Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: Invincible

Invincible by Diana Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nice to Revisit Familiar Characters

THE STORY: Carlie Blair is in trouble. Someone seems determined to kidnap and/or kill her. She works for a small town police department and either her job or her father's mysterious past may be at the root of the attacks on her. Carlie has another problem and his name is Carson. Carson is a mercenary who after being betrayed by his wife is determined to spend the rest of his life alone. Carlie and Carson have an attraction but everyone in town knows that the man who never intends to commit and the woman with old fashioned values are not a good fit.

OPINION: I was interested in this story and the characters although I didn't feel that there was enough to distinguish it from similar Palmer books. The mystery of what was threatening Carlie was interesting, but there were some parts that were too incredible to be believed. Despite this, I liked how Carson and Carlie had a relationship that was not based on physical attraction alone. This is the kind of book that is adequate for a one time read but doesn't have staying power that makes a reader think of the characters or story and want to return again.

WORTH MENTIONING: Palmer is still writing about characters with traditional morals and the only sex is within the bounds of marriage.

FINAL DECISION: This book was an adequate one time read, but there was nothing in the story to elevate it to a read again book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INVINCIBLE is connected both to the Long, Tall Texans series and also the Wyoming Men series. This book can be read independent of those books, but there are recurring characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

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Review: Catch a Falling Heiress

Catch a Falling Heiress
Catch a Falling Heiress by Laura Lee Guhrke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hero Falls Long Before the Heroine

"He didn't know that jaunt across the Channel would lead him on a quest for justice that would destroy a villain, turn his life upside down, and hurl a beautiful woman into his arms."

THE STORY: Jack, Earl of Featherstone has come to America to help get justice for his friend and his wife. In the process of destroying the man who raped his friend's wife, Jack has to rescue an unwitting heiress who gets in the middle. Linnet Holland thinks the man who she dreamed of has fallen in love with her and wants her. Instead, she ends up ruined by Jack who she doesn't even know. Linnet refuses to allow herself to be forced to marry a rake and a fortune hunter after refusing other offers in a search for love. Jack is determined to convince Linnet to marry him because he realized when he kissed her that they have something special.

OPINION: There is something special about a book that goes against expectations. It is surprising when Jack ruins Linnet that she doesn't immediately agree to the marriage. Instead, she insists on finding a match that is acceptable to her and goes about creating her own future. Jack and Linnet have a very combative relationship which is simply adorable. Linnet has been naive with her dealings with men and is determined to not succumb to Jack's plans for her. They are a sparkling couple. What is especially interesting is the Jack becomes enamored of Linnet long before she is even willing to try to get to know Jack. Guhrke has a way of writing the reformed rake story in an interesting manner by making Jack's character more original and singular than the familiar trope. My one complaint is that I thought the resolution of the story was too rushed and could have used an epilogue.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers of HOW TO LOSE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS will be pleased to get the story of what happened between the last chapters of HOW TO LOSE A DUKE book and the epilogue. Those events are depicted in this book.

FINAL DECISION: This is a book where the action occurs more slowly than might be expected based on the quick events in the early portion of the book. This is a book where the hero and heroine actually have time to get to know one another before they end up committed to one another.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CATCH A FALLING HEIRESS is the third book in the An American Heiress in London series. This book can be read independent of others in the series, although the book overlaps with the events in HOW TO LOSE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS and reading that book explains a lot of what is going on in the beginning of this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: In His Keeping

In His Keeping
In His Keeping by Maya Banks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Action Packed Paranormal Romance

"Love finds you when you least expect it."

THE STORY: Arial "Ari" Rochester is a telekinetic who has spent most of her young life hiding her abilities. When he ends up using them to save her life, her secret is out. When her life is threatened, she ends up coming to Beau Devereaux for help. Beau's job with Devereaux Security makes him the perfect person to protect Ari and to discover what is happening. At the same time, Beau and Ari end up falling in love. But the danger that surrounds Ari might end their romance before it has a real chance to begin.

OPINION: This is a high powered action packed paranormal romance. To me, however, the romance seemed to take a back seat to the serious action in the novel. I very much enjoyed how Ari becomes a real powerful character. Although Beau is definitely an alpha male, Ari is a woman that grows into a strong woman who can take care of her man as well. The romance is more simple than might be expected. There are no dramatics between Beau and Ari. They, in fact, almost too quickly take to one another in a serious manner. The conflicts in this story involve those who are trying to abduct Ari and thus that is the source of conflict in the story. Beau is also a character that I really like because he allows himself to be vulnerable about Ari to the extent that he is willing to show his grief and fear about her openly to others.

WORTH MENTIONING: Although this series has three books, I hope there is a chance that there might be more because there are some other interesting possibilities for stories.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book although not as much as the first in the series. The book felt much more like suspense/paranormal because the romance was more muted. Beau and Ari were a nice couple, but their conflicts were all external ones.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IN HIS KEEPING is the second book in the Slow Burn series. Although the events of the prior book are mentioned, this book can be read independent of the first book in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy
The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Don't Read Ahead! The Secret Is Integral to the Story

"He had chosen her for his wife for the most reprehensible of reasons."

THE STORY: Sir Richard Kenworthy has come to London to find a bride -- the problem is that he has less than a month to accomplish the deed. He attends the infamous Smythe-Smith musicale believing that it might be fertile grounds to find a wife. Richard spies a woman he wouldn't have looked twice at before -- Iris Smythe-Smith. Iris is intelligent and knows that she is not the kind of woman that men lose their heads over. When Richard begins to seriously court her, Iris cannot help but suspect that Richard's devotion is too good to be true. Iris is right.

OPINION: I absolutely loved this book. The format is different than most romance books and some will complain about the lies that Richard tells, but I completely fell victim to the way the book keeps Richard's secrets for so long such that the pain that Richard's deception brings feels real.

Iris is such an intelligent, compassionate character. She thinks herself plain, begins to believe that she might be beautiful if Richard sees her as such and then is completely destroyed when she learns of his deception. Quinn always has such great characters and Iris is much more than she appears. By the time the novel is done, the reader has been privileged to see the formidable woman that she is becoming. I especially like the emphasis on the sister relationship in the book and how Iris's own relationships with her sisters gives her the insight in how to deal with Richard's sisters in a forthright manner.

Richard is tormented throughout the book. He must marry and knows that he will likely have to compromise a woman to do so in the timeframe he needs to accomplish the deed. His actions are dishonorable and will likely be controversial with readers some of whom will be unable to forgive him for his actions. He is justifiably tormented in this book by what he decides to do and ultimately, he is not a perfect man but one who can be forgiven by Iris.

The relationship between Richard and Iris is woven together slowly. This is not a book of love at first sight but rather one where the attraction, caring and love is allowed to develop throughout the time that the characters know one another. By the end of the book, the relationship is solid and satisfying.

I do have one small complaint and that is that I wanted more time with these characters in the resolution phase of the book. Once the plot has been resolved, I wished that there could be more time for the happy ending. To me, it ends up feeling a little rushed and I missed the chance for these characters to really be happy together.

Despite this, this is one of those books that I wanted to immediately return to portions of to enjoy the language and the beautiful and sometimes painful experiences that Iris and Richard encounter.

WORTH MENTIONING: The secrets that Richard is keeping are not revealed for more than half the book. The book is so much better if the reader allows the secrets to be revealed rather than peeking at the end!

FINAL DECISION: This is a beautifully written book. The secret is well hidden and once it is revealed, it is also clearly hinted at so that a reader doesn't feel cheated. The secret is significant and devastating to Iris which gives the story depth. I loved almost everything about this book. My one small complaint is that I wish that the resolution was longer. It felt a bit rushed and I didn't get enough time with Iris and Richard having finally resolving their relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SECRETS OF SIR RICHARD KENWORTHY is the fourth book of the Smythe-Smith Quartet. This book can be read completely independent of the others in the series although there are brief mentions of events and people in the other books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Once and Always

Once and Always
Once and Always by Julia Harper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Darling, you've been running away from me since last August."

THE STORY: Sam West is a small town cop who has been pulling Maisa Burnsey over for almost two years for speeding. Eight months before, they had a one night stand. Maisa likes Sam but she knows that it will never work for them because her uncle was part of the Russian mafia and the experience of her parents tells Maisa that criminal families and lawmen do not mix. When her family's past comes to town, it threatens the lives of the townspeople. Sam and Maisa must work together to save the town and themselves.

OPINION: A lighter novel despite the Russia mafia's involvement in threatening the town, ONCE AND ALWAYS is the story of a woman who believes that she will never be able to find happiness with a lawman and the man who is determined to prove to her that he is the man for her.

I found Sam's determination to wear down Maisa adorable. She is always speeding into town and he is always pulling her over to give her a ticket. While the people in town try to convince Sam to give up, he refuses. The chemistry between Sam and Maisa is obvious and is combined with humor.

The novel also manages to capture the personalities of the various people in town and the townspeople end up functioning as family to the two characters. There were several interwoven stories that managed to fit well together and yet not distract from the romance between Sam and Maisa.

The plot of this book worked really well. It kept the focus on the characters and yet was interesting enough to keep the interest in the book going. At times the action was a bit over the top, but this book feels like its intention was to be closer to a fun romantic comedy than a realistic romantic drama.

I absolutely loved Sam. His commitment and determination to show Maisa that they belong together despite the objections of everyone else just made me adore him. As Maisa discovers, Sam is more than the small town cop she originally sees him as. His vulnerabilities make him a compelling hero.

My one complaint is that Maisa, at times, got on my nerves. Her blind determination to not give Sam a chance annoyed me at times even as I understood her motives. As she softened toward Sam, I liked her better.

This was a book that I felt really good about by the end.

WORTH MENTIONING: Julia Harper is also known as Elizabeth Hoyt in the historical romance arena. In the past, I have not been a great fan of Harper's contemporary books even though I absolutely adore the Elizabeth Hoyt's historical romances. This is her best contemporary to date.

FINAL DECISION: Lighter in tone than her historical romances, ONCE AND ALWAYS is a book that is funny and yet has a more intense romance than Hoyt's prior contemporaries. Although the heroine is slightly annoying at times, the hero is multi-layered and he is much more than he appears either to the reader or to Maisa. His character makes the book for me because it makes the romance much more compelling.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is a standalone book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

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

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: Trade Me

Trade Me
Trade Me by Courtney Milan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Different Kind of Book From Courtney Milan

"Try trading lives with me."

THE STORY: Tina Chen is a 20 year old college student struggling to finish college. She is also having to care for her family because her mother gives the little money they have to others. Blake Reynolds is 23 years old and a billionaire. He has been in public display since a child when he did commercials for his father's technology company (think Apple clone). Blake has struggles of his own as he attempts to distance himself from his father's shadow. When Tina and Blake end up in an argument during a class, Blake proposes that Tina and Blake trade lives. They end up finding out about themselves, their families, and each other. Romance ensues.

OPINION: TRADE ME, a contemporary new adult romance, is not a book I would have picked if it had been written by anyone other than Courtney Milan. Milan, however, has wowed me with her historical romances and I am always willing to give such authors the benefit of the doubt.

TRADE ME is told in two first person voices: Tina and Blake. This is a book where both characters are on a personal journey. I really enjoyed how the secrets in this book are slowly revealed for the reader and the characters themselves. Much of the book feels more like a self discovery book than a romance book, but there is no doubt that this is a romance book. There is a deep connection between Tina and Blake even as Tina wishes to push away from Blake for almost the entire book. Blake feels like the more vulnerable character here perhaps because part of Tina's coping mechanism is to be the strong character in her family.

This book also addresses many serious issues, but is not an overly serious book itself. It confines its examination of social issues to discussions relevant to the characters which keeps the book from being didactic. I also like how the issues the characters face are not ones that conform to any stereotype. The story also doesn't conform to the standard response to a trading places type of story: that everyone has it hard. This story doesn't rely on that easy answer. The problems and the solutions to this story are complex and difficult and feel real.

My minor complaint with the story is that it feels unfinished because it is. There is more to Tina and Blake's story and so this book feels like the characters have reached a good place, but that their difficulties are not behind them.

WORTH MENTIONING: I really appreciate the interracial romance and they are still rare enough to mention that TRADE ME is one of them.

FINAL DECISION: This book takes a little time for the reader to comprehend what is at issue because the depths of the characters are slow in being revealed. While the characters have a happy ending, they clearly have unfinished business (luckily Book 3 will return to Tina and Blake).

CONNECTED BOOKS: TRADE ME is the first book in the Cyclone series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Review: Night Game

Night Game
Night Game by Christine Feehan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Favorite So Far

THE STORY: Raoul "Gator" Fontenot is a member of the GhostHunters, a special force of genetically enhanced paranormal soldiers. Gator goes home to the bayous of New Orleans to search for a local girl gone missing. While there he is asked to also search for Iris "Flame" Johnson who was subjected to the same experiments as Raoul when she was a child. Flame is on her own quests when the two end up meeting. She does know that Gator is part of the same group that is searching for her to return her to the experiments and has no intent on trusting him or allowing him close.

OPINION: This was my favorite of the series so far. Raoul is a very sexy Cajun and the relationship between he and Flame is really hot. At the same time, there is great tenderness between the two even while they are seriously deadly people. The contrast between what they can do and who they are makes this book very intriguing. The story was multi-layered and complex. The overarching story of what is happening with the GhostHunters becomes more nuanced and this book makes a reader question of the motives and actions of characters that seemed set in prior books. This book is funny and sexy and dark and a great suspense book as well. This book makes it hard to read the next one because I'd really like to read more about Raoul and Flame than another couple right now.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is noteworthy in the way it forces the reader to question what has happened so far in the series an exciting way.

FINAL DECISION: The connection between the characters is strong in this book and I especially loved the angst and love in this book. The relationship between Raoul and Flame is hot. The overarching story in this one was twisty and changed the complexion of what readers thought was happening in this series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: NIGHT GAME is the third book in the GhostWalkers series. While this book can be read independent, I think to completely understand the conflicts the characters have, the prior two books are necessary backstory.

STAR RATING: I give this one 4.5 stars.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review: The Reasons for Marriage

The Reasons for Marriage
The Reasons for Marriage by Stephanie Laurens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More Straightforward Story Than Usual Laurens Book

"Unused to acknowledging any authority beyond his own whims, the fifth Duke of Eversleigh had lived a hedonistic existence that few, in this hedonistic age, could match."

THE STORY: Jason, Duke of Eversleigh has reluctantly admitted that he must take a wife. His criteria for a wife are about finding a woman for the rational marriage that he believes he wants and then he will return to his life in London. He decides to pursue Lenore Lester because Jason and his friend determine that she will meet all his requirements. When Jason meets Lenore for the first time, he is intrigued by this woman who has taken great pains to make herself unattractive. Lenore has no intention of marrying anyone. She is content being in charge of her family's estate. Lenore eventually decides that she might find something she needs in marriage and Jason finds out that there might be more he wants from marriage than he expected.

OPINION: This was a more conventional romance than might be expected for Laurens readers. The book, however, shows the sparkling characters and deep emotional connections emblematic of her books. Jason thinks he wants a conventional marriage, but Lenore changes that. The two spend much of the book at cross purposes. It was enjoyable to watch Jason gets exactly what he thinks he wants and then realizes that he hates it. Even better, Lenore doesn't withdraw from Jason as punishment but rather in love to give him what he wants and not impose herself upon him. The book is a straightforward read.

WORTH MENTIONING: The Lester Family series is the story of Lenore and her two brothers who are introduced in this book.

FINAL DECISION: This book is well written but more traditional romance than expected from Stephanie Laurens. This book was written in the mid 1990s and thus is an earlier book from her. The book's sex content is more sweet and less explicit than readers might expect from Laurens.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE REASONS FOR MARRIAGE is the first book of the Lester Family series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Review: Blind Promises

Blind Promises
Blind Promises by Diana Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet Romance

THE STORY: Dana Steele agrees to take the position as a private nurse after the death of her mother in an accident turns her world upside down. Her patient, Gannon van der Vere has run off four other nurses and is not dealing with his blindness well. Determined to make him deal with his condition, Dana refuses to be run off by Gannon's bad temper.

OPINION: This is a very sweet romance with some nice angst thrown in but no sex scenes. Gannon and Dana's relationship in the beginning has a little Beauty and the Beast feel to it as Gannon is determined to wallow in pity over his condition and as a result makes everyone else around him miserable. The story relies upon the normal Palmer premise of virginal heroine and experienced, rough and jerky guy. I liked the characters and the story and enjoyed it as a one time read but probably wouldn't return to it again.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is definitely on the sweet side with strong morality and no sex scenes.

FINAL DECISION: This was a sweet story with a little more gravitas than the normal Diana Palmer series romance. I enjoyed it as a one time read.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is a standalone book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

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Review: Heart of Ice

Heart of Ice
Heart of Ice by Diana Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet, Old Fashioned Romance

THE STORY: Katriane James is a romance novelist. Her roommate's brother, Egan Winthrop, believes that she is a tramp who does research for her books with various men. The two fight like crazy but are also deeply attracted to one another.

OPINION: I liked this book even though the hero is a judgmental jerk for most of it. The book is typical of Diana Palmer books especially of the era so I can overlook his behavior. The book definitely reads as a 1980s series romance so modern readers should take that into account. This is a book that I enjoyed reading. It was a quick easy read but not one that I would recommend for keeper status.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book was written in the 1980s and is definitely on the sweet side. There is heavy petting but no actual intercourse in the book.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book as a one time read. Nothing about it stands out to me, but I was completely satisfied with the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is a standalone book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

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Review: How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days

How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days
How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Laura Lee Guhrke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful and Powerful Story of Love After Marriage

"Her marriage was perfect"

THE STORY: The Duke and Duchess of Margrave have a marriage of convenience. They agreed that Edie, and American heiress, would contribute her immense dowry, get the title, and take over running the ducal estates and that Stuart would go to Africa and never come back. Five years later, Stuart is nearly killed by a lion and realizes that he wants to try and build a real marriage with his wife. He returns to England and his wife is appalled. She has no intention of being close to any man, including her husband. Stuart offers Edie a deal, if she gives him ten days to try and win a kiss from her, he will agree to a legal separation if he fails.

OPINION: This book is a powerful story about pain and loss and recovery from deep wounds of all kinds. The way that Edie's personal story is compared and contrasted with Stuart's was especially illuminating. This book focuses especially on the power of love to heal, but there is also the power of choice and respect and trust. I was especially moved by Stuart's reaction to Edie's history and his determination to show her respect and earn her trust. I thought the story moved in ways that were unexpected and I came to really like the characters of Stuart and Edie. My only complaint was that their happy ending was cut a bit short. I would have liked more -- maybe in subsequent book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers should be aware that this book has depictions of rape and its aftermath.

FINAL DECISION: Although married, this book is really how Stuart and Edie get to know one another and fall in love. I thought the story was well developed and I would recommend it.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the second book in the An American Heiress in Lond series. It can be read as a standalone without missing anything.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

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Review: When the Marquess Met His Match

When the Marquess Met His Match
When the Marquess Met His Match by Laura Lee Guhrke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Glad I Didn't Give Up On This Based On Some of The Negative Reviews

"Nothing causes more pain, frustration, and disappointment than unfulfilled expectations."

THE STORY: Lady Belinda Featherstone is a matchmaker. Her own painful experience of having been wed for her fortune while she thought it was love. After the death of her husband, Belinda has made a name for herself finding suitable matches for young American women after he husband had gone through her dowry. When Nicholas Stirling, Marquess of Trubridge comes to ask her help in finding him a wife, Belinda sees him as cut from the same cloth as her husband and informs him that she will do everything she can to stop him. Nicholas has a reputation as a rakehell and is definitely in search of a fortune after having been cut off by his father the duke. Belinda and Nicholas are soon engaged in a battle of wits even while they have an attraction to one another.

OPINION: This is the story of two people who have been disappointed in their expectations of their lives. Such disappointments have made them both cynical and unwilling to trust again. It has also made them accept lives that are less than they could be.

Belinda's past has given her deep scars. I found it almost painful to read the first half of the book since Belinda judges Nicholas so harshly. Once I understood her history, however, I could understand her fears that led her astray and she did end up changing and acknowledging her mistakes. By the end of the book, I believed that she had redeemed herself. Even better, Nicholas acknowledges that her judgment was not completely unwarranted and decides to change his own life.

I especially like how the book has a turn at the end that I did not expect. Belinda and Nicholas's happy ending came in a way that I did not expect and I appreciated that fact.

I really ended up responding to this book because it challenged me as a reader more than I expected and the characters were not simple and easy to like. Readers who give this book an honest chance can experience a wonderful story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book also introduces readers to the heroine from the second book and what an intriguing story is there.

FINAL DECISION: I recommend this book if the reader has an open mind and is willing to allow a character to grow and change.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHEN THE MARQUESS MET HIS MATCH is the first book in the An American in London series.

STAR RATING: I give this one 4.25 stars.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review: Dark Alpha

Dark Alpha
Dark Alpha by Carole Mortimer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Much Better Than the First Book

THE STORY: Nicky McKenzie is a business student and immediately notices a sexy man who enters the college cafe. While she is staring at him, her friend suggests that Nicky solve her money problems by becoming mistress to a rich man. Nicky is mortified when she realizes sexy man overheard and even more so when she realizes that the sexy man is Lucian Wynter who is speaking as a guest lecturer in one of her classes. A very sexy encounter in a restaurant ends their association until Nicky comes looking for a job eight months later. While Lucian is interested in acquiring Nicky as a mistress, she has deep secrets she is hiding that are dangerous to herself and anyone around her.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book. Lucian was enough of a jerk to keep me interested, but not too much to annoy me. There was a definite Fifty Shades of Grey vibe with the reclusive rich guy and the younger, less experienced woman thing, but there was no kinky sex and Nicky is not the total innocent and has secrets of her own. I liked how Nicky stood up to this man who is used to people doing exactly what he wants and how Lucian knows he should resist her but is unable to do so. There is also a variety of secondary characters that might have interesting stories themselves. After the first book in the series, I wasn't sure how exciting the series would be, but this one makes me anxious for the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: I'm really interested in Lucian's cousin Dair who is the hero of book three of the series.

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book, it has a little bit of a Fifty Shades feel without the kinky sex.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the second book in the ALPHA series. This book can be read completely independent of the first book without missing anything.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

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Review: Mind Game

Mind Game
Mind Game by Christine Feehan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fluffy Romantic Suspense

THE STORY: The Ghostwalkers are enhanced people with various paranormal powers. One of the rejected female test subjects, Dahlia LeBlanc has powers that are difficult to control and which leave her vulnerable to the strong emotions of others. When Nicolas Trevane comes to find her as part of the GhostWalkers project to determine the fate of others of their kind, he arrives just in time to see an assassination attempt on Dahlia. The two end up on the run together fleeing. They have to discover who has betrayed Dahlia at the same time they are falling for one another.

OPINION: I liked the first part of this book very much. It was exciting and adventurous. Somewhere in the middle, the story seemed to be repetitive with repeated attempts on Dahlia and then escape. I got bored for a while and then was interested again when the story picked up with a purpose of finding the villain. The romance between the two had the same pattern to me: fascinating meeting and buildup to sex, then sex, sex, sex and then a true breakthrough in their emotional response to one another.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are more Ghostwalkers.

FINAL DECISION: Overall, I liked this book although I felt it was repetitive and dragged in the middle.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the second book in the Ghostwalker series. It is not necessary to read the first book as this book gives a good summary of the story to this point.

STAR RATING: I give this one 4 stars.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: Shadow Game

Shadow Game
Shadow Game by Christine Feehan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun Suspense Beginning for Series

"She was wrapped so tight inside of him, he knew it was more than his body and mind. More than his heart. She was entrenched in his soul."

THE STORY: Dr. Lily Whitney is asked by her father to consult on a project he is working on. She discovers that he has enhanced a group of soldiers with psychic abilities. Something has gone wrong, however, and the men have been essentially imprisoned. When she meets the leader of the men, Captain Ryland Miller, the two have an incredible instant attraction. Lily, herself, has natural psychic abilities that complement Ryland's. When her father disappears, Lily helps the men discover what was done to them and who is trying to get rid of them. She also learns dark truths about her own past.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable read. I especially liked how Lily and Ryland are separated in the beginning as he is confined in a cell. Their psychic connection is immediately deep and therefore most of the drama in the book involves the external storyline. I liked the book as a fun adventure story, but didn't find the storyline or the romance particularly deep. That doesn't mean that I don't recommend the book. I enjoy books all the time that are not ones that have emotional themes and characters that linger with me. This book is like a sugar high -- great reading, but the effect doesn't last long.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces a host of characters who will have stories in future books in the series. Sometimes the setup for future books slows down the action, but that doesn't happen here. The introduction of characters feels natural.

FINAL DECISION: This book is like a really good popcorn movie. I really enjoyed it while reading it but it isn't particularly deep. There is great action and I enjoyed the romance and I will continue to read the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHADOW GAME is the first book in the GhostWalkers series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: The Sherbrooke Bride

The Sherbrooke Bride
The Sherbrooke Bride by Catherine Coulter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great Story, But the Hero is a Jerk

"Being a gentleman pales when one is confronted with a wife one doesn't know, doesn't want, never did want, never even knew existed."

THE STORY: Douglas Sherbrooke, Earl of Northcliffe decides that it is time for him to marry and produce an heir. He decides to find out whether the beautiful woman he was entranced with three years ago is still available. Melissande, the daughter of a duke, seems to be the perfect candidate for his wife. Once the alliance is agreed upon, Douglas has to send his cousin to have the wedding performed by proxy since Douglas will be out of the country. When Douglas returns, he finds that his "wife" Melissande is married to his cousin and his cousin has instead married Douglas to Melissande's younger sister Alexandra. Alex has loved Douglas for three years and was able to be persuaded to be the replacement bride. Douglas is not pleased.

OPINION: There is much to criticize about this book. Douglas is a jerk and he treats Alex terribly. Admittedly, he has some justification since she was foisted upon him, but he still is a jerk. The story is implausible and at times the story is over the top. Yet, I still love this book. The writing is clear and the story is fast paced so that I never felt bored. I believe the story is supposed to be over the top and not feel like a serious drama. Even Douglas being a jerk has an overdramatic quality to it that contributes to the humor of the book. I certainly can understand that some readers find Douglas' actions unforgivable, but I enjoyed the journey of these characters. Douglas starts out with an unwanted wife and ends up falling deep in lust and then in love with Alex. The book to me seems quite aware that Douglas is being unreasonable and winks at the reader. The book was also written in the early 1990s and the standards for relationships in romance books were very different. This book would probably not be written in the same way today, but that is okay to me. I don't mind these older books (perhaps because I read them when they were new) but readers looking for sensitive heroes won't find him in Douglas Sherbrooke.

At the same time, Alex is no shrinking violet. She makes an incredible journey in this book. She begins willing to do anything to please Douglas, but his disdain helps transform her into a strong woman who demands his respect.

WORTH MENTIONING: I read this book when it was first published in the early 1990s. I really enjoyed it then so I am not completely independent when reading the book now. Readers should also be aware that this book depicts a miscarriage which might be disturbing to some readers.

FINAL DECISION: I love this book despite its flaws. Douglas is a complete jerk. Some of his actions are understandable, but he honestly is also just a jerk sometimes. I loved Alex. Despite the flaws of this book, it still is a story that I remember and enjoyed reading again.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SHERBROOKE BRIDE is the first book in the Brides series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: The Duke Who Knew Too Much

The Duke Who Knew Too Much
The Duke Who Knew Too Much by Grace Callaway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Strathaven does have a heart; he's not as wicked as he likes to have others believe."

THE STORY: Alaric McLeod, the Duke of Strathaven, is a widower with a dark past. He is known as the Devil Duke and when he is discovered with a dead woman, many suspect that this is just one more of a line of suspicious deaths for which Strathaven is responsible. Alaric only became duke after a series of deaths before him; he stole his brother's fiance; and his wife and son were killed and rumor is that he made her miserable. Searching for another wife, Alaric has one requirement: that she not be a virgin.

Emma Kent is a definitely a virgin. A country miss, she has been introduced to society by her sister-in-law. Emma has decided that she doesn't want a typical woman's life, but rather, wants to join her brother's business as an investigator. When Emma meets Strathaven, she believes he was abusing the woman who ended up dead and is determined to see him pay for the murder.

What Emma doesn't know in her innocence is that Alaric and the murdered woman were playing BDSM games. When Emma realizes her mistake, she is determined to investigate the murder and find the true villain. At the same time, Alaric and Emma begin an intense relationship that it quickly sexual. When Alaric begins to believe that despite her virginity, Emma might be the perfect woman for him, Emma is determined to hold out for love.

OPINION: I enjoy Grace Callaway's books. They tend to be intense and very hot. I especially liked Alaric. He is dark and tormented but also has a sweetness to him that Emma discovers. What he really wants is to be loved but believes that he is unworthy of that love and so has convinced himself that love is unnecessary. Having been told by his deceased wife that he is incapable of love, he has internalized her criticisms and believes it as well. He is quickly entranced with Emma but is unable to comprehend what he feels for her.

I was surprised at how vulnerable Alaric is. He uses his reputation as a protective shield. Emma pulverizes his shield with her grit, determination and independence. She is straightforward and that is something that Alaric does not know how to deal with.

I tend to really like Callaway's heroines who are honestly sexual and don't play the victim with the men they want. Emma refuses to allow the sexual intimacies she and Alaric share to be the sole reason for marriage between them. She insists on emotional intimacy.

The mystery story was intriguing as well. There were several viable suspects so the ultimate villain was not too obvious but was not a complete surprise either because it logically made sense.

I was also happy to read this book and have updates on prior couples and look forward to books about the other Kent siblings in future books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Some readers might quibble with the historical accuracy and plausibility of the story. The historical details are more flavor than carefully factual details. That's okay to me but readers who are bothered by such things should be forewarned.

FINAL DECISION: I really enjoyed this book. Alaric is a hero with a dark past and yet he remains incredibly vulnerable and sweet under his cynicism and defensive actions. Emma is bright and quick witted and incredibly competent. The war of wills between the two was fun to read.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is Book 1, in the Heart of Enquiry series. Readers should be aware, however, that there is a prequel novella, THE WIDOW VANISHES, that introduces the series and also the hero from this book. Although this book can be read independent of that novella, I think the enjoyment of THE DUKE WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is enhanced by reading about the hero and his half-brother. The heroine of this book is also a supporting character in HER PROTECTOR'S PLEASURE, which is the romance about her brother.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in a contest from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: For the Love of Pete

For the Love of Pete
For the Love of Pete by Julia Harper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun and Funny Romance on the Run

THE STORY: Dante Torelli is an FBI Agent who is undercover doing an investigation on corruption in the Chicago office. He meets Zoey Addler, whole food grocery worker and poet, when Pete is kidnapped. Zoey is Pete's aunt and she and Dante meet as the kidnapper is rushing from the building with Pete in his arms. Thus begins an adventure where the two search for Pete and also are one the run as the criminal in the Chicago office frames Dante for the murder of agents and the kidnapping of Pete.

OPINION: The plot of this story was definitely a great adventure. It is fun and funny and high energy. The supporting characters were developed and interesting. My complaint was the romance was too light and I never felt that Dante and Zoey had anything in common other than propinquity because of their adventure. For me, the romance was too light and uncomplicated to sustain my interest beyond the pages of this book. Once the book was done, I had a hard time recalling the reasons the two ended up together. I did enjoy the story, but I prefer my books more serious and emotionally complicated.

WORTH MENTIONING: Julia Harper is the contemporary pseudonym for the accomplished historical romance author Elizabeth Hoyt. While I absolutely love her historicals, I find her contemporaries too light to be worth more than a one time read.

FINAL DECISION: This book was enjoyable to read, but the overly light nature of the story, coupled with lack of in depth connection with the characters makes it an enjoyable one time read.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.75 stars.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Review: Murder in Grosvenor Square

Murder in Grosvenor Square
Murder in Grosvenor Square by Ashley Gardner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the Best of the Series

"Someone had set upon my friends, with dire consequences, and I and Sir Gideon wanted to know who."

THE STORY: Captain Lacey settles into married life and then two of his extended friends are attacked seemly because of their relationship with one another. Lacey begins to investigate and it leads him into the world of gay relationships among society and the biases against them.

OPINION: This book has a very compelling mystery. With two of Lacey's friends attacked, there is an urgency to Lacey's investigation that makes the book more interesting. I also thought this book was a very thoughtful look at gay relationships in the regency period. The best part is that this look was not preachy but rather is an integral part of the mystery. Lacey is very thoughtful and while he is surprised to discover his friends are gay, he thinks of them as his friends first and is determined to find their assailant despite the prejudices of others. Because of Lacey's personal quest, this book has an energy that makes it easy to turn pages and discover the culprit. There is also a good side story about Lacey and his wife adjusting to their marriage. The connection of the stories about love and relationships makes this book feel more than a typical mystery.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of the continuing series will be happy to know that this book addresses the duel that Lacey set the date for in the prior book. Fans of the romance between Lacey and his wife Donata will have a nice surprise in this book.

FINAL DECISION: This is a really good book of the series. As a mystery, the books can be read for the mystery. In this book, the mystery is compelling because of the personal involvement of Lacey. The drama surrounding Lacey and the integration of the mystery makes this book a good combination of the two.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MURDER IN GROSVENOR SQUARE is the ninth book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. The book can be read on its own for the mystery. Readers should note, however, that there continuing personal stories about Lacey and his friends that develop further in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Review: A Disappearance in Drury Lane

A Disappearance in Drury Lane
A Disappearance in Drury Lane by Ashley Gardner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lacey Tries to Settle Into Married Life, but Mysteries Interfere

"He'd become a new ripple in the serenity I'd hoped I'd finally brought into my life."

THE STORY: One of the Regency mysteries featuring Captain Lacey and his friends. Just when Lacey is off to his wedding, his friend Marianne asks him to help locate an actress friend who has been missing for six months. The investigation leads Lacey into personal danger that threatens his new marriage and his life.

OPINION: I liked this book, but at the end the mystery was not as interesting as the personal story for me. I really like how the personal story of Lacey is developing. Fans from the beginning will be aware that Lacey suffers from depression. Instead of succumbing to it as his did in early books, Lacey now has ways of managing his depression. I also really liked how Lacey faces many choices: including infidelity and lying to his wife and yet demonstrates the complexity of those issues with straightforward thinking that characterizes Lacey. I enjoyed this personal journey of Lacey.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of the series will be pleased to finally have the marriage of Lacey,.

FINAL DECISION: I really enjoyed the first part of this book where Lacey is finally married. In the second part, however, there were too many threads of the story and I lost interest and track of the meanings of all of them. I enjoyed the personal story more than the mystery in this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DISAPPEARANCE IN DRURY LANE is the eighth book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries. This book can be read as a standalone although there are continuing personal stories that are present in each of the books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Review: Cowboys Last All Night

Cowboys Last All Night
Cowboys Last All Night by Jennifer Ashley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Very Good Collection of Novellas About Cowboys

COWBOYS LAST ALL NIGHT is a collection of five novellas by five different authors.

ADAM by Jennifer Ashley: ADAM is Book 1 of a new series called Riding Hard about the Campbell brothers. In this novella, Adam Campbell has returned to his family's home after an accident may have ended his career as a stuntman. He encounters Bailey Farrell who he knew as a teenager. Bailey and Adam had a thing in high school and the years apart have not lessened their attraction to one another. I really liked this story. It is the first in a series and there is a lot of backstory and introduction of characters that slows down the action in the story a bit. The characters, however, are fascinating. Ashley always does a great job at creating interesting families and this series seems to follow that pattern. Bailey and Adam's are obviously right for one another and the story is more about Adam's problems stemming from his accident than serious conflicts with Bailey. Rating: 4.25.

OVERNIGHT LOVE by Nicole Edwards: This novella is part of the Dead Heat Ranch series. Lucas Burch expects to be alone. His wife cheated on him and instead he dedicates himself to his ranch. MacKenzie Catlay meets Lucas when her blind date ends up being blind drunk. The attraction between the two is immediate, but Lucas knows he is no man for Kenzie. This story was just adequate to me. The setup was really good, but I didn't feel a real connection between these characters that would justify their quick resolution. I have read other novellas/books with one night relationships that were much more compelling and emotionally satisfying. This story was okay to me, but not spectacular. I haven't read anything else by this author so fans of her books might feel differently. Rating: 2.5 stars.

THE COWBOY INHERITS A BRIDE by Cora Seton: This novella is a prequel to the Cowboys of Chance Creek series. Sunshine Patterson and Cole Linden meet for the first time and discover that they have been left an inheritance of a building but they must compete against one another to determine which of them will ultimately get the building. This is the story of opposites: country boy and city girl. Sunshine intends to run a vegan restaurant in the building and Cole has an indoor rifle range. I liked this story and actually wish that it were longer. The competition between the two was funny and interesting and there were plenty of other interesting characters that fill in the edges of the story. This story is more external conflict that emotional struggle, but I thought the story was light and cute. Rating: 4 stars.

ROCKY RETREAT by Vivian Arend: This novella is part of the Six Pack Ranch series. Lee Coleman and Rachel Monroe end up stranded at a cabin together. Rachel's short lived marriage has ended because her husband is a cheater and she has come to the cabin to emotionally recover. Lee unsuccessfully tried to gain Rachel's interest before his marriage and is determined to try again. Lee is almost ten years younger than Rachel and that is why she refused him before, but she might be interested now. I enjoyed this book although I haven't read any others in the series. The younger man scenario had some interest and Lee is really a wonderful man who is determined to show Rachel how much he cares about her and not just be a rebound fling. I appreciated that these characters develop a great deal of emotional connection and it is not just sex between them. The story is satisfying. Rating: 4 stars.

SLOW BURN by Cheyenne McCray: This novella is part of the Lawmen series. Agent Trace Davidson and Christie Simpson met when Christie's husband of twenty years was arrested as being part of a cartel. A year later, Christie has returned to Arizona to testify against her ex-husband. When her life is threatened, Christie and Trace end up spending a lot of time together and their simmering attraction just increases. I thought this was a full story. I haven't read the prior books but I didn't feel them necessary. This story was complete and did not feel rushed despite the shorter length. There is a lot of action to compensate for the fact that there is not a lot of emotional conflict between the hero and heroine. I liked this one. Rating: 4 stars.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Review: A Death in Norfolk

A Death in Norfolk
A Death in Norfolk by Ashley Gardner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lacey Uncovers His Own Past

"I notice your interest is caught by anything involving a woman."

THE STORY: In this continuing series of Captain Lacey who ends up investigating interesting mysteries in Regency England. This time Lacey travels to his ancestral home to begin planning for its occupancy by him and his future wife. While there, he becomes embroiled in mysteries involving disappearances both in the present and in the past.

OPINION: I recommend this book because it is an interesting investigation into the past of several characters including Lacey and his nemesis James Denis. Lacey learns more about his parents and people who inhabited the village near his home. The mystery involving the missing people was complex enough to keep an interest throughout the novel. Ultimately, all the mysteries are resolved, but not in the way that one might expect. I really enjoy how the mysteries are intertwined with the personal relationships of Lacey and his acquaintances.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers get to know more about Lacey's nemesis Denis.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book because Lacey is gaining more complexity along with those friends and allies that surround him. There were several mysteries that overlapped and added interest to the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DEATH IN NORFOLK is the seventh book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. This book can be read independent of others in the series but is best appreciated as part of the series since there are continuing personal stories that accompany the mystery that is finished in the book. Think of it like CSI with both standalone and continuing stories.

STAR RATING: I give this one 4.25 stars.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Review: The Gentleman's Walking Stick

The Gentleman's Walking Stick
The Gentleman's Walking Stick by Ashley Gardner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two Short Stories

This is a collection of two short stories from the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries.
THE GENTLEMAN'S WALKING STICK: This is a short story about a man who comes to Lacey to ask him to help find his missing walking stick. This was the more interesting story to me because there were actually things that could be figured out from the story. It is very short and the mystery is not deep but it gives readers a small sense of the full length novels.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MISS SARAH OSWALD: A man comes to Lacey to help him find a woman missing for eight months. This story was interesting because of the characters involved. We also get a chance to see Lacey exercising his vigilante justice which has been missing since the early novels.

Both of these stories are short and don't have much character development. They are a nice snack for fans of the series.

Rating: 4 stars.

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Review: A Covent Garden Mystery

A Covent Garden Mystery
A Covent Garden Mystery by Ashley Gardner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great Mystery with Personal Drama

THE STORY: Captain Lacey discovers his seventeen year old daughter in London. He has not seen her since she was two years old and taken by her mother when she left Lacey. While Lacey tries to work out the complication of his marriage, he is also consulted on the disappearance of game girls from Covent Garden. When Lacey's own daughter goes missing in a similar fashion, Lacey has to rely on his numerous friends and allies to scour London before his daughter ends up dead.

OPINION: This book culminates many of the stories that have been set in motion in the prior novels in the series. Lacey's personal story (his missing wife and daughter and his relationship with Lady Breckenridge) is resolved; Grenville and Marianna finally make progress in their relationship. Because Lacey is desperate to find his daughter, this mystery has more drama than the usual one. The metaphorical ticking time bomb gives the story tension and makes this a page turner. There is great character development as well as longtime readers can clearly see how Lacey has changed since the first book in the series. Great entry into the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Lacey has grown as a character in a tremendous manner since the first book of the series. This book gives Lacey an opportunity to see how many friends and allies he has acquired.

FINAL DECISION: These books just keep getting better. As the mysteries become integrated with the personal stories of the recurring characters, the mysteries have more meaning and more drama. This this the best one so far as Lacey's daughter is threatened and thus Lacey is willing to do anything for personal reasons and not intellectual interest.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A COVENT GARDEN MYSTERY is the sixth book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. This book can be read independent of other books in the series for the mystery. Readers should be aware, however, that there are continuing personal stories that are also occurring. This book will allow astute readers to catch up but some of the nuances will elude new readers.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Review: Trust No One

Trust No One
Trust No One by Jayne Ann Krentz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another Romantic Suspense That Is More Suspense Than Romance

"Trust no one.
Everyone has a hidden agenda."

THE STORY: Grace Elland is getting emails from her dead boss. Grace believes in a positive outlook that is threatened when she discovers her motivational speaker boss murdered. The vodka bottle next to his body thrusts her into memories of when she had to kill to escape another murderer. Grace returns to her mother's home in order to figure out what she will do with her life. On a horrible blind date, she meets Julius Arkwright a successful venture capitalist who is so successful that he is bored with making money. Although their date went poorly, the attraction between them is immediate. When Grace is in danger from a stalker, Julius comes to her aid. As the past and the present dangers threaten them, Grace and Julius try to figure out what their relationship will be.

OPINION: This novel is a book of definite opposites. The interactions between Grace and Julius are cute because while Grace is a positive person who thinks up witty aphorisms, Julius has the motto of "trust no one." Their witty banter is a highlight of the book. This is a fast paced story and the suspense story is the way that the relationship between Grace and Julius are explored. I enjoyed much about this book. The story is one that encourages page turning to find out the outcome and there are many twists and turns that keep the reader guessing. My complaint is that I think there is more suspense story here than romance. There is little conflict between Grace and Julius and thus their characters are not explored enough to make them interesting to me. It is difficult to see why the blind date didn't work out because these two quickly join forces. The characters emotional lives are as much a mystery at the end of the book as the beginning and thus as a reader, I didn't feel a deep connection with them. As a result, this is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading once, but probably won't remember in a month.

WORTH MENTIONING: I am a big fan of Jayne Ann Krentz and many of her books are on my all time favorites list. I do, however, prefer romance to suspense so when her books trend toward the suspense end, I tend to be less satisfied with them.

FINAL DECISION: I liked TRUST NO ONE. The story was interesting and I enjoyed it, but because the characters and their relationship is not well defined, this is a one time read for me.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TRUST NO ONE is a standalone book.


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Monday, January 5, 2015

Review: The Necklace Affair

The Necklace Affair
The Necklace Affair by Ashley Gardner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Novella Almost As Good as Full Length Novel

"You are quite romantic, Captain Lacey, ever one to assist a lady in distress."

THE STORY: This novella involves the mystery of a missing necklace and the twisted personal relationships involving the people surrounding it. Captain Lacey once again gets involved in a mystery because he cannot resist a woman in distress. The mystery takes him to interact with all the women in his life including Lady Breckenridge who Lacey asks to act as his proxy in parts of the investigation.

OPINION: As the overarching personal stories of Lacey and his friends begin to take shape, the books become more interesting. There are dual mysteries involved: the obvious mystery that Lacey is investigating and the mystery of the motivations of those around Lacey. Because the books are told in the first person, the motivations of others are not clear and Lacey and the reader are involved in the puzzle of figuring them out. This novella has an adequate mystery but the best part is the continuing exploration of Lacey's life.

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of romance, there clearly is something going on between Lacey and Lady Breckenridge but the books remain mysteries and not romances.

FINAL DECISION: The mystery of this one was mildly interesting, but I really enjoyed the continuing personal story of Lacey.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE NECKLACE AFFAIR is the 4.5 book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries.

STAR RATING: I give this novella 4 stars.

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Review: The Sudbury School Murders

The Sudbury School Murders
The Sudbury School Murders by Ashley Gardner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These Keep Getting Better

THE STORY: Captain Lacey has taken a position as secretary to the head of a boys school. When someone ends up dead, Lacey is in position to investigate the murder. Although the book does not take place in London, many of Lacey's friends and enemies make an appearance.

OPINION: I struggled through the first two books in this series, but starting with the third book and now this one, I am completely engrossed. The mysteries have gotten better and with the addition of more characters to interact with Lacey, the personal stories are more compelling. There are now continuing threads involving Lacey's wife and daughter, his relationships with the women in his life, and his friendships that are worth continuing to read page after page.

WORTH MENTIONING: Although these books are mysteries, there are hints that there might be some romances developing.

FINAL DECISION: This series keeps getting better and this book is my favorite so far with an intriguing mystery and good development of the personal stories of Lacey and his friends.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SUDBURY SCHOOL MURDERS is the fourth book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. This book can be read independent of the others in the series. As a mystery book, the main story is completely independent. There are also personal stories that are continuing through the series and new readers will have to catch up.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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Review: The Glass House

The Glass House
The Glass House by Ashley Gardner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Captain Lacey Series Hits Its Stride

THE STORY: Captain Lacey continues to get involved in murders and mysteries. In this book, the mystery begins with a woman's body floating in the Thames. The story is about different vices that society engages in and who gets killed because of those vices.

OPINION: This is my favorite of the series so far. The first two books, while interesting, were rather depressing because Lacey himself suffers from depression and he suffers setbacks in both book. Here, there are negative events and yet Lacey appears to be handling them better. The bigger cast of recurring characters makes the stories more interesting. I also enjoy the continuing story of Lacey and Lady Breckenridge. Lacey feels stronger in this book as he deals better with his adversity. In prior books, he appeared to be manipulated more by people. Here, his characters seems to be growing stronger and thus a reader is more interested in delving into the first person narrative.

WORTH MENTIONING: The prior two books of the series ended on depressing notes because of the sadness of Lacey's life. This is the first book where his outlook appears more positive and thus the book ends on a happier note.

FINAL DECISION: My favorite so far. In this book, both Captain Lacey and the series seems to be moving forward.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE GLASS HOUSE is the third book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. This book can be read independent of others in the series although new readers might be confused by the various characters mentioned from prior books.

STAR RATING: I give this one 4.25 stars.

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Review: The Professional

The Professional
The Professional by Kresley Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Conflicted About This One

THE STORY: Natalie Porter is a grad student in Nebraska when the search for her birth parents leads her to discover that she is the long lost daughter of a Russian Mafia leader. She discovers this when her father''s enforcer, Aleksandr Sevastyan drags her out of her ordinary life and forces her on a plane to Russia. Natalie and Sevastyan are immediately combustible together in every way. Sevastyan was sent to protect Natalie but becomes obsessed with her while fighting his attraction to her. The two are quickly engaged in a sexual BDSM relationship while Sevastyan fights the emotional connection.

OPINION: I am conflicted about this book. I wonder if the original format (being split into three ebooks) interfered somewhat with the development of the story. I loved portions of this book. The beginning was incredibly strong. I am a complete sucker for the emotionally damaged alpha hero, but the continued conflict between Natalie and Sevastyan just went on too long in a too repetitive manner for me to find this a great book. It was on the edge of that, but at about the two-thirds mark, I found myself saying "not again!" The couple would have a break through and then her hero would back away once again -- over and over again. I think the story could have been pared back somewhat. At the same time, I did love the rough alpha hero who doesn't completely reform at the end and I liked how the heroine demands to be treated as a woman with her own sexual desires and wants even when the hero wants to treat her as fragile.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is erotic romance with extensive and explicit sexual exploits including public sex so readers should be warned.

FINAL DECISION: Parts of this book I really loved and some of it was just okay for me. I ultimately recommend it because I think it is interesting.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the first book of the Game Maker series. The second book will feature the brother of the hero of this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Review: Till Dawn Tames the Night

Till Dawn Tames the Night
Till Dawn Tames the Night by Meagan McKinney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pirates, Jewels, a Stolen Birthright, and Sweeping Romance

THE STORY: Aurora Dayne, an orphan, decides the leave the only home she has ever known to find a place for herself in Jamaica. What she doesn't know is that she has been tricked into participating in her own kidnapping. Vashon is searching for the Star of Aran, a legendary treasure. He needs Aurora, the daughter of the thief who stole it, to help him locate it. Vashon was ripped from his aristocratic life by his murderous half-brother who sold Vashon into slavery to steal his rightful title. Now Vashon is after revenge.

OPINION: This book, first published in the early 1990s, brings to mind books written in the decades just prior. There is the strong, demanding alpha hero and the tremulous virgin who first resists and then is determined to change her man into a caring, loving hero. There are pirates and treasures and voyages to the New World. In addition, the hero is the actual heir to a title that was stolen from him. I liked this book but I didn't love it. For me, the book didn't have the emotional power of some similar books. While I loved the hero, the heroine was annoying to me and so I never bought into the romance. What annoyed me most was that I spent most of the book saying "just give the man the information he wants about the jewel" and I didn't really accept Aurora's reasons for not doing so. It diminished my enjoyment somewhat, but I did like the book overall.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has many of the elements of the bodice ripper romances of the 1970s and 1980s, but the consent issues are less abrupt here. Aurora resists Vashon, but eventually consents in their first encounter and doesn't herself consider it rape. However, for those concerned with consent, this book is a bit murky and troubling on the issue.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book and recommend it as a somewhat kinder, gentler version of the bodice ripper romances of old.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is a standalone book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Review: A Regimental Murder

A Regimental Murder
A Regimental Murder by Ashley Gardner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just About Everyone Lies

THE STORY: This is a mystery story. Captain Lacey saves a woman seemingly attempting to commit suicide. He finds out that her husband has just died. He was suspected of having committed wartime atrocities. She insists that it was murder and asks Lacey to help prove that her husband was not guilty.

OPINION: I find this mystery an interesting read. Lacey is an intriguing character. He is so gentlemanly at times, but he also is easily manipulated by woman and he has a temper that leads him to make bad decision. I liked this book because it is about more than the mystery, but at the end of the story, I feel depressed because nothing seems to go well for Lacey. The first person narrative also contributes to the gloomy feeling because that is how Lacey feels.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces Lady Breckenridge who will become an important character in later books.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book because the characters more than the mystery. The stories tend to be depressing, however, so I can only read these books slowly.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the second book of the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. It can be read independent of the other books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

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Review: The Kraken King

The Kraken King
The Kraken King by Meljean Brook

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deeply Romantic Tale of Adventure

"This was far more adventure than she'd hoped for. She only wanted to see a little danger from a distance. Instead she'd fallen straight into the clutches of the Kraken King."

THE STORY: Zenobia Fox is a woman who writes about adventures but doesn't have ones of her own. Her brother, Archimedes and his wife are the adventurers and Zenobia writes semi-fictional accounts of their travels. Zenobia decides that she wants to have a small adventure of her own (in a safe way), so she travels with her friend on a French naval ship to Australia. Despite the fact that this should be a safe travel, the ship is attacked and she barely escapes alive. She then meets Ariq, the Kraken King, who she knows from her brother's letters was one of the most powerful men in the Horde rebellion. Thus begins Zenobia's adventures.

OPINION: THE KRAKEN KING was originally published as a serial and this compilation keeps the original format. What that means is that the novel is actually a series of episodes that has a complete segment of the overall story. That makes this novel significantly longer than it might have been if written in novel format. I think that format fits this story, however. Zenobia is a writer of similar serials and this book is intended to mimic her writings. This is an example of the format giving readers a deeper look into the psyche of the heroine. Each segment has a cliffhanger conclusion that is picked up in the next portion.

I absolutely loved this book. While it is not as deeply engrossing as THE IRON DUKE (still the best book in the series), I loved this couple more. Zenobia and Ariq are deeply attracted to one another almost immediately. While there are a series of misunderstandings and false assumptions that hinder their relationship in the beginning of the novel, this isn't one of those "they just need to talk to one another books". Here, there is a reason for mistrust. These two people do not know one another and meet in a situation where both have to be wary of the other. The entire book is about communicating with one another. Zenobia has many walls because of the pain and mistrust of her life. As the two of them learn to be open with one another the trust and intimacy of their relationship grows.

I also really loved the story of the transformation of Zenobia. When the story starts, she only wants to protect herself and yet yearns for the adventure of the outside world. The story involves her being stripped of all the things that are protection and have meaning for her until she is reformed into a strong and powerful woman.

At the same time, Ariq is an incredibly romantic hero. He devotes himself to Zenobia. He opens his heart to her long before she really does the same. His devotion to her is what allows Zenobia to grow and change. The language that Brook uses to depict Ariq's devotion is some of the most beautiful I have read from her. There is no doubt of Ariq's devotion because he opens himself up to Zenobia very quickly.

The adventure story of this novel is complicated and intriguing and very political. I especially liked how subversive Zenobia's story can seem depending on the reader. There is validation of the importance of the written word no matter how pop-culture the stories might appear to be.

WORTH MENTIONING: Brook's Iron Seas book are truly multi-cultural. Without being preachy, the books are a great testament to the diversity of the world. I love how this book respectfully depicts the complex mixture of cultures and attitudes in a matter of fact fashion.

FINAL DECISION: The episodic nature of this novel gives it a fantasy feel along with the romantic adventure aspect. I loved the story between Zenobia and Ariq. Ariq is a wonderful hero who is completely devoted to Zenobia. I loved this book. While not the best of the series, I think Zenobia and Ariq are my favorite couple.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE KRAKEN KING is the fourth novel in the Iron Seas series. It can be read independent of the other books in the series, but I recommend reading HEART OF STEEL first because it is background for THE KRAKEN KING. HEART OF STEEL features the brother of Zenobia and details her first kidnapping.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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