Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Under the Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis


There's no place like home for the holidays. And the Lucky Harbor Bed & Breakfast is bursting with festive lights and good cheer. But for Mia, Christmas is turning out to be anything other than merry and bright. Her recent break-up with her boyfriend Nick has made her return bittersweet. But then a surprise arrives, when Nick follows her to town bearing gifts-and asking for forgiveness.

Nick grew up without a family of his own so he's overwhelmed by the love that Mia receives from all her relatives, gathered together to celebrate the season. Under their watchful eyes, Nick finds earning back her trust the hardest thing he's ever had to do. If he succeeds, he will receive the greatest gift of all, Mia's love for a lifetime.

Just a tiny glimpse of the grown-up Mia, Tara's and Ford's daughter readers met in The Sweetest Thing, but it's a good one.  She's dealing with young adulthood (or is it called new adulthood now?), and she's found a man she loves very much in Nick.  There's a little bit of angst, a little bit of a Big Misunderstanding, though everything works out as it should in the end.  The original Lucky Harbor trilogy is my favorite, so I was pleased to get to revisit the sisters once again. 

(A very special thank you to Forever Romance, Hachette Book Group and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Under the Mistletoe.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review: Deck the Halls with Love by Lorraine Heath

Christmas is a time for miracles … and second chances at love. In her dazzling first Season, Lady Meredith Hargreaves gave her heart to Alistair Wakefield, the Marquess of Chetwyn, only to have it shattered when he proposed to another. And now that he's free to pursue her? It matters little, because she's on her way to the altar, heartbreak be damned.

Chetwyn once set aside his dreams in favor of duty and honor. But as Christmas approaches, he is determined to put his own desires first and lure Lady Meredith back into his arms, where she's always belonged.

First he steals a dance; then he steals a kiss. But when they find themselves alone in an abandoned castle during a snowstorm, reignited passion consumes them both. And Chetwyn will have one last chance to steal back Meredith's heart, once and for all.

We are introduced to Alistar Wakefield, the Marquess of Chetwyn, in the second book of this series, Lord of Temptation.  He seems to be stuck in doing what's right, and it's making him miserable.  Of course, his heart never belonged to Lady Anne, so he would have been miserable in their marriage.  Chetwyn is determined to show the woman he truly loves, Lady Meredith Hargreaves, that they would completely suit. 

For such a short story, Deck the Halls with Love packs a punch.  I never cared for Chetwyn in Lord of Temptation; that's not to say I disliked him as a character.  I was merely apathetic to his presence.  But here, he commands the narrative.  He's seen what he wants -- Meredith -- and he goes after her.  Thank goodness Meredith responds in kind, and the two of them are a perfect match for each other. 

(A very special thank you to Avon Books, Harper Collins, and Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC of Deck the Halls with Love.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review: A Cowboy for Christmas by Lori Wilde

It's Christmastime in Jubilee, Texas, but Lissette Moncrief is having a hard time celebrating . . .

Especially after she accidentally smashes her car into Rafferty Jones's pick-up truck. Yes, he's a whole lot of handsome—from the tips of his boots to the top of his Stetson. But he's no Christmas present. Lissy's not about to let herself get whisked away by his charming ways and words . . . only to watch him drive away in the end.

But what Lissy doesn't know is Rafferty's in town just to meet her—and to give her a share in a windfall that doesn't rightly belong to him. At first, he just wants to do his good deed and get out. But one look at this green-eyed beauty has him deciding to turn this into a Christmas to remember . . . making promises he's determined to keep—whether she believes in them or not.

A Cowboy for Christmas was my favorite book of this trilogy.  Because I enjoyed it so much, I'm sad to say good-bye to Jubilee, Texas. 

Lissette Moncrief is a woman at the end of her rope.  Her husband, whom she didn't want to return to Iraq, was killed, their child has recently been diagnosed with degenerative hearing loss, and Lissette has about $1,000 in the bank.  When she accidentally hits a pick-up truck in the grocery store parking lot, she looses control, rightfully so.  What she doesn't know is the man whose truck she hit is Rafferty Jones, her deceased's husband's half-brother and the man who inherited benefits which should have gone to her son. 

Lissette has a weakness for cowboys; it's the main reason she married Jake, her deceased husband, in the first place.  She cautions herself against falling too fast and too hard for Rafferty, especially given their confusing relationship, but she's unable to keep that promise.  

A Cowboy for Christmas is a feel-good contemporary romance and a great addition to this trilogy, though it can be read as a stand-alone book. 

(A very special thank you to Avon Books, Harper Collins, and Edelweiss for the ARC of A Cowboy for Christmas.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: Trouble in Texas by Katie Lane


Inheriting the most notorious house of ill repute in Texas can spell trouble for a girl's reputation . . . especially when she's Elizabeth Murphy, Bramble's prim and proper librarian. Yet when she discovers a buck-naked cowboy handcuffed to a four-poster bed, she forgets all about the town gossips. Elizabeth has sworn off men, but the stranger's kisses melt her resolve faster than ice cream on a hot summer day.

Waking up in Miss Hattie's Henhouse isn't how Brant Cates reckoned on getting to the bottom of his great-granddaddy's murder. The plan was to solve the centuries-old crime, then get the heck out of Dodge. But after meeting Elizabeth and discovering that the buttoned-up beauty is a sexy siren in disguise, he just can't pull himself away.

Now Brant needs Elizabeth to finally put his past to rest, but is she willing to risk her future on Bramble's newest bad boy?

While this is the fourth book of Ms. Lane's featured in the small town of Bramble, Texas, I think it stands alone very well.  We meet some of the residents of Bramble, though not like in past books, and we are introduced further to the Cates boys (Billy Cates was featured in Catch Me a Cowboy). 

Elizabeth Murphy is a woman who avoids sex.  She lives alone (except for her cat), dresses like a school marm, and firmly identifies as a spinster.  She has no use for a flesh and blood man, especially when none of them have lived up to fictional characters.  When one of the hens from Miss Hattie's Henhouse -- a house of ill repute that Elizabeth owns -- calls and Elizabeth ventures out of the city limits, she's surprised to find an unconscious and handsome and naked man handcuffed to the bed. 

Brant Cates is on the trail of a mystery: his great-great-grandfather's murder.  The trail leads him to Miss Hattie's and ultimately to Elizabeth.  

Elizabeth and Brant have great chemistry; add eldest hen Minnie to the mix as a matchmaker and general pain in Elizabeth's a-s-s, and you've got a great romance.   Trouble in Texas takes all the romp and fun of the previous books and adds some oomph with a well-thought-out plot.   This was my favorite  in the series by far. 

(A very special thank you to Hachette Book Group, Forever Romance, and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Trouble in Texas.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: Destiny by Carly Phillips

Nash Barron may be cynical about love, yet even he likes a good wedding. But the only good thing about his brother's wedding is Kelly Moss. Nash can't help but admire her confidence and beauty, but he's forced to keep his distance because getting involved with Kelly could destroy his relationship with his newly discovered half sister, Tess...

Kelly came to Serendipity to give Tess--her half sibling as well, thanks to an illicit affair--a second chance at life. She learned long ago not to rely on anyone but herself. Besides, she doesn't want to upset Tess's life by pushing for a fling with Nash. Except the more she gets to know him, the more vulnerable she becomes to the kindness beneath his gruff exterior, and the less she's able to stay away. But she has other reasons for keeping her distance. Like the secret from her past she knows Nash will never forgive...

In Serendipity, the first book of this series, Nash Barron comes as moody and difficult, unwilling to move beyond the past to accept the future he now has.  Destiny was about him growing as a character, hopefully taking to heart what's done is done and make the best of the path he has chosen.  But while Nash and his eventual relationship with Kelly Moss is the romance of Destiny, the book is also about the entire Barron family moving forward together.  In the second half of the book, we watch Nash and Kelly fall in love and we see Nash finally make peace with his past.  

Destiny is a very good addition to this series, focusing not only on the romance of Nash and Kelly but the Barrons as a whole and how they live together as a family. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review: Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase

From the Journals of Sophia Noirot: "A dress is a weapon. It must dazzle his eye, raise his temperature . . . and empty his purse."

A blue-eyed innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, dressmaker Sophy Noirot could sell sand to Bedouins. Selling Maison Noirot's beautiful designs to aristocratic ladies is a little harder, especially since a recent family scandal has made an enemy of one of society's fashion leaders. Turning scandal to the shop's advantage requires every iota of Sophy's skills, leaving her little patience for a big, reckless rake like the Earl of Longmore. The gorgeous lummox can't keep more than one idea in his head at a time, and his idea is taking off all of Sophy's clothes.

But when Longmore's sister, Noirot's wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can't let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly . . .

I could not put this book down.  The plot -- the eventual pairing of Longmire and Sophy -- was obvious from the first book of the series, Silk is for Seduction, but I still enjoyed every moment of Scandal Wears Satin.   

"I thought you were going to leave me here," she said.
"You talked me out of it...a moment ago...when you were against the wall, under Lady Flinton's window."
 "Oh, yes--and speaking of that--"
"Oh, good," he said. "We're going to discuss it now."
"We certainly are," she said. "I had all my clothes on this time, so don't try to use any excuses about my being mostly naked."
"I don't need an excuse," he said. "But it might be that you have too many clothes on."

While Scandal Wears Satin was not as sensual a romance as Silk is for Seduction, I do think it's still a very good addition to the series.  Longmire's sister, Clara, causes some headaches along the way, but I think those moments were supposed to draw Longmire and Sophy closer.  Regardless, I'm anxious for the third Dressmakers book, Vixen in Velvet (August 2013). 
(A very special thank you to Avon Books, Harper Collins and Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC of Scandal Wears Satin.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: Rev it Up by Julie Ann Walker

He Never Misses a Target

Jake "the Snake" Sommers earned his SEAL codename by striking quickly and quietly - and with lethal force. That's how he broke Michelle Carter's heart. It was the only way to keep her safe - from himself. Four long years later, Jake is determined to get a second chance. But to steal back into Michelle's loving arms, Jake is going to have to prove he can take things slow. Real slow...

She Aims to Make Him Beg

Michelle Carter has never forgiven Jake for being so cliché as to "love her and leave her." But when her brother, head of the Black Knights elite ops agency, ticks off the wrong mobster, she must do the unimaginable: place her life in Jake's hands. No matter what they call him, this man is far from cold-blooded. And once he's wrapped around her heart, he'll never let her go...

Rev It Up likens back to book one of this series, Hell on Wheels, and I was pleased to spend a couple of days with Michelle and Jake.  Every aspect of the plot and characters congealed in Rev It Up.  I admit I was disappointed the third book of this trilogy didn't feature Billy Reichert and Eve Edens, whose interactions in In Rides Trouble help me to overlook a heroine/main character I didn't care for, but Michelle and Jake more than make up for it.  Rev It Up also gives readers a taste of Rock and Vanessa, the hero and heroine of Thrill Ride (April 2013).    

 (A very special thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Rev it Up.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review: The Second Seduction of a Lady by Miranda Neville

Enter the thrilling, sexy world of Georgian England in this splendid Miranda Neville novella—and catch a glimpse of Caro, the heroine of the upcoming The Importance of Being Wicked, on sale December 2012.

Eleanor Hardwick and Max Quinton shared one night of incredible passion . . . that was shattered the next day, when Eleanor learned of a bet placed by Max's friends. Now, five years later, Max still can't get Eleanor out of his head or his heart. He has a single chance to make a second impression—one that will last forever.

I have a feeling The Second Seduction of a Lady was conceived as a set-up for The Importance of Being Wicked, and this short story achieves that task admirably.  So much so, that I found myself becoming irritated at the older Caro who is so unlike the Caro portrayed here.  What I immensely enjoyed was the brimming sexual tension between Eleanor and Max and watching the two former lovers fall in love again. 

(A very special thank you to Harper Collins, Avon Books and Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC of The Second Seduction of a Lady.)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: The Way to a Duke's Heart by Caroline Linden

Charles de Lacey, Lord Gresham, is running out of time, running from his responsibilities, and running from love.

Destined to be a duke, Charles de Lacey has led a life of decadent pleasure, free of any care for propriety or responsibility. It comes as a terrible shock to learn that he might be stripped of everything, thanks to his father's scandalous past. He has no choice but to find the blackmailer who would ruin him—and his only link to the villain is a woman who may be part of the plot….

To save his fortune and title, he vows he'll stop at nothing—in fact, he's all too eager to unravel the beautiful, tart-tongued Tessa Neville. She intrigues him and tempts him like no other lady ever has. With only his heart to guide him, and keenly aware that his entire future is at stake, Charles must decide: is she the woman of his dreams, or an enemy in disguise?

The Way to a Duke's Heart is the conclusion of the Durham Dilemma trilogy.  When we first meet Charles de Lacey, Lord Gresham, first-born son and heir, in One Night in London, he has a nonexistent relationship with his father and could seem to care less about losing his name and his fortune.  He has the most to lose of the three brothers, yet he's content to let Edward and Gerard solve the problem.   Edward and Gerard meet their respective wives, however, and force Charlie into accepting responsibility and getting to the bottom of this mystery.  And just as Charlie has a solid lead, he meets the beguiling Tessa Neville, a woman unlike any other.

 An angry woman was one thing, but an armed angry woman was another. 

Tessa is a plain-spoken, intelligent woman.  She has no use for flattery or witty banter; get to the point and get there quickly.  Because of her intelligence, she is acting on her brother's behalf in a business transaction with Mr. Hiram Scott, a man who Charlie believes is the blackmailer.  Charlie aligns himself with Tessa, and never lets go.

Watching Charlie and Tessa maneuver around each other was quite fun.  Neither wants to be attracted to the other, yet they cannot deny it.  The Way to a Duke's Heart was a very satisfying end and I will be sad to see the de Laceys say good-bye. 

(A very special thank you to Avon Books, Harper Collins, and Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC of The Way to a Duke's Heart.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review: Catch Me a Cowboy by Katie Lane

Shirlene Dalton has it all: a dream marriage to a man who spoils her rotten and the most outrageous mansion Bramble, Texas, has ever seen. But when her husband unexpectedly dies, Shirlene finds herself right back where she started-in a rundown trailer on the wrong side of the tracks. Never the type to let a little bad luck and a whole heap of heartache get her down, Shirlene is ready to prove to the local gossips she can make it on her own . . . until she ends up living next door to the most tempting cowboy in town.

Billy Wilkes has a score to settle and a plan to wipe Bramble right off the map. But when his sexy, redheaded neighbor figures out what he’s up to, his good ol’ boy charm won’t be enough to save him. With the town on his tail, Billy will have to come clean quick-or kiss Shirlene goodbye.

Ms. Lane picks up directly where she left off in Bramble, Texas, with Catch Me a Cowboy.  Shirlene Dalton rose high from her trailer-park childhood only to fall back to it when her husband unexpectedly dies and his company is threatened by creditors.  William Cates, known as Bubba Wilkes by the townspeople, came to Bramble with revenge on his mind.  He plans the town's demise by buying Dalton Oil, but living next to Shirlene's trailer he sees a different side to the woman he calls a gold digger. 

We, like Bubba/Billy, learn there's more to Shirlene than meets the eye in Catch Me a Cowboy.  I for one am glad to have had the opportunity.  The secondary cast, however, really make this series for me.  They complain, speculate, and take hilarious action when necessary.  Love them all! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: Lord of Temptation by Lorraine Heath

"Three young heirs, imprisoned by an unscrupulous uncle, escaped--to the sea, to the streets, to faraway battle--awaiting the day when they would return to reclaim their birthright."

Once upon a time, he was Lord Tristan Easton--now he is Crimson Jack, a notorious privateer beholden to none, whose only mistress is the sea. But all that will change when exquisite Lady Anne Hayworth hires his protection on a trip into danger and seduction. . .

Desperation brought Anne to the bronzed, blue-eyed buccaneer. But after the Captain demands a kiss as his payment, desire will keep her at his side. She has never known temptation like this--but to protect her heart, she knows she must leave him behind. Yet Tristan cannot easily forget the beauty--and when they meet again in a London ballroom, he vows he won't lose her a second time, as fiery passion reignited takes them into uncharted waters that could lead the second lost lord home. . .

The second book in Ms. Heath's The Lost Lords of Pembrooke trilogy, Lord of Temptation didn't hold up as well as I had hoped in relation to book one, She Tempts the Duke.  Maybe it's because I like the friends-to-lovers trope incorporated in She Tempts the Duke; maybe it's because the Tristan Easton we met in She Tempts the Duke isn't at all who we see in Lord of Temptation.  I'm not sure.  But I will admit is was depressing to finish Lord of Temptation and not love it as much as I have loved Ms. Heath's previous books.   

I think my issues stem from a variety of reasons, not solely that I didn't like Tristan or Anne as main characters.  By the halfway point of the novel, I wanted them to resolve their issues separately and come together collectively.  The pacing of the narrative seemed slow, and I wasn't as swept up in their courtship as I expected to be.  

That being said, I do intend to read the third and final book, Lord of Wicked Intentions (April 2013). 

(A very special thank you to Avon Books and Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC of Lord of Temptation.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: The Warrior 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.


From the Isle of Skye to the battlefields of France, Duncan MacDonald has never escaped the memory of the true love he left behind. Deemed unworthy of a chieftain's daughter, Duncan abandoned the lovely Moira to prove his worth in battle. Now, when called upon to rescue her from a rival clan, one thing is certain: Moira's pull on his heart is stronger than ever.

Bartered away in marriage to a violent man, Moira will do anything to ensure she and her son survive. When a rugged warrior arrives to save her, the desperate beauty thinks her prayers have been answered—until she realizes it's Duncan. The man who once broke her heart is now her only hope. Moira vows never again to give herself—or reveal her secrets—to the fierce warrior, but as they race across the sea, danger and desire draw them ever closer.

We are introduced to Duncan MacDonald in The Guardian, book one of the Return of the Highlanders series.  He is a powerful warrior, but he's lonely, and he mourns the loss of his first love who had married into another clan while Duncan, Connor, Ian, and Alex were fighting in France.  Given Duncan's demeanor throughout the course of two books, I assumed once he found love, he would be happier.  And despite the fact that he finds love again (love renewed perhaps?) with his first love, Connor's sister, Moira, I couldn't believe that what Duncan and Moira had shared during their one summer as lovers would be all encompassing and never dimming.  Meaning, I wanted them to have more of a reconnection and maybe some more angst so their happily ever after would feel worth the years of separation.  I didn't enjoy The Warrior as much as I had hoped I would.  

I do have high expectations for The Chieftan (February 2013), however, and am looking forward to the obstacles Ms. Mallory places in front of Connor and Ilysa.       

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

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: Royal Pain by Megan Mulry

Bronte Talbott follows all of the exploits of the British royals. After all, they're the world's most preeminent dysfunctional family. And who is she to judge? Bronte's own search for love isn't going all that well, especially after her smooth-talking Texan boyfriend abruptly leaves her in the dust.

Bronte keeps a lookout for a rebound to help mend her broken heart, and when she meets Max Heyworth, she's certain he's the perfect transition man. But when she discovers he's a duke, she has to decide if she wants to stay with him for the long haul and deal with the opportunities -- and challenges -- of becoming a royal.

Decidedly "chick lit" in tone, I thought I would give this debut a try.  Who hasn't fancied themselves a princess in daydreams?  And who doesn't get a little excited by the prospect of a royal wedding?  

The typical chick lit tropes are there:  heroine obsessed with fashion, heroine with an endless supply of money (though Bronte seems to have a high-paying job to pad her bank account and thereby make her credit card payments), heroine with poor luck in the love department.  When Bronte met Max, however, this book began to remind me of one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies:  The Prince & Me


I did not like Bronte's ability to seem shrewish and overreact at the drop of a hat.  In fact, her bi-polar nature drove me a little batty, especially after she and Max become engaged.  [Sorry, spoiler alert!]  If anything caused me to almost DNF this book, it was her multiple episodes of "the crazy."   The ending felt too sudden and final, however, so I hope Ms. Mulry's forthcoming book, Earl Meets Girl, features Bronte and Max in some secondary capacity. 

(A very special thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca and NetGalley who provided me with an ARC of A Royal Pain.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: In Rides Trouble by Julie Ann Walker

Rebel with a Cause

Becky "Rebel" Reichert never actually goes looking for trouble. It just has a tendency to find her. Like the day Frank Knight showed up at her door, wanting to use her motorcycle shop as a cover for his elite special ops team. But Becky prides herself on being able to hang with the big boys-she can weld, drive, and shoot just as well as any of them.

Man with a Mission

Munitions, missiles, and mayhem are Frank's way of life. The last thing the ex-SEAL wants is for one brash blonde to come within fifty feet of anything that goes boom. Yet it's just his rotten luck when she ends up in a hostage situation at sea. Come hell or high water, he will get her back-whether she says she needs him or not.

I enjoyed Ms. Walker's first book, Hell on Wheels, and hoped to continue that streak with In Rides Trouble.  While the suspense/action is on par, I found myself disliking Becky Reichert more and more as I read.  Becky, in theory (or at least my theory), is a kick-ass and highly capable woman.  She's built a business from the ground up and is extremely knowledgeable about all things mechanical.   The Becky we meet throughout the course of In Rides Trouble is still capable and knowledgeable, but she -- particularly her vernacular -- is downright annoying.  I was tempted to create a drinking game each time she said "Yeppers".  

Because she is so capable, I found it frustrating that her plan was to simply wait for the Black Knights to show up to rescue her and Eve from their kidnappers.  She redeems herself a bit by stabbing the lead kidnapper, but it came too late for me.  

I think the Black Knights as a group works well together, and their respective personalities enhance each story.  I'm anxiously awaiting Bill and Eve's book, Built for Speed (September 2013). 

(A very special thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of In Rides Trouble.)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: When You Give a Duke a Diamond by Shana Galen

He had a perfectly orderly life...

William, the sixth Duke of Pelham, enjoys his punctual, securely structured life. Orderly and predictable—that's the way he likes it. But he's in the public eye, and the scandal sheets will make up anything to sell papers. When the gossip papers link him to Juliette, one of the most beautiful and celebrated courtesans in London, chaos doesn't begin to describe what happens next...

Until she came along...

Juliette is nicknamed the Duchess of Dalliance and has the cream of the nobility at her beck and call. It's disruptive to have the duke who is the biggest catch on the Marriage Mart scaring her other suitors away. Then she discovers William's darkest secret and decides what he needs in his life is the kind of excitement only she can provide...

The blurb above is a little misleading, I think.  Not to say that Juliette doesn't have men who are interested in her, but this implies Pelham chases men away from Juliette's side continuously and I can recall only a couple of instances where that happens.  

Despite that little quibble, I thoroughly enjoyed When You Give a Duke a Diamond.  With each new book by Ms. Galen I read, I find myself believing her writing improves.  This book had suspense and intrigue (and a murder!), as well as the typical romantic arc and sexual tension between the hero and heroine.  True to Pelham's regimented lifestyle, everything happens with a purpose and at the precise time it needs to.  When You Give a Duke a Diamond sets up the two future books nicely, so I'm anxious to see what will happen to the remaining Diamonds.  

(A very special thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca and NetGalley who provided me with an ARC of When You Give a Duke a Diamond.)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Close Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl

For makeup artist Grace Barrett, Hollywood isn't the land of golden opportunity. It's the land of difficult divas, cheating boyfriends and unemployment. So when her great-aunt offers her a free place to stay in Jackson Hole, Grace thinks she'll spend a little time in the sticks to figure out her life, and then move somewhere exciting to live out her dreams. But it turns out that there are a few more thrills in this small town than Grace was expecting….

Cole Rawlins is a rugged Wyoming cowboy born and bred. Yet he can't help but be drawn to the fascinating big-city girl who moves in across from him. He wants to get close enough to Grace to see past her tough facade, but if he does, she might see the real Cole. The one with a Hollywood history gone bad. As they discover a sizzling attraction, it becomes harder for him to keep his demons at bay—and those fires from long ago may burn them both.

They'll need more than scorching-hot passion to make this opposites-attract affair work. But if they can learn to trust one another enough to reveal their secrets, they just might have a chance at forever.

Ms. Dahl's contemporaries are some of my all-time favorites (subtract Crazy in Love from that declaration, however), so I was very excited to see a new release from her.  Unfortunately, Close Enough to Touch falls so far off the mark for me, I wasn't able to finish it.  

Grace Barrett is a prickly heroine; she's jaded and pissed off and when trouble finds her, her first instinct is to run.  That's how she ended up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, well, that and the fact that she no place else to go and no money to get there.  She is taken in by her Great Aunt Rayleen, who offers Grace an apartment at the complex affectionately known by the locals as the Stud(d) farm.  Grace has a job lined up in Vancouver, so she's going to bide her time in Wyoming hopefully making some money until it's time for her to leave.  

Cole Rawlins is an injured cowboy who's had a taste of L.A. and doesn't want any more of it.  He knows Grace with her severe makeup and her purple hair is 100% L.A.  Just because he knows it doesn't mean he can control his thoughts about her...or stay away from her.  When Grace proposes they have sex -- it wouldn't mean anything -- Cole thinks it would be a good way to get her out of his system, so he agrees.  

And that's where the narrative jumped the shark for me.  

I can imagine Grace is an attractive woman and Cole is attractive man.  I can imagine they would be considered attractive and desirable to members of the opposite sex.  What I cannot imagine and could not imagine as I struggled to read is why Grace and Cole are attracted to each other.  That little flutter of magic previously found in Ms. Dahl's books -- that little spark of a connection -- was sorely missing here.  The more Grace fought against her feelings for Cole, the more he tried harder to fix her life and her problems, despite his own unsolved issues.

I couldn't suspend my belief enough to accept that Grace and Cole could have a successful happily ever after together.   

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare

A temporary engagement, a lifetime in the making...

After years of fending for herself, Kate Taylor found friendship and acceptance in Spindle Cove--but she never stopped yearning for love. The very last place she'd look for it is in the arms of Corporal Thorne. The militia commander is as stone cold as he is brutally handsome. But when mysterious strangers come searching for Kate, Thorne steps forward as her fiance. He claims to have only Kate's safety in mind. So why is there smoldering passion in his kiss?

Long ago, Samuel Thorne devoted his life to guarding Kate’s happiness. He wants what's best for her, and he knows it's not marriage to a man like him. To outlast their temporary engagement, he must keep his hands off her tempting body and lock her warm smiles out of his withered heart. It's the toughest battle of this hardened warrior's life...and the first he seems destined to lose.

"No pressure," Payne said. "It's only your one chance at happiness, you know. It's only the rest of your life."

That's kind of what I'm feeling right now as I attempt to put into words what I enjoyed about A Lady by Midnight.  And it seems fitting that Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, hero of A Week to be Wicked (my favorite thus far, though honestly, picking a favorite Tessa Dare book is like picking your favorite child.) is able to articulate my feelings better than I.

Kate Taylor isn't shy necessarily, but she keeps to herself despite thriving in the Spindle Cove lifestyle.  She has no family and has suffered for the loss.  She is looking for acceptance, longing for love, and is utterly surprised to find Corporal Samuel Thorne staring back at her.   

His lips were so warm. And for all his cool, stony appearance, he tasted delicious and comforting. Like freshly baked bread, mixed with some faint memory of bitters by the pint. She had a vision of him earlier that day, drinking in a dimly lit tavern. Alone. The poignant solitude of that image made her want to hold him. She had to settle for clutching his coat lapels, nestling close to his chest.

She let her lips fall apart, the better to breath him in. He caught her top lip between his, then sipped at the lower. As though he craved a taste of her, too. 

She's convinced he doesn't like her, that he's never liked her in all the time they've known each other.  Thorne, of course, while bristling at this notion, cannot help how he feels about Kate.

"Of course I want you," he said roughly. "Every thought in my head is of you. Tasting you, touching you, taking you in ways your innocent mind can't even fathom. I don't know a cursed thing about art or music or Aristotle. My everything thought is crude and base and so far beneath you, it might as well be on the opposite side of the earth."

Imagine Kate's surprise when an entire family, the Grammercys, greets her upon her return one evening.  Thorne is immediately suspicious, and that is where their engagement begins.  Of course, the faux engagement turns into something much, much more.

They were on the same side.
The two of them, against the melons of the world.

All of Ms. Dare's books are enjoyable, but I have particularly enjoyed the Spindle Cove series.  I do hope we're treated to Diana Hightower (and perhaps Evan Grammercy) in the upcoming Any Duchess Will Do.  
(A very special thank you to Avon, Harper Collins and Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC of A Lady by Midnight.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Forbidden by Nicola Cornick

After 20 years the Earl of Templemore has found his lost heir and the Ton is in uproar!

Margery Mallon is a lady's maid with ambitions to be a confectioner. The one thing that she does not want is to be Lady Marguerite of Templemore, the richest heiress in England. Henry, Lord Wardeaux, is the man who would have inherited Templemore had Lady Marguerite never been found. Now it is his duty to teach her all she needs to know about the estate.

Henry has too much pride and too much of a dark past to marry Margery simply to reclaim the inheritance he thought was his. But although she is forbidden to him, it seems that she is the one woman he cannot resist.

I'm not certain of the actual likelihood of such a Cinderella-esque story, but it was very entertaining to see Margery Mallon accept her new life as Lady Marguerite.  We've been introduced to Margery, though only in passing, in several of the previous Scandalous Ladies of the Ton books, so I was glad to learn more of her here in this unusual and probably far-fetched scenario.

Several instances surprised me, but particularly Henry's instant attraction to Margery despite his insistence (to himself) that he does not want her.  Margery's attraction to Henry is more believable.      

All the emotion that had burned between them since he walked into her life blazed into vivid being. Margery could feel the elemental anger in him, all the more frightening because it was held under such absolute control. For one long, heart-stopping moment he looked down into her eyes. Then he started to lower his head. 

"Don't you dare--" Margery began. Her heart was beating so violently against her bodice that she could feel the batter if it through her entire body.

"I do," Henry said. "I do dare."

I did wonder how Henry could so quickly give up the idea of inheriting Templemore once Margery had been found.  Margery's grandfather had never given up hope his granddaughter would be found -- despite not speaking about her to Henry it would seem.  Is Henry's acquiescence mentioned to show what a good man he is?  He clearly loved the property and its tenants; why would he just roll over once Margery came back into the picture?  Even his mother suggests they marry so Henry could retain the property (and wealth).

And how could Margery instantly love her grandfather?  She's terrified of all other aspects of becoming a lady -- losing her identify and sense of self -- yet she accepts him easily.

Regardless of these quibbles, Forbidden was a great way to spend an afternoon and a great ending to the Scandalous Ladies of the Ton series.     

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: Pleasures of a Tempted Lady by Jennifer Haymore

Forbidden passion is the ultimate temptation…

Captain William Langley knows the ocean well, but nothing could prepare him for what he discovers adrift on the cold Irish Sea. The tiny boat carries two passengers: a child—and Meg Donovan, Will’s long-lost love. Meg’s disappearance at sea eight years ago was a devastating blow. Now she’s back, as beautiful as ever, and with secrets as deep as Will’s own . . .

After years held captive by a cold-blooded pirate, Meg has finally escaped with little Jake, the boy she’s come to love as if he were her own. But the pirate wants his revenge—and Meg must do whatever it takes to shield Jake from the madman. Determined not to lose Meg again, Will vows to protect them both, yet Meg can’t risk putting the only man she’s ever loved in danger. With the threat to her safety growing, and her passion for Will burning brighter every day, surrendering herself to Will might be a pleasure too tempting to resist . . .

It's difficult to like a heroine when you tend to disagree with her choices and actions.  That was my problem with Meg Donovan.  I understand the past eight years of her life have been difficult, but she continually keeps her family and Will at arm's length when, were I in the same situation, I would think I'd be overjoyed to have been reunited with them.  Her experience has changed her, yes, so I suppose her trepidation is to be expected. 

I enjoyed the youngest sister, Jessica's, love story much more than I enjoyed Meg and Will's, and I am a little disappointed we see more about her pending courtship.

Since Pleasures of a Tempted Lady brings the series to a close, I do wonder what happened to the Donovans' mother.  She's described as a desperate lady, though that should be obvious since she forged letters to Will from Meg after Meg's disappearance and forced Serena to take Meg's name and return to England.  Would the sisters bring her to England?  Would she remain in Antigua?  What would become of her?  I never considered her evil, but she is certainly driven, misguided, and selfish.      

(A very special thank you to Forever Romance, Hachette Book Group and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Pleasures of a Tempted Lady.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis


Grace never thought she’d be starting her life over from scratch. Losing everything has landed her in Lucky Harbor, working as a dog walker for overwhelmed ER doctor Josh Scott. But the day his nanny fails to show up, Grace goes from caring for Josh’s lovable mutt to caring for his rambunctious son. Soon Grace is playing house with the sexy single dad…

With so many people depending on him, Josh has no time for anything outside of his clinic and family-until Grace arrives in town. Now this brainy blonde is turning his life inside out and giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “good bedside manner.” Josh and Grace don’t know if what they have can last. But in a town like Lucky Harbor, a lifetime of love starts with just one day…

Forever and a Day is the final book set in Lucky Harbor, and I'm sure it's my favorite of the series.  Well, a close second to The Sweetest Thing.  Maybe it's a tie between which hero I like better: Ford or Josh. 


Forever and a Day pairs the final Chocoholic, Grace, and Dr. Josh Scott, a man who is literally drowning in responsibilities and guilt.  Grace came to Lucky Harbor simply by accident, yet she's managed to make the small town her home in a short amount of time; Josh is Lucky Harbor born and bred.  And when they are in the same room together, the sparks of sexual tension cannot be stopped.

This book has everything I love in a contemporary romance:  true-to-life characters, humor, serious sexual tension, and common, ordinary life situations.  There was no Big Misunderstanding which pulled Grace and Josh apart; they fell in love and stayed in love.  I am so glad I was able to witness every moment of it!   

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

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Hell on Wheels by Julie Ann Walker

He’s the bad boy she’s always wanted...

Nate “Ghost” Weller has loved Ali Morgan nearly half his life. But he’s done something so heinous he’s convinced she’ll never forgive him if she discovers the truth, so he keeps his feelings and his secrets to himself. Then she blows into town with a mother lode of bad guys on her tail and Nate can’t deny she’s in serious trouble. Unfortunately, he’s the only one who can help her.

She’s the good girl he’s kept at arm’s length...

Ali knows Nate as the most solemn, aloof man on the planet. Sadly, he’s also the sexiest. For years she’s avoided him, unable to stomach his dark scowls and brooding silences… especially when she secretly yearns for his touch. Now she must rely on him to save her from the malevolent shadows ghosting her every move. When the bullets explode, so does their passion. But can love really conquer all? Or are some things just too terrible to forgive?

Hell on Wheels is the first book in a series by debut author Julie Ann Walker, so I was surprised by how quickly we jump into the action by placing the heroine, Ali, in danger.  Nate's stand-offish attitude toward her was a bit amusing, especially considering his one-word (or few word) sentences when Ali is around.  They have great sexual chemistry, and I was glad once Nate allowed Ali fully into his heart.  I was also surprised by the number of secondary characters given a say (if you will) throughout Hell on Wheels.  It's setting up for books two and three, I'm sure, but at times it drew away from the main story of Ali and Nate and the threat against her.    

I'm looking forward to the remaining books featuring the Black Knights. 
{A very special thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Hell on Wheels.}

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

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