Monday, September 3, 2012

End of Summer Recap

Good-bye summer, hello Autumn.  This latest batch contains 10 mini-reviews, most of which were slightly above average, but no five stars in this batch.  I'm still loving Lorraine Heath's Texas trilogy and scarred heroes though.  I've got two Tessa Dare's, including her latest new release and I'm also continuing with the intriguing Amelia Gray, Graveyard Queen and cemetery restorer on audio...

The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens (audio)

Book Description:
Deep in the shadowy foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a dying town….  My name is Amelia Gray. They call me The Graveyard Queen. I've been commissioned to restore an old cemetery in Asher Falls, South Carolina, but I'm coming to think I have another purpose here.

Why is there a cemetery at the bottom of Bell Lake? Why am I drawn time and again to a hidden grave I've discovered in the woods? Something is eating away at the soul of this town—this withering kingdom—and it will only be restored if I can uncover the truth.

Second in the Graveyard Queen series, Amelia's story continues as dark secrets of who she is surface as she takes on a job to restore a cemetery in the isolated island town of Asher Falls. While there in this modern day ghost town, she meets a slew of people who are all creepy and different in their own way - except for Thane Asher, a tall, dark and handsome rakish type who may or may not be all that he seems. The narration for this book is very good, by Khristine Hvam, I love the way she does the various Southern accents.  I liked this macabre getaway from Charleston, setting of the first book in the series, but I still want to see what's going on back at the ranch with Devlin - that last line of the book hooked me for the next one in the series!


A Lady By Midnight by Tessa Dare

Book Description:
A temporary engagement, a lifetime in the making...

After years of fending for herself, Kate Taylor found friendship and acceptance in Spindle Cove - but she never stopped yearning for love. The very last place she'd look for it is in the arms of Corporal Thorne. The militia commander is as stone cold as he is brutally handsome. But when mysterious strangers come searching for Kate, Thorne steps forward as her fiance. He claims to have only Kate's safety in mind. So why is there smoldering passion in his kiss?

Long ago, Samuel Thorne devoted his life to guarding Kate’s happiness. He wants what's best for her, and he knows it's not marriage to a man like him. To outlast their temporary engagement, he must keep his hands off her tempting body and lock her warm smiles out of his withered heart. It's the toughest battle of this hardened warrior's life...and the first he seems destined to lose.

Thorne and Kate's story - at last! I've looked forward to this one ever since discovering the series, but surprisingly, this was my least favorite of the Spindle Cove trilogy. Thorne is dark and granite-like. It takes all of Kate's ingenuity to break down the walls he has built up around him. The plot itself didn't have the usual humor as in the previous books, this was darker and bittersweet. Kate, an orphan, finds out after 23 years that she is actually a "lady" from an aristocratic family. At the same time she discovers this bombshell, she is thrown together with Corporal Thorne, who is entirely unsuitable for a lady to marry.  But in Kate's eyes, Corporal Thorne is perfect and she soon falls in love with him over the course of the next few weeks while they are pretending to be engaged (to save her reputation). The conundrum in this love story is he believes he is not good enough for her now that she is a lady, and she must convince him otherwise. It doesn't help that her new family just seems to be getting in the way, complicating matters. A good story, but frustrating and I couldn't help thinking many of the eccentric characters we're introduced to in Kate's new found family are the makings of a new series, which sort of bothered me.  They were distracting me from the main focus of the book - Kate and Thorne. I did enjoy seeing some old friends from the previous books though.


Tall, Dark and Wolfish by Lydia Dare

Book Description:
Lord Benjamin Westfield is a powerful werewolf—until one full moon when he doesn't change. His life now shattered, he rushes off to Scotland in search of the healer who can restore his inner beast, only to find she's not at all what he expected...

Young, beautiful witch Elspeth Campbell will do anything to help anyone who calls upon her healing arts. Then Lord Benjamin shows up, and she suddenly discovers she may need him even more than he needs her...

This is Benjamin's story, the youngest of the three Westfield brothers who are werewolves - but oh so refined ones.  In the second installment of this Regency werewolf paranormal series, the story runs simultaneously with book one, A Certain Wolfish Charm, as Benjamin goes to Scotland to find a healer who can cure him of not being able to shift at the full moon. He meets Elspeth, a witch in Edinburgh who can cure him.  Instantly attracted to her, he chases after her shamelessly, never suspecting he's actually falling in love. She reciprocates his ardor, plus they have a special bond for she is half Lycan as well, though she doesn't know who her father was.  Can Ben help her find out who he is?  Much happens and these two have a hurried wedding, but shortly after that, the story turns angsty when Elspeth overhears Ben talking with his brother Will, telling him he can never love Elspeth. She only hears this part, and not why - for he's afraid he'll hurt her when he claims her at the full moon. Aargh, big misunderstanding - but the hot sexy moments make up for it. 


Texas Glory by Lorraine Heath

Book Description:
Once a virtual prisoner in her father's house, a lovely lady finds herself shamelessly traded in a battle for land and water rights, and thrust into an unfamiliar world as an unwilling bride. And as her husband - a man who aims to put West Texas on the map - gazes into the eyes of his new bride, he catches a glimpse of another ambition - the desire of the heart. Is this the woman who will walk beside him as, together, they carve out a future life rich with all the promises of love?

Wonderful sequel to Texas Destiny about an arranged marriage between Dallas Leigh and his arch enemy's daughter Cordelia so that they can stop feuding over water rights on Dallas' land.  Some parts were exquisitely moving and sad, the author is tops at conveying bone deep emotion to her stories.  Heartbreaking moments for Dallas and Cordelia, but such a good read!  Various themes are touched upon, most poignantly the role of a father: Dallas' desire for a son to fulfill his dream and on the opposite end of the spectrum, we see "fathers" who are brutal and unspeakably cruel.  I scratched my head over the last chapter on my kindle, is it the beginning of the next book or not, it sure seemed like it was to me!


Sweet Release by Pamela Clare

Book Description:
For five pounds in cash, the convict was hers. Though Cassie hated the slave trade, her Virginia plantation demanded the labor, and she knew this fevered man would surely die if she left him. But as his wounds healed and his muscled chest bronzed in the sun, Cassie realized Cole Braden was far more dangerous than his papers had indicated—for he could steal her breath with a glance and lay siege to her senses with a touch.

Abducted, beaten, and given a new name, Alec went from master of an English shipbuilding empire to fourteen years of indentured servitude in the American colonies. There, he was known as Cole Braden, a convicted ravisher and defiler of women. And while he longed to ravish the auburn-haired beauty who owned him, he knew his one hope of earning her love—and his freedom—was to prove his true identity. Only then could he turn the tables and attain his ... Sweet Release.

I wasn't overly bowled over by the story, a bit too angsty for my liking and drawn out a bit too long for us to find out if the truth will ever come out about Alec. English nobleman is kidnapped and sent to the colonies as a convict (it's 1730). Turns out his brother planned the whole thing so he could inherit. While in Virginia, Alec must try to convince everyone who he really is while also falling in love with the mistress of the plantation who has bought his indenture. I liked it overall, but Geoffrey, the villain, was over the top with his awfulness, as the same with Philip, Alec's brother. Still, not bad and the love scenes sizzled.


England's Perfect Hero by Suzanne Enoch

Book Description:
Lucinda Barrett's best friends ended up married to the men to whom they delivered their "lessons in love." So Lucinda decides to choose someone who definitely needs lessons, but someone who will not complicate her life. And that person is definitely not Robert Carroway.

Robert is nothing if not complicated, and though he is the brother of a viscount, he rarely goes about society, and finds the weather and hat fashions ludicrous subjects for discussion. Robert is attracted to Lucinda's unpretentious ways, her serenity and her kindness. When she chooses someone for her love lessons, Robert offers to help her deliver her lessons, but sets out to convince the woman he has fallen for to take a chance on love...and on him.

Last of the "Lessons in Love" series, but unfortunately it wasn't my favorite though I had such high hopes for Robert's story!  Tortured war veteran, Robert (Bit) Carroway is having trouble getting used to being in society again.  His only shining light seems to be Lucinda Barrett, who is attracted to him, but convinced she should be paired up with a different man.  She and Bit slowly develop a friendship that soon turns to passion.  Everything is further complicated when Bit is accused of stealing some important documents and being a traitor.  I enjoyed the book overall, but it dragged at times and wasn't as amusing as the previous books in the series.  Due to Bit's struggles with his captivity and post traumatic syndrome, the story had a melancholy feel to it, and I prefer humor in my romances, but it was still good.  Georgie and Dare show up quite a bit in this one too, bringing the trilogy full circle.


Song of Susannah by Stephen King (audio)

Book Description:
The next-to-last novel in Stephen King's seven-volume magnum opus, Song of Susannah is at once a book of revelation, a fascinating key to the unfolding mystery of the Dark Tower, and a fast-paced story of double-barreled suspense.

To give birth to her "chap," demon-mother Mia has usurped the body of Susannah Dean and used the power of Black Thirteen to transport to New York City in the summer of 1999. The city is strange to Susannah...and terrifying to the "daughter of none," who shares her body and mind.

Saving the Tower depends not only on rescuing Susannah but also on securing the vacant lot Calvin Tower owns before he loses it to the Sombra Corporation. Enlisting the aid of Manni senders, the remaining katet climbs to the Doorway Cave...and discovers that magic has its own mind. It falls to the boy, the billy-bumbler, and the fallen priest to find Susannah-Mia, who, in a struggle to cope - with each other and with an alien environment - "go todash" to Castle Discordia on the border of End-World. In that forsaken place, Mia reveals her origins, her purpose, and her fierce desire to mother whatever creature the two of them have carried to term.

Eddie and Roland, meanwhile, tumble into western Maine in the summer of 1977, a world that should be idyllic but isn't. For one thing, it is real, and the bullets are flying. For another, it is inhabited by the author of a novel called 'Salem's Lot, a writer who turns out to be as shocked by them as they are by him.

These are the simple vectors of a story rich in complexity and conflict. Its dual climaxes, one at the entrance to a deadly dining establishment and the other appended to the pages of a writer's journal, will leave readers gasping for the saga's final volume (which, Dear Reader, follows soon, say thank ya).

I can't say I was enthralled by this installment in The Dark Tower series. Susannah has been kidnapped by Mia in order to deliver her chap and they wind up in NYC. Eddie and Roland are in Maine and "meet" Stephen King, which was too odd to get into and made my head hurt trying to take it all in. Jake and Don Callahan are on their own, ready to face their last battle if need be. Everything ends up in the air with three major cliffhangers and the last coda, King's diary, seemed like a cop out to me. Overall, I'm a bit disappointed, though I do find the premise fascinating how all his books seem to have this 'end world' and 'mid world' thread running through them. I wanted some resolution for the katet in this book, but I guess I'll have to wait until the last. On audio it was confusing in parts, maybe it was just harder to follow for me than in print, but the narration itself was fine. I didn't realize until this book that the voice of Eddie Dean is supposed to really sound like Stephen King's voice. Interesting... If you haven't read the previous books in this series, don't begin with this one, you'll be totally confused!


At the Bride Hunt Ball by Olivia Parker

Book Description:
To Gabriel Devine, Duke of Wolverest, the bonds of marriage are nothing more than shackles. But if he's to remain a lifelong bachelor, that leaves only his younger brother to carry on the family name. Inviting the ton's most eligible ladies to an elegant ball, Gabriel is certain any one of them would be all too eager to become the next duchess and provide an heir - leaving Gabriel to continue his ecstatic pursuit of pleasure. 

Her social-climbing stepmother would give anything to have Madelyn Haywood betrothed to a future duke. But Madelyn believes the brothers Devine to be nothing more than heartless rogues - especially Gabriel, whose rakish reputation precedes him. He is nothing more than a slave to passion, and she will not be conquered by his caresses - and yet his wicked ways tempt her so . . .

Not a bad Regency, but not very memorable either.  Handsome and brooding Duke of Wolverest doesn't want to marry, so he names his younger rakish brother heir to the dukedom - and holds a ball to find a bride for him out of a select few young women lucky enough to pass muster. Sort of a Regency "The Bachelor". Madelyn, a klutzy beauty is an unwilling participant. The last thing the Duke thought would happen was that he'd fall in love with her.  I enjoyed their first meeting and ensuing crazy non-courtship.  Fun book with some sizzling moments between the two, but their misunderstanding toward the ending was predictable and trying, but as in all romances - it all ends well eventually.  Don't let the cheesy cover put you off, it's not half bad!


One Dance with a Duke by Tessa Dare

Book Description:
The first novel in Tessa Dare’s Stud Club trilogy—secrets and scandals tempt the irresistible rogues of the Stud Club to gamble everything for love.

A handsome and reclusive horse breeder, Spencer Dumarque, the fourth Duke of Morland, is a member of the exclusive Stud Club, an organization so select it has only ten members—yet membership is attainable to anyone with luck. And Spencer has plenty of it, along with an obsession with a prize horse, a dark secret, and, now, a reputation as the dashing “Duke of Midnight.” Each evening he selects one lady for a breathtaking midnight waltz. But none of the women catch his interest, and nobody ever bests the duke—until Lady Amelia d’Orsay tries her luck.

In a moment of desperation, the unconventional beauty claims the duke’s dance and unwittingly steals his heart. When Amelia demands that Spencer forgive her scapegrace brother’s debts, she never imagines that her game of wits and words will lead to breathless passion and a steamy proposal. Still, Spencer is a man of mystery, perhaps connected to the shocking murder of the Stud Club’s founder. Will Amelia lose her heart in this reckless wager or win everlasting love?

First book in her Stud Club series, Tessa Dare gives us a forced marriage scenario in which an on the shelf spinster, Amelia d'Orsay must marry the Duke of Midnight aka the Duke of Morland. Due to a series of circumstances involving the death of a friend and thus saving Amelia's reputation, the Duke proposes marriage and they are married in a day.  One day.  At first glance, Amelia is not the Duke's type at all, but he is unaccountably drawn to her, and as the story unfolds we learn that all is not as it seems with him and these two have a strong connection between them - in addition to a strong attraction. He is brooding and gorgeous, and she is a plain Jane. But, Amelia blossoms as his duchess.  She gains confidence and poise and - beauty.  This romance packs a lot into it: plenty of sizzling love scenes, a few different plot threads regarding a horse farm, a wayward fifteen year old ward of the Duke, Amelia's gambling addicted brother and the unsolved murder of the originator of the Stud Club. I liked it, but it didn't have the endearing humor that her recent Spindle Cove series has and there was this whole annoying "you must choose me over your family" conflict that got in the way in the second half of the book. Still, it was pretty good and I love this author.


Trouble at the Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke

Book Description: 
Annabel is about to marry the perfect man . . .
The last thing Miss Annabel Wheaton desires is true love. She learned the hard way that love makes a woman foolish and leads only to heartache. That's why she agreed to marry an earl who needs her money. He's got a pedigree and a country estate, and he won't ever break her heart. There's only one problem . . . 

Christian isn't about to let her marry that pompous prig . . . 

Christian Du Quesne, Duke of Scarborough, thinks the stubborn heiress is about to make the biggest mistake of her life, and he's determined to stop her. Tempting beautiful women is Christian's forte, after all. When her family offers him a nice sum of money to stop the wedding, he's happy to accept.
Falling in love with Annabel was never supposed to be part of the bargain . . .

Not my favorite Laura Lee Guhrke romance, but it had it's moments. Set in 1909, half of which is on board a large steam ship en route from New York to London. Annabelle Wheatley, an American heiress with humble beginnings and no pedigree whatsoever is determined to marry well and get herself a title in the bargain. So what if she doesn't love her fiance? Marrying him will make her legitimate in the eyes of society - until her uncle hires the rakish scapegrace Duke of Scarborough to talk her out of it. Unfortunately, they get drunk one night on moonshine in the backseat of her Ford motor car while in storage (shades of Titanic). Let's just say, it gets complicated. The wedding does not go off as planned weeks later, and she winds up having to marry the Duke instead! But, is it worth it if love isn't involved? Will these two ever realize they really are in love with each other after all? I liked Guhrke's strong heroine here as well as her rakish hero, but there just seemed to be something lacking overall, though I can't put my finger on why.

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