Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews

The Edge lies between worlds, on the border between the Broken, where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is a fairy tale—and the Weird, where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny…

Cerise Mar and her unruly clan are cash poor but land rich, claiming a large swath of the Mire, the Edge swamplands between the state of Louisiana and the Weird. When her parents vanish, her clan's long-time rivals are suspect number one.

But all is not as it seems. Two nations of the Weird are waging a cold war fought by feint and espionage, and their conflict is about to spill over in the Edge—and Cerise's life. William, a changeling soldier who'd left behind the politics of the Weird, has been forced back into service to track down a rival nation's spymaster.

When William's and Cerise's missions lead them to cross paths, sparks fly—but they'll have to work together if they want to succeed…and survive.

Sparks completely fly between William and Cerise. 

He wore jeans and a white T-shirt.  His clothes molded to him.  William wasn't built, he was carved, with hard strength and lethal speed in mind.  No give, no weakness.  He had the honed, lean body of a man who was used to fighting for his life and liked it that way.  And he strode to her like a swordsman: sure, economical movements touched with a natural grace and strength.

Their stares met.  She saw the shadow of the feral thing slide across William's eyes, and she stopped stirring the stew. 

They stared at each other for a long tense moment. 

Damn it.  That was not supposed to happen. 

And while watching them admit they like one another is fun, the real action is in the Mire itself.  Their surroundings seems to become a character and, lest we forget, there are several "characters" present in Cerise's family. 

At times Bayou Moon felt more in the gothic tradition of Flannery O'Connor or Carson McCullers rather than straight-up urban fantasy, particularly because of the layers upon layers of subtext.  There is more here than putting William and Cerise together to get from point A to point B or achieve such-and-such goal or even to play out their romantic arc.  This is deep, life-changing (for all characters involved), and damn if Ms. Andrews doesn't do oh so well.  I couldn't put this book down and cannot wait to read what's next for The Edge.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review: Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath

Known throughout for his prowess in the bedroom, Morgan Lyons, the eighth Earl of Westcliffe, cannot forgive an unpardonable affront to his honor. Discovering his young bride in the arms of his brother was a staggering blow—so he banished the beautiful deceiver to the country and devoted himself to the pursuit of carnal pleasure.

Claire Lyons was an innocent, frightened girl on her wedding day, seeking chaste comfort from a childhood friend. Now, years later, she has blossomed magnificently and has returned to London with one goal in mind: the seduction of her notorious husband. Unskilled in the sensual arts, she burns nonetheless for the kisses too long denied her. And she has but one Season to win back the heart of the rogue she betrayed.

They are masters of seduction, London's greatest lovers. Living for pleasure, they will give their hearts to no one . . . until love takes them by surprise.

I've never read Ms. Heath prior to Passions of a Wicked Earl, but I'm so glad I took a chance.  (Also, hello? trilogy -- it's a no-brainer I'm going to be tempted.)

As the narrative continues, and Claire and Westcliffe become (re)acquainted with one another, I wondered why she never called him by his given name.  I can understand the formality at the beginning of their new relationship but once the seduction begins, once they become intimate, that line was never crossed (to my recollection). 

The interference of Westcliffe's mother -- and her lover -- was also a twist I didn't see coming.  She recognized that Claire could be good for her stuffed-up eldest son, which was nice.  She wasn't as meddling as she could have been, I suppose, so Claire and Westcliffe are able to make their own romantic connections. 

I thought the danger placed on Claire in the final chapters was unnecessary yet necessary because of what it firmly spells out for Westcliffe.  He's made to confront his feelings, and things move forward between the husband and wife from there.

(A very special thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Passions of a Wicked Earl.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review: Second Chances by Lauren Dane

Ten years ago, Rori Simon left town shy, unattractive and with zero self-esteem. Now she’s back, older, stronger and finally loving herself—and it shows. Hot men are soon knocking at her door, including Jude Callahan, the bad boy who starred in her teenage daydreams…and her adult fantasies.

Jude can’t believe the sexy, confident woman before him is actually Rori! She’s gotten under his skin like no other woman has…and brings out secret desires he can’t resist. He wants to dominate Rori with every fiber of his being. Wants to own her and pleasure her. To cherish her as he makes her his.

Rori discovers she likes being controlled. She also knows Jude is not a one-woman man. Everything changes when she meets Zach Helm. Edgy, sensual Zach knows just what she needs, and before long, she’s in love. Jude watches them together and wonders if he’s lost his chance forever…

Given that I absolutely love Laid Bare and Coming Undone, I expected to feel the same way about Second Chances.  (I also wanted an "in-between" to tide me over until Inside Out releases on November 2.)  Unfortunately, I didn't. 

I wanted to though.  Oh, how I wanted to.

Rori and Jude have some smokin' sexual tension (and their sex is uber hot too).  Then boom!  The flames are doused in the first third of the novella.  Granted it's because of Jude's behavior that the non-couple breaks up, but I was surprised to find Rori be attracted to Zach so quickly.  It seemed almost a case of the pot calling the kettle somewhat black. 

Rori jumps headfirst into a relationship with Zach, a decision Zach eagerly agrees to.  Jude is then delegated to the background, moping and complaining about how he loves Rori, but she's with another man so he's lost his chance. 

I think I just wanted more from Rori, Zach and Jude.  More consideration for the other party, more sincere apologies when necessary, more true reactions when wronged or hurt.  Does that mean more drama?  I don't know.  There was just something missing, and my anticipation of learning their story lessened the more I read. 

I will admit that, given how Second Chances ended and the cover copy for Believe, the sequel of sorts, I am anxious to read Believe to revisit these characters.

(A very special thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Second Chances.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: One Wicked Sin by Nicola Cornick

Lottie Palliser was once the toast of the Ton but now is notorious for being divorced—and penniless. Shunned by society and disowned by her family, the destitute beauty is forced to become a courtesan in a Covent Garden bawdy house. Refusing to oblige her customers, Lottie is about to be turned out onto the streets when a dangerous rake saves her with a scandalous offer...
Ethan Ryder is the illegitimate son of an Irish Duke and a circus performer. He rose through the ranks as one of Napoleon's most dashing cavalry officers—until his capture landed him in England as prisoner of war. Now on parole, Ethan is planning his most audacious coup yet. But he needs to create a spectacular diversion. And having infamous Lottie as his mistress will lull everyone into thinking he's busily bedding her instead of plotting deadly treason. Both Lottie and Ethan believe that their cool heads and selfish hearts will give them the upper hand in their ruthlessly passionate union. Yet their unexpected bond will scandalize even them.
Beware of scandalous women...

Sequels typically don't measure up to the first book of a series.  That's my experience anyway; no matter how much I want to like them on their own, for their own measure and delight, it never happens.  That can be true of One Wicked Sin.

We met Lottie Palliser (nee Lottie Cummings) in Whisper of Scandal.  She was Joanna's vapid friend, who became Joanna's husband's lover for a short while.  She is bold, seemingly wanton, and perhaps without a code of common decency (she also throws herself at Joanna's new husband).  When we requaint ourselves with Lottie, she's in a house for courtesans, divorced by her husband for her affairs, so she offers herself in trade with the only skill she has: she's good on her back.

I knew this would be a 'hard sell' to sympathize with Lottie given her behavior in Whisper of Scandal.  The problem is that we don't see Lottie actually suffer for her sins, so to speak.  She's been a courtesan for several months, but the story picks up when Ethan arrives, looking to claim her as his mistress because of her scandalous reputation.  And, boy, does she ever live up to it.  

Along the way, as happens in romance novels, Ethan and Lottie fall in love.  I wasn't unhappy that she found love, just wanted to see her struggle a little bit for it.    

(A very special thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of One Wicked Sin.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: A Season of Seduction by Jennifer Haymore

Although the widowed Lady Rebecca has sworn off marriage, men are another matter. London's cold winter nights have her dreaming of warmer pursuits-like finding a lover to satisfy her hungry heart. Someone handsome, discreet, and most importantly as uninterested in marriage as she is. Someone like Jack Fulton.

A known adventurer and playboy, Jack seems like the perfect choice. There's just one problem: Jack isn't interested in an affair. He needs the beautiful, mysterious Lady Rebecca to be his wife. And he doesn't have much time to persuade her. A secret from Jack's past is about to surface, and by Christmas Day he'll be either married to Rebecca or dead.

Continuing with characters from A Hint of Wicked and A Touch of Scandal, Ms. Haymore presents Lady Rebecca Fisk to us for further inspection.  You see, Rebecca has spent four years "on the shelf" believing she's damaged goods because of her marriage to William Fisk and, damn it!, she's going to have an affair.   A glorious affair that will neither infest her body nor her heart.  That's what an affair is -- the joining of a man and a woman in undeniable passion.  The problem is...Becky has spent four years "on the shelf" believing she's damaged goods, so it's difficult for her to approach the concept of an affair as something frivilous or fun.  But Jack Fulton -- oh, Jack -- he's 100% the right man to have an affair with. 

What I loved about A Season of Seduction (besides Jack) is how similar Becky and Jack are.  Truly.  They are opposite sides of the same coin.  That Becky has money and Jack is a third son bears no consequence on their morals, for they have both done something in their respective pasts which they feel guilty for.  That Jack is currently being blackmailed for this bad thing, and that he wants to marry Becky because she can afford to pay the blackmailer, well, Ms. Haymore gives us a glimpse into Jack's psyche as the novel progresses.  Jack Fulton isn't the most tortured hero I've ever read, but he's certainly a doozy. 

I wasn't happy with the ending for the simple fact it meant the book was over.  Lucky for me, Ms. Haymore's next series (previewed at the end of A Season of Seduction) looks to be amazing. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Just One Taste Winner!

Congratulations, jeannenewalker!  Thanks to, you've won an autographed copy of JUST ONE TASTE.  I hope you enjoy it!!

And thanks again to Ms. Louisa Edwards!! 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tell Me a Story...

Today, I'm joined by the articulate and awesome Louisa Edwards.  Ms. Edwards first came to my attention with Can't Stand the Heat, and I've been eagerly inhaling reading her contemporary romances ever since. 

What compelled you to write foodie romances? Was it as simple as “writing what you know” or did you stop and wonder why the heck there weren’t more contemporary romances set in the kitchen (things are bound to get hot, you know)?

LOUISA: Both of those reasons played into it, definitely—I’d been reading every chef memoir and kitchen nonfiction title that I could get my hands on, playing around in the kitchen and cooking my way through Julia Child. So when my agent advised me to set aside the paranormal I’d been working on and write something that I felt truly connected to and passionate about, I realized I’d done all the research I needed to write a culinary romance.

And even though I worried it would never sell because there tend to be certain professions we like our heroes to have, and a chef is not a cop, an FBI agent, or a tycoon—still, I thought I couldn’t be the only girl out there swooning over Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, Tyler Florence, Jamie Oliver, Curtis Stone. . . and it turns out, I was right!

I loved Rosemary from Just One Taste. Her stream-of-consciousness conversations and pop culture references made her so relatable, despite the fact that she’d never properly socialized before. How much research did you conduct for her various scientific hypotheses? They sound absolutely perfect coming from her mouth.

LOUISA: Thank you so much! I had a great time with Rosemary, at least in part because I felt very much like a nerd, growing up. I think she’s relatable because we’ve all had those times in our lives when we feel out of step with what the crowd is doing, as if everyone else in the world is happily doing the Macarena while we fumble along, flailing and looking ridiculous.

All of Rosemary’s hypotheses are either random bits of trivia I’ve accumulated over the years, specific information I looked up (I really should’ve thanked Wikipedia in the acknowledgments!) and completely fabricated, totally made up lies. For instance, in case my other disclaimers aren’t clear—there’s no scientific real life evidence of an aphrodisiac connection between chocolate and strawberries. Unless you count the mood they put you in . . .

One of the things I've enjoyed about your series is the reemergence of secondary characters, particularly Frankie and Jess. I’m sure you’re asked about them often, but any chance they’ll pop up again in future books or in their own novella/free read, a la Violet, the pastry chef?

LOUISA: I’m so glad you enjoyed them. Frankie and Jess are some of my favorite characters I’ve ever written, and now that I’ve moved on to writing the Hot trilogy (Too Hot to Touch, Some Like it Hot, and Hot Under Pressure) I have to say, I’m missing them quite a bit! The Hot trilogy takes place in the same world, so familiar faces will be popping up. But as for Frankie and Jess in particular, I’m hoping to have time to write a short free read for their many fans as a holiday gift. Other than that . . . write to my publisher! If enough people want them to have their own book, maybe they’ll let me write it. Goodness knows, I’d love to have the chance.

Can you dish on your upcoming trilogy? Things still coming together in the mix, so to speak?

LOUISA: It’s definitely a work in progress, but the Hot trilogy, which will be released very close together in late summer 2011, consumes my whole imagination right now. The cast of characters has been such a joy to discover and play with—a whole new group of talented young chefs (more women chefs, this time!) are gathering to throw their knives in the ring of a high-stakes culinary competition. Things are getting hot already . . .

Look for an excerpt of the first book in the Hot trilogy, Too Hot to Touch, sometime in the next couple of months! And if that’s too long to wait, I’ll be posting a new installment in the Violet-the-pastry-chef and Jonathan-the-hot-farmer free read series in the next few weeks. Sign up for my newsletter or “Like” my official fan page on Facebook to stay up to date on all the new, fun stuff posted at my website!

And, remember, I have one autographed copy of my new book for one of you today!

Thank you, Ms. Edwards!  I've got your Hot trilogy on my TBR calendar already -- can't wait!

To be entered to win an autographed copy of Just One Taste, please leave a comment with your name and e-mail address.  Contest is open until 2:00 p.m. EST, Friday, October 15, 2010.   

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: Just One Taste by Louisa Edwards


Bad-boy chef Wes Murphy is dreading his final-semester cooking class—Food Chemistry 101—until he meets the new substitute teacher. Dr. Rosemary Wilkins is a feast for the eyes, though her approach to food is strictly academic. So Wes decides to rattle her Bunsen burner by asking for her hands-on advice—on aphrodisiacs…


Rosemary is a little wary about working with Wes, whose casual flirtations make her hot under the collar. But once they begin testing the love-enhancing power of chocolate, oysters, and strawberries, it becomes scientifically evident that the brainy science nerd and the boyish chef have some major chemistry together—and it’s delicious…

I'll admit, I was skeptical.  I fangirly squealed Can't Stand the Heat, then felt lukewarm toward Too Hot to Handle.  How would I receive Wes, a "new" character at Market and Rosemary, a scientist not even in the restaurant business, the main characters of Just One Taste

Wes...I'll come back to him.  I may have a little girl-crush on Rosemary. How could one not, with little moments like these:

Pulling that sweater over her head and feeling the static electricity lift every stray hair until she must look like Drew Barrymore on the Firestarter posters--it was like girding her loins for battle.

Well.  Not technically.  That would be more like putting on her underwear, since the term "girding one's loins" came from the Roman era, when soldiers would pull up and secure their lower garments in order to increase maneuverability during the heat of battle.

"And now I'm babbling nerviously inside my own head," she said to Lucille, who cocked her ears curiously from her position ensconced like a queen between the pillows mounded on the hotel bed. 

Rosemary took another sip, then another, and another, while she tried to think of something to say.  "Is this small talk?  Are we doing small talk?  Because I don't excel at that."

The corners of Wes's mouth twitched.  Amusement, Rosemary thought.  Which was an improvement on the tense pitch he'd sported there ever since she came in. 

I really wanted to like Wes a little more and wish I could have, if only because I loved Rosemary so much and thought she deserved a worthy hero. 

It's like when a girlfriend has a new boyfriend she's crazy about and you want to like him too, but you don't, despite the fact that, as outward appearances go, he's a very, very nice guy and seems to adore your friend.  Then, he does something so stupid and/or irritating and/or immature, which causes your friend pain, and you swear the next time you see him, you'll kick him in the junk.  Yet, somehow your girlfriend forgives him and takes him back.  So, you know, it's awkward between you and he now, regardless of the fact that he's confessed his wrongs and made amends. 

That's how life currently stands between Wes and I. 

Regardless, I love Ms. Edwards' voice, as well as her lyrical prose -- she has such a way with the English language.  My fingers, legs, and toes are also crossed Frankie and Jess will make an appearance in a future book, so I'm sticking with her romances for the foreseeable future.

(At least until I have the urge to kick another one of her heroes in the junk.) 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cover Love

For him, life is all music and no play... When Brian Sinclair, lead songwriter and guitarist of the hottest metal band on he scene, loses his creative spark, it will take nights of downright sinful passion to release his pent-up genius...

She's the one to call the tune... When sexy psychologist Myrna Evans goes on tour with the Sinners, every boy in the band tries to seduce her. But Brian is the only one she wants to get her hands on...

Then the two lovers' wildly shocking behavior sparks the whole band to new heights of glory...and sin...

Aboard her privateering ship Seaflower, Captain Imena Leung is the law. Ashore she answers only to her employer, Duke Maxime. They are a powerful couple, with an intense attraction neither can disguise or deny. As a nobleman, Maxime is destined to wed strategically, so his seductive advances must be purely for pleasure. And what self-respecting pirate denies herself any pleasure?

Their delicious dalliance is prolonged when Imena is forced to abduct Maxime to foil a political plot against him. At sea, with a stunningly virile man bound in her private quarters, Imena can imagine--and enact--any number of intoxicating scenarios.

The heat between captain and captive is matched only by the perils that beset Seaflower and her crew. Violent storms, marauding corsairs and life-or-death sex games on a desert island--how fortunate for the seemingly insatiable lovers that danger and desire go hand-in-hand.
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