Sunday, July 26, 2009

Only with a Highlander by Janet Chapman

Book Description:
She must choose between her destiny...and her desire.

As soon as Pine Creek's new mystery man steps into her art gallery, Winter MacKeage is intrigued. This sexy stranger, Matt Gregor, wants her to do some drawings of his dream house. And with his tiger-gold eyes and masculine charm, he's impossible to resist. But so is Winter's Scottish heritage. As the seventh MacKeage daughter, she must embrace her true magical calling...and deny her mortal desires. Soon Winter is heating up--in Matt's strong arms--and her fiery heart is torn. Can she give up the destiny she was born to fulfill for the only man she's ever truly loved?

Book five and 2nd to last of the Pine Creek Series, this is Winter MacKeage's tale. Unaware that she has a mystical calling as a druidh to save the world one day, she meets a handsome stranger, Matt Gregor, who wastes no time in wining and dining her - leading to her ultimately falling for him. Not a bad story, but not the best of this series either, but I enjoy reading about the MacKeage's and the time traveling highlanders in Maine.

Winter in the daughter of Greylen and Grace MacKeage, who are now in their 60's and 70's. It's been 35 years since the first book about them in the series, although there is not much to indicate things have changed in the backwoods of Maine to indicate it's the future, except for fast flying private jets that can surpass the speed of sound at Mach 1 (or something like that, to be honest, I was a bit lost in the technicality of it all-let's just say private jets can fly really fast now!)

Winter is an artist and owns a gallery in the town of Pine Creek where she lives with her family. In walks tall, dark and handsome Matt Gregor one day and - did I mention he was rich? - buys up a few of her paintings. He's used to getting what he wants. His next acquisition in mind? Winter MacKeage. She's instantly attracted to him too, but a bit wary of starting things up with this handsome stranger. Still, they begin to have a few dates and she gets to know him and before long she's fallen in love with him. Why, all of sudden, we don't know, but she does. It's a big vague, but you're supposed to assume it just by being with him a lot and he's a great kisser and all that. But, Winter is a virgin and Matt knows this, so he doesn't rush her or anything. He's very understanding in that regard - although Winter is beginning to feel it's time for her to give it up. I don't blame her. He has long dark hair, tall, virile, rich, independent, commanding - why, he sounds a bit like a medieval Scottish highlander - doesn't he?

Still, there is the sticky problem that Winter is fated to be Father Daar's (the cranky old priest from the other books who is really a 1000 year old Druidh) heir and is needed to save the continuum and the world from destruction from a renegade druidh from 800 years ago that is causing all sorts of trouble. She cannot get into a relationship with anyone - and definitely cannot have a baby! - or she will lose her powers. It's complicated and this is the main plot of the book, and there is a big surprise about who Matt really is - and his brother - which I won't spoil, but all in all it was a good story but convoluted - especially towards the end and the big wind up which I found to be somewhat of a cop out - but hey, it's time travel, it's fantasy - anything goes - right?

A couple of steamy moments between Winter and Matt - one in particular in the bathroom *fans self* They do like to get it on everywhere - the bathroom, a cave, a hot tub - finally towards the end they make it to a bed! Phew!

A good story, with lots of familiar characters from the other books, especially the now older Greylen and Grace, a must read for this series, though not my favorite.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

It's In His Kiss by Julia Quinn

Book Description:

Meet Our Hero ...

Gareth St. Clair is in a bind. His father, who detests him, is determined to beggar the St. Clair estates and ruin his inheritance. Gareth's sole bequest is an old family diary, which may or may not contain the secrets of his past .. and the key to his future. The problem is -- it's written in Italian, of which Gareth speaks not a word.

Meet Our Heroine ...

All the ton agreed: there was no one quite like Hyacinth Bridgerton. She's fiendishly smart, devilishly outspoken, and according to Gareth, probably best in small doses. But there's something about her -- something charming and vexing -- that grabs him and won't quite let go ...

Meet Poor Mr. Mozart ...

Or don't. But rest assured, he's spinning in his grave when Gareth and Hyacinth cross paths at the annual -- and annually discordant -- Smythe-Smith musicale. To Hyacinth, Gareth's every word seems a dare, and she offers to translate his diary, even though her Italian is slightly less than perfect. But as they delve into the mysterious text, they discover that the answers they seek lie not in the diary, but in each other ... and that there is nothing as simple -- or as complicated -- as a single, perfect kiss.

The seventh and second to last book of London society's Bridgerton family, which is a delightful, frothy, historical romance series by one of my favorite romance authors, Julia Quinn. This was, as usual, funny in parts, touching in parts, sexy in parts, but I can't say this was a favorite.

Hyacinth Bridgerton, the youngest of the eight siblings has a strong, sort of annoying personality. She is not someone that is easily crossed. On one hand, she can be sweet and caring, but she can also be bossy, stubborn and exasperating. Gareth St. Clair, our hero proves to be her match. Blonde, handsome with a reputation with the ladies, he kind of unexpectedly likes this side of Hyacinth. He has his own problems, namely that his father cannot stand him. Gareth has virtually no family, except his maternal grandmother, the feisty, cranky yet, oh so endearing - Lady Danbury. He envies Hyacinth her large family. The rest of the Bridgertons are delighted at the idea that some poor chap might actually marry their little sister, singular qualities and all - but all is not so simple in the early nineteenth century world of Julia Quinn.

Aside from the growing attraction between Gareth and Hyacinth is the little problem that Gareth knows he is not really his father's son - hence the estrangement and animosity between them. But who is his real father and what does a long lost diary of his paternal Italian grandmother have to do with it? Luckily, Hyacinth just so happens to know enough Italian to translate the diary, and so begins the mystery and treasure hunt in the book for some lost jewels. The plot is enjoyable with some laugh out loud moments, Hyacinth dressing up in britches to skulk around at night in search of the lost jewels and the usual banter amongst the Bridgerton siblings. But, for the most part there is not a lot of sexual tension between Hyacinth and Gareth, which I think is key in these kind of books. It's pretty much a given early on that the two are mad about each other - beginning with the kiss. (I must admit, it was a good kiss!)

Gareth's story is highlighted as one who has to come to terms with his lot in life. I felt for him, yet I wasn't crazy about him as a hero, especially his idea of having to make sure that once he is engaged to Hyacinth he has to compromise her to seal the bargain so she can't "cry off." WTF? I had trouble with this concept, but it didn't totally ruin him in my eyes and he does come to realize it probably wasn't his best idea afterwards, even though he does follow through with the plan. I found it a major flaw in his character, IMHO. Still, he's not a total scoundrel, but I missed that noble hero characteristic other Bridgerton heroes seem to have.

A good book, but not the best in the series. Overall, it was entertaining, but a weak link in the chain of Bridgertons. Still, a must read for anyone who enjoys lighthearted and amusing historicals with a touch of the absurd and a few moments of poignancy thrown in for good measure. Even if it was weak, it's still Julia Quinn, and you can't go wrong with anything by her - though the ending left me wondering - huh????


Monday, July 13, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

Book Description:
When it comes to the laws of attraction, there are no rules

The battle between the sexes is about to make these two lawyers hot under the collar. Opposites collide when two lawyers try to make partner at the same firm. Payton Kendall is a feminist to the bone. Cocky J.D. Jameson was born privileged. But when they're asked to join forces on a major case, they gain a newfound awareness of each other's personal assets. The partnership spot will be offered to only one of them, though. The competition heats up. Sparks fly. Let the games begin.

I loved it.

I loved it, I loved it, I loved it!

Now, are we clear on this? I loved this book!

Do you ever read a book and you're just so enthralled by it that you can't really think straight, much less write a cohesive sentence about it? There are so many things you love about it that it's, well, too hard to write about it? So many ideas are mixed up in your brain that it feels like it's swelling up and it's hard to focus on anything? Well, I'm there, that's me. Watch out, it's a tad gushy up ahead.

I'm simply bowled over by this author, Julie James - another grand slam contemporary hit out of the park - Wrigley Park! Endearing, witty lawyerly characters, lots of snappy dialogue with a nod to Pride and Prejudice - a real winner - I highly recommend it!

I can't say that I liked this one as much as her first, Just the Sexiest Man Alive, but this was a hair's breadth away from it. Both are fantastic!

This is the story of Payton Kendall, a workaholic Chicago lawyer with a top notch record at her law firm. She's a senior associate and is hoping to make partner within the year. Her arch enemy and nemesis, J.D. Jameson, who also happens to be born rich and good looking is the other top notch Senior Associate at the firm - with the same intentions and hopes. Both have been competing against one another for the past eight years. For eight years they've been exchanging jabs and barbs at each other, yet keeping up a facade of getting along with one another in front of the partners. I found it hilarious how they dealt with each other, especially once they find out that the firm is only going to make one person a partner this year, and the one who isn't chosen will have to basically leave the firm - up or out - as they call it. Who will it be? Payton or J.D.?

The mayhem that ensues is particularly delicious whether deliberate or not, it all made for great reading, especially since it's pretty obvious these two are mad about each other, but they're the last ones to admit it. But let me tell you, it was great, great, great reading up to the point when finally (!) they get there! They're meant for each other and the whole wrap up and revelations and outcome made this an A++ book, plus it was a real page turner! This is a great couple, they're comepetiveness and clever banter reminded me of a Tracy and Hepburn movie!

I'm leaving tons out, but I laughed and laughed and even came close to tears at one point, it was such a good story and so well written, it leaves you with a real smile on your face. What a talent! The characters come to life, you feel like you know them, I wish I could meet them! J.D. at first comes across as this snidely type, but you really fall for him by the end. *sniff sniff* What a guy. Payton is so lucky! Do yourself a favor, read it for yourself - you'll see what I mean. You won't be sorry, I dare you not to like this book!

Now, if only Hollywood would come to it's senses and make a movie out of it!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Broken Wing by Judith James

Book Description:
Set during the chaotic beginnings of Napoleon's rule, this saga tells the story of Gabriel St. Croix, a street survivor searching for a place to belong. Abandoned as a child and raised in a brothel, he has never known friendship or affection. Hiding physical and emotional scars behind an icy facade, his only relationship is with a young boy he has spent the last five years protecting from the brutal reality of their environment. But all that is about to change. The boy's family has found him, and they are coming to take him home.

Sarah Munroe blames herself for her brother's disappearance. When he's located, safe and unharmed despite where he has been living, Sarah vows to help the man who rescued and protected him in any way she can. With loving patience she helps Gabriel face his demons and teaches him to trust in friendship and love. But when the past catches up with him, Gabriel must face it on his own. Becoming a mercenary, pirate, and professional gambler, he travels to London, France, and the Barbary Coast in a desperate attempt to find Sarah again. On the way, however, he will discover the most dangerous journey and the greatest gamble of all is within the darkest reaches of his own heart.

At last I've read this book I've heard so much about! And alas, it didn't thrill me as much as it has everyone else! Aargh! Another one of these anguished and tormented heroes that must fight their inner demons to make their way in the world and find true love in the arms of a woman too good to be true.

Gabriel St. Croix is the ertswhile hero of this adventure romance. Set in England for the most part, it begins in Paris where Gabriel was raised, tutored and trained in every imaginable way to be the most desired male whore at Madame Etienne's. He becomes the most coveted draw at the brothel, but why does he stay there once he is a grown man? Surely he can find some way to escape this life of degradation and near slavery? The answer is most likely because he is protecting an innocent young boy that was kidnapped from his aristocratic family in England and placed in the brothel. Jamie, the young boy, is a handsome youth, Gabriel knows only too well, having endured it himself, what will become of poor Jamie if he is not there to protect him. He fights off predators and keeps the young boy safe and untouched. Despite his dissolute lifestyle and what appears to be a severe lack of morals, Gabriel has an honorable and noble bent to him, he is basically a good man. Still, in the beginning, he is a major enigma to everyone. A major good looking, seductive enigma!

Eventually the day comes that Jamie is found and returned to his grateful family. He has become attached to Gabriel and refuses to leave the brothel without his guardian angel, Gabriel. Faced with no other alternative, Jamie's older brother and sister invite him to come live with them for a year in Cornwall, England and be a companion to Jamie and help him to re-adjust to his new surroundings. An offer too good to turn down, with the added bonus of 10,000 pounds Sterling added to the pot, Gabriel agrees and goes to England with them. It is not only an adjustment for Jamie, who gets along swimmingly in his new surroundings, Gabriel is the one that's having the harder time. Plus, he is falling for Jamie's older sister, Lady Sarah Munroe, an unorthodox young widow that likes to wear britches instead of dresses and has a few skeletons in her closet that keeps her out of London's most popular salons. Sarah is intrigued with Gabriel and strives to make him feel at home in Cornwall. They develop a tenuous friendship which gradually leads to love - a heart pounding, all consuming, "love you forever - no matter what" kind of love.

Now, first of all, I admit, it was hard for me to adjust to a male prostitute as the book's hero. I'm used to dukes and viscounts or Scottish highlanders, all noble, courageous and terribly honorable and all that. A catamite? A sodomite? The best male whore in the best little whorehouse of Paris? Hmmm... Different, I'll give it that and a tall order. But, eventually I was won over by Gabriel. He transforms himself into a man of honor with the steely countenance and swordsmanship to best the greatest of foes. Yet, inside he still suffers the pain and vulnerablities due to his unfortunate childhood that he'll never be able to fully put behind him and forget.

As he and Sarah become friends, he tells her brutally of his past life. Sarah, the most understanding woman that ever lived, accepts him unconditionally with all his flaws and background. She soothes his nightmares and takes him into her arms to comfort him. They begin a clandestine nightime friendship at first, watching the night's stars and I found it hard to believe that he would sleep in her bedroom every night and her brothers were unaware of it! No one knew and told her older brother, the master of the house? I found Sarah a bit naive in allowing this, and soon Gabriel was sleeping in her bed and still she had no idea that he was mad for her and was dying to make love to her? From friendship they start to kiss a lot, but still no sex. Finally, when her brother goes away, they become lovers. Their love for one another develops naturally, first as friends then as lovers, it's almost too easy and I can't say it was overly steamy. It was more interesting before they fell in love. Once they declared themselves to each other, it all became rather sappy and boring. But, then her older brother returns and puts a kabosh on the whole thing and after secretly marrying, Gabriel leaves to become a privateer and make his fortune and return in six months to marry Sarah properly and honorably in a pretty dress with her family's acceptance.

Well, of course, things don't go as planned.

Gabriel is captured by a slaver ship in Turkey and must somehow find his way back to Europe. But, after killing his old nemesis and then becoming a mercenary with his new found friend, Jacques and then pretending to be a bisexual nobleman in Paris and London it takes him over three years to see Sarah again. I hate it when the hero gets the bright idea that he can never face his beloved again for fear that she will reject him upon learning that he has murdered someone or commited some unforgivable (in his eyes) sin. Gabe, Gabe, poor misguided Gabe. You should have told Jacques everything. Jacques would have straightened you out. But, no, Gabriel kept this idea all to himself and refused to return to Sarah! What a blockhead! Sarah! The one who forgave you all your sins of being a male prostitute in Paris for years? The one who said she'd love you and wait forever? You think she's going to mind if you killed your archenemy who tortured you for years as a child?

So, I was a bit put out by this part, but it added some much needed angst to the storyline which I found to be, for the most part, too pat and perfect. Everything (to a certain extent) would always go just as planned, except for getting washed overboard and everyone thinking he was dead, of course. I noticed that whenever Gabriel would come up with a plan of how he'd escape from somewhere - voila! It would work perfectly! No problems! In addition, I found a lack of depth in some of the storylines, particulary towards the end, or big gaping question marks - what was the backstory with Sarah's older brother, Ross? What did Jamie think of Gabriel when he learned that he was alive all along and didn't tell them? And just what in the world ever happened to Jamie, did he turn out okay? What was Davey's real story - and was he really in love with Sarah or not? How did Sarah hear about Gabriel being back in London? Who told her? How did she find out and react to the revelation?

I found the first part of the book to be rich in details, centering on the Jamie dilemma and then the development of the relationship between Gabriel and Sarah. Then it turns into this pirate like adventure story in the middle in which the two of them are apart and finally the last part has a brief near fling for Sarah and intro to a ne'er do well Irish nobleman (I found it hard to believe that her older brother would actually try to fix her up with this womanizer!) The near fling leads to nothing, it's mostly just a plot device, a way for Gabriel to overhear that Sarah is in London from the Irish lord. Then suddenly, Sarah and Gabriel come face to face again in London! The last part had almost none of the same lavish detail as the first part. Everything was glossed over quickly, almost as if the author ran out of steam and just wanted to get the book over with. Her little brother Jamie grows up and we have no clue what he's like. Is he completely recovered from his time in the brothel?

A reunion, some flowery language and poetry, three days of non-stop sex and the story was all wrapped up. I did like the surprise in their reunion that brought them full circle which was a nice touch.

Still, it was a good story if you like tortured heroes who are less than perfect (not my own personal favorite). I did actually like this book, despite my tongue in cheek review, but let's hope the author's next book is a bit more even with details and composition. I recommend it for the different romantic storyline and the research that went into it as indicated in the author's notes at the end. Still, it's an unconventional romance in the beginning and not overly steamy either, though there are a few memorable moments in that department.

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