Monday, February 4, 2013

What I've Read Lately, January 2013 Reviews

I'm still on a reading roll since January 1st, let's see what I've been up to.  Two favorite authors of mine, Jennifer Ashley and Sarah MacLean have come out with their latest additions to their current series, and I've discovered Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Chicago Stars Series!  I love it!  The first I read in print, but I heard they were great on audio, so the second, Heaven Texas, I listened to on audiobook - I simply adored it!  And so without further ado...


The Seduction of Elliot McBride by Jennifer Ashley

Book Description:
Juliana St. John was raised to be very proper. After a long engagement, her wedding day dawns—only for Juliana to find herself jilted at the altar.

Fleeing the mocking crowd, she stumbles upon Elliot McBride, the tall, passionate Scot who was her first love. His teasing manner gives her an idea, and she asks Elliot to save her from an uncertain future—by marrying her…

After escaping brutal imprisonment, Elliot has returned to Scotland a vastly wealthy yet tormented man. Now Juliana has her hands full restoring his half-ruined manor in the Scottish Highlands and trying to repair the broken heart of the man some call irredeemably mad. Though beautiful and spirited, Juliana wonders if that will be enough to win a second chance at love.


Jennifer Ashley's Highland Pleasures series is a favorite of mine, but none of the books have been quite as good as the first in the series. This latest addition, which is fifth in the series was pretty good, the story of Elliot McBride who has returned to Scotland after surviving a horrendous ordeal in India. He is scarred inside and out and the only one that can soothe him is Juliana, his childhood sweetheart. Juliana who is jilted at the last minute on her wedding day is reunited with Elliot and he marries her then and there on the spot.  How fortuitous he happened to be there! And so begins their whirlwind first few weeks as a married couple as he sweeps her off her feet and takes her to his crumbling castle in the Highlands. No sooner do they arrive with his Indian servants in tow, that she realizes he's "a little" mad.  His captivity has taken it's toll on him mentally and he has a tendency to start strangling people. And so is the now familiar plotline in this Highlander series in which these big and burly Highlanders have a heavy burden to carry from a tortured past. They are all a little crazy because of it, but the love of a good woman calms them down and makes them somewhat normal again. I loved this scenario at first in The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, but now I'm finding it a bit formulaic. Don't get me wrong, the writing and sensuality is top notch, but there just wasn't anything that really grabbed me with this one.  There's no sexual tension between Elliot and Juliana, they wind up together from the very beginning and sex is incredible for them every. single. time.  Which is several times a day. Just about the only thing good Elliot has going for himself is the fact he's having sex so much! But there's this pesky problem he's dealing with - he's accused of killing a former friend of his in India, although there was never really any doubt that he's wrongly accused and it looks like his former friend is trying to kill Elliot. But, Elliot, ever the macho Highlander goes out after him in the dead of night, determined to be the hunter rather than the huntee.  During all of this, Juliana has a lot to deal with on her plate, but her lists and organizational skills help enormously, which is sort of a running joke throughout the book. All in all, not my favorite of the Mackenzie novels, but I still liked it.  Overall, it needed more suspense and sexual tension to keep it afloat and interesting, luscious cover though.

3.5/5


Whom the Gods Love by Kate Ross

Book Description:
Although Alexander Falkland excels at everything he turns his hand to, all of his God-given talent cannot save him from a bloody, brutal end. Hired to find the killer, Julian Kestrel soon discovers that the fair-haired Alexander had more than his fair share of enemies.

An excellent murder mystery, well crafted and meticulous in detail. It had me wondering and second guessing over and over again about who did it! Julian Kestrel, Regency London dandy of dubious lineage has made a name for himself as a solver of murder mysteries. Here he is enlisted by the victim's father to solve the murder of London's beloved Alexander Falkland who was found bludgeoned to death by a poker in his study. With a wealth of suspects, Julian sifts through the details and little evidence to come up with the unsettling truth of the real Alexander Falkland. I really enjoyed this, and was so happy with the ending! I highly recommend this mystery, a real treat!

4.5/5



It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Book Description:
The Windy City isn't quite ready for Phoebe Somerville - the outrageous, curvaceous New York knockout who has just inherited the Chicago Stars football team. And Phoebe is definitely not prepared for the Stars' head coach Dan Celebow, a sexist jock taskmaster with a one-track mind. Celebow is everything Phoebe abhors. And the sexy new boss is everything Dan despises - a meddling bimbo who doesn't know a pigskin from a pitcher's mound.

So why is he drawn to the shameless sexpot like a heat-seeking missile? And why does the coach's good ol' boy charm leave cosmopolitan Phoebe feeling awkward, tongue-tied....and ready to fight?

The sexy, heartwarming, and hilarious
It Had To Be You is an enchanting story of two stubborn people who believe in playing for keeps.

Oh. My. God.  My first read by this author and - I loved it!  Phoebe Somerville is the new owner of the Chicago Stars NFL team that she inherited from her father.  She knows nothing about football and could care less about the team.  But Dan Calebow, the team's demanding head coach is not about to let his team fall apart because it's deceased owner gave it to his (seemingly) bimbo, nitwit, bombshell daughter. Admittedly, I am no football fan, but this book has given me a new appreciation for it!  This book was so much fun to read, the chemistry between Dan and Phoebe sizzles off the pages.  I laughed, I had tears in my eyes at one point, it was exciting at the end, this book ran the gamut of emotions and had it all!  I can't wait to see what the rest of the series is like!  Fabulous!

4.5/5


Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (audio)

Book Description:
Come heck or high water, Gracie Snow is determined to drag the legendary ex-jock Bobby Tom Denton back home to Heaven, Texas, to begin shooting his first motion picture. Despite his dazzling good looks and killer charm, Bobby Tom has reservations about being a movie star -- and no plans to cooperate with a prim and bossy Ohio wallflower whom he can't get off his mind or out of his life. Instead, the hell-raising playboy decides to make her over from plain Jane to Texas wildcat.

But nothing's more dangerous than a wildcat with an angel's heart in a town too small for a bad boy to hide. And all hell breaks loose when two unforgettable people discover love, laughter, passion -- and a match that can only be made in Heaven.


I absolutely adored this on audio!  Anna Fields' Texas twang for Bobby Tom Denton was great - I am in love! She was aces for all the other voices, but I totally fell in love with "B.T."  With this ugly duckling story of Gracie and Bobby Tom I went from one extreme to the other. I laughed, I had tears in my eyes, so many moments to savor, I really loved his mother Suzy's storyline as well.  A real keeper! Can't wait for the next one!  What a fantastic story - it was hilarious and sweet and tender - it had everything I love in a romance! A keeper!

5/5


Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase

Book Description:
James Cordier is all blue blood and entirely dangerous. He's a master of disguise, a brilliant thief, a first-class lover--all for King and Country-and, by gad, he's so weary of it. His last mission is to "acquire" a packet of incriminating letters from one notorious woman. Then he can return to London and meet sweet-natured heiresses-not adventuresses and fallen women.

Francesca Bonnard has weathered heartbreak, scorn, and scandal. She's independent, happy, and definitely fallen; and she's learned that "gentlemen" are more trouble than they're worth. She can also see that her wildly attractive new neighbor is bad news.

But as bad as James is, there are others far worse also searching for Francesca's letters. And suddenly nothing is simple--especially the nearly incendiary chemistry between the two most jaded, sinful souls in Europe. And just as suddenly, risking everything may be worth the prize.


Surprisingly disappointing romance by one of my favorite authors.  Unlikely story of courtesan, Francesca Bonnard, who is a divorcee of a prominent Lord in England.  Ensconced in Venice, she has some incriminating letters that everyone wants and her life is at risk because of it.  Enter Cordier, a Regency James Bond sort of type, who is out to get the letters for the Crown and doesn't hesitate to bed whoever he needs to to get them.  Unfortunately, he didn't count on falling for Francesca, despite the fact she is a courtesan.  I was bored through much of this, found no chemistry between the two, the plotline was tepid and I really found the HEA ending improbable.   Too bad, for I've read much better by Loretta Chase, I guess they all can't be stellar romances.

3/5


Midnight's Wild Passion by Anna Campbell

Book Description:
London's most notorious seducer, Nicholas Challoner lives solely for revenge...

The dashing, licentious Marquess of Ranelaw can never forgive Godfrey Demarest for ruining his sister—now the time has come to repay the villain in the same coin. But one formidably intriguing impediment stands in the way of Nicholas's vengeance: Miss Antonia Smith, companion to his foe's unsuspecting daughter.

Having herself been deceived and disgraced by a rogue—banished by her privileged family as a result and forced to live a lie—Antonia vows to protect her charge from the same cruel fate. She recognizes Ranelaw for the shameless blackguard he is and will devote every ounce of her intelligence and resolve to thwarting him.

Yet Antonia has always had a fatal weakness for rakes . . .


Not bad, but the hero was an ass most of the time.  When will I realize I hate revenge romances?  They really don't do much for me. Nicholas is a true rake bent on ruining the daughter of the man who ruined his half sister twenty years earlier.  He didn't count on falling in lust with her dragon-like duenna, who was ruined once herself!  See a pattern here?  Tons of inconsistencies inside the head of the hero that drove me nuts.  Does he want to get revenge or not?  Still, the steamy parts made up for the implausible plotline, but I won't be reading any more by this author.

3.5/5


Flirting with Danger by Suzanne Enoch

Book Description:
In her dazzling romantic suspense debut, bestselling author Suzanne Enoch brings us a thrilling tale about a thief who needs to prove she's no murderer and the millionaire who loves her.

Samantha Jellicoe is a thief and proud of it. Raised to appreciate the finer things in life, Sam has no trouble divesting the wealthy of their treasures. This all changed, however, the night she attempts to steal a valuable item from a Palm Beach estate. Before she knew what hit her, a bomb goes off, a guard is killed, and Sam ends up saving millionaire Richard Addison. She's a good thief and will own up to her jobs, but if anyone thinks to tie her to murder, they better think again.

On any other night, having a one hundred plus pounds of female fling herself at you is a good thing. But on this particular night, Richard Addison is mad as hell. Not only did he just have his gallery blown up-with him about to enter it-but the woman who rescued him didn't stick around to offer any explanations. When the dust settles, Rick knows the only person with answers to his questions is the mystery woman. And if she thinks she can hide from him, she better think again.


Entertaining contemporary by author Suzanne Enoch, who I am familiar with because of her historical romances.  This is the first contemporary I've read of hers and it wasn't bad!  Story of pretty and very clever young thief who takes on billionaire mogul after saving his life in an explosion while trying to steal a valuable antiquity from his Palm Beach mansion.  Now the two have teamed up to find out who is trying to kill her, but they didn't count on falling in lust at the same time.  Loved the locale and Rick and Sam make a good team together.  Enjoyed this and will continue with the series.

4/5

  
Paradise by Judith McNaught

Book Description: 
 Judith McNaught brings us her most wonderful, deeply emotional novel yet...a spellbinding story of youthful passion, family loyalties, and the fateful events that lead two special lovers to the miracle of a second chance.

Meredith Bancroft, a serenley beautiful blonde, and Matthew Farrell, an intense, magnetic tycoon, are both haunted by their once-in-a-lifetime love...betrayed in a conflict of heartache and pain. When the Bancroft family empire is threatened by a hostile takeover attempt, Meredith is forced to turn to Matt. As tensions build between them, leaving them both uncertain, restless...and falling in love again...

Filled with the passion, tenderness, and deep understanding of love that are Judith McNaught's unique trademark, PARADISE is her most memorable love story yet...a novel to treasure forever.


Well, I guess I'm in the minority, but I was not as bowled over by Paradise as many others.  It reminded me too much of the novels that came out of the '80's and were then made into TV miniseries.  Young, beautiful girl who was an ugly duckling in her childhood, rises in the corporate world, longing to be taken seriously.  She finds love, tragically loses it and overcomes all obstacles, blah, blah, blah to find it again years later.  Now, I did love the character of Matt, but I found it hard to identify with Meredith who really needed more backbone and I kept wondering what did Matt love so much about her?  Plus, both of them were so unbelievably stupid about the truth and not figuring it all out earlier!  Her father was so awful, his possible happily ever ending at the end did nothing for me. It seemed out of place.  Granted, the story was hard to put down, but so are many "beach read" types of books, which is the category I place this in.  Maybe I'll like the next one more in this series.  Ordinarily I love McNaught, she's one of my absolute favorites, and if I had read this back when it came out around 1989, I probably would have loved it, but compared to her historicals?  No comparison!

3.5/5


The Pirate Hunter's Lady by Jennifer Ashley

Book Description:
James Ardmore is hunting the pirate who killed his brother's family, and nothing will stand in his way. Not the English who want him dead, and definitely not Diana Worthing, a beautiful woman he takes the opportunity to abduct while he's busy rescuing an American spy. Diana knows the secrets of an island called Haven, which James is determined to find. But both James and Diana are unprepared for the sparks that fly between them.
The Pirate Hunter’s Lady is the second, revised edition of the original print title: The Pirate Hunter. New in this edition: New first four chapters detailing Diana and James’s first meeting. Revised, edited body of the book. New epilogue.

Second in Ashley's Regency Pirates series, this one didn't capture my attention at all, maybe it's because pirates just don't do it for me.  Still, I love this author and can't get enough of her, even if I don't like pirates.  I meandered through this book and didn't care that much about Diana or James. It got off to a good start, but just really slowed down while they are together on Haven.  Her father's secret turned out to be entirely anticlimactic and then James' capture, etc.  For some reason there seemed to be a lack of cohesiveness in the storyline, but I plodded along until the finish line.  It didn't help that there were loads of typos in the kindle edition, which really surprised me and became increasingly annoying.  Simple things that a spell and grammar check would catch.  I love this author, but this series is not a favorite.  Since I got it for next to nothing on kindle, I'll read Book 3 since I already have it though.  Disappointing.

2.5/5



Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole

Book Description:
From author Kresley Cole comes this spellbinding story of a demon king trapped by an enchantress for her wanton purposes - and the scorching aftermath that follows when he turns the tables and claims her as his captive.

HIS OBSESSION...
Sabine, Sorceress of Illusions: the evil beauty who surrenders her body, but not her heart.

HER DOWNFALL...
Rydstrom Woede: the ruthless warrior who vows to keep her at all costs.

THEY WERE NEVER SUPPOSED TO WANT EACH OTHER THIS MUCH...
With each smoldering encounter, their shared hunger only increases. If they can defeat the sinister enemy that stands between them, will Sabine make the ultimate sacrifice for her demon? Or will the proud king lay down his crown and arms to save his sorceress?


Wicked and delicious fun when nearly seven foot tall demon king Rydstrom meets his mate in Sabine, a sensuous, yet vexing sorceress that torments in more ways than one.  Then the tables are turned and he gets his way with her instead.  Very sexy and entertaining read with the usual road trip scenario common in this series.  This is great for paranormal lovers of the lore and other mystical fantasy creatures.

4/5


Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen (audio)

Book Description:
A Royal Spyness mystery starring Lady Georgiana, thirty-fourth in line for the throne - and the mystery world's favorite penniless heiress.

With its posh clientele in the country for the summer, Georgie's housecleaning business has fizzled. So she tries hiring herself out as a dinner-and-theatre companion. But her first client has quite the wrong idea. To avoid further scandal, Georgie's shipped home to Castle Rannoch, where her summer plans include honoring a promise to Her Majesty to keep Castle Rannoch's divorcée houseguest from seducing the Prince of Wales. She's also been coerced into helping Scotland Yard with a top-secret mission - namely keeping an eye on the shooting party at Balmoral and preventing someone from shooting the Prince. And Georgie must manage all this without strangling her odious sister-in-law Fig or spineless brother Binky.


I wouldn't call Binky spineless, but he is a bit of a softy. This time Georgie is back at Castle Rannoch in Scotland where she is in the middle of what seems to be a series of mishaps or assassination attempts upon the Royal family. Georgie's "is he or is he not" boyfriend Darcy turns up as well, and the unusual turn of events of having to deal with the "delightful" Mrs. Simpson and her American friends makes Fig and Georgie allies as Fig worries they'll be eaten out of house and home, not to mention the wear and tear on the hot water heater from all the American's baths! This wasn't quite as funny as the last one, but I still love this series! (Georgie's date with her new escort service in London was priceless!) As usual, Katherine Kellgren was great with the audiobook narration - I love Georgie's mother the best in this one, and everyone's phrase, "Old Bean."

4/5


One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

Book Description: 
Lady Philippa Marbury is odd. The bespectacled, brilliant fourth daughter of the Marquess of Needham and Dolby cares more for books than balls, flora than fashion and science than the season. Nearly engaged to Lord Castleton, Pippa wants to explore the scandalous parts of London she's never seen before marriage. And she knows just who to ask: the tall, charming, quick-witted bookkeeper of The Fallen Angel, London's most notorious and coveted gaming hell, known only as Cross.

Like any good scientist, Pippa's done her research and Cross's reputation makes him perfect for her scheme. She wants science without emotion—the experience of ruination without the repercussions of ruination. And who better to provide her with the experience than this legendary man? But when this odd, unexpected female propositions Cross, it's more than tempting . . . and it will take everything he has to resist following his instincts—and giving the lady precisely what she wants.


I had high hopes for the second installment in the Rules of Scoundrels series, but I was a bit disappointed.  I love Sarah MacLean but it took a long time for things to get going and heat up.  It took forever just to get to the first kiss (half way through the book) and I tired of the "I'm not good enough for you" theme by Cross, the hero, who believes he must sacrifice himself for the love of the genius, bespectacled heroine, Pippa by marrying the daughter of his nemesis.  In fact, Cross wouldn't even allow himself to touch Pippa until over half way through the book!  Some good parts and the one sex scene was hot, but overall, I felt there seemed to be a lot vagueness in areas.  I longed for storylines with the side characters that could have been expanded upon.  Pippa was always described as the odd daughter which became tiresome, though I kind of liked her.  Despite my "meh" feeling overall, I love the cover and the inside flap - yumm, I love scruff!

3.5/5


3 comments:

Lover of Romance said...

Great reviews you have there!!! I haven't had a chance to read Ashley's recent historical, but I do love her books. Happy Reading!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Lover, thanks, yes I think JA is very talented but unfortunately, this one wasn't as good, but still very good compared to other authors. Plus the covers are great! :D

Julia Barrett said...

Lots of books. It's always nice to have your list to refer to.

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