Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl

Genre: Contemporary Romance, lawman, small town
Spoiler free description: Molly is a super secret successful erotica writer. She uses a pen name to publish her stories and keeps everyone she knows in the dark about what her occupation is. She's inherited an house in her small hometown and decides to move there to get away from her creepy and annoying ex-boyfriend. And she's looking forward to finding old friends... like her big brother's BFF and her longtime secret crush (and star of her dreams) Ben. The thing is, Ben is happy and living a scandal free life, and he'd like it to stay that way. And did I mention that Ben does NOT want any scandal in his life? And Molly, she's got scandal written all over her, yet Ben can't keep himself away.
The best: Molly's self confidence. I liked how she was happy going after Ben. I loved their scene in Ben's police truck. And the suspense plot that normally would have totally annoyed me had enough twists and turns to be really enjoyable.
The worst: I really liked it all.
Grade A

Nightkeepers by Jessica Anderson

Genre: Paranormal (contemporary) romance
Spoiler free description: I think I would have enjoyed this book much more if it had been billed as a sci-fi rather than romance. I have certain expectations of a romance novel - including have the h/h actually spend quite a bit of time together in the first half of the book, and also including not being overwhelmed by a cast of characters. Leah is a police officer looking into a string of murders - including the murder of her brother - that have ties to a Mayan cult. In the course of the investigation she winds up on an altar tied up like a sacrifice in the middle of some sort of magical ceremony. Just when things are looking like death, she's saved by Jaguar-Strike (no, really, that's his name, but you can just call him "Strike") and then he disappears - AFTER her brain is wiped so she has no memories of him OR the bad guys she's in danger from. That's just he beginning of big scale story about the coming end of the world and the Mayan warriors who will protect us all from the bad things that are coming. As I mentioned there is a LARGE cast of characters and tons of threads left hanging for next books. Very good, but light on the romance for me.
The best: An interesting premise.
The worst: I'm still not completely sure what happened on a magical level that resolved everything. It was a little vague.
Grade C-

To Taste Temptation by Elizabeth Hoyt

Genre: historical romance
Spoiler free description: This is the first of Elizabeth Hoyts four "The Legend of the Four Solidiers" books. It follows Samuel, an American vetran of the French-Indian war. It's several years after the war and Samuel, now an extremely successful businessman, is visitting London with his younger sister. He asks his neighbor, Emeline, to help his sister "come out" in society. Emeline agrees to help. Samuel and Emeline are very attracted to each other, but she knows she cannot act on it. Especially since she's engaged to a mutal friend of theirs. Samuel is suffering from PTSD after the war and struggling to live as a normal person. This book is a great look at how that played out after the war, given the class and culture of the time. The future books look promising as well.
The best: Great tension. I liked how Emeline's son and Samuel's daughter played into the story. I liked how the possibility of pregnacy was addressed and handled.
The worst: For some reason the mocassins really bothered me.
Grade B+

The Ideal Wife, by Mary Balogh

Genre: historical romance, marriage of convenience
Spoiler free description: Miles is a newly made earl under pressure from his extended family to marry and produce an heir. His family has set up a marriage for him and is on their way to steamroller him into it. Then in walks Abigail, asking for - not money - references to get a new job. She's claiming Miles is a distant relative and has humbled herself to ask for help. She's on her best behavior and nothing like her normally outspoken, rambunctious self. Just like that, Miles proposes, excited to get the quiet and boring bride he can tuck away into the country and continue his life as is. Abigail accepts, feeling a bit guilty that he has no idea what she's really like. Then the fun begins.
The best: I loved how there were no huge misunderstandings. They talked through a lot of things. And each of them with their friends discussed what they were hiding from the other. I loved the pacing of their relationship and how everything built slowly and steadily, and how they worked it all out. Best scene - when his family comes and meets Abigail.
The worst: A little too much drama about the "big" secret she has, considering what it turns out to be.
Grade B+

The Book of Scandal, Julia London

Genre: historical romance, already married.
Spoiler free description: I think my favorite romance gimmick is marriage of convenience, but a close second is the already (unhappily) married. This book starts with unhappily married Nathan and Evie having lived apart for 3 years. Though it's not clear on the back cover blurb, the death of their infant son caused the breakdown in their marriage, which just wasn't strong enough to survive their grief. However, a scandal brewing in London has Nathan bringing Evie home, whether she likes it or not. How they work through things from there is a great story, though more of a tear jerker than I normally like to read.
The best:A very good look at the grieving process and what can tear people apart and what can bring them together. Not rushed, good pacing.
The worst: Actually, a little too much history for me, though that would probably be a strong point for someone else.
Grade B

Hot Mail, by Janice Maynard

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Football!, marriage of convenience
Spoiler free description: Jane and Ethan were best friends for years until they split when Ethan got engaged four years ago. Though he never married and they never renewed their friendship, Jane still has a huge crush on Ethan, and he still considers her a best buddy. She decides to send him anonymous hot mail - erotic poetry - to see if that will bring them together.
The best: It was fun to see them come together and tip toe around each other trying to figure out where they stood. The secondary storyline of Ethan's sister and his co-worker was just as good as the primary HEA.
The worst: The Super big Super Secret of WHO was sending the erotic valentines had me wanting to bang my head on the wall.
Grade C

The Price of Pleasure by Kresley Cole

Genre: historical, romance, island romance
Spoiler free description: I picked this one up because I love Kresley Cole's paranormals. She didn't disappoint. Once again, I started with the 2nd in a series, but that wasn't a problem with following the story. Tori was 13 when she and her governess are shipwrecked on a desserted island. Eight years later - and after a few unsavory attempted "rescues" - Grant shows up looking for her on a commission from Tori's grandfather. Grant doesn't give up and is determined to bring her home and earn the reward he was promised. Unfortunately for him, Tori is just as determined and even more resourceful than he is, and she's not quite sure she wants to leave with him.
The best: Another strong heroine. I enjoyed that Tori always had an ace up her sleeve and didn't ever give up and faint away, even when she really wanted to. I also thought Grant did an admirable job of winning her over.
The worst: The conflict in the book is caused by Grant being stupid, for reasons I really didn't understand.
Grade B

The Dragon Queen by Shana Abe (The Drakon, book 3)

Genre: Paranormal, para-historical, romance, shapeshifter
Spoiler free description: Maricara is the very young princess/queen of the Carpathian mountain drakon. Kimber is the prince of the English drakon. The Carpathian and English drakon have long been lost to each other. When Maricara sneaks into Kimbers home and they finally meet, they are instantly attracted. But Maricara is much too strong and intelligent to be the subservient wife that the English drakon culture demands. And she's come to warn them about an age old advesary on the rise again. In battling this common enemy, they draw closer and closer, but struggle to work things out. I was a little frustrated with the story as a whole, but didn't want to put it down - and definitely want to read the next one after seeing it will be about Kimber's brother Rhys.
The best: I love how strong Maricara is. I saw her as having much of the power in the this story and it worked well.
The worst: It's just not my favorite writing style. I get a little lost sometimes as to what motivates the characters. It's stronger on the fantasy side than the romance.
Grade B-

It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Football!
Spoiler free description: Phoebe's father dies that's ok with her - he's always treated her like crap. And that doesn't stop with his death - in his will he leaves her ownership of his football team, The Chicago Stars. Phoebe may look like a blonde bimbo, but she she's got brains to spare, and she's not interested in playing her father's games. The coach of the Stars needs her to play, without her help, his team is stranded. And then there's this unexplicable attraction they have to each other...
The best: I love the pacing of this book! It takes it's time - there's no HEA overnight here. The story is complex and very believable. This is one I'd go back to again and again. Best of the best - opening scene with the poodle. And so many others...
The worst: I didn't really enjoy the storyline with Dan's ex.
Grade A

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dream Warrior, by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Genre: Paranormal Romance, part of the Dark Hunter series
Spoiler free description: Cratus is a long abused god, Delphine is a half blood dream hunter. She's the first person to show him tenderness and compassion... ever. Will they be able to stop the end of the world?
Other comments: OK, so this is about the 37th entry in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series. And on one hand, it's so similar to many of her other works that I had a feeling of deja vu while reading it. On the other hand, there's a reason why she's written so many books... she's good! It catches your interest and drags you in. Even more fun is visitting with old friends and seeing how she's changing the Dark Hunter world. However, there are so many changes that it's a bit hard to keep up with!
The best: Standard Kenyon - enjoyable dialog. Fun to see Ash and Tory, Zarek and Astrid.
The worst: I seriously need a guide to keep up with all this stuff. And it kind of got to the point that I just didn't care much any more.
Grade C+

The Courtesan's Wager, by Claudia Dain

Genre: Historical Romance
Spoiler free description: Amelia is not stupid. She sees that Sophia has arranged marriages for 3 ladies in 3 weeks and she wants in. So she asks
Sophia for help attaining her heart's desire - marriage to a duke. Sophia is happy to help. And happy to inform a horrified Amelia that EVERYONE knows Amelia wants to marry a duke. Sophia decrees that the best course would be to go public with that knowledge and start holding interveiws. And you know what? Sophia is right! The only one more horrified than Amelia is Lord Cranleigh, younger brother to Iveston - next in line to be a duke. Cranleigh will not stand for this and he gets himself in way of Amelia.
Something I found annoying, though, was a big reveal half way through the book. And then I thought the hero was almost TSTL (too stupid to live) given the big reveal. So, really the only obstacle left was some pride, ego, and stupidity. That detracted from an otherwise good book.
The best: Finally reading a Dain heroine who had a clue about what Sophia was doing. The chemistry between Amelia and Cranleigh rocked. And I'm still LOVING the ongoing story arcs with Sophia, Anne, Ruan, and Calbourne. I want more!
The worst: I felt like the ending dragged out. I was glad that Amelia held out to get the respect she deserved, but it really seemed like the whole thing would have been sorted out much quicker if they actually spoke to each other about anything!
Grade B

The Courtesan's Secret

Genre: Historical Romance
Spoiler free description: After seeing Sophia's success at arranging Caroline's marriage (The Courtesan's Daughter), Louisa plucks up her courage and approaches Sophia to ask for help getting her pearls back, as well as finally attracting the attention of Dutton. Louisa has been chasing Dutton for TWO years. He's been ignoring her just as long. Well, all she had to do was ask, and Sophia's on the case. But Sophia sees clearly that Dutton has no time for Louisa, and Blakesly has been chasing after Louisa for just as long as she's been chasing Dutton. Let the games begin.
One note to keep in mind, this story centers just as much on Sophia as on the HEA couple. There also appears to be an ongoing story arc with Anne Warren, which I'm really enjoying.
The best: I still say witty dialog. Nice double entendre. Layers and layers to the story! I love Sophia's brother and nephews. The scene where Blakesly gets permission to marry Louisa from her father... I think it will be an all time favorite of mine!
The worst: Louisa is pretty stupid and self absorbed. Too wrapped up in herself to appreciate what's goign on and read any road signs by herself. That got to be quite annoying.
Grade B

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Zen and the Art of Vampires, by Katie MacAlister

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Vampire
Spoiler free description: OK, first off, it's a Dark Ones novel by Katie Mac, which says a lot to me (like it says: READ ME!) Second, it's a two parter, which also says a lot to me (like it says: RUN AWAY!) How much do I HATE it when there's no HEA? I hate it very much. However, the 1st over-ruled the second. I have enough love for Katie Mac that I'm willing to try something new with her. But then, not far into the book there's a third. Let me back up a little bit and do the description thing.
So, Pia is nearly 40 and chubby (not that you'd know it by the cover, but that's a whole 'nother rant). And Pia, on a singles tour of Europe, currently in Iceland, finds herself in the middle of a BIG MISUNDERSTANDING. And then she finds two hot guys. And (here's the third thing) about 2 minutes later, apparently so excited that someone actually wants her, has sex with one of the guys. And here's the *fourth* thing, THEN, 24 hours later, she has sex with the other hot guy, best friend to hottie number one.
Honestly, I almost stopped reading. Up until the third thing, I was really identifying with Pia. I found the first sexual encounter (Alec) very abrupt and unbelievable. And when she's getting all into the best friend (Kristoff) she really hates him, and I kept thinking "Really?" "Really, she's doing this?" And they both hate themselves after... I just don't know.
Now, it's a Dark Ones story, so Pia is a Beloved (aka soul mate and savior) but the big question is supposed to be whose Beloved is she. Except she's not confused, she's sure she's Alec's. And *I* was not confused, I've read the other books, it's clear she's Kristoff's. The part I don't really get is how Alec and Kristoff don't know whose she is. And the other part I don't really get... HELLO! Read each other's minds! Duh. You have a bond, use it! Ugh.
But none of that explains how, once I was about 1/2 way through I just really needed to know how it ended. And I have to say, going in knowing this was just a pit stop on the way to HEA, I was really happy with how it ended. And, despite all the ranting, I can't wait to read the rest! Why, oh why wait until May???
The best: Hmmm. I guess just how addictive it was.
The worst: The third and fourth things. Plus I found Alec to be a little creepy. Actually kind of a lot creepy. And it was a BUSY book. Typical Katie Mac, hard to keep track of it all.
Grade C (I would say D, but I have to give credit because I DID want to read the whole thing, and I still want to read the next one!)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

This Heart of Mine, by Susan Elizabeth Philips

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Football!, marriage of convenience
Spoiler free description: Once again I've come in in the middle of a series. I don't think the book suffered at all for having missed the first ones. Molly, an author and football heiress (who's given away all her money), has long had a crush on Kevin, the quarterback of the Chicago Stars - the system her sister and brother-in-law own and manage. When they end up sharing a cabin for a weekend, the tension is there, but sparks don't really fly. Until Molly does something really stupid. And they end up in a quickie marriage that falls apart even quicker than it came together. And only after all that do they begin to see each other.
The best: Molly, Kevin, and all the secondary characters are awesome and believable. The road blocks to Molly and Kevin's realationship are believable. Everything in this story is believable. I got sucked in and found myself rooting for Molly and Kevin. Best of the best... the young newlywed couple concerned enough to give Molly and Kevin marital advice.
The worst: I really liked it all.
Grade A

The Dream Thief, by Shana Abe

Genre: Historical Romance, paranormal, shapeshifter
Spoiler free description: Lia is the drakon (dragon shapeshifter) daughter of Rue & Kit from The Smoke Thief. Zane is Rue's old apprentice, a fully human man, who is aware of the drakon and what they are. Lia doesn't have the normal gifts of her kind, and is not even able to take her dragon or smoke forms. Although she lacks traditional drakon gifts, Lia does have the unusual gift of seeing the future. A gift so unusual, and giving of visions so dark and frightening (as well has hot and enticing) that she never tells anyone of her gift. Her dreams show tell her that she will find the long lost drakon diamond. Her dreams tell her that Zane will be her lover. And her dreams tell her of a dark, dark future.
The best: Dragons!!! I like Lia a lot, and Zane, too.
The worst: I really wanted Lia to tell Zane about her visions. I don't understand why she didn't. That was hard to understand. I'm also not a big fan of their first time.
Grade B

A Grand Passion, by Jayne Ann Krentz

Genre: Romantic Suspense, Contemporary
Spoiler free description: Cleo knows he's the man for her the minute she sees him. He's also immediately attracted to her. And, yeah, there's suspense. I don't htink I've read much romantic suspense before, and I didn't really like it.
The best: Throughout the book, Cleo, as an author, talked about romance novels and erotica and what readers and non-readers think of it. That was cool. Also, the thing that kept the two apart, that was very believable
The worst: I just didn't really care.
Grade C - it was probably good for someone else

The Courtesan's Daughter, by Claudia Dain

Genre: Historical Romance
Spoiler free description: Caroline is Sophia's daughter. Being Sophia's daughter has defined her for her entire life. See, Sophia used to be a courtesan, until she actually married one of her gentlemen. Now Caroline is ready to be married, but being a (former) courtesan's daughter has made her not a good match. But no worries, because Sophia has a plan... she'll buy a husband for Caroline. The plot thickens when Caroline decides she'd rather be a wanted courtesan than an unwanted wife. But never fear, because Sophia is a lady with plans. And Sophia always gets what she wants.
One note to keep in mind, this story centers just as much on Sophia as on the HEA couple. I think this would have annoyed me had I not known it going in. It also is the start of a series, and Sophia will have a long arc-ing story.
The best: Witty dialog. Nice double entendre. Layers and layers to the story!
The worst: Sometimes I felt a step behind - hard to keep up with Sophia's plans! I think the author intended it that way, though.
Grade B+