Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Pretender: The Liar's Club by Celeste Bradley

Book Description:
Rule #1: Never fall in love.

She had a secret she'd do anything to hide.
Agatha Cunnington, a headstrong beauty from the country, has come to London in search of her missing brother James. The only clue she has is a cryptic letter signed The Griffin. Agatha decides to disguise herself as a respectable married woman so that she can go about the city unnoticed. But for her charade to work she needs a suitable "husband," preferably someone tall, elegant, and rakish-someone like Simon Montague Rain.

He had a secret he'd do anything to hide.
Simon Montague Rain, also known as The Magician, is a member of The Liar's Club, a renegade group of rogues and thieves in the service of the Crown. When someone begins murdering members of the undercover cabal one by one, Simon is given the mission to bring in The Griffin, one of his comrades who is suspected of betraying his brothers. Simon goes undercover and infiltrates the home of "Mrs." Agatha Applequist who he believes is the Griffin's mistress. Before Simon knows what's happened, he finds himself irresistibly drawn to Agatha's soft, feminine charms-and he is tempted beyond reason to break the first rule of The Liar's Club: never fall in love.

This was a simply delightful romance - I really loved it! It was a rollicking roller coaster ride of a story, funny, charming, exciting, mysterious and sexy - plus, a happy ending! What more could you want?

I loved Agatha, our heroine. She was so spunky and strong willed! Yet, she was ingenuous and delightful - not to mention she had a delicious figure, and knew how to use it to her advantage when out to get information (or her way) from men. Whether dancing with overstuffed generals or dealing cards in a sexy outfit in a gaming hell - she left men spellbound!

Simon was a dashing hero as well. At first, I was put off that he was not noble born, but you get over that very quickly. Tall, dark and handsome with arresting blue eyes he has an amazing physique (as both Aggie and his valet can testify). Plus, throw a little James Bond in there and he's irresistible! The two of them are so funny together, posing as man and wife, and the way they first meet is very funny when Aggie insists he takes off his clothes, and he thinks she means to bed him! She just wanted him to take a bath and pose as her make believe husband. Well, as soon as they meet the sparks fly and the story unfolds.

The main fly in the ointment here is, since Simon is a spy, he can't act on his urge to love and marry Agatha because then his enemies would use it against him? Should he choose his love of England and duty - or his love for Agatha? She is so winsome and a joy - and she tells the biggest and funniest lies! Some real whoppers!

Lots of surprises and gotchas in this book, and it was all very clever and it had a spectacular ending - I won't spoil it, but this is a must read! Ms. Bradley is the Queen of great endings. Clever, a bit sappy, but oh so wonderful, and the sex scenes are great (fans self) but not over the top - they're just right!

This is the first in The Liar's Club series, and I can't wait to read the rest of them!


Saturday, November 29, 2008

An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn

Book Description:
Sophie Beckett never dreamed she'd be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton's famed masquerade ball - or that "Prince Charming" would be waiting there for her! Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, spinning in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight. Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other - except, perhaps, this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid's garb whom he feels compelled to rescue from a most disagreeable situation. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breathtaking maid makes him weak with wanting her. Yet, if he offers her his heart, will Benedict sacrifice his only chance for a fairy tale love?

At first I wasn't sure if I was going to like this storyline. Illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Penwood becomes Cinderella and meets Prince Charming at the masquerade ball, but then must return to the drudgery of being a housemaid in her stepmother's residence after midnight. I didn't see how this was going to have a happy conclusion. Am I a romance snob? Yes, I admit, I am. I can't reconcile the aristocratic classes marrying someone illegitimate or into the servant classes - it just didn't work back in Regency times. So, I hesitantly read this book, keeping an open mind. I'm glad I did. I really wound up enjoying this storyline, and Julia Quinn has pulled off another entertaining romance!

Her Bridgerton family is a delight to read - they're really the first family of romance novels. This is book #3 in the series and reading about Benedict, Bridgerton #2 (as he dolefully thinks the ton refers to him as) is a pleasure and he has an interesting story too - not your usual rake turned honorable gentleman. Benedict becomes Prince Charming who's looking for his Cinderella, and winds up falling in love with Sophie, a lady's maid.

Sophie has standards and morals. Born illegitimate, she will not make the same mistake as her mother who was a lady's maid. She and Benedict first meet, a magical evening, she's the mystery woman in silver, and all he has left of her is a long glove she wore that evening with a small Penwood coat of arms on it. His only clue as to her identity. Two years go by, she has now left her unhappy home of being a slave to her evil stepmother and is working as a maid at the country home of an acquaintance of Benedict's. Benedict saves her from almost being raped by a bunch of loutish cads there. He doesn't recognize her and winds up taking her to his house in the country with the intention of finding her a place in his mother's household as a maid. He's strangely drawn to her, and it turns into full blown desire over the course of a few days as he's getting over a bad cold in bed. Sophie knows who he is and is grappling with her own feelings. She has loved him from day one.

Eventually, Benedicts asks her to become his mistress, since it is inconcievable that one of his class could ask a lady's maid to marry him. Sophie has not been forthcoming as to her true identity, and keeps her secret from him, and the fact she was the woman in silver at the masquerade. She's afraid he'll ask her to be his mistress if she does - but he asks her anyway when he thinks she's a servant, so it really served her no purpose in the end to keep it from him - as he points out to her later when he finds out the truth and is very angry with her deception. The crux of the matter is - can a nobleman overcome the rules of the classes and break the barriers and marry for love and a servant? I had a little trouble with it myself, but the story developed so well, and as usual, the conclusion all worked out that I was happily relieved with the outcome. Benedict's mother, Violet, plays a large part in the book - I love her! (I suspect she is the infamous gossip columnist, Whistledown, btw - do we ever find out who she really is?) I also think Violet's story should be told of how she meets her husband - that deserves a story of it's own as a prequel - is there one already? I always gets a little misty-eyed thinking of their love, and again I had tears in my eyes during a moment she has with Benedict, discussing his father with her. Ms. Quinn has a way of bringing emotion in her books, I always have at least one moment that brings me to tears, whether from sadness or happiness - she's good at it!

So, do Sophie and Benedict work things out? Does Sophie agree to be his mistress or does she forsake him forever, knowing she could never share him with his "other" love, the woman in silver? A conundrum, indeed. The side characters in this book are well developed too. Plenty of lead-ins to future books in the series too. We're re-introduced to Benedict's family and friends, of which there are many.

This is a really enjoyable Regency series, with more than just your typical plotline. The books have a bit more thought and substance to them. There's a moral and social issue going on here that complicates love. It's well thought out and more on the realistic side - yet, with still a trace of humor in it to lessen the serious overtones of poor Sophie's dilemma. I recommend this and all the books in this series.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Devil In Winter by Lisa Kleypas

Book Description:
Easily the shyest Wallflower, Evangeline Jenner stands to become the wealthiest, once her inheritance comes due. Because she must first escape the clutches of her unscrupulous relatives, Evie has approached the rake Viscount St. Vincent with a most outrageous proposition: Marriage!

Sebastian's reputation is so dangerous that thirty seconds alone with him will ruin any maiden's good name. Still, this bewitching chit appeared, unchaperoned, on his doorstep to offer her hand. Certainly an aristocrat with a fine eye for beauty could do far worse.

But Evie's proposal comes with a condition: no lovemaking after their wedding night. She will never become just another of the dashing libertine's callously discarded broken hearts-which means Sebastian will simply have to work harder at his seductions...or perhaps surrender his own heart for the very first time in the name of true love.

The third in the ever popular Wallflower series, this is the story of Evie, who is desperate to get away from her abusive family that is forcing her to marry her odious and corpulent - not to mention cruel - cousin. She goes to the rake from the last book, It Happened One Autumn, Lord St. Vincent and proposes a marriage of convenience. Desperate himself for money, he takes her up on the offer and they speed off to Gretna Green for a quickie marriage and consummation.

I must say, I really enjoyed this book! Sebastian (St. Vincent) takes on the role of the reformed rake. He has had the worst reputation in the past and I liked watching his transformation with Evie. He winds up being considerate and caring, making sure she rests and her feet are warm in the cold in their carriage to Gretna Green. Their wedding is a quick affair, and he lets her sleep that night, but the next morning, he's considerate enough to wake her up most pleasantly and they consummate their marriage. He is irresistible, yet she tells him she'll only sleep with him this once, just to make the marriage legal so it cannot be anulled by her family. And so we have a bit of angst and sexual tension forming here, for she obviously enjoyed the sex with him (who wouldn't?), but is convinced he can never be faithful to her (she's gone into this marriage with her eyes wide open) and doesn't want to just become another unhappy conquest of his.

One thing leads to another and they begin to fall for one another. Her father is dying (he's a gambling club owner) and she wants to be with him and nurse him in his last days. Sebastian goes with her and winds up taking over the Club and has a flair for it. But, this crazy employee has it out for Evie and tries to kill her and winds up shooting Sebastian instead when he throws himself in front of the bullet to save her. It's touch and go there for a while, but St. Vincent lives and he also winds up making up with The Earl of Westcliff (from the last book) whose wife he tried to abduct. Once again, the Earl is invaluable in this book and saves St. Vincent's life (he's good at this in these books).

All in all, this was a really good reformed rake's tale with a different plotline as well. The shy and stuttering Evangeline finds her unlikely match. St. Vincent is virile, great in bed, blonde and oh so attractive - lucky Evangeline! If she's going to propose to someone for a marriage of convenience - at least she picked someone like St. Vincent! Onto the next in the series!


Note: I'm reading a bunch of romances for the next few weeks in light of the stress and business of the Christmas season - I just can't concentrate on anything heavy right now, but after the New Year, I'll be in action again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Highlander Unbound by Julia London

Book Description:
On leave from his Highland regiment, Captain Liam Lockhart comes to London on an urgent mission: to repossess the stolen family heirloom that could save his ancestral estate. He never dreamed it would involve surrendering his heart, but the beautiful and scandalous socialite Ellen Farnsworth sets his Highland blood aflame with a will as strong and reckless as his own. Though bound to Liam by a soul-searing passion, duty impels Ellen to commit a terrible betrayal.

Now, driven by passion, pride, and vengeance, this fearsome Highlander will reclaim not only his family's ancient treasure, but the one daring woman he was meant to love for all time.

I just can't put my finger on why, but this book just didn't do it for me. I have a couple of ideas and reasons, and all tolled together, the book just didn't thrill me. For one thing, this takes place during Regency times - 1816. Why does it just seem so incongruous to have a Scottish Highlander in London during these times? I much prefer them on their own turf, and preferably earlier times. I guess I'm a Scottish Highlander snob. I'm happier with medieval highlanders or highlanders set around the time of the risings. Liam, our hero, seemed like a fish out of water, scraping by with hardly any money and then falling for what turns out to be a beautiful, scheming liar! He fell hook, line and sinker for her, and he didn't always seem overly bright about things. I think part of my problem was, I wasn't "wowed" by him - or her (but I'll get to that later.) Their love scenes were lacklustre or just out of place. I felt like the author was writing these racy love scenes that would have been better suited to a contemporary romance.

Liam must go to London to save his family from losing their ancestral estate to retrieve this "beastie." An ugly solid gold statue that has rubies set in it as well. Worth a pretty penny, but he has to steal it back from his English cousins. And so we follow Liam in London scheming to get the statue. He is extremely clueless when it comes to London sophistication. He launders his own clothes in a fountain in Hyde Park, kills geese from the park as well (to roast and eat in his lodgings), and even has the audacity to cut some of the park's famed roses to create a makeshift bouquet. How can anyone be that dumb? Certainly not a grown man who is 35 years old and a sailor that has fought at Waterloo! Give him some brains, at least!

He meets Ellie, who is the mother of an illegitimate 10 year old girl. Ellie is living in the same house where Liam has his lodgings. She is a lady who has been disgraced and now lives with her miserly father (Liam thinks she is his wife at first). She and Liam fall in love and spend a lot of time in bed having racy, and sometimes kinky sex. I'm no prude, but it irked me. I just couldn't get past how she has already fallen from grace once, 10 years earlier, and now she's leaping into bed with another man who she knows she can't have a future with. Her solution? She steals "the beastie" herself after tricking him into allowing himself to be "bound" to the bed (buck naked) expecting some kinky sex. She absconds with the statue, even though she professes to love him and takes off with her daughter to a friend's country estate where she has some time to figure out what to do next. I never bonded with Ellie, I couldn't forgive her for stealing the statue, even knowing why she did it, it was just wrong and I couldn't get past it. If she really loved him, she would not have left him tied up that way, fleeing with his family's heirloom that would save them from losing their castle. She knew this too. In my book, that's a serious flaw. I was disappointed in Liam because he forgave her too easily.

Liam is "unbound" in the morning by the servant man and easily traces Ellie's whereabouts. Suddenly he's gotten smart - or so we think! He finds her and they have words, he winds up ingratiating himself with her aristocratic friends. He plans on stealing the beastie from her, but she tricks him again and he steals a fake! But, is he fed up with her and angry enough to wring her neck? Yes, he's angry, but he still loves her - all the more because she tricked him! What a gal! She's made for him! *rolls eyes* She flees after tricking him again, and sells the beastie for a fraction of what his family was hoping to get for it, and then realizes how wrong she was to have taken it in the first place (no, really?) and goes to Scotland to his family castle to return the money to him.

Eventually he gets back and has his own little payback moment tying her up in bed before he makes passionate love to her. She tells him about selling the beastie and the money, and even though everyone is disappointed - they all forgive her! Liam asks her to marry him - but he's a soldier - will she follow him or stay at his castle with his family while he's away campaigning? Meanwhile, they're still going to be up a creek because they don't have money to save the estate, and they've given his brother, Grif, the job to go find the statue again and steal it - this is the lead in to Book 2 in the series, which I don't intend to read. Also, we never found out what his English Lockart cousins did when they found out the statue was stolen? Did they even care? Did they call the police? Or is that in the sequel as well? I dislike reading books that have such obvious open endings to prepare you for the next book. It's so calculating to me to get you to buy and read the next book in the series.

I won't say the book was bad, but it wasn't great either. The first half was all about Liam getting used to London and planning to get the beastie back. It was sort of dull, and the romance, as I said before, was out of place - forced in a way. It didn't make me like either Liam or Ellie further, it sort of lowered them in my opinion. I guess I have standards when it comes to reading these romances and if I don't necessarily approve of their having hot sex (with her daughter sleeping in the room nextdoor, or alone upstairs when they're down in his rooms) then so be it.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

From Amazon
The story starts conventionally enough with friends sharing ghost stories 'round the fire on Christmas Eve. One of the guests tells about a governess at a country house plagued by supernatural visitors. But in the hands of Henry James, the master of nuance, this little tale of terror is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity. Only the young governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children (a girl and a boy) for some evil purpose. The household staff don't know what she's talking about, the children are evasive when questioned, and the master of the house (the children's uncle) is absent. Why does the young girl claim not to see a perfectly visible woman standing on the far side of the lake? Are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? By leaving the questions unanswered, The Turn of Screw generates spine-tingling anxiety in its mesmerized readers.

After recently reading The Thirteenth Tale which I heard had overtones from The Turn of the Screw, I was inspired to read it to see what the similarities were about. Sure enough there were many, but as soon as I began reading this story, I forgot all about The Thirteenth Tale and focused on this interesting and eerie story of ghosts, paranoia and veiled sexuality. I've never read anything by Henry James before, and I liked this story, so perhaps I'll venture into some of his other novels.

Considered a classic, and written around 1899, I was prepared to slog through this, but it was surprising readable and well written. Plus, it's very short, only about 120 pages and I read it in a few hours.

The story is basically about a governess who goes to the country to take care of two orphaned children that are left in the care of their bachelor uncle. He lives in London and doesn't want to deal with them, so he hires a governess to take care of everything and tells her in so many words that he really doesn't want to be bothered with them about anything. At first, we think the governess is a good sensible honest young woman who must become a governess because she comes from a poor vicar's family, and she's a younger daughter. As the story unfolds and we meet her two pupils, a brother and sister who are beautiful, angelic looking children ages 10 and 8, we expect all will be well at Bly (the name of the country estate where the story takes place.)

But, soon enough, the governess sees a strange man staring at her from atop one of the towers on the estate. She has no idea who he is and wonders about it, but keeps it to herself and does not mention it to the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, who has become her friend and confidante. But, then, she sees the man again in the window and finally tells Mrs. Grose about it. In describing him, they ascertain that he is the ghost of the Master's dead valet. The governess after questioning the housekeeper learns this valet had previously been very free and easy in his ways with one of her pupils, Miles. They had spent a great deal of time together and the governess is shocked to hear about it and uneasy. Then, the former (now dead) governess starts turning up as a ghost as well, with (according to the present governess) designs on her little female pupil. For most of the book, we witness how the governess tries to save her wards from these ghosts, she's horrified to find that the children like them and want to be with them. They lie and scheme to find time to be with them and the governess sees it as her duty to save them and screen them from the malevolent and evil purposes of these spectres.

Now, as I was reading this, more and more I was coming to the conclusion that our governess was really not in her right mind. Little clues are dropped to indicate that she might be losing her mind, and the ghosts are a figment of her imagination. I also had the uneasy feeling that there was some kind of sexual abuse going on with the children - with the valet and the governess when they were still alive? Or was this the governesses paranoia? How come no one else would see the ghosts but the governess? Why didn't the governess ever mail the children's letters to the Master? Why did her letter to the Master that Miles stole say nothing - was it blank? What sort of family problems did the governess have at home - we never learn what they are. And how convenient that the governess sends Mrs. Grose and her female pupil away to the Master in London, leaving her alone with Miles at the end.

I think our governess went mad and wanted to "save" the children. She really believed there were ghosts, and thought she could get the children away from them. I won't spoil the ending, but it only supports my theory - although many believe, who read the book, that it was indeed about ghosts. I think it's more about a woman's madness and a one-sided crush she has for the Master and what she sees as her role to make him proud of her, so that maybe he'd one day look at her as more than a governess, and perhaps a romantic interest? All in her head, of course.

All in all, a good story and it makes you think and wonder. I recommend it.


A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

Book Description:
After enduring years of torture from the vampire horde, Lachlain MacRieve, leader of the Lykae Clan, is enraged to find the predestined mate he's waited millennia for is a vampire. Or partly one. This Emmaline is a small, ethereal half Valkyrie/half vampire, who somehow begins to soothe the fury burning within him.

This is my first "vampire" book (besides Anne Rice's books that I read in the 1980's) and I must admit, it wasn't bad. It reminded me a lot of the Scottish Highlander romances I like to read, only instead of the alpha-male Scottish chieftain who falls for the young sweet English beauty that his clan will never accept - this story was about a werewolf Scottish chief and his mate is a vampire. An interesting combination!

Emmaline is really half vampire/half Valkyrie, she's petite and cowardly at first, but we see her blossom and come into herself as the book progresses. When she first meets Lachlain, a Lykae who looks like a large handsome muscular man (this is not your typical excess facial hair werewolf - but he does have some lupine tendencies - especially on the Full Moon). Lachlain is extremely brutal to her at first, but as we see Emma transform, we see Lachlain soften over the course of the book too. Though he always has that dangerous edge to him (which I like). Upon first meeting, he captures her, and she is completely unsuspecting and defenseless. He scents her as his mate, which is forever in the Lykae world (and they're both immortal - so it really is forever!) and can't wait to get at her. She is at first understandably reluctant and scared - and a virgin. Their first 2 days together seem to last for much longer and it's a whirlwind courtship, in so many words. She's scared to death of him, and hungry, since she hasn't had her blood fix in a few days. He's just coming off being tortured and imprisoned in vampire hell for 150 years, so he's really anxious to "do the deed." One thing leads to another and Lachlain realizes she's starving, and he must save her, so he offers himself to drink from. Emma has never drank from the source before, usually drinking her blood from a glass, but she's so weak and desperate she goes for him.

Well, that's the beginning of some very erotic love scenes.

This was an original story, not only does Lachlain have to deal with the fact that his mate is a vampire, whom his clan has despised for centuries, but he has to deal with his in-laws too. A coven of rabid Valkyrie who are women warriors that will stop at nothing to get their niece, Emma, back. Plus, there's also the pesky problem of these evil demon vampires that are after Emma, since she seems to be the last female vampire left in the world and of royal lineage (her mother is Helen of Troy.)

The plot becomes convoluted at times, but it was exciting, different and very sexy. Lachlain, though a Lykae, was appealing, and I was eager to read what happens between them on the night of the Full Moon, when he's supposed to go sexually berserk. I'll just say, the reader is not disappointed. The sexual tension building up to that night is intense, but unfortunately falls flat afterwards when the book turns more to battles and resolving the Romeo and Juliet family problems that our two lovers must face when a Lykae and a Vampire/Valkyrie want to marry.

If Scottish romances, paranormals and vampires are your thing - you'll love this book. It's the first in a long series. I'm not sure if I'll read more of these, but I was curious and not sorry I read it, though I personally prefer a more traditional time travel medieval romance.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Uncommon Reader: A Novella by Alan Bennett

Book Description:
A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queen’s transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word. With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, England’s best loved author revels in the power of literature to change even the most uncommon reader’s life.

This was a fun read, a tiny little book, only 120 pages long, it was easy to read, and the subject matter was delightful! Even though I'm obviously not the Queen of England, I could totally relate to her becoming an avid reader, especially since I've been going through this same thing for the past 2 years myself!

We follow the Queen along as she discovers new authors, old authors, classics and new books. She realizes she'd rather be reading a book than anything else. She learns how convenient paperbacks are for fitting into handbags, she learns that one doesn't mind traveling to and fro as long as one has a book. One doesn't even mind waiting - as long as one has a book! Oh the delights of having a good book. She starts off with easy reading material and then as she becomes more and more of a reader she effortlessly makes her way up to Proust. As she says herself in so many words, reading is like a muscle. The more you do it, the more good you get at it - and the easier those hard to read books suddenly become!

Not only does the Queen's reading enhance her own understanding of life but she takes on a new awareness of those around her. Whereas she never used to notice the small things in those around her, now she does. She's become more human due to reading - or maybe more humanistic. Unfortunately, her staff does not feel the same way and they don't like the way it has changed her. She's putting on a "poor show' for the people. She's not as eager to "perform" her duties, more like just going through the motions because - she wants to get back to her book! Oh, do I know that feeling!

I enjoyed this little book very much and the surprise ending! Such an amusing little tale, and I must admit, seeing the movie "The Queen" only made me appreciate it even more. Give it a try, if you are a reader, you'll love this book!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Dark Highlander by Karen Marie Moning

Book Description:
Journey to a world of ancient magic, breathtaking sensuality, thrilling time-travel.... Journey to the world of The Dark Highlander. Crisscrossing the continents and the centuries, here is a novel as gripping as it is sensual--an electrifying adventure that will leave you breathless....

I am Dageus MacKeltar, a man with one good conscience and thirteen bad ones, driven to sate my darkest desires...

From his penthouse lair high above Manhattan, Dageus looks out over a glittering city that calls to the darkness within him. A sixteenth-century Scot trapped between worlds, he is fighting a losing battle with the thirteen Druids who possess his soul, dooming him to an eternity of sexual pursuit. When Chloe Zanders, student of antiquities, is drawn into his world, she finds the insatiable alpha male an irresistible lure.Before long, she is caught up in an ancient prophecy that will sweep her back into time to medieval Scotland. Plunged into a world of timeless magic and dark seduction, she will soon face the challenge of a lifetime: fighting thirteen evil spirits for the heart of one irresistible man....

The 5th of Karen Marie Moning's Highlander books, this one picks up where the last one, Kiss of the Highlander left off. Whereas Kiss of the Highlander was about twin brother, Drustan, this one is about the other twin, Dageus. I really loved Kiss of the Highlander, I think it's my favorite of her books I've read so far, but The Dark Highlander wasn't quite as good.

For one thing, this book had some of the same plot devices that that last one had but without the humor. In Kiss it was all new and I loved it, in this one, it was more like, the lighter side of Kiss. The book wasn't bad and it was very sexy. Dageus is even sexier than Drustan (if that's possible), but as the title implies, he has a dark side. He is cursed and has these 13 evil beings inside him that are trying to completely turn him to the dark side (a la Darth Vader). The only way he can keep them at bay is if he's "tooping" a woman. By the time we come upon him in his sleek Manhattan apartment, he's quite the womanizer.

Unsuspecting Chloe meets up with him and it's funny and entertaining how he has to imprison her in his bedroom, tied to his bed with silk scarves to prevent her from revealing the secret that he has stolen these priceless ancient Celtic tomes that she recognizes as being stolen by the notorious "Gaulish Ghost". One thing leads to another and he falls for her and "wants" her immediately. She being a beautiful virgin doesn't give in too easily - though that doesn't mean it's not entertaining, the build up isn't bad, but there is always that dark side of him that was hanging around and getting in the way. I can't say it didn't bother me. And I was a little disappointed with their "first time." After all the many build ups to it, I didn't like the setting - or the position!

Eventually, they go back in time together to try and help him figure out how to break the curse and we see his father, Silvan and stepmother Nell again from Kiss. I like them. I've always found their romance sweet and I'm glad we have some closure with them in this book by the end. We also see Gwen and Drustan from the last book too - Gwen is heavily pregnant with twins - 2 more months to go for her, I wonder if that will be in another book?

All in all, the book wasn't bad, but compared to Kiss it fell a little flat, but it was still very entertaining and diverting. Quick read and sexy as anything.


February 16, 2011 Update: 

Audiobook Review:

As usual I loved Phil Gigante's narration and his Scottish males voices are perfect.  Sexy, throaty, thick with passion and in Daegus' case - downright grrrowly!  Daegus is unbelievably sexy and well hung, even more so on audiobook.  I preferred this book on audio than in print.  Chloe and Dageus's sex scenes were something else and hot as hell!  But, I still have a problem with his voice for the heroine, they always sound a "wrong" to me, not how I would imagine talking, his heroine's come across much better in print, but I do like his voice for Nellie, Sylvan's (now) wife.  This is a must read/listen for the series and we get more of the fae lore setting us up for future highlander books and Moning's Fever series as well.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Book Description:
A contemporary retelling of Hamlet of stark and striking brilliance set on a farm in remote northern Wisconsin, where the mute and brilliant Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents Gar and Trudy. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomised by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong companion. But when his beloved father mysteriously dies, Edgar blames himself, if only because his muteness left him unable to summon help. Grief-stricken and bewildered by his mother's desperate affair with her dead husband's brother, Edgar's world unravels one spring night when, in the falling rain, he sees his father's ghost. After a botched attempt to prove that his uncle orchestrated Gar's death, Edgar flees into the Chequamegon wilderness leading three yearling dogs. Yet his need to face his father's murderer, and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs, turn Edgar ever homeward. When he returns, nothing is as he expects, and Edgar must choose between revenge or preserving his family legacy!

When I first decided to read this book, I had no idea it was an Oprah selection (I probably would not have read it if I had known, since I tend to avoid her selections.) The other reason was it was a story that involved dogs, and I love dogs having a big Golden Retriever myself. I didn't know much else about the book, but then I began to read it had very mixed reviews. Well, now that I've finished it, I know why.

This book started out very well. In fact, I was so moved by the storyline in the first 40 pages, I was sobbing twice, it tugged at my heartstrings so strongly. I settled into the great storytelling of Edgar's parents and their early trials and tribulations before he is born. Then I was sucked in even further when Edgar is born mute and we learn how his parents deal with it. Their beloved dog, Almondine, becomes Edgar's nursemaid in a way, taking care of him and being his voice from the time they first bring him home from the hospital. All the while, the backdrop of dog breeding and the famous Sawtelle dogs was fascinating to read about. In the majority of the book Edgar is 14 - the same age as my teenaged son. I could so relate! I loved it all - until Claude came into the picture.

Claude is Edgar's uncle, and this is where the whole Hamlet storyline comes in to the book. Claude kills his brother, Gar (Edgar's father) who then comes to him on a rainy night outside in the form of a dripping wet ghost. Edgar, who can only speak by signing, communicates with his father by signing, as does his father's ghost back to him. It was an eerie but moving moment, and so begins Edgar's teenaged quest to avenge his father and get rid of Claude, who also had designs on his mother, Trudy. I was really disappointed in Trudy. She started off well, I admired her and her fortitude through her heartaches, but she just seemed to give up and let Claude into her life (and bed) and after that we never really got into her head much until close to the end of the book. What was she thinking of Edgar the whole time he had run away? Wasn't she going out of her mind? Her character started out so well, but then totally fizzled, and wasn't realistic anymore. We lost her.

Edgar runs away with three of the dogs he's training and for almost 2 months he's on foot, trying to make his way to this Commune in Canada. One of the dogs, Tinder, gets injured (I was so sad for Tinder!) and Edgar finds help and lives with this nice, but melancholy, lonely guy, Henry who has a house in the woods. This interlude was okay, but dragged at parts, but it was Edgar's reawakening that he must return, he can't run away any longer. But, I'm still not really sure of what triggered his reawakening, but it was moving when he leaves with the dogs. The dogs were the best part of this book - and Edgar of course. I really liked Edgar a lot, he's special.

But, by the last part of the book when Edgar returns I was really getting fed up with the storyline and didn't like the way it was going. Too many disappointments. I loved Almondine, and what happens to her was so unfair! I would have cried, if I hadn't been so mad. And then the whole crazy ending (trying not to give away spoilers here) in the barn and the final outcome - I could spit, it was all so drawn out and disappointing! No fair! Yes, I know, I know, he was following the story of Hamlet, but did he have to be so faithful to it? Couldn't he make it a happy ending? I felt like I had invested so much into this story with wonderful, sweet Edgar and the dogs and the training - all to have it pulled out from under me!

This book started out so well, but then in the last 250 pages it changed so and become one disappointment after another. It almost seemed as if it was written by a different person in the 2nd half. What happened?? Read it at your own risk, or just read the first 300 pages and leave it there.

I'm rating this a 3.5, but if it had kept the same tone as the first half, it would have been a 5.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Duke Most Wanted by Celeste Bradley

Book Description:
Sophie Blake's grandfather willed his fortune to the first of his granddaughters to marry a duke. Since her cousin, Deirdre, will seal the deal any day now, the quiet, bookish Sophie can sit back and enjoy her time with the only man she truly adores: Graham. No matter that the part charmer, part scoundrel has absolutely no designs on her! Sophie is content to engage Graham in lively conversation, beat him at cards. . . and probe at the darkness hiding behind his rakish smile.

Then Graham unexpectedly gains a title, an estate in near ruins and a mountain of debt. If there is any chance of survival he must find a rich wife—quickly. As his hunt for a bride begins, Sophie realizes that she isn’t even in the running. Suddenly no longer content to be a wallflower, Sophie gets a stunning make-over and becomes the belle of the ball. Lots of heads are turning…including Graham's. But this beauty has secrets of her own. Will she be his salvation or seal his fate?

This is the third and last of the regency based Heiress Brides trilogy, and I must say, I enjoyed them. This is the story of plain, bookish, bespectacled Sophie who was always the quiet one of the three girls, who never had any interest in the Pickering fortune and marrying a duke. Sophie's great friend is Gray Cavendish, 4th son of the Duke of Edenton. Gray has always been a wastrel type, selfish, but fun to be with. He and Sophie have a platonic sort of friendship, both aware that nothing can ever occur between them in a marriagable sort of way. But, Gray's father and three older brothers wind up dying in a freakish sort of way in Africa while big game hunting, and Gray suddenly winds up being the new Duke of Edenton. But with the title comes a mountain of debt and a crumbling country estate that needs an infusion of money immediately or Gray will not be of this world much longer since the creditors are already after him! He must now marry for money, and as a Duke, there will be no shortage of heiresses who are willing to trade their fortunes for becoming a duchess.

I really liked Gray, he's endearing and cute, blonde, tall, broad shouldered - the usual. He goes through a transformation once he becomes Duke and wants to save his estates and the people living on them. He's torn for his need for money, but his desire to be with Sophie and marry her - guess what he does?

Meanwhile, Sophie decides to transform herself into the belle of society with the help of stellar dressmaker, Lementeur. We've met him in the previous two books, and he works wonders with Sophie and transforms her from a wallflower to the toast of the town, a la Pygmalion. You see, Sophie secretly wants to marry Graham herself, get the Pickering fortune, and help him save his estates. But, Sophie has a big secret, which we don't find out about until almost 3/4 of the way into the book. She's not really who we think she is. This kind of bothered me. I guess I'm sort of a romance book snob when it comes to this sort of deception.


As it turns out, Sophie is a nobody, an orphan who is posing as the real Sophie Blake (who had died young years ago). So she really doesn't even have any right to inheriting the fortune, even if she marries a duke. At least in the story of Cinderella (which this book parallels) Cinderella actually came from noble birth, in this book, Sophie is a nothing. I hate to sound callous, but this was a real turn off for me. I had a hard time with it, until they justified it at the end, and all was made well, but it still irked me a bit.

Anyway, Sophie and Gray have a few moments in which they can't deny they are now attracted to one another (although it took Gray a while to come around to this, but once he saw her in one of Lementeur's gowns he was convinced). One thing leads to another and they declare their love to one another, but as usual, there is the mix up at the end, some angst and then everything is put to rights. The nefarious solicitor, Wolfe, is in this again, trying to prevent the Pickering fortune from leaving his firm's hands, though his partner Stickley is in no part of it this time. We also follow the budding romance between the butler, Fortescue, and his love for Irish lady's maid, Patricia. All sorts of surprises come out in this book, not only about Fortescue, but also a transformed Lady Tessa at the end, which was amusing, though farfetched.

I liked these books, they had their humorous moments, the descriptions were frothy and well done and the heroes were sexy and charming. All the heroines had some endearing qualities to them, but I think Sophie was my least favorite because of her deception. Still, this was a worthwhile read, and a must if you've read the other two books because this book wraps up the whole series and brings it all to a close.

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