Saturday, May 11, 2013

April and May Reviews - Part II

And now for today's second batch of reviews - I told you I was behind! (It doesn't help that I discovered Mad Men and watched all six seasons in two weeks!)

Love Irresistibly by Julie James

Book Description:
A former football star and one of Chicago’s top prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cade Morgan will do anything to nail a corrupt state senator, which means he needs Brooke Parker’s help. As general counsel for a restaurant company, she can get a bug to the senator’s table at one of her five-star restaurants so the FBI can eavesdrop on him. All Cade has to do is convince Brooke to cooperate—and he’s not afraid to use a little charm, or the power of his office, to do just that.

A savvy businesswoman, Brooke knows she needs to play ball with the U.S. Attorney’s office—even if it means working with Cade. No doubt there’s a sizzling attraction beneath all their sarcastic quips, but Brooke is determined to keep things casual. Cade agrees—until a surprising turn of events throws his life into turmoil, and he realizes that he wants more than just a good time from the one woman with whom he could fall terrifyingly, irresistibly in love...

Another snappy contemporary from Julie James.  She really is a favorite and as much as I enjoyed this one, everything worked out too easily between the hero and heroine, from jumping into bed together up to the I love you moment, which seemed anticlimactic to me.  It needed more emotional oomph between the two.   Still, I love this author, so I really can't complain, quick read (under 300 pages), great dialogue, and I liked Cade's backstory, though Brooke's was kinda sketchy.


This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (audio)

Book Description:
Molly Somerville loves her career as the creator of the Daphne the Bunny children's book series, but the rest of her life could use some improvement. She has a reputation for trouble that started even before she gave away her fifteen-million-dollar inheritance. Then there's her long-term crush on the quarterback for the Chicago Stars football team her sister owns—that awful, gorgeous Kevin Tucker, a man who can't even remember Molly's name!

One night Kevin barges into Molly's not-quite-perfect life and turns it upside down. Unfortunately, the Ferrari-driving riving, poodle-hating jock isn't as shallow as she wishes he were, and she soon finds herself at a place called Wind Lake. Surrounded by paintbox cottages, including a charming old bed-and-breakfast, Molly and Kevin battle their attraction and each other as they face one of life's most important lessons. Sometimes love hurts, sometimes it makes you mad as hell, and sometimes—if you're lucky—it can heal in a most unexpected way.

I enjoyed Molly and Kevin's story, but it got off to a slow start and I'm not fond of the way Molly and Kevin first get together that ultimately leads to her pregnancy and forced marriage scenario which was too similar to Anyone's Baby But Mine.  I'm realizing all these books in this Chicago Stars series are somewhat formulaic, though I still enjoy them.  This one wasn't as good as the first two books in the series, but on audio, it's always a pleasure to listen to Anna Fields' version of the blustering football player bowled over by true love, but too dense to recognize it. As usual, I liked the side story, this time involving Kevin's fading actress mother and the famous artist who falls in love with her.


See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson

Book Description: 
A little subdued. A little stubborn. A little tired of going out on blind dates with men who drive vans with sofas in the back, Jane Alcott is living the Single Girl existence in the big city. She is also leading a double life. By day, she's a reporter covering the raucous Seattle Chinooks hockey team—especially their notorious goalie Luc Martineau. By night, she's a writer, secretly creating the scandalous adventures of "Honey Pie"...the magazine series that has all the men talking.

Luc has made his feelings about parasite reporters—and Jane—perfectly clear. But if he thinks he's going to make her life a misery, he'd better think again.

For as long as he can remember, Luc has been single minded about his career. The last thing he needs is a smart mouthed, pain in the backside, reporter digging into his past and getting in his way. But once the little reporter shed her black and gray clothes in favor of a sexy red dress, Luc sees that there is more to Jane than originally meets the eye.

Maybe it's time to take a risk. Maybe it's time to live out fantasies. Maybe it's time to.... SEE JANE SCORE!

Good contemporary romance, similar in some ways to Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Chicago Stars series, only here we have the world of professional hockey instead of football.  Due to the slow start, it took me a while to warm up to Luc and Jane, but once I got into the storyline I liked them. Jane knows nothing about hockey but has to write a sports column about the Chinook's hockey team.  I can relate, since I know next to nothing about hockey too!  She and the goalie, Luc, spar and argue but ultimately fall in love. He's got his own issues, among them a a teenage half-sister who's living with him after losing her mother.  Plus, he has a tendency to resist serious relationships.  Jane is the last type of girl he dates, though he is inexplicably drawn to her and they become close while traveling on the road together.  By the end of the story, I was into them and their relationship, though I felt terrible once he finds out who she really is and the way he treats her.  Fortunately he comes to his senses and love conquers all!


The Heir by Grace Burrowes

Book Description:
Gayle Windham, Earl of Westhaven, is the first legitimate son and heir to the Duke of Moreland. To escape his father's inexorable pressure to marry, he decides to spend the summer at his townhouse in London, where he finds himself intrigued by the secretive ways of his beautiful housekeeper...

Anna Seaton is a beautiful, talented, educated woman, which is why it is so puzzling to Gayle Windham that she works as his housekeeper.

As the two draw closer and begin to lose their hearts to each other, Anna's secrets threaten to bring the earl's orderly life crashing down - and he doesn't know how he's going to protect her from the fallout...

I really loved reading about Gayle and Anna's story, though the book had some flaws. The first half was stronger when Anna was still his housekeeper, it fizzled in the last 100 pages and I feel it could have been cut back in length.  I was frustrated over the fact they misunderstood each others feelings and love for one another for so long!  It was so obvious!  Still, it was a good book and I'm eager to continue with the series.  Burrowes does have a knack for taking ordinary situations and making them extraordinary!


What I Did For a Duke by Julie Anne Long

Book Description: 
For years, he's been an object of fear, fascination . . . and fantasy. But of all the wicked rumors that shadow the formidable Alexander Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge, the ton knows one thing for certain: only fools dare cross him. And when Ian Eversea does just that, Moncrieffe knows the perfect revenge: he'll seduce Ian's innocent sister, Genevieve--the only Eversea as yet untouched by scandal. First he'll capture her heart . . . and then he'll break it.

But everything about Genevieve is unexpected: the passion simmering beneath her cool control, the sharp wit tempered by gentleness . . . And though Genevieve has heard the whispers about the duke's dark past, and knows she trifles with him at her peril, one incendiary kiss tempts her deeper into a world of extraordinary sensuality. Until Genevieve is faced with a fateful choice . . . is there anything she won't do for a duke?

I loved this historical romance - an entertaining fifth installment in the Pennyroyal Green series. It was refreshing to have an "older" hero, Alex, the Duke of Falconbridge.  His inner thoughts were great, and I loved the way everyone cow-towed to him, having no idea of what he's really thinking!  Sensational set up on the beginning with Ian too - poor man! Still, I had trouble with the whole Genevieve loving Harry bit which was the fly in the ointment. Still, best of the series so far.


To Wed a Wild Lord by Sabrina Jeffries (audio)

Book Description:
Drowning in guilt over his best friend's death seven years ago, Lord Gabriel Sharpe, the Angel of Death, knows his only hope at redemption is a race against a shocking opponent.

Shrouded in darkness for the past seven years, the infamous racer Lord Gabriel Sharpe is known to accept every challenge to race thrown at him. When his next challenge comes in the form of his late best friend's sister, Virginia Waverly, Gabe is shocked. Yet she presents just the opportunity Gabe needs - marriage to fulfill his grandmother's ultimatum and ensure his inheritance. What he didn't count on was needing her love.

Fourth in the Hellions of Halstead Hall series and my first on audio by this author.  This historical started out well but then our hero, Gabriel's guilt dominated the storyline rather than any actual romance with the impetuous Virginia, our heroine. The narration on audio was good for Gabe, done by Nico Evers-Swindell.  He had a very sexy voice for Gabe, but unfortunately it didn't help the often maudlin plotline revolving around Gabe's guilt over the death of Virginia's brother.  I grew very tired of his constant lament over how he was not good enough for Virginia, and so involved in his own self-pity he completely forgot that he ruined her and had to marry her!  (He did not endear himself to me after that lapse in memory!  I did like the sparks between Gran and Poppy though.  Glad she's found some one in her "senior" years.  I'm realizing historical romances don't seem to translate as well on audio - with some exceptions.  Overall, I prefer non-fiction and contemporaries, but I'll probably still listen to a few more before I give up on them.


The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry

Book Description: 
The best thing between Oliver Barrett and Mackenzie Williams is a fence. Ever since Oliver's new-neighbor gestures were met with unfriendly responses, he's decided to keep his distance. After all, he's in this seaside town to get his life on track again. That doesn't include working hard to get on Mackenzie's good side—no matter how intriguing she may be. His intentions are put to the test, however, when his dog becomes infatuated with hers. The two crafty canines do their best to break down the barriers between the properties. And where the dogs go…, well, the humans must follow! It doesn't take long for a powerful attraction to build between Oliver and Mackenzie. They soon discover that the worst of first impressions can lead to the best possible outcomes….

I really loved this story. As always, author Sarah Mayberry has such deep emotion and real life sort of situations in her novels. I fell in love with Oliver and Mackenzie's courtship, both have baggage to get over, these two don't have perfect lives.  Mackenzie is recovering from a near fatal car accident in which she's been on disability for over a year.  Her life had been turned upside due to the crash and she just wants her old life and career back. Oliver is going through a divorce, dealing with the fact his wife had been having an affair for the entire time they were married.  Though both are well off and good looking people, they are walking wounded. I really cared for them and especially felt the pain that Oliver went through when he was worrying about what Mackenzie was doing that night with her ex.  Here he's falling in love with her fast, imagining a life with her and he's suffering imagining the worst scenarios as she's next door with her drop dead good looking movie star ex-husband!  Talk about insecure! And then all the emotions that Mac was going through on the phone and later on when she's realized Oliver is giving up on her.  I'm so glad she wouldn't let him! A simple but great contemporary romance.  Sarah Mayberry is a master at taking ordinary people and making their stories meaningful so that the reader is invested in them 100%.  I want to know what happens next.  After reading her books, I consistently miss her characters.  That's a good sign. ;)


Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner

Book Description: 
On a stagecoach traveling through New Mexico Territory, Jessica Thornton is a long way from the cool mists and lush gardens of her native England. An authoress and milliner, she carries the weight of a scandalous secret-a horrible shame that has brought her to the West on a desperate search for the only family she can trust: her brother.

No one prepared Jessica for the heat and the hardships. And no one prepared her for a man like Brady Wilkins. For, despite the rancher's rough-hewn appearance and her own misgivings, Jessica must put her life in his hands after their stagecoach crashes. And she begins to see the man behind the callused hands and caustic wit. A man strong enough to carve out a home in the wilderness, brave enough to fight for his own, and passionate enough to restore her faith in herself-and in her heart.

I love Western cowboy romances, and this is one of the better ones I've read. English gentlewoman, Jessica Thornton is heading West in search of her brother and to run away from the brother-in-law who raped her, leaving her now five months pregnant. While in New Mexico she meets Brady Wilkins, a cowboy who owns a ranch. Haunted by the death of his younger brother, Brady is determined to kill the crazed Sancho Alvarez who is bent on killing the rest of his family. Amidst the turmoil of the Wild West, Judith and Brady fall in love. Can this Englishwoman and cowboy live together when they are so different? Can Jessica overcome her fears and tragic background and find love and comfort in Brady's arms? Great story and characterizations! A real keeper - and another series about cowboy brothers - I love them!


Killing Kennedy: the end of Camelot by Bill O'Reilly (audio)

Book Description:
O'Reilly recounts in gripping detail the brutal murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy—and how a sequence of gunshots on a Dallas afternoon not only killed a beloved president but also sent the nation into the cataclysmic division of the Vietnam War and its culture-changing aftermath.

Continuing my secret fascination with assassinations and the CIA, I listened to this book and found it an easy "listen". Although I've read other books that go over the Kennedy Assassination and the Kennedy's in general, this book did give me new insight into certain facts I didn't know about. I found it riveting and compelling, but couldn't help thinking it was a bit sensationalistic, especially with all the anecdotal tidbits on JFK's and MLK's sexual appetites. I'm not a TV news watcher, so I'm not an O'Reilly devotee, but his narration was fine in that direct sort of newscast way of his.  Overall, a fast and easy read and I'll definitely read - or listen - to his Killing Lincoln, which came out before this one.


Lord of Wicked Intentions by Lorraine Heath

Book Description:
Lord Rafe Easton may be of noble blood, but survival taught him to rely only on himself and to love no one. Yet when he sets his eyes on Miss Evelyn Chambers, and earl's illegitimate daughter, he is determined to have her, if only as his mistress.

After her father's death, Evelyn Chambers never imagined she would be sold to the highest bidder, yet circumstances give her little choice except to accept the lord's indecent proposal. Rafe is wealthy, as well as ruthless. Yet his coldness belies deep passion and deeper secrets. If she must be his, Evelyn intends to lay bare everything the Lord of Pembrook is hiding. But dark discoveries threaten to destroy them both until unexpected love guides the last lost lord home.

Nice wrap up and final installment of the Lost Lord of Pembrook.  Rafe's story gives his background growing up in the streets of St. Giles and his resentment towards his brothers for being left behind, even though he knows deep down it was for his own good.  Still, he's got a lot of baggage.  Evie, the woman that tames him and brings him sanity is put in an intolerable position after her father dies.  Her half-brother "sells" her to Rafe to be his mistress to settle his debts.  At first, that is Rafe's intentions, but of course, he falls for her, but only realizes it after it's too late.  Can she help him come to terms with his tortured childhood and learn to love?  Not bad, but not great either, I still prefer Heath's Westerns.


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