Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Rock Redemption

Rock Redemption Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dark, Powerful, Haunting But with Hope and Light as Its Promise

“She still had forty-five minutes before she had to leave for the studio. Plenty of time for her to become Kathleen Devigny again, sophisticated, talented, and far too intelligent to have her heart broken a second time by a rock star who had never loved her like she’d loved him.”

FINAL DECISION: Never an easy book to read, ROCK REDEMPTION is painful and difficult but ultimately a tribute to the redemptive power of love. Kit and Noah have a twisted journey but the happy ending is well earned and even more satisfying for that journey.

THE STORY: Kit and Noah appeared to be heading toward a classic friends to lovers stories. Noah St. John is a member of the famous band Schoolboy Choir. Kit Devigny, an actress, met the men in the band when they were all struggling to make it in Los Angeles. From the beginning, there was something special between Kit and Noah although both had avoided the connection for years. Finally, the two became friends. They could spend hours together talking. Kit knew that they were moving toward something more when Noah betrayed her in the worst way possible. One night after a concert, she came to Noah’s hotel room and found him having sex with a groupie. Even worse, she knew that he had created the scene on purpose because he had known she would be there.

Now several years later, a late night call from Noah who is in distress brings Kit back into close contact with Noah. When gossip threatens a breakthrough role or Kit, Noah agrees to act as her boyfriend to protect her. Thus begins a journey into the pain of Noah’s past and his motivations for hurting himself and others who want to care for him. The question for Kit is whether she is willing to open herself up to the possibility of allowing Noah to break her heart again.

OPINION: I have written a lot of online reviews of romance books. Usually I take notes and have a plan of where I want to go with the review from the blurb on the back. From the prologue of ROCK REDEMPTION, however, I could only read the pages before me. I knew that I would have to reread the book in order to formulate any articulate review. This book is heartbreaking and painful and incredibly beautiful and redemptive.

Anyone who has read the prior books in the Rock Kiss series know Noah and Kit’s story. They had developed a relationship that was friendship but was clearly slipping into something more when Noah orchestrated Kit walking in on him having sex with a groupie. He purposely devastated Kit and for over two years the two have been on barely speaking terms.

Readers also know that Noah has dark demons. These he both smothers and fulfils by engaging in serial meaningless sexual encounters.

I have had a feeling what might be at the root of Noah’s self-destructive behavior from what was described in prior books. I was right but this book is just devastating. There are no easy answers for these characters. Their relationship is painful and difficult and at times appears hopeless.

Noah is a man who hates himself and has wanted to protect Kit from himself by driving her away. But even so he also desperately loves and wants her but has no voice to be able to tell her what haunts him day and night.

Kit is amazingly strong. No one could blame her if she never forgave Noah for his purposeful betrayal of her. Readers should know that he continues to hurt her for a long time in this book. The beauty of the writing of this book is that ultimately, Noah’s betrayals are understandable and Kit’s forgiveness comes from strength and not weakness.

Singh is a master character writer. Knowing Kit and Noah’s backstory from the prior books in the series, it was hard for me to imagine that Noah could actually be redeemed. Singh knows how to dig deep in the characters and make them real and understandable and capable of being forgiven and even more incredibly realistically giving forgiveness without appearing weak and ineffectual.

Even as painful as this book sometimes is, I was also attracted by the sweetness and sexiness of the relationship between Kit and Noah. The demonstration of how much these characters love and need one another brings the light and joy into the story.

This was a book that I finished reading but could not walk away from. The pain, the redemption, the ultimate joy and peace and love that this book expresses is haunting. This book is not an easy read. It is not a book that one walks away from with all smiles, but it is powerful and a story that is not forgotten.

WORTH MENTIONING: Content warning and spoiler! (view spoiler)

CONNECTED BOOKS: ROCK REDEMPTION is book three in the Rock Kiss series. It can be read as a standalone although I recommend reading at least the first book in the series and the first novella to truly understand the relationships between the members of the band which is important to this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review: The Legend of Lyon Redmond

The Legend of Lyon Redmond The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

DAZZLING, EMOTIONAL CONCLUSION TO THE PENNYROYAL GREEN SERIES

Once in every generation, a Redmond and an Eversea are destined to fall in love with disastrous results…
“It was time for a reckoning.”
FINAL DECISION: Beautiful, satisfying and so different than I imagined, THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND rewards readers of the Pennyroyal series with a book worthy of the anticipation built up over the series.

THE STORY: The Redmond and the Everseas have been enemies for generations. An ancient curse holds that once in every generation, a Redmond and an Eversea will fall in love but that it ends in disaster. The curse appears to have been fulfilled with the heir Lyon Redmond falls in love with Olivia Eversea. Rumor has it that Olivia broke Lyon’s heart and he left for parts unknown five years ago and has not been seen since.

In the intervening years, Lyon has been masquerading as Mr. Hardesty, a trader with an alter ego of Le Chat, a notorious pirate. In the meantime, Olivia has been dazzling suitors but always keeping herself emotionally apart. To the shock of all of society, she has finally agreed to marry a viscount.

“She’s getting married on the second Saturday in May.”

A note sends Lyon back to Pennyroyal Green to confront the woman he loved. The years have changed them both…but will love finally prevail between the Redmonds and the Everseas.

OPINION: After ten books of build up, I approached THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND with trepidation. I have often been disappointed with the final book in a series. After so much buildup, it becomes difficult for a mere book to satisfy the raised expectations of readers. The romance between Lyon and Olivia already was legendary before the first words of this book. It would have been simple for this book to fall into simplistic drama and conflict. I am happy to report that this book not only met but exceeded all of my expectations.

At the onset, I encourage readers to avoid spoilers. The book develops in unexpected ways. Fans can be assured that this book answers the question of what happened between Lyon and Olivia five years ago.

I started this book expecting angst and drama, but instead I found a treatise on the beauty and pain of love.

“Of course. Of course it’s you I’ve waited for my entire life. Of course we’re meant to be together forever. Of course.”

Powerful and mysterious figures throughout the series, this book delves deeply into Lyon and Olivia. In many ways the catalysts for the romances of the prior books, Lyon and Olivia have a powerful connection from the moment they first see one another. I am not sure I have ever read another romance book where the entire book is so concentrated on the thoughts and emotions of the hero and heroine. Everything else in the world falls away when Lyon and Olivia are together and this book reflects in its construction that reality.

The contrasts between the simple things that Lyon and Olivia find joy together in and the intense melodramatic storm that the two are caught up in give this story realism and yet an epic feel. I love that Lyon and Olivia are the ultimate star crossed lovers and yet they are intrinsically human.

“They were born to love each other.”

The hard question that this book raises is not about love. There is never any doubt about the love between Lyon and Olivia…the question is what lengths will one go to for love.

I cannot express just how beautiful I thought this story was except to say that it exceeded all my expectations and raised the standards of what I expect from romances.

WORTH MENTIONING: Long has done a wonderful job of wrapping up the Pennyroyal Green series. Fans will be delighted to get a final look at their favorite characters in a way that is deeply satisfying.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND is book eleven of the Pennyroyal Green series. While it is possible to read this book independent of the series, this book concludes the storyline that has run through the entire series. In my opinion, it should not be read before the others in the series in order to appreciate the story.

STAR RATING: This book gets five enthusiastic stars. The best of the series.


View all my reviews

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Review: The Bollywood Bride

The Bollywood Bride The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Painful, Sad but Ultimately Hopeful About Love

“Vikram was smiling. The last time she’d seen him he had looked like he would never smile again. She had looked into his eyes and watched him break, watched the gray-blue crystals shatter to bits. He was smiling.”

FINAL DECISION: Dark and emotional but ultimately uplifting, THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE is darker in tone than Dev’s first book but infused with the same wonderful characterizations and sense of community and ultimately joy in life. Not an easy read, but a worthwhile one.

THE STORY: Ria Parker had loved Vitram Jathar when they were children. She knew, however, that they had no future and so she betrayed him and broke his heart. Ten years later, Ria is a successful Bollywood actress known as the Ice Princess because she doesn’t let anyone close. Her career has been scandal free until a paparazzi gets too close to her dark past. Returning to Chicago to attend a family wedding, Ria comes face to face with Vitram again. She knows that their being apart is best for Vitram but Ria can’t help but love the boy of her childhood and the man who hates her now.

OPINION: This book is sad and yet there is ultimately acceptance and hope. Ria is haunted by her family’s history and as a result has decided to spent her life alone. A casualty of that decision is Vitram. The two were childhood friends and young lovers together until Ria’s destiny tore them apart. I enjoyed the complexity of Ria. I didn’t like nor could I condone many of her decisions, but I certainly understood them. It is a special book that allows the reader to disagree with the character but comprehend their motivations. I liked Ria because she is an incredibly strong woman. She has dealt with so much in her life and tries to do her best.

Vitram is adorable. Strong and dedicated and yet gentle with those he loves, he makes a journey in this book. From anger, disappointment and hate, he opens himself up through forgiveness. Even before he understands Ria’s motivations, he forgives her.

Ria and Vitram have a serious and emotional chemistry from the moment they meet. They have no blinding moment of falling in love. The two have always loved one another – first as friends and then as lovers. The anger and pain that these two experience makes this a book that I had to read in bites and put down. The story is complicated and heartbreaking at times.

Dev has a distinctive voice. Her characters are immersed in their community and family. The story contemplates issues of destiny, identity, and family but always focuses on the characters. The desire to separate from one’s history, yet the inexorable pull back into the past is finally resolved when the characters accept the possibility of future pain but choose to be hopeful about the future.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it especially because of Dev’s strong, complex characters and unique view into Indian-American culture. My only downgrade of the book is because I wish that Vitram’s voice was more present. He is incredibly forgiving considering Ria’s actions and it would have been nice to understand more what was in his mind.

WORTH MENTIONING: Spoilers! This novel deals with mental illness is a realistic and painful manner.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Review: Sarah's Surrender

Sarah's Surrender Sarah's Surrender by Lavinia Kent
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"You do know I won't marry you."

FINAL DECISION: I am a fan of Kent's but this novella was not my favorite. I never really got over my annoyance with how the characters had acted five years earlier. On the plus side, the story was very sexy and well paced especially for a novella.

THE STORY: Sarah Swilp was in love with Jonathan Perry five years ago when he inherited a fortune and turned cold toward her. He told her that he would never marry her but wanted to sleep with her. She was devastated and turned away from him. Five years later, Sarah has become resigned to marrying the man her father wants in order to settle the family's debts. Just at that moment, Jonathan comes back into her life and Sarah decides that she might want a night with the only man she has wanted before accepting the future that is set out for her.

OPINION: Kent brings a raw earthy sexuality to her characters that is enjoyable. This novella is no different. The characters work out their relationship primarily through their sexual encounter which also includes finally talking to one another. That is the problem with the novella. Jonathan's treatment of Sarah five years earlier is terrible and despite his explanation, it never felt excusable to me. Because of the length of the novel, we do not get to see how Jonathan is scarred by his brother's experience and thus his explanation never has any weight behind it. To me, he comes off as a jerk and I am not sure how Sarah could actually forgive him.

Despite that, however, the relationship between Sarah and Jonathan works in the present time. The two obviously have chemistry and a connection to one another. I enjoyed the novella, but it just wasn't as good as the other stories in the series.

I recommend reading another book in the series instead and keeping this novella as a sweet side treat.

WORTH MENTIONING: I would recommend that readers try one of the Bound and Determined novels (rather than this novella) first.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SARAH'S SURRENDER is book 2.5 of the Bound and Determined series. It is only tangentially connected with the series and can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book through Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 11, 2015

Review: Thunder & Roses

Thunder & Roses Thunder & Roses by Mary Jo Putney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Intriguing Premise and Complex Characters

"They called him the Demon Earl, or sometimes Old Nick. Hushed voices whispered that he had seduced his grandfather's young wife, broken his grandfather's heart, and driven his own bride to her grave."

FINAL DECISION: Highlighted by a great premise that pushes the characters out of their comfortable existences, the story takes a saint and sinner premise and challenges the stereotypical categories in a way that gives the characters depth, complexity and ultimately a relationship that feels real and developed. A great start to a series.

THE STORY: Nicholas Davies, the Gypsy Earl of Abderdare has returned to the family estate in Wales but the deep betrayal that sent him away from the estate four years ago has changed him. He has become more isolated, more distrustful and more cynical. When Clare Morgan, school teacher and daughter of a minister comes to Nicholas to plead for his help for the local people, he denies her his help unless Clare agrees to come and live with Nicholas for three months thus ruining her reputation. He his surprised when she agrees. Thus begins a battle, a friendship and a love that neither expects.

OPINION: I loved the premise of this book. The best part is that the bargain begins as a challenge that Nicholas doesn't expect Clare to meet. The two then enter a relationship that is part friendship, part seductive relationship and part fighting. As the book begins, Nicholas is closed off, damaged and unwilling to open himself up to others. Clare challenges Nicholas and thus the book chronicles his growth. In return, Nicholas challenges Clare. The book begins with her playing the part of the saint even going so far as to sacrifice herself for those in the town. Nicholas challenges her construct of herself forcing her own growth as a person. The typical saint and sinner story is elevated and made more complex by characters that do not fit neatly into the saint and sinner categories.

The relationship between NIcholas and Clare develops incredibly well. The two have a great chemistry. I loved how they interact. Even during their bargain, Nicholas always treats Clare with respect. Their relationship is allowed to develop over time rather than moving quickly to a sexual relationship and that permits the growth that occurs between the characters.

The background of the story is the dangers of mining in the historical era. This is examined with great depth without taking over from the romance focus. The integration of this storyline with the romance is done well with several significant scenes taking place in and around the mine.

There is also a dramatic story involving dangers to Nicholas and Clare's lives. I won't give spoilers here, but this dramatic story gives insight into the characters while also giving the story some momentum as the mystery plays out.

WORTH MENTIONING: I enjoyed the depiction of religion in this book. The heroine is a Methodist and the book uses her faith as a part of the book without being preachy or dismissive. It's a hard line for many authors to travel and I appreciated the efforts made here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THUNDER & ROSES is the first book in the Fallen Angels series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the author in order to provide a review. I also had previously purchased a copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

View all my reviews