Archives for July 2012

Review: When You Wish Upon a Duke

Reviewed by Jen

I had high hopes for this book. It started strong.  The hero and the heroine are crazy about each other right off the bat.  They want the same things; their path to happiness is clear.  But as they move forward in what seemed like a pretty straightforward love story, they completely screw themselves up.

After the death of her father, Charlotte grew up in the country with her mother and sisters.  She had no idea he had arranged a marriage for her until a solicitor arrived from the Duke of Marchbourne, ready to bring her back to London.  Fortunately, March ends up being more than she had ever dreamed she would find in a match.  He is handsome and kind and he wants her every bit as much as she wants him.  In fact, he is so excited about marrying her, they move up the wedding and tie the knot right away.

They are blissfully happy at first. But then, March’s neurosis kicks in.  Way back in the family tree, his great-grandmother was a mistress to the king.  It was the start of what he considers his base bloodline.  His father frequented whores.  March is terrified that somehow his bloodline will affect him in similar fashion.  So he resolves to treat Charlotte as nothing less than an impeccable lady.  His heart is in the right place, in that he is trying to honor her.  But he stops treating her as a true lover, as a partner.  And of course, she has no idea what is behind the change. She thinks she somehow screwed up.

Around and around these two go, taking a step forward and two steps back… worrying about propriety and ideals when they have real love already in their grasps.  It was very frustrating. There is essentially no external conflict or secondary plot at all.  Just Charlotte and March getting caught up in what they think they should be doing and forgetting what made them happy in the first place.

I liked Charlotte. She is innocent without being an idiot and she would really be quite competent if March gave her the chance.  As for March, he is a good man at his core, but his hang-ups are serious.  We do find in the course of the book there is more to his issues than it first appears, and that helps to explain his behavior a bit more.  But all in all, it just kind of fizzled.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
When You Wish Upon a Duke
by Isabella Bradford
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Ballantine Books

 

Review: Shadow Rising

Reviewed by Jen

Kendra Leigh Castle delivers yet again with her latest installment in the Dark Dynasties series. I love her heroes and their struggle for self-worth. I love her tortured Cait-Sith race, reviled for centuries and now finally coming into their own. I love the world building, the romance… the sex. Yes, I know I’m gushing, but I did not want to put this book down.

Damien is a Cait Sith, but also a Shade… an assassin for the House of Shadows. His latest mission is to find Sammael, a member of the mysterious Gregori race, who has gone missing. It’s an exciting job, because no one knows much about the Gregori and because there is also a missing female that her people want back as well.

Ariane is an outcast among the Gregori. The ancient, winged vampires consider themselves watchers. They study others in the world and they don’t interfere. They shun emotion and Ariane has never been able to truly clamp her feelings down. When her only friend, Sammael, goes missing, she ignores the rules and rushes out on her own to find him and bring him home.

It’s only a matter of time before Ariane and Damien cross paths in their search. Though they each reject the idea at first, they eventually realize that it’s in both of their best interests to work together. And of course, that provides the opportunity for the attraction between them to grow.

Damien is a hard man. Like many Cait-Sith, he considers himself the low-blood he’s been branded by others. He’s never known comfort or love. He has only found happiness in money and the thrill of the hunt. But he is taken by Ariane’s innocence, her honesty, and her inner strength. She doesn’t play games and it makes her easy to root for. It was so satisfying to watch him succumb to her goodness and acceptance of who and what he is. The romance is really quite sweet and the sex is very good too.

As much as the romance was a hit for me, I found I enjoyed the story as well. It was cool seeing the Gregori mysteries unfold and learning how it all fits in the broader picture of the series. Each one of the vampire houses is interesting and unique. Castle has created such a rich canvas with her supernatural world and continues to build on it with each book.

This is book three in the Dark Dynasties series, and while we get references to events and characters from other books, I think this would still work as a standalone. The story is loaded with great secondary characters who are practically screaming to get a book of their own one day. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Rating : A-

*ARC Provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Shadow Rising
by Kendra Leigh Castle
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Review: Thirteen

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve been a fan of the Otherworld series ever since I picked up Bitten and fell in love with the hot, complicated and largely dysfunctional romance between Clay Danvers and Elena Michaels.  Over the years, I have liked some stories more than others. Some had better narrators, others had a stronger story arc, and yet others appealed more to the romance lover in me.  But these last two Otherworld books took the series to an entirely different level.  Thirteen was everything I wanted… everything I needed… for a fitting farewell to these characters I have come to care so much about.

I will do my very best to keep from spoiling you on the particulars.  In broad strokes, I can tell you that the story picks up where Spell Bound left off.  It follows Savannah on her journey to recover her powers and stop the faction of supernaturals trying to out themselves to the human world. This, of course, as she tries to finally snag the man she has loved all her life.

But while Savannah is the anchor of the story, this book belongs in part to everyone we have come to know in the Otherworld universe. We spend time with Elena, Paige, Eve, Hope, Jaime, Cassandra and the men who love them.  We get bits and pieces in their POVs –enough for me to remember who I love and why.  We see how far everyone has come, the evolution of their lives, but all folded seamlessly into the framework of this current crisis.

And it is a crisis.  The action is almost non-stop. The danger is very real.  In fact, there is one heart stopping moment, where I felt like Kelley Armstrong stabbed me in the heart with a rusty butterknife. It was that wrenching.  It’s also a testament to how deeply connected I feel to these characters and their lives.

Armstrong weaves together so many threads from so many of her previous books. We see (or at least hear about) all the major players that have shaped the series.  Some, I never thought we would ever see. Some I thought we had seen the last of.  They’re all connected by our core cast of characters either by blood, by friendship or by feud.  It’s brilliant.

I wouldn’t change a thing.  Well, that’s not entirely true. I would have liked to see a page or two of payoff on the relationship we have waited on between Savannah and Adam.  I didn’t need (or even want) the romance to take over the story, but I felt robbed with a love scene that fades to black.  Armstrong has given us good love scenes in the past, but here, for whatever reason, she opts not to.

When all is said and done, our characters lives are still a work in progress.  But we have enough closure that I was very satisfied. And a little sad. I will miss this series… but at least it went out with a bang instead of a whimper.

Rating: A-

*ARC Provided by Dutton

Click to purchase: Amazon
Thirteen
by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: Dutton

Review: Moonglow

Reviewed by Jen

I loved Firelight.  When I found out it was the first in a series, I wondered how Kristen Callihan could possibly duplicate such an arresting and unique story in a sequel.  The short answer is: she doesn’t try to.  Yes, Moonglow is set in the same world, with overlapping characters.  But Daisy has a decidedly different story to tell than her sister did.  And Ian is nothing like Archer.  Their story is singular, and that is a good thing.

As the book opens, Daisy is coming out of mourning from the death of her horrible husband. She is finally free to find happiness and passion.  She is just getting started, by trysting with a handsome man outside of a party, when she witnesses a werewolf attack.  Her companion is killed and she is injured.  That’s when Ian swoops in and brings her to his home.

Ian is Lycan, but he lives apart from others of his kind. He recognizes the scent of wolf at the scene of the attack and must make sure that Daisy does not spread the word of what she has seen.  As she recovers, the two pick up a flirtatious banter –that is, until he realizes she is Miranda’s sister and she figures out that he is the oaf who tried to interfere with Miranda’s relationship with Archer.  They plan to go their separate ways, but when it’s revealed the rogue wolf is targeting women who share Daisy’s scent, Ian realizes she’ll only be safe in his care until he can track down the killer.

Ian carries the tragedies of his past like a boulder on his back.  A failed romance.  A lost child.  They make him afraid to open himself to love.  Beyond that, there are pack politics at play, which put him and Daisy both in danger.

Callihan has taken the world she built in Firelight and expanded it, introducing new supernatural creatures to mingle with the old.  At first, I wondered why she was introducing so many threads, but then she wove them all together, showing they were relevant from the beginning.  There was nothing predictable.  She surprised me and excited me with the werewolf arc… and still managed to answer old questions and reveal new truths about Daisy and her sisters.

The tone and the atmosphere is very similar to the last book, which I was happy about. It’s still got that wonderful dark, gothic feel.  A London that is a contrast of rich lushness and dank grime. The environment was almost like its own character in the book.

I enjoyed the romance between Ian and Daisy. It was really nice to watch them overcome their old hurts to let each other in.  The sexual tension was good and the love scenes were steamy.  The resolution was unexpected and satisfying.  Plus, we’ve got the set up for Poppy’s story.  I’m curious to see how that will play out, since she is already married to her hero and so much has already happened between them.

Very good.

Rating: A-


*ARC Provided by Grand Central Publishing

Click to purchase: Amazon
Moonglow
by Kristen Callihan
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Review: The Warrior Laird

Reviewed by Jen

Dugan MacMillan has only a few weeks to come up with a huge some of money to pay an unexpected rent on his clan’s property.  His plan: to use the portion of a treasure map left behind by his grandfather to find a cache of gold coins.  He really doesn’t have any clue where he is going, but he does have an idea of where to find another piece of the map.

It’s just after Dugan finds the second scrap that he runs in Maura.  She is a woman on the run from her betrothal to a horrible old man.  Coincidentally, she holds a third piece to the treasure map.  And when she hears Dugan’s men talking about the gold, she steals their two parts and takes off.  It’s not that she’s a bad person, but she figures she could use the gold to help take care of her beloved sister Rosie.  Young Rosie is disabled and was cast out by their father. Maura wants only to rescue the child from the distant Loch where she was abandoned, and take care of her.

It takes very little time for Dugan to catch up with her, though.  Once he does, he realizes he has two possible paths to get the money he needs. One possibility is for him to find the treasure. But even if he can’t, he can ransom Maura back to her fiance.  It’s cold, but he figures that his greatest responsibility is to take care of his clan, and without the money, they’ll have no home.

Of course, Dugan and Maura fall for each other as they journey to the place where they’ll meet up with her betrothed.  But I can’t say that I loved their romance.  Maura was earnest enough.  Her attraction to Dugan were the first feelings she has ever had for a man. But Dugan makes his moves on her with every intention of selling her off.  Even when he comes to care for her… even when there is real hope of finding the gold.. he holds on to the ransom plan.  I understand his loyalties, but this made it hard for me to root for them to fall in love.

Then there’s the sex.  Something just didn’t click for me there.  The scenes felt rushed and incomplete.  I was disappointed.

The book isn’t bad. We’ve got a treasure-seeking adventure and a sexy brogue.  And Maura inspired my sympathy, though it was hard to watch her be so powerless to her fate.  It was just frustrating at times and I  didn’t feel the love.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by Avon 

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Warrior Laird
by Margo Maguire
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: A Scandalous Affair

Reviewed by Jen

Daphne is a widow, enjoying the freedom that her new life has to offer, when at a masquerade ball, a man catches her eye.  She boldly asks him to dance, not even knowing who he is.  She is so taken with him, she makes it her mission to figure out his identity in order to pursue more time in his company.

Camden is a man who is very shy and works to hide his terrible stutter from the ton. He can’t believe that Daphne is interested in him and he is quite enamored of her as well.  But just because the attraction is there, doesn’t mean the shyness completely goes away. Daphne must be bold and relentless in order to get them where they both want to be.

I like heroes with problems.  I enjoy watching them learn their own value through the eyes of their heroine and this does, indeed, happen here.  The romance is sweet and I was satisfied with the sexy time. My only concern is that Camden’s stutter makes very little of an appearance in the book.  He says his comfort with Daphne makes it easier to speak, but that was tough for me to buy, especially since he was so crazy about her.  I think I would have like to see him struggle more with the stutter on page and in front of Daphne to give it more impact.  I also thought the love happened kind of fast.

But I enjoyed it for the most part. I like Karen Erickson’s writing and I like the premise of the Merry Widows books.  It’s cool to have Historical Romance heroines who are not virgins and who are willing to reach and grab what they want.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Scandalous Affair
by Karen Erickson
Release Date: July 30, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: Merrick’s Destiny

Reviewed by Jen

 

When you’re working with half as many pages, you can’t give the reader everything you would give them in a longer story.  Fortunately, Moira Rogers doesn’t scrimp on the good stuff.

This novella doesn’t have the same kind of story arc and action featured in Wilder’s Mate, but it had plenty of heat.  Our hero, Merrick, is a Bloodhound who wakes from an aircraft accident with holes in his memories and a new mate at his side.  Paralee was the only other survivor in the crash and she has no idea how Merrick feels about her.

The two of them are in hostile vampire territory and must find their way to safety. And wouldn’t you know it? They must also face the new moon –and the unbridled sexual hunger that brings out in Merrick.  Of course, Merrick’s attraction to Paralee isn’t one sided, so these two are on each other like white on rice.

The sex is as scorching hot as I have come to expect from this series.  Merrick is gruff and tough, but he treats Paralee with equal parts raging lust and gentle tenderness.  It’s such an attractive combination! I only had one little beef.  I get that the mating thing kind of blind-sides the Bloodhounds. It can happen in an instant. But I thought Paralee’s, er,  enthusiasm and commitment happened really fast. After all, she is a regular human. It was just one of those things you have to take in stride, I guess.

Really, the whole story was about these few days they spent together. I did miss the external plot a little, but the heat factor helped me get over it.

Rating: B-

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: All Romance
Merrick’s Destiny
by Moira Rogers
Release Date: February 12, 2012
Publisher: ARe

5 for Friday – July 27

An article from author & blogger Roni Loren is prompting big changes in the blogosphere.  Roni was sued over a copyrighted image she posted on her blog and her story has become a cautionary tale.  You’ve probably noticed the absence of Man Candy photos on many of your favorite sites… and this one is not immune.  The Man Candy slideshow is gone, along with my Free Pass List (which, by the way, was my most popular blog post of all time.) There will be no more Tumblr Photos of the Week, though you can still enjoy hot men on the Tumblr site any time you need your fix.  I will work to find creative solutions, nowhere more so than here at 5 for Friday. Let’s see what we can do.

5. With all the excitement surrounding Lover At Last, I feel like I’ve been neglecting JR Ward’s next Fallen Angel release, Rapture.  I’m really excited about this one, especially to see the aftermath of the Bad Thing that happened with Eddie in the last book. She has put up a little video teaser on her Facebook page, which I have tried valiantly –an unsuccessfully– to embed for the past hour.  If you want to see, click the screen grab and it will link you out.

Rapture releases September 25.

P.S. Ward has now posted the first line of Lover At Last: “Now THAT is a motherf**kin’ whip!” Be still my heart.

4. I know I have been bombarding you with squee about the upcoming Styxx book for weeks now –and I swear this is the last time I am going to talk about it (until I talk about it again.) The book blurb is out!!

Just when you thought doomsday was over…
Centuries ago Acheron protected the human race by imprisoning an ancient evil bent on absolute destruction. Now that evil has been unleashed and it is out for revenge.
As the twin to Acheron, Styxx hasn’t always been on his brother’s side. They’ve spent more centuries going at each other’s throats than protecting their backs. Now Styxx has a chance to prove his loyalty to his brother, but only if he’s willing to trade his life for Acheron’s.
Bethany was born to set right the wrong that left her family imprisoned for eternity. Now that she’s out, nothing will stop her from fulfilling the bargain that freed them. She must take the life of the last remaining Atlantean and she will not fail. But things are never what they seem and Acheron is no longer the last of his line.
Styxx and Acheron must put aside their past and learn to trust each other or more will suffer.
Yet it’s hard to risk your own life for someone who once tried to take yours, even when it’s your own twin, and when loyalties are skewed and no one can be trusted, not even yourself, how do you find a way back from the darkness that wants to consume the entire world? One that wants to start by devouring your very soul?

I love, love, love that Kenyon is writing this book. Even if I have to wait until next year.  In the meantime, for League fans, SK has posted an excerpt to Cloak & Silence on her website.  That’s out in December.

3. I’m sad to say that I am late to the Moira Rogers party.  I just read my first book from them a few weeks ago, and now I must make up for lost time. I am almost finished with the Bloodhounds series and I have Impulse and Wild Card loaded on the Nook, ready to read.  If you, too, want to get your Moira Rogers fix, it’s a great time.  Wild Card is free on Amazon! Anyone want to do a read-along?

Free + hot sex = Happiness  (Words to live by, my friends.)

2. NBC has ordered 10 episodes of a new Dracula drama, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Generally, this would be the time I would trot out one of those pictures I am not supposed to post.  Instead, let’s watch Jonny-boy on YouTube together.

Now let’s pretend he has fangs. It’s being produced by Carnival Films & Television… the folks behind Downtown Abbey.  I am intrigued.  Which means it will no doubt be canceled in about five minutes.

1. For a minute, it looked like Matt Bomer was the man for the 50 Shades movie. At least, this Entertainment Weekly cover seemed to be the real deal.  (I am crying over the fact that I can’t post it right here.) However, the photo has been debunked as a hoax.

I have to admit… they had me convinced. I am so easy.  I think I would watch it if Bomber were cast.

XOXO,
Jen

Review: Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah

Reviewed by Jen

Deborah is a widow, who still has not recovered from her terrible marriage.  Though it has been two years since her husband died, his rejection of her haunts her and she blames herself for their inability to find happiness.  She finds her only solace in writing racy romance novels.

She is visiting her late husband’s horrible cousin when she stumbles across a thief who is making his escape.  Rather than fear or revulsion, Deborah feels excited and curious about the housebreaker who steals a kiss before he makes his getaway.   And when she passes him on the street weeks later, an unlikely friendship is born.

Elliot has been leading a double life as the notorious Peacock for some time now.  No one realizes it, but the thefts he orchestrates have a greater purpose.  As a former soldier who lost a dear friend over the ignorance and tight purse string of those in charge, he wants justice.  He steals items that were misbegotten in war, from people who were less than honorable.  Then he sells those items to help the veterans who society now ignores.

When Deborah demands that he take her along on a job, it gives his adventures an entirely new rush. And it’s in the aftermath that their mutual attraction really begins to take off. It’s also where it hits its first roadblock.  For as much as Deborah wants Elliot, she can’t get over her insecurities brought on by her husband’s revulsion of her.  She runs away from Elliot. They circle back to each other. She runs again… and so goes the cycle.

I liked Elliot. He’s a good guy and he is inordinately patient and forgiving of Deborah’s seemingly bipolar behavior.  She wants him, she gets hot and heavy for him, then she slaps him down… over and over again.  And he keeps taking her back. I know I was supposed to feel sorry for Deborah, but I really felt more sorry for him. She didn’t treat him very well.

I had a hard time liking Deborah. She is supposed to be smart, but even I figured out what the deal was with her husband early on… and after seven years, she is still clueless?  There are times when she has potential, like in her attempts to bring attention to Elliot’s cause. But then she would freak out and push him away or shut down on him again. It just got old.

I did like their adventures together, both in the housebreaking and, later, with the veterans.  I also liked the elements of the story surrounding Deborah’s writing and how it helped her cope.  I just kind of felt like Deborah’s issues were overblown and I just wanted her to hurry up and get over it already.

Rating: C


*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah
by Marguerite Kaye
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin

Review: Fun With Buster and Other Short Stories

Reviewed by Shelly

This is a very quick read, about 20 pages, with 4 stories.

1. Fun with Buster (m/f/male sex doll)
2. Worship the cock (oral only)
3. Fantasy (m/f)
4. Day One (f/f/m)

Fun with Buster follows a couple who both lost their jobs two years prior and have now decided that the best way to make money is to do videos for a porn site. The story is told in first person from the husband’s POV and no one ever called his name so I don’t know what that is so I just called him Dude. There’s quite a bit of sex between Dude and his wife Veronica – did ya know you can squeeze in two sex scenes in a 4 ½ page story. WTF! The part that really did me in though was when Dude had the nerve to say that when they uploaded their video to the distributor’s server, the amount of viewers was so high that they crashed the server. You’ve got to me shitting me, right?

Worship the cock is a single page story about the title. Not much to say there.

Fantasy is role playing about a Nurse taking the ‘temperature’ of her male patient. I can’t tell you how the temperature is taken because that would just ruin the surprise now won’t it.

Oh, finally a plot (don’t get excited – it ain’t all that). ‘Day One’ tells the story of a world taken over by alien ‘Pirates’. On the run after the death of Emily, her college roommate and lover, Jessica has been on her own. While in hiding, she’s found by fellow survivors including Peter and Marianne. When she’s taken back to Peter and Marianne’s tent, Marianne gives her a bath. Why the hell is a grown woman giving another grown woman a bath unless she’s looking for some? Come on, even I can see that one coming. Lot of things happen in day two, Jessica turns into Zena, Princess Warrior just slicing through ‘Pirates’ like they’re water on her blade and even better she’s agreed to be the second wife to Peter and bear his children. That’s believable right? This story had such potential, I was so excited when I read the first couple of paragraphs then it just seem to go downhill. Oh and by the way – I have never liked f/f and I don’t think I ever will and I really don’t like it when I’m not warned that the story contains that coupling.

Overall, they’re short and over very quickly so don’t blink because you might miss it. I don’t know what to tell you folks other than this – the first three are what they are and the last one disappointed me and even pissed me off a little.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: F

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Fun With Buster and Other Short Stories
by Tiffany Rose
Release Date: May 11, 2012