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.