Archives for January 2012

Review: Matthew

Reviewed by Jen

It’s only been a few weeks since someone killed Matthew Graham’s parents and kidnapped his youngest brother. But now he is the head of the family, doing his best to run the family ranch and raise his brood of brothers and sisters. One of the tasks that has fallen to him is a trip to Houston to claim some extra acreage his father was planning to use to expand their property. But when he arrives, Matthew is stunned to find that he must be married to get the land for his family. In a moment of weakness, he lies –claiming to be married to a woman named Hannah. Only, the officials give him 30 days to produce that wife or the deal is done.

It’s pure luck that allows Matthew to run into Hannah Foley at the market. He feels an attraction to her, but he honestly lays out his situation to her and asks her to wed. Fearing it’s her only chance for a husband, Hannah accepts his offer and they are married within the week.

It’s really kind of nice watching Hannah come into the fold of the Graham family. She helps fill some of the hole left by their parents’ death and they give her the family she always dreamed of as an orphan. Of course, Matt and Hannah’s marriage of convenience becomes more over time. The sexual connection happens right away, but real feelings begin to surface as they get to know one another better.

There were times I got frustrated with both characters. Hannah takes a lot of crap before she stands up for herself. And Matt… if I had to read his internal monologue about establishing dominance one more time, I may have found a way to jump into the book and kick his shins. But the sex was good and both characters managed to do alot of growing over the course of the book.

There was a good mystery surrounding who killed the Graham parents and some shady dealings with the land entitlement. I liked villain reveal and the circumstances in which our couple eventually prevailed. I was surprised that the author opted to leave a few threads open… not everything was wrapped up into a neat little package. But this leaves her some elements to incorporate should she follow up with a story on Matt’s sister and the mysterious inspector. Almost 4 stars.

P.S.  That cover is smokin’ hot!

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Matthew
by Emma Lang (Beth Williamson)
Release Date: February 1, 2012
Publisher: Brava

AAD Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Beth Williamson

Another AAD author is joining us today!  Beth Williamson is a lady who loves her cowboys and her romances range from sensual to scorching hot.  Her newest book, Matthew, is out today under her other name Emma Lang.  Please help me welcome Beth to the blog! 
Jen: You write under two names: Beth Williamson and Emma Lang. Why? And is there anything markedly different between the books under one name or the other?

 

Beth: It’s not multiple personalities, I swear! LOL. The truth is rather boring – I write under two different names due to a publisher request. My writing style is the same, regardless of the pen name, and the books are generally in the same genre – historical western. I try to make it as seamless as possible – with one website etc.

 

Jen: Clearly you’re a woman who loves her cowboys. What is it that really pulled you toward the cowboy romance genre?
Beth: Oh yes ma’am, I do love my cowboys. Fer realz! I grew up watching westerns, the classics, y’know? Like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. These were tough men with hard lives, but had a code of honor that spoke to me. I also have a weakness for the way a man looks riding a horse or wearing chaps. The broad shoulders, the narrow hips, the swagger. Oh yeah, baby, bring it!

 

Jen: How do you approach writing those really hot love scenes?
Beth: They have to fit within the story, first of all, I don’t just throw love scenes in for the same of having one. If I try to force one, you can tell right away. I let the characters lead the story and the sex. Then, of course, I have to feel what they feel – I react to the heat just as a reader does. 😉

Jen: I’ve always wanted to ask a romance author this. The right language can make or break a love scene. There are some authors who are all flowery with “white lightning” and “velvet sheaths”… while other authors use words dirty enough to make an HBO executive blush. How do decide on your, er, anatomical terminology? It’s got to be a conscious decision, right?

Beth: Yes, it’s a conscious decision. Sometimes it’s driven by the genre I am writing to – if I know it’s going to be scorching hot, well then the words are going to be more explicit of course. If I’m writing for a broader appeal, I will tone it down and use only slightly explicit terms. Hee.

Jen: I just finished reading Matthew. How many books do you have planned for the Circle of 8 series? Will Olivia & Armstrong be next?

Beth: I have 8 books planned – one for each Graham sibling. Olivia and Brody Armstrong are book 2! It releases July, 2012 from Brava just in time for AAD. That book, wow, that one was intense.

Jen: Do you enjoy writing full length novels more, or novellas?

Beth: Oh, tough question! When I’m writing a novel, there is more opportunity for growth and a character arc. A novella takes more careful planning because of the short length. I definitely have written more novels than novellas!

Jen: Do you have a favorite among your published works?

Beth: I knew you’d ask me that. LOL. I think I have three favorites – The Treasure because Ray and Lilly are based on me and hubby. Ruthless Heart because I simply adore Grady and Eliza. And I also love The Stranger’s Secrets – my heroine is disabled and tough as hell – every time (and I mean EVERY TIME), I read that book I weep. Powerful books – all of them.

Jen: What are you working on now?

Beth: I am working on a prequel to the Malloy series, THE FORTUNE, it’s the story of John & Francesca, parents to the Malloy brood. I also have another stand-alone book, FIND ME, I’m going to bang out after this one. Oh and I need to write Caleb’s story for The Circle Eight. Wait and then there’s the other new series my agent is pitching that I’ve written book 1 for… Um, yeah, I’m super busy. LOL. I’d like more hours in the day please and thank you.

Jen: When people see your name on a book, what should they be expecting?

Beth: My books are very character driven – they tell the story not me. I don’t include big flowery descriptions or sweeping vistas. It’s a journey that involves real people with real problems and real love. There’s intense emotions, humor, hot sex and generally, a cowboy.

Jen: What are you looking forward to most at AAD in New Orleans?

Beth: Having fun! I love weekends for authors/readers where you can relax and have fun. No pressure but to get to know each other and break out the good times. I’ve never been to New Orleans either so I expect the city will just add to the fabulous adventure!

Thanks so much to Beth for visiting today. To learn more about Beth Williamson, you can find her on her website. And in the meantime, you can enter to win a copy of Matthew! Just enter the Rafflecopter form below.  This giveaway is International.

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Review: She Tempts the Duke

Reviewed by Jen

When his father died, 14 year-old Sebastian was next in line to become the Duke of Keswick. But his power-hungry uncle locked him and his brothers away in the tower, with plans to kill them. He would have succeeded, if young Mary had not overheard his plans and set her young friends free. The boys ran for their lives. Now, more than a decade later, they are back –and ready to reclaim the birthright their uncle thought to steal.
Sebastian spent much of his time away as a soldier and is now horribly scarred. But when they meet again, Mary sees past that. Unfortunately, she is now betrothed to another man, which becomes problematic as she and Sebastian become drawn to each other. It’s not the only problem, though. Sebastian’s issues extend beyond physical scars. He believes himself a monster and has a hard time letting anyone in. Beyond that, he is so single-mindedly focused on reclaiming his estate, that he is blinded to the other things in life that could give him happiness.

I always enjoy a scarred/ tortured hero. Sebastian’s physical and emotional damage makes him so vulnerable, while he presents such a detached and powerful exterior. Mary is loyal and true, fiery and brave. She is a worthy heroine to help him heal and to find joy again. I really enjoyed the love scenes and the way the author dealt with the scars. But I wish that it had not taken Sebastian quite so long to see his own feelings for Mary… feelings obvious to the reader from the very beginning of the story.

It was a little predictable. But between the love story and the danger brought on by the threat of Sebastian’s displaced uncle… I still enjoyed the ride. Lorraine Heath also does a great job teasing us with the backstories on Sebastian’s brothers, who will have books of their own as she continues the trilogy. Mmmm. More tortured heroes to come. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
She Tempts the Duke
by Lorraine Heath
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: Mask of the Gladiator

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve been a sucker for sexy gladiators since the first time I laid my eyes on Andy Whitfield in his Spartacus loincloth. So I had high hopes for this story. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to its potential.

The story surrounds the widowed lady Livia. In a moment of abandon, she does the nasty with a sexy gladiator. She has no idea that he is the man her uncle is about to force her to marry. Titus is actually a senator, who went undercover as a gladiator as part of his plan to overthrow a dangerous ruler. The rest of the novella follows their unexpected relationship and the unseating of the emperor.

The story is very short… about 50 pages or so. And I just couldn’t feel much for the characters. The sex was just ok; the speed of their falling in love was extremely unrealistic; and the political elements just didn’t excite me. The novella wasn’t bad, but it was superficial. Not great for me. A little less than 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Mask of the Gladiator
by Georgie Lee
Release Date: January 30, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

Series Reading Order: The Disillusionsists

This is the reading order for the Disillusionists series by Carolyn Crane:

*Denotes short story/ novella

Shameless Giveaway Winners

First of all, I have to say thank you so much to everyone who took part in the Shameless Giveaway Hop.  There was such a huge response from readers and I hope all the other participating blogs enjoyed the experience as much as I did.  A hop is only as successful as those who take part… Without you guys, it couldn’t have happened.  An extra thank you to my co-hosts Brie and Michelle.  You ladies are awesome.

As for the winners… First prize goes to Georgia McMillan. As an international follower, she wins the book of her choice from The Book Depository.  Second place goes to Lori at Romancing the Darkside.  She chose a book from TBD as well.

Did you all enjoy the hop?  Tell me if it was a good experience for you –and if you’d like to see another one.

Review: The Protectors – Damon

Reviewed by Jen

Being a social worker can be dangerous business when vampires are part of the equation. And that’s becoming clearer to Nicole every day. More and more often, she is encountering human foster parents who are stealing and selling the blood of vampire children. And they’ll do almost anything to protect their dirty secret. So a group of vampire warriors has been called in to help train Nicole and her co-workers in self-defense. Almost immediately she is drawn to one of the men.

Damon swears he’ll never take a human mate, but he knows Nicole is meant to be his. She fires all of his protective instincts, and it’s only a matter of time before they give in to their attraction. But at the same time their passion is heating up, so is the danger to Nicole. It seems someone thinks she is doing her job too well. Her vigilance is putting a crimp in the blood trade and now a hit has been put on her life. Damon must find a way to keep her safe as he struggles with his instinct to make her his own.

The book felt a little awkward in the very beginning, but it quickly grew on me. I liked both main characters. Damon’s reluctance to make Nicole his mate was understandable once we learned his backstory. And in the meantime, we were treated to some good sexual tension –and eventually, some hot sex.

The villain reveal wasn’t a very big surprise, but I enjoyed the journey.  The ending felt a little bit rushed –I would have liked to see the events play out– but I was happy with the resolution. Plus, the secondary cast of vampire warriors provides fertile ground for future stories.  Almost 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Protectors – Damon
by Teresa Gabelman
Release Date: November 27, 2011

AAD Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Darynda Jones

Obviously, I am in love with the Charley Davidson series. So much so, I stalked approached author Darynda Jones, to get more deets on these amazing books.  Check it out: 

Jen: Give new readers an idea of what the Charley Davidson books are about.

Darynda: First, thank you so much for having me!!! The Charley Davidson series is about a female PI who just happened to have been born the grim reaper. Because of her supernatural status, she is often called upon to solve cases for both the living and the dead. It makes for an interesting day. She is shoved into one messy situation after another and she handles it with more sass and bravado than she probably has a right to.

In the meantime, she is dealing with the intensely hot Reyes Farrow, a being that is part human and part…well, not. In the first book, First Grave on the Right, he seems vaguely familiar to Charley, and she sets out to ascertain exactly who and what he is. But she soon discovers he is surrounded by danger and a darkness that she never dreamed really existed. Falling in love with him would be a mistake, but Charley never claimed to be the most sensible girl in designer underwear.

Jen: One of the things I love so much about this series is the humor. Is the snark something that comes easily to you or is it hard to be so funny?

Darynda: Admittedly, with the first book it was difficult. I had to really think about it, to put it there on the page purposely. Now, as I work on the fourth in the series, it kind of flows out of me. I hardly think about it anymore, a fact for which I’m grateful.

Jen: Think about Charley as you first envisioned her and compare her to the character she has become. Has she changed much from your initial vision or has she stayed true to your original idea?

Darynda: What an interesting question. She has stayed 100% true to my original vision. She is exactly what I wanted and continues to amaze me with her antics.

Jen: Other than Charley and Reyes, which character in the series would you like to develop more?

Darynda: Mr. Wong. LOL.

Jen: Will we be seeing more of Donovan?

Darynda: In the fourth installment, yes. I’m not sure how visible he will be afterward, but he is so much fun, I can’t see ditching him entirely. I have such a great storyline for him in Fourth Grave, I’m excited to write it.

Jen: How many books do you have planned in the series? Do you have (or have you always had) an ending in mind?

Darynda: The series is ongoing, so we aren’t sure how many there will be right now, but as far as an ending goes, I do have one in mind. I hope we know for certain which one the last will be, because I have quite the plot lined up for our girl, Charley. She will never be the same again.

Jen: Could you explain to readers where the short story “For I Have Sinned” fits into the series?

Darynda: That’s a toughie. I actually wrote it after writing Third Grave Dead Ahead, but because it came out in between books one and two, they dubbed it Charley Davidson 1.5. However, there is one line in the short story that will throw readers. I’ve had several emails because of it, so sorry readers! It will all make sense after Third Grave!

Jen: If you could Hollywood cast Charley or Reyes, which actors would be closest to the mark to how they look in your mind?


Darynda: It’s so funny, because for Charley, I have so many actors I think could play her to a tee. Everyone from Mila Kunis to Emma Stone. As for Reyes, he was originally based on actor Jason Behr and I believed then, as I do now, that he could make a stellar Reyes. A lot of my readers don’t see him as aggressive enough, but I’ve seen some of his darker roles. Trust me, he could handle it. 🙂 It actually sold to CBS, so here’s hoping they do something with it! I would love a TV series!

Jen: Becoming a writer has been a long journey for you. Now that that you’ve published three books, to such positive reception… what has been the most surprising part of your success?
Darynda: Well, the success, actually. I was utterly floored by the reception and so very, very grateful. I never expected the books to be so loved by people. I adore writing Charley and the fact that I can continue to do so thrills me to no end. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Jen: What are you looking forward to most from AAD in New Orleans?

Darynda: Besides New Orleans? (Excuse me while I drool…) I would have to say being surrounded by such an amazing lineup of authors. I mean, honestly. It will be like paranormal heaven. I get giddy just thinking about it.

Jen: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I’ve really loved your books and I can’t wait to see what happens in Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet.

Darynda: LOL, thank YOU so, so much!!!! I appreciate this opportunity so much!

The awesome folks at MacMillan are providing a free audiobook of Third Grave Dead Ahead to one lucky winner in the US. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. In the meantime, be sure to check out Darynda on her website and on Twitter.

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Review: Third Grave Dead Ahead

Reviewed by Jen

Just when I thought this series couldn’t get any better, a new Charley Davidson book comes along and shows me just how very, very wrong I was. This story was absolutely amazing, taking me on a thrill ride from the very first page until the very last. Now that the book is over, I’m left stunned, satisfied, a little shaken-up, and mostly desperate… for the next book to come out.

As the story begins, Charley is fighting to stay awake. That’s because every time she closes her eyes, Reyes is there. He is as hot and sexy as ever, but he is also pissed as hell, since Charley bound him to his corporeal body. Now he can only come to her when she sleeps, and his body is stuck in prison. But we’ll get back to Reyes in just a minute.

Despite her lack of sleep, Charley is keeping busy. She is working a PI case, searching for a missing woman. But she is a multi-tasker and there is plenty more on her plate. From the mysterious Mistress Marigold to the bikers who have taken over the asylum where Rocket lives. From more problems with her Dad (who I’m liking less and less) to constant surveillance by Garrett Swopes. And if all that weren’t enough, Reyes ends up breaking out of jail, sending her on the hunt for the man he was convicted of killing –a disgusting S.O.B. who is very much alive.

If that sounds like alot, that’s because it is. But Darynda Jones weaves it all together into this seamless masterpiece of action, suspense, humor and heart. The book is funny. It’s really funny. Charley’s snark and wit made me laugh out loud over and over again. But the dynamic between Charley and Reyes is what makes the book sing for me. I love him. And I love how he loves her, despite an extremely boneheaded plan that ended up hurting Charley terribly.

As for the ending… I’m not going to say much, but there is a great twist… and big betrayal. I’m just blown away by the whole book. And I can’t wait to see where the Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet takes us. 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by St Martin’s Press

Click to purchase: Amazon
Third Grave Dead Ahead
by Darynda Jones
Release Date: February 2, 2012
Publisher: St Martin’s Press

Review: For I Have Sinned

Reviewed by Jen

Darynda Jones put out this free little novella to share with her fans on the Heroes & Heartbreakers website. It gives us the story of a recently deceased woman who is drawn to Charley. Unlike the novels, which are told by Charley in the first person, the novella is told from the perspective of the ghost. I liked this, because it gives us an outside perspective on Charley, herself.

There’s not a lot going on here, but there is a little bit of Reyes in the story and a peek inside Charley’s psyche where he is concerned.  You certainly don’t have to read this one to enjoy and understand the series, but it is a little something extra for fans.  It’s labeled as book 1.5 in the series. But it was written after book 3 and references an event in that book.  I suggest reading it after Third Grave Dead Ahead. Almost 4 stars.

For I Have Sinned
by Darynda Jones
Release Date: March 1, 2011