Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Right Choice

Author: Carly Phillips
Published: June 1, 2000 (OOP, Kensington, as Karen Drogin) / May 2011 (Inkwell, e-book only)
Cateogry: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 7/10

I was recently given the opportunity to review one of Carly Phillips' earliest publications, when she wrote in her real name, Karen Drogin. The books had been out of print, and Inkwell has re-released them in e-book format.

Our heroine is Carly Wexler, guidance counselor and advice columnist, and engaged to the wrong guy. He's good on paper, long-time friend, and will probably be a decent husband. Why the safe approach to selecting her husband? While she was in high school, her father had an affair with his secretary, and when he broke it off, the secretary killed herself. Scandal ensues, and her father leaves his political career behind to start a law firm. Carly now feels that her father's out-of-control passions ruined their family, so she needs to avoid passion in her relationships. Her fiancé Pete, is an ambitious associate, and he doesn't love Carly, but she'll be a good wife, and he can kill two birds with one stone. He can probably get partnership if he's married to the senior partner's daughter.

I couldn't stand Pete. He constantly used work as an excuse to be late or miss wedding appointments with Carly, and if his work kept him with a hot young associate chick at the same time, what's the big deal? The more you read about Pete, the more you dislike him. His brother Mike, the best man, is another story. He's a photographer and has had some emotional trauma on his last assignment, so he's using the month before the wedding to steel himself to go back to into a hot zone. He can see what's wrong with his brother's relationship with Carly, and he's also instantly attracted to Carly, but he's caught in the middle. He doesn't want to betray his brother, but he also doesn't want to see Carly hurt.

You can definitely tell that this is early in Phillips' career. The story is based more on the characters and their emotions than the setting. I found there was little description of settings and characters, but I figure this is an experience thing, and Phillips' later books are more well-rounded (I suppose, as I've never read one of her books before this one).

I loved the storyline and how long (time-wise, not book length) it took to reach the resolution. Nothing dragged, but it also didn't feel rushed. It's reading a different kind of romance novel, where it's really all about the emotions and thoughts of the characters, with no tangents for side characters. I'm glad the Mike and Carly didn't just jump into bed, but showed real care towards their relationships to Pete. Carly and Pete really were friends; they just weren't meant to be romantically involved. I felt that everything turned out the way it should, and Carly and Mike's emotional wounds were healed with proper communication (I hate it when people don't communicate!).

The Right Choice
is just one of three re-releases. You can also get Solitary Man and Perfect Partners. She also has a new title releasing this September, Serendipity.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Mercy Thompson: Moon Called, Volume 1

Author: Patricia Briggs
Published: March 2011 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Category: Urban Fantasy/Graphic Novel
Rating: 8/10

This is the second graphic novel for Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series, the first being Homecoming, which was a prequel to Moon Called. The publisher kept things consistent, with Amelia Woo illustrating again.

I feel like I read these graphic novels and have to think of it like I do when books are made into movies. As a reader of a series as well established as Mercy Thompson, my imagination has a very set idea of what the characters look like. Once you get past that, you can appreciate the graphic novel.

Of course, some cuts are made to the storyline to translate it to a graphic novel, but there is nothing egregious or horrible about the minor things that are left out for the sake of moving things along. The graphic novel definitely stays true to the regular novel. However, this volume does not cover all of Moon Called; you'll have to pick up the next volume to continue.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Magic Bites

Author: Ilona Andrews
Published: March 27, 2007 (Ace)
Category: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels #1
Rating: 8/10

If you love Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series, you are most likely going to love Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series. I love me some Mercy Thompson, but those books come out once a year, and I believe the next one doesn't come out until 2013! The world Andrews has created, where magic and non-magic alternate in unpredictable waves also reminds me of Steven R. Boyett's Ariel books (post-apocalyptic world where the Change brings magic back and technology down).

Kate Daniels is a mercenary, taking care of magical problems when official channels aren't ideal. You know, like Hank Lawson of Royal Pains, where some prefer concierge doctors over dealing with hospital bureacracy. She carries old and strong magic in her blood, but nobody can know how she inherited that magic, because her real father would be more than happy to kill her. She's skilled enough to be a member of the very official Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, but didn't want to join because she didn't want her personality to be crushed by their rules and methods.

However, she gets dragged back into the Order's business when her guardian, Greg, is killed in the line of duty. Greg had been investigating the murders of several shapeshifters, and Kate has to deal with Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta. He's the pack leader of all the Atlanta packs, which consist of werecats, werewolves, werehyenas, wererats, and the list goes on.

It seems like solving the murders wouldn't be so bad, what with all her magical powers, but magic's presence in the world doesn't make things easier. Just getting from one side of town to the other can take forever. If your magic-powered car engine ceases to work when the tech hits, you're stranded, and if you're driving a regular gas engine car when magic hits, you're also stranded.

Here's an interesting tidbit: Ilona Andrews isn't a real person. She's actually a husband-wife writing team, Ilona and Gordon Andrew. You can tell it's a real team effort, because it doesn't feel like there are two different authors writing the same story, which sometimes team-written books tend to show. The male-female dialogue and interaction (not sex, you smut-brains!) is amusing and witty, with hint of future romance between Kate and Curran, and extremely well-written action scenes.

If you're looking for an urban fantasy with a brave, smart, kick-ass heroine, look no further. Kate Daniels is it! There are five books in the series so far, with a couple novellas on the side.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Heir

Author: Grace Burrowes
Published: December 2010 (Sourcebooks)
Category: Historical Romance
Series: Duke's Obsession #1
Rating: 8/10

I think I discovered this book in another blogger’s review post and it sounded like something I’d enjoy. The Duke of Moreland wants to secure the succession and have his heir, Gayle Windham, Earl of Westhaven, married off. Of course, Moreland has more than one son, not all legitimate, so this will be a series, probably a trilogy. He winds up falling for his housekeeper, Anna Seaton, a woman of good breeding, but many secrets. Their relationship begins with her coshing him with a fireplace poker, as all great relationships start, of course.

The Heir is not a light, frothy romance. It leans more towards Julia London/Stephanie Laurens style, romance touched with drama. I liked the upstairs-downstairs elements in the relationship between Windham and Anna. Windham has the luxury of falling in love with Anna, despite her supposedly being just a housekeeper, because his father’s so desperate to get him married off. In fact, the duke was so desperate that he was willing to have Windham’s mistress get preggers and force the marriage, despite the fact that said mistress was already knocked up by some other guy. Windham preferred to choose on his own if his father was going to resort to those types of tactics. He knows Anna is more than what she says, based on her education and manner.

However, Anna and her sister are in hiding, and can’t tell Windham why because they’d promised their grandmother they’d never reveal their family’s secrets to an outsider. It did get annoying towards the end of the book, where I just wished Anna would trust Windham, who had already proposed marriage to her, and let him help her, as he offered to do so.

I really enjoyed how their relationship grew, and the things Windham did to be a gentleman, even bringing his meddling father into the mix. The book has been called an “erotic regency,” but I don’t find that the sex is gratuitous or all over the book. I’m excited to read the next entry in the series, The Soldier, which is releasing June 1st.

Note: The Heir is available on the Nook and Kindle for less than a dollar right now!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

Author: Sarah MacLean
Published: March 2010 (Avon)
Category: Historical Romance
Series: Love by Numbers #1
Rating: 9/10

I came upon this book when reading a Book Binge review for the second book in the series, Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord. I wanted to read that book, but I have a thing about reading a series from the start. I'm really glad I did that, and quite happy to add Sarah MacLean to my list of "must-read" authors!

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell is a spinster. Granted, she was never really a success when she first came out, but the fact that the only suitors she received were too old or cared too much about her dowry. She's also more curvy than the in-fashion slender figures and is always comparing herself to them. Since coming out, she has been in love with the one man who showed her some kindness, a notorious rake, Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston. Ten years after she meets him, her skinny gorgeous little sister makes a brilliant love match with a duke, and Callie is reminded of how she'll never have what her sister and friends have. So she figures that if she isn't going to have what she always thought she'd have, why not live a little, and do some daring things that a respectable lady wouldn't dream of doing? After all, she believes she's so firmly on the shelf that she doesn't have to worry about her reputation.

Gabriel figures into the first item on her list: Being kissed passionately. While Gabriel agrees to help her with the kiss, he gets her to agree to help his newly-found half sister, Juliana, enter into society. While a wealthy marquess brother should pave the way, his sister is the product of the scandalous dowager marchioness, who abandoned her husband and sons for the Continent, where she cut a swath through more men, including Juliana's father. Her entrance into society won't be easy, as stuffy people would consider Juliana illegitimate, but her status is fuzzy.

As Callie goes into her list, Gabriel keeps intercepting her, and feels like he has to save her from herself. He doesn't quite know why he wants to do it, but he gives the excuse that if she shreds her reputation, who will help him launch Juliana? They become partners in crime while they start pushing the boundaries of propriety exploring their attraction to each other. This is one of those one-sided love stories, where one member is totally in love with the other, and the other one doesn't believe in love. I thought it would frustrate me, but the story really worked.

I thought the book would be a lot funnier, but it was more serious than expected, not in a bad way though. You really feel Callie's sadness as people rudely comment about how she's a fleshy spinster, and how her sister made such a wonderful match. She's so lonely, and no one wants her for just being her. And Gabriel is a man who never learned to love, thanks to his mother abandoning their family when he was a little boy. Callie's faith in love is what he needs to break out of his shell and pull his ragtag family together.

I loved the hodge-podge family the Ralstons made, with Gabriel's twin brother, Nicholas, who is the star of the next book, and Juliana. They're just getting used to the idea of being a family and I think it'll make for even better reading for the rest of the series, especially Juliana's book, which will be released in April this year.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Halfway to the Grave

Author: Jeaniene Frost
Published: October 2007 (Avon)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Night Huntress #1
Rating: 7/10

I don't recall how I stumbled upon the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, but I'm so happy I did. I'm betting it was one of those "You might like this" titles that Barnes and Noble shows me when I'm online shopping, the easily-impressionable impulse buyer that I am.

Cat, our heroine, is a half-human/half-vampire product of an attack her mother suffered at the hands of a newly-made vampire two decades before our story begins. For the first sixteen years of her life, she believed she was different, but couldn't figure out why she was stronger than other kids, or could see in the dark as well as she could during the day. When her mother told her her true heritage when she turned sixteen, she began a quest to kill as many vampires as possible. Her mother schooled her that all vampires are EVIL and will date rape you at the first opportunity. So what does Cat do? She sets herself out as bait at night clubs waiting for a vampire to pick her up, and then stake him when they leave the club.

Eventually, she meets Bones, a vampire who happens to be a vampire bounty hunter. He's a little pissed because she staked the guy he was hunting. He decides to make her his pupil/partner. She's the bait, and then he'll do the dirty work, questioning the vamps before dispatching them.

The romance part is not as large a part as the paranormal element of the book, but excellent when it's there. Bones has been attracted to her from the beginning, when she challenges him to a fight rather than accept his deal, despite the fact that she's far less powerful than him, and chained to a wall in her underwear. Bones knows he has an uphill battle because she's been brainwashed into thinking that all vampires are evil murderers. In fact, their first date only happens because he makes her think they're hunting a vampire at a club, so she has to put on her hoochie clothes, but turns out the vampire they're looking for is actually him. Cute, without being nauseating. I'm glad that the love admissions don't take forever to come about, but Cat's mom poses quite the problem with her rabid belief that all vampires are evil and that her half-evil daughter will succumb to one of them and turn into a full vamp.

The reason I gave the book 7/10 was the ending. Very sad, because there is no happy ending. If you look at the description for the next book, you'll see that Cat and Bones aren't together, but they will be by the end of it, for sure (they better!!). When I got to the end of Halfway to the Grave, I was supremely pissed because I don't have the sequel, One Foot in the Grave on hand. If you want to torture yourself, you can visit the HarperCollins website to read the first 60 pages of the book, but here's a warning: The excerpt doesn't end on a chapter. I found myself in the middle of a sentence only to be cut off and even more tortured than before. So congratulations HarperCollins! I bought the book and now have to wait for it to arrive this week when I get back to the office!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Search

Author: Nora Roberts
Published: July 2010 (Putnam)
Category: Romance/Suspense
Rating: 10/10

Dogs? Check. Hot guy who happens to be really handy? Check. Gorgeous setting for all the action? Check. As soon as I picked up the newest standalone Nora Roberts book, I was SUCKED IN. This is undoubtedly my most favorite book of hers, knocking High Noon off its pedestal (The Bride Quartet is my favorite series).

Fiona, our heroine, lives on a small island off the coast of Washington, and runs a successful dog-training school and the local K-9 Search and Rescue squad. Right from the get-go, the reader is thrown into Fiona's world, going on a search with her and one of her three loyal labrador retrievers (she has one of each color!). You learn how organized, methodical, and capable she is, while knowing exactly what to say to people in any situation.

Simon, our hero, is new to the island, and his mother thinks he's too lonely, so she buys him a puppy, who he promptly names "Jaws." You can figure out why he gets that name. He's so hilarious with how he deals with the dog, because as much as he gripes, he loves his dog and is proud as soon as Jaws does something right. And typically, he has a hard time with the idea of neutering his dog.

The suspense portion of the novel is excellent. Fiona, years before coming to the island, was supposed to be a victim of the "Red Scarf Killer," only she escaped and identified him to the police. Putting the serial killer behind bars cost Fiona more than her anonymity, and she retreated to her island to rebuild her life. In present day, she finds out that a copycat killer has begun committing the same exact crimes, and she will most likely be on his list of victims as a tribute to the first Red Scarf Killer.

The story was great, balancing between the romance, suspense, and filler material. I loved reading about Fiona's work with dogs, and all the searches that leads. I'm constantly amazed by Nora Roberts' research for her books. I'm aware of all the jokes people tell about how all her new books are just patchworked together with pieces of previous books, but while some things seem familiar, it always seems fresh when I read them. Nora is a guaranteed-good-read for me, sort of like a chicken pot pie for a bad day is perfect comfort food.

I was surprised at the 3.5 star rating on! From the first couple reviews I read, it appears that people think that the ending is weak. The ending wasn't much different than a typical Nora ending. Yes, Nora doesn't seem to provide much detail in her endings and doesn't do epilogues either. Maybe she's leaving it to her readers' imaginations to figure out what happens in her her characters' lives afterward.

Anyways, The Search is fantastic and I can't wait to read it again.