Archives for May 2012

Review: Conquered by a Highlander

Reviewed by Jen

There are two things that are important to Colin MacGregor: his clan and his job as an agent of the king.  Both play a role in his latest mission. He must infiltrate the home of a traitor and uncover his plans.  Geoffrey is part of conspiracy to help overthrow the pro-Catholic king to put a protestant sympathizer on the throne.  Colin needs to find out who is aligning with Geoffrey and what the king needs to do secure his interests.  After all, the MacGregors are Catholic and a protestant king would make them targets. Colin ingratiates himself with Geoffrey and his men under an alter-ego… one willing to fight for their cause.

As soon he arrives at Dartmouth, Colin meets Geoffrey’s cousin Gillian.  She has been banished to her cousin’s custody to raise her bastard son away from her noble family.  She puts up a brave face but she is miserable.  Geoffrey hates her son and he wants her in his bed.  Only her guard George keeps her and young Edmund safe –not only from Geoffrey, but all of his men who lust after her.

The relationship between Colin and Gillian develops very, very slowly.  He really falls for her son before he falls for her. And that is important because that little boy is her everything.  It was very sweet, but it took forever for these two to so much as kiss.  Too long.  In fact, I felt the urge to skim a little, though mostly it was because of all the political stuff wrapped up in the story.  I had a hard time keeping up with who all the players were and honestly, I didn’t really care. I just wanted the damn romance to happen.

I did like the characters.  Colin is a strong and capable Highlander whose heart softens beautifully for Edmund.  Gillian is a strong woman, who does whatever is necessary to protect her child.  Like I said, likeable and sweet, though not very hot.  There’s a little bit of lovin’ toward the end, but not much.

Geoffrey makes a good villain. And I like that he is smarter than he appears.  I also liked George, who had his own morality and loyalties.

I should point out that this is book four in Paula Quinn’s Children of the Mist series.  But it works just fine as a standalone.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
  Conquered by a Highlander
by Paula Quinn
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

 

Guest Post: Thea and Viv’s Big Adventure

This contest is closed. The winner is Julianne.

Welcome to Day Two and more adventures with Thea and Viv. The theme for this second day is Transportation and a chance to introduce you to our heroes. Now-transportation is a BIG theme in WOLF LINE, like there’s a really big boat as the setting for this story: a cruise ship. Kinda like this one:

Yes, for anyone who has already read others in the Granite Lake Wolves series, you know there’s a pun in that title, just like there are in all the story titles. One is obvious, I hope—but there’s more than one line being pulled in this story!

Like—don’t let the names fool you, but the fellow being called Mark Weaver in this scene is actually Jared: playboy extraordinaire first met in WOLF GAMES. Only after a pretty exciting morning he’s suddenly thrust into this meeting with Keri Smith who’s acting as a troubleshooter during her BFFs maiden voyage as Cruise Coordinator.

Welcome aboard, trouble!

The late arrival was dark haired, the strands long enough to lie tousled around his shoulders like some bad-boy rock star on tour. Mmm, she liked bad boys. His leather jacket hung open, his chest moving rapidly, and Keri hesitated.

Chest heaving? Slightly panting—as if he’d been running? “Did someone escort you to the ship, Mr. Weaver?”

His eyes widened, then his grin flashed and her belly warmed. Damn, that face of his should be labeled a dangerous weapon. “No, but I sure could use an escort to my room.”

“You’ll get your sleeping assignment in a minute,” Chad cut in. “First, sign here.”

Keri shook herself, stepping back in self-defense.

Mark winked her direction then leaned over the table to add a swirl of chaos to the bottom of the page. “There you go, love.”

Chad choked for a second before handing over a key. “Your room is on the port side, toward mid ship. You can get extra linens and supplies from the hall storage, and your first shift starts at eleven hundred hours. Report back here and you’ll find your team leader, who will get you fitted up and give you last-minute instructions.”

Mark tilted an imaginary hat at Keri, ignoring Chad completely. “You going to be around? Help me find my sea legs, that kind of thing?”

Keri continued to retreat until her back hit the wall. “I think we’ll end this conversation now, Mr. Weaver. Find your quarters.”

His dark eyes sparkled for a second before he dropped his gaze, stroking his way down her body. She should feel insulted. She should turn and demand he treat her with more respect. The words wouldn’t come, mainly because what she really wanted was to strip right there and ride him like a Harley. Feel his power rumbling between her thighs and—

Sweat broke out on her brow, cooling instantly in the air-conditioned room. Mark was out the door before she figured out how to respond further. Keri avoided the blatant question in Chad’s eyes and raced away, slamming through the door that led the opposite direction from where her mystery man had gone. All thoughts of why he’d been chased aboard were lost in the disastrous new revelation that had overtaken her.

This was not good. This was so not good. The situation had gone from troublesome to tortuous in less time than it took for the average wolf pack to consume a prime-rib dinner.

Keri stopped to lean her forehead on the nearest wall. She hit with more force than intended, which was moderately excruciating but somehow appropriate.

In fact, she repeated the move. A couple of times.

Bang. Bang.

The resulting pain made her screw up her face. Bang. She was supposed to be there for her friend and act as a troubleshooter. Bang. Not be the one to cause chaos right under Tessa’s nose. Bang. Not discovering her mate in the midst of the hired help.

Oops? Okay, this is going to be a tricky cruise. Not as tricky as this one, but still:

Hope you’ll come along to see exactly why Jared is being called Mark, and why Keri is reacting to her mate, and yet Jared doesn’t seem to be…

Leave a comment here, and then head over to the Book Binge to see what Thea is up to. Tomorrow you’ll find us both hanging out at Smexy Books to talk about our heroines and take on the next part of the adventure.

~~><~~
THEA AND VIV’S BIG ADVENTURE is brought to you by Thea Harrison and Vivian ArendNew York Times and USA Todaybestselling authors with a love for both travel and writing. They have joined together for the nefarious purpose of celebrating their next Samhain Publishing ebooks.
Thea’s DEVIL’S GATE releases June 5. The novella returns readers to the world of The Elder Races. Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Samhain Publishing
WOLF LINE, #5 in Viv’s bestselling Granite Lake Wolves, is available June 12. Available at: Amazon | Barne’s & Noble | Samhain Publishing
~~><~~
Comment for your chance to win:
Information re: Grand Prize can be found at Thea or Viv’s
DAILY PRIZE: One commenter here at this blog will win their choice of one of Thea or Viv’s backlist Samhain ebooks from either the Elder Races or Granite Lake Wolves series. If you’ve got them all, you can gift this to a friend!
Winners from comments at all the tour stops will be announced at
Viv’s and Thea’s blogs on JUNE 13.
Question for today:
Which cruise trip would you take? Alaska, Caribbean or elsewhere?

Review: Victorian Scoundrel

Reviewed by Shelly
Blurb: It’s 2010 and compressed natural gas has taken over the coal producing steam machines of the Victorian Age. Alice Windsor, Princess of York, follows her mischief-making cousin, Prince Edmund of Wales back to the past (1851) where Prince Albert is hosting Britain’s Great Exhibition. Alice soon discovers Edmund has struck up a friendship with their great-grandfather, Prince Albert, and his mischief making entails leaving a dinosaur-sized footprint in history. She also meets Grayson Kentfield, Earl Swinton, and the Prime Minister, Sir John Russell. The Prime Minster finds her odd, to say the least. It’s only when Alice falls for the handsome Earl Swinton does she realize the dangers of time travel. How can she give her heart to a man from the past while striving to stop Edmund from changing time with his forward thinking ideas?

Review: This is my first steampunk novel and first read from Stephanie Burkhart.  I will admit that this took a while for me to get started but once I did, it went relatively well. From the cover, I assumed along with time travel there would be some romance, and there was. Not because of the cover but I also assumed there would be some sex, there was – just not a lot, less than a page when it did happen. I thought there could have been more especially when main characters are involved. But I digress.

The majority of this story is in a time travelled 1851 and while that might not seem like such a big deal – it’s all Victoria era ‘speak’.  There’s a lot of titles – “your Highness, Lord, Lady, Duke, etc.” – which may keep with the era, but for this reader it made for a bit of confusion.  Imagine a three/four person dialogue where titles are used. I admit to getting confused a few times and had to go back to see who was in the conversation.

I really liked the chemistry and subsequent relationship between Alice and Grayson. This was definitely not a quick romance, and although the passion/sexual tension was there the sex was non-descript.  Super disappointed there but I got over it pretty quickly. By the end, while still rooting for these two I really thought Grayson is hiding something. Burkhart has set it up (fingers crossed) for hopefully some answers in the next book. I’m also hoping that Alice continues to grow, especially a backbone as the series progresses – she seems a bit too dependent on cousin Edmund.

I gotta say that Edmund and Keira’s relationship has me the most curious as to where that’s going.  Edmund, as we were told a few times (13 if you’re counting but I’m not) is a bit mischievous and I’m waiting to see how independent Keira is going to deal with him.  But again, that’s gonna have to wait for the next book in the series.

As I mentioned this book was written as the first part of a series and we’ll have to wait to find out if any of these characters have an HEA. With any luck we should find out what happens to some of the potentially wonderful secondary characters, Bryon and Edmund’s older brother, Richard.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: C+*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Victorian Scoundrel
by Stephanie Burkhart
Release Date: June 29, 2011
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing

Review: Complete Faith

Reviewed by Jen

Tommy is gay, but he is firmly in the closet. He’s never been with another man –has never even been kissed.  His small Texas town is largely homophobic, with the exception of those who work with him at the Lost Cow Ranch and the congregation of the small church that they attend.  A gay couple runs the Lost Cow, and they are the only ones who know the truth about Tommy, until he is no longer able to hide his attraction to the pastor of their church.

Noah knows what it means to be an outsider. As an openly gay, black pastor, he’s faced a lot of prejudice. But he has built his church into a sanctuary.  He’s found a home –and a potential lover in the shy and sexy Tommy.  Noah makes his move on the cowboy, but he won’t seal the deal until Tommy comes out to his family and friends.  The story follows the progression of their relationship as well as the struggles that the men of the Lost Cow must deal with in their bigoted community.

When I started this book, I had no idea it was part of a series.  This is actually a sequel to Morning Report, a book featuring the romance between the men who own the ranch.  Several of the events of that book are referenced and while I didn’t exactly feel lost, I knew I had missed something.

I had a little trouble connecting at the beginning. Maybe it was just because everything was so extreme.  The town was sooo backward. Tommy was soooo innocent.  And the guys who run the Losy Cow: a bit over the top. Sex all the over the ranch… very, er, free with their PDAs. (On a side note, I have to say the whole fisting thing was a little out of my comfort zone.) Moving on….

I liked the progression of Tommy and Noah’s relationship, both sexually and emotionally.  I also liked that we saw their relationship develop within the context of their community.  I was a little put off, though, that the author introduced a scenario that made it seem like a particular sexual development would take place –and then it was completely dropped. Red herrings annoy me.  And this book had a few threads that ended up serving little purpose. It kind of meandered through tangential events to get to the climax.

The main relationship was the best thing the book had going for it, but the rest… I just had trouble buying it.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Complete Faith
by Sue Brown
Release Date: April 30, 2012
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Review: Summer Days

Reviewed by Allison

Summer Days is the seventh installment of Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series. In this book, we meet Heidi Simpson, goat girl extraordinaire & her grandfather, Glen. Glen is a sweet old man, but he seems to have swindled a woman out of $250,000 by telling her he was selling her the land & ranch that his granddaughter owned. Enter Rafe Stryker, said woman’s protective (& rich!) son who is determined to take Glen to court no matter how good the old man’s intentions were (he gave the money to a friend to get treatment for cancer). However, coming to a compromise will be easier said than done since his mother, May, is so generous that she is willing to share the house with Glen & Heidi until they can figure something out – but Heidi refuses to leave the one thing she’s wanted her entire life, a home in one place, up to chance.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit; I liked watching Glen & May fall for each other as well as Heidi’s exploration of home & family. It may have been my mood while reading, but I found it sort of difficult to like Rafe. He was sexy & he had his moments of tenderness & sound business advice, but he wasn’t a worthy guy until the end. I hated that even after he slept with Heidi, acknowledged that he cared, he still kept up with his evil development plan. Although, I did thoroughly enjoy how he “got his” at the end – every one got to kick his ass verbally & it made me love Fool’s Gold that much more! I think his brother, Shane, had the best wake up call that is reality for a lot of older siblings out there:
“Sure you worked hard to support all of us and we appreciate that. But the price is too high. You expect ownership for what you did, and no one wants to give you that.”
Fool’s Gold still charmed my pants off & I loved Heidi’s friends, Annabelle & Charlie! They were interesting characters, fun to watch banter & scheme, & I really look forward to each of their books.
All in all, Susan Mallery made me smile & I can’t wait to read Summer Nights.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by NetGalley
Click to purchase: Amazon
Summer Days
by Susan Mallery
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: HQN Books

Review: Darkness Becomes Her

Reviewed by Jen

I haven’t read all of the Offspring books, but the series is clearly one with extensive world-building that has grown more and more complex over time. But I think this book does a great job of getting down to basics and focusing on a fantastic romance.

Lachlan is a man who lives in something of a self-imposed exile, ever since he accidentally killed his mother while astral projecting. His father died a short time after her death and now the only thing left in his life that matters is his brother Magnus. As our story begins, Magnus is trying to pull his brother back out into the world and tells him about Jessie, the woman he is hoping to start a relationship with. Lachlan suddenly gets a vision of Magnus dead at Jessie’s feet –and knows he can’t stop until he finds a way to keep his brother away from her.

Jessie is a woman on the run from her past. Ever since she witnessed her uncle killing her father, her life has never been the same. And now that he is out of prison, she knows he is hunting for her. Jessie knows she carries the same Darkness in her that her uncle does, but she doesn’t know what it means. Suddenly, he finds her and in a violent showdown, nearly kills Mangus. She is able to save his life, but only by using the dark gift that she knows will infect him too. He slips into a coma as he recovers.

Lachlan decides to help Jessie hide from her uncle as she tries to figure out how to defeat him. He thinks there is much more between her and Magnus than there really is. And he feels like he can find some redemption in saving his brother’s girl. But it becomes much more difficult to be honorable as he starts to fall for her.

Usually I cringe from adult virgin heroines, but here, Jessie has a good reason for her chastity. She is afraid her Darkness would harm her lover. And I was very excited to learn that our hero is a virgin too. Once you toss in the virginity with her fears of hurting him and his fears of betraying his brother… it’s like the perfect storm of sexual tension. I really, really enjoyed the progression of the romance here.

As for the paranormal element of the story, I felt like this was the clearest explanation I have seen in this series on the origins of the characters’ supernatural powers. And for the first time ever, I finally understood what “darkness” is. It’s all still a bit convoluted, but I felt like I “got it” enough to be able to enjoy the book.

There were lots of twists and turns and I laughed out loud a few times too. The book had heart, danger, and sex appeal. My only complaint was that it ended before we could see the repercussions of the relationship. Hopefully, the next book will fill in those blanks.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Darkness Becomes Her
by Jaime Rush
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: Dark Frost

Reviewed by Jen

I have yet to meet a Jennifer Estep book I didn’t like.  And this one is no exception. In fact, I think it’s the strongest installment in the Mythos Academy series so far.

Only weeks have passed since the events of the last book.  Winter break is just wrapping up and Gwen is unsure where she stands with the sexy Spartan, Logan. They haven’t seen each other or spoken during the break.  Just as they reunite at a museum for a school project, the building is overrun with Reapers.  They’re searching for the ancient dagger to free the god Loki.  And leading the charge, is the masked woman who killed Gwen’s mother.

The battle is bloody, but Gwen and her friends survive and the head Reaper gets away.  The whole thing really drives home for Gwen how important it is that she find the dagger first, to keep Loki locked away.  The story follows her efforts to uncover the weapon her mother hid all those years ago, while struggling with her fragile relationship with Logan.

Once again, Logan manages to piss me off with how he treats Gwen and I was really about to write him off for good this time.  That is, until we learn his Big Secret.  Granted, the secret wasn’t so big that we all hadn’t figured it out already, but through his willingness to eventually share his vulnerability, we finally see him grow.

There are some engaging subplots, surrounding Gwen’s friend Daphne and the return of that Frenrir wolf we met in the last book. But the main theme of the story is really Gwen’s journey of self-discovery.  It’s painfully clear at times how young she still is.  It’s frustrating to watch her blame herself for things she can’t control –and make everything all about her.  But that is the way of a 17 year-old, I guess.  The important thing is that she is growing… not just as a person, but as a powerful being.  What she learns to do with her powers here is pretty bad ass.

Estep’s writing style is always a win for me. It’s such easy reading, the books always fly by. There’s a lot of action and some major developments in the overall series arc.  Stuff I did not see coming.  I’m looking forward to see how Gwen will manage to live up to her potential in the next book.

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Dark Frost
by Jennifer Estep
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Kensington

Guest Post & Giveaway: Fayth Devlin

Villains, the bad boys we love to hate (or secretly lust after)

By Fayth Devlin
This fine Monday morning marks the first stop in my Blog Tour! Thank you Jen for having me on your amazing (and very hot) site!!! During my tour I’ll be introducing readers to some of the different characters in my debut paranormal romance novel, BLOOD LUST RISING.
One of my goals as a writer is to inspire creativity, to create a world where someone can escape into and come out with a smile on their face. Now, some women like a tender lover, a man who is kind and compassionate. One who kisses you sweetly and pulls back before you can ask for more. A slow build up of passion. A consummate gentleman. But, for me, it’s the dark, tortured, and forceful men who really get me going. You know the ones…rebels, carnal delight staring at you from narrowed eyes. A man that could make you shiver by a brush of his fingertips.
And that, ladies and gents, is why I’m going to introduce you to Julian.
Julian is the man you’ll love to hate. Lust after him. Crave him. Let him rock your world. You know you want to try a taste… He is tall, blond, incredible, he is sex on a stick with a blood fetish.
Imagine what it would feel like for my resident bad boy vampire in Blood Lust Rising to whisper all the wicked things he wants to do to you. All the positions he’ll put you in.
“I should take you right here, in front of your hunter. I should show him who you really belong to.”
I shiver every time I imagine his voice. It’s the edge of fear and lust that gets me.
So why are we suckers for this kind of man? Falling in lust with him would be ridiculous. You know he’ll tear you apart and not think twice…but he shows a glimmer of humanity. A redeemable quality that gives you hope.
“I forgot how much you loved the rain.” Julian looked up, found my gaze. He was trying to remind me of how much I had once loved him.
 
“Do you think I want to kill you? I love you. All I’ve ever wanted was you by my side. Why don’t you understand that?”
Is he redeemable? Does the lust he inspire melt away all your inhibitions? Would one night be enough with this man? You decide.
Vampire Queen and Demon son – Together they will wreak havoc and total destruction. Or at least, that’s what the prophecy says. When a sex-seething succubus focuses in on Ella Grey, a half-breed vampire and her Shadow Hunting partner, Micah McGregor, a power is released neither can control or comprehend.

A chain of events is triggered, forcing Ella and Micah down a shadowed path riddled with unrestrained passion, violence and betrayal. The truth of Micah’s demonic origins will reveal a heart-breaking conspiracy within the Shadow Agency that once swore to protect humanity from vampires and demons. Ella and Micah are proof that nothing is as it appears.

Buy BLOOD LUST RISING @ Amazon, B&N, ARe
Julian’s entrance in Blood Lust Rising –
Through narrowed eyes, I watched Julian push off the cross he’d been leaning against. He stalked toward me. Like he was the devil himself, strolling through the playgrounds of hell, Julian’s coat billowed around him. He was not just a vampire. I could see that in every step he took, in every shift of sinew and muscle.
He was a king.
An unbelievably handsome king.
Since I’d seen him last, he’d let his white-blonde hair grow long enough to reach his shoulders. As he walked, the wet strands caressed the collar of his jacket. Although over four hundred years old, my sire would always look like he was in his mid-twenties. 
The phantom silk of his hair trailed over my neck, across my naked breasts. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. My mind knew it was a memory, but my body didn’t. The image of Julian moving over me, sliding down my body, crept inside like a thief in the darkest part of the night. I had never known what kind of power my sire would hold over me. This close, shielding him was almost impossible. The wall inside my head began to shake. Hundreds of knives cut at the ivy holding my sanity together.
The hard tips of my nipples pressed against my rain-soaked shirt. I sucked in a breath and felt soft hairs tickle the insides of my thighs.
 ***
I’ll be giving away an electronic copy of Blood Lust Rising. To enter into the contest please reply to this post with the answer to this questions…. Who is your favorite villain and why?
And lastly, another huge thank you to Jen for hosting me today!!!

Review: A Night Like This

Reviewed by Jen

This was my first Julia Quinn book.  I found it delightful and fantastic and I can’t wait for a chance to jump into her backlist to catch up on all that I have been missing.

The heroine of our story is Anne.  She was born a gentlewoman, but a horrible event in her past cast her out from her family.  Now she makes her way as a governess.  It’s been years since she’s even entertained the idea of love.  After all, her romantic notions are what got her into trouble in the first place.  But from the moment she catches Daniel’s eye across a crowded room, her fate is sealed.

A relationship between Daniel and Anne is wholly inappropriate.  He is an earl and she is governess to his young cousins.  But he, too, has been cut off from his family.   A bungled duel put him under a death threat that forced him from the country for years. He has only just returned to the fold.  And Anne has made his homecoming even sweeter.

Anne knows they can never have a real future, so she fights her feelings. But Daniel is relentless in his pursuit. He is so charming and determined to win her.  The evolution of their relationship is sweet and believable.  And when someone starts making attempts on their lives, it ups the stakes.  Is it someone from Daniel’s past or is Anne’s old life coming back to haunt her?

The pacing is so good, the book felt like it just flew by.  It had a steady rhythm of romance and action and light-hearted fun. The love story sets the main stage, but the book is made richer with a developed cast of secondary characters, from the trio of girls Anne cares for, to Hugh –the man Daniel shot all those years ago.  I was engaged from the first page to the last.

It wasn’t even until I was finished that I realized this is the second book in the Smith-Smyth Quartet series.  This works completely as a standalone –though I am happy to know there are more books to come.

Rating: A-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
 A Night Like This
by Julia Quinn
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: Improper Relations

Reviewed by Jen

A widow of a loveless marriage, Hannah has never known passion.  Her husband left her penniless when he died and she was forced to become a ladies’ companion to his aunt in order keep a roof over her head.  Her life is as drab and unremarkable as the plain and unflattering clothes she is forced to wear every day. All that changes after an unexpected encounter in the library.

Hannah has always been intrigued by Leo, a handsome cousin by marriage.  So when she accidentally witnesses his tryst with a maid, she can’t look away.  And Leo knows it.  As soon as the maid leaves, he calls her out of her hiding place and makes her an offer: a sexual education and pleasure like she has never known.  Curiosity and attraction create an intoxicating blend she can’t ignore.

The story follows the course of Hannah’s lessons in sexual pleasure and her inevitable fall for cousin Leo.  It’s a hot read.  Hannah is likeable, though a bit downtrodden. It’s not an epic romance. The story is short and the time we have with Hannah and Leo is basically spent, uh, en flagrante delicto, so it’s kind of hard to feel the love.  But I did feel the heat.

I enjoyed watching the spark in Hannah build into a fire and though the ending was a bit rushed, it left me feeling satisfied.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
  Improper Relations
by Juliana Ross
Release Date: April 23, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press