Monday, March 28, 2011
Olivia Grace has secrets that could destroy her. One of the greatest of these is the Earl of Gracechurch, who married and divorced her five years earlier. Abandoned and disgraced, Grace has survived those years at the edge of respectability. Then she stumbles over Jack on the battlefield of Waterloo, and he becomes an even more dangerous secret. For not only is he unconscious, he is clad in an enemy uniform.
But worse, when Jack finally wakes in Olivia's care, he can't remember how he came to be on a battlefield in Belgium. In fact, he can remember nothing of the last five years. He thinks he and Olivia are still blissfully together. To keep him from being hanged for a traitor, Olivia must pretend she and Jack are still married.
To unearth the real traitors, Olivia and Jack must unravel the truth hidden within his faulty memory. To save themselves and the friends who have given them sanctuary, they must stand against their enemies, even as they both keep their secrets.
In the end, can they risk everything to help Jack recover his lost memories, even though the truth may destroy them both?
This book has been sitting on my shelf since its release. I skipped to the end, saw when the second book of the series would release, and promptly reshelved because I knew I wouldn't remember the plot of this book sufficiently enough to read and enjoy the second book. This was both good and bad: good because I didn't have to wait long to read the second book, Never a Gentleman; and bad because I cannot believe I let such a good book just sit there without cracking the spine!
Olivia has secrets, oh, does she have secrets. They start to cave in on her almost immediately, which makes for an excellent suspense plot as the reader attempts to sort out what may be truth and what may be fiction. One point utterly shocked the heck out of me. I'm not sure how I didn't see it coming, but Olivia is a skilled and convincing liar.
Along the way, we're introduced to Grace Fairchild (heroine of Never a Gentleman), who grew up all over the world, thanks to her father's various military campaigns, Lady Kate Gilbey (heroine of Always a Temptress), a "fallen" duchess, Bea, Lady Kate's companion, and various members of Drake's Rakes. This trilogy should have been called "The Graces" rather than Drake's Rakes; Lady Kate even makes a joke that she, Olivia and Grace all have 'grace' in their names.
I really was sorry to see Barely a Lady end. Olivia, for all her necessary deceptions, is a strong and capable heroine, as Grace realizes when they go in search of Grace's father on the battlefield. I also liked that the historical timeline took place during the Napoleonic wars. I cannot wait to read the remaining novels in this trilogy, and I also hope there will be more to come.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
The FBI wants her cooperation.
As the daughter of a billionaire and the owner of the city's top wine store, Jordan Rhodes is invited to the most exclusive parties in Chicago. But there's only one party the FBI wants to crash: the charity fund-raiser of a famous restaurateur, who also happens to launder money for the mob. In exchange for her brother's release from prison, Jordan is going to be there-with a date supplied by the Bureau.
Agent McCall just wants her.
As the top undercover agent in Chicago, Nick McCall has one rule: never get personal. This "date" with Jordan Rhodes is merely an assignment--one they're both determined to pull off even if they can't be together for five minutes before sarcasm and sparks begin to fly. But when Nick's investigation is compromised, he and Jordan have no choice but to pretend they're a couple, and what starts out as a simple assignment begins to feel a lot like something more...
Julie James is on my automatic buy list. And A Lot Like Love is her best book yet.
Jordan Rhodes is the first of Ms. James' heroines who has no basis in the field of law. She's normal, well, normal in the sense that she's not an attorney. Being a billionaire's daughter with a Maserati isn't normal in my neck of the woods. Overlook those things, because Jordan isn't flashy or snobbish with her wealth. She's got guy troubles, happy friends, she's overworked at times -- the usual stuff -- except that her brother hacked into Twitter not once but twice, then landed himself in a federal pen. Because she loves her brother, Kyle, she's willing to help the FBI in exchange for his early release.
Nick McCall is coming off a six-month undercover assignment and has no real inclination to jump back into the fray. When Agent Seth Huxley, Jordan's "date" comes down with the flu, he steps in and has a difficult time stepping out.
That was his fake girlfriend in there. Sitting at the table where they had just shared cheese fries the night before. And if she thought she could throw scorching hot sex-looks to any pansy-ass scarf-boy who wandered into her shop, she had another think coming.
Be it the snappy dialogue, the sexually-charged back-and-forth banter, or the fact that both Jordan and Nick give as good as they take, it was only a matter of time before their fake relationship turned oh-so-real. And when it does, it is oh-so-good.
Can't there be a new Julie James book every quarter? That would make me a very happy reader.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Abandoned at the altar . . .
Lady Beatrix Danbury had always known she would marry William Mallory. She'd loved him forever and she'd never doubted he loved her, too. But when she made him choose between their life together or his lifelong dream, Will chose the latter . . . and left two weeks before their wedding.
Return of the duke . . .
Will has no illusions that Beatrix would welcome him back with open arms, but six years did not dim his love or desire for her. The only problem is, she's about to marry someone else. Someone safe and predictable . . . the complete opposite of Will. But can he stop the wedding of the season and win Beatrix back, or is it just too late?
Bea doesn't love Will Mallory, especially after he broke her heart and left for Egypt two weeks before their wedding, but that doesn't mean she hasn't thought about him in the intervening years.
Oh, she's tried not to because certainly a man who would shirk his responsibilities in such a way isn't deserving of her continued devotion. Bea has moved on: she has a new fiance, Aidan, the Duke of Trahern; she's taken up driving a Daimler. Yet somehow, she's surprised by Will's return. She believes he'll make trouble for her upcoming nuptials. Perhaps most damaging, however, is the fact that when she looks at him, she remembers her long-dead dream of a life with him.
It is during the trip to Pixy Cove that things between Bea and Will come to a head.
"Since you won't allow me to do the honorable thing by marrying you, at least allow me to secure your future another way. It's a matter of honor."
"Honor?" She gave a laugh. "Honor?"
"All right," he capitulated. "That's all bunkum. Honor has nothing to do with it."
He glanced at the drawing room windows again, then unfolded his arms and leaned closer to her. "I want you. I want you as much as I ever did. I've spend six years lying to myself about it, and I just can't find the will the lie anymore. Now I've got a second chance with you--"
"You do not have a second chance!"
"And I'm taking it," he went on if she hadn't spoken. "I want to win you back. I want you in my arms, in my bed, in my life."
Like other reviews I've read, though, the ending came much too fast and at a price where I don't necessarily buy into or believe Bea and Will's happily-ever-after as easily and readily as I wanted to. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Guhrke's writing style (I've never read her before), and I'm very excited to read Scandal of the Year.
(A very special thank you to NetGalley, HarperCollins and Avon for providing me with an ARC of Wedding of the Season.)
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The new novel in Tiffany Clare’s tantalizing series about a most uncommon marriage—one that might just end with desire and romance…
AN INCONVENIENT SCANDAL
Emma Hallaway has not seen her husband in twelve years—and that’s fine with her. As a young girl, she’d agreed to a simple marriage of convenience, allowing her to pursue her private passion for painting. And though unknown to the rest of polite society, Emma is now one of the most daring and sought-after artists in London. However, when her secret is threatened to be exposed, Emma is forced to open her heart—and her home—to a total stranger: her husband…
AN UNEXPECTED SURPRISE
Richard Mansfield, Earl of Asbury, is all too familiar with danger. As a matter of fact, it is hard on his heels when he returns to England. Still, even he is shocked to learn of his wife’s scandalous double life as an artist. But once he sees the vibrant grown woman she has become—so passionate, so strong, and so alluring—his undeniable attraction to Emma stuns him. Suddenly Richard is determined to turn their sham of a marriage into a true and lasting love. But how exactly does a gentleman seduce his own wife?
I had read Ms. Clare's previous/debut book, The Surrender of a Lady. While its premise was intriguing and unusual, I just could not connect with the characters, especially in the latter half of the novel. Thankfully I didn't have a problem with The Seduction of His Wife. Seducing one's own wife? I'm there!
Emma and Richard have what's considered a norm of the times: an arranged marriage. The snippets at the beginning of each chapter, I assume, are letters Emma wrote but did not send to Richard. In these letters, she pours her heart out, loving him, seeking his return, yet hating him for leaving. He abandoned her and despite their marriage of convenience, Emma had hoped to have a true life with him. Instead she's left to move forward, and she does so via her artwork.
Richard returns to England a wealthier man and is quite surprised to see his wife for the first time in years in a brothel. Once he is able to ascertain that she isn't the young bride he left -- and that he might actually have deep feelings for her -- he sets about wooing her. Of course, Emma is affronted by this behavior.
What I loved was Emma's back-and-forth struggle with the fact that she wanted Richard but she was terrified of him hurting her again. It felt very true to life, especially Emma's life where she'd been self-sufficient and independent for so long. Once Emma's life is in danger, Richard's decision about his love for her is made, and we can believe they will reconnect and have a stronger marriage for their time apart.
Emma's sister Abby's departure was rather abrupt, so I'm interested to learn her motivations in Ms. Clare's next book, The Secret Desires of a Governess.
(A very special thank you to St. Martin's who provided me with an ARC of The Seduction of his Wife.)
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
It is a Dark Era, one when a lusty lass will do what she must to survive. Even if it means bartering flesh for a palmful of coins…
Forced to watch her mother burned at the stake and separated from her siblings in the aftermath, Jessie Taskill is similarly gifted, ripe with a powerful magic that must stay hidden. Until one night when she's accused by a rival, and Jessie finds herself behind prison walls with a roguish priest unlike any man of the cloth she has known.
In reality, Gregor Ramsay is as far from holy as the devil himself, but his promise of freedom in return for her services may be her salvation. Locked into a dubious agreement, Jessie resents his plan to have her seduce and ruin his lifelong enemy. But toying with Gregor’s lust for her is enjoyable, and she agrees to be his pawn while secretly intending to use him just as he is using her.
(Thanks to KatieBabs and her pimpin')
Friday, March 11, 2011
Sam Kelly was her first love.
The last person Sam Kelly expected to pull wounded from the lake was Sophie Lundgren. Once they shared a brief, intense affair while Sam was undercover and then she vanished. She's spent the last months on the run, knowing that any mistake would cost her life and that of her unborn child—Sam's child. Now she's resurfaced with a warning for Sam: this time, he's the one in danger.
Now he's her last chance.
Sam has too many questions to let her slip away again—like why she disappeared in the first place. This time he vows not to be seduced. But one look in her eyes, and the passion burns again, and Sam knows he’ll do anything to keep her and his child safe. However, Sophie’s dark past is more dangerous than he imagines, and the only way for either to survive it is to outrun it.
Sam became more attached to Sophie than he'd planned on a previous undercover mission. When he finds her wounded and pregnant in the lake behind his house, he's not going to let her out of his sight again. Sophie, however, is keeping secrets that put her, her unborn child, and Sam and his family in danger. She's going to do what's right, whether that be to stay with Sam or run again.
In addition to the suspense between Sophie and Sam, the extended Kelly family makes appearances. These moments make this series so much more relateable. The entire Kelly clan is overwhelming, a bit loud and crazy, to an outsider like Sophie, who's had no one, their bond makes her jealous. Luckily, she's treated like one of their own from the first introductions. And if you're a Kelly be it from birth, marriage, or picked up along the way, the Kellys are going to stand by you.
Another winner from Ms. Banks' romantic suspense series featuring the Kelly family. Both The Darkest Hour and No Place to Run are plot-driven stories, but, man, the plot really moves. Once you start this book, you won't be able to put it down.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
First comes seduction. . .
As children, Desmond Ryland, Marquess of Conover, and Laurette Vincent were inseparable. As young adults, their friendship blossomed into love. But then fate intervened, sending them down different paths. Years later, Con still can't forget his beautiful Laurette. Now he's determined to make her his forever. There's just one problem. Laurette keeps refusing his marriage proposals. Throwing honor to the wind, Con decides that the only way Laurette will wed him is if he thoroughly seduces her. . .
Then comes marriage. . .
Laurette's pulse still quickens every time she thinks of Con and the scorching passion they once shared. She aches to taste the pleasure Con offers her. But she knows she can't. For so much has happened since they were last lovers. But how long can she resist the consuming desire that demands to be obeyed. . .?
As much as I enjoyed Mistress by Mistake, I had high expectations for Mistress by Midnight. It was touch-and-go for a while...
What I believe made relating to Laurette and Con so difficult was the use of flashbacks. Just when I thought I understood what had happened between their younger selves, a flashback would take me out of my reading flow. Granted, the flashbacks were important to fully understanding the love and friendship they'd once shared, but I didn't like it, especially because they did seem so prevalent in the first half of the book. Once Con takes Laurette away from Jane Street, the flashbacks lessen and we're given more of their story in the present. They had to reconnect on an emotional level (rather that just a physical one) in order for me to connect with them too.
So, a little disappointing, but I'm still looking forward to the third book of the Courtesan trilogy.
(A very special thank you to Maggie Robinson in whose Twitter contest I won an ARC of Mistress by Midnight.)
Monday, March 7, 2011
Five stunning guys, one hot woman, and a feverish romance...
For him, life is all music and no play...
When Brian Sinclair, lead songwriter and guitarist of the hottest metal band on the scene, loses his creative spark, it will take nights of downright sinful passion to release his pent-up genius...
She's the one to call the tune...
When sexy psychologist Myrna Evans goes on tour with the Sinners, every boy in the band tries to seduce her. But Brian is the only one she wants to get her hands on...
Then the two lovers' wildly shocking behavior sparks the whole band to new heights of glory...and sin...
Whew -- there's a lot of sex in this book. Much more than I expected. I won't say if that's good or bad, but it did lead to some moments on my part where I wondered if Myrna and Brian really needed that much sex. At times, the copious amounts of copulation made it seem like that was all they were doing, despite the fact that their sex led Brian out of his writing funk.
As a character, Myrna was a study in contrasts. She is attracted to Brian, has no problem showing such affection to him -- often and sometimes in the presence of his bandmates -- then she reacts badly after the fact. Such as, when Eric "has a moment" in her hair. She's fine having sex with Brian in Eric's presence, but once the sexy times are over, she's embarrassed. Then she walks out into the living area stark naked in the next scene. Or when she objects to having her picture taken. It's clear there are issues with her ex-husband, but those are glossed over until *boom* her ex-husband arrives at her door.
Brian wears his heart on his sleeve and, more often than not, any woman who captures it manages to break it by sleeping with Sed, the Sinners' lead singer. So it's easy to see that he's concerned the same thing will happen with Myrna. That, however, doesn't stop him from falling head over heels for her.
While I liked Backstage Pass, I did want there to be more romance, more of Myrna and Brian getting to know one another outside the bedroom or bathtub or tour bus. Their road trip was the start of exactly that, but it was over too soon.
(I should note that I received an ARC of Rock Hard from Sourcebooks Casablanca and liked it more than Backstage Pass. Enjoying the second book of a series more than the first is a rare occurrence for me.)
Thursday, March 3, 2011
HE'S LOST, TRAPPED, DOOMED FOR ALL ETERNITY...
Rich, titled, and undead, gentleman vampyre James Maitland, Lord Kettering, fears himself doomed to a cold and lonely existence--trapped for decades in an abandoned castle. Then, beautiful Scottish wish Blaire Lindsay arrives, and things being to heat up considerably...
UNLESS HE CAN PERSUADE HER TO SET HIM FREE...
Feisty Blaire Lindsay laughs off the local gossip surrounding her mother's ancestral home--stories of haunting cannot scare off this battle-born witch. But when she discovers the handsome prisoner in the bowels of the castle, Blaire has no idea that she has unleashed anything more than a man who sets her heart on fire...
We're entering the vampire portion of Ms. Dare's newest trilogy. While I loved their first three books, featuring the Westfields, The Taming of the Wolf wasn't as strong in my opinion. Since I'm trying to stay away from vampire romances, It Happened One Bite already has a strike against it. Luckily, Ms. Dare pulls me back into their expanded, fast-paced world.
Blaire has moxie and isn't afraid to remain true to herself or her coven, despite the fact that her older brother Aiden wants her to become a "real lady." She's concerned about her two brothers and her coven, and often puts her feelings for them at the forefront (rather than be selfish and focus on her needs).
Maitland, well, he's a tougher nut to crack. He's drawn to Blaire, naturally -- that's why he's been imprisoned -- yet he's surprised by her actions and reactions and the fact that she's not afraid to throw herself into the melee.
I was surprised -- and intrigued -- by a plot twist I didn't see coming, and I was also surprised by who the heroine of In the Heat of the Bite would be. Needless to say, I'm very excited to read the rest of this new trilogy by Ms. Dare.
(A very special thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca who provided me with an ARC of It Happened One Bite.)
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
(I snagged this blurb from Ms. Marvelle's website.)Having been raised in the jungles of South Africa assisting her father in the study of mammal copulation, Lady Justine Fedora Palmer sweeps back into London to embark upon her coming out.
When her father's observations are made public, proving buggery is natural in the animal kingdom, all of London is in a huffing outrage, including His Royal Majesty. Her father is imprisoned and slapped with outrageous penalty fees they simply cannot pay.Lady Justine becomes more than willing to trade her good name and her place in London's gossip-hungry ton to secure her father's release. There is only one person she knows she can trust: her father's patron, the Duke of Bradford. A dashing libertine, yes, but one she passionately adores for his unwavering kindness, wit, humor, and willingness to support her father's studies even as everyone has laughed her father off.To her astonishment, the Duke of Bradford is not the same man. His newly marred face hides a scandal that is about to test them both...
Ms. Marvelle is a new-to-me author but she's got two things in her favor straight out of the gate: (1) historical romance, and (2) series.
"...Well. In case I didn't formally inform you of it, Your Grace, the sort of relationship I am seeking from my husband is going to include more than mere physicality. I want what goes on inside your head and inside your heart before these legs will ever part."
Lady Justine is a kick. She's been exposed to animal copulation in the course of her father's work, but thanks to a literary tome about how to avoid scandals, she's keeping it close and far away because the one man who can help her remove her father from prison is the one man she's been lusting after for two years. What is funny about Justine is that she relates the male/female relationships of the ton to male/female relationships of the animal kingdom. Not that different, I suppose...
Bradford is a scarred man, literally and figuratively. He's got some serious issues, and it makes him want Justine all the more, despite what he keeps telling himself. He and Justine trade barbs easily and equally; it made them seem all the more real to me. And I especially like it when that happens.
(A very special thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin, who provided me with an ARC of Prelude to a Scandal.)