Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: She Tempts the Duke 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.

Sebastian Easton always vowed he would avenge his stolen youth and title. Now back in London, the rightful Duke of Keswick—returning from battle a wounded, hardened, changed man—cannot forget the brave girl who once rescued him and his brothers from certain death.

Lady Mary Wynne-Jones paid dearly for helping the imprisoned young Lords of Pembrook, and she remembers well the promise she made to Sebastian all those years ago: to meet him once more in the abbey ruins where they shared a bold, forbidden kiss. While Mary is betrothed now to another, a friendship forged with dark secrets cannot be ignored. Unexpected passion soon burns dangerously between them, tempting Sebastian to abandon his quest for retribution to fight for a love that could once again set him free.

Sebastian Easton has returned to London to reclaim his title as Duke of Keswick from his power-hungry uncle who may have murdered his father and threatened the lives of him and his younger brothers.  (Whew!)  As complicated as that description is, the plot is relatively simple: regaining what was lost.  

Thanks to a tip from his childhood friend Mary, Sebastian and his brothers are able to escape their uncle.  All the boys are scarred in part to their respective upbringings, but as young men, only Sebastian wears his scars proudly on the outside for all to see.  He is haunted by his need to reclaim everything that once belonged to him and he is especially enchanted by Mary, now all grown up and betrothed to someone else.  

Mary Wynne-Jones waited for Sebastian at the old abbey ruins as he'd instructed the night he and his brothers fled, but when he did not appear, she believed he'd forgotten his long-ago promise.  Mary herself broke a promise to Sebastian and was punished by her father for it, sent to a nunnery until her aunt brought her out into society.  She's now made a good match, though her intended doesn't fire her passions like Sebastian.  

Of course obstacles like Sebastian's uncle and Mary's betrothed won't stand in the way of their happiness.  So while the plot is a little predictable, Ms. Heath's writing kept me engaged from chapter one.  With her, I'm confident I'll have a great story to read.   

(A very special thank you to Avon, Harper Collins and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of  She Tempts the Duke.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: The Sweetest Thing by Jill Shalvis

Two Men Are One Too Many . . .

Tara has a thousand good reasons not to return to the little coastal town of Lucky Harbor, Washington. Yet with her life doing a major crash-and-burn, anywhere away from her unfulfilled dreams and sexy ex-husband will do. As Tara helps her two sisters get their newly renovated inn up and running, she finally has a chance to get things under control and come up with a new plan for her life.

But a certain tanned, green-eyed sailor has his own ideas, such as keeping Tara hot, bothered . . . and in his bed. And when her ex wants Tara back, three is a crowd she can't control-especially when her deepest secret reappears out of the blue. Now Tara must confront her past and discover what she really wants. If she's lucky, she might just find that everything her heart desires is right here in Lucky Harbor.

Of the three half-sisters featured in this trilogy, I found myself liking Tara the best, primarily thanks to The Sweetest Thing.   The Tara Daniels we met in Simply Irresistible was bossy, opinionated, perhaps a little miserable; she reminded me of another Shalvis heroine.  I wasn't sure I wanted to get to know her further.  This Tara is still those things, but we're given the reasons behind her behaviors.  Reason number one: Ford Walker, Tara's first love, who still calls Lucky Harbor home after all these years.  

Tara and Ford have an immediate chemistry seventeen years apart isn't able to diminish.  And I loved watching them fall in love again.  Add the joys of running a B&B, her sisters Chloe and Maddie, the complication of meeting her daughter, and the return of her ex-husband, and you've got the complete romantic package, 100%. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: Daybreak by Ellen Connor

Their mission was to save the world.
Their destiny is to fall in love.

It’s been twelve years since the Change, and Penelope Sheehan is one of the few still practicing magic for the good of humanity in this dark, dangerous world. Determined to infiltrate the notorious O’Malley organization, she poses as an abducted girl–until a furious lion thwarts her mission. When the beast turns into a devastatingly handsome man, she recognizes in him the troubled boy she once knew.

Since becoming a skinwalker, Tru Daugherty has allowed his animal nature to take over. Aloof and cynical, he takes no interest in making the world a better place. He’s a creature of instinct and impulse, living only to satisfy his senses–ignoring the scarred heart nobody has ever reached. He’s also the best man to help Pen bring down the O’Malley crime ring.

Fighting alongside the last holdouts of humanity, they unleash a passion that tempts them to risk everything for love. But if they succeed, Tru and Pen hold the power to brighten the Dark Age for all time.

A great end to a fantastic trilogy.  I think I say this in each review for the previous books, but if you want a myriad of genres blended seamlessly together, this series is a great one.  It's got it all -- in spades.

We are reintroduced to Pen(ny) and Tru twelve years after the Change brought them together in the first place.  While both have matured and grown, benefiting from their years with Mason and Jenna, they are still, on the inside, the same characters we learned about in Nightfall.  Tru has kind of a chip on his shoulder; Pen keeps to herself, not quite silent but ever observant.  That they find each other again is a little bit shocking and also expected because as we saw in Nightfall, they compliment one another.  They need one another.

I'm sad to say good-bye to this world and these characters.  This is a series not to be missed.        

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Scrumptious by Amanda Usen

Joe Rafferty is just as mouthwatering as the food he cooks. But if he thinks he's going to waltz in and take over her kitchen, he's denser than a thick slice of chocolate ripple cheesecake. Marly has invested too much of her life in Chameleon to hand off the restaurant to someone else—especially a cocky-as-all-get-out superstar chef. But there's no denying the man knows how to light her fire. Question is: Can she have the sizzle without feeling the burn?

"Foodie romances" have become a new addition to the world of contemporary romances.  And while I can appreciate taking the heat from the kitchen to the bedroom (or other places),  a certain amount of chemistry has to be present between the hero and heroine for me to want to see them be successful together.  While I loved the food aspect of this romance -- both were passionate about food -- the chemistry between Marlene (Marly) and Joe fell flat.

Their behavior seemed a little too immature, their conversations with one another, particularly when they were able or almost able to admit to themselves they wanted the other, a little too jaded. I wanted to like them together, but I just couldn't get behind their pairing 100%.  Add in some of the drama surrounding Marly's BFF, Olivia, and issues with Olivia's restaurant, and Scrumptious becomes just an okay read. 

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

Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: Always a Temptress by Eileen Dreyer

His greatest battle is just beginning . . .
Captain Harry Lidge has done his duty. After losing too many good men on the battlefield, he's ready to put his responsibilities behind him and live a life free of care. But first he has one last mission: find out what the most outrageous woman in London, the same woman who betrayed him nearly a decade earlier, is concealing, before her secrets take down the crown.

Her heart is the only thing she won't risk . . .

Surrounded by ardent admirers and a few loyal friends, Lady Kate Seaton glides through the ton on a confection of couture gowns and bon mots. No one suspects that beneath her lighthearted fa├žade Kate hides a sorrow so scandalous she'll do anything to keep it hidden. But only when she trusts Harry with the truth and only when he trusts her with his heart can they stop the villains all too willing to kill Kate to attain their ultimate goal: destroy England.

When we first met Major Sir Harry Lidge, I was surprised to learn he would be paired romantically with Lady Kate Seaton.  For all Kate's affectations to the contrary, she loves deeply and has been hurt just as deeply in the past.  Her happy-go-lucky demeanor is quite the ruse, and given that Harry is brusque and, well, grumpy, I didn't expect to want to see them together.  Turns out, Harry's demeanor is kind of a ruse too. 

On top of the Harry-Kate pairing, we continue the mystery subplot, which is necessary for Drake's Rakes to continue their service to England.  We're left with a bit of a cliffhanger, so I do hope more Drake's Rakes are in store in the future.  

I've loved each book thus far in this series for different reasons; put them together and they make one great story. 

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl

It was meant to be a one-night stand. One night of passion. Scorching hot. Then Beth Cantrell and Eric Donovan were supposed to go their separate ways. That’s the only reason he lied about his name, telling her he was really his wild younger brother. Hiding his own identity as the conservative Donovan. The “good” one.

But passion has its own logic, and Eric finds he cannot forget the sable-haired beauty with whom he shared one night of passion. When Beth discovers that Eric has lied, however, she knows he cannot be trusted. Her mind tells her to forget the blue-eyed charmer. If only every fiber of her being did not burn to call him back.

A strong finish to a lukewarm series, in Real Men Will we finally get the story of Eric Donovan from Eric's point of view.  Eric and Beth were first introduced in the anthology The Guy Next Door, and I must admit, when I read the short story, I was very disappointed.  I had assumed Ms. Dahl's contribution would be for a minor character, or a complete story rather than a prequel (and a teasing, cliffhanger prequel at that!).  

What really changed my opinion about Eric was the sex he and Beth have.  Shallow, I know.  Oh so shallow. 

Eric and his siblings are terrible communicators; I cannot believe they managed to have a relationship with one another after the death of their parents.  Eric and Beth have a Big Misunderstanding -- which is actually leftover from The Guy Next Door, thanks to Eric letting Beth assume he was Jamie Donovan and Beth's relationship with the Kendalls, the main antagonists of the series.  

But man, can Eric talk dirty.  (See? Shallow.)

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: Fate's Edge by Ilona Andrews

The Edge lies between worlds, on the border between the Broken, where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is a fairy tale—and the Weird, where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny…

Born to a family of conmen, Audrey Callahan left behind her life in the Edge for an unmagical existence in the Broken. Audrey is determined to stay on the straight and narrow, but when her brother gets into hot water, the former thief takes on one last heist and finds herself matching wits with a jack of all trades.

Kaldar Mar is a gambler, a lawyer, a thief, and a spy with some unusual talents that guarantee him lucrative work. When his latest assignment has him tracking down a stolen item, Kaldar doesn’t expect much of a challenge—until Audrey turns up to give him a run for his money.

But when the missing item falls into the hands of a lethal criminal, Kaldar realizes that in order to finish the job and survive, he’s going to need Audrey’s help…

Kaldar Mar is kind of larger than life.  He's one of those great secondary characters who invades the page, and you find yourself searching, wanting another glimpse of him.   The same can also be said about George and Jack.  By putting these three together on a "mission" of sorts, you would think I would be chomping at the bit to gush Fate's Edge praises.  It was a good book, don't misunderstand, but it wasn't on par in my opinion with the previous books of this series because The Edge was missing, or at least The Edge Rose, George, Jack, and the Mars inhabit wasn't truly present.  So while good, Fate's Edge was...different. 

That being said, we are left with somewhat of a cliffhanger and a revelation of who the villain for the next book might be.  It will be most interesting to see who shall be the hero or heroine.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: Unraveled by Courtney Milan

Smite Turner is renowned for his single-minded devotion to his duty as a magistrate. But behind his relentless focus lies not only a determination to do what is right, but the haunting secrets of his past—secrets that he is determined to hide, even if it means keeping everyone else at arm’s length. Until the day an irresistible woman shows up as a witness in his courtroom…

Miranda Darling isn’t in trouble…yet. But she’s close enough that when Turner threatens her with imprisonment if she puts one foot wrong, she knows she should run in the other direction. And yet no matter how forbidding the man seems on the outside, she can’t bring herself to leave. Instead, when he tries to push her away, she pushes right back—straight through his famous self-control, and into the heart of the passion that he has long hidden away… 

A wonderful ending to the trilogy featuring the Turner brothers, though I will admit my eyes widened just a bit upon seeing 773 pages for Unraveled.  It passes quickly, however, thanks to great characters whom I am thoroughly enchanted to meet and deeply saddened it will be for the last time.

Smite Turner is a strong albeit broken man. He and his younger brother, Mark, suffered unspeakable treatment at the hands of their mentally ill mother. While eldest brother, Ash, was gone to provide a better life (ultimately for his brothers) and Hope, Smite's twin, died, which was indirectly caused by their mother, Smite because strength.  He sought to forge his way ahead in the world, to listen and value each person equally.  But he is also a man who while more than capable as a magistrate is plagued by nightmares.

Miranda Darling is an actress, used to playing a role, more often than not to keep a roof over her head and food on her table.  She also has a ward to consider.  This is how she ends up beholden to the Patron, putting her squarely in Smite's view.  Miranda also likes the thrill of the chase, and once Smite catches a glimpse of her true self, he cannot stop chasing her. 

I'm still torn whether I like Unveiled or Unraveled best.  Both feature likeable and strong yet flawed heroes, heroines with gumption and grit; both have some oh so good sexual moments.  I may have declare it a tie -- and read both books again. 

While each book in this series can stand alone, I would caution that maximum enjoyment can only be achieved if the entire series is consumed. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Best of 2011

Given how many books I read (and covet), it's sometimes difficult to narrow down those I consider amazing and awesomely good.  Apparently, 2011 was the year of the series for me, because several of my choices are just that.

I've listed the books I consider amazing and awesomely good in alphabetical order.

In looking at Ms. Bond's website for her upcoming books, I stumbled upon the Sweetness, Georgia series.  It technically begins with a short novella, Baby, I'm Yours, but the crux of the series is about the Armstrong brothers who return to their hometown following their respective military careers in order to rebuild it after an F-5 tornado touches down.  Baby, Drive South not only gets the reader into Sweetness ten years after the fact; it's the best book of the series, in my opinion. 


This book came along for me at the absolute perfect time.  Full of sexual tension, sex, and some great characters.  Loved it!


 The Dark Age Dawning series [Nightfall, Midnight, Daybreak] by Ellen Connor 
(aka Ann Aguirre and Carrie Lofty)

A little bit paranormal romance, a little bit urban fantasy, a little bit apocalyptic adventure, and a little bit of romance and hot sex.  Roll all those ingredients around and you have this series.  Nightfall scared the beejeebus out of me -- demon dogs, anyone? --  but putting aside my fear of things that go bump regardless of the time of day, this series is oh so good.  Nightfall and Daybreak were my favorites, and I'm just a tad bit sad we won't be able to revisit these characters.


Tessa Dare's writing is what keeps me coming back.  The lush descriptions, the turn of a phrase, and man, the sexual tension she conveys between her characters is off the charts.  I cannot wait to read the next Spindle Cove novel, A Week to be Wicked (March 2012).  

  Drake's Rakes [Barely a Lady, Never a Gentleman, and Always a Temptress] by Eileen Dreyer

When I interviewed Ms. Dreyer last year, I told her I thought this series should be named "The Graces" as the respective heroines can all be referred to as "Grace" in some form or fashion.  I also enjoy reacquainting myself with all the rakes, so I do hope more from this series is forthcoming.  

A spin-off (in part) of her first series, this trilogy focuses on the Rising Chef competition.  I really enjoyed Too Hot to Touch, have Some Like it Hot in my TBR stack, and am looking forward to Hot Under Pressure (March 2012). 

My reading this paranormal romance is proof that buzz sells books, and Dragon Bound is so worth it.  I have essentially reached my paranormal romance peak; I don't seek it out nor do I strive to keep up with what's what.  (Paranormal romance was my genre of choice from 2005-2008.)  But I am so glad I listened to those tweets and picked this book up.

 Waking Up With the Duke by Lorraine Heath

Another great series ending book.  Unrequited love and guilt play deep roles here, but the ending is so sweet and emotional.

I don't have enough good things to say about this book.  I've read everything Ms. Hoyt has written, and Scandalous Desires may be her best work.  Don't delay; read it!  Then you'll be ready for Winter's book, Thief of Shadows (July 2012).  

I too have read everything that Ms. James has written, and A Lot Like Love is my absolute favorite, perhaps her best.  My only complaint is that she only writes one book a year.  

Unveiled and Unraveled by Courtney Milan

Ms. Milan is a new-to-me author.  I'd tried to read her debut, Proof by Seduction, but couldn't get past the first thirty pages.  Unveiled pulled me in from the first page. 


This book was a great end to a series.  It makes an excellent companion to Ms. Robinson's debut, Mistress by Mistake

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