Archives for July 2011

Review: Confessions of an Improper Bride

Reviewed by Jen

What a surprising gem this book turned out to be.  It wrapped me up from the very beginning and I didn’t want to put it down until it was over.

At just 18, Serena Donovan fell in love during her first season in London.  But Jonathan was above her station. When the two of them were caught in the midst of a tryst, she was ruined in the eyes of society. And Jonathan turned his back on her. She was forced to set sail for her home in Anguila, with her twin sister Meg at her side.  During a storm at sea, Meg went overboard and was never found.

Six years later, Serena discovers that her mother informed London society that it was she, not her sister, who died in that tragic accident. What’s more, her mother has been corresponding with Will, the man Meg had been in love with.  Will has believed he has been writing to Meg all this time and has now asked her to return to London to wed.  Serena’s mother insists that Serena go in Meg’s place. If she marries Will, she can restore honor to the family and help finance a future for her younger sisters.

When Serena arrives in London, she comes face to face with Jonathan again.  He’s the only one who seems to recognize her for who she really is.  Of course, this takes time to come out in the open.  In the interim, Serena does her best to stay away from the man who broke her heart so completely all those years ago.  But it’s a losing battle.

There was so much raw emotion in this book.  Serena’s anguish over her past is palpable.  She is such a sympathetic character, because you can see how trusting and in love she once was.   Her shattered self esteem is crushed even more as she is forced to sublimate herself to take on her “good” sister’s persona.  But she does it for her family… for her remaining sisters who would have no future otherwise.  She struggles with the lies she must tell and fights her own heart to stay away from Jonathan… even after he reveals that he knows who she is.  And even though it would be easy to hate Jonathan for all he put Serena through, you can see the depth of his grief at her loss –and the honesty in his love for her now.

It was really very good and makes me want to find more from Jennifer Haymore.  Almost 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Confessions of an Improper Bride
by Jennifer Haymore
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Review: Dark Guardian

Reviewed by Jen

The Carpathian men just keep getting older and more powerful.  Yes, I know I said that in my review of Dark Legend, but it’s still true. To be fair, Lucian is actually Gabriel’s twin, so they’re actually the same age, but it’s pretty clear that if push comes to shove, Lucian could kick his brother’s ass into next week.

Lucian was finally ready to meet the dawn when Gabriel’s lifemate told him that his fated female was out in the world, in need of him. Sure enough, he finds Jaxon has led a horrific life. As a child, her father’s friend developed an unhealthy obsession with her. He killed her dad, then became her stepfather. A few years later, he murdered her mother and brother, no longer hiding his true nature. Ever since then, he has been killing off everyone Jax has ever loved… he never found anyone worthy of her. And as a result, she has never allowed herself to get close to anyone again.

As Lucian enters her life, Jax is a cop, wounded on the job. He saves her life and slowly brings her into his world. Despite the hallmark repetative vocabulary of the series, this book had a distinctly different flavor. This is due in large part to Jaxon’s fortitude and growing need to protect Lucian. In almost all of these books, it’s only about the male protecting his woman. And while that is still happening her, Jax needs to take care of Lucian every bit as much as he needs to take care of her. What’s more, Lucian recognizes this in her and doesn’t try to sublimate it.

Lucian is so powerful, there is never a sense that a vampire could ever best him. Yes, there are vamps, but the real villian of the story is a human one; and he is no bumbling, ineffective zealot. He is skilled; he is calculating; and he is every bit of a monster as the undead. One of the best in the series. 4 1/2 stars.

Velvet count: 38

Dark Guardian
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: May 2002
Publisher: Leisure Books

Review: Her Kilt-Clad Rogue

Reviewed by Jen

I liked this short story well enough, but I probably would have liked it more if I had not felt like I had read it before. Sure, the details are different, but the basic plot treads very familiar ground: woman comes to man’s home to be governess to his child. The man is a widower. His marriage was loveless. People think he killed his wife. There is an attraction between the man and the governess. Is it real or just a dalliance? Is he really a good man or are the whispers true?

It’s like Dangerous Lord, Innocent Governess and This Perfect Kiss, had a love child… sprinkled a little Jane Eyre on top… put a kilt on it…  and this novella was the result.

It’s a short, easy read; and I’m always a sucker for a Scotsman with a brogue (and a kilt.) We’re just not treading any new ground. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Her Kilt-Clad Rogue
by Julie Moffett
Release Date: August 1, 2011
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: Dark Taste of Rapture

Reviewed by Jen

Gena Showalter is on her A-game with this latest installment in her Alien Huntress series.  I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this one. I didn’t exactly love Noelle in the last book. But here we get to see that there is much more to her than good looks, piles of money, and a perverse sense of humor.  And Hector… (sigh)… he is my favorite kind of hero: broken, tortured, powerful and unsure.  Not to mention: ripped, loyal and sexy.  Yum.

I expected the book to pick where Ecstasy in Darkness left off… but it actually started about a year before the events of the last book.  Noelle and her best friend Ava were just beginning their training for the Alien Investigation Removal (AIR) agency.  Hector is one of the instructors there, as are his best friend Dallas and Noelle’s cousin Jaxon.  Right away, Hector is taken by Noelle’s beauty. But she projects the image of a spoiled debutante. It’s a defense mechanism she uses to keep people from seeing the real her.  And slowly, Hector begins to see past the facade.

He is unbearably attracted to her, but fights his feelings tooth and nail.  He can’t be with any woman.  When he gets angry or aroused, his hands and arms atomize, turning anything in his path to dust.  The one time he tried to be intimate with someone, he killed her. And he isn’t taking that chance again.  At least, that’s what he tells himself.

Noelle has other ideas.  She wants Hector and manages to get close to him once or twice.  Just enough to excite them both… and send him running for the hills.  Fast forward a year, and both Hector and Noelle are AIR agents. He’s been trying to avoid her all this time, but they are forced together by a case.  And if things aren’t complicated enough with Hector’s disability, we’ve got Dallas thrown in the mix.  He’s had a vision that he and Noelle are supposed to sleep together… and another vision that Hector and Noelle are supposed to be together.  If the wrong chain of events is set in motion, it could be disastrous for him. But he has no idea which path is the right one.  (This thread of the storyline confused me a little. I remember his visions in the last book, but I still don’t get how an “unchangeable” vision can still be wrong.)

Aside from my Dallas-induced head-scratching, I was completely besotted by this book. There was great action, as Hector and Noelle worked their case together.  There was great sexual tension.  And there was romance.  Perhaps one of the things I liked most about the book was the fact that this was no flash in the pan, instant-love.  The attraction happened right away, but the feelings developed over time.

(By the way… There was no mention of the ongoing arc involving the evil-Queen-alien turning people into cannibals.)  We do have appearances by the great cast of characters we have grown to love, including Mia, Devyn, Ava, and McKell.  And we see someone introduced in Awaken Me Darkly, who I didn’t expect to see again.  Somehow, I think Mr. Surprise will end up with his own book.  One can only hope.

5 stars.

*ARC Provided by Pocket Star/ Simon & Schuster

Dark Taste of Rapture
by Gena Showalter
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: Pocket Star

Series Reading Order: Draicon Werewolves

This is the reading order for the Draicon Werewolves series by Bonnie Vanack:

Phoenix Force

*Denotes short story/ novella

Review: By His Majesty’s Grace

Reviewed by Jen

If Lady Isabel had her way, she’d never marry.  She is so opposed to the idea that she constructed a so-called curse to dissuade potential suitors. Any man who tried to force a loveless marriage with Isabel or one of her two sisters would face disaster. But Braesford doesn’t fear the curse. He relishes the idea of marrying Isabel… and his friend King Henry has helped him, by giving him the lady in a royal decree.

At first, it seems that Isabel will be spared the marriage she hopes to avoid. Just before the wedding, Braesford is arrested on suspicions that he killed the King’s illegitimate newborn. The couple is summoned to the King’s keep, but even while the investigation is underway, Henry hastens the marriage. The story follows Braesford’s quest to prove his innocence, while a relationship develops between him and his new bride.

I understand that this is a different time. But over and over, I cringed to watch Isabel’s wants and feelings be completely disregarded. She is forced to marry Braesford. She is forced into a physical relationship. I felt her helplessness her indignity. Of course, she comes around as Braesford awakens her to sensual pleasures, but I had trouble getting past what she had to endure before then. And even as she came to enjoy her interludes with her husband, Isabel’s complete lack of control over her life, both in and out of the bed continued to bother me.

As circumstances worsen for Braesford, Isabel has a rare window of opportunity to make her own path in an attempt to exonerate him. It was nice to finally see her make her own choices and embrace her freedom while she has it. There was a lot of intrigue surrounding Tudor-era politics. It got a little complicated, when we got into the specifics of bloodlines and loyalties.

The best thing the story had going for it was the romance. I’m glad Isabel developed feelings for Braesford, since Lord knows she had so little say in the matter. He is a good man… stalwart, with a strong moral code. He clearly loves Isabel and despite the disparity of power between them, I did want them to have their happy ending. It was just a long road to get there. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

By His Majesty’s Grace
by Jennifer Blake
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Mira

Review: The Lost

Reviewed by Jen

Adam Bruno is no ordinary man.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t know exactly what he is.  As a child, some traumatic event robbed him of his memories.  The only family he has is Salvatore, the adopted father who raised him.  But even Salvatore is wary of his powers.  Adam manipulates energy; he can siphon it from other living things; he can direct it outward; he can even shapeshift.  But there is a growing disquiet within him. Something is missing and he feels a void that he doesn’t know how to fill.

We learn early on that Salvatore is planning to betray his adopted son.  He cares for Adam, but he has big plans for his son’s gifts. Salvatore has made contact with Alexander, a man who has similar powers to Adam.  Both men, for their own reasons, want Adam to mate with a woman of his own kind in order to create a new generation of power.

While all these machinations are going on, Bobbie enters Adam’s life with the force of a hurricane. She is an Iraq war vet, who is recovering from serious injuries. But she still helps thwart a kidnapping attempt on Adam when she sees it happening. There is instant chemistry between these two.  And while Bobbie has never believed herself to be anything other than human, Adam sees more within her.

Both Adam and Bobbie are terrified of opening themselves up to anyone else.  Adam is afraid of his powers and the damage they can do.  Bobbie needs to hide all of her scars, both inside and out. Yet, they forge a fragile relationship… one that grows as the book progresses.

It took me a little while to invest in the story.  Several characters are introduced in a very short time and there is extensive world-building surrounding Adam’s people.  And honestly, I struggled at times to keep everyone straight.  But despite that, Caridad Pineiro created two main characters that were very sympathic and I found myself rooting for their happy ending.  It’s always a peeve of mine when a couple throws out the “L”-word after only a few days together –and unfortunately that was the case here. However, I did enjoy the love scenes and the way they transcend traditional sex.  Overall… I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  3 1/2 stars.

P.S. Check out the book trailer:

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

The Lost
by Caridad Pineiro
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Forever

Review: Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel

Reviewed by Jen

The Cameron, Macintosh and MacDonald clans hold an uneasy peace. They each inhabit a different part of the same glen and were forced to stop fighting by the King. Each chief has a sister and the three women have entered a pact to make the peace more meaningful. Each plans to marry a chief from one of the other clans, forging unbreakable bonds between the families.

Lady Isobel Cameron is crazy about Kendrew, the chief of the Macintosh clan. He has never paid her much attention, which makes her plan to seduce him so much easier. She shows up at a Macintosh clan gathering, known for its hedonism. She presents herself to Kendrew and the two of them get down to business before he realizes who he is dealing with. Let me just say, I love it when a book jumps in with both feet!!

Anyway, Kendrew gets quite a shock when he realizes A) he just shagged a virgin; B) she is a lady; and C) she is a Cameron. He sends her packing. But Lady Isobel is determined to get her man. She loves his brutish Viking ways, his wildness, and his fierce home. And despite his protests, he is crazy about her too. I loved watching the dance between them as they take two steps toward a relationship, then one step back again.

But reading Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel was almost like reading two different stories in one. The main arc is the one featuring Kendrew and Isobel. But at the same time, there is a secondary storyline involving ghosts and dragons. I didn’t understand how this fit in with the present day story at all. It was completely unnecessary and, frankly, distracted me greatly from what was going on with our main characters. I wanted to skip these parts but I was afraid it would tie in to the main storyline as the book progressed. It didn’t. I could have skipped it and missed nothing except the confusion it generated.

Kendrew and Isobel’s story is sexy and full of adventure. And we’ve got a great set-up for Marjory and Alasdair. I think I’d like to read their story, minus any supernatural side-adventure. 3 1/2 stars but it would have been more for just Kendrew & Isobel’s part of the book.

*ARC Provided by Forever via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel
by Sue Ellen Welfonder
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Review: Storm’s Heart

Thea Harrison has a gift for writing sexy Alpha heroes. First, she gave us Dragos… And now we have Tiago. (Purrr.) We first met the ancient thunderbird during the last story and honestly, I was a little disappointed that he would be the next Wyr to get his own book. We didn’t really get to know him in Dragon Bound, except as a hulking, intimidating sentinel, who was fighting with Tricks. But sometimes an author knows what we want better than we do. This is one of those times.

As the story begins, Tricks has left the Wyr kingdom behind and is going to claim her place as the Queen of the Dark Fae. Things go bad quickly, when she becomes a target for assassination. So Dragos sends Tiago to find and protect her.

Even though Tiago and Tricks both worked for Dragos for hundreds of years, they didn’t interact much. Now that they are thrown together, the fireworks are unmistakable. Tiago is commanding, powerful and sexy. And Tricks eats it up with a spoon. The sexual tension between these two was outstanding! What’s more, there were plenty of opportunities for familiar tropes to take hold: lack of communication; big misunderstandings; self-sacrifice for the other person’s supposed happiness or safety. I kept waiting for the inevitable, familiar roadblocks to fly up. There was one scene in a nightclub, where I was just so sure we were going to have all three devices take hold at once… I swear I was already rolling my eyes. But Thea Harrison sidesteps the conventional foils, leaving me jumping up and down on the sofa, hooting like an idiot. (Yes, I can admit that.)

In the meantime, there is a great storyline going on. We’re treated to lots of action, as Tricks and Tiago fend off her enemies. And we’ve got a great mystery to solve as our couple works to figure out who is trying to kill her. As much as we learned about the Wyr in the last book, now we’re getting a peek inside some of the other Elder Races. Harrison reveals more details about the inner workings of the Dark Fae and the Vampyres. And we travel to Adriyel, the magical Dark Fae land.

This book gave me everything I wanted. A hot Alpha hero, a smart and resourceful heroine… love, sex, action, adventure, strong secondary characters, and world building that is both consistent and easy to understand. The Elder Races series is a PNR fan’s dream. Thank you, thank you, Thea Harrison. I’m pretty sure I love you. 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by Berkley

Storm’s Heart
by Thea Harrison
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Publisher: Berkley

Review: Ashes of Angels

Reviewed by Jen

This book actually contains two stories: a novella that’s about 40 pages, called “The Ninja Vampire’s Girl,” in addition to the full lengths Ashes of Angels. Both are part of Michelle Hauf’s ongoing series Of Angels and Demons. And believe me, it was very apparent that I came into the series late.

I’ll talk first about the full length story, featuring Sam, a Fallen Angel, and Cassandra, his muse. The story starts out with too many characters and too much terminology out of the gate. For people who have been reading this series all along, that’s unlikely to be a problem. But I, on the other hand, was scrambling to the Club Scarlet online page to see if the glossaries or character description pages the author provided would help me fill in the blanks. They helped a little, and in all honesty I did eventually figure out what was going on, but my utter cluelessness distracted me in the first half of the book.

For those of you unfamiliar with the world-building, I’ll save you some trouble. A long time ago, a group of Angels decided to fall from Heaven (or Above as they call it). Their primary motivation was lust; they wanted to experience carnal pleasures with human women. Before their feet hit the ground, a handful of Fallen were snatched away from their brethren… destined to become demons who would hunt the others who fell. After a time, a great flood swept the remaining Fallen into an otherworldly planet, where they have lived ever since. Some have made it back to Earth, though, with their minds set on finding their Muse… the one human woman who is their predestined mate.  The thing is, not all the Muses are willing partners, but the Fallen don’t care. They just want that carnal pleasure. And physical unions result in pregnancies and, later, births of hideous flesh eating monsters called Nephilim.

Anyway, Cassandra is a Muse who has been preparing for the day she would need to defend herself against her Fallen. But when Sam finds her, she discovers he is nothing like the others of his kind. He wants to stop the other Fallen and protect the Muses, in the hope he may one day return to live Above. He’s actually a good guy; and that’s very fortunate, because the vampires are summoning the Fallen back to Earth. They want more Nephilim created, because they think the monsters are the key to help them one day walk again in the sun. Cassandra and Sam decide to work together to foil that plan and protect the Muses.

While Sam’s motives are pure, he is still fiercly attracted to Cassandra. And with her desire for danger, she finds she wants him too. Now, I understand what’s going on with Sam, but frankly Cassandra’s thing for flirting with danger was a turn off for me. Her grandmother groomed her since childhood to fear and fight the Fallen. And here she is with her tongue in his mouth in a New York minute. Oh yeah… and other stuff too. That’s a lot of trust for your life-long enemy, Caz. No matter how hot he is.

There was just too much for me to take in. And for Cassandra to be this woman who is trained and prepared and smart, she struck me as pretty stupid to let herself be lead by lust. I don’t know if I would have loved it, even if I knew what was going on the whole time. (I know I would have never been ok with Sam calling Cassandra “Bunny” in any scenario.) But I am sure I would have at least enjoyed it more than I did.

As for “The Ninja Vampire’s Girl,” this short story features Cassandra’s sister Coco. At the beginning of the book, the author recommends that you read this first. I wish I had. It clearly and consisely lays out the world building that took so long for me to grasp in the full length book. Unlike Cassandra’s story, this was told in first person, switching back and forth between Coco and Zane’s perspective. Basically, our hero and heroine meet as Coco is trying to steal a halo to give to Cassandra for protection. Zane is hunting the Fallen it belonged to. And as they book work toward their respective goals, their paths cross and a spark is born between them. I liked this novella quite a lot. It was action packed, straightforward and sexy. More than the full length story did, the novella makes me want to check out the backlist in the series.
3 1/2 stars.
*ARC Provided by NetGalley
Ashes of Angels
by Michele Hauf
Release Date: July 19, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne