Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eagerly Anticipating


Monday, April 25, 2011

Review: Unveiled by Courtney Milan

He was her bitterest enemy….

Ash Turner has waited a lifetime to seek revenge on the man who ruined his family, and now the time for justice has arrived. At Parford Manor, he intends to take his place as the rightful heir to the dukedom, and settle an old score with the current duke once and for all. But when he arrives, he finds himself drawn to a tempting beauty who has the power to undo all his dreams of vengeance.…

And her dearest love

Lady Margaret knows she should despise the man who’s stolen her fortune and her father’s legacy—the man she’s been ordered to spy on in the guise of a nurse. Yet the more she learns about the new duke, the less she can resist his smoldering appeal. Soon Margaret and Ash find themselves torn between old loyalties—and the tantalizing promise of passion….

Ash Turner may be the most perfect historical romance hero.  He's driven, of course, but he's respectful and patient and very intriguing....  It's no wonder Lady Margaret cannot seem to keep her mind off him.

What's interesting about Ash is that he wants Margaret, plain and simple, at first glance, regardless of her station in life.  He sees her on the steps of Parford Manor, and he's immediately intrigued.  Because Ash is a go-get-it kind of man, well, he's going to "get" Margaret; rather -- and luckily for us readers -- he hopes Margaret will come to him, a backwards seduction of sorts. 

Also lucky for us, Margaret cannot seem to resist the man, despite knowing she should hate him for what he's doing to her family.  Honestly, who could deny a man who said things like this:

"Miss Lowell, you magnificent creature, I want you to paint your own canvas. I want you to unveil yourself."

It's a testament to Ms. Milan's writing style that Ash is an extremely sympathetic and relateable character when he could easily turn into a jerk.  Despite his motivation for revenge, however, Ash isn't hellbent upon it, given how he reacts to news during the legitimacy hearings and we discover just how far he's willing to go on Margaret's behalf.

This is the first book of Ms. Milan's I've read, but I can already admit I'm looking forward to more, especially Ash's brother, Mark, in Unclaimed (October 2011).

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Review: The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton

Football pro Mick Riley is an all-star, both on the field and in the bedroom.  But a sexy, determinedly single mom just might be the one to throw him off his game...

For years Mick has been taking full advantage of the life available to a pro athlete: fame, fortune, and a different girl in every city.  But when he meets and beds confident, beautiful event planner Tara Lincoln, he wants much more than the typical one-night stand.  Too bad Tara's not interested in getting to know football's most notorious playboy any better.

As the single mother of a teenage son, the last thing Tara needs in the jet-set lifestyle of Mick Riley, even though their steamy and passionate one-night stand was unforgettable.  Her life is complicated enough without being thrust into the spotlight as Mick's latest girl du jour.  Tara played the game of love once and lost big, and she doesn't intend to put herself out there again, especially with a heartbreaker like Mick.

But when Mick sets his sights to win, nothing will stop him.  And he has the perfect play in mind. 

Notwithstanding the cover, well, it's difficult to look past the cover, isn't it?  Man titty, ahoy!  Actually, my favorite part of the cover may be the "hip divot".  But seriously, open the book and read a really great erotic romance.

Ms. Burton was one of the first erotic romance authors I ever read six years ago.  I remember blushing even now.  (Oh how times have changed.)  While I've dabbled in some of her other series, I've never been hooked by them, so I was very happy when I found out she was writing a contemporary sports-themed series. 

I breezed through The Perfect Play over the course of two days, and I really liked it a lot!  There's sex -- of course, it's an erotic romance -- but it's not overly done.  There's some moments of tension, one which I thought would become the "Big Misunderstanding" that might ultimately break Mick and Tara apart.  It features a secondary character, Liz, who is the heroine of the second book Changing the Game, and I'm interested to see if Ms. Burton can make Liz a likeable heroine because she's a true piece of work in The Perfect Play

Regardless, The Perfect Play had exactly what I needed.  It was, in a word, perfect.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: Never a Gentleman by Eileen Dreyer


Miss Grace Fairchild is under no illusions about her charms. Painfully plain, she is a soldier's daughter who has spent her life being useful, not learning the treacherous ways of the ton. She may have been caught in a scandal with society's favorite rogue, but how can she marry him when it means losing herself?


Diccan Hilliard doesn't know which of his enemies drugged him and dumped him in Grace's bed, but he does know the outcome. He and Grace must marry. To his surprise, a wild, heady passion flares between them. Yet Diccan is trapped in a deadly game of intrigue Grace knows nothing about. Will his lies destroy Grace just as he realizes how desperately he needs her? And how can he hope for a future with her, when an old enemy has set his murderous sights on them both?

After Grace Fairchild's introduction in Barely a Lady, I wasn't certain she would have "major heroine" appeal.  She was fine in the background, content to be there when and wherever she was needed.  But Grace rarely thought of herself.  Lead heroines, I think, have to be a little bit selfish or certainly have a little bit of gumption and get-up-and-go, if you will.  If I'd doubted her ability as the heroine of her own book after reading Never a Gentleman, I doubt it no more.

For a moment she lay where she was, eyes closed, pain shooting up her bad leg, her stomach threatening revolt. All the heat that had blossomed in her died. She was dizzy and dry-mouthed and confused. And, evidently, lying on the floor of a strange man's bedroom, trapped by his sheets. Christ save her, how could that be?

It's easy to fall in love with romance heroes. Truly.  And there are some heroines whom I at times envy (then I remember there's no deodorant or Excedrin Migraine or Coca-Cola in Regency England, and I thank my lucky stars).  But rarely is there a heroine I completely love and want to protect and shelter and hug until she cannot stand my hugs any longer.  That heroine, my friends, is Grace Fairchild.

The first thing I want to hug her for is the fact that she's been drugged and married without her consent to Diccan Hilliard.
It would be easy. She spent her life being what people expected: daughter, friend, nurse, housekeeper, guard, birth and burial attendant. She would just have to learn what it was Diccan needed, and be that. She had no idea how to earn Diccan's love. But she was very good at being needed. 

You see, Grace believes she's plain and a cripple and there's no way she's going to change that opinion, thank you very much.  She's much beloved by those she knows -- Olivia, Bea and Kate, as well as a number of men under her father's command at various times -- and once she reveals that part of her strength and determination, people previously unaffected by her come to love her.  Diccan's valet, Biddle, for instance:

Behind him the coachman laughed. "Wield a gun, is it? She didn't just wield it. She shot the lights outa one cove and brought t'other to pissin' his pants."

"She saved our lives," Biddle insisted, and Diccan was stunned to see an abject light of devotion in his valet's eyes. Good Lord, what was the world coming to? 

But as this is a romance, it certainly won't do for everyone but Diccan to love Grace.  Unfortunately, well, Diccan is quite unlikeable, particularly after one instance about halfway through the novel which Grace witnesses, thanks to her uncle's meddling.  It's a part Diccan's playing, what the reader and Grace have seen, but that's not to say he isn't a first-class bastard while playing said part because he totally is!

Yes, she thought, Diccan had betrayed her. That would never hurt any less. It could never be forgotten, and she wasn't certain it could be forgiven. 

Ms. Dreyer is then tasked with making Diccan show real concern and love for Grace once he's alerted that she witnessed what she witnessed; he himself admits he feels "a real regard" for her and that keeping her at arm's length would keep her out of danger.  Because he wants her out of danger, however, that means she's thrust straight into the middle of it, and Diccan naturally becomes a changed man when Grace's life is at stake.

How could he not have realized that hidden beneath that plain wrapping lay the most precious of gems?  
Of course, that's not to say theirs is an easy romance.  Oh no.  Grace shall not so easily forgive, and Diccan cannot so easily prove his love by simply saying the words aloud.  Also still yet for Grace and Diccan to overcome is the fact that they aren't truly married.  If you've made it this far, you have to hang on for the rest of the ride.  Never a Gentleman was a historical romance full of emotional highs and lows, and I loved every moment.

(A very special thank you to Forever Romance and Hachette Book Group for providing me with an ARC of Never a Gentleman.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tell Me a Story...

I'm so excited to have Ms. Eileen Dreyer as a guest on the blog today.  We're talking about Drake's Rakes, her historical romance trilogy centered around the Napoleonic conflict. 

I was just amazed by Olivia's story in Barely a Lady.  The twists and turns -- my goodness!  Did you have each one of those plotted or were some pleasant surprises along the way?  

Thank  you so much. I'm really delighted. Actually, I have a problem when I write. I call it Toilet Tank Syndrome. I'm convinced that somebody somewhere is going to be reading my book on a toilet and think, "When I get to the end of the chapter, I'll stop for now," leave the book on the top of the tank, and just forget it, because it wasn't that interesting. So even after I have my plot laid out, I'm compelled to twist it a couple more times along the way. In fact, when I started the book, there was no Jamie. He just kind of showed up.

We're introduced to Grace Fairchild in Barely a Lady, and she takes center stage in Never a Gentleman.  Yet Diccan Hilliard is not who I would have pictured her with in any kind of entanglement. (I pictured her with Kit, truth be told.)  I'm interested to read about Grace and Diccan's squabbles; if the excerpts I've read are any indication, I'm sure they will be doozies!  Is that kind of I-hate-you-but-I'll-soon-love-you banter difficult to make believable? 

I know. I first thought it would be Kit, too. Don't worry. Kit gets his own book. But I realized that for Grace I needed her exact opposite, or she'd never be forced to stand up for herself and come out of her shell. 

As for the  I-hate-you factor, I love writing characters standing toe-to-toe. I grew up on John Wayne-Maureen O'Hara movies.(you want sparks, wait til you read Kate's book). The hard part is to know when to begin easing off. I can't tolerate books where they're hating each other (with the occasional--or frequent--stop for hot sex) until the last two pages of the book. I need to see them figure out how to negotiate better, or I'm not going to believe they have a chance.

As for Diccan and Grace, Diccan is angry, but once he realizes that Grace couldn't possibly have set him up, he focuses his anger on the situation rather than her. Their interaction grows and changes quite a bit through the book as the two of them grow into the marriage and overcome the increasingly harsh interference from Diccan's undercover activities and the villains he's trying to bring down.

(As an aside, and if I can gush for a moment, I finished Never a Gentleman today, and I just absolutely loved it.  LOVED it.)

Oh, I'm REALLY glad. It's been very interesting. I was checking on some of the open reading sites(authors can never stay away from reviews), and for the first time in my career, the reviews were split dead even between 5s and 1s. I think(I hope) that people who came to this book with a more thoughtful attitude got more out of it, rather than just saw the action that might appear to be offensive. Yes, there are places where Diccan is horrible. He has to be. And it hurts Grace. And I know Grace doesn't always react the way some readers want her to. They want her stronger and more self-assured from the outset. But that's the point. She ISN"T self-assured. She's never learned how to expect any better, and in this book she learns. I love Grace to death, much more now that I've written her book. I truly think she's my favorite heroine I've ever done. So I'm delighted that you loved her, too.

In a way, I feel like Barely a Lady, Never a Gentleman, and Always a Temptress should be subtitled "The Graces" since Olivia Grace, Grace Fairchild, and Her Grace, Lady Kate Gilbey are the heroines.  Are more Drake's Rakes in the future?  I would love to see Kit and Chuffy in particular in love while trying to maintain service to God and country.

You discovered my secret. The series was originally a trilogy named THE THREE GRACES. But then I realized that they had to have heroes, and that the heroes were spies, whom I casually called Drake's  Rakes, and the marketing department of Grand Central went wild. So Drake's Rakes it is. As for future books, keep your fingers crossed. I think there are six more books, with Marcus Drake the last hero. He REALLY has secrets. And wait until you see who his heroine is. And I knew the minute Chuffy first mistook Corunna for Cornwall that I had to give him his own love. The funny thing is that it was only last night that I realized who she was, and I've been giggling all day. As much as I love Chuff, he's not a lead hero. But he will have his place in one of the books, I promise. People just have to tell Grand Central they want to see the rest of the men given their stories. ;-}.

Thank you so much, Ms. Dreyer.  I cannot wait to read more about Drake's Rakes! Ms. Dreyer is holding a contest at her website through the month of April.  The grand prize will be  a ruby and emerald bracelet she brought back from India!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cover Love

London's most talented criminal is about to be fingered...

Lady Viola Preston can relieve a gentleman of the studs at his wrists without his being any the wiser and pick any lock devised by man in less than a minute. But she's careful to wear gloves when she steals jewels. Because when Viola touches a gemstone with her bare skin, it "speaks" to her, sending disturbing visions—visions almost as unsettling as the sight of the cool-eyed stranger who catches her red handed. 

Now Viola will only be stealing at Greydon Quinn's behest. And even more daunting than the violent history of the red diamond he's after is the prospect of a night in the devastatingly handsome lieutenant's arms. Touch has always been Viola's weakness, and the full body-to-body contact Quinn has in mind is about to shatter her defenses and set her senses reeling.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review: Hidden Away by Maya Banks

A man who shoots first and asks questions later...
Most people would take an all-expenses-paid trip to the beach in a heartbeat. Garrett Kelly only accepts to keep tabs on Sarah Daniels, who's in hiding after witnessing a murder by Marcus Lattimer, her half-brother--and a personal enemy of KGI. This gig may be beneath a disciplined soldier like Garrett, but if he gets a shot at Lattimer, it will all be worth it...

...and the ultimate moving target.
But Garrett hadn't counted on falling for Sarah. He'd considered seduction as a tactical maneuver, but when he glimpses Sarah's dark past, he feels an urgent desire to keep her safe--even after she disappears on him. Garrett doesn't know exactly who, or what, Sarah's running from, but whatever it is, she's running for her life...

Hidden Away felt a little different from the two previous installments, possibly because Sarah was such an emotionally fragile heroine -- given she's recovering (or attempting to recover) from a traumatic rape, such fragility is exceptionally portrayed by Ms. Banks -- and Garrett, while using Sarah for a shot at revenge against Marcus Lattimer, is still in effect using her and lying to her.  That he jumps at the chance to do so seems at odds with the Garrett we've seen in The Darkest Hour and No Place to Run.

One of the aspects I loved about Hidden Away was Rusty's subplot.   This book really helped solidify the Kelly family, whether born, married into, or claimed, and I was so pleased to see all the brothers stand up for her and essentially welcome her into the fold. 

Had I not known about two additional books forthcoming in this series, I might have been disappointed with the ending.  It felt a bit rushed and not as satisfying as those of The Darkest Hour and No Place to Run.  Still, I'm very excited to have the continuation and to get to know more about Donovan and those secondary characters who make KGI tick. (More PJ please?)    

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review: A Lady's Wish by Katharine Ashe

To the world, Lady Patricia Morgan is a proper lady. But in secret, she yearns for scorching romance with a certain breathtaking gentleman she has never forgotten. They spent one perfect day together, but he disappeared before she could learn his name.

Eight years ago, Captain Nikolas Acton ran off to join the navy so he could forget the mysterious young lady who, after promising him her heart, simply vanished. Now, he has returned to England as a war hero, and is staggered to come face to face with the woman who still possesses his heart . . . 

I'd never read Ms. Ashe's work previously, though this story can be read alone despite being listed as book 1.5 in her Rogues of the Seas series.   While initially confused by the prologue, since neither of the two gentlemen speaking are the hero of A Lady's Wish, I'm pleased to say the story flowed quickly once I was into the narrative about Nikolas and Patricia.

It was a sweet meeting for Nikolas and Patricia eight years earlier, and an even shorter romance.  They were kept apart -- or lost to one another -- and both have been suffering.  Imagine their surprise when Patricia's carriage is disabled by an injured horse and Nik comes to her rescue.  Their reconnection is lust-filled yet intense, and once they are on the same page in determining the future of their relationship, a happily ever after is most certainly achieved.     

A Lady's Wish is a sweet historical romance, just right if you're in the mood for a quick dip into the genre.

(A very special thank you to Avon Romance, Harper Collins and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of A Lady's Wish.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Review: Rock Hard by Olivia Cunning

An ultimatum can break your heart...

Every night lead singer Sed Lionheart whips thousands of women into a frenzy of desire with his voice alone.  But no other man can touch Jessica the way he did...

If you're not willing to break all the rules...

It shattered her heart, but law student Jessica broke off her engagement with Sed, determined to be successful on her own terms.  But no other man can ever hold a candle to Sed...

Then a chance meeting and torturously close quarters lead to uncontrollable flares of passion and rediscovery of their unique penchant for public encounters.  Now, in addition to the risk of mutual heartbreak every time they get together, they're in danger of truly scandalous public exposure...

There was more story in Rock Hard, rather than all the sex, sex, and more sex of Backstage Pass. That doesn't mean I didn't want to strangle Jessica and Sed because I did. Many, many, many times.

As Sed is introduced in Backstage Pass, well, he's a bit of an ass.  He's stolen every serious girlfriend Brian has ever had -- given that Brian is a hopeless romantic, every girlfriend is a serious girlfriend, but I digress.  Sed has threesomes and foursomes, then routinely kicks those groupies to the curb rather easily.  He genuinely feels no remorse for his actions ever.  But there was the mysterious Jessica, whom we learned had been engaged to Sed but promptly broke his heart when she ended their engagement.  That little piece of hurt made Sed human.  It's easy to see, after learning even the most minute details about Jessica, that Sed's behaviors are defense mechanisms.  He doesn't want to be hurt again, so he'll continue to play the ass.  Fine by him. 

Sed and Jessica are happy at the beginning of Rock Hard, until Jessica announces her desire to go to law school and Sed tells her he'll pay for it.  Furious because she doesn't want to be a kept woman, she wants to make it on her own and Sed cannot see that, she breaks up with him and walks out of his life for two years.  Sed is, you know, doing his thing, so imagine his surprise when the guys go to a strip club and he spies Jessica plying her wares as it were.  Sed jerks her from the stage, then proceeds to start a fight (or defend himself), and this is where the shizz really hits the fan. 

Both Sed and Jessica could use a dose from the communication fairy.  Each has their own agenda (Jessica wants to sleep with Sed; Sed wants to have Jessica permanently in his life again), so it's obvious things are going to blow up in their respective faces.   

Rock Hard was a fast read, but I really wanted both Sed and Jessica to mature as time went on.  I can understand the pull of a "let's fight and let's make up" kind of relationship, but it's really tireless to watch, especially if neither party seems to learn anything from the arguments.  The relationship of the Sinners, however, is so solid and concrete, I'm amazed any women would strive to become attached to one of them.  Brian, Sed, Jace, Eric and Trey have a real friendship, one of the best I've seen in contemporary romance.  Let's hear it for the boys!  More often than not, the secondary characters overshadowed the main plot.  I would like to read the third book of this series, though I'm really holding out for more on Trey. 

(A very special thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca for providing me with an ARC of Rock Hard.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Review: Once Upon a Scandal by Delilah Marvelle

Lady Victoria Jane Emerson left behind her girlish notions of romance when Jonathan deserted her without a backward glance. Now the time has come when she must finally choose a husband, and she has vowed to marry someone who will never break her heart.

Jonathan Pierce Thatcher, Viscount Remington, has returned home, free of all his family's debts. Only to discover that by some miracle he has been chosen to vie for the hand of his beloved Victoria. To convince his only love to once again believe in the magic of love and the promise of desire will be his greatest challenge yet. And one he cannot fail!

The second in the Scandal series by Ms. Marvelle, these books are interconnected thanks to a "little red book" by an unknown author.

Once Upon a Scandal is difficult to review because it's not the worst book I've ever read nor is it the best.  It's middle of the road for me, a bit of an "eh" plus a shrug.  Had Jonathan's pure pursuit of Victoria not happened in the beginning, I'm not sure I would have finished it.  Victoria's father's stipulation added a lot of mystery to the middle of this story, and I was a bit surprised he was so observant, given how he lashed out at Victoria during his illness.  When Victoria and Jonathan finally reconnect and attempt to move forward with their relationship, I had hope they would come to live happily ever after.

This book was different from its predecessor in tone and execution, but again, that doesn't mean it's a bad book.  It just wasn't what I'd expected based on the notions and opinions I formed after reading Prelude to a Scandal.

(A very special thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for providing me with an ARC of Once Upon a Scandal.)
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