Friday, March 30, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: The Cowboy Takes a Bride by Lori Wilde

Ex-champion bull rider-turned-cutting-horse cowboy Joe Daniels isn't quite sure how he ended up sleeping in a horse trough wearing nothing but his Stetson and cowboy boots. But now he's wide-awake, and a citified woman is glaring down at him. His goal? Get rid of her ASAP. The obstacle? Fighting the attraction he feels toward the blond-haired filly with the big, vulnerable eyes.

When out-of-work wedding planner Mariah Callahan learns that her estranged father has left her a rundown ranch in Jubilee, she has no choice but to accept it. Her goal? Redeem her career by planning local weddings. The obstacle? One emotionally wounded, hard-living cowboy who stirs her guilt, her heartstrings, and her long-burned cowgirl roots . . .

Ms. Wilde is a new-to-me author, but I was intrigued by the sweetness of this contemporary romance, so I decided to take a leap of faith.  What I received was a sweet romance -- a win-win situation!

Mariah Callahan's father, Dutch, passed away.  He and Mariah weren't close -- he had actually abandoned Mariah and her mother -- but his only child was never far from his thoughts.  He left his entire ranch to her upon his passing, and given that Mariah's lost her job in Chicago, she believes it's a good time to take in exactly what her father loved more than her.  

Joe Daniels is Dutch Callihan's best friend.  He's mourning the loss of his young wife and now Dutch's unexpected death has pushed him toward depression.  He has big dreams for the cutting horse he and Dutch trained together, so he believes Mariah cannot wait to sell Dutch's property and return to her big-city life.  

The Cowboy Takes a Bride is a novel of mistaken impressions.  Everyone from Mariah to Joe to the secondary characters involved make wrong assumptions about a specific party, yet continue with their respective beliefs until proven wrong.  There are two sides to every story, Clover tells Joe when he complains about Mariah's treatment of Dutch, but Joe isn't convinced of this until Mariah confesses Dutch left she and her mother.  We see all the characters grow, personally and in love with their perfect partner.  

(A very special thank you to Avon and HarperCollins for an ARC of The Cowboy Takes a Bride.)  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare

When a devilish lord and a bluestocking set off on the road to ruin…
Time is not on their side. 

Minerva Highwood, one of Spindle Cove’s confirmed spinsters, needs to be in Scotland.
Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, a rake of the first order, needs to be… anywhere but Spindle Cove.

These unlikely partners have one week
-to fake an elopement
-to convince family and friends they’re in “love”
-to outrun armed robbers
-to survive their worst nightmares
-to travel four hundred miles without killing each other
All while sharing a very small carriage by day and an even smaller bed by night.

What they don’t have time for is their growing attraction. Much less wild passion. And heaven forbid they spend precious hours baring their hearts and souls.

Suddenly one week seems like exactly enough time to find a world of trouble.
And maybe…just maybe…love.

This book is amazing, let's get my opinion on record immediately.  A Week to be Wicked is Ms. Dare's best work yet.   When I downloaded an ARC, I convinced myself I could wait to read it.  You see, I wanted to savor this book, to make it last for as long as possible.  Nope.  Didn't happen.  I laughed; I cried; I tried to read slower; I inhaled.  And at the heart of A Week to be Wicked is a simple, sweet yet insanely hot love story, one I hated to see end.

Oh, for the love of tits. How did this happen to him? He had the best of intentions, and then somehow...
Your good intentions have the impact of mortar shells. 

On one hand, we have Colin Sandhurst, a rake in Spindle Cove not by his choosing.  He wants to be anywhere but there.  Colin's foppish exterior hides the fact that he is intelligent yet haunted by the accident that claimed his parents' lives and that he truly enjoys calling Minerva by any other "M" name he can think of.

"If I don't have a bed companion, I lie awake all night."
He nudged toward the soft heat of her body and gathered the blanket around them. "So you may want to rethink your plans, pet. If we did undertake this journey...I'd need you in my bed."

On the other hand, there's Minerva Highwood, a set-in-stone spinster who studies rocks and is intent on presenting her discovery from Spindle Cove to the Royal Geological Society in Edinburgh.  She believes Colin would be the perfect man to help her travel to Edinburgh, and she suggests they fake an elopement as reasonable excuse to leave Spindle Cove.

"Perhaps not, but I think you do want kissing." He nuzzled the curve of her cheek, and his voice dropped to a sensual whisper. "Don't you?"
She did. Oh, she did.

As luck would have it, their journey is not an easy one.  There's robbers and bandits and lies, oh the lies Colin tells in the hopes of making their travels easier.  But what happens on their journey is that they discover each other -- their true selves, the selves they keep hidden and/or protected from the rest of the world -- and they find themselves falling in love.

"Because..." Because I doubt myself. "Because I know how easily you lie."
He clutched her bottom, bringing her pelvis flush with his.  His hardness ground against her, sending pleasure rushing through her veins.
"Feel that?" he growled.
She nodded. Good Lord, how could she not?
"I've been hard for you for days, Minerva.  Since before we even left Spindle Cove.  If you believe nothing else, believe this." He rocked against her.  "This doesn't lie." 

For such an unlikely couple, Colin and Minerva are perfect for one another, absolutely 100% perfect.  You won't be at all disappointed with A Week to be Wicked.

(A very special thank you to Avon and HarperCollins for providing me with an ARC of A Week to be Wicked.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Oracle's Moon by Thea Harrison

As a second daughter, Grace Andreas never had to worry about the intrigues of the Elder Races. But when her sister, Petra, and Petra’s husband are both killed, Grace inherits the Power and responsibilities of the Oracle of Louisville, as well as her sister’s two young children – neither of which she is prepared for.

Yet, she is not alone. Khalil, Demonkind and Djinn prince of House Marid – driven by his genuine caring for the children – has decided to make himself a part of the household both as their guardian and as an exasperating counterpoint to Grace’s impudence toward the Elder Races.

But when an attempt is made on Grace’s life, she realizes that Khalil is the only one who can protect her – and offer her more than a mortal man…

Oracle's Moon picks right up from where Serpent's Kiss ended in the continuing Elder Races series.  I do think Oracle's Moon can be read alone, especially since Serpent's Kiss was my least favorite of the books.   Oracle's Moon brought me back to what I loved about this series in the first place:  extraordinary characters.

Grace Andreas never wanted to be an Oracle.  Her older sister, Petra, inherited the gift, and Grace was just fine without that kind of added pressure.  Then her sister and her brother-in-law are killed in an accident, Grace herself is injured, and she must attempt to raise her young niece and nephew while allowing the Oracle's power to integrate within her.  Her introduction in Serpent's Kiss is how Grace became acquainted with Khalil, Djinn prince. 

What I loved the most is that we see every aspect of Grace's life: the injury she'll continue to suffer from thanks to the accident; her financial concerns;  her exploration of her innate ability plus the power of the Oracle; and raising her sister's children on top of all that.  She first views Khalil as a nuisance, then comes to rely on him, especially to keep the children from harm.  We see this unlikely couple fall in love -- and it's sweet and passionate and amazing.  The subplot and major source of external conflict was a bit weak in my opinion, though I'm sure the repercussions will be felt by the  entire Wyr world in future books.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Taking a Shot by Jaci Burton

If you want to score, you have to get in the game...

The last thing Jenna Riley needs is more sports in her life. While her brothers are off being athletic superstars, she's stuck running the family's sports bar, whether she likes it or not. Then in walks pro hockey stud Tyler Anderson. As much as Jenna would like to go to the boards with him, she's vowed to never fall for a jock—even one as hot as Ty.

Ty, intrigued by the beautiful bar owner, becomes a regular. He senses that Jenna wants to do something more with her life. And as he gains her trust, the passion between them grows, as does Ty's insistence that Jenna should start living for herself. With his encouragement, Jenna starts to believe it, too...

But first, Jenna has to figure out what she wants, what she needs, who she loves, and if she has the passion and pride to take a shot at having it all—including Ty... 

Thanks to managing her family's bar and two older brothers, Jenna Riley hates sports -- all sports.  She wants to date someone normal, yet she cannot stop thinking about the chemistry she shares with hockey star Ty Anderson.  At first, his appearances at the bar are nice; he visits with fans and keeps them happy.  When he starts to push Jenna for a date, she denies her attraction and resolves to move on.  But Ty isn't going to take Jenna's wishy-washy "No" for her true answer.

While I liked the set-up for Taking a Shot, Jenna was a difficult heroine to cheer for.  She has her mind set on one thing -- not dating an athlete or someone knowledgeable about sports -- and she sticks to her guns.  After she and Ty have sex in an ill-fated attempt on her part to get him out of her system, Jenna still isn't happy, now because she cannot stop thinking about Ty.  It's only when she realizes that she can achieve the dreams she's put on hold for her family's sake and the guy she's crazy about does she become a smart, likeable heroine.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Twice Fallen by Emma Wildes

Lady Lillian Bourne is re-entering society after her disastrous elopement four years ago, and has to be the very picture of propriety. But when she finds herself locked in a library with an enigmatic stranger during a party, she risks falling from grace a second time...

After years working as a spy, Lord Damien Northfield finds London tedious-until his encounter with the lovely but notorious Lily. When he's enlisted to investigate a scheme of blackmail and murder, he's thrilled to discover that Lily may be the key to catching a ruthless killer...

For Twice Fallen, we move to the eldest half-sister of Jonathan Bourne, Earl of Augustine (who was the hero of One Whisper Away) -- Lady Lillian Bourne.  Lillian is a victim of a scandal and is re-entering society.  Almost immediately, she finds herself trapped in a locked room with Lord Damien Northfield, a character I believe has been introduced in another of Ms. Wildes' series.  

While there is an attraction between Damien and Lillian, theirs is not as instantaneous, all-consuming, or passionate as that of Jonathan and Cecily's.  I think part of the reason is the other stuff happening around Damien and Lillian:  blackmail Damien is asked to investigate; Lillian's ex-fiance, Sebring and his new wife, who seems completely out to destroy what remains of Lillian's reputation; Lillian's cousin, James, and his affair with Regina.  

Given how much I enjoyed One Whisper Away, I expected the same kind of romantic connection here and was disappointed to find Twice Fallen not as strong.        

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: The Bro-Magnet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Women have been known to lament, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride." For Johnny Smith, the problem is, "Always a Best Man, never a groom." At age 33, housepainter Johnny has been Best Man eight times. The ultimate man's man, Johnny loves the Mets, the Jets, his weekly poker game, and the hula girl lamp that hangs over his basement pool table. Johnny has the instant affection of nearly every man he meets, but one thing he doesn't have is a woman to share his life with, and he wants that desperately. When Johnny meets District Attorney Helen Troy, he decides to renounce his bro-magnet ways in order to impress her. With the aid and advice of his friends and family, soon he's transforming his wardrobe, buying throw pillows, ditching the hula girl lamp, getting a cat and even changing his name to the more mature-sounding John. And through it all, he's pretending to have no interest in sports, which Helen claims to abhor. As things heat up with Helen, the questions arise: Will Johnny finally get the girl? And, if he's successful in that pursuit, who will he be now that he's no longer really himself? THE BRO-MAGNET is a rollicking comedic novel about what one man is willing to give up for the sake of love. 

The Twitter buzz about this book made me pick it up, and I'm so very glad I did.  It was a wonderful way to spend a Friday afternoon and evening.

First, put aside the title and the cover (though I do think the title is funny -- a definite precursor of what's to come).  Johnny Smith is center stage as a guy's guy, a single house painter in his 30s who seems to attract and keep a variety of male friends.  He feels cursed with women -- his mother died in childbirth -- so he's maintained a specific style throughout his adult life.  It's only when he meets Helen that he believes he needs to step up his game in order to woo and win her, and he turns to his lifelong buddies for hysterical help and advice.

The Bro-Magnet is a really, really funny book.  Most of my internal thoughts while reading consisted of "Oh, Johnny."  He does get himself into some sticky albeit laughable situations.  While I don't think most men think like Johnny does, it's those thoughts which make him so down-to-earth and likeable.  And who doesn't like a man who watches General Hospital? 

(A very special thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of The Bro-Magnet.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy Birthday + Giveaway


My House of Books is Two Years Old! 
I'm so excited about this accomplishment, I'm giving away a $10 Barnes and Noble gift card.  Please leave a comment on this post, and I'll draw a winner on Friday, March 16th.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Some Like it Hot by Louisa Edwards

A sizzling blend of food, passion—and searing romance—the Rising Star Chef competition brings together the world’s hottest chefs for an all-star cook-off that’s sure to stir up excitement...and melt some hearts.


Sexy, single, and even sweeter than the treats he bakes, New York pastry chef Danny Lunden is trying to stay focused on food—not females. With the Rising Star Chef competition approaching, he doesn’t have time to get all steamed up over the gorgeous woman he encounters on the plane to Chicago. Even if she is Eva Jansen—the billionaire heiress in charge of the contest...


Danny assumes that “Eva the Diva” is a spoiled rich girl who doesn’t share his passion for food. But when the two meet up again in an elevator—alone—they share more than just passion. They share a kiss hot enough to start a kitchen fire—and they’re hungry for more. To indulge their new secret craving, Eva and Danny have to break every rule in the cookbook. But—like chocolate and caramel—some ingredients are are so sinfully good together, one scrumptious bite is never enough...

A continuation of the Rising Star Chef competition, Some Like it Hot focuses on Danny and Eva.  The two had met -- and shared some sparks -- in the first book of this series, Too Hot to Touch.  Eva is a little abrupt and a little spoiled, or at least that's the air she puts on; Danny is a "fixer," the only one he believes can hold the Lunden's team together so they have a fighting chance in the competition.  Since Danny is more sensitive than Eva, my initial concern would be that she would hurt him.  After all, Eva thinks Danny's hot and wants him -- she doesn't look past the physical aspects of their relationship.   But as we move along, we learn that Eva's outward persona is masking someone who is afraid of rejection and has insecurities.  True to his nature, Danny is able to "fix" Eva, or certainly start down that path, at the conclusion of the novel.  

Some Like it Hot also continues the May-December romance of Claire and Kane, who may be my favorite couple.  I cannot wait to read the final book, Hot Under Pressure, though I will be sad to say good-bye to these characters. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Die Job by Lila Dare

St. Elizabeth, Georgia, offers charm, Southern hospitality -- and an occasional dollop of murder.  Now, rumors that a local mansion is haunted are more real than ever when an amateur ghost-hunter comes upon something quite deadly...

High school senior Rachel Whitley thinks the field-trip idea -- playing ghost hunter with her class in Rothmere mansion, where the spirit of a murdered plantation owner is said to still reside -- is a lark.  But instead of a ghost, Rachel stumbles upon fellow student Braden McCullers, sprawled out in the very spot where Cyril Rothmere died.

As Braden lingers in a coma, Rachel enlists the ladies of Violetta's salon to investigate the attempt on his life -- and unravel the secrets that somehow link a high school student with a centuries-old crime.  The intrepid team of hairdressers find themselves in a tangled and treacherous mystery where the roots to the past are very ominous, indeed.

The third in the Southern Beauty Shop mystery series, Die Job, picks up where the second book, Polished Off, ended.  In addition to the mystery Grace Terhune and the women of Violetta's seek to solve, the town of St. Elizabeth is battening down the hatches for the arrival of a hurricane.  And as tensions in town rise in anticipation of the hurricane and the murder investigation, this who-done-it isn't exactly what it would appear to be.

I was surprised by the presence of the romantic triangle featuring Grace, Special Agent Dillon, and Grace's long-distance boyfriend, Marty Shears and a little bit disappointed it was left open-ended.  So I do hope there will be another book in this series, simply to solve the mystery of Grace's love life.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Review: The Making of a Gentleman by Shana Galen

Stripped of his humanity...

Armand, Comte de Valere, has spent twelve long years in a French prison.  Now he's barely a man, until his beautiful tutor vows to help him come alive again...

Prey to a terrible fate...

Felicity Bennett finds safety only in Armand's embrace, but the evil man pursuing her has joined forces with Armand's ememies...

They cling to each other as a lifeline, until a long-buried secret emerges, threatening to annihilate their growing passion...

I've held onto The Making of a Gentleman for a year, simply waiting for the third book of the trilogy to be released.   On one hand, I'm glad I waited because now I can jump directly into the final book; on the other hand, I cannot believe I waited this long! 

Armand, imprisoned for twelve years, does not talk to his family nor can he tolerate their touch.  Felicity Bennett is determined to pay back the man she believes took advantage of her father in order to form a marriage contract with her and accepts a tutor position within the de Valere household in the hopes of ridding herself of him forever.  She believes she will be tutoring a young boy and is surprised when she learns Armand is a grown man.  Surprisingly -- or not -- Armand becomes infatuated with Felicity's beauty and piano playing.  He also wants to maintain and keep physical contact with Felicity. 

We segue nicely from The Making of a Duchess into The Making of a Gentleman, though I do not believe it's necessary to have read the first book of the series.  Suspension of belief might be necessary, however, as some aspects of this novel were a bit too convenient.  That being said, I still enjoyed The Making of a Gentleman and am looking forward to the reuniting of the entire de Valere family in The Rogue Pirate's Bride.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas

Forever a girl obsessed with all things French, sweet freak Amy Thomas landed a gig as rich as the purest dark chocolate: leave Manhattan for Paris to write ad copy for Louis Vuitton. Working on the Champs-Élysées, strolling the charming streets, and exploring the best patisseries and boulangeries, Amy marveled at the magnificence of the City of Light.

But does falling in love with one city mean turning your back on another? As much as Amy adored Paris, there was part of her that felt like a humble chocolate chip cookie in a sea of pristine macarons. PARIS, MY SWEET explores how the search for happiness can be as fleeting as a salted caramel souffle's rise, as intensely satisfying as molten chocolate cake, and about how the life you're meant to live doesn't always taste like the one you envisioned.

Part love letter to Paris, part love letter to New York, and total devotion to all things sweet, PARIS, MY SWEET is a treasure map for anyone with a hunger for life.

Not the best book to read on a diet, but I really enjoyed this nonfiction book about Paris (and chocolate).  Paris is on the short list of places I'd love to visit, and while I'm not sure I'll ever make it there, Paris, My Sweet was a great way to journey and eat the desserts without any of the guilt. 

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

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