching, bittersweet yet full of hope and promise. The final moments that sealed their happiness was what I’d been wanting and waiting for, for so many chapters in the book, and it was a relief to see it realized. Ms. Miles delivered on the promise of a delightful love story and I couldn’t be happier. If readers haven’t discovered the talents of this author, they’re missing out. Obviously, I was, but no longer. I like this author’s style.

Monday, July 30, 2012

When Love Comes My Way by Lori Copeland

When Love Comes My Way by Lori Copeland
Publisher: Harvest House
Genre: Inspirational, Historical
Length: Full Length (300 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

From bestselling author Lori Copeland, When Love Comes My Way is a love story about redemption, forgiveness, and renewed spiritual awakenings set against the backdrop of scenic Upper Peninsula, Michigan, in the days when pine was king.

Michigan, 1873—As Tess Wakefield wakes from a frightening wagon accident, she discovers she has lost her memories. In her recovery, she loses her heart as well to handsome lumberjack Jake Lannigan. It's not a two-way street, though. Jake thinks he knows exactly who she is—the spoiled Wakefield Timber heir—but he believes the accident provides the means to show her that she has a responsibility to replant the trees and not to merely invest her inheritance opening another of her silly millinery shops.

Then he slowly he begins to fall in love with her. Jake wants to tell Tess the truth, but before he can her true identity is uncovered, and then both of them find the emotional stakes too high. Will God intervene and show this headstrong couple that only He in His wisdom could have paired them together?

During a bitter cold winter near Lake Huron in late nineteenth century, huge, handsome lumberjack Jake “Big Say” Lannigan and Philadelphia-reared heiress Tess Wakefield, who has amnesia, keep Wakefield Timber logging camp in a stir.

Lori Copeland captivates with a setting that certainly doesn’t seem conducive to romance, but uses it to create a “meant-to-be” love match. She also uses it to bring to life some intriguing characters whose strengths and weakness are revealed as they cope with less than desirable living conditions, hazardous working conditions, and social interactions that stir up conflicts that test integrity, faith, morals, and patience. She besieges the senses: like smells in the bunkhouse; feel of the bitter cold, sight of a moonlit crystal clear night; taste of food after a hard day’s work; sounds of the working lumberjacks as trees are topped and “timberrr” rings out, and so much more. Her amazing descriptions place the reader right in the middle of it all.

When Love Comes My Way, even though an inspirational novel, does not sermonize or evangelize, but lets the reader have a vicarious experience with major characters whose deep, abiding Christian belief is part of the very fabric of their being. It is evidenced in their actions and in the debilitating sense of guilt that niggles at them when they fall short of what they know is acceptable for a true believer.

The relationship that grows with Jake and Tess keeps the reader turning pages. Ms. Copeland weaves their lives together with humorous actions, devious actions, subtle but compelling feelings and desires, and intriguing back story as she skillfully turns their differences around to mutual desire not just for each other, but also a desire to help people in the present and to do what will help generations to come.

The secondary characters are a hardy lot. The downtrodden young wife Echo--hers is a “not-to-miss” story; the “monster” school children—my word, made shudder to think about trying to teach those little “darlings”; the polite Andre Montague, Jake’s right hand man; Talbot, Tess’s guardian and fiancé, and many others all add a humanness to this delightful story that is hard to put down—kept me up late.

When Love Comes My Way is an exquisite love story set is a harsh environment. Ms. Copeland’s awesome writing style, her captivating characters, and wonderful descriptions make this a story to be read more than once.

SEALed and Delivered by Jill Monroe

SEALed and Delivered by Jill Monroe
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (146 pgs)
Heat: spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Subject: Nathaniel Peterson, SEAL instructor

Current status: Unexpectedly engaged in a sizzling kiss

Mission: Train the SEALs without interruption

Obstacle: Hailey Sutherland--the best kind of distraction!

Kiss the first man you see. The Fate Delivery Cards were a silly impulse purchase. But thanks to one of the Cards, bed-and-breakfast owner Hailey Sutherland finds herself locked in a scorching kiss with super-hot, wet-suit-clad navy SEAL Nate Peterson. It seems that fate is opposed to Hailey's self-imposed celibacy....

Especially since Nate has picked up his own Fate Delivery Card--and he intends to follow it through... until Hailey is in his bed!

How can a woman, three times at almost getting to the altar, get over the fear that number four will fail like all the others have? Only a man determined and trained to reach the end game is up to the challenge and Nate, Navy SEAL and lover of cookies, is just the man for the mission.

I’m hard pressed to find anything that I didn’t like in this book. I found the first meeting between Hailey and Nate inspired, his pursuit of her romantic and fascinating, Hailey’s self-delusion entertaining and their sexy interludes blush-worthy.

I enjoyed their dialogue, both internal monologues and their conversational gambits as they learned about each other. I also appreciated the sibling relationship between Hailey and Rachel because Rachel wouldn’t let Hailey hide from her feelings. In her own sisterly way, she managed to prod the heroine into facing her true feelings while supporting her as Hailey muddled through this new and unexpected threat to her heart.

The addition of a secondary romance between Amy, a friend of both Hailey and Rachel, and her husband-to-be was a nice touch. Even if Hailey can’t figure out how to let go and risk her heart again, nothing was going to stop her from meddling and assisting someone else in getting their own happily ever after, and she’s got the perfect self-help book to do it. In fact, that was a very interesting side road to explore in this story. Seems Amy has some mixed-up ideas about sex and its role in a marriage. The author did a nice job of weaving a little life lesson in there for women in real life. It wasn’t heavy handed by any means. Not only was it effective but it was fun, especially when Amy took control and let herself fly. Jake was a very happy man. And I was a very entertained reader.

As far as the conflict goes, it was a light one. SEALed and Delivered is a character driven romance with the plot being based on the hero and heroine ironing out their differences in what they wanted from and for each other, getting over a past, a dangerous job, a struggling family B & B and their own internal angst. There were no actual villains harmed in the telling of this tale -- unless you count a deck of cards and the demolishing of innocent cookies.

SEALed and Delivered is an easy, breezy, steamy and delightful story that inspires hormones to hum and chuckles to break out. It’s a fantastic read for any time that a reader needs a book that explores the fun of falling in love. Ms. Monroe has a reputation for creating characters and situations that always deliver smiles, sighs and appreciation of unusual personality quirks. If a reader is in any doubt, pick up your own copy of SEALed and Delivered and see for yourself how much trouble a little deck of cards can be. It’ll be worth it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wedlocked: Banished Sheikh, Untouched Queen by Carol Marinelli

Wedlocked: Banished Sheikh, Untouched Queen by Carol Marinelli
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (190 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

About to lose his kingdom, Xavian is marrying for power—his wedding night will be purely for duty. As he unveils his new queen, nervous and naked, bathed in fragrant oils, he's stunned that she's as beautiful as the desert stars….

This queen deserves a royal bedding worthy of the Arabian Nights…and in her arms Xavian discovers that, though he may not have a kingdom, he has the strength and power of a thousand kings.

But this untouched queen could be his undoing….

What’s not to like about a queen falling in love with a king with a dual personality? It’s fascinating and there’s plenty of feeling and emotion to rope a reader into the plot. It was like watching a big cute caterpillar slowly morph into a bold and brilliant butterfly, set to spread his wings like the hero he is.

That’s how I saw Xavian’s character. He was handsome, born to rule and had everything he wanted, including a new queen. However, a reader can sense that there’s something percolating inside him that needs to see the light of day. If a reader is coming into this story fresh, then they’re going to interpret it as foreshadowing in a huge way. However, if a reader snatched up this novel because of the hook in the previous book by Ms. Marinelli, The Desert King’s Housekeeper Bridethen they’ll know exactly what is pushing through his brain. I read the previous story and I entered into reading Xavian’s story with excitement and great anticipation. I was not disappointed.

Poor Queen Layla. She doesn’t have the insight of reading a book about her new husband’s family. She’s as in the dark as a new reader would be. She knows something isn’t right with her own kingdom but just for awhile, she let it all go and discovered who she was as a woman. She was a queen, why should she have to settle for less, now that she understood the mysteries between a husband and wife. It didn’t hurt that Xavian was knowledgeable about such things and that he cared. Under his sensual touch and burning kisses, she came alive and it was a great scene. I especially liked the part with Baja in the tent. I got the impression that Baja’s own experiences with men weren’t as fun or inspiring. Thank goodness for the new generation of royalty because they are a lot more interesting to read about.

Another thing to admired about Layla was her fortitude, determination and the fact she ruled by sheer grit. The people she should trust the most, her advisors, were a great strain and because of them, her rule was a heavy burden on her shoulders. There was one scene that highlighted the differences between hers and Xavian’s kingdoms and I felt really bad for her. It wasn’t fair. That is why when things came to a head, the hero earned his hero status because he ‘saw’, and acted. It might seem odd, but that moment in time, for me, was one of the most romantic things that man did for his wife and made me sigh in delight. Other readers might choose something else as their pivotal romantic moment because

Ms. Marinelli certainly provided many to choose from.

Secondary characters were the triggers that shifted the focus of the story and ramped up the tension and suspense. Presented with the truth, the facts about the scars on his wrists, and the ramifications of his life, the hero had some hard choices to make. He wasn’t exactly graceful about it either. That’s the only thing that wasn’t perfect about this book -- Xavian’s yo-yo shunning of Layla. I understood that he was going through an emotional morass, vacillating between accepting he was actually Zafir, a missing prince, and resisting it too. What I couldn’t accept was his reasoning that he was ‘giving her a choice’. Some choice if she didn’t even know what her options were because he initially, absolutely and unequivocally refused to tell her anything. How typical for a male character to assume a lady’s reaction and make a decision on that assumption instead of truly informing her and giving her the option. I expected more from his character because in every other aspect, he was a well written hero.

The dialogue was well done and the pacing always moved forward with no slow parts. Most of the story is told in either Xavian/Zafir’s POV or Layla’s. However, the author chose to briefly add one more POV from one of the secondary characters. I understood why she did it, but it was sudden and unexpected. Perhaps the author was stymied as to how to move the plot forward. It broke the flow but was effective and it did the trick.

Wedlocked: Banished Sheikh, Untouched Queen was everything I hoped for. It had a wonderful conflict, a strong hero and heroine, exotic locale and a delightful romance. I was thrilled with the plot resolution and the happily ever after. The greatest result of this story’s journey -- Zafir now has the best of everything. After what he’d been through, he deserved it. Pick up your own copy to see why.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Desert King’s Housekeeper Bride by Carol Marinelli

The Desert King’s Housekeeper Bride by Carol Marinelli
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (192 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Housekeeper Effie, a practical yet slightly frumpy virgin, has been summoned to the desert to serve the sheikh!

Ruthless Sheikh King Zakari had gone to seek solitude in the sands, but nights alone are not something this ruler is used to. However, with his housekeeper at his service, there's no need to allow his bed to grow cold….

After hot hours of passion, Effie's heart is near to bursting. But what she doesn't realize is that something has compelled Zakari to take her, a lowly servant, as his royal bride!

I do so love those sheikhs with their heavy burdens, traditions and blinders called ‘duty’. They always seem to focus on the big picture and usually get blindsided by this little thing called ‘love’. Lust they can handle and they are usually well versed in its nuances but the lessons they learn from that other tender, heart effecting and life changing emotion sends them for a loop. It’s fun because they often don’t handle it well. Such is the case with Sheikh King Zakari and it’s why I enjoyed reading The Desert King’s Housekeeper Bride.

Ms. Marinelli set the conflict up beautifully. Effie was so innocent, trusting and loving, and most of all, accepting. She knew her place and was satisfied with the status quo. How lucky she was to have caught the eye of Zakari, the hero. Beware of stories that start off like fairy tales. Throw in a man who is arrogant and vengeful and any fantasy can turn into an emotional quagmire on a dime. That’s the gist of Effie’s plight.

What I enjoyed about Effie is that she persevered and survived. The woman she becomes is forged by trial. She starts off so meek, and is happy to be so. Next she's treated like she doesn’t know her own mind and is pretty much treated like a mannequin. One day she snaps and the emotional conflict and plot intricacies reach a heightened level of suspense and tension. The confident and wise woman inside bursts forth and the heroine stands her ground and manages to rock the world of her sheikh and her peers. The fallout is nothing less than spectacular.

As for Zakari, he really was mixed up in his head and heart. He has some incredible baggage that affected him at a young age so I guess it’s to be expected. His single minded goal, however, has consumed him to the point that he justifies everything he does in its pursuit. There is one decision he makes, however, that is totally unlike him. He wove a sand castle-type reasoning to justify it and tried to tie it into his quest but readers will eventually realize the true reason. The hero’s emotional state hadn’t matured at that moment. It will take the cold wash of reality and loss to understand what his brother had been trying to tell him all along. When he tried to correct his mistake he was met with a woman who humbled him, demanded respect and made him accountable for his actions – his wife.

I agreed with Effie. Zakari did turn a bit fast even for my tastes. Even though the heroine addressed it, I want to take it a step further. I think their reconciliation was too fast. I also think the scene with the big reveal could have been more dramatic. I’m not sure how the author could have done that but I was left thinking, “That’s it? No blanching of the skin, no bug-eyes, no crumpling of paper, no demands questioning authenticity, no grinding of teeth?” I would expect that kind of news to get some kind of reaction other than, or in addition to, what actually did get written. If Zakari is king, I guess I’m a drama queen, because I felt that scene fell a tad flat and I wanted more zing.

That being said, when they finally worked out their differences, it was interesting. I don’t mean it’s lame. I am talking about how the loose ends were tied up and how all the secondary characters reacted and treated the heroine. What was said and how it was done. The most amazing thing happened in the epilogue. The author tossed out a hook that I recognized instantly. I remember what Zakari told Effie earlier in the story and Ms. Marinelli, oh so naturally, slipped in a reason to make the next book an auto-buy. In fact, I bought it as soon as I was done reading this one. That’s how powerful the hook is.

The Desert King’s Housekeeper Bride was a pleasant surprise because of the intricacy of the relationship. Watching Effie grow from a meek maid into the woman she was meant to be was a wondrous thing to behold. Seeing Zakari also grow as a man whom one can respect because his love for Effie matured him in ways he never thought possible was delightful. Together it was magical and the happily ever after was better than any fairy tale because their love was already tested. It survived and they became stronger, together. Now that’s romance.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Will o’ the Wisp by P. L. Parker

Will o’ the Wisp by P. L. Parker
Publisher: Willow Moon Publishing, LLC
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (55 pgs)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Stalked across the vast reaches of the universe, Tannis, the last fecund female of the clan Light Bringers, takes refuge on Earth, veiling herself within the dying form of a human female. Her energy forces are flagging and to rejuvenate, she must seek the healing properties of the sun's rays, but by doing so, she risks discovery by the hunter. Time is short and Kadin--the most feared assassin of all--draws near!

The clever short story manages to surprise and delight by artfully spinning a web of deception that a reader easily gets caught up in. Perhaps it was the heroine’s plight and her heightened level of fear, or maybe it was the sheer determination and clear purpose of her pursuer, but whatever it was, the first chapter had what it needed to capture my attention and keep it.

Tannis is a young being and her internal voice held a lot of innocence and fear. She sounded sweet and pleasant in moments of calmness but she’s also confused and fearful. The author wrote the heroine’s POV effectively so that I had a lot of sympathy for her character.

Kadin is at first, the enemy. A hunter by nature, his thoughts initially do not tell me anything different than what Tannis already knows. Imagine my surprise when I find out that he’s not what the heroine was told. Yes, he hunts her, but for something totally not what the heroine expected. And that’s one of the best things about this story. And some of the most confusing because the writing was so convincing, incredibly solid and well worded, the shift from killer to something else took me aback. It was so diametrically opposed to what I accepted that my brain stumbled a bit. However, I enjoyed the new direction so I happily let myself be swept away again by this new and improved version of Kadin.

Another revelation that made me blink was who ended up being the real villain. After the truth was revealed, and thinking back to the beginning, it all made sense and I was miffed on the heroine’s behalf. It was never made clear why she was his target initially or what the villain’s eventual purpose or intent would have been had he not left but what happens after that overshadowed my curiosity.

The slow dance of romance between Tannis and Kadin was tentative and gentle. There’s a reason for that and a reader will understand why once they read this book for themselves. It’s the ‘how’ of it that makes this story unique. Personally, I wouldn’t want to ‘wake up’ in the condition that the sort of secondary characters are left in, but it does leave room for some spicy imaginative interpretations.

The funniest part in the whole book was Kadin cooking, or, attempting to cook. The most sensual was when the truth was revealed and Kadin’s version of ‘calming’ a panicked Tannis down.

Will o’ the Wisp is a really cute story. It has elements of science fiction but because all the action is on Earth, it’s more like a paranormal. There wasn’t much time to fully explore their romance, time being on short supply for Tannis, but the author had Kadin work his courtship wiles on her until she started to trust him. Why he was willing to go to the lengths he went to was part of his charm. If a reader is looking for a book that focuses on people, their emotions and the pursuit of love then this quick read with the sweet happily ever after should do the trick. It’s a nice afternoon read.

I Own the Dawn by M.L. Buchman

I Own the Dawn by M.L. Buchman
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (388 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Kee Smith battled through a difficult childhood to work her way up the ranks of the U.S. Army. When she finally makes it into the elite Night Stalkers, she feels thrilled, honored, and vindicated...until she finds out she's been assigned to the "girlie-chopper" piloted by the only other woman in the regiment.

Kee is determined to show Lt. Archie Stevenson, one of the male co-pilots, that she is just as tough as the guys. Throughout their special mission, Archie doesn't know whether to make love to her or plant her face-first into the dirt. But he'll do whatever it takes to break through that shield Kee wears around her heart.

I Own the Dawn is not your average action story, it's so much more!

This is the second in the Night Stalkers series, but even though I hadn't read book one, I didn't have a hard time at all catching up with the action. M.L. Buchman writes with eloquence and a feel for emotion that drew me right into the story. The characters are realistic and fun as well as darned good with guns. I loved it.

One thing I really liked about the story was the introduction of Dilya. She adds a dimension of humanity to an otherwise hard topic to deal with. This story takes place during a war. Yes, it's gritty. The truth of the matter is war isn't romantic or pretty. Buchman deals with the topic handily and like I said, with the introduction of Dilya there is an element of what the SOAR group is fighting for - to save humanity, if even in just that small place they happen to be.

The relationship between Kee and Archie is both hot and sweet. From the start, I knew they belonged together. It was just a matter of how they got there. And it was a HOT ride. Totally worth the read.

If you want a book that's packed with emotion and action, then this is the book for you!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Lady is a Vamp by Lynsay Sands

The Lady is a Vamp by Lynsay Sands
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (210 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

One late night leads to . . .

Kidnapped! When Jeanne Louise Argeneau left work, she never thought she'd end up tied down by a good-looking mortal. More attracted than annoyed, she quickly realizes there is more to her abductor than meets the eye.

One desperate act leads to . . .

Love? Paul Jones has need of a vampire, and only Jeanne Louise will do. He just has to convince this beauty of a Vamp to help him . . . never imagining that he would fall in love. But with the immortal world's answer to law enforcement hunting them, their time together is running out . . . and Paul and Jeanne Louise will need to risk everything to spend an eternity together.

It’s not too often that an Argeneau gets kidnapped. Usually it’s done by bad guys and the result is never good. This time around it’s for a higher purpose and the lines between good and bad are blurred. Two wrongs usually don’t make a right but in this case they did; it also made for a great read and a fascinating story.

The conflict is powerful in this latest romance from Ms. Sands. It’s about making a choice and living with the consequences. The author did a masterful job of navigating all the emotional ups and downs between Paul, the hero and Jeanne Louise, the heroine. What started off hopeful and promising turned tragic on a dime and the fallout is what propelled the plot for a good chunk of the novel.

Paul was a desperate man. He was basically a good person, smart, sexy and highly intelligent. He was faced with an untenable situation and was doing everything he could to avoid it, to no avail. His last attempt before time ran out reaped unexpected benefits as well as unforeseen complications. He tried his best and he mostly kept his sense of humor but one realization too many left him with an uncertain and lonely future. I really felt for him. All the hero wanted to do was save someone’s life and it ended up costing him his happiness. I liked that he tried to brave it out because he knew if he didn’t, he’d lose everything. He was tender, understanding, loving and supportive to Jeanne Louise, but it wasn’t enough. Paul was a very easy character to have sympathy and empathy for. I liked his protective streak, his ability for commitment and the way he expressed his love to the heroine. He was a great guy.

Jeanne Louise fell in love twice in this story. It would have been the perfect fairy tale had everything that she planned and counted on worked out. Such was not too be. Watching her deal with her pain was a sad thing but I respected the heroine because not only did she deal with her pain, she tried to mitigate someone else’s. That takes a lot of heart and deep emotional strength to be willing to put oneself in that position.

Because the blurb didn’t mention the other main character, I’m not going to either. I made the discovery the same time as Jeanne Louise did and it made an indelible impact on me. I had no idea that this kind of conflict was going to carry the story and it alternates between sadness, happiness, awe and delight. This person is strong enough to bring two people together or rip them apart, so it was a very effective addition to the book. The love emanating from the pages whenever this character was on scene is unmistakable. It made the plot believable and added a layer of emotional depth that was hard to resist. It also created most of the light drama and suspense, unless Lucien Argeneau was on scene. That man brings instant paranoia and tension wherever he goes.

Speaking of Lucien, he’s not the only Argeneau family member to show up. Whenever they are around a reader can expect the unexpected as well as fun, laughter, great dialogue and interesting character interaction. It’s not all fun because the Enforcers have to play their role and in this book, one of them messed up. That being said, I am giving serious thought that one might, just might, have met his future life mate in this story. If so, that will be so awesome!

This wouldn’t be a complete story without some scenes of that shared loving that is intrinsic to new life mates and Ms. Sands didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed how the author managed to put humor into such passionate scenes because when she does that, it makes her heroes and heroines easier to relate to. Regular people experience learning curves when they have sex with a new partner, but it’s extra special between Immortal lovers.

Although I mentioned that previous Argeneau characters are in this novel, this book is a standalone read. It’s no hardship to follow the plot thread because it’s strictly focused on Paul and Jeanne Louise. However, readers of the series will understand the extent of the worry that Lucien’s very presence always inspires. Imagine Darth Vader with a fluffy marshmallow center. That would be Lucien. It’s very rare to see the fluffy side of Lucien Argeneau. Readers almost get to see it in this story. Watch for it.

The Lady is a Vamp is as touching and sentimental a story as it is sexy and exciting. Like real life, there is a smorgasbord of situations that draw forth a variety of feelings from a reader. Not the least of which is the sense of satisfaction that comes from a well written and complete happy ever after.

Ms. Sands has the reputation for writing wonderful and entertaining stories with characters that draw a reader in. The Lady is a Vamp continues the trend and is a keeper.

A Little Mischief by Amelia Grey

A Little Mischief by Amelia Grey
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical (Regency)
Length: Full Length (295 Pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

How can a lady avoid a scandal...

Just as Miss Isabella Winslowe is finally achieving comfortable respectability, the fascinating and decidedly unrespectable Earl of Colebrooke inconveniently appears...

When a gentleman is so determined to flirt...

The darkly handsome Daniel Colebrooke is intrigued and alarmed when an alluring young lady arrives at his door in need of assistance. In a moment of impetuosity, Daniel decides he must keep a close watch on Isabella, and what better way than to strike up a not–so–innocent fliration...

Together they'll cook up more than a little mischief when a disappearing dead body and a lascivious scandal spins their reckless game entirely out of control.

Ah, mystery, murder, men shy of marriage, mercenaries, and a merry mischief-maker all mixed together. The ton is titillated and the gossip grows.

Daniel Fletcher Coldbrooke, The Seventh Earl of Coldbrooke needs a wife.  He doesn’t really want a wife, but needs one. As a second son, he’d been a gentleman rogue until tragedy struck his family. Now he needs respectability and an heir. Of course, he wants a submissive, obedient wife. It would be nice if he loved her, but that’s not a deal-breaker. He's dedicated to getting himself and his sister Gretchen married in one Season.

As we know, the best laid plan can go astray. With the help of one unconventional mischief-maker, his plan is set on its ear, or so it seems. This is a Regency romp to enjoy.

Isabella Winslowe, pretty much abandoned by her father and left in the care of a spinster aunt, has respectability and acceptance in the ton, but her plan is to live independently like her aunt as soon as she's old enough to come into her inheritance. Obedient and submissive are not in her vocabulary much less in her personality. She’s intelligent, compassionate, adventurous, and determined—far too outspoken.

Her first encounter with the earl of Coldbrooke sets her on edge. He's condescending, arrogant, judgmental and about as approachable as a wild boar. But he is so impressive, intriguing and powerful. He makes her heart race. Isabella and Daniel, thrown together to help save his sister Gretchen’s reputation and solve a mysterious murder, strike sparks off each other and ignite a slow burn that Daniel has a hard time controlling. While in cahoots and going on clandestine ventures, Daniel finds keeping his hands off her is as much of a challenge as solving the murder is.

The secondary characters add tension and intrigue. While Society Rules create worrisome times for anyone who doesn’t conform—which Daniel and Isabella can’t seem to do. My goodness, some of the chances they take are risky and so exciting.

Amelia Grey has a fantastic way of bringing characters to life. They pulsate with emotions and sparkle with humor while threading their way through the minefields of Society Rules to assuage out-of-control cravings and still stay ‘respectable’. She never allows the story to lag and she sprinkles in clues and a few red herrings throughout to keep the reader guessing. However, she keeps the reader turning pages with the steadily growing love story that enchants. A Little Mischief is playful and seductive with a touch of sad and serious, Most of all, it is uplifting, a Regency romance that leaves the reader feeling good. All has come right for the hero and heroine and for some other nice people, too. This one is a sparkling happy-ever-after.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah by Barbara Pearson Arau

Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah by Barbara Pearson Arau
A Dinah McKinnon Mystery
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (176 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Cooking columnist meets her match in the Florida Keys, as she battles a crazed killer along with a raging hurricane.

When she moves to the Florida Keys, cooking columnist Dinah finds herself entangled with a wacky group of artists, fishing captains and rednecks, one of whom may be responsible for two grisly murders. Sassy, funny and glib, yet basically compassionate, Dinah becomes the target of someone’s rage as she works on her new cookbook and tries to adjust to the possibility of a new life and a new love. When a hurricane smashes into her island, she is suddenly on the run for her life. Filled with humor, suspense, mouthwatering recipes and crackling dialogue, this is the story of how a gutsy young woman, hoping to heal her own emotional wounds, succeeds in restoring more than one broken spirit.

All Dinah wanted was some time and space to pull herself together. She got a hurricane and a couple of murders instead.

Dinah earned my respect almost immediately. She demonstrated admirable strength and resilience after the death of her father and the collapse of her marriage by setting out on her own and moving on with her life. Even when her smooth talking ex-husband makes an unexpected and unwanted appearance, Dinah puts him firmly in his place. She is certainly not the sort of woman to let others run over her. As with many well rounded characters, Dinah has a softer side as well. She is a very compassionate person who makes friends easily no matter their background or what other people may think. Her relationship with Amanda, a young girl who doesn’t speak, is especially sweet.

Webb Key is home to many colorful characters, but Rena is by far the most developed. She has a larger than life personality and is very bold and brash. Rena is the sort of person who has no qualms about poking her nose into other people’s business. I’m not entirely sure that Rena and I would get along well if we were to meet. I think I’d find her personality a bit overwhelming. However, Rena is a caring soul and she generally means well. At first I thought that Rena and Dinah might not get along, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly they bonded and how well they worked together to solve the murders.

Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah contains not one, but two mysteries. Dinah first begins looking into the murders, but as she begins digging up dirt on the inhabitants of Webb Key, she discovers a second puzzle surrounding her young friend, Amanda. As I read, I was constantly kept guessing as to whether or not the murders were connected to Amanda’s situation. I thought both mysteries were wrapped up well, if a bit too quickly for my taste. I especially wanted to know more about the plot surrounding Amanda. I felt that some events of the past were glossed over a bit too quickly and I was left wanting a bit more detail.

Dinah and Joe's budding relationship adds just the right amount of romance to this tale. Joe seems to be the complete opposite of Dinah’s ex-husband, so it was easy for me to see why she would be so attracted to him. I do think Joe could have been a bit more rounded. All I really know about him is that he is a very down to earth man with amazing blue eyes and a passion for architecture. Dinah and Joe develop feelings for each other quickly and it isn’t long before their relationship is on the fast track. I was a bit worried that things were moving too rapidly between them. However, Ms. Arau put together a wonderful “happy for now” ending that fit Dinah’s situation perfectly.

Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah is certainly a fun book to read. Dinah was easy to like and I truly enjoyed watching her tackle her first mystery. I look forward to reading about her adventures in the future.

Plain Fear: Forbidden by Leanna Ellis

Plain Fear: Forbidden by Leanna Ellis
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (421)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Peppermint

Rachel Schmidt Nussbaum, a young widow, is now seven and a half months pregnant with her first child. She blames herself for her husband Josef's death and she believes that she is being punished by God for her past sins.

So when a stranger arrives claiming to be an old friend from her wilder years, saying only she can fix things for him, for Josef, and for herself, she makes an impulsive decision to follow him. Thus begins a journey that will lead Rachel to the depths of ultimate danger, the potential for new love, and a battle that will decide both the fate of her soul and the life of her unborn child.

This story can inspire those for various cultures, ages, and backgrounds with its gripping plot lines and unique characters.

Rachel is a character that I sympathized with immediately. As a widow with child, I could not help but feel a pang of empathy for this soon-to-be mother. While she may seem like a quiet, young Amish woman on the outside, inside she has the heart of a lioness. She willingly sacrifices herself not only for those she cares about, but also for the beliefs that she has been taught since she was an infant. Even if God may have turned His back on her because of Rachel’s misdeeds in the past, she will do whatever it takes to maintain her moral standards and compassion for those around her. This really makes Rachel a remarkable heroine and one of the reasons this story kept me entertained.

Roc’s character was very intriguing because I never knew which end of the moral pendulum he would swing to next. As a vampire hunter, he had to make some tough decision that could get not only him but others killed. It also made him keep even his closest of friends at a distance since he knew he may have to be their judge, jury, and executioner in the future. This created a gruff man who can be difficult to care for. It also created a character that I wanted to continuously learn about. I could read a book based on his life experience alone because I know it would be full of excitement, heartbreak, and love. Yes, even the man who seems to care for little shows compassion and love, which furthered my infatuation with him.

The characters and plot lines of this story are extremely dynamic - so much so that in the beginning they seemed a bit overwhelming. Rachel and Roc’s past played a large role in their story and I sometimes felt like I was missing a few pieces to the puzzle. In the end, I was able to understand the whole story of both their individual pasts as well as the future they both hope to achieve.

The conflict within this story keeps the plot moving forward at a consistent pace. During a large section of the storyline the conflict supersedes the romantic development, but it also helps in bringing the main characters together. The author even allowed me to feel bad for Jacob a/k/a Akiva at times, which really demonstrated the author's ability to create penetrating characters.

Ms. Ellis really gave me a glimpse into what might be the secret life of the Amish. I lived in a predominately-Amish area at one point in my childhood so this aspect is what initially drew me to the storyline. I was happy to see that the author keeps the Amish lifestyle as authentic as possible. It helped to make this book truly entertaining. There is nothing run-of-the-mill about this paranormal romance story and I am sure that anyone can find something about it they truly love.