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. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare

Welcome to Spindle Cove, where the ladies with delicate constitutions come for the sea air, and men in their prime are . . . nowhere to be found.

Or are they?

Spindle Cove is the destination of choice for certain types of well-bred young ladies: the painfully shy, young wives disenchanted with matrimony, and young girls too enchanted with the wrong men; it is a haven for those who live there.

Victor Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, knows he doesn’t belong here. So far as he can tell, there’s nothing in this place but spinsters . . . and sheep. But he has no choice, he has orders to gather a militia. It’s a simple mission, made complicated by the spirited, exquisite Susanna Finch—a woman who is determined to save her personal utopia from the invasion of Bram’s makeshift army.

Susanna has no use for aggravating men; Bram has sworn off interfering women. The scene is set for an epic battle…but who can be named the winner when both have so much to lose? 

What's not to love about a battle of the sexes, especially if Tessa Dare is writing it?  I must admit it took me a little while to get into the flow of A Night to Surrender, simply because I assumed Susanna would be scowling and (figuratively) stamping her feet the moment it's announced Bram will stay in Spindle Cove.   They wouldn't see eye to eye because they wanted different things for the village.   If they didn't agree, would theirs be a romance full of "I hate yous" first?

While there is definite tension between Susanna and Bram from the start, it's not full of venom or disgust.  They have witty banter, moments of laughter, and of course, sexual heat.

"Lord Rycliff. You've forgotten yourself."

"No, I haven't." His green eyes held her captive. "I recall precisely who I am.  I'm Lieutenant Colonel Victor St. George Bramwell, the Earl of Rycliff since a few days back. You're Susanna Jane Finch, and I want to see you bare. Bare, and pale, and soaked to the roots of your hair, glistening with moonlight and drops of seawater. I'd lick the salt from you."

Piece by piece, Susanna and Bram lower their defenses and get to know one another in ways neither had ever considered previously.  They both have battle scars and wounds, and as they are able to adequately provide a future for Spindle Cove, they help each other heal and ultimately fall in love.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Review: One Night in London by Caroline Linden

A bargain that was all business . . . and pure passion.

Neither wealth nor beauty will help Lady Francesca Gordon win custody of her young niece Georgina, saving the girl from a cruel stepmother; she needs London’s top solicitor for that. But when Edward de Lacey, son of the powerful Duke of Durham, hires away the one man who can do the job, Francesca decides Edward himself must champion her case . . . if only she can melt the dashing lord’s stony heart.

Edward has reason to be guarded, though. London’s tabloids have just exposed a secret that could ruin his entire family. When Francesca offers a unique chance to undo the damage, Edward is forced to agree to a partnership . . . and now, each moment together feeds the flames of his scandalous longing for the passionate widow. But when Georgina disappears, fate will test them both . . . and leave their love hanging in the balance. 

I was very surprised yet happy to see my question when I finished I Love the Earl -- is this Duke of Durham Francis de Lacey? -- was answered.  And yes, it is.  In a way I was disheartened that we wouldn't learn his story as it happens, but I like knowing the backstory to characters as much as possible.  I have to hold out hope that within the course of the forthcoming books about Durham's sons, we will learn who he first married and what happened with their relationship. 

So while learning the truth about the Duke of Durham is the main plot thread, it's by no means what keeps the narrative moving along.  That solely belongs to Lady Francesca Gordon, a widow seeking to adopt her deceased sister's daughter from her stepmother.  When Francesca's (hoped for) solicitor abandons her case for Edward's, the Duke of Durham's second son, who wishes to find out the truth about his father, she marches to Edward's home to confront him. 

We spend the rest of the story watching Edward discover what he truly needs -- all he truly needs -- lies in Francesca. 

I do hope we'll learn the truth about the Duke of Durham over the course of the remaining books, so seeing this "mystery" solved will be my main reason to continue this series. 

(A very special thank you to Avon, Harper Collins and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of One Night in London.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: Never Been Bit by Lydia Dare

The glittering world of high society is the playground for the rich, titled, and reluctantly undead...
Alec MacQuarrie's after-life has become an endless search for pleasure in an effort to overcome his heartbreak and despair. Wandering through the seedy world of London's demimonde, he's changed into a dark and fearsome creature even he doesn't recognize until he stumbles into a magical lass he knew once upon a time and sees a glimpse of the life he could have had.

But the ton is no match for one incorrigible young lady...

After watching each of her coven sisters happily marry, Sorcha Ferguson is determined to capture a Lycan husband of her very own. When she encounters Alec, she decides to save her old friend from what he's become, all while searching for her own happily-ever-after.

Over his dead body is Alec going to allow this enchanting innocent to throw herself away on an unworthy werewolf, but that leaves him responsible for her, and he's the worst monster of them all... 

The formula used in It Happened One Bite and In the Heat of the Bite became a little predictible, so I was skeptical when I learned Alex McQuarrie, a recently turned vampire, would be the hero of Never Been Bit. But to see Sorcha Ferguson, the youngest and spunkiest member of the coven as the heroine -- well, I never imagined that.

Ever since witch Elspeth Campbell married lycan Benjamin Westfield, Sorcha has been wishing for a lycan of her very own. She doesn't understand the hows and whys, or why seer Caitrin Thorpe won't confirm a lycan in her future, but that's not going to slow her down. There are plenty of available lycans to chose from; she only has to make her decision and stick to it.

Alex McQuarrie dislikes his life as a vampire. He chose it over certain death but regrets it for many reasons, chief among them a lack of love or a happy future. When he discovers Sorcha is on the hunt for a lycan mate, he reacts with surprising jealousy. This is Sorcha; he's known her almost their entire lives!

Sorcha's and Alex's is an unexpected romance, a true friends-to-lovers journey, and is perhaps the sweetest of the love stories shared within this series.  Never Been Bit is a great way to end the series with a high note. 
(A very special thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca who provided me with an ARC of Never Been Bit.)
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