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.}
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