Saturday, February 28, 2009

Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas

Book Description:
What is the price of love?

Nick Gentry is reputed to be the most skillful lover in all England. Known for solving delicate situations, he is hired to seek out Miss Charlotte Howard. He believes his mission will be easily accomplished -- but that was before he met the lady in question.

For instead of a willful female, he discovers one in desperate circumstances, hiding from a man who would destroy her very soul. So Nick shockingly offers her a very different kind of proposition -- one he has never offered before.

He asks her to be his bride.

And he knows that this will be much more than a union in name only. For he senses what Charlotte does not yet know -- that her appetite for sensuality matches his own. But what Nick learns surprises him. For while London's most notorious lover might claim Charlotte's body, he quickly discovers it will take much more than passion to win her love.

Well, this was the third and last of the Bow Street Runners series, and as much as I loved the 2nd book in the series, this one wasn't nearly as good. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I'm not a big fan of the "tormented young man meets good woman who helps him learn to love" scenario. As much as I love Lisa Kleypas and this book had much hotness and I enjoyed seeing some old familiar characters from her other books, there was something about this one that left me cold. I never quite warmed up to either the hero or the heroine all that much, I just didn't care. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I disliked it, but it wasn't one of her best, in my opinion.

Perhaps part of the problem was I didn't really like Nick Gentry that much. We meet him in the 2nd book of the series, Lady Sophia's Lover. A ne'er do well and former underworld felon (who's really a viscount), he has now become a Bow Street Runner. On assignment in Hampshire, he is out to find Charlotte Howard, who has run away from her old and icky, not to mention, debauched fiance, Lord Radnor. Radnor has hired Nick to find her. Upon meeting, there is an undeniable mutual attraction. She is working as a companion for the dowager Lady Westcliff at Stony Cross Park (same place as where all the Wallflower books take place.) Now, throughout the majority of the book, Nick has this deep, dark secret that he is witholding from everyone but his sister, Sophia (from the last book). This is the same secret that has tormented him since he was a young teenager on a prison ship. It has prevented him from ever wanting to be touched, until a friendly madam from a high class brothel cures him of it, and for three years, she schools him in the art of love. He becomes a master lover, yet he has never once practiced on anyone... until Charlotte.

Nick is drawn to Lottie (her nickname) and realizes he can't deliver her to Radnor. Will she marry him instead or accept the honorable proposal of Lord Westcliff (this is before he marries in the Wallflower books). Nick has a brash and infamous reputation himself, but Lottie remembers his hot kisses in the woods, and an offer she can't refuse in Lord Westcliff's library - she agrees to marry him. To say the least, bedtime is when they are happiest, yet Nick will not stay with her in bed and always leaves her alone for the rest of the night. *pout*

If I were Lottie I would be so upset!

Yet, she's so nice and understanding, she just accepts everything! Lottie is aware of how volatile a personality he has, and how he can flare up in anger, so she doesn't press him on it. It turns out he has nightmares and doesn't want to have her witness his nightly thrashings in bed. That's one of the things that really bugged me about her. She believes that their marriage is a "marriage of convenience," so she feels beholden to Nick for rescuing and marrying her, so now she just takes all this shit he doles out! One minute he's Mr. Passion in bed with his Tantric sex, and the next morning he's taut and angry, storming out for the day with no word of where he'll be. I just really got a bit fed up with him and his moods, no matter how great a lover he was! Eventually, she stands up to him at the same moment she tells him she loves him. And after that he tells her the big secret and -- he's magically healed! LOL! Either she's in love with him because she loves a tormented guy and his vulnerability or it's because he's so great in bed! I know what I'd pick!

All in all, it's not a bad romance, I know many people loved this book, but I just didn't fall for this plotline, maybe it's me, maybe I'm just not a sucker for a bad boy turned good scenario - I think that's it. Now that I think about it, I know that's it.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Book Description:
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

"BRILLIANT and hugely ambitious...It's the kind of book that can be LIFE CHANGING."--The New York Times

"Deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank...Poised to become a classic."--USA Today

"Zusak doesn't sugarcoat anything, but he makes his ostensibly gloomy subject bearable the same way Kurt Vonnegut did in Slaughterhouse Five: with grim, darkly consoling humor."--Time

"Absorbing and searing."--The Washington Post

I agree with the above reviews, a memorable and moving read, it made me cry. The story of a young girl struggling through life in Nazi Germany and finding books as a balm for life's adversities.

This is the story of young Liesel and her life in Molching during WWII as narrated by "death." Death is an actual character, telling Liesel's story. Sometimes Death gives you some hints of what will happen later in the story, which also helps to soften the blow of what you know will eventually happen. It's interesting how Death is, describing taking souls from dead bodies and how it's sometimes in awe of humans and how they handle things when coming face to face with him. It's an odd way of having a narrator, yet it works, and is quite brilliant, really. I sort of liked Death.

The book flows quickly, yet it's not a quick read. It's best to set aside some time to read this book, and let it envelope you. The subject matter is much too serious to just blithely read in a day or two, although it's not depressing to read about. It's a real eye opener of what it must have been like to live in Nazi Germany before and during the war. As sad and awful as it was to read in some parts, I enjoyed it very much. I've never read a book of WWII that takes place in Germany, living there during the war, and the rise of Hitler and what it means to be either "in the party" or not.

Liesel lives with a foster family on Himmel Street. Hans (Papa) and Rosa Hubermann take her in. Her parents are not members of Hitler's party, and because of that, they must keep a low profile and do the usual heil Hitler everywhere to keep the authorities away. One false move can mean the end of everything for them. Life on Himmel Street is poor and dingy. No luxuries, one is lucky to have a roof and soup for dinner. Papa comforts Liesel when she first arrives at their house, scared and lonely, suffering from nightmares every night. He teaches her how to read, which becomes her solace and passion. He plays the accordian and is a kind, quiet and gentle man with a concience. He is a beloved and endearing character. One day a young Jew, Max, shows up at their door. It turns out his father, long ago, had saved Hans' life in WWI. They take him in and protect him and Max lives hidden in their basement for two years. A strong friendship grows between Liesel and Max. They all sympathize with him and love him, yet he is such a danger to them if they are caught. Some of the most moving parts of the book involve Max and what he must endure, and how Liesel's family must quietly protect him and remain silent in the face of the atrocities they know exist for Jews, for fear they will be taken away as well.

Books, as you can imagine, play a large part in this story. Any book lover can relate to Liesel. Liesel, being so poor, rarely has the chance to get a book. Throughout the story, we see how precious books are and how they can soothe her and other various people in the story. Liesel reads to her neighbors as a distraction in the bomb shelter and she reads to her neighbor who has just lost her son in the war. Life is such a struggle for everyone, often books can help ease it a little bit, I know I can certainly relate to that from personal experience. By chance, she winds up stealing books, not out of malice, really, but she just wants one or it just happens to be lying around somewhere and she quickly takes it.

In addition to Liesel's life with her books and how they affect her, we also meet her various friends and people in the story, especially Rudy. Rudy with the bright lemon colored hair, who worships Jesse Owens and always asks Liesel for a kiss - though she never gives him one. It becomes a game with them. When she finally does kiss him, it was probably the saddest and most heart wrenching part of the book for me to read. All the characters are interesting and have their own struggle in life, it really makes you appreciate what we have now when reading about how these ordinary people had to cope in Germany during this time, and how dangerous and secretive and scary it was.

The Book Thief is considered Young Adult, but I wouldn't go by that at all, some scenes are not for the faint of heart. As I said before, it made me cry and it really made me think about how hard it must have been for anyone to actually stand against Hitler and his machine in Germany. Almost certain death. A memorable and emotional tale, I highly recommend it.


P.S. This is my 100th post!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

To Sir Phillip with Love by Julia Quinn

Book Description:
Sir Phillip knew that Eloise Bridgerton was a spinster, and so he'd proposed, figuring that she'd be homely and unassuming, and more than a little desperate for an offer of marriage. Except… she wasn't. The beautiful woman on his doorstep was anything but quiet, and when she stopped talking long enough to close her mouth, all he wanted to do was kiss her…and more.

Did he think she was mad? Eloise Bridgerton couldn't marry a man she had never met! But then she started thinking…and wondering… and before she knew it, she was in a hired carriage in the middle of the night, on her way to meet the man she hoped might be her perfect match. Except…he wasn't. Her perfect husband wouldn't be so moody and ill-mannered, and while Phillip was certainly handsome, he was a large brute of a man, rough and rugged, and totally unlike the London gentlemen vying for her hand. But when he smiled…and when he kissed her…the rest of the world simply fell away, and she couldn't help but wonder…could this imperfect man be perfect for her?

Another one of the Bridgerton Series - the fifth, Eloise's story. I've loved all the previous books, but the blurb above really doesn't give the real story of this particular romance. Yes, Eloise runs off to Gloucestshire to meet the widower she's been corresponding with for a year, but as with the previous Bridgerton heroes, this one, Phillip Crane, has a dark insecurity. He feels he doesn't know how to be a good father to his twin eight year olds, and he wants to marry primarily to find his children a mother. Plus, he's in need of a wife who will take care of his household so he can spend all his time in his greenhouse with his plants and flowers. He's willing to marry any old crone (as he puts it) as long as she is happy. You see, his first wife suffered from acute depression and after trying to kill herself, died of lung fever. Phillip married her early in his life, and never once saw her happy. In addition, Phillip has been living the life of a celibate for the past eight years - I don't need to tell you what else he wants a wife for!

Eloise too is not Miss Perfect and she is carrying around some baggage herself. Considered a spinster at age 28 she's always wanted to marry for love. Having turned down six marriage proposals, she never thought anyone was "right" for her. After her best friend (another decrepit spinster like herself), marries her brother Colin, that seems to be the final straw for Eloise and she takes Phillip up on his offer of coming to meet him to see if they will suit. Could this be her last chance to find someone to marry so she won't be alone and unmarried for the rest of her life? She's created this perfect image of him in her mind. For someone who is usually so full of common sense, she's setting herself up for disappointment. Lucky for her, Phillip, is handsome and rugged looking in that "country sort of way." He's no London dandy.

Although there are dark themes throughout this book, it does have it's lighthearted moments, But for the most part, there's a serious tone throughout it. In addition to the theme of death and depression and Phillip's motherless children, there's also the theme of child abuse. Phillip suffered at the hands of his father who beat him relentlessly, and Phillip is scared that he will be the same way with his own children. Unruly and out of control, they need discipline, yet he's unsure of himself and hires a nurse to supervise them and take care of most of their needs. Although he resides on the estate, he's mostly an absent father - until Eloise shows up on his front door. Eloise is a much needed breath of fresh air to the stifling and depressing household. With her vast experience as Aunt Eloise to her many nieces and nephews, and her own dealings with siblings and a large family she knows just what to do to handle the mischievous twins and ultimately they accept her - though not without a few scrapes and bruises along the way.

But now you're thinking, "What about Phillip and Eloise? What's the story with them? What about their romance?" Well, they get off to a rocky start. He's unsure of himself, he's just about never wooed a potential bride before, and Eloise doesn't exactly make it easy for him. She a "pusher" and a "doer" and a "talker" and -- indomitable! She doesn't back down after they argue and although she experiences some doubts about whether Phillip would make her happy as a husband, she's no coward and gives him the benefit of the doubt. Before long, sparks begin to fly between them and thanks to Eloise's brothers, a marriage occurs before long (though there is some shooting involved, it is not a shotgun wedding.) I love her brothers, it's always a pleasure to see the Bridgerton's take a united stand for one another, and they are a much needed source of humour to relieve the melancholy tone of this particular romance.

I enjoyed this book very much, and there were a few steamy scenes, though I must admit, so far it's been my least favorite of the series. As I said before in the last book I reviewed, I'm not fond of themes that involve abuse or death, I like something frothy and lighhearted to satisfy that romance craving of mine. Though, I must say I love the name they chose for their first born! Very sweet!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tempting the Highlander by Janet Chapman

Book Description:
She has the power to tempt him beyond all reason....

Catherine Daniels arrives in Pine Creek, Maine, at just the right time for Robbie MacBain. She is on the run from her ex-husband, and Robbie is a sexy, single foster parent who needs a housekeeper while he travels back in time to medieval Scotland. Unbeknownst to Catherine, Robbie's looking for a book of spells to save the future of his family...and little did he expect to find a burning passion in Catherine's arms. Can Robbie seal his family's fate while enticing Catherine to follow him and her own heart wherever love will take them?

Have you ever read a book that you absolutely loved and you're so caught up with the characters and setting that you just don't want the book to end? And then, even better - it's part of a series, and the next book is already written and sitting in your TBR pile and you can keep on reading about these wonderful people and places? But, before long as you begin reading it, you realize this next book isn't nearly as good as the previous one, and it's kind of a let down? Well, that's what happened to me today with Tempting the Highlander. I loved Wedding the Highlander, which I finished yesterday. With no hesitation, I decided to put off reading a TBR Challenge book for a day, so I could read the next in this Pine Creek series by Janet Chapman.

I should have waited. I should have known it wouldn't live up to the euphoria left over from the previous book. It wasn't bad, mind you, but it was an entirely different sort of story.

This was the story of Robbie, the son of Michael MacBain, the sexy Scottish highlander hero from the last book that I fell for. Robbie was an adorable 8 year old boy in the last book, and now he's grown up and is about 30 years old. (There's never any year mentioned in this book, so I'm not sure if we're supposed to think it's the future, like around 2028, it just never comes up.) Robbie is the guardian of his family in a magical way and literally. He's a bachelor, living in his mother's old farm house and is foster father to four unruly teenage boys and in desperate need of a housekeeper. By chance, Catherine Daniels and her two children come into his life and he hires her. The boys and Robbie take to her immediately and she fits right in with her two little kids, Nathan and Nora. She's a godsend to him, and at the same time, he's just what she needs since she's fleeing from her abusive ex-husband who just got out of prison for beating her up.

Pretty serious themes going on here for a romance, wouldn't you say? It's a compelling story, but came up short in the romance department. Catherine is emotionally and physically scarred from her ex-husband and nervous and apprehensive about starting up any relationships, yet she is attracted to Robbie. But, she has to face her demons and get over her ex before she can really find happiness again, physically, with a man. Still, if there was anyone she could find to help her, it's Robbie MacBain. As usual in these books, providence and destiny is a strong theme. These two people are meant for one another. Robbie is the perfect modern day man. (Except for the fact he has 6 toes on each foot like his father!) A towering, handsome, well built warrior with the heart of a lion and a slight Scottish accent (from his father), he's great at fighting and taking care of others. That's what he does in addition to his logging business. Plus, he has this beautiful farm house on a lake with a barn and chickens and woods! All he needs is a wife! He and Catherine fall into an easy relationship that soon turns to flirtation and then eventually some toe-curling kisses. But, that's about as far as it goes until the end of the book!

Meanwhile, Robbie has an important and challenging task that he must do for Father Daar (the wizard priest from the previous books.) He has to travel back in time to Scotland in the thirteenth century to find this book of spells to save his uncles and father! This is a new twist in the books, no one has actually gone back in time before in them. So, we get to see Robbie put all his warrior training into use, and on one of his trips, Catherine, inadvertently goes back with him. She's freaked out at first, but becomes used to 13th century living. Robbie's uncle Ian goes back with him too, and it's a moving situation as he is reunited with his family.

I found this book had some fun little scenes and humorous moments, I liked it how Catherine liked to run in short shorts and all the logging trucks would honk at her, and there was a priceless scene when she's shopping for personal incidentals for Robbie and the boys! I liked Cat (as Robbie calls her) well enough too, and she turned out to be a resourceful and courageous woman at the end when she finally faces her demons and her ex. But, still I didn't really warm up to her and there didn't seem to be a lot of chemistry between her and Robbie. I think it was mostly because she was in this housekeeper role most of the time in the book or worrying about her ex-husband finding them. It wasn't a very romance-y book.

I liked it well enough, but it didn't have me wishing for more. It was a happy ending, though predicatable which left it kind of flat. I think the story was so focused on Robbie's duty as a guardian and Catherine's duties as a mother and getting her life back that it didn't leave a lot of room for romance and relationship building as lovers. But, don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, but as I said before, just different from the last book, and I didn't get the same sort of emotional punch in this one as I did with the first in the series either. To each his own, give me more sizzle and less serious overtones. I prefer something lighter when I'm reading a romance.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Wedding the Highlander by Janet Chapman

Book Description:
A runaway beauty finds love in the brawny arms of a handsome stranger.

Talented surgeon Libby Hart is fleeing to Pine Creek, Maine, when her car spins out of control and crashes into a pond. She is rescued by Michael MacBain, a medieval highlander trapped in the modern world by a wizard's spell. Wounded in love once before by a modern woman, Michael wants nothing to do with Libby, but he can't resist the intense desire she stirs within him. Can this proud warrior pledge his heart to a woman whose secret threatens to change their lives forever?

I luuuuuurved this book!

It's been a while since I read the second book in this series, Loving the Highlander, and I admit, I had been a bit disapppointed with it, after loving the first in the series, Charming the Highlander. Well, this book (3rd in the series) more than made up for it! This is Michael's story. I wasn't crazy about him in the first book, he came across as an adversary of the MacKeage's but by the end of it you empathized with him and this book really made me fall for him!

Michael MacBain, a swoonworthy 800+ year old Scottish warrior sent forward in time to present day is living in Maine with his 8 year old son, Robbie. Raising his son on his own, with the help of fellow dislocated Scottish warriors, the MacKeage's, Michael vows he'll never fall in love again, after losing Robbie's mother eight years earlier in a tragic automobile accident.

But, he didn't count on meeting Libby Hart who comes to Maine, escaping her life as a top notch surgeon in California. Libby has just had the shock of her life. She can magically heal people, simply by holding them and making them well. Freaked out by what she doesn't understand, she decides to flee to Maine and live a simple life to get her head together. Yet, she's not a hand wringer or worry wart. She rents Robbie's mother's old house, thus Michael MacBain becomes her landlord - and what a landlord to have! I think I'd melt into a puddle right on the spot.

Michael is brimming with testosterone. Tall, dark and handsome with the confidence of an ancient Scottish warrior, Michael knows what he wants - and he wants Libby! I just loved how they meet (she plows into a few of his prized Christmas Tree farm trees and he has to rescue her from her rental car in Pine Lake). Their courtship doesn't have the usual hemming and hawing and all of a sudden one day, "Hey, I love you!" pattern. They both are attracted to each other almost from the start and agree right off the bat to have an affair. She's not looking for a husband, and he's not looking for a wife. But, that's not exactly how things go. Life if much more complicated than that. I loved every minute of seeing how these two get along, and sighed and laughed and giggled throughout the book - wishing I had a highlander of my own too! What is it about these highlander men I love? *sigh*

Libby is a likeable heroine. A brilliant doctor, she has to deal with leaving her old career in a shambles and begin a new life. I liked how her doctoring common sense comes out, she worries about helmets and the appropriateness of giving an eight year old a knife for a Christmas present! She has no idea who she's dealing with in these odd Scottish highlanders in the back woods of Maine! She's a do-er. She doesn't hesitate or think forever about something. When she makes up her mind to do something, she does it. She's not a whiner or complainer. If she wants to fix up her house and buy things to make it homey - she goes out and does it. I was glad she didn't throw a hissy fit at Michael when he mistakenly decorated her place while she was sleeping. It was a cute scene when she saw what he had done and she handled it with aplomb.

One of my favorite scenes is when Michael and Dr. Kessler, one of Libby's associates from California, meet. Neither of them like one another, and I loved it how they curtly call each other by their last names only, circling one another like dogs checking out the competition! Michael easily puts the doctor in his place and sends him packing back to LA - good riddance!

The side characters are great in this book. Robbie, Michael's son, is a total cutie and old beyond his years, big for his age too. Winsome, endearing and resourceful, he's motherless, but, like his father, he knows what he wants and he's certain Libby is the one for his single father to settle down with. He has a snowy pet owl, who may or may not be his dead mother, Mary, reincarnated. Libby's mother, Katherine, comes to visit and eventually stay, and I loved her reaction to Ian MacKeage, another great big transplanted Scottish warrior (a bit on the older side.) The two of them hit it off.

That's one of the things I like about these books, the side characters' storylines are interesting too, not just fodder to fill up the pages. The MacKeages's from Charming the Highlander are throughout this book, but not too much, the story is really centered on the relationship between Libby and Michael. There is great chemistry between them, the sex scenes are tasteful, just right, not over the top, realistic and satisfying. Though, my one pet peeve was, why in the world did the author make their first time in a truck, when there are 3 other bedrooms in the house! Libby felt uncomfortable going to bed with him in the same bed that used to be Mary's (Robbie's mother and Michael's old lover). I understand that, but why not just use another bedroom instead of the back of her truck in the garage? A minor point, but it bugged me - LOL! Once Libby's mother moves in, it really cramped their style, I laughed at the idea that there could be "no sex" while Mom's living in the house! A good way to keep the sexual tension going in the storyline.

I highly recommend this book. It has the appeal of a Scottish highlander romance, with the modern conveniences of a contemporary. A win win combination with an exciting (albeit, predictably angsty) ending. A real keeper!


Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

Book Description:

She's braved battlefields. She's stolen dispatches from under the noses of heads of state. She's played the worldly courtesan, the naive virgin, the refined British lady, even a Gypsy boy. But Annique Villiers, the elusive spy known as the Fox Cub, has finally met the one man she can't outwit...


British spymaster Robert Grey must enter France and bring back the brilliant, beautiful—and dangerous—Fox Cub. His duty is to capture her and her secrets for England. When the two natural enemies are thrown into prison, they forge an uneasy alliance to break free. But their pact is temporary and betrayal seems inevitable. They flee, pursued every step of the way by ruthless authorities, caught in a net of secrets and lies. As the fates of nations hang in the balance, Grey and Annique fight the passion that flares between them—forbidden, impossible, and completely irresistible...

This is another romance that everyone's been talking about, and I feel like I'm the last person I know to have read it! It had a well thought out and intricate plotline (even though I am a bit weary of spies during Regency times) and there were lots of blind alleys and twisty turns and a DaVinci Code sort of revelation at the ending. I had an inkling of what the secret was and wasn't too far off the money. For her first effort in upteen years, this was a pretty damn good story!

The basic premise is the old spy vs. spy story. Annique is a super spy for France that has a photographic memory. Although since photographs weren't around yet, all they knew was she had this amazing memory or retaining everything in her head that she's read. At one point she starts skimming through The Book of Common Prayer since she figures it can't hurt to have it in case it can be useful for her down the road. I couldn't help thinking, her mind is like a Kindle or ebook reader! Just download it and you've got it forever! Pretty snazzy!

Anyway, back to the story...

Annique meets Grey, super British spymaster in a French prison and with other British cohorts, a wounded Adrian and man of many identities, Doyle, they escape and make their way through the French countryside. Grey instantly realizes who Annique is upon first meeting her, and he wants her knowledge of the Albion Plans (invasion plans of England planned by Napoleon), though he doesn't realize they're memorized and all in her head. He hopes she will lead him (unawares) to where he thinks she's hidden them. One thing leads to another and these two spies fall for one another - an impossible situation. Annique is a very cool heroine. She's like a female superhero, she can do almost anything. She's smart, courageous, resourceful, fights well, sneaky as anything, and can make a weapon out of almost nothing. But, her Achilles Heel seems to be Grey and then later, Robert, who he masquerades as and tricks her. I won't give it away, but it's a masterful, and somewhat, complicated plotline (in fact I was a bit confused at one point towards the end, and had to close my eyes and think about it, to actually understand what happened! LOL! Dumb me).

One of my favorite moments was when Annique, Adrian and Grey are traveling in a coach toward the French coast, heading for England. Annique is drugged and has these traitorously romantic moments in Grey's arms while asleep. Then she finds at one point while waking up groggy and sleepy they must suddenly disguise themselves as Germans and are stopped by gendarmes and questioned. I loved it how they all easily slipped into speaking German flawlessly and Annique has to pose as Grey's wife who has morning sickness. Grey must act the part of a priggish husband who unsuccesfully tries to convince her it's all in her head in front of a young embarrassed French soldier. In another scene, I also really admired the way the bullet removal sequence was written. Well described and had me on the edge of my seat!

As far as a romance goes, this wasn't a super sexy beach book, but it had it's moments (although I still say sex and bathtubs just really don't work that way in real life!) It was a very clever, lively, action packed romance with fight scenes, deceptions, gunshots, evil villains and many secondary characters that were interesting and well developed. Plus, an exciting and illuminating last 25 pages leading up to the big secret and conclusion! A slam dunk and a pleasure to read!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Marrying the Captain by Carla Kelly

Book Description:
Ever since her father tried to sell her as a mistress to the highest bidder, Eleanor Massie has chosen to live in poverty. Her world changes overnight when Captain Oliver Worthy shows up at her struggling inn. Despite herself, Nana is drawn to her handsome guest….

Oliver planned to stay in Plymouth only long enough to report back to Lord Ratliffe—about Nana. But he soon senses that Lord Ratliffe is up to something, and Oliver will do anything to keep this courageous, beautiful woman safe—even marry her!

This was the first time that I've read a Harlequin romance. I'd heard good things about this book, and happened to love the cover, but I found the book itself and story to be a bit on the light side. It was a sweet little story, but it didn't have much depth to it. The story itself was good, with an interesting plotline, but I kept wishing for more emotion and drama, something to keep my interest. Sometimes I felt like what I was reading was only skimming the real story beneath.

The plotline was appealing: handsome post captain in the British Navy circa 1807 meets sweet young illegitimate Nana Massie who is working in her grandmother's lodging house in Plymouth. He is ill and she helps nurse him back to health. It was a nice story and the author is big on realism, though I could have done without the need to mention his needing and "using" the urinal in bed! Kind of spoils the moment, if you know what I mean, not very sexy. Plus, I had trouble with her name, since it's the same name my son calls my mother! But, despite these things, her hero and heroine were regular sort of people in a real world at war, not glamorous, but their relationship had a sweet build up to it.

I tried to picture a Hornblower-esque dark and handsome man with gray at the temples, sweeping her off her feet and taking her on board with him. I thought the book would take that sort of plotline. No, alas, most of the book has them longing for one another and missing each other while he's away at sea, briefly returning for soul searching gazes and hand holding with some kissing. For the most part it was G rated until they married and then a rather tame (but sweet) wedding night is described. I almost felt the author should have just kept the book G rated, since the wedding night and a few more subsequent couplings seemed out of place with the innocent tone in most of the book. Almost as if, she added some sex scenes to appease her publishers and appeal to a larger audience.

One of the things I liked about this book was when the captain is ill and Nana is taking care of him. The image of this very well known and highly respected captain lying in bed in his nightshirt was appealing, and I liked the way he and Nana got to know one another this way. (Reminds me of Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas, another man sick in bed and being nursed romance that I loved, I guess I'm a sucker for this storyline.) I also liked the way Oliver (the hero) relished returning to Nana, sometimes just to kiss her and see her for a minute before he had to leave again. Very romantic. The way he imagined sitting by the fire with her as they grew old, talking about mundane things, this made him human - he wanted just a regular life with a wife to come home to.

I can't say I disliked this book, but it's not something I'll probably remember for long. I felt it could have been so much better if it had been a little meatier with more emotion and longer. It just didn't grab me. It was a bit of a yawn and didn't hold my interest. I put it down often. I think this book would appeal to early teens, but definitely not of the same calibre of other regencies I've read, or even close to a C.S. Forester or Patrick O'Brian in the sea faring moments.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Autobiography of Henry VIII: with Notes by his Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George

Book Description: An extraordinary novel that brings into vivid focus the larger-than-life King Henry VIII, monarch of prodigious appetites for wine, women, and song. This is a readable, entertaining, tour de force that captures the essence of the Sixteenth Century, in all its drama and atmosphere. A can't-miss for readers who delight in wonderful historical fiction perfectly rendered.

All I can say right now is "Wow." This was some book. I simply loved it.

900+ pages of vivid storytelling from the point of view of Henry, beginning with his earliest memories all the way up to a few days before his death. In addition, it is cleverly told in such a way, that his fool, Will Somers, who was with him to the end, occasionally adds his notes to Henry's "journal," either correcting some inacuracies or putting his own point of view on things that Henry did not actually know about, thus filling in the blanks. I found it fascinating. I thought I knew a lot about Henry, now I feel like I'm an expert on him and his many wives. After finishing this mammoth piece of work, I'll miss him, I've been so caught up in Henry's life, I liked him, I feel like I knew him, foibles and all!

Being a fan of Showtime's The Tudors I can't help but wonder if they have used this book as a framework for the series. Much of it is similar as far as stressing certain events and characters - namely Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk (*swoon* played by Henry Cavill in the series). Twice I cried (or had tears in my eyes) while reading this book - the death of Katharine of Aragon, and the death of Charles Brandon. Much of the book dwelled on Henry's Great Matter (Anne Boleyn) and her rise and fall. But, I was also very interested in his later marriages after Boleyn.

There is much detail in all of his life, whether it was in regard to his marriages or his battles abroad, or domestic troubles within the kingdom. We read about his many relationships with the men in his life, Wolsey, More, Cromwell and Brandon. This Henry is likeable. We see him as a young boy grown into a vigorous and youthful man who was always at the mercy of wanting to love and to be loved. Much of his life was dominated by this theme. Not until he lost those who truly did love him did he realize he had had their love all along. I felt sorry for him. His madness towards the end of his life is touched upon in such a way that it is forgivable and understandable. There were some parts of the book that got a bit bogged down, concerning foreign policy with France and the Holy Roman Emperor - not to mention the many Popes, but overall these parts were brief in the grand scheme of things.

Once in a while you come across a book that is so large and detailed - memorable - you just want to take your time and savor it - this was one of them. I can't say enough about what a great book this is, I could go on an on, there are too many little things about it to list. The best thing I can say is if you haven't read it already - read it now. Anyone who is at all interested in the Tudor period should read it. An outstanding work, well written, well researched and very entertaining. It's really that good.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Anti-Valentine's Day Contest

How is this for an idea to win some romances?

The ladies at Breezing Through came up with this idea of an Anti-Valentines Day Contest.

Click on the link above to get the details and enter! The contest goes on until February 13th, and the winners are announced on February 14th!


On another note, I'm half way through my massive book on Henry VIII, so I won't have any reviews for a while yet. But, I am enjoying it very much, it's just taking me forever to get through all 900 pages of it!
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