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.)
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