Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: Trouble at the Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke

What happens when a woman is determined to marry the wrong man? When she just won’t listen to reason and rushes forward with wedding plans? When she just doesn’t care that she’s marrying a fortune hunting scoundrel who doesn’t love her? What’s her exasperated family supposed to do about it? Hire a different scoundrel to talk her out of it, of course.

American heiress Annabel Wheaton knows what she wants and love isn’t it. Born in a Mississippi backwater, with a twang as wide as the Delta, she wants respect to go with the millions her daddy found in a Klondike gold mine. But respect isn’t easy to come by in the closed Knickerbocker society of New York, and when the fortune-hunting Earl of Rumsford shows up, it seems like he’s just the ticket to make all Annabel’s dreams come true. When he proposes marriage, she happily agrees. That’s when the trouble starts.

Christian Du Quesne has always been trouble—a rake, a gambler, and when he was younger, a fortune hunter. He married once for the sake of the decaying family coffers, but he won’t do it again. When his older brother, the Duke of Scarborough, dies without issue, Christian become the duke and inherits a whole new pile of family debt with no way to pay it. When Annabel’s family hires him to show Annabel just what she’d be getting by marrying into Britain’s aristocratic class, he knows he’s the perfect person to talk her out of matrimony. Problem is, he only has four days to do it. Can he cause enough trouble in those four days to get her to call off the wedding?

I was surprised by the opening of the story (and then that the first few chapters are flashbacks).  There is a tension between Annabel and Christian, though I'd assumed Annabel wanted to keep her mind off him for another reason -- that he wouldn't commit to marrying her, so she moved on.   As we see more of Christian and Annabel's time during the crossing to England, their true personalities take hold, and Christian is surprised to find himself falling for yet another American heiress.  Annabel, for all her feelings toward Christian, is willing to go forward with her marriage to a man she does not and one whom she assumes she will not love. 

But all these little surprises add up to a very quick, satisfying read, just like the two previous books of this series, and I'm glad to have taken the chance on the unconventional heroines introduced in all three books.      

(A very special thank you to Avon, Harper Collins and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Trouble at the Wedding.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's The Holiday Season

Happy Holidays, one and all!!!  


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: Small Town Christmas by Jill Shalvis / Hope Ramsey / Katie Lane

Three heartwarming holiday stories to prove that love is the greatest gift of all

Kissing Santa Claus
NASCAR driver Logan Perrish returns to Lucky Harbor, Washington, with love in his heart and a ring in his pocket. But can Sandy Jansen forget the past and give him a second chance? Or will Logan be spending another Christmas alone?

I'll Be Home for Christmas
After ignoring the advice of Miz Miriam Randall, local matchmaker, Annie Roberts expects another hum drum holiday in Last Chance, South Carolina. But when a stray cat arrives in the arms of Army sergeant Matt Jasper, a calico named Holly just may be the best matchmaker of all.

O Little Town of Bramble
All Ethan Miller wants for Christmas is to celebrate in Bramble, Texas, with family and friends. But when his childhood neighbor, Samantha Henderson, comes home for the holiday, Ethan realizes that the girl-next-door could be the girl of his dreams.

I have read two of the series featured in this anthology (Lucky Harbor for Ms. Shalvis and Deep in the Heart of Texas for Ms. Lane), but I found I enjoyed Ms. Ramsay's novella all the same despite owning but not yet reading her series.  While this anthology can be enjoyed without having read the respective authors' novels, I believe maximum enjoyment can be found if all related books are read.  

These novellas are sweet and tender, focusing on various holiday themes to push the heroes and heroines together.  It's worth the effort, though, as each novella is a very good illustration of what makes these authors -- and their characters -- so charming and loveable.   A perfect holiday anthology!
(A very special thank you to Forever Romance, Hachette Book Group and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Small Town Christmas.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: All the Pleasures of the Season by Lecia Cornwall

On the first day of Christmas:

Lady Miranda Archer accepts a marriage proposal.

On the first day of Christmas, fifteen minutes later:

Miranda realizes she’s made a huge mistake.

For the next twelve days:

Miranda must find a way out of her engagement—which is harder than it looks, especially since her fiance is pompous, mean, and desperate for her family’s jewels—and convince her true love that all she wants for Christmas is him.

Miranda Archer has made a grave mistake; that much is clear.   The man to whom she's engaged, the Earl of Kelton, is on the outside the picture of perfection for a member of the ton.  But he does not stir Miranda's heart.  She's making a good match, though, and Miranda is willing to sacrifice for the hope of a good marriage.

Her brother, Phineas, has other plans.  He convinces the man Miranda loves and who loves her in return, Gilbert Fielding, to simply dance with Miranda at the upcoming ball.  Both young persons will realize the depths of their feelings and badda bing badda boom, Miranda's engagement will be called off.

However, Phineas' plan is not so easy as that.

The Earl of Kelton is determined to have the Archer wealth; Miranda's sister, Marianne, believes Kelton is absolutely 100% right for Miranda; and Miranda's own sense of honor and commitment is in jeopardy.  When Kelton begins to show his true colors, Miranda is able to better see what she must do to find happiness.

All the Pleasures of the Season is a wonderfully sweet romance with a pleasant reminder that following one's heart may almost always be best.   

(A special thank you to Avon,  HarperCollins and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of All the Pleasures of the Season.)

Review: Once Upon a Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare

Some wallflowers bloom at night...

Violet Winterbottom is a quiet girl. She speaks six languages, but seldom raises her voice. She endured bitter heartbreak in perfect silence. The gentlemen aren't beating down her door.

Until the night of the Spindle Cove Christmas ball, when a mysterious stranger crashes into the ballroom and collapses at Violet's feet. His coarse attire and near-criminal good looks would put any sensible young lady on her guard. He's wet, chilled, bleeding, and speaking in an unfamiliar tongue.

Only Violet understands him. And she knows he's not what he seems.

She has one night to draw forth the secrets of this dangerously handsome rogue. Is he a smuggler? A fugitive? An enemy spy? She needs answers by sunrise, but her captive would rather seduce than confess. To learn his secrets, Violet must reveal hers—and open herself to adventure, passion, and the unthinkable... Love.

Were Spindle Cove not in the past nor a fictional town, I would 100% want to live there. Not only is there action and intrigue, what with cannons exploding and mysterious men washing ashore, but I could have a lesson each day while airing my constitution, as it were.  The wonderful thing about this series is that, in the hands of Ms. Dare, I don't have to time travel or wear a corset because when I read, I'm instantly in Spindle Cove, watching various bumbling adventures take place and love matches happen the moment I turn to page one. 

This novella was absolutely perfect in every way.  It's an excellent addition to the series and a great way to endure the months from one Spindle Cove novel to another.  Buy it, read it, then read it again.  I know I am!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

Maddie Moore's whole life needs a makeover.

In one fell swoop, Maddie loses her boyfriend (her decision) and her job (so not her decision). But rather than drowning her sorrows in bags of potato chips, Maddie leaves L.A. to claim the inheritance left by her free-spirited mother-a ramshackle inn nestled in the little coastal town of Lucky Harbor, Washington.

Starting over won't be easy. Yet Maddie sees the potential for a new home and a new career-if only she can convince her two half-sisters to join her in the adventure. But convincing Tara and Chloe will be difficult because the inn needs a big makeover too.

The contractor Maddie hires is a tall, dark-haired hottie whose eyes-and mouth-are making it hard for her to remember that she's sworn off men. Even harder will be Maddie's struggles to overcome the past, though she's about to discover that there's no better place to call home than Lucky Harbor.

I've had this book on my shelf for a few months, maybe almost a year.  You see, I like to hoard books, especially books in a series until I have at least 2 back-to-back books of the series to read.  So as Thanksgiving rolled around this year and the third of the series, Head Over Heels, was set to make its December debut, I figured I'd better get to reading -- and I could kick myself for waiting so long!

Maddie Moore is called the Mouse by her mother (and ultimately her sisters) for good reason.  She's quiet, unassuming, yet nervous and fidgity.  And when she arrives in Lucky Harbor, her life has taken a turn she never imagined.  She becomes reaquainted with her sisters and sets about reshaping her life by managing the inn left to them by their mother, thereby giving her a purpose and a goal to strive for and one very within her reach -- happiness.

Simply Irresistible is a great series debut, and if you enjoy contemporary romance, you simply cannot go wrong with Jill Shalvis.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: The Sinner by Margaret Mallory

Four fearless warriors return to the Highlands to claim their lands and legacies. But all their trials on the battlefield can't prepare them for their greatest challenge yet: winning the hearts of four willful Scottish beauties.


Alex MacDonald is known for his skill as a warrior, his prowess with women, and his vow to never take a wife. But now his chieftain has asked him to make the ultimate sacrifice: wed Glynis MacNeil, a lass famed throughout the Highlands for her exquisite beauty-and defiant ways.

Familiar with heartbreak, Glynis refuses to fall for another handsome scoundrel. Yet when Alex's past sins force an unlikely union, Glynis gives in to temptation and becomes his wife. Will their newfound passion be strong enough to fight the enemy that threatens their home, their clan, and their very lives?

Both Alex and Glynis are influenced in their respective decisions to never marry by past marriages they've seen.  For Alex's, it's his parents' marriage, and for Glynis, her disastrous first marriage where she stabbed her husband, then returned to her father's house. The problem for Glynis is that her father wishes to marry her off once again.  She is able to persuade Alex to take her to Edinburgh in the hopes her mother's family will take her in.  

Their journey is packed with adventure, be it Alex's newly discovered daughter or the pirates threatening towns along the coast.  A Big Misunderstanding then appears on the horizon, which lowered my immense like of Glynis and her gumption.  It took me out of their romance and overshadowed what could have been a joyous reunion between them.   

The Sinner, however, is still a very good book, and I would recommend Ms. Mallory to any historical romance fan.   

(A very special thank you to Forever, Hachette Book Group and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of The Sinner.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: Too Hot to Touch by Louisa Edwards

When it comes to competitive cooking, Max Lunden is no stranger to winning…though he’s never been great at working with a team. A master chef—and major hunk—he’s traveled the world, picking up new cooking techniques as well as beautiful women. But when the prodigal chef returns home to his family’s Greenwich Village restaurant, he discovers one too many cooks in the kitchen—and she’s every bit as passionate as he is…

Juliet Cavanaugh used to have a crush on Max when she was just a teenager, hanging out at Lunden & Sons Tavern, hoping to catch a glimpse of the owner’s oldest, and hottest, son. Now a chef herself—competing in the biggest culinary contest in the country—Juliet will be cooking side by side with the one man she’s always admired…and desired. But despite their simmering attraction, Juliet is determined to keep her cool—no matter how hot it gets…

I loved Can't Stand the Heat, Ms. Edwards' debut novel, but felt lukewarm about the next two books.  I'd hoped the spin-off series would bring me firmly back to love, and I wasn't disappointed in the least.  
Juliet "Jules" Cavanaugh owes everything to the Lundens, so it's no surprised that she can be counted on to help with the preparation for the Rising Star Chef competition.  She knows what's at stake for the Lundens and will do anything possible to further their chances, even ignoring the first-rate lust she feels for prodigal son and her childhood crush, Max Lunden, who has returned home to help his family get into the competition.  

Jules does everything in her power to avoid Max or certainly tamp down the attraction she feels for him, but Max just keeps coming after her.  And boy, do they sizzle.   

Too Hot to Touch opens the door to future books in the Rising Star Chef trilogy, and I'm equally excited to read those as well. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Desired by Nicola Cornick

Her wicked ways were the talk of the ton
Teresa, Dowager Marchioness of Darent, is rumored to have exhausted her four deceased husbands with her insatiable needs. So it's no surprise that every rake in the ton wants to bed her. If they only knew…through clever marriages to men who would ask nothing of her physical self, Tessa has remained rather innocent in the ways of the bedroom. But now she's on the verge of losing everything and wants to take care of the stepson she's grown to adore.

Enter Captain Owen Purchase. The handsome American adventurer has come into the title of Viscount Rothbury. And the rumors surrounding his injuries at sea suggest that he could fit Tessa's requirements. But little does Tessa realize that the gossipmongers are wrong. She just might lose her heart, and her desires, to the most unlikely of men….

Tessa Darent didn't want another husband; she'd buried three, who weren't much use to her other than the state of her financial affairs, so why would she need another? Owen Purchase, however, is too damn smart for his own good.  When he stumbles upon her shimmying out of a window of a brothel, he steps in to "rescue" her.  He's able to put two-and-two together (almost) and discover Tessa's true passion as a political satire cartoonist.  When Tessa's step-daughter's future is threatened by a smarmy man reminiscent of dead husband #2, Tessa turns to Owen with a proposal of marriage in name only, but Owen cannot abide by such a thing.  

Tessa's seemingly charmed life is actually a great disguise for the hurt she's suffered through the course of her marriages.  It was dead husband #2 who actually hurt her the most -- both physically and by creating the scandalous reputation she's known for.  Owen is able to break through the walls she puts up and shows her she is worthy of the love and pleasure he surprisingly wants to give.  

Desired is the fifth book in the Scandalous Women of the Ton series and while it can be read alone, some of the minor threads -- Owen's attraction to Tessa's sister Joanna and the problem of Tom Bradshaw -- were introduced in previous books.  All in all, a very good historical romance series. 

(A very special thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley who provided me with an ARC of Desired.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: Mistress by Marriage by Maggie Robinson

Too late for cold feet

Baron Edward Christie prided himself on his reputation for even temperament and reserve. That was before he met Caroline Parker. Wedding a scandalous beauty by special license days after they met did not inspire respect for his sangfroid. Moving her to a notorious lovebirds' nest as punishment for her flighty nature was perhaps also a blow. And of course talk has gotten out of his irresistible clandestine visits. Christie must put his wife aside—if only he can get her out of his blood first.

Too hot to refuse. . .

Caroline Parker was prepared to hear the worst: that her husband had determined to divorce her, spare them both the torture of passion they can neither tame nor escape. But his plan is wickeder than any she's ever heard. Life as his wife is suffocating. But she cannot resist becoming her own husband's mistress. . .

Caroline Parker is a fiery, outspoken redhead, the exact opposite of Edward Christie's first wife, Alice, who is now deceased.  In a way, that's why Edward married Caroline only days after meeting her, but that's also the reason they cannot live together.  Things would be much simpler if they divorced, though neither can get the other out of their respective minds (and hearts).  So when their yearly visit arrives, Caroline is prepared for Edward to announce he's going to finally divorce her.  Imagine her surprise when what he proposes is so much more scandalous. 

Mistress by Marriage is more in line with the first book of this series, Mistress by Mistake, though all of the heroines within the series live on the fictional Jane Street.  It's about a couple who love one another and are faithful, no matter what outward appearances say.  They are clearly miserable alone, though their misery leads to some much-needed humor -- particularly Caroline, who is a romance novelist and bases her villains on her husband, having the most fun plotting his death in each book --  and both are completely stubborn.  Theirs was a journey covering the entire emotional spectrum, and I was so glad to have been a part of it. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Review: Baby, Don't Go by Stephanie Bond

The hardheaded Armstrong brothers are determined to rebuild their tornado-ravaged hometown in the Georgia mountains. They've got the means, they've got the manpower…what they need are women! So they place an ad in a Northern newspaper and wait for the ladies to arrive.…

Eldest brother Marcus Armstrong considers the estrogen-influx an irritating distraction. He's running a town, not a dating service!

Reporter Alicia Randall thinks the Armstrong brothers are running a scam and she intends to prove it—even if it means seducing oh-so-sexy Marcus in the process. Sizzling sex and a hot story? Win-win!

At least it is, until she falls for the guy. Will love trump betrayal when the truth comes out?

Given Marcus's perpetual grumpiness in the two previous books of this series, I knew it would take a special kind of woman to chip away at his heart.  He's been so completely focused on his hometown of Sweetness -- constructing and repopulating it, making it green, managing everything -- that he rolls his eyes at his brothers' respective love lives.  What I wasn't prepared for was Alicia's deceit in order to gain an "in" with the townsfolk.

Oh, there's comic relief thanks to Alicia's propensity to set things on fire (Marcus hires her as the diner's cook), and Marcus having witnessed Alicia in a private moment by the creek cannot stop picturing what she looks like underneath her clothes, which only makes him more frustrated that he is unable to focus on his responsibilities within the town for wanting her.   

But when an unexpected natural disaster strikes the town, Marcus and Amy are able to put aside their own issues and confess their love to each other.  Baby, Don't Go was a great way to end this trilogy, though I do hope we are able to see more of some minor characters, such as Rachel, in the future.
(A very special thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley who provided me with an ARC of Baby, Don't Go.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Eagerly Anticipating


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Serpent's Kiss by Thea Harrison

In order to save his friend's life, Wyr sentinel Rune Ainissesthai made a bargain with Vampyre Queen Carling—without knowing what she would ask from him in return. But when Rune attempts to make good on his debt, he finds a woman on the edge.

Recently, Carling's Power has become erratic, forcing her followers to flee in fear. Despite the danger, Rune is drawn to the ailing Queen and decides to help her find a cure for the serpent's kiss—the vampyric disease that's killing her.

With their desire for each other escalating just as quickly as Carling's instability spirals out of control, the sentinel and the Queen will have to rely on each other if they have any hope of surviving the serpent's kiss…

The slow build almost took my attention span away from this book.  I had high hopes for Rune and Carling's paring, given the effect Carling has on Rune in Storm's Heart, but once I'd reached the end, I didn't feel as fulfilled as I'd hoped. 

Rune has promised a service to Carling.  They strike a bargain in Storm's Heart, though Rune is not sure what exactly Carling wants him to do for her.  He knows what he'd like to do.  Carling is a vampyre who has come to accept her time is soon ending.  She's brought Rune to San Francisco, yet she's not exactly sure why.  With Rune's presence, however, she feels something she hasn't felt in a long time: the will to live. 

Given the explosive sexual tension between the leads of the previous books, I expected Rune and Carling to be off the charts.  Their passion felt a little ho-hum.  There were also some plot threads left hanging which I assume will be revisited in future books, so the sense of finite closure for this book wasn't present.  That being said, I cannot wait for Oracle's Moon (March 2012), and I'm interested to keep up with the characters we've been introduced to thus far. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt

Can a pirate learn that the only true treasure lies in a woman's heart?

Widowed Silence Hollingbrook is impoverished, lovely, and kind—and nine months ago she made a horrible mistake. She went to a river pirate for help in saving her husband and in the process made a bargain that cost her her marriage. That night wounded her so terribly that she hides in the foundling home she helps run with her brother. Except now that same river pirate is back...and he's asking for her help.

"Charming" Mickey O'Connor is the most ruthless river pirate in London. Devastatingly handsome and fearsomely intelligent, he clawed his way up through London's criminal underworld. Mickey has no use for tender emotions like compassion and love, and he sees people as pawns to be manipulated. And yet he's never been able to forget the naive captain's wife who came to him for help and spent one memorable night in his bed...talking. 

When his bastard baby girl was dumped in his lap—her mother having died—Mickey couldn't resist the Machiavellian urge to leave the baby on Silence's doorstep. The baby would be hidden from his enemies and he'd also bind Silence to him by her love for his daughter. 

I have been waiting, waiting, waiting for this book since Silence completed her walk of shame in Notorious Pleasures, Book 2 of the Maiden Lane series.  I knew there was more to Charming Mickey that what's presented at first glance, so I was doubly excited to learn more of the heart of gold he keeps under lock and key and that this book was completely worth the wait.

In response to threats from the Vicar of Whitechapel a/k/a Charlie O'Grady, Mickey brings Mary Darling to his palace in order to keep her safe.  Silence believes the child would be safe with her and her brother Winter at the Home where Mary has lived her entire life.  Mickey won't hear of it.  Silence can tend to Mary -- that is why he put Mary into her care, after all -- but Silence and Mary must stay at his home.  Mickey believes that with Silence in close proximity he'll be able to control her and ultimately get her out of his head.  

He is 100% wrong. 

If anything, their everyday interactions strengthen the siren's pull Mickey feels for Silence, and she is able to see a new side to the river pirate who scandalized her and her now-deceased husband.  Theirs is a love affair simply brewing under the surface.  When it boils over, sakes alive, it's scalding.  

Start with Wicked Intentions and read the Maiden Lane series in its entirety.  This is Ms. Hoyt's best work yet, and I don't expect to be disappointed come July and Winter Makepeace's book, Thief of Shadows.     

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Bad Boys Do by Victoria Dahl

Olivia Bishop is no fun. That’s what her ex-husband said. That’s what her smart bob and glasses imply. And with her trademark determination, Olivia sets out to remake her life. She’s going to spend time with her girlfriends and not throw it all away for some man. But when an outing with her book club leads her to a brewery taproom, the dark-haired beauty realizes that trouble – in the form of sexy Jamie Donovan – may be too tempting to avoid. 

Jamie Donovan doesn’t mean to be bad. Sure, the wild streak in his wicked green eyes has lured the ladies before. But it’s time to grow up. He’s even ready for a serious romance. But how can that be when Olivia, the only right woman he has ever met, already has him pegged as wrong.

We pick up with the second of the Donovan Brewery series which features Jamie Donovan, kilt wearing bartender and well-known flirt.  He and his older brother, Eric, were way too over-protective of their younger sister, Tessa, in Good Girls Don't, so I really enjoyed getting to see the three Donovans from another point of view.  And, man, do they still have some issues with one another!  

Eric and Jamie were constantly at each other's throats.  Jamie wants to add to the brewery's atmosphere; Eric sees it not as a step up or good for business but as an act of all-out war.  Tessa plays both sides, as she did in the previous book.  What bothered me most is that this is a family who communicates via shouts and slamming doors.  There's no clear moment to listen and process, even when one of them apologizes.  I liked seeing and getting to know Jamie through his own eyes rather than what Tessa or Eric thinks.  

Olivia and Jamie have some very nice moments of sexual tension.  He helped her realize (or remember) fun, and she kept him grounded in his desire to better the brewery.  Is it enough to base a long-term relationship on?  That's the kicker -- I just don't know.  I  think they are a very cute couple and balance each other well.  There just wasn't enough emotional oomph between them for me to sigh happily and believe they'll be together forever.  

(A very special thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley who provided me with an ARC of Bad Boys Do.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: The Goblin King by Shona Husk


A man was cursed to the Shadowlands, his heart replaced with a cold lump of gold.  In legends, he became known as The Goblin King.

For a favored few he will grant a wish.  Yet, desperately clinging to his waning human soul, his one own desire remains unfulfilled: a willing queen. 

But who would consent to move from the modern-day world into the realm of nightmares?  No matter how intoxicating his touch, no matter how deep his valor, loving him is dangerous.  And the one woman who might dare to try could also destroy forever his chance at a happily ever after.  

Except for the movie Labyrinth and mentions of goblins in Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series, the goblin world is one overlooked in paranormal romance.  So the use of an underused species -- as the hero of a romance -- really intrigued me. 

There were multiple layers woven throughout The Goblin King, and the emotional impact of the narrative as a whole made for a very good story.  The concept of doing what one knows is right also lends more of a fairytale vibe to the underlying romance.  What I disliked was Eliza's fiance almost becoming a caricature of an evil villain.  His insistence that Eliza belonged with him and he would do whatever he could to keep the lifestyle to which he'd become accustomed was a bit over the top.  I almost hoped he'd become the new goblin king, though he wouldn't have maintained his humanity as long as Roan had. 

Overall, I thought The Goblin King was just what I needed to step away from the typical paranormal romance and take a chance on a lesser known paranormal species. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: Slow Ride by Erin McCarthy

As a tribute to her late journalist father, Tuesday Jones is planning a career benefit, auctioning off racing memorabilia and meet-and-greets with drivers.

Ex-racing star Diesel Lange has had his own brush with death, and is determined not to waste another minute of his life- especially when he meets Tuesday. He wants nothing more than to shift their romance into high gear, but he knows she's still grieving. Can Diesel do the one thing he could never do on the track and take it slow?

Spoilers below.  This is my least favorite Fast Track book. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Eagerly Anticipating


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: The Bad Always Die Twice by Cheryl Crane

In the first of a wildly entertaining mystery series set amid the bright lights, big egos, and Botoxed brows of Hollywood, Cheryl Crane—daughter of legendary movie star Lana Turner—introduces a smart, hilarious, and utterly loveable heroine in realtor-turned-amateur sleuth, Nikki Harper.

For Nikki Harper, realtor to the stars and daughter of 1950s screen goddess Victoria Bordeaux, Hollywood is home. A completely dysfunctional home populated by a cast of crazies, true, but home nonetheless. While Nikki's no stranger to scandal, she's shocked to receive a hysterical phone call from her business partner, Jessica Martin, saying that TV has-been Rex March has been found dead in Jessica's bed.

More shocking than Rex's death is the fact that, as far as anyone knew, Rex was already dead. Six months ago, the star of the seventies sitcom Shipwrecked Vacation was supposedly killed when his plane crashed in the Mojave Desert. Nikki and Jessica recently sold his mansion on behalf of his widow, Edith. It's obvious to Nikki that Jessica is being framed, but by whom? And why? And how on earth can Rex be dead a second time?

In search of answers, Nikki turns to the one person she can always count on. From her pink boudoir in her Beverly Hills mansion, the ever-glamorous Victoria suggests Nikki focus her sleuthing on Rex's not-so-grieving widow. And there's a veritable casting couch full of other candidates, including Edith's boy-toy lover, Rex's scheming lawyer (like there's any other kind), and the diner waitress with whom Rex was having one of his numerous affairs. But with the killer readying for a repeat performance, Nikki will have to act fast—before her own screen fades to black. . .

As a person formerly addicted to Hollywood gossip blogs, I really liked the nudge-nudge-wink-wink effect of The Bad Always Die Twice.  The scene was set; the players were all in place; the posh addresses referenced therein.  Once the narrative began, I was surprised by how much I wanted Nikki to find the real murderer.  Add in her mother, Victoria Bordeaux, a name and face whom everyone in Hollywood knows, and Nikki is able to use her minor celebrity status to play amateur sleuth.  The twists and turns lead to more uncertainity about who had actually killed Rex March, and once the murderer was revealed, I was surprised I hadn't guessed it. 

The Bad Always Die Twice was a great mystery featuring a charmingly fun novice gumshoe in Nikki Harper.  I can only hope the subsequent books in this series are as good as this one. 

(A very special thank you to Kensington Books who provided me with an ARC of The Bad Always Die Twice.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell

Take a dashing hero with a heart of gold and a mullet of awesome. Add a heroine with a bustle and the will to kick major butt. Then include enough contrivances to keep them fighting while getting them alone and possibly without key pieces of clothing, and what do you have? A romance novel. What else? Enough lessons about life, love, and everything in between to help you with your own happily-ever-after.
Lessons like:
Romance means believing you are worthy of a happy ending
Learning to tell the prince from the frog
Real-life romance is still alive and kicking
No matter how bad it is, at least you haven't been kidnapped by a Scottish duke (probably)

Straight from the heart of influential romance blogger Sarah Wendell, this inventive gift book provides the best wisdom about love that the romance genre has to offer. Laced with signature witty commentary and peppered with thoughts from bestselling romance authors (Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, Debbie Macomber, Eloisa James, Robyn Carr, and lots more) and avid readers, these pages will reveal what every romance reader already knows: while romances are certainly steamy, they have more to offer than just a sexy hero. In fact, they might have more to say about love than we give them credit for. Sarah Wendell is cofounder of one of the top romance blogs,

This book is about celebrating romance novels for every important thing they teach us about ourselves, the people we love, and the relationships we value--and the sex we have.  

Amen!  And I loved every minute of it. 

I'm not a regular Smart Bitches reader, but when I do go for a visit, I'm always glad I did.  Everything I Know About Love... is exactly like that -- I'm glad I read it, and feel a little happier for it.  A book about promoting the positives of romance and romance reading, Everything I Know About Love... is a humorous yet poignant guide to romance, both the highs and lows.  Ms. Wendell's thought-provoking romantic ideals mixed with reader and/or author opinions was a great way to spend an afternoon.  It's a whole lot of fun that ended way too quickly.   Can I get a sequel? (Hell, yeah!)  

(A very special thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca who provided me with an ARC of Everything I Know About Love...)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Eagerly Anticipating


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Midnight by Ellen Connor

Their desire destroys her defenses.
Their love gives him a reason to live.

Three years of wandering the post-apocalyptic wasteland has stripped Dr. Chris Welsh of humanity and hope. He’s a dangerous man now, full of dark energy and yen for violence. A harrowing loss drove him from his home, and he hasn’t stopped moving since. Grim and sardonic, he never found anything worth sticking around for–until now.

Rosa Cortez runs Valle de Bravo, a haven of civilization amid the chaos of the Change. Soldiers take their orders directly from her–the iron hand within a velvet glove. The last thing she needs is a feral loner upsetting the town’s tentative balance. However, for the good of her people, she lets the sexy doctor stay. He evokes a delicious new longing, but she won’t submit to any man.

Tension rises as bloodthirsty raiders strike again and again, bent on possessing Valle and its resources. Together Chris and Rosa battle hellhounds and dust pirates while also fighting desperate attraction. To save them, love must overcome the pain of the past–and build a future in this brutal Dark Age… 

Dang, Midnight is a great addition to this series. 

What I found so striking is the change in Chris from when we met him in Nightfall until now.  He's wandered for three years, alone perhaps by his own choosing but partially because he cannot escape the memory of Angela and her death.  When he arrives at Valle de Bravo, he's certainly not looking for anything further than helping his own survival.

Rosa Cortez is also running from memories, though she channels her past into a future as "la jefe" of Valle de Bravo.  She runs a well-oiled machine, training her bravos and seizing the O'Malley organization trucks which venture into her territory.  She's spent the last couple of years avoiding male companionship as she believes it will put her position in jeopardy.

This book has everything: action, adventure, romance, sex, violence, death, life, rebirth.  It's a mile-a minute journey with ultra-satisfying twists and turns.  I cannot wait to read Daybreak (December 2011).  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Unclaimed by Courtney Milan

Her only hope for survival...
Handsome, wealthy and respected, Sir Mark Turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London—and he's known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check...until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he's waited for all his life.

Is to ruin the man she loves…

But Jessica is a courtesan, not the genteel lady Sir Mark believes. Desperate to be free of a life she despises, she seizes her chance when Mark's enemies make her an offer she can't refuse: seduce Mark and tarnish his good name, and a princely sum will be hers. Yet as she comes to know the man she's sworn to destroy, Jessica will be forced to choose between the future she needs…and the love she knows is impossible. 

Unveiled, the first book featuring the Turner brothers, is on my Best of 2011 list, and I was prepared to love Unclaimed just as much.

Unclaimed in the story of Sir Mark Turner, a man who has written a book on male chastity, A Gentleman’s Practical Guide to Chasity.  Sir Mark is respected for his opinions on this subject, and the notoriety of such a best seller follows him everywhere.  A man from humble origins, his stock has gone up in the world considerably.  But Mark doesn't really want any of that.

Jessica Farleigh is a courtesan desperate to change her life.  She's disenchanted and wants to escape to the country where she can depend only on herself.  She accepts a wager from her former protector, George Weston, to seduce Sir Mark Turner.  Once she provides proof to Weston, she'll receive funds and be on her merry way.  So Jessica integrates herself into Mark's hometown, where she knows he's visiting.  The only problem with the seduction is that she flinches whenever Mark moves to touch her.

Mark and Jessica become friends, and Mark is successful in transforming the townsfolks' opinions and treatment of Jessica as a "fallen woman."  There is considerable sexual tension brewing between the two of them, which surprised Jessica because she had always believed Mark an innocent.  (He's chaste but not innocent.)

“I want. I lust. I desire.” He scrubbed his hand through sandy blond hair at that, shaking his head. “No. You’re right. You don’t deserve euphemisms. I want you. I lust after you. I desire you.

She might have been the only woman in the world, pinned by his gaze.

“But what I don’t do is act.”

Unclaimed was a good addition to this series, though I didn't fall in love with it like Unveiled, and I'm excited to see what Smite's book, Unraveled, will bring to this series. 

(A very special thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Unclaimed.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Elizabeth, the Enchantress by Lavinia Kent

Regency England just got real(ity)

Episode 4: How to Succeed in Marriage without Really Trying

Elizabeth, the Countess of Westhampton, has found her husband. Unfortunately, she would have preferred that he stayed lost!

How is she supposed to react when the man who married her, and then abandoned her without a wedding night, suddenly reappears? Obviously, she’ll have to plan her revenge very carefully…

A series of prints depicting Elizabeth and her longtime gone husband now recently returned husband, William, in opposing styles.  There is a print Elizabeth favors -- William on his knees before her, seeming to beg for her attention and/or forgiveness -- and a second print which purports her as the beggar.  We learn a little bit about what happened between Elizabeth and William and why he left London so quickly after their marriage. 

This reformation of the "bad girl" fell a little flat in my opinion.  Elizabeth wasn't a bad girl at all, simply misunderstood, which could have been cleared up through communication with her husband and her friends.  I'd expected a real event to explain her tension with Lynette throughout the course of the series.  Sometimes friends just don't get along, and sometimes the "drama" is manufactured (as is obvious by the "Real Housewives" reality shows on tv). 

Still, this was a fun world to escape into, and I hope to visit it again with Ms. Kent. 

(A very special thank you to Avon Impulse, HarperCollins and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Elizabeth, the Enchantress.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Never Enough by Lauren Dane

From the national bestselling author of Inside Out--a sizzling story of insatiable passion. 

Gillian Forrester spent her life running...until Miles came along. The moment she held her older sister's unwanted newborn, Gillian stopped running and began building a life for her adopted son. Now, thirteen years later, Gillian's sister reveals the father's identity on her deathbed-a revelation that shakes Gillian to her core.

Adrian Brown is the epitome of the successful rock star. It takes a lot to shock him-but the bombshell that he has a son rocks his world. And Adrian is even more surprised when the buttoned-up elegant woman who's raising him ignites his erotic and romantic attention-and engages his heart. 

For a woman with as many trust and privacy issues as Gillian has, she's not shy about her want of Adrian Brown.  I was a little surprised by that.  Typical of this series, we're propelled by Adrian's and Gillian's desire for one another.  Add the Browns' varying degrees of family on top of that, and you've got a pretty good way to spend a couple of days.  I still love the blended families here, though I do wonder if every new addition would be so welcomed in a real-life situation.    

The best part of this book, for me, hands down, was Brody Brown.  It's no secret Coming Undone, the book featuring Brody's romance with Elise, is my favorite of this series.   In Never Enough, Brody proved exactly why he was the best father Erin, Adrian, and his own two children can ever have.  He's the calm voice of reason -- yet sometimes not so calm, like when he pitches a glass of water into Adrian's face -- but his advice is always sound and well thought out. 

I was also disappointed that Never Enough just seemed to end.  I know we'll see Adrian and Gillian again in the spin-off series next year, but I wanted a little more closure here, or certainly a witty Gillian-ism before The End.   I would recommend reading this series from the beginning as I don't think any book completely stands alone, given the sheer number of characters and plot threads involved in each narrative. 
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