Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jill Barnett: Wonderful

Wonderful: C
Only mildly wonderful.

After too many years on the battlefield, Merrick de Beaucourt is looking forward to a simple life of peace and quiet with a docile wife at his side. But when he finally fetches his bride-to-be from a secluded English convent, he finds he needs more than his knight’s spurs to bring order to his life.

When she was betrothed at fifteen to the legendary English knight she had never met, Lady Clio of Camrose believed that love was something magical. But her youthful hopes faded as she languished in a convent for six long years, never hearing a word from Merrick.

Weary of war, Lord Merrick finds little peace guarding the wild Welsh borders, and even less with the wife whose trust he destroyed. But as Lady Clio comes to understand the dark knight she so blindly wed, she sees a chance to make her dreams come true. Amid the enchanted mists that envelop Camrose Castle, they will battle together to discover a place where all things are possible, even a love that is rare and wonderful.

Other than the premise of the story being intriguing (a pissed off bride because her fiancĂ© was scum and he didn’t marry her after the promised four years), the book was just a nice read – highly forgettable. In fact, it was so forgettable that a couple days after I had read it, I had to go back and skim the story in order to write this review (I had forgotten the details of the story – the middle and ending…)

Merrick rushes to the convent to fetch his beloved bride and realizes that she’s gone. She’s pissed as heck and she, being the spunky, sassy heroine, rushes to Camrose Castle all by herself. Merrick is pissed, but he can’t say much to Clio since she’s even more pissed.

So there they are, wife-and-husband-to-be, both peeved.

Merrick realizes that Clio is a beautiful, lively woman and Clio realizes Merrick is handsome and cold – from all the years of fighting. Without intending to, Merrick finds himself attracted to Clio and feels himself slowly falling in love with her. When she gets shot with the arrow by the rebel Welshmen, he feels anger as he’s never felt before.

Strangely enough, they don’t wed until 3/4 of the book has passed. They live in the same castle, but decide not to wed…and I’m not sure why. (I probably forgot the explanation that Barnett gives). Maybe they want to get to know each other. Maybe he wants to stay a bachelor a little while longer.

While they wait out their wedding, Clio makes her ale, something she’s been doing since she was at the convent, and strives to make the Heather Ale, a type of ale that has *secret* powers. Merrick, of course, doesn’t like Clio making ale and tries to stop her and all that jazz.

Eventually they wed, no surprise there, and the king – who highly favors Merrick – bring with him a crudload of treasures and wealth; Merrick no longer has to work in order to receive his pay! Yay. So they wed, finally do the bedroom hanky-panky. I’ll give Clio this much – I really like the way she “gives” herself up. It was really touching and different from the usual.

Then rebel Welshmen attack while Merrick is away. They get inside the castle, Merrick returns, is horrified, tries to breach it. While saving Clio, a piece of the moat falls on him and the unthinkable happens! (Read book to find out, but don’t lose sleep over trying to find out what happens to Merrick. It’s a romance).

Wonderful is nice, but nothing incredibly special.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Amanda Quick: Ravished

Ravished: B

There was no doubt about it. What Miss Harriet Pomeroy needed was a man. Someone powerful and clever who could help her rout the unscrupulous thieves who were using her beloved caves to hide their loot. But when Harriet summoned Gideon Westbrook, Viscount St. John, to her aid, she could not know that she was summoning the devil himself…

Dubbed the Beast of Blackthorne Hall for his scarred face and lecherous past, Gideon was strong and fierce and notoriously menacing. Yet Harriet could not find it in her heart to fear him. For in his tawny gaze she sensed a savage pain she longed to sooth…and a searing passion she yearned to answer. Now, caught up in the beast’s clutches, Harriet must find a way to win his heart – and evade the deadly trap of a scheming villain who would see them parted for all time.

After the last Amanda Quick/ Jayne Ann Krentz disaster, The Paid Companion, I swore off her books for all eternity. But this book was highly recommended to me, so I found it in my large heart to give the author another shot.

I surprisingly enjoyed the book. I found it a little similar to Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase – because of the internally tortured, self-despising hero. However, I liked it more than Chase’s book for no other reason than the fact that it “clicked” to me more than the other.

I liked Harriet even though I didn’t care for her passion about fossils and the caves. I liked that she was logical and wasn’t a whimpering too-stupid-to-live heroine (aka Ava Gardner from The Hazards of Hunting a Duke). She was surprisingly all right with the fact that she married after she was found to be in a compromising situation with Gideon. And she was all right with the fact that Gideon didn’t love her – but that they were decent companions – and when she realized that there was a chance she could change Gideon, she strived to do so patiently.

I liked how Gideon was gentle and kind with Harriet, even while trying to get her to do what he wanted her to. And I liked how they were witty with each other.

And while I didn’t care for the looters and the thieves, Quick was able to weave it into the story without me being bored.

Quite a typical story, nothing extra fancy or original, but a nice treat nonetheless.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tara Janzen: Crazy Love

Crazy Love: D
Not enough love.

Crazy Love is the fifth installment of the Steele Street/ Crazy series; the one with the badass Special Defense Force officers running around with their cool, million-horsepower cars.

As much as I tried to love Dylan and Skeeter's story, I just couldn't. I love Dylan and Skeeter separately, but them together? It just doesn't mesh right.

Dylan is back from an Indonesian island, Sumba, and has completed his mission (swiping $17 million from the warlord Hamzah Negara) but was captured and tortured before he escaped.

His latest mission is to swipe the top-secret Godwin files from a government official's home in Washington D.C.

Problem is, Creed is married and has yet to return from his ginormously long honeymoon, Hawkins' wife, Katya, is expecting their first child, Kid is gone... there is no one but Skeeter Bang to fill in as his partner.

This is something that Dylan is (honorably) vehemently opposed to because he is madly in love with her. However, knowing their age difference, not wanting to put her in danger, and not wanting to be in her presence for that long, he crosses her off from his list. However, one thing leads to another, and surprise! Baby Bang is accompanying him to D.C.

It's in D.C. that Dylan and Skeeter realize that Negara's assassins are also in town (coincidence? I think not!). Reason: Negara is pissed that Dylan made off with $17mil of his money and Tony Royce, a former FBI agent who lost his job and blames Dylan, wants revenge. Perfect!

Skeeter and Dylan attempt to retrieve the files, get ambushed, escape, and realize their love for each other in a run-down limo. Then things happen, they return, and they're in love.

Oh yea, the FNG (fucking new guy), Travis and his "love" is introduced. Actually, it's more of Travis flies in to provide back-up for Skeeter and Dylan, is picked up by SDF's leader's (General "Buck" Grant) assistant, Gillian, and have a one-night-stand in her car in a parking lot.


As I've stated before, when I think of Dylan and Skeeter together, I think JAILBAIT!! I also think, "bleh" because their story just fails to draw me in.

And when I think of Trav-Trav, I think "blech." Maybe it's because Gillian is older than Travis (he's attracted to older women) and perhaps it's because they've already consummated their relationship. I don't buy that they're in love and I probably won't be won over in Trav's book, Crazy Sweet.

However, I do love Skeeter because she is so outrageous, a bit like Nikki.

Here is a description of her:
She was outrageous, the cosmic opposite of invisible. Her pink sweater was sleeveless, practically Day-Glo, and absolutely, positively laminated to her body. Her black leather miniskirt hugged her hips like a second skin. She had Chinese tattoos inked into the upper part of her right arm. Underneath her black tights, a lightning-bolt tattoo streaked up her leg from her ankle and shot over her hip, up under her arm, up around her back, and down over the top of her shoulder. He'd never seen the whole thing, couldn't see it now, but he knew it was there. She had that perfectly silky, perfectly straight, perfectly maddening platinum blond ponytail that went all the way to her butt, and every day she managed to work a little chain mail into her outfit. Today it was her belt and a knife sheath. Add the mirrored sunglasses and the ball cap and she was nothing short of a piece of work.

A piece of work with a button nose and the softest, most perfect skin he'd ever seen on a woman. She was built like a centerfold, dressed like a Goth princess, and had the face of a cherub. Every time he looked at her, he felt like the world's biggest fool.

Great, huh? She is awesome!

Dylan is hot, too.
But together, there's just not enough love.

Skip this one; you won't regret it.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Heaven, Texas

Heaven, Texas: A

As the second book in SEP's "Chicago Star" series, I felt that Heaven, Texas was a mix of hilarity and sweet romance.

I was introduced to Gracie Snow, a spunky thirty-year old virgin who was born and raised in a small town (Ohio). She worked at a nursing home, sharing her love with the elderly and after an epiphany, decided that she needed to re-make herself and live her life.

She starts a job with a movie production company, one that is to film a movie with the ex-football player (and total hunk!) Bobby Tom Denton. At thirty-three, he was forced to retire because of a sports injury and chooses to try his hand in acting. However, he is his own man and refuses to listen to the movie director.

Movie director saids Gracie Snow to collect Bobby Tom and bring him to the film production site, aka BT's hometown. In a series of comic mistakes (or not), Bobby Tom meets Gracie Snow and falls for her wit and tender charm. Bobby Tom is hunky, hot, kind, and

The secondary love story cast is of Bobby Tom's mother and the owner of a corporation - which is compelling but not quite as wonderful as BT and Gracie's story.

What I love most about SEP's writing is that even if I don't love love the story or the characters (or something of the book), I put it down with a smile. SEP writes hilarious and witty dialogues and her characters come to life through their words. There were moments when I was laughing out loud, groaning for Gracie, or "aw-ing" their time together. And to top it off, the ending was fabulous. Definitely a favorite ending of mine.

If you've yet to read a SEP, you're missing out!

Side: SEP posted an epilogue that was not published with the story on her website. I do love epilogues - and this one is great.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Susan Wiggs: The Drifter

The Drifter: C+

Leah Mundy is a fiercely independent female physician in the year of 1894 on Puget Sound's Whidbey Island. She has grown up without love from her father and her entire life has been a model of what she felt her father wanted. She lives on the outside looking in.

Enter our hero, outlaw Jackson Underhill, an orphan who took it upon himself to be the guardian and protector for Carrie, a girl he’s known since his orphanage days. Jackson finds Carrie and due to extenuating circumstances, is forced to flee with her. He realizes Carrie is ill and kidnaps Dr. Leah Mundy. Leah makes sure she is un-kidnapped and helps to heal Carrie and while doing so, falls in love with Jackson.

However, Jackson and Carrie are husband and wife, putting him in the off-limits zone. It is after Carrie is presumed dead that their romance comes to life.

I much prefer Wiggs’ writing style here as opposed to the other novel, The Mistress. She writes well about the emotional scarring of both Leah and Jackson and shows the growth of both characters as they learn to fight their own demons.

While there is nothing necessarily wrong with the story or the characters, I found the story to be somewhat lackluster – nothing horrible but nothing fabulous. It was a decent read, but would not be a keeper on my shelf.

Tara Janzen: Crazy Wild

Crazy Wild, nothing to go wild for: D

The Special Defense Force (SDF) is called in when suspected terrorist Dominika Starkova conceals the whereabouts of a nuclear warhead missile from several buyers whose interests are at best hostile to the U.S. Creed Rivera, surfer and pickpocket turned SDF agent, is assigned to find her and bring her in. But Dominika is actually librarian Cordelia "Cody" Stark from Wichita, who wanted to meet her real father, whose legacy to her was knowledge of the bomb's whereabouts. The CIA is also looking for Cody and trying to get SDF to back off, so the plot changes moment by moment from Creed and Cody's insane escape from the library, pursued by terrorists, the Denver police, and the CIA. Ultimately, the bad guys get theirs, and Creed and Cody become passionate lovers before she is arrested.

Sadly enough, Janzen is unable to make me go wild for Creed and Cody – her implausible plot turns out to be… implausible and the story is somewhat of a drag.

When I first picked Crazy Wild up, I didn’t care about Creed. Who’s Creed? Oh yea, that guy who was working with JT and got beaten up. I put down the book still not caring about Creed.

Creed has returned, after having witnessed the death of JT and is (logically) tormented. He is therefore given an “easy” job of looking after Cody, or Dominika, a supposed terrorist who knows the location of a hidden nuclear bomb.

They venture the streets of Denver and go through the attacks of multiple terrorist attacks, all of whom want to know the location of the bomb.

Things happen, people shoot at each other, Creed and Cody “fall in love,” people get caught, terrorists lose and the good people win… etc etc etc.

The romance is non-existent and after running through the streets with Cody and Creed (three hundred and something pages worth of running through and adventuring), I didn’t find their attraction believable and I didn’t find their romance to be romantic. While Janzen might have been able to pull this off for another couple, it didn’t work here.

Furthermore, the story introduced the to-be couple – Skeeter and Dylan, and as much as I love Dylan and Skeeter separately, when I read of them having feelings for each other, I get the heebie-jeebies and immediately think, “JAILBAIT!” I’m interested to see how Janzen pulls it off (or doesn’t).

Conclusion: Not worth a read. Who cares about them? Not I!

Susan Wiggs: The Mistress

The Mistress: C-

Beautiful Kathleen O'Leary works as a maid at an exclusive girls school where she has been befriended by three rich students. One evening, the high-spirited girls convince Kathleen to dress in borrowed diamonds and silk and accompany them to a masquerade at the Hotel Royale in Chicago. Here, Kathleen catches the eye of the city's most eligible bachelor, Dylan Francis Kennedy, and the two are instantly attracted to each other. Fate intervenes when the two are caught in the midst of the great Chicago Fire of 1871 and, convinced they're about to die, they impulsively marry. Amazingly they survive, and Kathleen is faced with the difficult task of confessing her real identity to her new husband. To her shock, she learns that Dylan is also a fraud. Far from being a rich gentleman, he's a con artist, intent on marrying an heiress and taking her money. (

Taking place in 1871, Chicago, The Mistress is a tale that had a lot of potential that failed to satisfy.

I really liked the premise of the story – a maid pretending to be an heiress attracting the eye of a very handsome and wealthy man, who turns out to be a con-artist. When a blaze sets Chicago on fire, Kathleen O’Leary and Dylan Francis Kennedy are sure that they will not survive and decide to marry.

Miraculously, they survive. And they spend four (five?) nights together in “wedded bliss.” Kathleen is convinced she is in love with Dylan and because she was raised with high morals, is tremendously guilty of the situation she is now in. And all the while, Dylan is silently congratulating himself for marrying such a wealthy woman. Lo behold the shock they both receive when they find out the truth!

The story sounds great, however, the read is a bore. There was a lot of emphasis on the fire, something that I wasn’t expecting and wasn’t particularly interested in since it wasn’t able to draw me in, and the fact that Kathleen found herself to be in love with Dylan seemed foolish to me. Even after the truth came out and they agreed to stay together until they figured out how to raise money, Kathleen still believed she was in love while Dylan gave no hint to having more than a lustful attraction towards her. (Talk about a turn-off).

After the truth comes out, the rest of the story is highly anti-climatic and their plot to make money fell plenty short of being exciting.

To be read only if you’re in dire need of reading material (as in you’ve read all the labels to your canned goods and your hair care products and still have plenty of time on your hands).

Sandra Brown: Envy

Envy: A

The prologue of a novel arrives in the Manhattan offices of a book editor, who's intrigued enough to chase its mysterious author, identified only by his initials, to his decrepit plantation on an island off the Georgia Coast. That's the first clue that fiction is stranger than fact; few publishers (if any) would go to that sort of trouble for anything less than a new J.D. Salinger novel. But bestselling author Sandra Brown makes the most of her far-fetched premise, setting up a convoluted plot that keeps the reader engrossed despite its flaws and foibles. Maris Matherly-Reed is more than an editor. She's also the beloved daughter of the publishing house's highly respected and successful leader, and the wife of Matherly Press's second-in-command, the smooth, suave, double-dealing Noah Reed. Reed, it develops, is the real target of the literary scam set up by the reclusive writer of the novel whose opening pages so captivate Reed's spouse. P.M.E., the writer, has a score to settle...

Envy was my first Sandra Brown and came to me recommended by fellow book-lovers; I was not disappointed.

Maris Matherly-Reed is a high-profile editor and the daughter of a publishing house mogul. When she is sent an anonymous manuscript – a prologue to a story, she is intrigued and set upon finding the author. Little does she know the adventure she is about to embark on when she sets out to meet the mysterious “P.M.E.”

Brown deftly weaves in the story that P.M.E. has written along with the journey that Maris sets. She also reveals, little by little, who P.M.E. is and what he is trying to do. Envy is charged with intrigue – just as Maris is intrigued by P.M.E., readers are intrigued by the tangle of the real story. It’s not until the end that everything comes together, quite cleverly.

I’m not intentionally trying to be vague, but it’s also not my desire to reveal the twists and the “Oh!”s of the story. It is a satisfying read charged with sexual tension and suspsense; I didn’t want to put it down. Highly recommended.

Monday, November 26, 2007

AAR's 2007 Top 100 Romances by readers

AAR Top 100 Romances

1. Lord of Scoundrels Loretta Chase Eur Hist 1995
2. Dreaming of You Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 1994
3. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen Classic 1813

4. Outlander Diana Gabaldon Time-Travel 1991
5. Flowers From The Storm Laura Kinsale Eur Hist 1992
6. Slightly Dangerous Mary Balogh Eur Hist 2004
7. Devil In Winter Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2006
8. Bet Me Jennifer Crusie Contemporary 2004
9. Welcome to Temptation Jennifer Crusie Contemporary 2000

10. The Viscount Who Loved Me Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2000
11. Lover Awakened J.R. Ward Paranomal 2006

12. Mr. Impossible Loretta Chase Eur Hist 2005
13. The Duke and I Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2000
14. It Had To Be You Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1994

15. Lord Perfect Loretta Chase Eur Hist 2006
16. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2002
17. The Bride Julie Garwood Medieval 1989
18. Mr. Perfect Linda Howard Contemporary 2000
19. Naked In Death J.D. Robb Futuristic 1995
20. A Summer To Remember Mary Balogh Eur Hist 2002
21. Nobody's Baby But Mine Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1997
22. Dream Man Linda Howard Romantic Suspense 1995
23. The Raven Prince
Elizabeth Hoyt Eur Hist 2006
Paradise Judith McNaught Contemporary 1991
25. As You Desire Connie Brockway Historical 1997
26. MacKenzie's Mountain Linda Howard Contemporary 1989
27. Dark Lover J.R. Ward Paranormal 2005
28. The Secret Julie Garwood Medieval 1992
29. Son Of The Morning Linda Howard Time-Travel 1997
30. Lover Eternal J. R. Ward Paranormal 2006
31. Devil's Bride Stephanie Laurens Eur Hist 1998
32. A Knight in Shining Armor Jude Deveraux Time-Travel 1989
33. Heaven,
Texas Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1995
34. To Have and To Hold Patricia Gaffney Eur Hist 1995
35. Almost Heaven Judith McNaught Eur Hist 1990
36. Match Me If You Can Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 2005
37. The Shadow and The Star Laura Kinsale Historical 1991
38. Cry No More Linda Howard Contemporary 2003
39. A
Kingdom of Dreams Judith McNaught Medieval 1989
40. Over the Edge Suzanne Brockmann Contemporary 2001
41. Sea Swept Nora Roberts Contemporary 1998
42. Ravished Amanda Quick Eur Hist 1992
43. Then Came You Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 1993
44. To Die For Linda Howard Contemporary 2005
45. Something Wonderful Judith McNaught Eur Hist 1988
46. This Heart of Mine Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 2001
47. The Serpent Prince Elizabeth Hoyt Eur Hist 2007
48. Suddenly You Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2001
49. The Proposition Judith Ivory Eur Hist 1999
50. Honors Splendor Julie Garwood Medieval 1987
51. Saving Grace Julie Garwood Medieval 1993
52. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte Classic 1847
53. When He Was Wicked Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2004
54. Persuasion Jane Austen Classic 1818
55. All Through The Night Connie Brockway Eur Hist 1997
56. It Happened One Autumn Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2005
57. Born In Fire Nora Roberts Contemporary 1994
58. Thunder and Roses Mary Jo Putney Eur Hist 1993
59. Kiss An Angel Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1996
60. Out Of Control Suzanne Brockmann Contemporary 2002
61. After The Night Linda Howard Contemporary 1995
62. Lady Sophia's Lover Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2002
63. The Secret
Pearl Mary Balogh Eur Hist 1991
64. Once and Always Judith McNaught Eur Hist 1987
65. More Than A Mistress Mary Balogh Eur Hist 2000
66. Untie My Heart Judith Ivory Eur Hist 2002
67. See Jane Score Rachel Gibson Contemporary 2003
68. The Rake Mary Jo Putney Eur Hist 1998
69. Dragonfly in Amber Diana Gabaldon Time-Travel 1992
70. Perfect Judith McNaught Contemporary 1993
71. Whitney, My Love Judith McNaught Eur Hist 1985

72. The Duke Gaelen Foley Eur Hist 2000
73. One Perfect Rose Mary Jo Putney Eur Hist 1997
74. Shattered Rainbows Mary Jo Putney Eur Hist 1996
75. The Windflower Laura London Historical/Pirate 1984
76. Dream A Little Dream Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1998
77. Frederica Georgette Heyer Classic 1965
78. Passion Lisa Valdez Eur Hist 2005
79. Voyager Diana Gabaldon Time-Travel 1994
80. The Lady's Tutor Robin Schone Eur Hist 1999
81. Morning Glory Lavryle Spencer Amer Hist 1990
82. Worth Any Price Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2003
83. Winter Garden Adele Ashworth Eur Hist 2000
84. My Dearest Enemy Connie Brockway Eur Hist 1998
85. Where Dreams Begin Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2000
86. Devil's Cub Georgette Heyer Classic 1932
87. Gone Too Far Suzanne Brockmann Contemporary 2003
88. Anyone But You Jennifer Crusie Contemporary 1996
89. For My Lady's Heart Laura Kinsale Medieval 1993
90. Rising Tides Nora Roberts Contemporary 1998
91. Lover Revealed J. R. Ward Paranormal 2007

92. Open Season Linda Howard Contemporary 2001
93. Born In Ice Nora Roberts Contemporary 1996
94. Ransom Julie Garwood Medieval 1999
Venetia Georgette Heyer Classic 1958
96. Miss Wonderful Loretta Chase Eur Hist 2004
97. Ain't She Sweet Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 2004
98. The Notorious Rake Mary Balogh Eur Hist 1992
99. The Prize Julie Garwood Medieval 1991
100. Slave To Sensation Nalini Singh Paranormal 2006

I read 35 out of the 100 but have at least heard of 98% of the books listed – highlighted.
The titles that are struck through are stories that I’ve started and didn’t finish, for whatever reason, or have chosen not to read. The ones in italic are on my TBR list.

But I must add that the readers have astonishingly bad taste in books --
Paradise at 24 and JR Ward's books beating all of the JMs? Are you kidding me? Blech.

Tara Janzen: CRAZY COOL

Crazy Cool: A

She's sizzling hot.
He's icy cool...

He called her Bad Luck Dekker, a gorgeous socialite who trailed trouble in her wake. Christian Hawkins should know. Thirteen years ago he saved Kat Dekker's life - only to spend two years in jail for a crime he didn't commit. Now it's deja vu all over again when he rescues Kat from an explosion that rips through a Denver art auction. This time Christian - now an operative with an elite U.S. task force - plans to keep her close until he figures out why somebody wants to kill her. That is, if he can keep his cool around this sizzling-hot lady...

I lurve this book - it beats Crazy Hot out of the waters! Not only am I completely and totally intrigued by Kid and Nikki, I found Kat and Christian to be a completely lovable hero-and-heroine pair.

Christian and Dylan are in the South Americas doing their SDF work when they get pulled out and are mandated to be bodyguards at a Denver art auction. They're royally pissed since Creed and J.T. are missing and presumed dead. They want to help search for the rest of their friends, but higher powers call and they are called to obey.

The art auction is one that Katya Dekker is in charge of, the woman that Christian fell in love with thirteen years ago and never quite got over her. When a bomb goes off at the auction, he has to keep Kat safe. With Kat comes a nightmare that Christian thought he overcame - he was framed for committing a murder thirteen years ago and his framers are after him - again!

It is in the midst of trying to get to the bottom of the Prom King Murder mystery and trying to find JT and Creed that sparks fly between Kat and Christian.

Their passion and love is explosive and hot. Not only that, but the secondary story of Kid and Nikki is fabulous. Surprisingly, Kid and Nikki's story does not detract from Christian's and the flip from different scenes create the fast rhythm of getting through the story.

I picked up this story at approximately 11:30pm -- and finished it within four hours and fifteen minutes at 3:45 am. I could not put the book down -- I needed to know more! Who cared about the freaking Prom King mystery - what was going on with Kat and Christian? And then Kit and Nikki. Oh gosh!!

It was with that mindset I whizzed through the story.

I must admit, while I am not excited for the next story - Creed's - it only makes sense, something I realize only because I've already devoured Kid's story (a couple nights ago).

Fast-paced and intensely sexy-hot, this is a definite must-read! (But skip Crazy Hot, it's not worth your time).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Jude Deveraux: A Knight in Shining Armor

A Knight in Shining Armor: B+

In her hardcover debut, Deveraux (The Taming) offers an imaginative romantic historical fantasy, whose virtue of unpredictabiity is undermined by plodding, graceless prose. Vacationing in England with her lover, Robert, and his spoiled teenage daughter, heroine Dougless Montgomery is abandoned by them in a remote country churchyard near the tomb of Nicholas Stafford, an earl who died in 1564. Almost immediately, an armor-clad swashbuckler materializes--Nicholas himself, reincarnated in the 20th century to clear his reputation, having been unjustly convicted of treason. Intrigued by his plight, Dougless agrees to help Nicholas learn his accuser's identity and restore his good name. They become lovers, and their adventures briefly lead Dougless back to the 1560s, allowing Deveraux to portray that period from a contemporary woman's perspective, as well as 1988 through the eyes of a confounded Elizabethan nobleman. Well-detailed historical highlights and a heartwarming conclusion...

I am in the minority of my romance-reading friends when I state that while A Knight in Shining Armor is a decently entertaining read, that it is nothing special. Perhaps it was with too high of expectations I read the book – hearing from all of my friends how wonderful the book was certainly led me to think it was going to far more excellent than it was. Or perhaps I am merely hard-to-please.

Dougless starts by being an insecure and lost heroine, her insecurity is so pitiful and she is so exploited by her boyfriend, it is clear that character growth is in order – which does happen as she meets Nicholas, who comes from the past when he hears her cries inside a church.

They meet, dally about in the present day (in the 1980s), then do some time-traveling to the past where Dougless is confronted with medieval life.

Their love is strong and Dougless returns to her time as a stronger and more confident woman. And Nicholas? He is there, but not as you would imagine him to be.

The ending was different and was a surprise, one that I didn’t love overly much in the love story, but in the greater scheme of things, fit the story well. And I’m glad for Dougless’s change. However, the story itself and the romance itself isn’t extraordinary, as I had hoped it to be.

A worthwhile read, but nothing over-the-top special.

Penelope Williamson: Keeper of the Dream

Keeper of the Dream: A

Published in 1995, Keeper of the Dream by Penelope Williamson is a hard book to find. However, the search is well worth the results! It is an epic tale between the Norman warrior Raine and Welsh princess Arianna set in 1157.

Raine takes over Arianna's home and wants to become lord over it - something that is very significant to him because he is the bastard son of an earl. Arianna comes from a loved Welsh family and is a seer - someone who can look into the future and/or the past.

It is decided by the King Henry that Raine, aka the Black Dragon, and Arianna are to wed in order to keep the two feuding countries at peace. And it is through this marriage that Arianna and Raine discover a powerful and everlasting love, one that stands through the trials of time.

Williamson's book has all the elements of a good romance: a tortured but determined hero who is self-made, a sassy and bold but compassionate heroine, and a love that is determined to prevail.

An excellent read and an even better love story, this saga-esque six-hundred page whomper will leave you satisfied, yet wanting more.

Loretta Chase: Lord of Scoundrels

Lord of Scoundrels: B-

One determined lady... tough-minded Jessica Trent's sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain. She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And when Dain's reciprocal passion places them in a scandalously compromising and public position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction...

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase was the #1 book of All About Romance's Top-100 poll, submitted by readers. Having yet to read the book that I've heard so much commotion and love for, I was intrigued and borrowed a copy.

The heroine, Jessica Trent, is a very intelligent, witty, and understanding woman who wants to save her brother from making a fool out of himself by acting like Lord Dain. To her surprise, she finds herself immensely attracted to Sebastian, a very wealthy but cynical and self-hating man.

The story is nothing new and original, however, Chase's writing style is a little more complicated than that of other authors'. She also finds a way for Dain to come to love and accept himself at the end of the story, which was also nice.

However, I didn't see what the particular fuss was all about. While there was nothing wrong with the book, there was nothing that was immensely grabbing or captivating therefore, it wouldn't be a keeper for me.

Tara Janzen: On the Loose

On the Loose: C-

He's a special agent who never loses his cool.

She's the heat-seeking missle headed straight for his heart.

Keeping cool under pressure is the credo C. Smith Rydell lives by. That’s why he was handpicked by the Special Defense Forces for a mission few men survive. So why has the ex-DEA superstar been reassigned to Panama City, playing bodyguard to a blond in a black string bikini? Except Honey York isn’t your average pampered socialite. She’s the woman Rydell caught smuggling cash into El Salvador four months ago. And now she wants him to take her back.

All Honey has to do is find the guerrilla camp, deliver the goods, and get the hell out of the jungle—all in forty-eight hours. Only one man is up for the job. But sharing an unforgettable one-night stand was nothing next to being stranded with Rydell on some third world mountaintop. And with bullets flying and all hell breaking loose, now is not the time for passion. As if these two could possibly resist it….

I read this book for a book club and at the end of the book, I wasn’t sure if I really knew what the book was about. Tara Janzen continues her Steele street series with this seventh book and unsurprisingly, the number of plotlines and secondary storylines in the book were ridiculous.

Honey and her five Louis Vuitton bags need to get into El Salvador. She is working with the U.S. government in order to help her sister, who is a nun in an impoverished village in El Salvador. Her mission is to go in, give her bags to a drug lord named Alejandro Campos, who in return was to take her to the rebel group leader (Diego?) so that she can give him the 2million dollars and in return, retrieve an especially important USB flashdrive.

Along with this is an impregnated nun, a terrified but part-of-the-scene history teacher from the United States who records everything, and there’s the badass Russian Irena, C. Smith Rydell’s former lover, who is back to destroy Smith and Honey.

It is in the midst of this and crazy El Salvadoran downpour, that Honey and Smith realize their love for each other.

The one scene that they end up together is the one scene in the entire book that they have to themselves; all other scenes are riddled with planes, guns, nuns, rebels, and… no romance. It would be an understatement to state that there was no love and no romance in the book.

What On the Loose proved to be was a rebel-military-top US government-secret espionage and military combat book with one sex scene (where afterwards, the hero and heroine realize their love for each other).

Silly and convoluted plots rule this book and because of the convoluted plot, the first half of the book is a rocky read.

Lauren Willig: The Deception of the Emerald Ring

The Deception of the Emerald Ring: B-

Harvard Ph.D. candidate Eloise Kelly continues her research of early 19th-century spies in the smart third book of the Pink Carnation series, following the well-received The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and The Masque of the Black Tulip. This installment focuses on 19-year-old Letty Alsworthy, who, after a comedy of errors, quickly weds Lord Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, her older sister's intended. Geoffrey, an officer in the League of the Purple Gentian, flees to Ireland the night of his elopement. Unbeknownst to Letty, his plan isn't to abandon her; it's to quash the impending Irish Rebellion. When Letty tracks down her prodigal husband in Dublin, not only does she learn of his secret life as a spy, she's sucked into it with hilarious results. Willig—like Eloise, a Ph.D. candidate in history—draws on her knowledge of the period, filling the fast-paced narrative with mistaken identities, double agents and high stakes espionage. Every few chapters, the reader is brought back to contemporary London, where Eloise gets out of the archives long enough to nurse her continuing crush on Colin Selwick. The Eloise and Colin plot distracts from the main attraction, but the historic action is taut and twisting. Fans of the series will clamor for more. (From Publishers Weekly)

The third installment of Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series, the reader is introduced to Letty Alsworthy and Geoff Pinchingdale-Snipe. I must admit, before I picked up the book, I couldn't even remember who Geoff was and I'd never even heard of Letty. All I knew about Geoff was that he: 1. worked with the Purple Gentian 2. was in love with a shallow girl named Mary.

The meeting of the hero and heroine was, however, vastly entertaining - much better than the second installment of the series, which proved to be a disappointment.

Letty, finding out her vapid older sister plans on sneaking off with Geoff, rushes to the getaway carriage in the dead of the night in order to convince Geoff of otherwise (since Mary is rather stubborn and somewhat irrational.) Through error made on everyone's part, she ends up as Geoff's unwanted but newly wed wife.

When she discovers Geoff is in Ireland, she runs after him, only to discover the Pink Carnation and the role her husband has as one of England's top spies.

It is good to meet Jane and the rest of the Pink Carnation league and to once again come across the Black Tulip, who we find after getting out of prison, escaped to Ireland.

The clueless Letty somehow pulls off being a part of her new husband's schemes and finds love in the process of doing so.

To say that they truly fell in love would be a stretch; by the time Geoff finds that he's madly in love with Letty, the reader is left in the dark. When did they fall in love? And how? And...what happened to the romance, exactly?

Nonetheless, the tale is entertaining and proves to be a fast read.

Julie Garwood: Ransom

Ransom: B+

In Ransom, New York Times bestselling author Julie Garwood returns to her beloved Highlands and the dark days of the despotic rule of King John to reacquaint readers with Scottish chieftain Brodick Buchanan, first introduced in The Secret. Brodick finds himself playing protector to Gillian, an exquisite English beauty, who is desperate to find her long-lost sister and a treasure of incalculable worth--one for which many already have died, including Gillian's own father. Coerced by the fiendish Baron Alford, who murdered her father before her eyes and usurped her birthright 14 years earlier, Gillian must return to England with Arianna's Box, a bejeweled golden box commissioned by King John, or her beloved Uncle Morgan will be tortured to death. In spite of Gillian's fragile looks and her loathsome English bloodlines, Brodick encounters a woman of immeasurable courage and determination, one not at all intimidated by his legendary temper or imposing size. And as he realizes that he has met his match in Gillian--whose sense of honor and duty equals his own--their passion for each other grows ever stronger in this thrilling historical.

This was a re-read while I was in bed this week, sick to my toes. I remembered loving Ransom when I had first read it and was curious to see if my reading tastes had changed since then -- and if so, in what manner.

I was drawn to Garwood's characterization of Gillian -- a kind and wholly compassionate English woman. But beyond that, she proved to be a very talkative - and naive!- young woman who was so innocent, she didn't have the sense to keep any of her thoughts to herself, which was exasperating as it was humorous.

Brodick proved to be a fine hero - the stuff that strong Highlanders are made of - equal parts brute force, arrogance, stunningly good looks, and the strength to be a laird.

Garwood's dialogue is a bit over-the-top, with conversations that went on for pages and pages, none of which were too stunningly witty or magical, but in all, gave depth to the characters. The suspense is a not-really-a-suspense and won't have you searching deep in your minds in eager anticipation of trying to discover the holder of Arianna's box. It will, however, keep with you in duration of the book and comes as a relative (but not great) surprise in the end.

Overall, lengthy and a little exasperating in parts, but still satisfying.

Tara Janzen: Crazy Hot

Crazy Hot: C

Love has never been this wild.
This Dangerous.
This Hot.

Only the most dire emergency could send paleontologist Regan
McKinney racing across the West in search of a man. But her grandfather has vanished, and Quinn Younger could be the missing link. What the bad-boy-turned-American-hero is doing in a deserted tumbleweed town is an even bigger mystery…until danger trails Regan into Cisco, Utah, and the sexy air-force pilot becomes her sole hope of survival…

And thus starts Janzen’s Crazy series. It seems as if Ms. Janzen is in over her head, bringing in paleontologists, chop shop ex-juvie boys, and Special Defense Forces (a special, super-elite group of the CIA…or FBI), but amazingly enough, the plotlines come together in a rather jumbled sort of way.

Regan McKinney is in search of her aging grandfather and ventures to Cisco, Utah in order to find him. Instead, she finds sexy Quinn Younger, the boy whose had a crush on her ever since he walked in on her almost naked body while he and the other chop shop juvie boys were serving their penance by working for her grandfather. (Confused yet?)

Meanwhile, Regan’s grandfather, Wilson, discovers an exotic species of Tarbosaurus eggs – intact and fossilized. Because Quinn’s team of Special Op Forces require Wilson’s expertise on a boatload of old bones they’ve intercepted (accidentally) while trying to intercept guns, missiles, and other weapons.

The bad guys come in when it is found that the Tarbosaurus eggs are encased in diamonds – the diamonds that the bad guys want.

So it’s with that Regan and Quinn are heading back to Colorado in Quinn’s sexy car. In between chasing after the bad guys, making hot and crazy love, going to Steele Street, Denver CO, it’s almost too much.

The bad guys aren’t quite bad enough to be intriguing, and the story long and roundabout. The chemistry between the hero and heroine was there, but something was missing to keep the reader’s interest.

However, the one thing that saved Crazy Hot was the introduction of Regan’s crazy little sister Nikki and Peter “Kid Chaos” Chronopolous. Their meeting, though it was several pages, was enough to make the reader want more. It came to the point where all I wanted to do was skim through the pages with the bones, the grandfather, Regan and Quinn, and snuggle up to the secondary story with Nikki and Kid.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Frustrating websites

It irks me to no end when I go to authors' websites and everything is a big heap of mumbo jumbo. When I can't navigate around the page, when things aren't confusing, and when things aren't laid out really simply, I just about want to punch my computer screen.

In this day and age, I feel like a website is crucial to an author's existence. Okay, that might have been a little bit of an exaggeration, but honest to God, I live by my computer.

After I read a really good book, I hop online to see what else the author has written. Then I get nosy. I browse around, go to amazon, check out reviews, what the author likes to do, what he (or she) doesn't like to do, and etc. If I feel like I have a somewhat intimate connection to the author, I feel much more at a kinship with the book that I am in love with. In reverse, if I hate a book, I'll do the same, hoping to vindicate the author of the novel ("Oh maybe she was having an off day...") or the website will further my evaluations of the book ("Gah, the book was bad and the website...")

With that said, I plead to all web designers and authors, and any other company or organization that might remotely need to use websites: please make it look classy and please make it user-friendly.

Sure, I can figure out how to maneuver your website. But I'd rather use that time for something more... interesting.

And it pains me to say it, but in the way I judge a book by its cover (mildly), I judge the author by his/her website.

Jerry Spinelli: Love, Stargirl

Love, Stargirl: A-

This brilliant sequel to Stargirl (Knopf, 2000) takes place a year later. Now living in Pennsylvania, Stargirl, 15, continues to pine for Leo, who dumped her, and struggles to make a place for herself in her new community. Fortunately, her eclectic neighbors, who include Dootsie, a five-year-old "human bean"; Betty Lou, an agoraphobic divorcée; and Perry Delloplane, an amiable thief, draw her back into life and happiness. Written in diary format-the "world's longest letter," as Stargirl calls it-this novel is as charming and unique as its sensitive, nonconformist heroine. Addressing loss, growing pains, and staying true to oneself, this stellar follow-up is both profound and funny.

A follow-up to Spinelli's Stargirl, this sequel has the same reminiscent and lyrical tone as its prequel.

The main question of "What about Leo?" and the ever-important "Will Stargirl ever get together with Starboy again?" kept on popping up in my mind - both of which Spinelli does a wonderful job of answering but not.

The adventures that Stargirl goes through is funny and tender; the emotions she feels are raw and real in spite of her trying to keep a happy attitude. It shows the life of a dumped teenager and the repercussions of love - and what happens when a girl strives to be different and changes the lives of others while she's at it.

Easy, fast, and light read.