Thursday, May 24, 2012

May Quickie Reviews

In anticipation of the Memorial Day Weekend, and the fact that I'm hopelessly backed up, this is a departure post for me consisting of quickie reviews of the books I've read in May so far.  Fear not, this is not going to be a regular thing, I just need to catch up!

My Lady Rival by Ashley March

Book Description:
In this tantalizing new novel of untold wealth, unbridled privilege, and unspeakable scandals, a family shakes the very foundation of proper Victorian Society—and sets the bluebloods to blushing..

When the wealthy middle-class Laurie family purchases a home in exclusive Belgrave Square, London Society is aghast. After all, the consensus is that they're nothing but lowborn commoners-a family of nouveau riche daring to marry into the aristocracy. Others believe it's an attempt to prove that their wealth makes them equal to nobility. Only one thing is certain: Belgrave Square will never be the same again.

Upon his father's death, Alexander Laurie feels the best way to provide his family with the privileges they deserve and secure their business is to establish ties with the London ton. And the best way to do it is by marrying an aristocratic bride. But when his business rival's beautiful daughter—the one person who can destroy his plans—appears in London, Alex must defeat her attempts at sabotage.even if that means stealing kisses from the enemy.

I had a tough time warming up to Willa, the heroine in this Victorian romance, though I liked her very much at first when we first meet her.  But then she began to bug me, though I liked the hero Alex very much. Still, I felt the story was disjointed as if some of the scenes were unfinished. The ending was rushed and in need of more development towards how Alex and Willa realized their love for each other. A disappointment compared to her last book, Romancing the Countess, which was great.


One Good Reason by Sarah Mayberry

Book Description:
It's time to move on. 

Any day now Jon Adamson will pack his bags and hit the road. After all, his intention was never to hang around Melbourne once he'd settled his late father's affairs. Yet he hasn't moved on. And it might have something to do with Gabby Wade. The not-so-big office manager with the really big attitude is making Jon's days... interesting... engaging... fun. It's impossible for him to resist her.

But he knows himself--long-term commitments and cozy family dinners aren't his style. If that's what the future holds, why is he still here? And why is he spending all his days--and nights--with Gabby? Because maybe she's the one reason strong enough to make him stay. 

Who would have thought this was such a great story! I'm not normally a Harlequin reader, but this contemporary romance was so highly recommended to me (by Penny at Penelope's Romance Reviews) I gave it a shot and it did not disappoint. Tight story, no filler, lots of emotion and a voice that rang true. Set in Australia, this is a keeper, now I've got to read the previous book in this series about Tyler and Ally's story.


Scandal of the Year by Laura Lee Guhrke

Book Description:

From their very first meeting, Julia knew that Aidan Carr, the oh-so-proper Duke of Trathen, had a bit of the devil in him, a devil who secretly yearned for what he could not have, a devil who harbored a desire for her. So when she needed to be caught in a compromising situation, Aidan was the answer to her prayers.


Aidan is supposed to be looking for a bride, yet his scandalous liaison with Julia is all he can think about. Hot, erotic memories of kissing her skin, falling into her bed, pulling her naked body on top of his own continue to torment and tempt him. What is it about this brazen seductress that he finds so hard to resist? And how can he stop himself from falling into her bed a second time?

Ordinarily I love Guhrke's historicals, but it took me a while to warm up to Julie/Julia, the heroine in this Edwardian romance with a Sleeping Beauty theme. Yet by the end - I was won over. Story of a notorious divorced baroness who is keeping a secret of why she seduced a man (the Duke of Trathen, who she has known since they were 17) in order to be caught in bed with him so her sadistic husband would divorce her.   After such a notorious scandal, can these two find happiness with each other or will Julia help him find a suitable bride with a scandal-free pedigree? Good story with flashbacks leading up to that fateful afternoon - what really happened that day?  As good as the story was, I  felt at arm's length for most of it in regard to the emotions of the hero and heroine - until the very ending.  Some brief cameos from characters from her Girl Bachelor Series too. 


Love Once in Passing by Jo Ann Simon 

Book Description:
This is book one in Jo Ann Simon's acclaimed time travel romance trilogy first published in the early 1980s. Christopher Dunlap, a man of title and privilege in early nineteenth century England, and Jessica Lund, a thoroughly modern woman, suddenly find their lives mysteriously entwined in Jessica's late twentieth century world. Neither understand how Christopher, a man who had been living a happy life nearly two hundred years in the past, is now flesh and blood in Jessica's present. They soon share a love for each other as deep as it is dangerous, for whatever has brought them together can just as easily tear them apart. 

I loved this book. Plus, the heroine has the same last name as me! Early '80's time travel romance that was a real treat! I'm wary of '80's romances, but this was a winner.  Contemporary heroine, Jessica Lund has a Regency lord pop into her car while driving home one night in Connecticut.  He just shows up all of a sudden with no warning   He's just as perplexed as she is! The two of them must deal with his unexpected time travel and it's repercussions as they fall in love while trying to determine if he can disappear just as easily as he appeared in the first place. To complicate matters, she loses her memory as they travel to London so he can research what happened to him 160 years earlier. Not your typical scenario, she has trouble remembering him and doesn't fall for him again which naturally creates a rift between them.   I had a hard time putting this one down and the cliffhanger is a killer! Must. Read. Next. Book. 


Sea Change by Darlene Marshall

Book Description:
American privateer Captain David Fletcher needs a surgeon for his wounded brother. But when he captures a British merchantman in the Caribbean, what he gets is Charley Alcott, an apprentice physician barely old enough to shave. Needs take priority over skill, and Captain Fletcher whisks the prisoner aboard his ship with orders to do his best or he'll be walking the plank.

Charley Alcott's medical skills are being put to the test in a life-or-death situation--Charley's life as well as the patient's. Even if Charley can save the captain's brother, there will still be hell to pay, and maybe a plank to walk, when Captain Fletcher learns Charley is really Charlotte Alcott.

A war is raging on the world's oceans, and two enemies will fight their own battles and their attraction to each other as they undergo a sea change neither of them is expecting, but cannot deny...

I've read all of Darlene Marshall's books (except her latest which is on my TBR list).  This is a departure for her, though she has written about false identities when it comes to gender, this is a new take on that theme.  It's the story of Charlotte Alcott, a young Englishwoman disguising herself as a doctor on board a merchant ship bound for Jamaica. En route, she is forced to board an American privateer captained by the handsome Davy Fletcher. Having no idea she's really a girl they strike up a friendship, but she soon falls for him and he, much to his chagrin, finds he's having wayward thoughts about her/him as well. Good story but no romance involved until the 2nd half of the book and then hero is missing for the last 30 pages or so. If you enjoy stories of doctoring methods at sea in the early 19th century you'll enjoy this for there is much detail and description of battle wounds and amputations, etc.  I enjoyed it and am eager to read her next which brings back the minor character of Dr. Murray.


The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley (audio)

Book Description: 
Eva Ward is a modern woman thrown back three centuries to 1715--only to find that might be exactly where she belongs. There she finds true love with Daniel Butler, but the discord surrounding Hanoverian King George plunges the lovers into a world of intrigue, treason, and love.

Modern time travel story of Eva, a young woman who has returned to Cornwall from California to scatter her sister's ashes. While there at Treloweth, the house she knew as a child, she becomes reacquainted with old friends and inadvertently travels back and forth in time to 1715. Unable to control her comings and goings from the past to the present, she befriends the beguiling owner of Treloweth, Daniel Butler, a Jacobite sympathizer and smuggler whom she falls in love with. At the same time she helps Daniel foil the local constable's attempts to arrest Daniel and his brother Jack for treason. This wasn't bad on audio, but the narrator's voice for Eva went back and forth from English to Canadian/American and it drove me crazy! I found this an evocative story but the actual romance between Daniel and Eva was oblique and had no overt passion to it, only skimming the surface.  Another one keeping me at arms length, I just didn't feel the love.  Although this book has gotten high praise, I preferred The Winter Sea over this one.

Disclosure: I won this book in e-book format from the publisher, but chose to listen to it on audiobook , which I bought on my own, instead.


Why Mermaids Sing by C.S. Harris

Book Description:
It's September 1811, and someone is killing the wealthy young sons of London's most prominent families. Partially butchered, with strange objects stuffed into their mouths, their bodies are found dumped in public places at dawn. When the grisly remains of Alfred, Lord Stanton's eldest son are discovered in the Old Palace Yard beside the House of Lords, the local magistrate turns to Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for help.

Ranging from the gritty world of Thames-side docks to the luxurious drawing rooms of Mayfair, Sebastian finds himself confronting his most puzzling--and disturbing--case yet. With the help of his trusted allies--young servant Tom, Irish doctor Paul Gibson, and his lover Kat Boleyn - Sebastian struggles to decipher a cryptic set of clues that link the scion of a banking family to the son of a humble Kentish vicar. For as one killing follows another, Sebastian discovers he is confronting a murderer with both a method and a purpose to his ritualized killings, and that the key to it all may lie in the enigmatic stanzas of a haunting poem...and in a secret so dangerous that men are willing to sacrifice their own children to keep the truth from becoming known.

Book 3 in the Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series, this is the best one so far.  Sebastian is investigating the grisly murders of the son's of some prominent men.  The bodies are butchered and left in public in the most ghastly manner.  As it turns out, all of the fathers are connected because they were all shipwrecked together on a boat and turned to cannibalism to survive.  Whoever the murderer is, he knows and is seeking revenge.  Great twisty turny story though I am deeply saddened for Sebastian over some devastating news he receives towards the end of the book.  I really enjoyed this one!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King (audio)

Book Description:
Roland Deschain and his ka-tet are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World on their quest for the Dark Tower. Their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis. But beyond the tranquil farm town, the ground rises to the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is stealing the town's soul. The wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to. Their guns, however, will not be enough....

Quickie Review:
It's been a few years since I read book four of Stephen King's Dark Tower Series.  I really enjoyed the first four books and for a change I decided to listen to book five, The Wolves of the Calla instead of reading it.   I have to admit, it was somewhat of a challenge.

Wolves picks up where we left off in book four of the series, Wizard and Glass.  The ka-tet, Roland, the Gunslinger, young Jake, Eddie Dean and his wife Susannah are still making their way to the Dark Tower when they near the town of Calla Bryn Sturgis, a beautiful little peaceful town, pretty as a picture.  Yet, all is not as it seems.  Every generation hundreds of "Wolves" from  nearby Thunderclap ride in to the town and steal it's children and carry them off.  One pre-adolescent child per couple.  One of the odd things about Calla Bryn Sturgis is everyone has twins, it's rare to have a singleton, though they do exist.  And when the wolves come - they take one twin from each family.  Months later, the kidnapped children are returned - roont.  Their minds are gone and they grow to gigantic sizes after they reach puberty.  Eventually they die in their thirties, mindless.  No one knows why or what takes them, but it happens.  This time, when Andy, the friendly Robot tells them the wolves are coming in a month, the townspeople say "no."  Not again.  This time they intend to fight the wolves and they ask the Gunslingers to help.

This is the main plot line in the book, but as anyone knows whose familiar with The Dark Tower Series, there is much, much more going on.  We go back and forth to New York City, visiting the rose in the empty lot.  The ka-tet meet Father Don Callahan, a former priest from Salem's Lot, Maine (yes, that Salem's Lot) who tells his long and detailed story and how he came to be in Mid-World and his brush with vampires.  We find out that Susannah is pregnant - but not with Eddie's child.  Instead it is some kind of monster she is carrying from when she coupled with a demon to save Jake in The Waste Lands.  Another persona, Mia has manifested itself in Susannah's mind.  She is the mother of the chap growing inside Susannah's body.  What will happen when Susannah gives birth - the big question leading up to a major cliffhanger ending.

Overall this was an engrossing and complicated installment in the series and not one you can skip for things do happen, but probably my least favorite up to this point in the series.  I got the impression that for the most part, Calla seemed like a weigh station for the ka-tet before continuing on their quest.  The details on audio were hard to follow at times, especially regarding the significance of the rose in the empty lot in New York City.  Although I had trouble following the story at time, the narrator did a good job with all the different voices.  It's just that this is such a big book, it's easy to get lost in what's going on, especially when it refers to the earlier books which were hard for me to remember, it's been so long since I read them.  Still, this was pretty good, but I wish I hadn't waited so long between books.  I feel like I need to go somewhere on line and take a refresher course on the series before tackling the next one.


The Bride and the Beast by Teresa Medeiros

Book Description:
Dear Reader,

I'd been prowling the crumbling ruins of Castle Weyrcraig for so long that I could no longer remember if I was man or beast. Then one stormy night the superstitious Highlanders of Ballybliss decided to leave a helpless virgin bound to a stake in the castle courtyard to satisfy my insatiable appetites.

My demands might strike terror in the hearts of men, but this bold beauty dared to defy me. After she informed me that she didn't believe in dragons, I had no choice but to make her my prisoner—or risk being exposed to those I had sought to deceive with my dangerous masquerade.

Soon I found myself stealing into the moonlit tower just to watch her sleep. Little does she know that beneath this beast's gruff exterior beats the passionate heart of a man. Gwendolyn Wilder may not believe in dragons, but I intend to use all my sensual wiles to teach her to believe in something even more magical—true love.

Eternally yours,

The Dragon of Weyrcraig

Quickie Review:
I know this book is a favorite by many, but I just didn't feel the love for it.  Set around fifteen years after the Battle of Culloden in Scotland, it's the story of how Gwendolyn Wilder, a virgin who is considered overweight and unattractive in comparison to her beautiful - and promiscuous - sisters, falls in love with the Dragon of Weyrcraig, a man who sees her in a different light - as a true beauty.  Ironically, he will not show Gwendolyn his own face as he holds her prisoner whispering sweet nothings in her ear as he gradually seduces her over time.  Why all the secrecy?  Who is he really and what is he hiding from, for he is truly hiding from someone - himself, maybe? 

How did sensible Gwendolyn wind up as the Dragon's prisoner?  It all started because the Dragon, who took over the crumbling castle on the hill overlooking her village began to scare everyone to death by making demands for food and money.  The townspeople are a superstitious lot who decide to make Gwendolyn a human sacrifice to the Dragon in hopes that he will give up his demands of the exorbitant amount of £10,000.  The same amount of money that was paid to the traitor who turned in the laird of Weyrcraig following the battle of Culloden.  The laird had been a Jacobite supporter protecting Bonnie Prince Charlie and helping him escape the British.

As it turns out the fearsome Dragon is Bernard, the son of the former laird.  Believed to have died when the castle was shelled by the British, he actually lived and now is eager to seek revenge on whoever turned in his father, a fate leading to the laird's death, but not before he cursed the entire village for their treachery.  Gwendolyn fell for Bernard years before when she was a pudgy young girl and he the strikingly handsome future laird of Weyrcraig.  But much happened after Culloden, including the sacking of the castle and an end to Bernard's future as laird.  Captured and held prisoner by the British, he was then rescued by an Englishman who wound up raising him as his son and heir.  Now rich and powerful, Bernard, posing as the Dragon, has come back to the small village, bent on avenging the life of his father.  

Did Bernard remember Gwendolyn from all those years ago when she was just a young girl?  Their reunion when he rescues her from the rain, tied to the post outside his castle is vague in Gwen's memory.  Who carried her inside the castle?  A smart girl, Gwen suffers from an inferiority complex due to her weight.  As Bernard - the mysterious Dragon - makes it plain he likes her lush, curvaceous figure, but she finds it hard to believe anyone, much less the Dragon would find her beautiful.  Yet he obviously does and keeps her there for weeks with him, dressing her in beautiful gowns and treating her like a queen - albeit in a gilded cage.  Over time she gets to know him slightly, but is chagrined that he will not confide in her or reveal his face to her.  She gets to know his friend Tupper who visits with her often and becomes a friend, yet after questioning him, she still cannot glean any information as to who the identity of the Dragon is and what he is doing there.  Meanwhile, she's fighting her own desires that are growing more and more due to her proximity to him.  She is drawn to him, yet she's also annoyed with him since he won't show himself to her.  Why won't he?  For fear she will recognize him?  Is he horribly scarred? Is he so hideous he cannot bear to have anyone see him?  While his prisoner, Gwendolyn and Bernard have many sparring interludes that lead to kisses, but all the while his face remains hidden from her.  She has no idea who he really is and frankly she's getting fed up with being his prisoner and this game of his, even if he dresses her in finery and feeds her with delicacies fit for a princess.  It's apparent he wants to bed her, but the gentleman in him won't deflower a virgin.  Yet, still he wants her. Big bones and all. 

I have to admit, I grew bored with this long, drawn out imprisonment and wanted something to happen!  I really wanted to like this story, but it just wouldn't move forward!  It seemed like her time locked in his castle went on forever and the story just wasn't going anywhere!  His friend Tupper and her sister Kitty's storyline was more lively and  interesting than Gwen and Bernard's!  I sympathized much more with Tupper, who pretends to be the dragon to get Kitty interested in him.  In comparison, Gwen and Bernard s plot line was just kind of... dull.  I never quite felt that the love growing between them was believable.  She takes an eternity to warm up to him and I just couldn't remain interested in what was happening.  No chemistry between the two, as far as I was concerned.

The Bride and the Beast wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.  Unfortunately Teresa Medeiros is one of those hit or miss authors for me and this is a ... miss.  I found the plot line uneven and it wasn't too hard to figure out who the traitor was even though both Gwen and Bernard are suffering from misplaced guilt, convinced it was their fault that the British came and sacked the castle fifteen long years ago.   I didn't have much sympathy for anyone (except Tupper).  It annoyed me that Bernard was deceiving everyone, including Gwendolyn when he supposedly loved her and Gwendolyn's feelings seemed to run hot and cold for Bernard even after she knows the truth about him.  It all became rather complicated and to top it off I kept on thinking poor Kitty and Tupper - their wedding day was upstaged by Gwendolyn and Bernard's!  

Sorry for all of you folks who loved this book, but I just didn't get into it. 


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Goddess of the Sea by P.C. Cast

Book Description:

On the night of her twenty-fifth birthday, alone in her apartment, Air Force Sergeant Christine Canady wished for one thing: a little magic in her life. After drinking way too much champagne, she performed, of all crazy things, a goddess-summoning ritual, hoping that it would somehow make her life a little less ordinary...but she never believed the spell would actually work.

When her military plane crashes into the ocean, CC's mission overseas takes an unexpected turn. She awakens to find herself in a legendary time and place where magic rules the land—occupying the body of the mythic mermaid Undine. But there is danger in the waters and the goddess Gaea turns this modern, military gal into a beautiful damsel so that she can seek shelter on land.

CC is soon rescued (literally) by a knight in shining armor. She should he falling in love with this dream-come-true, but instead she aches for the sea and Dylan, the sexy merman who has stolen her heart.

Quickie Review:
This is the second novel in the Goddess Summoning Series that I've read, though this one is the first in the series.  Not as good as Goddess of Spring, but it wasn't half bad telling the story of a girl that becomes a mermaid and finds true love that cannot be.  The story is in three parts.  Part I sets us up introducing the reader to CC, a female air force sergeant who wants some magic in her life.  Heading out to the middle east, she embarks on the plane taking her there and meets a handsome and considerate air force pilot who catches her eye.  He changes seats with her because of her fear of flying and the next thing she knows the plain crashes over the Mediterranean, mortally wounding the nice pilot and CC nearly drowns herself by trying to retrieve his body.  She is stricken by what has happened to him because he changed seats with her.  In the nick of time, instead of drowning, she finds herself trading places with a mermaid princess Undine, who's fleeing the unwanted advances of her creepy merman half-brother.  

Part II is when we follow CC's journey as a mermaid and the deal she makes with her counterpart's mother, the goddess Gaea who agrees to let her be a woman on land if she can get someone to fall in love with her so she can permanantly remain a woman.  The catch is, CC must return to the water every two days or else... Wouldn't you know it, as soon as CC gets to dry land, she meets Dylan, a handsome merman whom she is intrinsically drawn to on her nights when she must return to the sea.  Her time with Dylan is special and she falls in love with him and he teaches her how mermaids and mermen make love (okay, it was a bit far-fetched, but this is a fantasy afterall and suspension of disbelief is needed.) CC's life becomes ever much more complicated.  Not only has she become a mermaid, but she has gone back in time as well to the 11th century, living a double life living in a Welsh abbey monastary as a guest, pretending she is a princess with amnesia.  But the misogynistic abbot is suspicious of her and the noble knight who "saved" her from drowning remains a puzzle to her.  His changing moods from gentleman to sex fiend cause her to realize he is possessed by the spirit of her evil merman half brother who is relentless in his desire to have her.  As CC and Dylan spend more and more time together, CC realizes she wants to remain a mermaid with him, but her brother is stronger than Dylan and when he finds out about their affair he will kill Dylan - what can they do?

Part III, as you might have guessed, deals with the aftermath of all that happens to CC when she is no longer a mermaid and she is back in the United States recovering from her plane crash.  Did she imagine everything?  What happened to Dylan?  What happened to the nice pilot who gave his life for her?  You'll have to read the book to find out.  Goddess of the Sea is a poignant tale and overall I enjoyed it, although some parts dragged at the monastery.  Keep in mind it's a fantasy romance/paranormal as well and much of the book takes place under water. :). Still, I liked it and I will continue with the rest of the series.


A Certain Wolfish Charm by Lydia Dare

 He gets crankier and crankier as the moon gets full...
The rules of Society can be beastly—especially when you're a werewolf and it's that irritating time of the month. Simon Westfield, the Duke of Blackmoor, is rich, powerful, and sinfully handsome, and has spent his entire life creating scandal and mayhem. It doesn't help his wolfish temper at all that Miss Lily Rutledge seems not the least bit afraid of him, and in fact, may be as untamable as he is...

A woman whose charm is stronger than the moon... 

When Lily's beloved nephew's behavior becomes inexplicably wild, she turns to Simon, the boy's cousin and guardian, for help. But Simon's idea of assistance is far different than hers, and Lily finds herself ensconced in his house and engaged to the rogue.

They both may have bitten off more than they can chew when each begins to discover the other's darkest secrets...

Quickie Review:
First of the Westfield Wolves Regency paranormal werewolf series, I really enjoyed this historical romance. I didn't know what to expect but it turned out to be an interesting scenario. Lily, an on the shelf spinster cannot understand what is happening to her 12 yr. old nephew, whom she is raising. She goes to his guardian, Simon who is a duke - and a werewolf, like Oliver. She hopes Simon can help her, only the moon is waxing and all he can think about is how much he wants to take her to bed. Lily doesn't know anything about what Simon, his brothers and her nephew truly are. She's swept off her feet by Simon's passionate nature but is irked because she knows he's keeping a secret from her. I liked the fact that Simon is not a tortured man convinced he's cursed as a werewolf, though he's worried he'll hurt Lily and wants to keep his true nature secret from her. I'll definitely continue with this sexy and very hot series.

Lily Rutledge is an attractive spinster who is used to getting her own way.  She has been taking care of her nephew Oliver since her sister and her husband died together in a carriage accident.  Oliver, now an adolescent is growing in leaps and bounds and his temper is growing more and more as well with his moods which are becoming increasingly uncontrollable.  What happened to her sweet little Oliver?  It's starting to worry her and it's time she got his guardian, the Duke of Blackmoor to help.  Instinctively Lily feels Oliver needs the help of a man... a father figure.  Lily and the Duke don't get along.  She feels he's done nothing up to this point to help out as a guardian, living it up in society without a care in the world for his young charge.  Ignoring her and her letters in regard to Oliver, she takes it upon herself to show up at his front door - shortly before the moon is full.

Little does Lily know that the Duke (and his brothers) are all werewolves - as well as Oliver.  The refreshing thing about this book is that instead of looking at being a werewolf as a curse, they accept it (with some exceptions.)  There is even a club where they can go and be themselves and talk with other werewolves.  Mini-clubs within the best boarding schools exist at schools like Harrow where the boys can grow up together and have mentors to teach them how to live as a werewolf.  Of course, the general public has no idea what they really become at the full moon, it's a great secret, but all handled well.  Most werewolves are able to live comfortable lives, marry, have children etc., although not all.   Do their wives know about their secrets?  Eventually yes, they do, but not all can accept it.  Most do, but some cannot and become afraid - as what happened to Lily's sister, Oliver's mother.  I found it all very interesting as the story develops to learn more about this aristocratic werewolf world that Simon Westfield, the Duke of Blackmoor belongs to.

As the full moon approaches werewolves begin to "lose it."  They become wilder and it's harder for them to maintain their composure, especially in a sexual sense.  Lily shows up shortly before the full moon and Simon is hugely attracted to her.  Yet, he refuses to tell her about himself, something he fears he never will be able to do with any wife.  He's convinced no wife would be able to tolerate the truth, though he knows of other werewolves that have no problem with finding a mate, who relish the mating dance that goes on between them during the full moon.  Simon is convinced Lily would be repulsed at the knowledge.  Little does he know how wrong he is...  As they become closer he decides he doesn't want to live without her yet for some reason marriage is out of the question.  He comes up with the bright idea of setting her up in a cottage nearby on his estate as his mistress.  Fat chance that'll go over well with her.  But, when word gets out that she's been staying at his country house anyway, a marriage of convenience to save her reputation is in order.  Now what is Simon going to do at the full moon?  He can't keep lying to her forever?  Lily is no idiot, she knows something is up, though no one will tell her anything, although the duke's mother alludes to much without coming right out and telling her the truth.  Married to his father, a werewolf, she knows full well what her sons are like.

Through the course of this book, we see how Lily and Simon get tangled up together.  He, fighting his desire for her and she becoming increasingly suspicious of whatever it is she knows he's keeping from her, all the while hoping he can handle Oliver's sudden change of personality.  Their passion heats up as well, and I must admit, some parts of this book were incredibly hot and I loved how it all played out, of course leading up to what is going to happen to them on the full moon.

I highly recommend this series and will read on about Simon's brothers, one of the better werewolf paranormals I've read.  It has passion, humor and an original plot line regarding the werewolf lore and how an adolescent werewolf comes of age.  Simon is sexy and larger than life - a true alpha, but Lily is able to hold her own with him.  A pleasant surprise.


P.S. Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare

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

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

These unlikely partners have one week to

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

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

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

Second in the Spindle Cove Series, Colin and Minerva's story is fabulous!  Heartwarming but sexy and hilarious to boot - thoroughly entertaining. A road trip romance along the Great North Road to Edinburgh with one calamity after another interspersed with hot moments "educating Minerva" - all in the name of science!  I loved it!  Tessa Dare has won me over and I want to read her entire back list now!  So get ready readers for plenty of Tessa Dare reviews over the next year, I can't wait to dig in.  I simply loved the first book in this series, A Night to Surrender and A Week to be Wicked is just as good.

Minerva Highwood's hobby is fossils and they abound in Spindle Cove where Minerva spends most of her time discovering all sorts of interesting things in it's caves.  Little does her family know that she has become a member of the Royal Geological Society of Scotland under the guise of a man (women are not admitted) by the name of M.R. Highwood and she must be at their meeting at the end of the month in Edinburgh to present her paper on her findings of a prehistoric footprint which she has found in one of the caves.  She has made a plaster of it that weighs a ton which she intends to bring with her to the symposium.  The only problem is how to get there.  It's a long journey and she needs help.

Enter Colin Sandhurst.  In A Night to Surrender, Colin is the rakishly good looking cousin of Bram (the hero) who is a lord waiting to come into his inheritance.  Colin has spent most of his adult life as a dissolute ne'er do well until Bram (who is the trustee of his inheritance) forces him to join the local militia of Spindle Cove.  He straightens up a bit, but he's still far from the paragon his cousin Bram is.  During the course of the last book, Colin and Minerva were always squabbling and butting heads which continues in A Week to Be Wicked.  Minerva highly disapproves of him and he highly enjoys baiting her, particularly by never getting her name right, deliberately mistaking it with some other name that begins with an M.  The two are obviously drawn to each other, though neither is willing to admit there is any kind of attraction thing going on.

Colin is the epitome of just the sort of man Minerva has been taught to avoid.   Yet, who does she turn to for help to get her to Scotland?  The local rake, of course!  There's something about her that Colin can't ignore and in a poignant scene she comes to his quarters late at night to enlist his help, having dreamed up an entire scheme to make the whole village of Spindle Cove think he is in love with her they've been having a torrid affair and are eloping to Scotland together!  Hmm, what if...?  Even Colin falls under the spell of her make-believe tale for a tantalizing moment, ending with a near-kiss... until Minerva realizes he's not alone.  How humiliating!  Colin sends her home, refusing to go along with her outlandish scheme.  But the next day, feeling bad about what happened at his quarters, he relents and agrees to escort her to Edinburgh against his own better judgment.

As they set out we learn that Colin cannot sleep alone due to a harrowing night he spent as a child when his parents were killed in a carriage and he was left alone in the dark carriage with them.  Ever since he's been unable to sleep alone, finding a women who will keep his bed warm every night.   Minerva learns soon enough she's going to be keeping him company - every night.  It's a condition.  She has to sleep with him.  Sleep, mind you, nothing else.  Minerva is a virgin after all, albeit a spinster.  Colin may be a rake, but he's an honorable rake and he doesn't deflower virgins.  Yeah, riiiight...

I'm leaving tons out, but to to jump ahead, they embark on this crazy, hilarious journey that is full of nonsensical events and fantastic tales.  Colin is an expert at dreaming up all sorts of crazy stories on the road much to Minerva's chagrin.  One of the funnier whoppers was making some naive and very gullible passengers in a shared carriage believe he is the last remaining member of the royal family of Crustacea!  His female devotees take it all in hook, line and sinker.  Luckily they're too stupid to know that Spain doesn't even border Italy, nor what a Crustacean really is!  What a scream!  Unfortunately, this tale comes back to bite Colin in the butt when highway robbers hold up the carriage and all the other passengers tell the robbers he's royalty!  Uh-oh.

I can't begin to list all the funny moments in this book, there's just loads of humor and one unbelievable adventure after another.  But that's not all.  Their nighttime adventures are just as entertaining - in a different way.  Colin takes on the role of teacher, instructing Minerva about all the new ways she can enjoy a bed!  She is a fast and able learner, taking to the subject like a duck to water - for educational purposes of course!  And isn't it strange how Colin has this uncanny ability to get Minerva's name straight during their lessons?  It's obvious these two are really meant for each other and it was a pleasure to take it all in and see how both learn to appreciate the other.  Minerva, who never thought of herself as pretty enough to be noticed, blossoms into a beautiful young woman with love and confidence and Colin, who was convinced he was a failure at everything he attempted, comes to the realization that he can do anything right - for love.

Do they make it to Edinburgh?  I won't spoil the ending, you'll have to see for yourself.  This is a must read for anyone that enjoys a screwball comedy with an endearingly, stubborn heroine and a roguish hero who's dying to be reformed - even if he doesn't quite know it yet.  A real treat, I highly recommend it!


P.S. And how about this sexy inside flap, I love it!  Because I read this on my kindle, I don't get to see these extras. Minerva looks gorgeous!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas

Book Description:
When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg on a transatlantic liner, he is fascinated. She’s exactly what he’s been searching for—a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast—and soon proposes marriage.

And then she disappears without a trace…

For in reality, the “baroness” is Venetia Easterbrook—a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised—and there’s no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked…

Warning: Spoilers ahead

I'm torn.  There was much I loved about this new book by Sherry Thomas, the first of her new trilogy.  She's probably my favorite romance author and I've waited with baited breath for this book to come out.  I adored the fact that it's reminiscent of Thomas' first two books, both of which are my absolute favorites with the following type of scenario:  proud aristocratic gentleman is felled by the woman he falls in love with when he finds out she's been lying to him all along.  As a result, much happens with plenty of emotional fallout.  Beguiling the Beauty has this same type of scenario, but I was a bit uncomfortable with the theme of deception in this case because I felt it was carried out a bit too far and began to enter the realm of "suspension of disbelief".  The heroine, Venetia, carries out an outlandish deception on Christian, the Duke of Lexington all in the name of vengeance.  I found it implausible that two people can carry on an affair while one of them never shows their face.  Not even a little peek when she's sleeping?  It made me uncomfortable that Venetia continued with the deception even when she was falling in love with him.  I didn't like it and I wanted it to stop.  It gave me the same feeling one has while waiting for a train wreck to happen.  But I get ahead of myself...

While crossing the Atlantic on board a steamer, Christian, the Duke of Lexington is a man who has fallen deeply in love with a mysterious German passenger that wears a veil and refuses to allow him to see her face. Lo and behold without his knowing it, she is the woman he has loved from afar for the past ten years, the beautiful Mrs.Venetia Easterbrook. Venetia has backed herself into a corner by posing as the German veiled baroness, never thinking she'll actually fall in love with Christian! Why is she doing this in the first place?  She's punishing him for something awful he said about her in a lecture at Harvard.  But it backfires and instead she falls in love with him while carrying on a torrid affair on board the ship from New York to England.   As their affair escalates they share secrets with one another, pillow talk moments interspersed between their passionate and unlimited carefree days and nights in bed.  Venetia tells him about herself - her real self, despite her cover as the German baroness.  He reciprocates and opens up to her during one of these moments, revealing the truth about his obsession with "Mrs. Easterbrook" over the years.  Of course, he thinks he's telling this all to the baroness.  The irony is overwhelming.  He loved her from afar due to her unparalleled beauty and here she is with him wearing a veil, and he's fallen in love with her - again!  You know this is not going to turn out well.  Poor Venetia is stuck.  If she shows him her face, he'll hate her and if she disappears from him forever, he'll still hate her for he has the worst opinion of Mrs. Easterbrook, thinking she's a vain and greedy gold digger who cares only for jewels.  It's complicated.  I did feel badly for him before he finds out the truth when she refuses to meet him in London (as the baroness).  As expected, when he finds out about who she really is and how she deliberately deceived him - well, it's too late and she's convinced he'll never forgive her. But it doesn't end there...

Without giving away too much of the plot, due to a certain turn of events in the later part of the book, Venetia and Christian must marry, but it is a dutiful marriage in name only.  By this point, both are in love with the other, yet Christian is so hurt by Venetia's deception he cannot give in, despite the fact she is his wife now, something he has longed for over the past ten years.  A sad state of affairs that should have tugged at my heart strings - yet it didn't. Even though I found it nearly impossible to put this book down, there was something missing from the romance between Christian and Venetia.  The fact they fell in love under a disguise prevented the same emotional wallop as her first two books and I was not entirely sympathetic to their problem even after Christian finds out who she is.  If only she had not kept up the stupid deception!   I blame Venetia mostly, but at the same time, Christian should have never opened his big mouth at the lecture which set everything in motion.  Because of their mistakes the quote below sums up the crux of their problem on their wedding day, they made their bed and now they're going to have to sleep in it:
The worst thing about this forced nuptial was that they had been their true selves on the Rhodesia.  And yet the two people tying the knot today were but their facades, the Great Beauty and the haughty, unfeeling duke.

Would she ever see his true self again? And would she ever dare let him see hers?
Despite some reservations I still loved this book, pre-ordering it on kindle and reading it in the middle of night as soon as it downloaded.  It is Sherry Thomas after all and an auto-buy for me.  Her writing is eloquent and superb, research is tops, descriptions are spot on, everything is as it should be in an historical novel.  I consider her one of THE best romance authors out there today, but I do feel she held back a bit with Beguiling the Beauty emotionally.  Perhaps getting us ready for her next book in the series?  I can't wait!


P.S. If this is your first go around with Sherry Thomas, do yourself a favor and read her back list starting with Private Arrangements, you won't be sorry!  It's packs a punch, and you'll see how the Tremaine's who make a few cameos in Beguiling the Beauty, have their happily ever after as well.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke

Book Description:
A courageous woman...
In the aftermath of the Civil War, beautiful and stubborn Olivia Maitland was determined to save her family and their near-bankrupt Louisiana plantation no matter what-even if it meant taking in cynical ex-boxer Conor Branigan in exchange for help. It wasn't long before she discovered the secret pain hidden beneath his rugged ways. And his ache touched something in her, lighting afire in her heart.

A hard-fighting man...
Conor Branigan had seen his family and his hopes destroyed in Ireland and had sworn never to care for anyone again. But now he dared hope for a love greater than any he'd ever dreamt of, with Olivia and her three adopted children-and a future that he would fight to keep forever.

Quickie Review:
This is the story of tortured Irishman, Conor Branigan, who finds love in post-Civil War Louisiana - albeit reluctantly until he can no longer resist the steady, peaceful mien of Olivia Maitland who manages to change his mind. A shy spinster raising three adopted daughters, Olivia is a survivor.  Fighting to keep her plantation afloat and out of the hands of the local villain who wants to build a railway right through her peach orchard, Olivia's stubborn determination baffles Conor who can't believe she won't take the money.  But over time, he gradually learns to admire her grit and agrees to help her in the end.  She refuses all the offers presented to her to sell, unwilling to ever give up her family home. Conor turns up at just the right time to help her with her problems yet he's torn with helping her and choosing to remain aloof and free to be his own self with no ties to anyone.  Yet, when she is threatened unless she sells her property, he can't just leave and turn his back on Olivia and her girls who have become dearer to him than he'd like to admit. This loner and drifter is becoming a family man, whether he likes it or not.

Switching back and forth between his time in Louisiana with Olivia and his time living in Ireland, we learn about Conor's haunted past, how he lost his entire family and then joined the Irish Cause for independence, becoming a Fenian until he was caught and put in prison.  Eventually he finds his way to America, landing in Boston and earning money as a prize fighter, passing through towns and villages until he ends up almost dead in the road in Louisiana where Olivia finds him.  In need of a man to help around her plantation fixing the roof and the upcoming harvest, he seems to be an answer to her prayers.  Nursing him back to health he soon becomes a fixture around the house, although he must remain a secret or they'll both be run out of town, her reputation in tatters.  Even though nothing is going on between them, there is no chaperon in the house and she is a single woman.  It's just not done!  There's also the sticky matter that the same man who wants to buy Olivia's property is the same man that had Conor beaten and left for dead, warning him that if he ever saw his face around town again he'd kill him.  He's also the same man that had been the overseer of Olivia's plantation before the war who's suit she rejected.

As you can guess, Olivia falls in love with the enigmatic stranger she stumbled upon in the road.  Yet, she knows he wants to move on and doesn't want him to stay against his will.  Yet, that is exactly what happens and my heart broke for them as they both must deal with society's edict of what is considered right and wrong.

I love Guhrke's historical romances and this wasn't bad but there wasn't a lot of chemistry between Olivia and Conor.  Still, it was nice story and a departure from my typical historicals set in England.  This is a "clean" romance by the way which I bought on kindle for a rock bottom price.


Last Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase

Book Description:
After surviving the perils of Egypt, Peregrine Dalmay, Earl of Lisle, is back in London, facing the most dire threat of all: his irrational family . . . and Miss Olivia Wingate-Carsington. A descendant of notorious—but very aristocratic—swindlers, the delectable redhead has the ability to completely unhinge him and a long history of dragging him into her scandalous schemes.

Olivia may be Society's darling, but she's aware a respectable future looms menacingly. And so when Lisle is forced to go on a family mission, she sees this as the perfect chance for one last adventure—even if it is with the one man in the world she can't wrap around her finger. But really, she only wants to help . . .

Which is why Lisle and Olivia find themselves in a gloomy Scottish castle inhabited by spiteful ghosts and craven murderers . . . and a shocking secret: the greatest peril of all may be burning within their own stubborn hearts.

Quickie Review: (because I'm totally backed up!)
Aww, finally we get Lisle and Olivia's delightful and crazy tale, the sequel to Lord Perfect involving their journey to Lisle's father's Scottish castle.  I highly recommend this book.  Last of Chase's Carrington Series, it can be read as a standalone, but it will be much more worthwhile if you read Lord Perfect first.   In Lord Perfect, Olivia and Lisle are young teens off on a hilarious adventure. In Last Night's Scandal, the story picks up several years later when they are adults. 

Olivia is now a raving beauty and though she and Lisle have kept up their correspondence while Lisle has gone off to live in Egypt to study archeology with his Carrington relatives (from Mr. Impossible) they have not seen each other in several years.  Olivia's letters contain the usual underlines and CAPITALIZATION'S, her sense of drama has not diminished.  Lisle has grown up quite a bit too, and he's turned out very well.  Tall and blond with a rugged look about him from being in the desert for years, he's self assured and a man now.  A very handsome and debonair man who knows how to take care of himself.  Since, they have not seen each other for many years, both are quite surprised at their first meeting to discover they are hugely attracted to one another.  But... but... they were childhood friends, how can they shift gears and become more?  This is their conundrum.  As far as Lisle is concerned, his stay in England is temporary - until his parents insist he renovate their crumbling Scottish castle or else they won't give him another penny.  Forced to go to Scotland, Olivia, with her uncanny knack for getting her way, goes with him to "help" restore the castle.  Equipped with "the Harpies" two ribald and randy elderly women who act as chaperons, (they're anything but) they set off for the journey to Scotland and ultimately as Lisle refers to it - Castle Horrid.

As the story develops, he and Olivia can barely keep their hands off each other.  But he is torn, he wants her yet he doesn't want her, but a few times, passion runs away and they nearly do the dirty deed, but Lisle is a gentleman and he cannot marry her.  He wants to return to Egypt and he knows Olivia will be bored stiff and unhappy if she goes with him.   Yet they're still good friends - she just as notorious as ever, and he still just as methodical and circumspect as ever - except when it comes to the fair Olivia.  These two made for a delightful read and it was great reading about how they achieve their HEA - together.   I loved this book although not the best in the series, it had it's moments and the Harpies were simply hysterical!


P.S.: I must admit, I loved the inside flap, Lisle is quite swoonworthy (for a blond hero) and Olivia is gorgeous!  Wow, no wonder they couldn't keep their hands off each other!

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