Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: Wyoming Bold

Wyoming Bold
Wyoming Bold by Diana Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet Story with External Conflict

WYOMING BOLD Is a story where the conflict is external. The main characters recognize one another quickly and while there is a little conflict between them, the main conflict is someone who is trying to kill them.

THE STORY: Dalton Kirk is the youngest of the three Kirk brothers. He was almost killed when he was shot by smugglers when he was working as a DEA agent. Now his past is coming back to kill him. Merissa Baker comes to Dalton to warn him of the danger. She is psychic and has seen that the killer is coming to finish Dalton off. At first Dalton doesn't believe in Merissa's abilities, but soon is convinced. The two end up having feelings for one another although neither is good at figuring out the intentions of the other. Merissa also has a sad past and soon the past of both characters returns and might end their blossoming relationship.

OPINION: I liked this book. I especially liked how Dalton cares so much about Merissa almost immediately. By keeping the conflict in the story external dealing with the man trying to kill Dalton, it allows the characters to have a sweeter romance even as the story is dramatic. It was a nice balance. This is definitely a story driven by the plot rather than the romance because the romance is sewn up pretty quickly without much drama.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of the series will get an update on the older brothers and their wives.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book. The romance is sweet and the story mostly hinges on the external circumstances. I liked the characters of Dalton and Merissa and I especially liked how he comes to trust her so quickly and the two become attached very quickly and the plot is allowed to create the conflict rather than creating false disagreements between Dalton and Merissa.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WYOMING BOLD is the third book in the Wyoming Men series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Review: By Winter's Light

By Winter's Light
By Winter's Light by Stephanie Laurens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good Prequel to Next Generation of Cynsters

Readers of BY WINTER'S LIGHT shouldn't be fooled. It is really a novella romance between a Cynster tutor and governess and an introduction to the next generation of Cynsters. The emphasis is on Lucilla Cynster whose book THE TEMPTING OF THOMAS CARRICK will be the first of the new generation.

THE STORY: It is 1837 and the Cynsters have gathered for Christmas at the home of Richard Cynster. Readers are introduced to the Cynster children and their tutors and governesses. Having reached the end of his tutor duties, Daniel Crosbie intends to ask Claire Meadows to marry him. Daniel has had his eye on Claire for years and now that his future seems secure, he is ready to make his move. Claire is a widow who doesn't intend to marry again. Christmas, however, is the season of miracles and Claire realizes that there is something about Daniel that makes her want to take a chance.

OPINION: This book is really about Lucilla and the others in the next generation. Lucilla meets up with the man who will be the hero in her book, Thomas Carrick. Honestly, I enjoyed the look into the Cynster family more than I cared about the romance between Daniel and Claire. That romance was adequate and seemed like a novella story, but I was much more interested in Lucilla, her brother Marcus, and Sebastian. I also really enjoyed seeing characters from the older generation.

WORTH MENTIONING: My favorite scenes were those few ones with Devil and Honoria who are still my favorite couple.

FINAL DECISION: Fans of the series will enjoy this book which is really a launching pad for the new generation. I don't think that anyone should start with this book because the multitudes of characters who readers are expected to know. The romance of the book is the plot device not a fully developed novel length romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BY WINTER'S LIGHT is the twenty-first book in the Cynster series. It is also a prequel to the next generation of Cynsters that starts with THE TEMPTING OF THOMAS CARRICK.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars. Fans of the series will be pleased.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review: Only Enchanting: A Survivors' Club Novel

Only Enchanting: A Survivors' Club Novel
Only Enchanting: A Survivors' Club Novel by Mary Balogh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Classic Balogh: Romantic, Emotional and Strong

Mary Balogh continues her wonderful historical series about a group of seven survivors of war dealing with devastating physical and mental injuries.

THE STORY: Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby suffered a traumatic brain injury during the war. He returned insensible and his fiancee ended up marrying his best friend. Flavian recovered but still suffers from stuttering and memory problems. Now his former fiancee has been widowed and his mother and sister are determined to match them up again.

Agnes Keeping is a widow who has never been in love. She is haunted by her mother's actions and thus is determined to live a life of moderation where passion has no place. When she meets Flavian, she ends up falling in love with him.

Five months after their first meeting, the two encounter one another again and the passion between the two grows. Flavian knows that he cannot have Agnes unless he marries her and thus he proposes to her feeling that he will be "safe" with Agnes. When Agnes finds out about his former fiancee, she believes that Flavian married her out of vengeance shattering their new marriage.

OPINION: I loved the structure of this book. Flavian suffers from memory problems which leads of a mystery about what happened wtih his former fiancee. His problems with expressing himself lead to questions about what his intended relationship with Agnes is. The story is complex and I have appreciated the way that Balogh seriously explores the injuries that each of the survivors' have. The honest and undramatic way that the ravages of war are explored give this book a realism and emotional heft. I am also a great fan of Balogh's measured exploration of the relationships in her book. The emotional depth of the book comes from the slow and steady exploration of the ordinary interactions between her characters. By the time the happy ending arrives for these characters, the journey has made the ending feel satisfying and complete. I know who Flavian and Agnes are by the end of the book and I have complete confidence that the two will truly be happy. The book is not flashy or fast paced, but rather feels like a walk through a lovely garden.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved that this book paused and gave us an update on all the survivors. The series began with one of the "retreats" of the survivors and this middle book gives readers a new retreat elevated by the addition of three wives which brings life to these haunted people even as their difficulties remain.

FINAL DECISION: I think this book is a beautiful addition to the series. I have come to deeply appreciate the care that Balogh gives to the damage that war causes for each individual survivor. That care elevates the romance as each couple deals with the aftermath of pain and disillusionment in their lives.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ONLY ENCHANTING is the fourth book in the Survivors' Club series. The book can be read independent of the others in the series, but the whole of the series elevates each book as readers are introduced to the pain of each survivor in turn.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars. I might have given it 4 stars, but I appreciate its beauty within the series itself with gives it extra value.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: Blood Magick

Blood Magick
Blood Magick by Nora Roberts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fabulous Finish to the Trilogy

BLOOD MAGICK concludes the trilogy of books about the cousins O'Dwyer. It is the story of two people who have loved one another most of their lives and yet have been kept apart by evil hundreds of years old.

THE STORY: Branna O'Dwyer and Finbar Burke grew up together and dreamed of living their lives together. The two are witches who matched incredibly well. The first time they made love as teens, however, Fin was marked with the sign of Cabhan, the evil sorcerer who tried to kill Branna's ancestor. The mark signifies that Fin is descendant from Cabhan. Branna broke things off with Fin because she knew that they could not be together when the evil that is Cabhan continues to stalk her family. Through the first two books of the series, Fin and Branna worked together as the people in their lives intertwined. In this book, the three cousins joined by those who love them, plot the final confrontation with Cabhan that will free them all.

OPINION: This was my favorite book of the series. Branna and Fin have loved each other even though they have been kept apart by the evils of Cabhan and the curse of Branna's ancestor. The pain and angst of these two who love each other and yet know that they cannot be together is beautifully written. At the same time, there is such rightness in the two being together that I had to keep reading every page wondering how the two would work out the problems facing them.

I especially liked that there were no false conflicts set between Fin and Branna. The only thing keeping them apart in this book is the external forces. There is no doubt that they have loved each other through the twelve years of their separation despite the fact that each has gone on to live their lives. The truth and strength of the love of two people who cannot see a way to be together permeates the story.

I also really enjoyed that both characters are strong, but not brittle. They have deep vulnerabilities to each other and to their friends and family, but they use the love that binds all of them. In the end, it is the love that is their greatest strength. The book is about the connections that bind us to others and the strength that comes from opening oneself up to that love.

The story ended as one might expect and yet the journey was deeply satisfying and I am happy to recommend this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Roberts has a special touch with her witchcraft books. The book is informative and respectful without being preachy or shrill. The subject matter may be paranormal and yet these characters are deeply grounded in reality in so many ways that the witchcraft angle feels real and solid instead of fanciful.

FINAL DECISION: This is my favorite book of the series. I think it is a definite read for those who have followed the trilogy, but I think that it is best as part of that trilogy.

CONNECTED BOOK: BLOOD MAGICK is the third and final book in the Cousins O'Dwyer series. The book can be read on its own, but the story of Cabhan and in fact, the story of Branna and Fin have been a part of all three books and I must recommend that readers start with the first book in the series, DARK WITCH, and continue with SHADOW SPELL in order to fully appreciate the story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars!

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: Wyoming Fierce

Wyoming Fierce
Wyoming Fierce by Diana Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good Addition to the Series

Diana Palmer has given readers a new hero who is stubborn and kind and wrongheaded and loving. Fans of her writing will be pleased with this addition to her Wyoming Men series.

THE STORY: Cane Kirk, the middle Kirk brother, lost an arm while in the Iraq war. The three brothers own a ranch in Wyoming and Cane is having serious problems adjusting. He is getting drunk and tearing up bars and the only person who can soothe him is Bodie Mays. Bodie is an old fashioned girl who is taking care of her grandfather while going to college. Cane and Bodie have an attraction and yet Cane's demons threaten any chance of happiness they may have.

OPINION: I liked the story of Cane's ongoing problems, but felt that we did not see enough of him working out those issues. He treats Bodie poorly and she is wonderful and forgives him again and again. While we are told that Cane eventually begins to work through his problems, it feels that his problems need more time and effort to solve than we are allowed to experience. I liked Cane and Bodie together, but I just felt that Cane needed a year of therapy in order for me to really believe that he had resolved his problems.

WORTH MENTIONING: Cane ends up in a one car accident when he drinks and drives. While it is mentioned that he will have legal consequences, it is never mentioned again.

FINAL DECISION: Fans of Diana Palmer will see a familiar pattern here. I liked the story between Bodie and Cane, but I wish I could believe that Cane's problems could be solved so quickly.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the second book in the Wyoming Men series. This book can be read independent of the previous book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.75 stars.

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Review: Wyoming Tough

Wyoming Tough
Wyoming Tough by Diana Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fans of Diana Palmer Will Get What They Expect

Diana Palmer's books tend to be sweeter and the sexual relationship between the characters is often in the context of marriage. WYOMING TOUGH is in that mold.

THE STORY: Mallory Kirk is the oldest of three brothers who own a ranch in Wyoming. One of his ranch hands is Morie Brannt is not who she seems to be. Despite her apparent poverty, she is actually the pampered daughter of a rich cattleman in Texas. She has come to Wyoming to get the hands on experience in ranching that her father has forbidden her. While Mallory is attracted to Morie, he believes that she might be a fortune hunter and thus drives her away. What will he do when he discovers who she actually is.

OPINION: I am a fan of Diana Palmer's books. Her books have a similar formula. An often young and inexperienced heroine who falls for the taciturn arrogant older man. WYOMING TOUGH is in that mold. Often times, a misunderstanding occurs and the man does not trust the woman. What Diana Palmer does so well is create moral and sweet characters that are interesting to read even in a formula. I enjoyed this book because I liked the characters and the secondary characters seem like they have books coming as well.

WORTH MENTIONING: Diana Palmer has started deeply intertwining her stories. I suspect that there are many overlapping stories with other books that I don't recognize. I did determine that Morie is the daughter of the hero and heroine of TO LOVE AND CHERISH.

FINAL DECISION: Readers of Diana Palmer will get what they expect. I enjoy the fact that an author can use a formula to such good effect book after book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the first book of the Wyoming Men series. There are also many connections with other Palmer books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Review: The Demon Count Novels

The Demon Count Novels
The Demon Count Novels by Anne Stuart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great Duo of Books

THE DEMON COUNT NOVELS are two of Anne Stuart's earlier works published in 1980. While the books are a product of their time, they are an enjoyable read. The two novels, THE DEMON COUNT and THE DEMON COUNT'S DAUGHTER are connected.


THE DEMON COUNT is the story of Charlotte Morrow whose parents have died and who decides on her own to travel to Italy to meet her absent guardian Count Luc del Zaglia. For the time period in which this was written, Charlotte is an amazingly strong, willful young woman. The gothic tone of the novel means that she is often in danger and there are questions as to who she should trust amongst the various people that she meets. She is fascinated by her guardian who people believe may be a vampire. Luc is a man of mystery and Charlotte puts herself into danger attempting to discover his secrets. I really, really enjoyed this book. The narrative is written in the first person so the reader is left in the dark as to the motivations of the characters in the same way that Charlotte is. The prose is compelling and I was instantly drawn into the story. While there are many artifacts of the time period in which it was written with the heroine sometimes acting too week and foolish and Luc being overly arrogant and domineering, the great story compensates. This book clearly shows some of the brilliance that Stuart brings to her later books. I couldn't stop turning the pages and I give this story 4.5 stars.

THE DEMON COUNT'S DAUGHTER is the story of Lucinda de Zaglia, the daughter of the couple in THE DEMON COUNT. Lucinda agrees to go to Venice to help with Venice's independence movement as her father did years before. Unknown to her parents, she travels to Venice in order to help with some spying. While there she meets Evan Fitzpatrick who she runs into again and again. Evan is divorced and thus on the edges of society. The two are thrust together again and again. Lucinda knows that he is the one for her despite Evan's determination to stay away from her. THE DEMON COUNT'S DAUGHTER was inferior to the first story. The best part of THE DEMON COUNT was the uncertainty about the motivations of the characters. This book is more straightforward and not as interesting as THE DEMON COUNT. It was nice revisiting characters from THE DEMON COUNT, but I didn't like this one as well as the first. The resolution of the story was too quick and there wasn't as good a relationship built up between Lucinda and Evan.

WORTH MENTIONING: The two novels are very different in tone with THE DEMON COUNT being more gothic and THE DEMON COUNT'S DAUGHTER being more of a spy novel.

FINAL DECISION: I liked THE DEMON COUNT enough to recommend the book even though I found the sequel a bit disappointing.

CONNECTED BOOKS: These two novels are connected.

STAR RATING: THE DEMON COUNT is 4.5 stars. THE DEMON COUNT'S DAUGHTER is 3.5 stars. The average for the book is 4 stars.

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Review: Mastering The Marquess

Mastering The Marquess
Mastering The Marquess by Lavinia Kent

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On the Edge of Being Really Good

MASTERING THE MARQUESS is the story of two people who wear masks of varying kinds and their unmasking. It is definitely an erotic romance but also attempts to tell a deep emotional story.

THE STORY: Louisa, Lady Brookstone is a virgin widow. She goes to a madam of a brothel seeking to be relieved of her virginity so that she can remarry. Geoffrey, the Marquess of Swanston doesn't intend on agreeing to relieve the anonymous woman of her virginity but his dominating tendencies are interested in the idea of training a woman to his pleasures. After their one night, Geoffrey seeks to continue the relationship, but Louisa only wants marriage. Unknown to either, the two end up getting married. Will they realize that they are the person they married was actually their partner on that night?

OPINION: I really enjoyed the first third of the book where Louisa and Geoffrey have their anonymous night together. For a night that is focused on sex, there is actually a tremendous amount of relationship built between the two. It was a stretch to believe that the two could marry and have a normal sex life and yet not recognize the other, but I did enjoy the story of these two having to discover the secrets each are keeping. I really enjoyed the beauty of the relationship when the two are unmasked as their true selves. The final section where Louisa is abducted reduced my pleasure in the story. Her sexual torture went on too long and seemed gratuitous. I still give the book four stars based upon the strength of the first two-thirds of the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has lots of explicit sex scenes so those who don't like those kinds of stories should be forewarned.

FINAL DECISION: I really liked the first two thirds of the book, but I found the final section a disappointment. Once Louisa and Geoffrey discover one another's identities, the story of Louisa being in peril just went on too long and didn't really add to the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MASTERING THE MARQUESS is the first book in the Bound and Determined Series.

STAR RATING: I would give the first two thirds of this book a 4.5 rating, but the final portion of the book lowers the overall rating to a 4.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: Lead

Lead by Kylie Scott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great Angst Filled Story

LEAD is the most complicated and most satisfying of the Stage Dive books.

THE STORY: Jimmy Ferris is the lead singer of the rock group Stage Dive. He is also a recovering addict. Lena Morrisey is hired as Jimmy's assistant in order to help him keep sober and away from drugs. For months all Jimmy and Lena do is argue and fight. Jimmy is often a jerk and doesn't do the social niceness. When Lena begins to have feelings for Jimmy, she intends to quit. Jimmy is used to her, however, and decides to help her get over him.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book. Jimmy and Lena have a very complex relationship that progresses in such a slow and sweet manner. The book is also funny as Jimmy encourages Lena to go on dates and then sabotages those efforts. It is so obvious that he is hung up on her and yet doesn't want to acknowledge it because he has never had a normal loving relationship with a woman in his life. The book takes the time to allow the relationship between the couple of develop and blossom. I also like that Jimmy and Lena are a good match for one another with their bickering and yet by the end of the book acknowledge that they need to work on trust issues that both have. I rarely read a angsty book that is also funny but this one is a perfect balance between the two emotions.

WORTH MENTIONING: I really enjoyed the continuation of Anne and Mal's story. My complaint of PLAY was that we didn't get to see Mal and Anne in more normal circumstances. I was happy to see it here.

FINAL DECISION: LEAD is my favorite book of the series. I really enjoyed the bantering, arguing relationship between Jimmy and Lena. The determination that Jimmy has for Lena to get over him while all his actions demonstrate that he wants her for himself.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LEAD is the third book in the Stage Dive series. While a reader can read this book first, I think the interconnected nature of the books means that reading them in order will be the best experience.

STAR RATING: I give this one 4.5 stars.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: Play

Play by Kylie Scott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good Followup in Stage Dive series

PLAY is the story of a man who has been the jokester and peacemaker in the band until his world falls apart and the woman who he find out he needs.

THE STORY: Anne Rollins is is waiting for the man of her dreams to realize that she is there. While she is waiting, she ends up at a party and meeting Mal Ericson, the drummer for the rock band Stage Dive. Mal takes a liking to Anne and decides to move in with her and have her as a pretend girlfriend. Anne agrees because she desperately needs a roommate. Mal is a man who is on the edge. He is acting in a manic manner and those around him are concerned. The fake relationship between Mal and Anne soon becomes real and yet Mal is keeping secrets.

OPINION: Mal and Anne make a nice couple. I wish, however, that readers had gotten to see more of the Mal from LICK. Mal in this book is in crisis is not as appealing as he was in LICK. I don't know that I would have liked him if I hadn't read that book. I did like that readers get to see a man who is in great distress. It is Anne who is the stable rock here. This book is pleasant to read but not particularly deep. I liked it and will continue with the series, but it is not in the same class as some of the best romance novels. This book is more of the type of book that is an enjoyable one time read.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of LICK will be pleased to see David and Ev again. It's nice seeing their relationship progress.

FINAL DECISION: The Stage Dive books are like candy. They are not especially deep, but they are a pleasant read. I enjoy the books and the characters and can recommend them as a pleasant read.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PLAY is the second book in the Stage Dive series. A reader can read this book independent of the others, however, a reader gets a clearer idea of the characters involved by reading LICK first.

STAR RATING: I give this book four stars.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Lick

Lick by Kylie Scott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet and Sexy Romance

A story that could have been very dark and angst filled instead ends up being a sweet romance. I liked it but some readers might yearn for a darker tale.

THE STORY: Evelyn Thomas wakes up the morning after her twenty-first birthday, hung over, with a half naked man in her hotel room. She is shocked to find out that she married the stranger sometime during the night. She expects that they will get an annulment, but when she realizes that she has married David Ferris and the paparazzi is going crazy, Evelyn agrees to go with David in order to avoid the press. Evelyn is attracted to this man that she cannot remember and the two are soon agreeing to give their marriage a try. Old flames and pain threaten their marriage.

OPINION: From the blurb of this book, I expected a slightly different book than I got. I really enjoyed this book because I liked the characters quite a bit. They are softer and sweeter than I would have expected. David is more vulnerable than I would have thought. He clearly is hurt when Evelyn doesn't remember their night together. He is a good man but is struggling to understand what his relationship to Evelyn should be. Both David and Evelyn make mistakes that hurt the other. Their tentative steps toward building a marriage are the focus here.

The book is written in the first person focusing on Evelyn which leave David somewhat as a puzzle. Readers have to wait until he explains things to Evelyn because we are not privy to his thoughts.

WORTH MENTIONING: The other guys in the band are going to get their own books. I look forward to reading those books!

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book but I think the story was lighter in tone than I would have expected. The book seems like it should be darker in tone but instead the book turns to light and sweetness when it has the choice. I liked the story and the characters, but as a personal preference, I would have preferred a darker tone, grittier book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the first book in the Stage Dive series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Review: A Bollywood Affair

A Bollywood Affair
A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just Draws the Reader In

A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR is a great twist on the rake and the virgin story. Here, this contemporary novel is grounded in the diverse and complex Indian culture. Set on the edges of many divides in that culture, this is not only a glimpse into the complexity of cultures but it demonstrates that love can cross many boundaries.

THE STORY: Mili Rathod was married at the age of four to a boy in her village in India. For twenty years, Mili has kept her vows and "all Mili wanted was to be a good wife." Her pursuit of that goal led her far from her village. She obtained an education and has come to the United States to pursue further education. She is working hard to make herself worthy of her husband -- who she has not seen since her wedding.

The only problem for Mili is that her husband was not aware that they were still married (because they were underage, the marriage was supposed to be annulled). He has married another woman and is expecting a child. When he finds out about the marriage to Mili, he sends his younger brother, Samir Rathod to convince Mili to agree to an annulment.

Samir is a director and screenwriter and has a "love" life that consists of him walking away from women when they get too close. He is scarred by the history of his parents. Half-American, Samir was abandoned by his mother and has commitment issues as a result. In meeting Mili, Samir is struck by the contrast of his expectations and the reality of Mili. He is a caretaker and Mili brings joy to his life. Samir, however, fails to tell Mili who is actually is and thus the conflict exists over the secrets that each is keeping from the other.

OPINION: I loved Samir in this book. For a guy who seems so cynical, he quickly becomes such a caretaker to Mili that he is almost sweet. As the reader is drawn further into his story, the contradictions of Samir become more obvious and understandable. He is definitely the rake who hides his goodness and vulnerability.

Mili is such an interesting character. She definitely comes from her culture and yet she has transcended the small town she comes from without changing her essential nature. I love that she is committed to her marriage and yet at the same time has used it as an excuse to open doors that otherwise would have been closed to her.

I also appreciated how this book opened a window into a complex Indian culture. There are divisions between the older generation and the younger generation, the city dwellers and the rural people. In addition, there is the American versus Indian conflict. All of these divisions are treated with respect and I loved the fact that all of this is presented in a matter of fact manner.

The emotional connection between these characters is wonderful. I loved how their relationship progresses from friendship to love. Samir's failure to be truthful to Mili has bad consequences and the deep emotional pain that Mili experiences is moving. I truly believed in these characters. They were memorable and really good people.

WORTH MENTIONING: I tried this book on the recommendation of the author Nalini Singh and I am really glad I did.

FINAL DECISION: I recommend this book because I think it is deeply emotional and has a unique story to tell about two really likeable people.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This book is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in order to provide an honest review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: A Moment of Passion

A Moment of Passion
A Moment of Passion by Jess Michaels

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great Friends to Lovers Historical

A MOMENT OF PASSION is the story of two friends who discover that they have been better friends than either expected and end up falling in lust and in love.

THE STORY: Lady Jacinda was dramatically ruined during her second season. She has lived a half life in the years since. When she is approached by the Duke of Carnthorn with the proposition that she become his mistress, she considers what she wants to do with her life. She is reluctantly intrigued with the offer. Her friend, Jason, Earl of Northfield is horrified that Jacinda would consider being the mistress of the Duke because he knows him to be a cruel lover who practices S&M to the point of scarring and rape. Jason offers to help Jacinda find a husband by pretending to be her suitor and thus attracting other men. He also offers to tutor her in sex in order to help her overcome her poor initiation. The two are soon involved in a sexual relationship that is made special between the two friends have feelings for one another. How will things end considering that Jason has vowed never to marry and Jacinda wants freedom from her familly?

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book. I liked it better than the first in the series because I thought that there was great respect between Lady Jacinda and Jason. Despite Jacinda's past, Jason does not judge her. Even when she is considering being a mistress, he doesn't demean her or judge her choices. Jacinda does not whine or complain or try and make Jason love her. He chooses her on his own seeing her strength and respecting her. I also thought the love scenes between these two were hot but not gratuitous. I also was intrigued by the fact that the villain is bad and yet Jacinda is not repulsed by him immediately. The book considers Jacinda's choices as complex and difficult to make. The focus here is on Jacinda's wish for freedom and the lack of choices that she has to gain that freedom. Freedom comes with a price and the question is what is Jacinda willing to pay for the freedom she wants.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of the series will be glad to see the couple from A MATTER OF SIN, Isabel and Seth, who are very happy.

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book more than the first in the series. I really loved the trust and respect that exists between Jacinda and Jason and the romance between them is really sexy as a result.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A MOMENT OF PASSION is the second book in the Ladies' Book of Pleasures series. The book can be read independent of the other books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book a 4.25 stars.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: In Your Dreams

In Your Dreams
In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved This Story of Two People Who Need Each Other

IN YOUR DREAMS is the story of two people who were betrayed by those they loved. For each, they loved an illusion of the person. In order to find true love, they have to break through the social facade and see the complex and difficult and messed up people underneath that facade.

THE STORY: Emmaline Neal needs a date for the wedding of her ex-fiance. Emmaline is one of the town's police officers and has rebuilt her life after being dumped by her first love for his personal trainer. Jack Holland is the nicest man in town. He is the man that women go to when they need an escort to an event and Jack always rescues women. Jack seems perfect, but is suffering because he knows that he is messed up inside. His ex-wife has returned to try and claim him again because he rescued four teenagers from a car accident. HIs ex-wife is always needing rescue and Jack can't say no. Everyone says that Jack is a hero, but he doesn't feel like one. He feels like a failure. Emmaline knows that she is too plain to attract Jack and even more she is not weak and doesn't need to be rescued.

OPINION: I really loved this book. Both Emmaline and Jack are damaged people who put on a front that most people never look past. Jack has a hero complex after the death of his mother in a car accident. He is always waiting for the chance to rescue someone and his fixation led him to a miserable marriage. He now suffers from PTSD after rescuing the teenagers from the frozen lake but refuses to acknowledge it. I love the stories where there are strong characters who are at the edge of falling apart. Both Jack and Emmaline are strong people but they have allowed their caring for other people to lead them into bad relationships. What I love about their pairing is that they care for each other as equals. They need each other and they also are strong for the other. Higgins has a great talent for drawing the reader into a story not only of a romance but of the growth of individuals.

WORTH MENTIONING: Higgins has a habit of having very abbreviated resolutions to her stories. That fact has led me to downgrade the ratings of some of her books. This one is wonderful. I love how Jack proposes to her. I enjoyed the epilogue as well but I wish we had gotten a glimpse of the what future holds for Jack and Emmaline.

FINAL DECISION: For fans of the series, this is a must read as it ties up many stories. I really enjoyed this book which is a good example of the journey being more important than the destination.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IN YOUR DREAMS is the fourth book in the Blue Heron Series. The book can operate as a standalone but fans of the series will be treated to a reunion with some of the favorites from the series.

STAR RATING: I give this one a 4.5 rating.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review: Waiting On You

Waiting On You
Waiting On You by Kristan Higgins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unexpectedly Engrossing

Something magical happens when I read one of Kristan Higgins books. I read the blurb and then I flip through the book to get some idea of the book and then I realize that I'm going to hate this book. I don't like something about the book and I put it aside figuring that I will reluctantly read it later because I am determined to get through this series. Then I read the book and I am enthralled by the story and I can't put the book down. WAITING ON YOU is another winner.

THE STORY: Colleen O'Rourke has friends and family and everyone loves her...but she has never gotten over her first love Lucas Campbell. They were an item for four years until Colleen's world fell apart when her parents divorced and Lucas married another woman. Ten years later, Lucas walks into her bar and Colleen knows that her broken heart is in danger again. Lucas has come back to town because his uncle is dying. He doesn't plan on staying, but he can't stop thinking about Colleen. The question is whether the two can get past their past and present to build a future together. There is also secondary stories about Lucas' cousin, the slow death of Lucas' uncle and the complicated family dynamics of Colleen's parents, her stepmother, twin brother and half-sister.

OPINION: I found the love story of Lucas and Colleen to be incredibly sad at times. They were meant for one another and then the choices each made drove them apart. HIggins does a great job of writing these sweeping romances that cover years. The story is told from both Lucas and Colleen's perspective and I was quickly drawn into the story. I just kept turning pages because I was engrossed in the lives of the characters in the story. The book has a large scope and perhaps because of that, the ending was too abrupt for me. Lucas and Colleen finally recapture their relationship when a secret is exposed that drives them apart once more. When Lucas finally returns to claim his woman, the ending was too abrupt to me. I was convinced that there should be a chapter where the pain and grief could be unpacked and overcome. Instead, the happy ending occurred too quickly for my tastes and it left the book feeling unfinished to me.

WORTH MENTIONING: WAITING ON YOU is a book that is sexy but there is no explicit sex in this book. As with her other books, Higgins confines herself to the foreplay and then the aftermath.

FINAL DECISION: I liked just about everything in this book except the ending. I gave it 4 stars rather than a higher rating because I just felt that after Lucas never told Colleen that he love her to have the problems of this couple resolved in a couple of paragraphs was not sufficient. I think this book needed another chapter or a longer epilogue. It just felt unfinished to me.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WAITING ON YOU is the third book in the Blue Heron series. This book can be read as a standalone. Fans of the series will get to see many of the favorites from prior books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Review: Change of Heart

Change of Heart
Change of Heart by Jude Deveraux

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An expanded version of a novella in A HOLIDAY OF LOVE, Jude Deveraux gives readers two love stories. The original story of two preteen matchmakers, Eli Harcourt and Chelsea Hamilton who manage to find love for Eli's mother and then twenty years later Eli and Chelsea's romance.

THE STORY: Part 1: This is the story of Frank Taggert and Miranda Stowe who are complete opposites. Frank is a high powered workaholic who does the society scene and has never wanted to marry and have children because he had too much exposure to children being the oldest child of a large family. Miranda is the barely scraping by nurse and divorced mother. Her preteen son Eli is a genius but before he can begin to live his life, he wants his mom taken care of. He and his friend Chelsea decide that Frank would be perfect for Miranda and so they manage to get Miranda to Frank's secluded cabin where he is recuperating from a broken arm. Miranda and Frank fight and fall in love.

PART 2: Twenty years later, Eli and Chelsea have drifted apart but Eli still is in love with Chelsea. When he manages to orchestrate a meeting, Chelsea does not seem the vibrant person Eli remembers. The two end up on a new adventure that rekindles their friendship and moves them into love.

OPINION: I liked the first story better than the second. I enjoyed the romance between Frank and Miranda and I thought that Eli and Chelsea were precocious and well drawn. In part 2, I just didn't like Chelsea as much. She was closed in and shallow and her reasons just didn't resonate for me. That being said, I adored Eli and I loved that he was willing to do anything for Chelsea. I think that creating a twenty year gap was too much and so I overlooked the thin plot on that point and just enjoyed these two characters finally getting their happy ending.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a cameo appearance by Samantha and Michael Taggert from SWEET LIAR which pleased me because that happens to be one of my favorite books.

FINAL DECISION: I think this book is sweet and I enjoyed the dual stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This book falls into the Montgomery/Taggert series. There is no need for new readers to worry about missing anything and this book can be read independent of the others in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Review: Darling Beast

Darling Beast
Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bold, Emotional Story

A man wrongly imprisoned, in hiding and keeping secrets to save his life. A woman, desperate to keep her ragtag family together and also keeping secrets. The ruins of a pleasure garden. DARLING BEAST is the story of a rebirth for all of them.

THE STORY: Apollo Greaves,Viscount Kilbourne has escaped from Bedlam where he was imprisoned for four years for the murder of three of his friends. Apollo is lucky that he was not hanged for his "crimes" but rather was committed as criminally insane because of the intervention of the Earl of Brightmore. Apollo suffered greatly during his captivity suffering starvation and beatings and inhumane conditions. He almost died in Bedlam due to a severe beating that robbed Apollo of his ability to speak. Having escaped with the help of his twin sister Artemis and her husband, the Duke of Wakefield, Apollo has been in hiding at the ruins of the pleasure garden known as Harte's Folly. Before his imprisonment, Apollo had invested the little money he had in Harte's Folly. Soon after his escape, Harte's Folly burned to the ground and now Apollo works as a gardener (but few know that he is actually the landscape architect) to rebuild the garden.

Apollo meets Lily Stump who is also living in the ruins with her son, Indio, and a maid servant. Lily is a famed actress Robin Goodfellow and also a secret playwright. She is living in the gardens because the fire also destroyed the theater and she cannot get work until the theater and gardens are restored. When her son sees Apollo, he fears and is fascinated with the "monster" in the garden. The immediate reaction of Lily and Apollo to one another is simple -- each wants the other gone from their sanctuary.

Of course, the two keep being pushed together but before they can have any peace, they must discover the secret of who framed Apollo, save him from Bedlam and also uncover the secret that Lily is harboring.

OPINION: Hoyt has an incredible ability to create deeply emotional stories with bold, unique characters. Usually her books contain a great amount of angst and pain so the romance in this book is almost sweet in comparison. The reason for that is that Lily is the light that bring Apollo out of the half-life he has been living since he was framed for murder. Lily is bright and talented and dedicated to her little family even though she has seen much pain and heartache in her life. That lightness of spirit attracts Apollo who, is clear, values family and meaning and a quiet peaceful life after the horrible years he spent chained.

Despite his past and his painful experiences, Apollo is not really a dark character. He is a gentle giant of a man who is filled with kindness and compassion rather than anger and hate. I loved his character and his deep desire for peace. Once he fixes his attention on Lily, Apollo doesn't worry about the incongruence of a viscount and future earl marrying an actress. In fact, Apollo frets about his plain appearance in comparison to Lily's gamine looks.

Lily is a strong, independent woman who takes care of herself and others. One of the great things about Hoyt's Maiden Lane series is that she crosses all types of social classes. Her books about about dukes and pirates and orphanage managers and actresses and governesses and heiresses. Because of this, her books have a great sense of place and time.

I also appreciated that Lily's son Indio is such an important character in the book. Readers get a real chance to see that Apollo will make a great adoptive father for Indio. Sometimes existing children are only infrequently seen. Here, readers get a chance to see the relationship develop between Indio and Apollo at the same time it develops between Lily and Apollo. By the end of the book, I was convinced that they will make a nice little family together.

The sex between these two was also really hot. Both are experienced and so there is no virginal trepidation to overcome. Both know who and what they want. At the same time, while the scenes are strong and bold and explicit, there isn't anything gratuitous about the scenes - just really hot scenes between two grown experienced adults.

Finally, I really enjoyed seeing some of my favorite characters again including Wakefield and Artemis, Hero and Phoebe. We get to learn more about Captain Trevillion in preparation for his and Phoebe's book DARLING ROGUE which is next up in the series. Readers also get a good look at the Duke of Montgomery who has a very mysterious past and present and is up to something. Readers should not be fooled by his foppish appearance because Hoyt has made such characters very dangerous (see THE SERPENT PRINCE). I'm looking forward to learning more about him and his motives.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved that Apollo refers to Maximus, the Duke of Wakefield, as "His Grace the Ass" because while I loved Artemis and Maximus's book, he is kind of an ass!

FINAL DECISION: I love this book. I would read it again (and I've already read it twice). I also look forward to the unveiling of the mysteries that this book sets up regarding the motives of the Duke of Montgomery.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DARLING BEAST is the seventh book in the Maiden Lane series. It can be read independently of the other books in the series, but I recommend that a reader at least read DUKE OF MIDNIGHT because it introduces Apollo and provides the setup for DARLING BEAST.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review: Keep Me Safe

Keep Me Safe
Keep Me Safe by Maya Banks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spooky and Sexy Paranormal Romance

KEEP ME SAFE is the first book in the Slow Burn Trilogy. The series tells the stories of the Devereaux siblings. Each story has a paranormal element and are also in the suspense genre.

THE STORY: Caleb Devereaux is desperate when his younger sister is kidnapped so he tracks down Ramie St. Claire who he knows has helped locate missing people before. Ramie has disappeared and Caleb believes her selfish for not being willing to help others. When he finds her, Caleb forces Ramie to help him but what he discovers is that her paranormal talent that allows her to find missing people takes an extraordinary toll as Ramie experiences all the fears and emotions of the missing person. Caleb is remorseful and promises to make it up to her, but when he returns, Ramie has disappeared. A year later, Ramie contacts Caleb because she knows that a psychic serial killer is stalking her. Caleb, who hasn't been able to forget Ramie, is immediately protective and determined to take care of Ramie.

OPINION: I have mixed feelings about this book. I really liked the characters. Caleb and Ramie are a good couple and have an immediate connection. Ramie is a woman who is at the end of her rope. She is desperate and fragile in many ways. Some readers may believe her too weak to be a heroine, but I see her as an incredibly strong woman who has been pushed to her breaking point. I liked how the Devereaux family interacts together and I look forward to the other books in the trilogy.

This book, however, depicts violent events and is not for those who don't like violent images. The violence is not that graphic, but there are serious depictions of rape, abuse and extreme violence. There is a horrible event near the end of the book that was difficult to read (I don't want to give away spoilers, but it breaks many of the romance rules about heroes). I ultimately was alright with the scene, but I felt that the resolution between the hero and heroine was too brief. It seemed to me that there would have to be more emotional work between the couple in order to overcome the event. The failure to seriously deal with the repercussions of the event downgraded this book for me. Hopefully, readers will get more in the future books in the trilogy that will allow some closure to this story.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are depictions of rape and its aftermath so readers should be forewarned.

FINAL DECISION: I was somewhat disappointed in the ending of this book even though I thought the suspense was great and the book's plot went in directions I did not expect. I think there needed to be a more serious exploration of the reactions to the horrible events that occurred in the book. I did, however, really like the characters and I was totally interested in the story throughout.

CONNECTED BOOKS: KEEP ME SAFE is the first book in the Slow Burn series.

STAR RATING: I give this 3.75 stars because I thought the ending was too rushed for the extreme events that preceded it.

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Review: The Black Hawk

The Black Hawk
The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

THE BLACK HAWK is more an epic than a normal romance novel. It is the story of Adrian Hawkhurst, head of the British Intelligence Service and Justine DeCabrillac, a former member of the French secret police. It is a romance that begins when both are thirteen years old and lasts continues for twenty four years. The two are at various times friends, allies and enemies. They are two people who have loved each other for years although fate and history has torn them apart again and again. Finally, in this book fate has functioned to finally bring them together.

This is the fourth novel in Joanna Bourne's Spymaster series and this was my favorite of the series. She addresses so many difficult subjects and this romance is not silly or immature. It is the story of grown ups who have been hurt and who have hurt one another.

This was a beautiful romance. I was drawn into the world that Bourne created and I didn't want the book to end. I wish there had been an epilogue so that I could see some of the characters happiness after all the sadness in their lives.

This was a 4.5 book for me and maybe would be a 5 if I read it again. Books are only rated 5 for me that are re-reads.

Update 10/14: I have to give this one a 5 stars. Deeply emotional and I just loved it!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: The Widow Vanishes

The Widow Vanishes
The Widow Vanishes by Grace Callaway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE WIDOW VANISHES by Grace Callaway: This novella is the prequel to Callaway's new Heart of Enquiry series. This new series is a spin off of Callaway's Mayhem in Mayfair series. For fans of the Mayhem in Mayfair series, there are appearances by favorite characters but new readers won't be lost.

THE WIDOW VANISHES is the story Annabel Foster a young widow who sell herself to pay off her feckless husband's gambling debts. On her first night she is chosen by William McLeod. William is a Scotsman who works as a guard for hire. He receives Annabel as a bonus for a job he does for a gaming hell owner. Their amazing night together changes both of them and leads William to seek to rescue the woman who doesn't expect to be rescued by anyone.

I really love the vibrancy of Callaway's characters. They are strong and independent people with a strong sexuality. Her books always have graphic and intense sex scenes, but they are not gratuitous. The characters always are emotional and intense people. I loved Will and Bella together. She is determined to be strong and recover from her weaknesses and Will is a very honorable man.

We are also introduced to Will's brother, the Duke of Strathaven. I hope we see more of him in future books because his story must be a good one.

Rating: 4.25

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review: Rules For A Proper Governess

Rules For A Proper Governess
Rules For A Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simply Adored the Heroine

RULES FOR A PROPER GOVERNESS is the story of a man who is only half living after the death of his beloved wife, his two ungovernable children, and the woman who comes and brings healing to their family.

THE STORY: Roberta "Bertie" Frasier is a pickpocket and meets Barrister Sinclair McBride when she is ordered by her father to take something from him. Bertie becomes fascinated by Sinclair because of the pain she senses in him. Finding out where he lives, she ends up becoming the default governess for his unruly children. Despite Bertie's lower class background, she makes herself a proper governess by bringing back joy to the children and eventually to Sinclair as well. Their happiness is threatened by Sinclair's past and Bertie's present.

OPINION: Sometimes you find a book where you can just love the heroine. Bertie is an amazing woman and I loved how she brings sunshine and light into the McBride family. Sinclair is a very sad fellow as the book begins and there is nothing artificial or false about the way that Bertie integrates into his life and that of his children. I loved the relationship between Sinclair and Bertie and the story moved in unexpected ways for me. I had expected that the class differences between Sinclair and Bertie would be a bigger part of the story but instead the conflict is more external and Sinclair doesn't spend much time worrying about Bertie's background. I had a great fondness for Ashley's books because they are intensely emotional journeys with her characters. Her characters are big and bold and definitely originals. I loved that there was really no doubt that Sinclair and Bertie will be together. Sinclair's children are also well defined characters here and extremely loveable and not at all annoying as some child characters can be. I very much got the sense that Bertie becomes the center of the family and brings to life all of the McBrides. There is a real sense of a family being created here which I very much appreciated. I especially enjoyed the continued sense of continuity and place that Ashley has created with this series. Sometimes an author worries so much about not having a story dependent upon reading other books in the series that the book feels like it is not truly connected to the others in the series. While RULES FOR A PROPER GOVERNESS can be read alone, fans of the series are rewarded for their continued reading.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are plenty of cameos by favorites from the series. I was especially pleased with the appearance of Hart and Eleanor who remain my favorite couple of the series.

FINAL DECISION: I absolutely fell in love with Bertie and Sinclair and was completely satisfied with this book. Not only did I get a great romance with a quirky original heroine, but I got to see many of my favorites from the series which made me smile again and again.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RULES FOR A PROPER GOVERNESS is the seventh book in the MacKenzies and McBrides series but chronologically comes before THE WICKED DEEDS OF DANIEL MACKENZIE. This book can be read independently of the others in the series, but the series is so great that a reader should just start at the beginning and enjoy.

STAR RATING: I give this one 4.5 stars. I loved it!

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: Dream Man

Dream Man
Dream Man by Linda Howard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Manages to Be Funny and Scary and Romantic All at the Same Time

For fans of paranormal romantic suspense, DREAM MAN delivers the story of a serial killer and the woman psychic who -- unfortunately, sees into his mind.

THE STORY: Marlie Keen has been normal for six years. Six years ago, she suffered horribly at the hands of a mad killer who found out that she was helping police track him. After that experience, she lost all of her psychic gifts. Just when Marlie is feeling safe, she experiences a murderer's hideous thrill at the rape and killing of a woman. Marlie attempts to inform the police of what she knows and meets Detective Dane Hollister who believes that she must be an accomplice of the murderer. At the same time, Dane is intensely attracted to the sharp tongued and sharp witted woman.

OPINION:I really liked Marlie in this book. She is sharp and strong and yet she is shown being vulnerable and yet she is not emotionally needy. When threatened, Marlie manages to save herself and I appreciated that she was not left as a helpless heroine looking for a man to save her. Dane is used to being in charge and he is often thoughtless in his dogged pursuit of the murderer -- and yet, that is true to his character. His relationship with Marlie is immediately intense and he is a bit clueless about what his going on with him. I really liked him until he manages to betray Marlie's trust -- then I thought him a jerk because he refused to acknowledge that he was wrong. I wish Marlie had made him pay more, but while it upset me a bit, I could put that aside in my appreciation of the book as a whole. There is also a secondary romance in the book that I liked as well. The plot of the book was tense and well developed.

WORTH MENTIONING: The epilogue of the book was hysterical and I loved it!

FINAL DECISION: For fans of romantic suspense and/or paranormal romances this book satisfies. I especially liked the portrayal of Marlie and the hell that she went and goes through as a result of her psychic gifts. My only downgrade is that Dane betrays his relationship with Marlie in his attempt to catch the killer and while certainly not unforgivable, I think that Marlie forgives him too quickly. He was a jerk and I wanted him to pay more.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is a standalone book.

STAR RATING: I give this one a 4.25 stars.

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Review: The Best Man

The Best Man
The Best Man by Kristan Higgins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Story of the Imperfect Couple Who Are Meant for One Another

THE STORY: Faith Holland is left at the altar by her long term boyfriend who is forced to admit he is gay. Faith is devastated and leaves town for San Francisco. Three years later, she returns and runs into Levi Cooper, her former fiance's best friend and the man who forced the disclosure of her fiance's sexual orientation. Faith has known Levi since childhood and the two have rubbed each other wrong for years -- and yet there is also something between them that has flared at different parts in their life. Now they are both unattached and something more begins to form between them.

OPINION: I really liked this book because it focused on the romance between Faith and Levi. Their romance is slow in developing -- most of their lives -- but once the story coalesces, the long, slow buildup has a great payoff. The book is funny and poignant and I liked how Faith and Levi are clearly the couple that is meant to be. I especially liked how their history is set out so that a reader can see how their romance could have emerged at any time in their lives if different choices had been made. Higgins' world is multifaceted and the characters are complex. I especially liked the complex relationship that Faith has with her former fiance because it would have been easy for his character to be made the villain. Instead, the characters are well-rounded and the motives are murky and sometimes contradictory. I really liked the realistic situations and how Higgins builds a world that feels like it could actually exist. Her characters are flawed, imperfect people and I really liked how those things are the reasons for -- rather than against, the romance between Faith and Levi.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is not an explicit book. The sexual scenes between the characters are brief and are mostly the builld up and then aftermath rather than explicit scenes of what happens in bed between the characters.

FINAL DECISION: This is not a book that I expected to like, but I really liked how focused the book is on the relationship between Faith and Levi and all of the other material illuminates their complex relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the first book of the Blue Heron Series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

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Review: The Perfect Match

The Perfect Match
The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Perfect Match of Imperfect People

Higgins continues her Blue Heron series with the story of two people who are desperate for marriage, but for different reasons. He wants to stay in the US and she wants to have children.

THE STORY: Honor Holland is thirty-five and hears her biological clock ticking. She has had an on again off again things with a man she has known since childhood. When she suggests to him that they should marry, she finally realizes that while she has been thinking he is the one, he has been thinking that she is convenient. Honor is devastated when he ends up with her best friend and they end up engaged and expecting. Honor ends up being set up with Tom Barlow, who is a mechanical engineer professor who is British and looking for a way to stay in the United States to be close to his "almost" stepson with whom he has a difficult relationship. The two have a horrible first date but eventually end up agreeing to a marriage of convenience with the possibility of children if things work out. The two, however, have difficulties communicating and they have a hard time working out their expectations of one another.

OPINION: I liked this book because it was funny and complex. The romance is messy and difficult. At the same time, the book is funny and Honor and Tom are wonderful together even though it takes them a long time to get there. I wish there was more about the good times in their relationship because there tends to be a concentration on their difficulties. Despite the obvious fact that the two should be great together, Honor is emotionally needy and Tom is emotionally distant even as he wants to be emotionally engaged. I like Higgins' complex depictions of characters that gives people good and bad qualities and then makes it clear that the choices people make is what is important. The characters are flawed and difficult and sometimes annoying, but are fresh and real and difficult to dislike in the long run. I also liked seeing again the stable of characters that appeared in THE BEST MAN.

WORTH MENTIONING: Honor has a dog that makes me laugh. Spike is hysterical and has a great personality. The other thing that I loved was the depiction of how Honor spends her 35th birthday -- getting a gynecological exam. Definitely something one doesn't read about in every book!

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book, but I wish there was more good depictions of Honor and Tom's relationship. Their 10 days of happiness are only briefly referred to and instead readers get a lot about the trouble and difficulties in their relationships.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the second book in the Blue Heron series. It is not necessary to read the first in the series as this operates independently.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Review: Zachary Black: Duke of Debauchery

Zachary Black: Duke of Debauchery
Zachary Black: Duke of Debauchery by Carole Mortimer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unexpectedly Compelling

The story of a woman who makes a horrible mistake that ruins her life and the man who she betrayed, this story is compelling and makes a reader want to know how there can be a happy ending.

THE STORY: Zachary Black, Duke of Hawksmere operated as an agent for the Crown during the war with France. One night when entering his carriage, he finds a veiled woman in black who wants his help to get information to British authorities about the imminent return of Napoleon that will result in another war. Zachary is determined to find out who this mysterious woman is. What he doesn't expect is that it is Lady Georgianna Lancaster, the woman to whom he was briefly engaged and who eloped with her brother's French tutor. Georgianna has returned, unmarried, ruined and -- Zachary suspects -- now a French spy.

OPINION: I loved the dark tone of this book. Georgianna made a horrible choice that ruined her life and irrevocably changed her. Zachary, in fact, doesn't even recognize her at first. Torn between his continued attraction to her and his suspicions about her motives, Zachary has a difficult time dealing with Georgianna. I liked that Georgianna made such a terrible mistake and that readers get to see how she has changed. She is a strong woman who is not intimidated by Zachary and he is even more entranced with her because of it. While the book has an incredible turn of events where Georgianna is still a virgin, I so enjoyed the sparring between the main characters, that it did not diminish my enjoyment of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Although Zachary is referred to as the Duke of Debuchery, it is hard to actually find him acting in that manner. Instead, he is honorable and quickly becomes remorseful about how he has treated Georgianna.

FINAL DECISION: I really liked this book. My only complaint is that it would have been better with more pages to resolve more of the relationship between the main characters. After only mildly liking the prequel, I did not expect to like this one as much as I did. The complex relationship between Georgianna and Zachary, however, had me completely engrossed wanting to know how it would be resolved.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ZACHARY BLACK: DUKE OF DEBAUCHERY is the first full length story in the Dangerous Dukes series. There is a prequel novel but this book is better and a reader missing nothing by starting here.

STAR RATING: I give this one a 4.5 rating because I loved the angst filled story that seemed impossible at the beginning and yet worked out perfectly.

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Review: The Wedding

The Wedding
The Wedding by Julie Garwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Liked This One Better Than THE BRIDE

THE WEDDING is the sequel to THE BRIDE and the main characters from that book, Alec and Jamie, make a significant appearance in this book. I ended up liking THE WEDDING even better than the first book because there was more personal conflict here and I tend to like angst. THE WEDDING does have many of the characteristics of the previous book. It is funny and sweet and has a quirky heroine that inspires laughter.

THE STORY: Lady Brenna of Haynesworth has been sent to marry a highlander when her entourage is waylaid by laird Connor MacAlister. Connor has decided to force a marriage with Brenna in order to frustrate the intentions of Brenna's intended and Connor's enemy. Connor ends up being a godsend to Brenna because her intended is a harsh man and Brenna is determined to make her marriage work. The secrets of the past come back and threaten the happiness that Brenna and Connor tentatively build.

OPINION: I loved Brenna. She is quirky and she bedevils Connor in ways that he doesn't know how to deal with. Despite the way that their marriage begins, Connor always treats Brenna with great respect. There is a bit of angst in this story and Brenna is seriously threatened by a dastardly character. Her unwillingness to disclose the threat to her is somewhat frustrating but understandable in many ways considering her perceived position. I like those books that make me laugh and sigh and this book does both.

WORTH MENTIONING: It almost seems like this book was set up for a sequel with two other characters that never happened which saddens me.

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book. I was intrigued by the mystery in the story of what happened to Connor's father and I loved the sweet, funny romance. Recommend!

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE WEDDING is the sequel to THE BRIDE. The main characters from THE BRIDE make an appearance her and have a significant role in the book.

STAR RATING: I give this book a 4.5 rating because it made me smile and I loved the quirky romance and I liked the mild angst and suspense in the book.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review: The Bride

The Bride
The Bride by Julie Garwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sweet and Funny Medieval Scottish Romance

Julie Garwood has a way of putting together sweet, funny and poignant historical romances. THE BRIDE is often chosen as one of her best. It has made top 100 lists of all time romances as well.

THE STORY: Jamie Jamison is the youngest daughter of an English Baron who has been ordered to give two of his daughters in marriage to two Scottish highlanders. Jamie and her sisters don't want to marry but when Laird Alec Kincaid comes and claims Jamie as his bride, Jamie is determined to make her marriage works. While Alec intends to take his ordered bride and place her in the insignificant category, Jamie soon bewitches and bedevils Alec who can soon think of nothing else but claiming her.

OPINION: I liked this book quite a bit although I generally prefer books with more angst and conflict. (In fact, I prefer Garwood's own SAVING GRACE). I definitely appreciate this book, however. Jamie is spunky and quirky and incredibly stubborn and determined and yet likeable. She is incredibly easy to love and so there is no doubt that Alec is a goner once he meets her. Alec is a strong, sometimes pigheaded hero and yet he always treats Jamie in a honorable fashion even when he is determined not to love her. I consider this more of the softer, gentler humorous historical romances in line with Julia Quinn. I have no complaints about the book and it made me laugh at how helpless Alec is in the face of the sweet determined Jamie.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is a historical but is more of the flavor and variety historical rather than a in depth historically accurate type. I don't mind that because I read more for the characters than the history lesson, but some might be unhappy.

FINAL DECISION: Anyone who likes men in kilts should give this book a try!

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BRIDE has a connected sequel THE WEDDING where Jamie and Alec make a significant appearance.

STAR RATING: I give this book a 4.5 stars because it made me laugh and smile.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: The Hanover Square Affair

The Hanover Square Affair
The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First Person Narrative Draws Readers In

THE HANOVER SQUARE AFFAIR is the first in a series of Regecy Mysteries written by romance writer Jennifer Ashely under the name of Ashley Gardner. Told in the first person, the reader is drawn into the sad unhappy life of the main character as he tries to solve the disappearance of a gentlewoman.

THE STORY: Captain Gabriel Lacey has returned to London with an injured knee, no prospects and living in near poverty. He suffers from depression that often overwhelms him and has complex and difficult relationships with those around him. By accident, he comes upon a man in Hanover Square "attacking" the house of a gentleman who he believes has kidnapped his daughter. Lacey is soon deeply involved in trying to locate the woman because he has a strong sense of honor that overwhelms his common sense. While hunting for what happened to the woman, Lacey comes in contact with a leader of the underworld and other murders and mysterious disappearances.

OPINION: I found this book strangely compelling. The main character and the story is somewhat dark and depressing with little redemption coming from the story and yet I was fascinated by the character of Gabriel Lacey who makes serious mistakes and yet tries to be honorable. I was especially interested in his complicated relationships with women. He has almost an obsession with caring for an avenging women. That instinct leads him into much trouble. The mystery in this story is resolved in a way that is sad and yet feels real and honest.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers who discover this series of books from having read Ashley's romance books should be aware that this is not a romance.

FINAL DECISION: I recommend this book because I enjoyed the character of Captain Lacey and am interested in how his story plays out.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the first book of the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries.

STAR RATING: I give this book a 4.25 rating because it left me wanting to read more.

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