Monday, December 31, 2012

December 2012 Quickie Reviews

Aaah, the end of the year, New Year's Eve.  I've been reading up a storm, mostly historical romances, and so without further ado are my reads for the month of December.  I will have a separate post for my 2012 recap of my favorites and worst, etc., but for now, here are my reviews to end the year.  Happy New Year Everyone!!

Goddess of Light by P.C. Cast

Book Description:
When hardworking Pamela Smythe whispers her wish for a god-like man, she never expects to find one--especially not in Vegas. But the goddess Artemis has dared her twin handsome brother Apollo to change all that.

I liked this story of pretty interior designer, Pamela Smythe who is on assignment in Las Vegas for a legendary fantasy author that wants to turn his house into a miniature Caesar's Palace.  While experiencing Vegas and trying to come up with something tasteful (not easy) for her client, she unknowingly meets the real god Apollo and his sister, Artemis.  At first she has no idea who he really is, except that he's amazingly handsome.  Apollo, naturally, sweeps her off her feet.  Coming off a bad marriage and a workaholic as well, this is just what Pamela needs, until she finds out who he and his sister Artemis really are.  Lots of ups and downs, and angsty moments when the god, Bacchus interferes and causes trouble for everyone.  Plus, I felt that Pamela took the fact she was dating a god a bit too much in stride, but it was still a good story, though the ending kind of fizzled for me.  Still, I do like this series that centers of average modern day women who fall in love with various mythological gods.


How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries

Book Description: 
The third novel in Sabrina Jeffries's “Hellions of Halstead Hall” series, featuring the independent and talented Lady Minerva Sharpe.

When a charming rogue proposes she marry him to meet her grandmother's ultimatum, the Sharpe clan's strong-willed sister makes a tempting counter-offer that preserves her inheritance and ignites his imagination.

Lady Minerva Sharpe has the perfect plan to thwart her grandmother's demands: become engaged to a rogue! Surely Gran would rather release her inheritance than see her wed a scoundrel. And who better to play the part of Minerva's would-be husband than wild barrister Giles Masters, the very inspiration for the handsome spy in the popular Gothic novels she writes? The memory of his passionate kiss on her nineteenth birthday has lingered in Minerva's imagination, though she has no intention of really falling for such a rakehell, much less marrying him. Little does she know, he really is a covert government operative. When they team up to investigate the mystery behind her parents' deaths, their fake betrothal leads to red-hot desire. Then Minerva discovers Giles's secret double life, and he must use all the cunning tricks of his trade to find his way back into her heart.

This was a sensational book, one of the best Sabrina Jeffries romances I've read.  Minerva Sharpe fell in and out of love with Giles Masters, a rakish old friend of her brothers while at a masquerade nine years ago.  After breaking her heart, she writes him into her novels, portraying him as a roguish but thrilling French spy.  Little does she know how close to the truth she comes - nor how little she really knows about him!  I love, loved this book!  A forced marriage scenario, the continuing mystery of how Minerva's parents really died and a glimpse into what's in store for the next Hellion of Halstead Hall - a delightful read with great chemistry between the hero and heroine. I recommend it!


The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville

Book Description: 
Being kidnapped is teaching Miss Celia Seaton a few things about life:

Lesson One: Never disrobe in front of a gentleman...unless his request comes at gunpoint.

Lesson Two: If, when lost on the moors, you encounter Tarquin Compton, the leader of London society who ruined your marriage prospects, deny any previous acquaintance.

Lesson Three: If presented with an opportunity to get back at Mr. Compton, the bigger the lie, the better. A faux engagement should do nicely.

Lesson Four: Not all knowledge is found between the covers of a book. But an improper book may further your education in ways you never guessed.

And while an erotic novel may be entertaining, the real thing is even better.

I bought this book because it was on sale for next to nothing on kindle and I thought I'd give it a try, even though it is the 3rd book in The Burgundy Club series, of which I haven't read yet the first two.  This can easily be read as a standalone, though I surmise we do re-visit characters from the previous books.  This historical wasn't bad, but some areas were a bit disjointed and hard to follow.  It's a convoluted plotline, but overall  funny.  A sweet road trip story involving plain Celia Seaton, a nobody who is paired up with haughty London dandy, Tarquin Compton who has amnesia after being knocked on the head by someone who is trying to kidnap her.  She is no fan of his, and takes full advantage of the fact he has amnesia and makes up a doozy of a story telling him she is his fiancee and he is a vicar!  Despite his amnesia, he finds this scenario hard to swallow, yet they stick it out together, wandering around the English countryside and evading the cutthroats who are after her.  You see, someone is trying to kidnap her.  Their travails are compounded when they spend the night - an amorous night - together in a barn and he regains his memory at a very awkward moment!  His honor compels him to propose marriage, but Celia does not want to marry under such forced circumstances, even though she is falling in love with his amnesia persona.   I wasn't really crazy about Tarquin (his horrible name didn't help!)  He was too much of a dandy for me.  Much happens and it all ends happily, but it did take me a long time to finish this book.  I'm not sure if I'll bother to read the other books in the series or not.


A Marriage of Inconvenience by Susanna Fraser

Book Description:
Left orphaned and penniless as a young child, Lucy Jones learned to curb her temper, her passions, and even her sense of humor to placate the wealthy relatives who took her in. She became the perfect poor relation - meek, quiet, and self-effacing. She clings to her self-control because she can control nothing else.

James Wright-Gordon also lost his parents at a young age. But he became a wealthy viscount at fifteen and stepped into full control of his fortune and his birthright as a parliamentary power broker at twenty-one. At twenty-four, he is serenely confident in his ability to control everything in the world that matters to him.

At a house party in the summer of 1809, James quickly discerns Lucy’s carefully hidden spirit and wit and does his best to draw them out. After being caught in a compromising situation, they are obliged to marry. But can two people whose need for control has always been absolute learn to put love first?

I loved this story of poor relation, Lucy Jones, who is secretly engaged to her cousin Sebastian, who asks her to marry him all of a sudden and clear out of the blue.  But while staying at a castle for Sebastian's sister's wedding, she meets James Wright-Gordon who confuses her.  She is attracted to him, but she must be loyal to her secret fiance, Sebastian, who is acting strangely himself.  He seems to have taken a fancy for James' heiress sister, Anna (who we read about in the 2nd book in the series, which I loved) and asks her to marry him, dumping Lucy!  It all gets very confusing and - alarming, but I loved it!  Kind and wonderful James jumps to an awful conclusion about Lucy and acts like the biggest ass for a while, and it was rather angsty, but all ends well, despite the tears in my eyes.  This is a worthwhile series, despite the fact I read the first two books out of order, although I believe it helped in the long run in appreciating the characters and their plight.


Texas Splendor by Lorraine Heath

Book Description: 
The saga of the Leigh family continues.... After spending five long, hellish years in a Texas penitentiary, Austin Leigh is free to return home, only to find his sweetheart is now married. Despondent and alone, Austin sets out to clear his name of the crime he didn't commit. En route to the state capitol, he meets a young girl and her dog, the survivors of a mysterious tragedy. Together, the young couple will find redemption, forgiveness, and a true love greater than either could have imagined.

I loved this finale to the Leigh Brothers trilogy.  Austin, coming out of prison of five years, is out to find out who really killed the man he was imprisoned for killing.  He comes across a lone woman, Loree Grant, who is living alone in the woods near Austin, Texas.  She nurses him back to health after a stab wound and their is a gradual understanding that develops between the two.  Coincidentally, she has a secret that can greatly affect his life.  Her past story and the truth of what happened to her family is horrible, one of the worst I've come across in a romance.   Typical of this series, for Lorraine Heath is a master at drawing out emotion that comes from past tragedies.  Despite this, it is a beautiful poignant story of two lonely people that come together and find love in a forced marriage scenario.  It's a great story and an even greater series that is probably one of the best I've read.  It's filled with tons of emotion and heartache, but so worth it.  When the couples involved finally find what they need after the turmoil they've gone through to get there, it's so sweet.  Highly recommend.

5/5 Overall Series

The Dark Tower by Stephen King (audio)

Book Description:
The seventh and final installment of Stephen King's The Dark Tower saga is perhaps the most anticipated book in the author's long career. King began this epic tale about the last gunslinger in the world more than 20 years ago; now he draws its suspenseful story to a close, snapping together the last pieces of his action puzzle and drawing Roland Deschain ever closer to his ultimate goal.

Finally... the end.  For those of you that have not read this series, this review won't mean much to you.  But for those that do know the series, here are my thoughts:

A bit anticlimactic, considering I have been reading this series for about 20 years.  After all the time I put into this, I am left feeling perplexed and disappointed about the ending and especially about Mordred...  I worried so much about his presence and what he was going to do to the ka-tet.   Wow, what a let down.  Then I felt the whole ending was just really ... blah.  I loved the first part of this series, the first four books were worth while, but after Wizard and Glass it just didn't do anything for me.  I almost feel like King lost interest and then he had his accident, and it really changed the feel of the series and he began to insert himself into it (which was just too weird and hard to get a handle on).  I feel like he continued with it because he felt compelled to finish it because so many fans wanted him to, but his heart wasn't in it anymore.  The Dark Tower had it's moments though, very sad when our beloved characters start dropping off, and I had a hard time adjusting to the idea of what Susannah does as they get closer to the Tower.  And then the whole drawing and erasing thing - I kept thinking - that's the answer??  All I can say is I'm glad I finally finished it.  I began reading it in print but switched over to audiobooks with the last three books, maybe that had something to do with my ambivalence towards them, but something tells me they just were not up to the same caliber as the first four.  Despite all of this, the audiobook is well narrated, but I do feel that these books are probably better in print, for much is missed on audio.  It's hard to pay attention 100% of the time when listening on audio while doing other things at the same time.  This series needs total concentration.


Since the Surrender by Julia Anne Long

Book Description: 
Fearless. Loyal. Brilliant. Ruthless. Bold words are always used to describe English war hero Captain Chase Eversea, but another word unfortunately plays a role in every Eversea's destiny: trouble. And trouble for Chase arrives in the form of a mysterious message summoning him to a London rendezvous . . . where he encounters the memory of his most wicked indiscretion in the flesh: Rosalind March—the only woman he could never forget.

A Woman of Passion . . .

Five years ago, the reckless, charming beauty craved the formidable Captain's attention. But now Rosalind is a coolly self-possessed woman, and desire is the last thing on her mind: her sister has mysteriously disappeared and she needs Chase's help to find her. But as their search through London's darkest corners re-ignites long-smoldering passion and memories of old battles, Chase and Rosalind are challenged to surrender: to the depths of a wicked desire, and to the possibility of love.

This Pennyroyal Green series is getting better and better as we get further into it. Chase Eversea, a military man, comes face to face with his one indiscretion, Rosalind March, the wife of his former commanding officer.  Now it is five years later, Rosalind is now a widow and she needs a favor of Chase that leads to the uncovering of a prostitution ring while searching for her missing sister.  Together, the two must solve the mystery.  I really enjoyed this romance with a mystery built into it.  It reminded me of a Sebastian St. Cyr mystery.  Looking forward to the next.


I Kissed an Earl by Julie Anne Long

Book Description:
Violet Redmond's family and fortune might be formidable and her beauty and wit matchless - but her infamous flare for mischief keeps all but the most lionhearted suitors at bay. Only Violet knows what will assuage her restlessness: a man who doesn't bore her to tears, and a clue to the fate of her missing brother. She never dreamed she'd find both with a man whose own pedigree is far from impeccable.

"Savage" is what the women of the ton whisper about the newly styled Earl of Ardmay - albeit with shivers of pleasure. Born an English bastard, raised on the high seas, he's on a mission to capture a notorious pirate for vengeance. But while Violet's belief in her brother's innocence maddens him, her courage awes him . . . and her sensuality finally undoes him. Now the man who once lost everything and the girl who has everything to lose are bound by a passion that could either end in betrayal . . . or become everything they ever dreamed.

Normally, I space books out when I'm reading series, but I wound up reading the next in the Pennyroyal Green Series purely by chance.  I enjoyed this addition, this time following the Redmond side, though it got off to a slow start.  Violet Redmond is no shrinking violet.  When she sets out to do something - she does it.  This time, in search of her brother Lyon who has been missing for two years, she follows up a hunch that he is now the notorious pirate Le Chat. Handsome Captain Flint - a new earl, has been commissioned to find and bring the pirate to justice.  What does Violet do?  She talks her way onto Flint's ship and stows away until it's too late for him to turn around and take her back to England.  Of course, tempers flare, and they can't stand each other at first but things change, as they always do in romance - especially shipboard romances - and they fall in lust love.  Yet, the fly in the ointment is - he's out to see her brother hang, and she's out to save him!  Quite the dilemma, which ended a bit anticlimactically, but overall, an entertaining read, particularly in the 2nd half of the book.


Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke

Book Description:
For prim and shy Daphne Wade, the sweetest guilty pleasure of all is secretly watching her employer, the Duke of Tremore, as he works the excavation site on his English estate. Anthony hired Daphne to restore the priceless treasures he has been digging up, but it's hard for a woman to keep her mind on her work when her devastatingly handsome employer keeps taking his shirt off. He doesn't know she's alive, but who could blame her for falling hopelessly in love with him anyway?

Anthony thinks that his capable employee knows all there is to know about antiquities, but when his sister decides to turn the plain young woman in gold-rimmed glasses into an enticing beauty, he declares the task to be impossible. Daphne is devastated when she overhears...and determined to prove him wrong. Now a vibrant and delectable Daphne has emerged from her shell, and the tables are turned. Will Anthony see that the woman of his dreams has been there all along?

I loved this story of plain Jane archeological assistant, Daphne Wade, who works for the handsome Duke of Tremore - and is secretly in love with him.  Alas, he doesn't notice her at all.  After overhearing some disparaging remarks he makes about her, she resigns and gives him a month's notice so she can pursue a season in London with his sister who wants to take her under her wing as a protege.  The duke, not used to not getting his way doesn't want to lose her for she is the best in her field.  After she tells him off, he begins to see her differently and so the courtship begins!  He is determined to prevent or at least delay her leaving and she develops a spirit to live and come into her own.  I simply loved this book and it made me feel good all over by the end!  Hurrah!


Double Cross: The True Story of the D-day Spies by Ben Macintyre (audio)

Book Description: 
On June 6, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and suffered an astonishingly low rate of casualties.  D-Day was a stunning military accomplishment, but it was also a masterpiece of trickery. Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents, deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy. It was the most sophisticated and successful deception operation ever carried out, ensuring that Hitler kept an entire army awaiting a fake invasion, saving thousands of lives, and securing an Allied victory at the most critical juncture in the war.

The story of D-Day has been told from the point of view of the soldiers who fought in it, the tacticians who planned it, and the generals who led it. But this epic event in world history has never before been told from the perspectives of the key individuals in the Double Cross System. These include its director (a brilliant, urbane intelligence officer), a colorful assortment of MI5 handlers (as well as their counterparts in Nazi intelligence), and the five spies who formed Double Cross’s nucleus: a dashing  Serbian playboy, a Polish fighter-pilot, a bisexual Peruvian party girl, a deeply eccentric Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming and a volatile Frenchwoman, whose obsessive love for her pet dog very nearly wrecked the entire plan. The D-Day spies were, without question, one of the oddest military units ever assembled, and their success depended on the delicate, dubious relationship between spy and spymaster, both German and British. Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a shadowy sixth spy whose heroic sacrifice is revealed here for the first time.

With the same depth of research, eye for the absurd and masterful storytelling that have made Ben Macintyre an international bestseller,  Double Cross is a captivating narrative of the spies who wove a web so intricate it ensnared Hitler’s army and carried thousands of D-Day troops across the Channel in safety.

The story of the WWII spies and double agents that helped toward the success of D-Day at Normandy.  This was not as good as Macintyre's other WWII spy books that I've listened to, because there were so many different spies, you just didn't get a real in depth feel for any of them.  It was difficult to keep track of them all and their code names.  A slog on audio, but the narrator John Lee was excellent with the various British, German, Polish and Spanish accents.  Try Macintyre's other books that center on one particular spy or mission, much better!

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