Thursday, February 28, 2008

Catherine Anderson: Simply Love

Simply Love: DNF
Cassandra Zarek & Luke Taggart

Set in a Colorado mining town during the 19th century, this romance brings together a truly naive heroine with the ultimate bad boy hero. If Cassandra was any more naive, she might even be simple, but it is "simply" her love that defines new meaning for Luke Taggart, a tough, impossible man of the world who is almost beyond redemption. (amazon)

I read 160 pages of this when I thought, "Are ya kidding me?"

How the heck is Cassandra so naively …stupid? And Luke is so grossly… jaded? The plan that he uses to get Cassandra to be with him is totally scum-bag-ish!!! Low! It’s really low and it makes me kinda hate his guts.

And Cassandra, for her family, chooses to go in and live with him for a year, thinking that when he meant “female companion,” he was paying her to be his friend. …doh! For’real? Are you fo’real?!

After she’s with him, he is continuously thinking of ways to get her into his bed – she, who is so stupidly innocently naïve – in his jaded, corrupt, rake-ish bed. He wants to use her for a year and then leave her… with a hefty compensation, yes, but ultimately make her unmarriageable, destroy her reputation, and uh, basically ruin her future.

What a dirtbag!

Okay, I’m sure he falls in love with her and so my predictions don’t come true. But the fact that he acts despicably because of his dick – makes him totally disgusting in my eyes.

Cassandra’s naivety just about tops off this absurdly unrealistic story (even for a romance!).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lisa Kleypas: Where Dreams Begin

Where Dreams Begin: A-
Lady Holland Taylor & Zachary Bronson

Zachary Bronson has built an empire of wealth and power -- now he needed a wife to help secure his position in society...and warm his bed in private. But not just any woman will do for a man whom all of London knows is not a gentleman. Then he unexpectedly swept Lady Holly Taylor into his arms for an unasked for -- but very alluring -- kiss, and suddenly he knew he had found a woman whose fierce passions matched his own.

Lady Holly Taylor was beautiful, generous, and, as a widow, destined to spend her life playing by society's rules, even when they went against her bolder instincts. But Zachary's kiss had aroused her, and though the shocking offer he made didn't include marriage, she was compelled to risk everything and follow him to the place where dreams begin. (amazon)

I was surprised I enjoyed this book so much. Holly emerges as a strong character; when given the opportunity to support herself and her daughter by the enigmatic Zachary Bronson, she takes his offer, to the surprise and shock of her late husband’s family.

Zachary’s offer is scandalous and Holly knows that her reputation would be beyond saving once she chooses to move in with him as his younger sister’s tutor/ social guide. She is necessary for his sister to succeed in the social graces of the ton because they are “base-born”; Zachary was born poor and through successful business enterprises, amassed a huge fortune, all but forcing the ton to acknowledge him.

Holly moves in with him and is plagued by her attraction to Zachary. She is still haunted by her love for her late husband and strives to keep him fresh in her memory, punishing herself for living. When Zachary makes a move on her, she feels guilty for feeling pleasure and tries to resist him… something that Zachary won’t allow because he is convinced she is the one for him.

As I’ve said, it was a bit irritating to read of Holly’s struggle; I’m sure it’s real and that it happens to widows. The grief that Holly feels, her attraction to Zachary, her despair and confusion are all emotions that Ms. Kleypas makes tangible through her writing. You can just about feel the pain that Holly feels. It goes on for a good portion of the book, making sense because her late husband’s death is something that cannot be easily remedied – she loved him deeply.

Normally I have a problem with this: I’m all right if the heroine/ hero is a widow but if the former husband/wife was a jerkface/ adulteress/ adulterer/ abuser/ rapist… That way, when the protagonist finds his “real love,” you know that the former marriage means nothing.

That is not the case with Holly’s story – she loved her husband dearly and was shattered by his death – dearly. It was to the point where I was left wondering if Holly would ever get over the death of her husband and move on, as hard as it would be. Since authors can’t portray this well enough for me (Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked is an example of this; I disliked the book) I don’t read stories with widows still in love with their spouse’s ghost.

It came as a shock to me that I enjoyed reading Holly and Zachary’s story, even though Holly’s journey of re-claiming her life.


(This might be a Victorian historical, I'm not quite sure. I would check but I don't have the book anymore. Sorry!)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Catherine Anderson: Sun Kissed

Sun Kissed: C-
Kendrick/ Coulter series #7
Samantha Harrigan and Tucker Coulter

One need not be an equine lover to appreciate Anderson's sweet contemporary romance centering on fiercely honest horse rancher Samantha Harrigan and handsome neophyte veterinarian Tucker Coulter, who meet while trying to protect a horse from its abusive owner. Samantha has always cared deeply for her horses, so when they suddenly fall ill, she's distraught; when it turns out they've been poisoned, she's horrified, immediately suspecting that her violent and vindictive ex-husband is the culprit.

Unfortunately, the authorities are pointing fingers at Samantha, alleging that she plans to defraud her insurance company. Wary of letting a new man into her life, Samantha nevertheless recognizes that she must call on Tucker to nurse her horses back to health. As he tends to the horses and grows closer to Samantha, Tucker becomes her confidante and champion, realizing that the only way for Samantha to save herself is to catch the offender before the police arrest her. In Samantha, Anderson has created a strong and gentle heroine, and a cast of family and friends proves charming throughout. This smart, wholesome tale should appeal to any fan of traditional romance. (amazon)

Haven’t I read this story before? Something happening to the horses? Falling ill and trying to find the culprit… oh wait, I think I have. It kind of sounds like the other Kendrick/ Coulter books… but not as good.

All of the heroines of Ms. Anderson’s books are broken people and it’s the love of the steady, handsome, understanding heroes that they find out the strength that is in them. However, I feel that the heroine-under-the-clutches-of-the-evil-ex-husband-and-divorces-him-only-to-have-him-come-after-her plot is becoming a little redundant. And the obsession with the horses, too.

This story wasn’t as good as some of the others because of the lack of chemistry between the two characters. The love that Samantha had for her horse was admirable, heroic, even, however, she spent all of her time and all her energy worrying about her horse, praying for her horse, crying for her horse, and I thought, ‘how about Tucker? What’s going on with him? You’re supposed to be falling in love with him!’

Tucker is falling in love with Samantha. He sees her love for her horse (that damned horse again!) wonderful, and seeing that he and his brothers are veterinarians (who love animals, horses included) he likes that Samantha is loyal to her horse.

But really, the romance falls short between these two: they just don’t spend time to really be falling in love… and she’s so burnt from her ex-marriage that she is super wary around men. I don’t know how they did manage to find a babysitter for the horses and spend some time together, but they did minimally – just enough to be in love (which I totally don’t buy).

There were the introduction of Samantha’s brothers (I see books for them in the near future! Jeepers, more horse books?!), but the heroines and heroes are all starting to sound the same. They have the same traits, same jobs, same families… same everything, and it’s getting to be repetitive.

I’m not sure if I would pick up Ms. Anderson’s latest book quite yet. I’m a bit horsed-out.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sandra Brown: Mirror Image

Mirror Image: A-
Avery Daniels/ Carole Rutledge and Tate Rutledge

A jet crash handed Avery Daniels a golden opportunity. Mistaken for Carole Rutledge, the badly injured Avery has found that plastic surgery has given her Carole's face, the famous senatorial candidate for a husband, and a powerful
Texas dynasty for in-laws. She makes the shattering discovery that someone close to the senator plans to assassinate him. Now to save the life of the man she loves, Avery must live another woman's life-and risk her own. (amazon)

Let me start out by saying that I don’t particularly like politicians. I don’t particularly like salesmen or lawyers or any person whose profession is to vie for others’ votes, money, assets, whatever. (Okay, so I guess I can only marry an artist and a hippie piano player…)

A strong part of this book is Tate’s political campaign and his fight to become a Senator. It’s intense. A lot of kissing up, a lot of speech-making. A lot of “looking good in front of others” type deal. However, Tate wasn’t one of those politicians – he was real and down-to-earth, which as a romance hero, he’d better be.

I really enjoyed the premise and plot of this story. Avery is in a plane crash and when she regains consciousness, she finds that she has been mistaken for Tate’s selfish-bitch-of-a-wife. However, due to medical circumstances, she’s unable to tell Tate and the doctors the truth. She gets knocked out from medication and assuming that she is indeed Carole, Tate’s family sends a plastic surgeon and surgery is done on her face.

She awakens to find that she really looks like Carole – her face has been reconstructed to look like her.

Before she can tell anyone the truth, she discovers there is a scheme to kill Tate. As a former journalist, she sniffs a huge story and chooses to stay silent. Also, she finds herself falling in love with Tate more and more everyday.

The thing is, Carole was a manipulative, selfish person – Tate saw the real Carole after they were wed. (Before, he apparently thought with that part of the male anatomy that males usually make decisions with.) Tate can’t believe the change that he sees in “Carole” after the accident – it’s almost as if she’s a different person! (Oh, if he only knew…)

Avery’s struggle to convince Tate of the complete change in character is an interesting journey; so is reading of how they fall in love with each other.

I didn't completely love Ms. Brown's writing style; I felt it was a little choppy and course, but the book itself was published a long time ago (I want to say a good fifteen years? Late 80s/ early 90s), so I'd assume it is one of her earlier works.

Nevertheless, it’s a good, refreshing read – one of Ms. Brown’s better works. (yay!)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Robin McKinley: Beauty

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty & The Beast: A-
Beauty & Beast

This much-loved retelling of the classic French tale Beauty and the Beast elicits the familiar magical charm, but is more believable and complex than the traditional story. In this version, Beauty is not as beautiful as her older sisters, who are both lovely and kind. Here, in fact, Beauty has no confidence in her appearance but takes pride in her own intelligence, her love of learning and books, and her talent in riding. She is the most competent of the three sisters, which proves essential when they are forced to retire to the country because of their father's financial ruin.

The plot follows that of the renowned legend: Beauty selflessly agrees to inhabit the Beast's castle to spare her father's life. Beauty's gradual acceptance of the Beast and the couple's deepening trust and affection are amplified in novel form. Robin McKinley's writing has the flavor of another century, and Beauty heightens the authenticity as a reliable and competent narrator.

This was McKinley's first book, written almost 20 years ago… (amazon)

This a spin off of the beloved Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast (and also my favorite). I really enjoyed this story because it had a lot more depth in the story of Beast and Belle’s journey as she gets to know the Beast. It was a little slow in certain parts, however, I came to love the Beast as Belle did. (sigh)

There was also much more information regarding Belle’s sisters and of her family, in this story, which was nice because you really get a sense of what Belle sacrificed in order to live with the Beast. Not a romance, but a sweet story of two people falling in love.

And truly, his library is wondrous. I’d totally hook up with the Beast for a library like that. (double sigh).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Nora Roberts: Sea Swept

Sea Swept: A

Anna Spinnelli & Cameron Quinn

Chesapeake Bay
Series #1

Sea Swept tells the tale of three brothers--all former juvenile delinquents adopted by Raymond Quinn and his wife, Stella. Cameron, Ethan, and Philip are as different as can be, but they are bound by their love and respect for their adoptive father, who has recently passed away. On his deathbed he asks his sons to look after their most recent brother, 10-year-old Seth, who--if the rumors are to believed--just may be Ray's biological son. Of course, the brothers don't know anything about caring for the young boy, and if social worker Anna Spinelli has anything to say about it, they won't. However, the sparks that fly over the fate of Seth are nothing compared to the romantic sparks that fly between Anna and Cameron. (amazon)

I’m not a huge fan of Nora Roberts, but I admit to having a soft spot for her. She was my one of my very first romance authors (if not my first). The idea of happily-ever-afters and dashing heroes would forever bloom in my mind after reading several of her stories… However, I realized that there was so much more to the romance world, than Ms. Roberts, and I quickly found that her writing, as good as it is, is formulaic and was sometimes…boring.

So when I picked up Sea Swept several years ago, the first of the Chesapeake Bay series, I didn’t have too much hope. I was delightfully shocked when I started reading and was unable to put down the book!

I re-read the series and still love it.

The characterization of Anna and Cam is so complete, I feel like I know exactly who they are, how they would act, and what they would say. She might not have explicitly described it through words, but the unfolding of their story reveals who they are – and you can’t help but to fall in love with them.

Anna is a vivacious, loud, and dominating social worker. She meets Cameron Quinn when she is put on the case regarding Seth Quinn, a ten year old boy who has a long history behind him. He has some connection with Ray Quinn, Cameron’s father, but no one knows exactly what that connection is.

Cameron, a world renown boat racer, rushes home to St. Christopher when he hears word that his father, Ray, is dying from a car accident. Before he dies, he tells Cam and his two brothers to take care of Seth.

Seeing that Ray and Stella Quinn took in and raised three half-grown boys with ugly histories into men, Cameron, Ethan, and Phillip don’t question the situation, but change their lifestyles to help gain guardianship of Seth.

Giving up boat racing is something that is hard for Cam to do, but he realizes that the sacrifice is bearable with Anna and as he bonds with Seth, Cam sees in Seth the young boy that he used to be – the helpless boy who was beaten and neglected by a careless, alcoholic father.

Enter the quiet but perspicacious Ethan and the slick and charming Phillip, this story is a great introduction to the life of the Quinns, and what really happens when four males attempt to live together under one roof. Nora Roberts, who only has brothers and has two sons, has been around males all her life – and it shows in the Quinn brothers.

Ms. Roberts’ description of life on the shore, the small-town life, and the relationships – it all comes together in this poignant and thoughtful tale. The Quinn brothers’ journey of love is one that is wonderful to read.

One of my all-time favorite books (and series), this one is a grabber from the start.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Nalini Singh: Slave to Sensation

Slave to Sensation: A+

Sascha Duncan & Lucas Hunter

Ooh, what an exciting read! I wish I was living in the amazing world of the Psy and the Changelings.

It is approximately 2060 and the world is full of shape-shifters (humans with the ability to shift into animals) and the Psy. The Psy consider themselves to be of the superior race because of their mental abilities, with each Psy being gifted in either telekinetic powers, telepathic powers, and etc. Back in 1969, the Psy implemented the “Silence” program because of the high numbers of serial killers among them. This program trained the Psy to throw away all their emotions, feelings, and any thoughts that would lead them astray from being the most logical and efficient.

The Psy also have a hierarchical system with the Cardinals ruling over the Psy. The Cardinals are the most powerful of the Psy and also regulate the PsyNet, an internet-like system where all Psy plug into for mental nourishment and interaction with other Psy.

It is in this world that Sascha Duncan is raised in. She, however, believes herself to be a defect because of her abnormal “changeling” tendencies. She finds herself wanting to feel emotion and occasionally, exhibiting traits that are forbidden in the Psy world. Sascha works hard to prevent others from seeing this part of her, for if the Psy discover her flaws, she would be placed into a rehabilitation system, a program to wipe out all but the most basic of brain functions (similar to a vegetable).

Sascha, because of business, meets Lucas, her flaws come out stronger than ever and it gets harder to hide her abnormality. When Lucas informs Sascha of a serial killer among the Psy targeting changelings, she chooses to put in a plan to make herself the bait… and places her life in danger.

There were some elements in this story that I absolutely loved. The creative PsyWorld, the fierceness of the changelings, Lucas and Sascha together… it was all great. But more than anything, I love that Sascha and Lucas showed each other (and to me) the true meaning of love: unconditional, sacrificial love. It’s beyond lust, it’s beyond liking, it’s beyond whirlwind romances… it’s the real thing.

The time had come for Sascha to put her plan into action: to go into PsyNet and find the killer hiding among the Psys by emanating changeling thought patterns.

The downfall: after she discovers the killer, she must block him, then cut herself off from the PsyNet, hence cutting herself off from her lifeline. All Psys must be connected to the PsyNet for its continuous source of mental sustenance.

Lucas, being the animalistic (hey, he’s half panther), domineering, alpha-male that he is, made Sashca promise to him that she after she cut her link from the PsyNet, that she would mentally link to him so that she would survive. He did this knowing that in several months’ time, she would drain him (because he doesn’t have the mental capacity that Psys do) and she’d end up killing him. Still, he wanted her to link him so that they could live for a little longer – and die together. (A little morbid, but romantic, nevertheless.)

Sascha goes in, does her deed, then cuts herself off, and refuses to link to Lucas… to save him.

The fact that Sascha was willing to sacrifice her life for a cause she believed to be worthy is admirable. The undeniable fact that she refused to draw strength from Lucas when she cut her life-giving link from the PsyNet was damn kickass. She was not only willing to give up her life for something she believed to be right, she refused to live so that Lucas would be able to live. She even went back on her promise to him – to save his life. What could be more heroic than that?

And Lucas, seeing that Sascha wasn’t going to connect to him, forces her to link to him through love. (dreamy sigh) His fury over Sascha’s deception and his determination for her to live is a scene I’ll never forget.

It’s romantic. It’s dreamy. It’s love, yo!

(I’m reminded of the scene from The Bronze Horseman where Tatiana sees Alexander dying and literally injects an IV into her vein to feed him the blood that he needs. The amount of blood that Alexander needs is an overwhelming amount and Tatiana eventually passes out from feeding him so much blood. When others try to pull the IV out of her, she refuses, knowing that it’s her blood that would keep Alexander living.)

Plus, all the males sound delicious and yummy. A little bossy, but forgivable because of their love for their mates (and the fact that the females all have minds and wit and aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves.). I loved that Sascha didn’t let Lucas bully her. (Who wants a feeble, weak heroine?)

If you’re into paranormals and want something different from the blood-sucking “Kiss of the Dracula/ Vampire” stories, run out and snag yourself a copy of this book. It’s most definitely worth your time!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Katherine Sutcliffe: Obsession

Obsession: B
Maria Ashton & Trey Hawthorne, Duke of Salterdon

USA Today bestselling author Katherine Sutcliffe sweeps fans away to the passionate affair she began in Devotion, as one man's search for his lost love leads him to the heights of OBSESSION.

Trey Hawthorne, the Duke of Salterdon, once had a reputation that would humble the Marquis de Sade. Then he found his heart's desire in gentle, innocent Maria Ashton, whose healing touch ignited a forbidden passion between the noble duke and the lowborn vicar's daughter. Defying his family, Hawthorne intended to wed Maria -- but she mysteriously vanished before he could take her as his bride. After tirelessly searching for her for months, Trey gave up hope and reverted to his former wicked ways.

Now, chance has led Trey to his beloved at last -- but the devastating truth behind her disappearance might prove more than he can bear. As he fights to rescue his beautiful Maria from a life of torment, Trey wonders if in saving her, he will also finally save himself -- or if the fight will cost him everything....

This was a very interesting read. I wouldn’t consider it a romance. In fact, this book is probably the most unromantic romance I’ve read, even though it is about the hero and heroine – and their feelings. The closest way for me to describe this story would to call it a “gothic romance-esque story.”

It also didn’t help that this is a continuation of a story started in the first book, Devotion. This is what I get for randomly picking out authors.

In brief, the book starts out with a marriage scene in which Trey is preparing to marry a rich widow because he’s in dire need of money. He’s also really cynical, bitter, and jaded – he’s lost his love three and a half years before. It was a love that reached the bottom of his heart; when Maria disappeared, he spent six months straight searching for her and was crushed when he receives a note stating that she is married to another. So he spends the next three years whoring, gambling, and drinking.

The marriage he’s to have with Edwina, the wealthy but promiscuous widow, is a marriage of convenience: he needs her money, she needs a father for the babe in her womb.

However, as they’re about to wed, the whereabouts of Maria is revealed and he finds out that his evil grandmother had Maria locked away in an insane asylum because of Maria’s social status (she’s the daughter of a poor peasant or some low class worker). When Trey finds her, she’s insane.

And for three hundred pages, we witness Maria’s insanity and Trey’s meanness as he copes with what has happened to her because of him. It’s gloomy. It’s dark. It’s depressing. But you keep reading because you’re hoping it gets better.

Then Trey discovers that when Maria was sent away by his grandmother, she was pregnant – and that the baby was taken away from her after she gave birth to it in the asylum.

When Maria finally regains her sanity, she hates Trey for everything that’s happened to her because of him and the misunderstandings that are between them, thanks to the evil grandmother.

This story is gloomy. It’s dark. It’s depressing. It drags on, telling us in great detail of how much Trey drinks, how insane Maria is, how conniving the grandmother is… it’s very Wuthering Heights-esque. It’s also unique in that the story is told from Trey’s point of view (a first person point-of-view from a male’s perspective.)

I think I would have liked this story more if I’d read Devotion. Because I didn’t, I can only guess at how much Trey loved Maria and I can only guess at what happened before to cause this situation.

The story, on its own, is a little slow… and depressing. (have I mentioned that before?) And I felt a little betrayed when Maria and Trey experience their happiness for like… three pages at the very end. I thought, “What the monkey?! I spent three hundred thirty-something pages reading about this depressing crap and I’m rewarded with a measly three pages of happiness?!”

With that said, I’ll most likely read the first book to experience the “full scope” of their love.

But I’ll give Ms. Sutcliffe credit and say that this is a very creative, unique story – in style of writing, in the presentation of the plot, and even the characters.

(In case you're wondering, I absolutely love Wuthering Heights, which is why I didn't hate this book.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Jill Barnett: Wild

Wild: C
Teleri of the Woods & Roger FitzAlan

Wales is a wild place in 1280. Sir Roger FitzAlan is there by order of the King, commanded to build a mighty walled castle to defend England's borders. But the site the King has chosen has a strange circle of massive blue stones and when Sir Roger and his men arrive, a beautiful young woman is praying within the ancient circle.

Even more arresting, the young woman flees from Roger's men astride a sleek black Arab stallion stolen from Roger's best friend nearly five years before. Roger gives chase and before long, the black Arab and Roger's mount leave his men-at-arms far behind. When the woman disappears into a thick wood, Roger follows her alone and quickly loses her. But someone else is in the deep woods, and that someone is intent on killing Roger.

Teleri of the Woods is delighted to have lost her pursuer and it isn't until the following day, when she returns to search for her lost pouch, that she discovers Roger, barely alive, and struggles to rescue him. Roger awakens in her bed, cranky, furious, and too ill to leave. Forced to remain with the beautiful young woman, he slowly becomes aware of the world about him in a way he has never known. Despite Teleri's lack of gold and possessions, she is rich in knowledge and appreciation of life.

As Teleri teaches Roger about her life, he's forced to confront his lust for her and his prior beliefs about love. But their time together in the magic woods must come to an end and when it does, what will Roger do about the forbidden love that once ruled him? How will Teleri cope with life beyond her enchanted woods? And how will they solve the dark mysteries that swirl around Roger and threaten both their lives?... (amazon)

Teleri's story is kind-of Sleeping-Beauty-esque but without the great singing skills (and the whole pricking her finger deal.) She finds Sir Roger FitzAlan, a knight, badly injured and nurses him back to health. Roger, a redhead (thought I’d mention it), has been burned by his previous love and takes him some time to appreciate and fall in love with Teleri.

Cleo and her man from the previous novel, Wonderful, make an appearance – and the “crazy old woman” from the first story is actually Teleri’s grandmother.

This story is filled with two minor mysteries – the question of who tried to kill Roger and the unsolved mystery of who Teleri’s father is.

This book is nice… but nothing spectacular. I also don’t like redheaded heroes much. And I wonder how Teleri is able to communicate and behave so well with Roger when she has spent her entire life along in the woods. Granted, she did have interactions with her grandmother, but really, is it plausible to think that she’d be able to magically fall in love?

Oh wait, this is a romance… (lol.)

However, I did really like her (er, Roger's) horse...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Laura Lee Guhrke: The Wicked Ways of a Duke

The Wicked Ways of a Duke: B

Prudence Bosworth & Rhys de Winter, Duke of St. Cyres
Sequel to And Then He Kissed Her

Prudence is a poor seamstress, working hard to earn her living. She sees Rhys, is attracted to his good looks and starts to idolize him when she witnesses him acting “honorable” and “gentlemanly.” She doesn’t listen to society’s rumors of Rhys actually being a rake…

Things take a turn for the better and overnight, Prudence becomes an heiress – her father, the cad who ran off when she was a child, had actually gone to America and was the founder of the famous Abernathy department stores. She’s rich – in that her annual allowance is a million pounds per year! (Think back to when prices were a lot cheaper PLUS the fact that the current conversion rate is almost two dollars to the pound! I imagine, in today’s terms, she’d be making well over 10 million a year…)

Rhys, the Duke of St. Cyres, is in a pitiful state. He’s beyond poor. He’s dirt poor. However, it is a solution that can be quickly remedied: marry wealthy. To his wonderful surprise, the cute seamstress that caught his eye has grown into an overnight sensation.

He goes about manipulating and playing Prudence like a well-tuned piano and convinces her to marry him. Rhys is beyond surprised when he feels himself starting to fall in love with Prudence.

There is a catch to Prudence’s inheritance: she must marry within a year, with her prospective fiancé approved by the Board of Male Members handling her finances. The entire ton is aware of these rules and when Prudence announces her decision to marry Rhys, people warn her about his rakish ways.

But, as expected, the truth comes out. Prudence feels betrayed and she calls off the wedding. She stands up to her scumbagish cousins – the ones who ignored her for years, making her work long hours to survive and ones that magically reappeared after finding out she was rich. She chooses to donate her inheritance to charity.

I won’t go into too much detail but magically, everything gets solved and everyone is happy in the end. (Sorry, have I said too much?)

The firs half of the book is an absolute bore. I put it down and almost didn’t pick it back up; I only finished it because it was the book selection for my book club. The second half of the book redeems the lackluster first half and the ending is nice. Enjoyable read…except for the fact that the British sure liked to name females after strange character traits: this is like the seventh Prudence I’ve read about. (And there apparently were a million girls named Patience, Faith, Hope, Grace, and all those nice things that girls have deep inside them…)

I liked that Guhrke really went out of way to make Rhys a really huge asshole. But we all know that he loves her (deep down) and his actions at the end of the book are wonderful. A bit cheesy, but wonderful.

Worth reading for fun.

A word of caution! The cover art for this book is absolutely hideous. I want to rip it off and shred it into tiny pieces.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lauren Royal: Lost in Temptation

Lost in Temptation: C-
Sweet Temptation Series #1

Alexandra Chase & Tristan Nesbitt, Lord Hawkridge

The last time Lady Alexandra Chase saw Tristan Nesbitt, she was a teenager with a hopeless crush. Now, seven years later after meeting again, Alexandra discovers that her feelings for Tristan have not diminished. The one thing that has changed is that Tristan, with his sudden rise in station to Lord Hawkridge, is now a perfectly acceptable suitor. Then Tristan cruelly dashes all of Alexandra's romantic hopes by informing her that they can never wed since the scandal surrounding his sudden inheritance threatens to ruin any woman he marries. Despite what Tristan may think, Alexandra knows he is the only man for her, and she is determined to do whatever it takes to change his mind...

Boring and typical.

Alexandra Chase is beautiful, unoriginal, boring, and perfect. She has been in love with her older brother’s friend, Tristan Nesbitt, Lord Hawkridge, since she was a little girl. To her dismay, he left England to work for his Uncle at a plantation in an island place (Haiti? Jamaica?) Tristan sees Alexandra as the sister of his best friend.

Fast forward five years. He returns with a title because of the death of his uncle – and he comes back with a dark scandal. There are rumors that he murdered his uncle while he was abroad.

So he comes to Alexandra’s home, where she is getting courted. (Sadly, she didn’t get a full Season with the ton because her mother passes away, then her father, then her eldest brother, and then her grandma, all with a six-month interval. So they were in continual mourning for like four years…)

Her older brother, Griffin, needs help with irrigating his vineyard, something their eldest brother wanted to do but passed away before being able to do so. Luckily, Tristan has invented some special pump to irrigate water upwards, defying gravity, and he stays at their home to create the mold and to build it.

There is the forbidden attraction between them two – since Tristan refuses to court Alexandra, even though they both have feelings for each other because of the scandal that is following Tristan (he’s shunned by the ton).

But they are caught in a compromising situation (dang, a lot of these things happened back in the olden days…) while Tristan is sleep-walking and they get married! Alexandra is determined to solve the case of Tristan’s uncle’s death so that Tristan is able to have a clean slate…

If you don’t know what happens in the end, everything gets solved and they live happily ever after. (LOL)

I enjoyed the last book of the series, The Art of Temptation, more than this one. Alexandra is a bit boring and even a little irksome when she is so determined to get Tristan. It’s an admirable character trait – going after something you want – but somehow, it didn’t work well for her.

You can also see the start of Griffin and Rachael’s story (which I already knew how it ended, not that it would have ended any other way). Alexandra’s sisters, Julianna and Corinna, are introduced and play cute roles in setting Alexandra and Tristan up. However, Julianna sounds super nosy (she is described as being so) and I don’t know if I’d like her as a heroine. Corinna, I liked.

Read for not-that-great fluff. You won’t get much else.

Monday, February 11, 2008


I just finished reading Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens.

To my horror, I discovered that it is the first of a fourteen-book series. Crap! Are ya kidding me? This means I have to search out thirteen more books to read about the delicious Cynsters. Augh. Why couldn't it have been the Cynster twins, or something?

Apparently, Laurens had a huge desire to write about the six Cynsters, two Cynster females, one friend of the Cynsters, and then a million and a half "honorary Cynsters."

I'm happy, but unhappy at the same time. Aw, nuts...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Jaclyn Reding: The Pretender

The Pretender: B-
Elizabeth Drayton & Douglas MacKinnon

Back cover: Angered by his daughter’s secret writings on female equality, and in need of an heir, the Duke of Sudeleigh has hit upon the perfect scheme. He’ll marry the feisty lass off to the man of his choosing. But Lady Elizabeth abhors arranged marriages, and she’ll do anything to avoid one – even wed a Scottish farmer.

Elizabeth does not realize, however, that the man she assumes is a poor crofter is an aristocrat every bit as prominent as the duke. Now her father and her chosen groom-to-be have hatched a plan to catch Elizabeth at her own game. But with one deception following another, heartbreak is inevitable…unless true love can save the day.

I feel that the back of the book is slightly misleading.

So, Lady Elizabeth is outgoing and feminist. She writes for a feminist publication which her father reads and is infuriated by the woman’s gall to write such nonsense. He soon finds out it’s her. He’s pissed off – major. So he chooses an old, almost-his-own-age husband for her, one whose lands borders theirs.

She finds out while she is making the trip to marry her husband and is pissed off- major. Their (her and her younger sister, Isabella) carriage breaks down as a Scottish farmer, Douglas MacKinnon, is walking on by. He offers to help. They accept.

Then Elizabeth is intrigued and thinks of a great plan – why not pretend to marry Douglas and watch her father blow up one of his main arteries?

They go to an inn. She gets drunk off of strong whiskey (while experimenting) and Douglas carries her into her room. She invites him to stay (she’s drunk!) and he turns her tempting offer down. But she reveals to him that she is afraid of the dark and he stays with her – intending to stay only until she falls asleep. Unfortunately, the fatigue of the physical exercise that day and the tipsiness from the whiskey combines and lulls into a sleep.

They are found the next morning in that inevitable “compromising situation” and ended up getting married – for real!

Return home. Everyone freaks out. Dad and Douglas talk. Dad finds out Douglas is the laird for his clan and he is fighting with the British King in order to get back the lands that the previous King confiscated.

Dad and Douglas plot together. Elizabeth and Douglas are to stay married for two more months – since Elizabeth is headstrong and spoiled. She got herself into this situation so she has to stick it out. BUT she isn’t to know that Douglas is a laird – she is to believe that he is a farmer. If after two months, they still are at odds with each other and they haven’t done the hanky panky, then the father will go and ask for an annulment.

So Elizabeth and Douglas return to Douglas’s home and she learns, first hand, what it feels like to be a farmer’s wife. Seeing that her father is a very highly regarded English gentleman, milking a cow and doing the laundry are new experiences for her.

Along with this humorous budding romance is the fact that Douglas’ clan, the MacKinnons, are fighting to protect their Scottish King – someone the English calls “The Pretender” since he isn’t the British king.

Good premise, but just not enough development. The book is a short paperback, a skimpy 305 pages and this story could have been developed so much more. The romance (falling-in-love part) was a little rushed in the end (she totally could have added an extra 100 pages…) and the whole “adventure” with the Pretend King wasn’t too interesting. I was tempted to skim over those parts.

However, Isabella’s story sounds, The Adventurer, sounds like a whole lot of fun from the excerpt. I’ll have to check it out!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Elizabeth Vaughan: Warsworn

Warsworn B+
The Chronicles of the Warlands #2

Xylara and Keir

In a fascinating sequel to Warprize (2005), Lara, the Queen of Xy, and Keir, warlord of the Firelanders, are on the way to his people's homeland. When scouts report that a walled village of the Xy has denied them entry, Keir and his troops are ready to annihilate the village. Lara intervenes, and discovers that a plague has killed nearly everyone inside. When she begins to sicken, Keir helps heal her. As the plague hits the entire army encampment, taking hundreds of lives, Keir’s second conspires to displace him. Readers will be delighted to learn more of the customs of this unique civilization, and they will enjoy the growing love between Lara and Keir. It is refreshing for the conflict in a romance to eschew petty misunderstandings and present, instead, life-and-death situations through which together the hero and heroine become stronger. The emphasis is on the emotional rather than the physical in Vaughan's unusual and thoroughly enjoyable tale. Diana Tixier Herald ( – booklist)

*SPOILERS about the first book, Warprize*

Warsworn continues in the journey of Lara and Keir as they make their trip back to the Plains, Keir’s home.

The readers now know that a warprize is not a sex slave, or even a slave for that matter. It is a treasure, something that is treated preciously because of its worth. A warprize usually offers the tribe a type of a special revolution – a gift that brings benefits and change. Lara, met with this information in the last book, was able to give herself freely to Keir, knowing that he prized her – and she was given special status because of her uniqueness.

They are traveling to the Plains when they pass by a village where a plague has overcome them. Keir, out of love and fear for Lara, is against entering this village to find out more about the illness, but Lara is determined to try and help find the cure to whatever illness has caused the destruction of an entire village.

She goes in and lo behold, falls sick. Not having discovered the cure, she knows she must kill herself so that the illness isn’t taken back to Keir and the soldiers.

However, Keir is unwilling to let her go and she is retrieved…bringing the illness to the entire tribe. And when Keir falls sick…

I felt that this was a good sequel to Warprize, but I don’t feel that it surpasses it. This book is a little gritty, with lots of death. There is also a loss of many beloved secondary characters, something that I felt brought about realness to the book but not necessarily happiness. (And I don’t really have a problem with people dying…) As with the first book, there were some scenes that melted my heart, like when Keir saves Lara (*sigh*).

When Lara insisted on going in and discovering the cure to the illness – or at least offering her help – I wanted to strangle her. Why?! She had everything going for her! Why would she jeopardize it? But the fact that she did go in, knowing that she might not survive, is a trait that is indicative of her character – compassionate and full of desire to heal. Keir’s anger with her was just and made him that much more drool-worthy. *sigh* (Seriously, he’s a hunk. I want him…)

It’s a good tale, captivating and exciting and I’m excited to read the last installment of the series.