Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Bride Finder by Susan Carroll

Book Description:
Chosen by the Bride Finder, a man blessed with amazing insight, Madeline Breton has come to Cornwall to meet her new husband, the enigmatic Anatole St. Leger. But her dream of happiness soon diffuses in his overpowering shadow. Anatole knows only too well the legacies that to him have been more curses than gifts. But as Madeline embarks on an odyssey both otherworldly and undeniably real, she and her husband fall hopelessly in love--until she sees a haunting vision of murder and a terrifying enemy emerges to threaten both their lives. . . .

This is one of those books that everyone tells you is so good, and it wasn't bad, and it had a lot of good parts to it, but it did not bowl me over as much as I had hoped it would. It blends magic and historical romance amidst the gothic setting of the stormy seas of Cornwall, England. Ghosts and paranormal proclivities of the hero make for a good story, but despite all these things, it didn't keep me riveted. The story itself is a good one, so I can't understand why I wasn't more crazy about it. Granted, I did like it, but I didn't love it.

Perhaps it was our hero, Anatole St. Leger. A man haunted by his family ancestors. He has telekinetic powers (not unlike something out of a Stephen King novel) and he is also a clairvoyant, capable of predicting doom and gloom. He hates this talent, he thinks of it as the family curse. There are many family traits and customs he must deal with, but the main one is he must marry a woman that "the Bride Finder" picks out for him. The Bride Finder is a kindly elderly gentleman, a distant cousin of Anatole's who has the mystical talent of finding the one true mate for each lord of the castle of St. Leger. Anatole's father refused to marry a woman picked by the Bride Finder and that marriage brought nothing but unhappiness and eventual madness and death. Anatole submits to the Bride Finder's choice, Madeline, a young pretty woman who had no idea what she's getting into. Eager to flee her less than perfect family in London, she agrees to marry Anatole sight unseen, except for a miniature portrait of him that the Bride Finder gave him. She daydreams and fantasizes of the handsome young man in the portrait until she sees the real thing - and he's a far cry from what she thought she was getting!

Anatole is big. A tall, broad shouldered man with wild dark hair and an angular chiseled face that has seen much pain and unhappiness. He comes across as Mr. Rochester-ish to me. Untamed and just as uncouth in social etiquette, he is not a man to be toyed with. His new bride, Madeline Breton finds this out eventually. Upon their first meeting (which was pretty funny, though I will not spoil it by saying what happens) neither one of them is all that thrilled with what their new mate is like. But, they go into the marriage and their wedding night is not a big success. Yes, the deed is done, but Madeline, a virgin, has a knack for telling the truth and her idea of praise is not music to Anatole's ears. She manages to insult him and his lack of romance, though she didn't really mean to, she was just being honest. Nothing really steamy in the early stages of their marriage, though Anatole slowly learns he must try and woo his wife until finally there is one very romantic and wonderful moment outdoors for them. But, alas, the moment is overshadowed by a tragedy that happens soon after.

Meanwhile, there is trouble brewing for Anatole and Madeline in regard to his obnoxious cousin, Roman, and a mysterious woman seen in a cemetary that is somehow related to the Leger's arch enemies, the Mortmains. Anatole's sad childhood is also revealed which makes him a much more complex hero than most. Shunned by his mother as a child, I felt terrible for him and it's no wonder he is so forbidding and domineering - and antisocial. He has many emotional scars that need to be healed. Slowly but surely Madeline tries to help him and figure him out, but he doesn't make it easy for her. Theirs is a rocky road to happiness with many misteps. At times, I grew tired of reading about how Anatole would ruin a moment - again - forever stomping on Madeline's spirit, to the point where he scares her half to death when he finally reveals to her his family secrets. Did he have to be so callous about it? Yet she also comes back to him, even if it might take her a hours, or days to do it. She is resilient and determined, the long and short of it is - they are meant for each other, but it takes them a while to realize it. Much of what he does he can't help doing - he's got issues. I became much more sympathetic towards him as the story progressed.

The gist of the book is will Anatole and Madeline fall in love as the Bride Finder says they will? Can they learn to live together and will she be able to accept the dark secrets of his magical family or will she run away screaming into the night? I liked this book for it's complexity in both plot and the hero, but as I said before, it wasn't a pager turner for me, I put it down often. Madeline could have been more developed, this is really Anatole's story. Despite my hesitency in giving this a higher rating, I am looking forward to reading the rest of this St. Leger series.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Book Description:
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb.

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends -- and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society -- born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island -- boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

I'm not usually one to read epistolary novels, in the past they have not been my favorites, but I must take exception in the case of this one. It was fabulous, I simply loved it, and I think it was brilliantly written by way of letters back and forth between all the endearing main characters. Not only did the book tell a wonderful, poignant and heart warming story with a touch of humor - and tears, the setting is one that I did not even know about - the occupation of the island of Guernsey during World War II. I'm sorry to say (and I a history major in college!) was unaware of the occupation at all! Guernsey is one of the small isles that sits in the English Channel South of Weymouth, England and north of St. Malo, France. It's part of the English Crown, but Germany took it over and occupied it during World War II for five years. The rustic inhabitants of the island, armed with that indefatigable English fortitude, faced near starvation and many hardships during this time. But they survived and went on with their lives after the war. This is their story, as well as the story of the young woman that wants to write about them.

Juliet, the English authoress who starts up a correspondence with the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, has that wry English wit and self deprecating sense of humor about her. I took to her instantly. Although she considers herself a mousy spinster at thirty two years, she has a following as a columnist in England, and attracts the notice of one Markham Reynolds, American millionaire. He showers her with flowers and then asks her out to dinner. She puts him off at first, but he won't take no for an answer writing to her "You pick the evening - I'm entirely at your disposal." Who could resist that from a tall, dark and handsome man - a publisher no less! But, despite Mark's charms, Juliet is drawn to her Guernsey Islanders and cannot resist their siren call.

Juliet takes up her research and writing in earnest for an article that she's writing for the Times literary supplement that basically, in her words, is about how "reading keeps your from going gaga." Welcome to my world! Once she gets into the thick of it with her correspondence with her various Guernsey Literary Society friends, she decides to write about them and we read about all their different quirky, sometimes sad, sometimes humorous stories of how they coped with the occupation and how they began to read and get involved in the Society. Most of the stories are by accident and haphazard. I loved reading these anecdotes and the occupation and primarily the unfolding story of Elizabeth, one of the members of the Society. Elizabeth's story is the compelling drama throughout the novel, I laughed, I cried, it is memorable.

Another aspect of the book that interested me, a side story close to my own heart was the fact that most of the children on the island, just before the German occupation began, had to be sent to England for safe keeping. They had to leave their families, and it was a terrible decision for their families to make. Should they send their beloved children away, alone to face who knows what or keep them there on the island, with the very real certainty that the Germans were coming. A heartbreaking choice for anyone to face. My mother's family in NY sheltered and took care of a young English boy, Colin, who was the son of a colleague of my grandfather for five years during the war. His father asked my grandfather if he would take him to live with him in the States just before war broke out between England and Germany. My grandfather acquiesced immediately and Colin was transported with hundreds of other English school children by convoy, guarded by war ships to safety across the Atlantic. He became a member of my mother's family while in the States until he returned to England after the war and he will be forever like a brother to my mother and an uncle to me. But, I digress. Back to the story...

Juliet goes to the island herself before long and settles in as if she belongs there forever. She meets all of her friends and makes new friends as well. She becomes a surrogate mother to young four year old Kit, and before long, she develops a tendre for one of the island inhabitants. I won't say who or spoil the ending, I'm leaving a lot out, but it does end happpily, albeit bittersweet.

This book is chock full of wonderful little snapshots and stories and history, I highly recommend it for anyone, whether this is a time period that interests you or not. It's a feel good book and one that will stay with you. I wish I could go to Guernsey and meet all of these people myself! Don't miss it - it's a real gem! Many thanks to my friend Amy C at Romance Book Wyrm who read this book and recommended it to me and started this wonderful worldwide book journey, passing the book on from one person to the next. I will dutifuly pass the book on to the next person, but regret having to give it up. I loved it, and I will soon buy my own copy to keep forever on my bookshelf - it's that good!


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Devil in a Kilt by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Book Description:

Linnet MacDonnell was the youngest of seven sisters and not the family beauty. With her flame-bright red hair, sharp tongue and strange gift of second sight no man wanted her. But the devil would take her. Bartered as a bride to her father's long-sworn enemy, the nobly born Highlander Duncan MacKenzie of Kintail, she had no choice but to enter a marriage with a man rumored to have murdered his first wife and said to possess neither heart nor soul.

Forbidding and proud, Duncan MacKenzie wanted only one thing from his new bride -- to use her special gift to determine if young Robbie was truly his son. He never expected the MacDonnell lass to stubbornly follow her heart, chase away the darkness in his castle with light and laughter and ignite a raging fire in his blood. How dare she defy him and tempt a devil like him to feel what he feared most of all -- love!

I'd heard about this book for some time, but had never read anything by this author. Based on the praise for it by some of my friends, I decided to move it up on my TBR list and give it a chance. Needless to say, I'm always on the lookout for a good highlander romance, despite the horrendous cover. I can't say this is as good as some others I've read, but it wasn't bad and it held my attention, although I had some major issues with the hero, Duncan MacKenzie.

Duncan is one of those tortured hero types that cannot get over his beautiful dead wife, Cassandra. He loved her dearly at first, but then he learned of her deceit. As it turns out, she cheated on him with any man in sight, and she sounds like she was a literal she-devil. Because of it, Duncan is mistakenly convinced he can never love again - he never wants to love again. Rebecca Cassandra has ruined him for ever loving again. He has trouble trusting a woman because of what she did to him, no matter how good she appears to be on the surface. Uncertain if the lad he calls his son is really his or not, he can't bring himself to look at him, and the poor six year old, Robbie, suffers and is unhappy because of it. This was the first big problem I had with Duncan, it really tugged at my heartstrings. How could he be so cold and mean to a young and innocent boy like this? I really didn't like Duncan at first because of this. In fact, I never really warmed up to him.

Linnett is Duncan's next unwilling victim. She has the "sight", and he has bargained with her loathescome father to marry her so she can tell him who his son's true parentage is. Yet, she refuses to tell him, feigning ignorance. She is wise to wait to tell him, waiting for Duncan to prove to himself that he loves his son, no matter who his real father is. Duncan has no interest in a pretty wife, he doesn't intend to bed Linnett ever, he just wants her for her knowlege. But, then when he sees her, he realizes it might not be so easy to stick to his plan. Poor Linnett is attracted to him immediately, he's strikingly handsome, strong, a leader of his clan, but he never smiles, in fact he has a perpetual scowl on his face. He's attracted to and her luxurious, long silky red hair. But, he initially resists her charms and natural good will.

Duncan's not good with romance or kind words, but he eventually gives in to his lust for Linnett, yet he always puts his foot in his mouth by telling her he has no intention of loving her, only pleasuring her for their own mutual satisfaction. (!) At this point, I really had no sympathy for him, he just sounded so stubborn and unwilling to give an inch. It was frustraing to read over and over again about each unthinking, stupid thing he'd say to Linnett. She deserved better than Duncan. I liked her, she was sweet and had some backbone, yet she was stuck in this unfortunate situation of being married to this stubborn fool! Yet, she managed to make the best of it, and try to be a good wife and stepmother to Robbie. Fortunately, Duncan's best friend and brother-in-law, Marmaduke, suffering from a disfiguring scar on his face and loss of an eye, had some chivalric manners and he helped coach Duncan once in a while on the ways of wooing a young wife. Linnett winds up seeing a portrait of Duncan's dead wife, Rebecca Cassandra and becomes self conscious and convinced Duncan will never find her attractive. Of course, Duncan is useless when it comes to sweet talk and has trouble conveying to Linnett that he does find her beautiful and hated his former wife. It was all very frustrating - she thought, he thought, he's tongue tied and confused and can't tell her how he really feels, and she has no idea what he really thinks either (her sight doesn't seem to help her in this regard.) Then, there's the red herring that maybe Marmaduke isn't as good as he seems...

Another side of the story, apart from the annoying and rocky courtship between Linnett and Duncan, was the war between Duncan and his half-brother Kevin. Kevin is truly evil and he is the one that Duncan is afraid is the true sire of his son, Robbie. Kevin looks just like Duncan, but he is a murderer and rapist - and he has designs on Linnett. Will Kevin succeed in capturing Linnett and Robbie, and eventually destroy Duncan in doing so? I found this part of the story disturbing and compelling, Kevin is one of those villains that really creeps you out, I was afraid whenever he was around. The battle scenes were well written, especially the one on top of the battlements of Duncan's castle. I could just imagine the arrows flying and the danger going on all around.

All in all, this romance wasn't bad, the steamier scenes were few and far between since it really took Duncan and Linnett forever to finally give in to their passions, and of course, he'd say something stupid right after to ruin it (I hate it when that happens!) But, all ends happily and Duncan finally comes around and admits he has a heart; it was gratifying to read what he says and how he feels in the very last paragraph. He's as stubborn as an ox, but by the end, I was convinced that the love of a good woman and son had cured him of his bad memories and ability to love again.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Guhrke

Book Description:
She thought she was the luckiest woman in London . . .

Surviving on a seamstress' income and a steady stream of fantasies, Prudence Bosworth has always longed for love and romance. Then she inherits a fortune from the father she's never seen, with the stipulation that she wed in one year. Prudence is determined to marry for true love, and after seeing firsthand the splendid chivalry of a certain duke, only one man will do . . .

Rhys de Winter, the Duke of St. Cyres, hides his cynicism behind a quick wit and an even quicker smile. He must marry an heiress, and as luck would have it, the pretty little seamstress-turned-heiress is exactly what he needs. But he never expected to fall for Prudence, and when his shocking deception is revealed, he will stop at nothing to win her back . . . even if it means renouncing every last one of his wicked ways.

Book two in the author's Girl Bachelor Series, I really liked this story of Prudence, a hard working, girl bachelor on the plump size, who is a seamstress for a fashionable modiste in London in 1894 that unexpectedly comes into a vast fortune when her long lost father dies and leaves it to her. Never marrying her mother, Prudence was born illegitimate and never even knew about her father. Suddenly, Prudence's world is turned upside down. The one condition of her inheriting her millions is she must marry within one year and the trustees of the estate must approve of her husband. Enter Rhys, the Duke of St. Cyres, a known fortune hunter, rake and cad who is up to his eyeballs in debt. He must marry a girl with a fortune or else... Of course, it doesn't hurt he's tall, handsome, fair-haired and utterly charming.

I liked Prudence from the start, but I had trouble with Rhys. For the first half of the book he really is a cad. After rescuing a friend of Prudence's from being raped, he winds up seducing and bedding the girl himself! Although he admired Prudence ever since the first time he saw her when she is still a lowly seamstress working at a ball one night, he sets his sights on her once he learns of her fortune, but he lies about knowing about it. Their whole courtship on his part is one big lie, all the way up to his proposal, which she happily accepts. He does it so cleverly she doesn't suspect a thing, though he does tell her the truth about himself being in debt, etc. but he makes her think he loves her when (at this point) he really doesn't. This didn't sit well with me, but by the end, he redeems himself after she breaks their engagement and he decides he must win her back, money or no.

Prudence, a spinsterish 28 year old seems to be a bit too naive for someone that has lived on their own for 11 years, and even harder to believe she's managed to remain a virign that whole time. But, she is likable and has a good heart and is thrifty and sensible. But the duke turns her head and she stops thinking rationally when it comes to him. No matter how much if was just staring her in the face that he was only marrying her for her money, and no matter how much her relatives were telling her he has a terrible reputation and is nothing more than a gold digger - she wouldn't listen! She was star struck by him from the beginning and it's not until she learns of his deceit that she turns the tables on him and gives him back a taste of his own medicine. She breaks off the engagement and lets him know just what she thinks of him. Good for her!

A cute story that does end happily with a few steamy romance scenes thrown in for excitement. I recommend this series if you're unfamiliar with it. I loved the first in it, And Then He Kissed Her about Emma and her Viscount Marlowe who return in this for a few scenes. I enjoy reading about this period as well, just before the turn of the century, not the most common time period in romances.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dark Angels by Karleen Koen

Book Description:
Alice Verney is a young woman intent on achieving her dreams. Having left Restoration England in the midst of a messy scandal, she has been living in Louis XIV's Baroque, mannered France for two years. Now she is returning home to England and anxious to re-establish herself quickly. First, she will regain her former position as a maid of honor to Charles II's queen. Then she will marry the most celebrated duke of the Restoration, putting herself in a position to attain power she's only dreamed of. As a duchess, Alice will be able to make or break her friends and enemies at will.

But all is not as it seems in the rowdy, merry court of Charles II. Since the Restoration, old political alliances have frayed, and there are whispers that the king is moving to divorce his barren queen, who some wouldn't mind seeing dead. But Alice, loyal only to a select few, is devoted to the queen, and so sets out to discover who might be making sinister plans, and if her own father is one of them. When a member of the royal family dies unexpectedly, and poison is suspected, the stakes are raised. Alice steps up her efforts to find out who is and isn't true to the queen, learns of shocking betrayals throughout court, and meets a man that she may be falling in love with—and who will spoil all of her plans. With the suspected arrival of a known poison-maker, the atmosphere in the court electrifies, and suddenly the safety of the king himself seems uncertain. Secret plots are at play, and war is on the horizon—but will it be with the Dutch or the French? And has King Charles himself betrayed his country for greed?

The long-awaited prequel to Koen's beloved Through a Glass Darkly, Dark Angels is a feast of a novel that sparkles with all the passion, extravagance, danger, and scandal of seventeenth-century England. Unforgettable in its dramatic force, here is a novel of love and politics, of romance and betrayal, of power and succession—and of a resourceful young woman who risks everything for pride and status in an era in which women were afforded little of either.

I was disappointed with this book. I simply loved Through a Glass Darkly and this prequel was such a let down. The book itself wasn't bad, well written, dramatic, a great birds eye view of the courts of Charles II and Louis XIV, but I was bored by some of it. After upteen levees, soirees, balls and masquerades, it starts to all run together. I expected to love this book, since it's Alice Verney's story who is the feisty, oh so interesting and scene stealing elderly duchess from Through a Glass Darkly. I was hoping to read about what Alice was like as a young woman at court and how she meets her future husband Richard Saylor. You know the old saying, be careful for what you wish for? We do find out in this book what young Alice was like - and I didn't like her! We do read about how she meets Richard, but nothing really kicks in between them until the last third of the book, since Richard is in love with someone else through most of it. Plus, Alice is hell bent on marrying the elderly Duke of Balmoral so she can rule the roost at court. She was meddling and unforgiving, a pushy know-it-all. She was much too pragmatic for my liking. Eventually, as she discovered that she loved the young and handsome Richard Saylor, she began to soften and I liked her more, but before that - bah!

The main plotline of this book is about the mystery of who this poisoner, Henri Ange is that murdered Princess Henriettte, King Charles II's sister who is married to Louis XIV's not so very nice brother. Two years earlier, Alice's engagement to the heir of the Duke of Balmoral was broken because he impregnated her best friend and he had to marry her. Alice ignominiously leaves the court of Charles II to become his sister's lady in waiting in France. Now, back in England for a short visit with the Princess, Alice must face her former fiancee and former friend who wishes forgiveness, but Alice cannot forgive or forget. This is one of her fatal flaws, she cannot find it in herself to forgive people who don't go along with what she wants or who cross her. This doesn't seem too bad when she's in her 70's, but at 20, it's unappealing and she didn't win me over. Frankly, I'm surprised Richard fell for her at all.

Richard, throughout most of the book is in love with the beautiful Renee La Karouelle, who is a friend of Alice's and ultimately he asks her to marry him. She says yes and they are in love. But, Renee catches the eye of Charles II and he wants her to become his prime mistress. A tempting offer for a young Frenchwoman at court who doesn't have many prospects or wealth, aside from her great beauty. Alice and Renee return to England for good after their princess is poisoned and before long, Charles II wins out and Renee cannot say no to him and the lure of his riches and attentions. She must give up Richard, or rather, Richard gives her up, which leaves him free to notice Alice, who is still too busy getting the old Duke of Balmoral to propose to her so she may become a great duchess. The old Duke is an interesting character, he's wilier than first believed, but he too has a fatal flaw that becomes his ruin. Ms. Koen has a good hand with her side characters. They are vivid and interesting, whether they are villains or good people with their own sad stories.

Alice is not all bad. She has a great sense of duty and is kind to her queen and Dorothy who is the "mother" of the maids that attend the queen. She is a fierce supporter of her friends (as long as they do what she thinks they should do) and loyal to a fault. It takes us a long time to see this side of Alice, but she begins to thaw as she and Richard help each other with the aid of the old duke to chase down the assassin, Henri Ange. But she still must give up her pride which prevents her from forgiving those she loves most. I found it a bit tedious how she could be so stubborn, convinced she was in the right no matter what, even when it meant cutting off her childhood friend who she believed could have married better. Alice is indomitable and strong but it doesn't help her in the end when her pride almost kills her and she realizes the great mistakes she has made in friendship, marriage, duty and love. In some cases, it's too late, but in others there is hope.

Unlike the book description above, I didn't find the main storyline compelling and was really annoyed that there was not much between Alice and Richard and their courtship - since that's what I was hoping for the most! This could have been so much better. The growing fondness between the two was so subtle it was just plain dull and overpowered by the other plotline of finding the murderer, Henri Ange. How could the author have done this to Alice? Alice, whom I loved in Through the Glass Darkly! I wanted to read a juicy story about Alice and Richard and their great passion, instead it's a tepid love story about two people that find out they love each other but won't openly admit it to each other. They dance around it, but nothing ever comes of anything until the very end of the book. I think Alice deserved better than this.

If you read Through a Glass Darkly, don't get your hopes up too high about this prequel. Written nearly 20 years after the last, I think the commanding and domineering older Alice of the last book didn't translate well with a younger Alice. She was unlikable. I found some of the interesting and sad side stories memorable and the few bitchy duchesses and scheming maids were diverting. Overall, the book was not what I expected due to the hard time I had with warming up to Alice, but she still remains close to my heart since I loved her so much in Through a Glass Darkly. I know what she becomes, so I'll forgive her younger days before she falls in love with Richard Saylor. I hope there might be another book in the works devoted to their life together and not with some crazy murder mystery sideline to take away from it.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James

Book Description:
Nothing fazes Taylor Donovan—- not in the courtroom and not in her personal life. So when she's assigned to coach People's "Sexiest Man Alive" for his role in the next big legal drama, she refuses to fall for the Hollywood heartthrob's charms. Even if he is "the" Jason Andrews.

Oh. My. God. I loved this book! I was utterly drawn into it from the beginning and loved every single word of it! I haven't been so entertained in ages!

This is the story of Taylor Donovan, smart, pretty, uber lawyer from Chicago sent to LA to work on a particular sexual harassment court case (her specialty) for her firm. Much to her chagrin, she's also been delegated to become a lawyerly acting coach with the world's sexiest man, Hollywood heartthrob actor, Jason Andrews.

Pardon my presumption, but I was convinced Jason was George Clooney the whole time I was reading - and I just happen to luuuuuurvve George Clooney! So, to say the least - I was in love with Jason from the get go!

Taylor and Jason get off to a rocky start. The repartee and dialogue between the two is priceless, including a great cross examination she puts him through in a mock courtroom scene about why he stood her up for two appointments - I couldn't get enough of it. It was so clever and well done! The book was filled with great come backs and insults and witty conversation - I'm in awe of Miss James - she is a master at this! Ms. James sets the scene in Hollywood perfectly, she knows this industry and the business of law - it shows in her writing. Everything sounds authentic. Taylor doesn't like Jason at first, she doesn't trust him, in fact she's just plain pissed off that she has to help this egomaniac pampered movie star be a lawyer for his current movie role. She's busy with her own upcoming trial and has better things to do.

Of course Jason is immediately intrigued by her and can't believe she's giving him the brush off! It was delightful to read how he feels and how this is all so new for him! No one says no to Jason Andrews!

Eventually, they become friends and he's trying every chance he gets to make some headway with her. I loved his urgency that develops - he must see her - he must speak to her, he's actually calling her on his cell phone himself, rather than having his assistant do it! He's interrupting her at her office in front of her boss, he invites her to his house for a spur of the moment lavish party he's planned as an excuse to see her again outside business, he even gets to be her knight in shining armor after she has a car accident - he's falling for her! He's changing too for the better, though there is a learning curve he's facing. Taylor, cool lawyer that she is, handles the attention - and Jason - well, getting her clever digs into him whenever she can, bringing him down a notch (which he loves, btw). To avoid being besieged by papparazzi one night while coming out of Mr. Chow's, he bribes her by getting her to agree to "one night" with him. Not that kind of a night, but a date. She reluctantly agrees and he takes her out - to Las Vegas no less! (I couldn't believe the coincidence since I'm going there in less than two weeks myself! *jumping up and down in excitement*) He flies her there in his private jet and they have a great night together. He teaches her how to play craps in the VIP rooms at the Bellagio (hilarious, btw) and they have a romantic near kiss on the hotel's balcony overlooking the fountains - until it's spoiled by screaming fans.

Taylor thinks of the interruption as a close call. They have many of these sort of close calls. He's getting to her, but she's hesitent - in fact downright fearful - she knows what a reputation as a womanizer he has. She's just recently coming off the break up of catching her ex-fiancee in the act of cheating on her, so she's in no rush to get involved with the man her ex aspired to be like! What's a girl to do? Talk to her girlfriends of course! They come for a visit - and it's an hilarious moment when they meet Jason for the first time - I was laughing and giggling throughout the whole scene - this is such a funny and great book - it made me giddy! I laughed through much of it and even had tears in my eyes towards the end - I wanted to be Taylor Donovan so much! I really liked Taylor, I was rooting for her all the way. By the end I was crying for her!

Meanwhile, the fly in the ointment is another actor, Aussie Scott Casey who is super jealous of Jason Andrews. Casey wanted to the sexiest man alive. Casey figures out how to get to Jason by way of Taylor, but Taylor eventually sees that he's not her match. Some aspects of this storyline reminded me a bit of Pride and Prejudice and the Darcy/Elizabeth Bennett/Wickham storyline. In fact there were a couple of lines in the book that made me wonder if they were tributes to Ms. Austen. Upon review of her blog, she wrote the following which confirmed my suspicions.
As I mentioned in the interview with the Sun-Times, in many ways Austen’s novels inspire my own writing. Just the Sexiest Man Alive was written as a modern, romantic comedy homage to P&P: the story of a smart, witty heroine who vows to resist the affection of an arrogant, sought-after man who, in turn, learns to become a better person in order to win her over.
It made me love the book even more, since P&P is one of my favorite books as well! Surprisingly, this romance had no sex in it, some four letter words and innuendo, but it was remarkably clean and didn't suffer one bit for lack of it. It was refreshing without it!

Will Taylor discover that Jason is the man for her or go back to Chicago after her trial and say good bye to him for good? Can Jason give up his bachelor career and settle down and be happy with a no-name lawyer? You'll just have to read this fantastic romantic contemporary yourself to find out - IT IS SO GOOD! Go out and buy this book - run to the bookstore or download it to your e-reader ASAP - you won't be sorry!

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