Sunday, September 30, 2007

Conspiracy in Death

Author: J.D. Robb
Published: April 1, 1999 (Berkley)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Series: In Death #8
Rating: 9/10

In this installment in Nora Roberts' Eve Dallas series, Eve is investigating the murders of society's undesirables (i.e. homeless people and whores), where the murderer used expert surgical skills to remove a particular diseased/failing organ from the victim. This makes for an awkward investigation, as Eve discovers a conspiracy of multiple accomplices in the highest ranks of the medical field and American government.

There were murders in other cities and countries, and other investigators who were either paid off, or threatened off the cases. As Eve is neither threatable or pay-offable, the murderers hit her where it hurt most: her job. Eve's career defines her so much as a person, and she has worked so hard to carve out her reputation. With pressure from powerful jerks, Eve is forced to hand in her badge when another officer is murdered. Actually, I was happy that officer was murdered anyways, as this particular character hated Eve and was obsessed with taking her down.

When Eve closed up to everyone after handing in her badge and turning into a suspect, Roarke kicked her in the butt and made her wake up and and take action. That means some secret investigating with the help of Feeney, Peabody, McNabb, and her secret deputy Roarke. I loooooove Roarke. He's probably the finest hero Nora Roberts has created. Come on, he's handsome, smart, ridiculously rich, sensitive, caring, quietly alpha male, and fantastic in bed!

Anyways, this is the deepest Eve Dallas book I've read so far, and I believe it was longer than the others I've read. I have not verified that though. Doesn't matter, just read it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Gathering

Author: Jennifer Ashley
Published: August 2007 (Love Spell)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Immortals #4
Rating: 8/10

Never mind what I said about the third book being my favorite; this one is definitely my favorite! The Gathering features Leda Stowe, an air witch and animal rescuer, and Hunter, the supposed "crazy one" of the Immortals. They are my favorite couple because they have had such sad lives. Hunter fell in love centuries ago, and had a family; they were killed by a demon (later revealed to be the big bad demon who's causing all the death magic imbalance in the series). Leda, a powerful witch, used death magic to save her husband's life, getting her kicked out of the Coven of Light, and losing her husband, who couldn't deal with what she'd done to save him. They both have blocks to overcome before they can have their HEA.

Hunter is transported into a lion's cage on Leda's island sanctuary by the Calling spell. Apparently, the spell drops each Immortal practically into his destined mate's lap. He's all "I live in the now, and don't think of the past, let's have sex," and acts centuries younger than his true age. However, the big bad demon tracked Hunter to the island when he used powerful magic to save Leda and her two animals (a bear and lion) from the drug dealer who wanted his lion back. Leda leaves Hunter on the island to help out a half-demon friend with her missing mother, fearing Hunter's overprotective desire to keep her on the island while demons take over the world. The one constantly annoying thing about this series is the hero's desire to take all control from the heroine and think that he knows better, and that the woman needs to be locked in a gilded cage.

Hunter follows of course, and sails to Los Angeles in Leda's sailboat.... with Mukasa (a ripoff from Mufasa from Lion King anyone?) the lion. Septimus, my favorite supporting character is back and explains the situation to Hunter and it all seems like everything's coming together when Hunter gets teleported into the demon's dungeon. It's a bit weird, as this random kidnapping of Immortals happens a bunch of times until the big battle at the end. It appears that the demon can't take on all the brothers at once, so it picks them off one by one and tortures them.

Dealing with bringing all the characters together from the first three books is handled very well, and the focus on Leda and Hunter is not lost despite so much going on at once. We finally learn of the demon's plan, as draining life magic out of the world didn't make much sense, as the whole world would be destroyed because of the imbalance, so what would the demon get out of the deal?

I thought that this was the last of the series, and was thinking several pages from the end, "What happens to Tain?" It turns out that the Immortals series isn't over. Tain's story will be told by Jennifer Ashley in the fifth Immortals book, The Redeeming, which is due out in September 2008, which picks up a year after the events in book four. The same authors who participated in the series will also return to write the books following Tain's story.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Awakening

Author: Joy Nash
Published: July 2007 (Love Spell)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Immortals #3
Rating: 8/10

It appears the four heroines of the series will be witches representing the four elements, as earth and fire were in the first two books, and Christine, the heroine in The Awakening, is a strong water witch, and her powers happened to be tied to her sensual side. Basically, she gets horny when she does magic, and that works well for our hero, Kalen, son of the goddess aspect Uni. He's an art dealer and an artist as well, but he's having artist's block, and has taken to sleeping with Leanna, a Sidhe muse. She's been with various writers, artists, and musicians, giving them inspiration while sucking life out of them and causing them to commit suicide (i.e. Cobain). However, Leanna's magic isn't working for Kalen, as each work he creates after sex with her is a piece of crap.

Christine, searching for Kalen after seeing him in her scrying bowl, interrupts Leanna's death magic spell during one of her sex tours in Scotland. Leanna takes tourists to a set of sacred stones and performs lewd acts and sucks life magic from them so she can maintain her youthful appearance, as she is half human. This isn't keeping her from aging though, so she makes a deal with a demon to conceive Kalen's Immortal baby and steal its soul so she will be immortal. Of course, Leanna wants to kill Christine after embarrassing her in front of her patrons, so Kalen teleports her to safety, back at his castle. And they do it, and it turns out Christine is a muse, and he is able to create beautiful art again.

Because of this, and his developing love for her, Kalen keeps her on the small island his castle sits upon, despite Christine's protests. That part might be disturbing to some readers, as he's keeping her against her will for sex. She keeps on trying to convince him to join the cause for life magic, but after much hemming and hawing, it turns out he's not allowed to kill anyways, or risk banishment by his mother, Uni. In the past, he failed his mother and the people he was supposed to protect, so he'd spent the last several centuries living in solitude and getting rich as a hoity toity art dealer.

I found the magic in The Awakening hugely interesting, what with the addition of Mac the Sidhe demigod and all the magical Celtic creatures. As Kalen won't use offensive magic and risk killing someone, non-attack magic is more prominent, with his defensive magic and teleporting magic.

This is my favorite book of the series so far! Now on to the last book right away...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Darkening

Author: Robin T. Popp
Published: June 2007 (Love Spell)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Immortals #2
Rating: 6/10

I was kind of disappointed with this book. The Calling did a pretty good job setting up the rest of the series, and this one felt like it was slapped together with some glue and scotch tape, with no particular outline to follow when writing. The heroine, Lexi Corvin, is a fire-element witch who happens to be a werewolf. The events occur the week preceding the full moon, which makes werewolves really horny and she has to have sex or else her magic can hurt her. How unfortunate then, that the hero, Darius, has a curse on him that gives him amnesia if he has an orgasm during sex. At least that's how I interpreted it. Not sure if it would affect him in some self-relief action.

The Calling performed by the Coven of Light at the end of The Calling brought Darius, another of Adrian's Immortal brothers, to Manhattan in the midst of Lexi taking down one of her targets. She's a bounty hunter, but you have to suspend a lot of disbelief. You'd think that she'd be smart about dangerous situations, but she's surprisingly stupid. Maybe she depends on her werewolf strength and healing powers instead of common sense. For a rough and tough "I wear black leather" bounty hunter, she automatically assumes that Darius is screwing all these random women and gets all bent out of shape. I guess Popp wanted to show us that our tough heroine is really a soft and emotional woman beneath the leather?

Darius started out so promising. He listened to Lexi's story about Tain going insane and wanting to drain the life magic out of the world, and how Adrian and Amber are putting together an army in Seattle to fight the death magic, and didn't fight her. They got him a plane ticket out there, but he decides to chase down a lead on Tain, who happens to be in Manhattan with the big bad boss demon. They purchase a few more tickets for him, but he ditches the flight every time to keep going back to the vampire club the demon and Tain are based out of.

And I'm seeing a pattern here. In The Calling, Amber dies, but gets her life back through divine intervention, and Adrian makes a deal with his mother. Amber gets her life back if he sits back and lets his brothers continue the search for Tain. In The Darkening, Lexi is severely wounded for the second time in the book, in the process of saving Darius' life, and can't make the change to her other form to heal because she's too weak. He gives her his immortal essence, which is his sacrifice for his beloved.

It was okay and maybe I am right about there always being a weak book in every series. Hopefully this is it for The Immortals. Now I'm moving right on to the next book, The Awakening.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Who Will Take This Man?

Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Published: September 2003 (Avon)
Category: Regency Romance
Rating: 6.5/10

Philip Whitmore, Viscount Greybourne, antiquarian, adventurer, heir to an earldom, and perfect physical specimen of a man in his prime, is unmarriageable. In the course of his travels, he read from a stone that cursed him in such a way that his new bride would die two days after their wedding. He chooses to tell the truth to the fiancée his father obtained for him with the services of Meredith Chilton-Grizdale, up and coming matchmaker to the ton. Of course, the fiancée jilts Philip, which leaves Meredith's business in ruins, as Philip is said to be cursed, insane, and impotent (and he keeps insisting that he's not) in the newspapers.

Philip refuses to get married unless he can find the missing piece of the curse stone, so Meredith helps him sort through the crates he brought back from abroad. And in true romance formula, they can't keep away from each other. Philip comes to his senses about their relationship rather early for a romantic hero, and Meredith refuses his suit because they come from different worlds. Basically, the only problem Meredith has, aside from her being his matchmaker, not a bridal candidate, is her past, being born as a bastard and stealing to create a better life for herself.

In addition to their romantic problems, someone is leaving threatening messages for Philip and sabotaging the search for the missing stone. I guessed the identity of the villain early on, and D'Alessandro tried throwing some curve balls, but it seemed that making Philip's best friend and faithful manservant mysteriously absent at the most convenient times, that it was too obvious as a decoy.

I don't think this is D'Alessandro's best. It's better than a lot of romances, but there was a little too much for me to suspend my disbelief. The biggest was the translation of the stone. How miraculous was it that the stone translated into a rhyming poem? And that the partial "words" that got cut off could translate into the first letter of the English word it corresponded to? The writing itself is good, but yet again, her writing has sparkled more in other books. Maybe I'm just being too hard on it because I loved Sleepless at Midnight so much.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tanner's Scheme

Author: Lora Leigh
Published: August 7, 2007 (Berkley)
Category: Paranormal Romance/Erotica
Series: The Breeds #3
Rating: 6/10

Leigh has been writing these Breed paranormal romance/erotica titles before Berkley started publishing her work. A lot of her stuff was released by Ellora's Cave.

In the futuristic world of the Breeds, genetic experiments have resulted in humans that have animal characteristics, and they do not have the ability to change into animals. For that, go to Nalini Singh. As a new race, they are fighting for equality and freedom from persecution. Our hero Tanner Reynolds is a Bengal, one of two that are known to exist. The man on the cover doesn't look at all like I pictured him, as he's described to have the face of a fallen angel and long gold and black striped hair. Scheme Tallant is daughter to General Tallant, proponent of the destruction of the Breeds, and the Breeds have good reason to hate her, as her name was on many death orders. However, she's actually a double agent, working to help the Breed council to obtain enough evidence to arrest the general, but her father knows about it now and needs to eliminate her before she ruins his plans to kidnap a pride leader's son.

Tanner was planning on kidnapping her, but before he does so, he saves her from the assassin her father sent, and based on the conversation exchanged between the assassin and Scheme, he realizes she might not be as evil as he thought. Of course, there's also a spy working for Tallant behind Breed lines, and Tanner fits the profile, so Scheme isn't sure that she can trust him, so she doesn't tell him the truth, despite the fact that she has never been so satisfied sexually as she has been with Tanner and thinks she might be falling in love with him. So the plot is pretty thin: Keep Scheme safe, prevent Tallant's kidnapping plans, and root out Breed spy.

Tanner's Scheme was 80% sex and 20% plot movement. And this was some graphic stuff, without any euphemisms for the male or female equipment. Nosireebob, no "manhood" or "secret pearl" here! I thought my eyes were going to roll out of my head because he's already got his hand down her pants by page 35. Most of the interaction between Tanner and Scheme is about the mating heat that has overcome them. Very, very graphic cat-human sex.

I think I'll give one more book a try before I write the Breed series off.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hazards of Hunting a Duke

Author: Julia London
Published: May 2006 (Pocket Books)
Category: Regency Romance
Series: Desperate Debutantes #1
Rating: 8/10

I read a review for Dangers of Deceiving a Viscount, the last book in the Desperate Debutantes trilogy, and it sounded interesting, so I decided to read the first one. There are mixed reviews for The Hazards of Hunting a Duke on Amazon, so I picked it up at the library instead. After reading it, I find that I wouldn't mind owning it, although goodness only knows when I'll have time to reread books when my TBR grows exponentially.

When the young ladies of the Fairchild family learn that their stepfather has absconded with their late mother's fortune, Ava, the eldest, hunts down the notoriously wealthy rakehell Jared Broderick, the Marquis of Middleton and heir to a dukedom. Much to her shock and delight, the marquis sweeps her into a whirlwind romance and proposes marriage. But after their passionate wedding night, Ava discovers Jared has ulterior motives of his own. Not only does he expect her to deliver an heir while he continues to enjoy a rogue's life, but Ava also suspects she is a pawn in her husband's quest for revenge. Marriages of convenience work for some, but for Ava a loveless bond won't do. So she devises a bold plan to confront her husband's demons so that he might be free to choose to give her his heart for the right reason: because she is the only woman he will ever truly desire.

Maybe I haven't read enough old romances to be tired of this kind of setup. Man and woman marry for convenience, and man is too much of a.... well, a man, to own up to his feelings, and woman wants the marriage of convenience to turn into one of love as she's already fallen in love with him. Some reviews complained that the heroine jumped to conclusions about Jared being with his ex-mistress, Miranda. However, when it comes to that kind of relationship stuff, your emotions take over and it's so easy, when you have the evidence Ava did, to come to that conclusion. She had Miranda's daily love letters, saw them returning from a hunt after everyone else had returned, and Jared constantly asks Ava whether she's conceived yet. That made her feel like a baby machine, instead of the woman he loved, and she was royally ticked.

For once, I didn't mind the twists thrown in at the end of the book. Jared and Ava go to London for the season and she refuses to stay in their house, going back to her stepfather's house instead to be with Phoebe. And then Jared realizes he really does love Ava and he goes to get her back, but she won't have him, and then she finds out that she's been an idiot about the whole thing. I thought it fit really well and didn't seem like a waste of text.

I couldn't put the book down, and I've already ordered the next book in the trilogy, Perils of Pursuing a Prince. Sigh, my poor wallet and TBR.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Author: Jayne Castle
Published: June 1997 (Pocket)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: St. Helens #2
Rating: 8/10

Zinnia features Nick Chastain, an old Western Islands friend of Lucas Trent (of Amaryllis). In a world where marriage is highly prized and respected, Nick is at a disadvantage. His parents weren't married, so he's a much despised bastard (very regency romance). He bears his father's last name, but the family won't accept him because he's illegitimate and owns a casino. However, owning a casino has given him a lot of power and oodles of money, and Nick is a man with a five-year plan for gaining (a.k.a. buying) respectability.

After reading Amaryllis and Zinnia, I really see these St. Helens paranormal romances as a springboard for Castle/Krentz's later books. Zinnia was set up to take the media heat off of an affluent married couple and their threesome partner, a big-name politician. This is later used in Silver Master, where Celinda had pissed off a client and he ruined her reputation and career.

Zinnia Spring's nickname, the "Scarlet Lady," would stop most women cold, but Zinnia rises above it by dressing defiantly in red! Ever since a tabloid ruined her reputation and her interior design business, this headstrong young woman has made a living using her psychic abilities - a highly prized skill that sets her apart on the space colony of St. Helen's. But when she's hired by casino owner Nick Chastain, their meeting of the minds - and hearts - has her seeing stars.

I found that I liked reading about Zinnia and Nick's relationship more than the one in Amaryllis, as Nick's matrix talents are so interesting. As a matrix, and of course, a rare and off-the-charts rating, he sees patterns in the world around him. Think A Beautiful Mind, but without the schizophrenia. He'll be driving and something will "feel wrong in the matrix," so he changes lanes and avoids a fender bender. Zinnia is a rare (and of course, powerful) prism who specializes in focusing for matrix talents. While most people think that matrix talents are paranoid conspiracy theorists, Zinnia is really understanding and compassionate to them.

The first time Zinnia and Nick connect psychically, it's almost a psychic vampire incident, as Nick found her by accident, and Zinnia automatically created a prism for him, and he had never had such a perfect focus. He didn't want to let go of the focus, and like the psychic vampire myths, tried to take control of the unknown prism. While the link was shocking to Zinnia, she had the same sexual attraction over the link that Nick did. This appears to be a running theme in the St. Helens books.

They agree to work together to figure out who murdered one of Zinnia's clients. This particular client was going to sell Nick's father's journal to him. The journal was practically an obsession to Nick because he wanted to know if his father really went insane due to his matrix talent or if he was set up. There was a cover-up conspiracy over a decade ago, where his father's exploration trip may or may not have taken place. Someone has gone to great pains to make it appear as if it never did, and in the process may have killed Nick's father.

Good romance and good mystery; a definite step up from Amaryllis, and I have the last book in the trilogy, Orchid, on order.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Angels Fall

Author: Nora Roberts
Published: July 11, 2006 (Putnam)
Category: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 8/10

I just realized that I haven't read a standalone Nora Roberts in a while so it was time to dig into my NR TBR!

Reece, the lone survivor of a mass shooting at her restaurant, travels cross country from Boston in an attempt to outrun her memories, taking odd jobs to get by, and moving on as soon as she sees a sign that she should. She eventually rolls into the town of Angel's Fist, Wyoming and gets a job as a cook at the town's diner. She's trying to heal in her own time without pills as a crutch, and getting back into the kitchen is a huge step.

While hiking, Reece witnesses the murder of a woman across the river, but is unable to see the male attacker's face. Brody (Chicago transplant, loner, and our hero) happens to be down the trail from her and she runs to him for help, but when they look at the murder site, they don't see anything. Upon reporting the crime and no evidence turning up, Reece's sanity is looking dubious. I'm really touchy on these Cassandra-type situations, where the heroine is trying so hard to get people to listen to the truth, but they won't believe for some reason or another. What's worse, things keep happening in Reece's apartment, things moving from where she left them, and she's doubting herself, thinking that she's having nervous breakdown episodes and forgetting them. Thankfully, Brody is on Reece's side and not because he's attracted to her.

The identity of the murderer was a good puzzle in this one. Roberts did a really good job of shifting it around to various men in town. Was it the friendly doctor who wants Reece to be treated for her mental problems? Or was it Mac at the mercantile, who installed her new lock (that didn't stop the intruder)? Or was it the sheriff who thought Reece dreamed up the whole incident?

Reece was not my favorite Roberts heroine. I was getting bored with her super-fragile state because it didn't really change until she finally snapped in anger at the people who thought she was delicate or because her boss didn't want to order fresh herbs. I felt bad for her, sure; she went through something awful, but I didn't really like her. The relationship with Brody was also just okay. He was taking care of her and didn't know what to do with her love, as he didn't like to be committed to staying in Angel's Fist or to a woman. He reminded me a little of Grayson Thane in Roberts' Born in Ice.

Very entertaining, but you shouldn't read it if you're looking for the most awesome romance ever.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sleepless at Midnight

Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Published: June 2007 (Avon)
Category: Regency Romance
Series: Mayhem in Mayfair #1
Rating: 10/10

Okay, I've griped about covers with shirtless men, so it just serves me right that I read this book with a half-naked woman on the cover... and really liked it.

I loved this book. It was funny, sweet, witty, and it had a lot of heat. I had previously read D'Alessandro's Whirlwind Wedding, which was above average, and was published seven years ago. I think that she's definitely gotten better over time, and her Sleepless at Midnight plot wasn't loosey-goosey like WW. There are no ridiculous plot twists that make me shake my head and wonder what the hell the author was thinking. One of the most amusing devices in SAM was the inner monologue. How can you resist smiling when you read something like this?
"I am aware of that. I've already told you I've no romantic interest in her." A tiny voice inside him coughed to life and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like liar.

Stupid bloody voice.
The story is set on the estate of Matthew Devenport, Marquess Langston, and he has a quest to complete. He made two promises at his father's deathbed. (1) Get married within one year and (2) Find the hidden treasure on the grounds that will settle all of the estate's debts. Unfortunately, Matthew has about a month left, and a house party going on at the same time. The guest list includes small group of marriageable young ladies, and Sarah Moorehouse, one of their friends, who is not marriage material because she's ancient (26 years old), not classically beautiful, and most importantly, she's not an heiress.

This unconventional woman has spent most of her life under the shadow of her beloved and more beautiful older sister, who married a title. Sarah doesn't resent her sister at all, as Carolyn stood up for Sarah against their overcritical mother. Because of her upbringing, Sarah is so compassionate to "broken" people. She cooks food for a recently widowed mother of three, and an elderly pair of sisters an hour away from her home. She loves animals, and isn't one of those girls who wants a tiny yappy dog, which draws a lot of Matthew's attention, as he has Danforth, a gigantic dog very similar to Sarah's gigantic dog Desdemona.

And of course, she's a bit of a rebel, so at the house party, she starts a ladies' literary society that discusses books that aren't proper for young ladies, starting with Frankenstein. One of their projects is to create the perfect man and each girl has to steal (borrow) a particular item of clothing from a specific man's closet. Sarah winds up with the assignment of collecting a shirt from their host. She's also got an overactive imagination, and when she sees Matthew returning from one of his nightly treasure hunts with a shovel, she begins wondering what dark deeds he might be doing. Could he be raiding a graveyard like Dr. Frankenstein? Or did he commit the murder that happened so close to the estate?

In the process of stealing the shirt, Matthew enters his room before she has a chance to escape, which leads to a highly amusing scene where Sarah hides behind a curtain and watches him take a bath. It starts a series of steamy encounters between the two, as Matthew feels it's only fair that he get to watch her take a bath! I absolutely loved Sarah and Matthew together. After Sarah cornered Matthew about his nighttime activities, they were honest with each other, sharing their darkest childhood memories, and their "I love you" scene was one of the most touching I've read in a long time.

D'Alessandro's next book in the series, Confessions at Midnight, is scheduled for December 2007 release.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Calling

Author: Jennifer Ashley
Published: May 2007 (Love Spell)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Immortals #1
Rating: 7/10

The Immortals is a series of four books, the first and last being written by Jennifer Ashley, and the middle two written by two other authors. I've never read an entire multi-author series, but

In order to keep life and death magic in balance, different aspects of the Goddess (i.e. Isis, Cerridwen, Kali, etc.), decided to create the Immortals, a group of five demigod warriors, sired by a human and birthed by an aspect of the Goddess. They were sired by humans so that they would care for humans, and they were granted magical powers and immortality from their mothers. They apparently can't die, as a sword through the heart won't do the job either, but there was no mention of what chopping off an Immortal's head would do. If that's not a big enough hint, don't read this book if you're squeamish about violence and other forms of bloody torture.

The Calling focuses on Adrian, son of Isis. Cool thing about him: He has a silver cobra armlet named Ferrin, who is actually a living snake that has the ability to morph into silver or a huge sword. Bad thing: Sorry, my dislike of long-haired fellows comes into play here. Adrian has looooong hair (I guess in a play on that "big shoes - big tool" thing?) that he has to bind twice (ponytail and then halfway down the ponytail) that goes down to his waist. I think that's overkill, but I guess he hasn't cut his hair since the pyramids were built.

While on the trail of a demon that knows something about his long-lost brother Tain, he saves Amber Silverthorne, a hereditary witch. Her sister was murdered by the same demon that Adrian is tracking. Then bang, she and Adrian are instantly attracted to each other, despite the fact that he annoys her with his macho-ness. She wants to help Adrian in his quest to find Tain, which is linked to the growing unbalance in favor of death magic in the world. If the magic leans too far in one direction, the world ends. All the magic details in the book were really interesting. It appears Amber does most of her magic with crystals, and I haven't seen much of that since I read Mindy Klasky's Girl's Guide to Witchcraft.

As a couple, Adrian and Amber were kind of bleh to me. Amber kept saying that she wasn't good enough, and that her murdered sister was a better witch than her. Adrian has a tendency to withdraw into some depressing corner and sulk, and he's set on leaving Amber because he's an Immortal and it's just not meant to be.

Supporting characters were hugely amusing. In fact, I think that without them, the book would kinda suck, as the plot is directionless at times and the big Beltane ritual at the end left me with a big "Huh? What was the point of that, other than an excuse for magical sex ritual." There's Sabina, Amber's best friend, and a werewolf, and Valerian, Adrian's closest friend, and a dragon (when he's not in human form) with a sense of humor. There's a strong hint of romance between the two and hope to see more of it in the later books. And there's Kelly, a human actress with an thing for vampires, and Septimus, the powerful vampire who loves her. I was actually more interested in those romances than that of Adrian and Amber.

It was still an interesting read despite the negatives and I've already ordered the last three books in the series from Amazon.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Killing Moon

Author: Rebecca York
Published: June 3, 2003 (Berkley)
Category: Paranormal Romantic Suspense
Series: Moon Series #1
Rating: 7/10

This definitely wasn't a fluffy and most wonderfully HEA paranormal romance. It was a little gritty.

Ross Marshall, a private investigator, is a werewolf. Not really the kind that changes during the full moon. He's able to change into a wolf when he speaks an incantation, and goes through this painful, organ-twisting, bone-crushing change. Apparently, one of his male ancestors asked the gods for this power, and it was passed down to all male descendents. All female babies are dead at birth, and half the boys die in adolescence when they have to go through the change for the first time. Fully mature males cannot live in the same home together because each werewolf feels that he is alpha, which is why Ross hasn't seen his brother and father for the longest time. Around the age of thirty, the men will feel the urge to take a mate for life. Because of the offspring-mortality rate, Ross has been avoiding women and decided to have some genetic testing done to see if there's some way to prevent his werewolf genes from passing down to the next generation.

In the course of an investigation of a sick and twisted sexual predator (tortures and kills his victims, buries them in his backyard), he is shot in wolf form, and Dr. Megan Sheridan, who works at the genetics lab Ross hired, came to his house to take a blood sample, only to find that she'd be treating a gunshot wound, and instantly attracted to the big naked wounded man.

While Ross also feels the attraction, he's afraid of getting too close to her because he knows that this woman is his mate, but doesn't want her to have the life his mother did, bound to his jerk of a father. In addition to keeping his distance for that reason, he's afraid he will become prey to the murderer he's supposed to be tracking, and endanger Megan in the process.

York wrote this lovely pushed away - pulled together dance between Megan and Ross. There are problems at Megan's labs, and she was almost raped one night, but saved when Ross saw what happened and turned wolf (she didn't know it was him), and he gives in to his need to protect his mate. When she learned the truth of his "genetic problem," she turned away from him and almost broke his heart. But Ross later saves her life, and they

This relationship was definitely a lot of alpha male protecting his female. While you might say this is really macho and so sexist, Megan has her own ways of protecting Ross and their future children. She did save his life when he was wounded, and she'll figure out how to keep their babies alive, whether male or female, with her expertise.

Was the love because of the bond? Megan says no, but wouldn't the mating drive cloud her judgment and make her rationalize in any way possible? But maybe I should look at their bond like that of an arranged marriage in a historical romance. If they really didn't have a choice about the mating bond, they did have a choice to love each other.

I'm definitely reading the rest of her series, which (yay!) has several titles already published. I've already ordered the next book, Edge of the Moon.

An Infamous Army

Author: Georgette Heyer
Published: 1st printing: 1937 (William Heinemann); Reissue: September 2007 (Sourcebooks)
Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 8/10

I've always thought of Georgette Heyer as a historical romance author, but An Infamous Army is solidly a historical fiction. Sure, there's a romance, but I'd say that it composes 15% of this book. The rest is spent on extremely well-researched historical and military details.

The subtitle says this is "A novel of love, war, Wellington and Waterloo," and that really sums it up. Heyer painted a sharp picture of Wellington, and I learned so much beyond "He's that guy who beat Napoleon at Waterloo." Heyer apparently went as far as to purchase one of Wellington's letters so she could learn the style and tone of his writing. She described him to be a man of little frivolity despite his love of throwing parties. He spoke plainly, to the point of offending society.

The love story between Colonel Charles Audley and Lady Barbara Childe was so well characterized despite the fact that Charles and Bab had very little screentime. Bab is known as the wild widow of Brussels, and when Charles falls for her, and she too loves him, although she can't quite figure out why. He's not as rich or titled as her other smarmy Belgian suitor, but she accepts his proposal. However, she finds being engaged too stifling and selfishly causes mischief involving Charles's sister-in-law's (Lady Worth) brother. They break off the engagement just before Charles leaves for war, and when he's gone, Bab realizes how horrid she behaved.

Reader beware though - this is not a fluffy novel to breeze through in a day. I wanted to read it faster, but really couldn't because there is so much information to take in. I did sometimes think that there was too much detail. There are practically page-long paragraphs where Heyer lists people and what regiment or family they're from and they might be mentioned once more during the course of the final battle. And you know that everyone has three names. In one paragraph at the beginning, Wellington was referred to as Beau and Old Hookey (I think because of his nose). It was so early in the book that I had no idea that those were all nicknames for the man. There's also a good deal of French, and not the kind of French that you can understand with high school French classes under your belt. I would have looked up translations for the text, but most of my reading is done on the subway and I don't carry a French dictionary in my bag.

It's really too bad that there are no maps in this book. With so much military action and Belgian settings, it's hard to get a feel for how dire circumstances are. Sure, I could look up a map of the battle of Waterloo, but yet again, reading on the subway prevents that.

This is my favorite Heyer (I think I've read two others) by far. The descriptions were so vivid. And I'm not just talking about the pretty descriptions of Bab's hair and dress; the battle scenes were horrifying and gritty. Heyer didn't sugarcoat anything, and many of the aides de camp (Wellington's staff) were killed or seriously wounded. And reading about the poor horses that carried men into battle was heartbreaking.

I loved the main civilian characters (i.e. Lord and Lady Worth, and Bab), which really surprised me. At first I was going to dislike Lady Judith Worth because she wanted to set Charles up with this insipid little heiress she befriended, and I thought, "Oh, here comes another meddler," but Heyer didn't write such a shallow character. Judith and her husband took in Bab when she had no place to go, and in the course of treating wounded soldiers, they bonded, and she found that she wanted Bab and Charles to marry after all. And Lord Worth? He was a paragon among husbands I think. So kind, brave, and unwilling to believe everything being gossiped.

Definitely pick this book up if you want to go beyond the fluffy level of historical romance. Sourcebooks is reissuing Heyer's novels, and next on their list is Cotillion for October publication. It's also supposed to have been meticulously researched like An Infamous Army.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Silver Master

Author: Jayne Castle
Published: August 28, 2007
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Harmony
Rating: 9/10

Oof, yet again, a shirtless man on the front cover. Seriously, I can't remember Castle writing about how ghost hunters like to wear leather vests sans shirt. Anyone who knows me knows about my obsession with good epilogues to see how my beloved characters are doing. Castle, in her post Lydia-Emmett novels has brought past characters into her new novels, includying Lydia, Emmett, Mercer, and Tamara. In this, we get this, plus Cooper and Elly's wedding (they were from the previous book, Ghost Hunter).

Cadence City matchmaker and para-resonator Celinda Ingram meets her match in security specialist Davis Oakes. On the hunt for the powerful relic that Celinda supposedly bought as a toy for her pet dust bunny, Davis must use all of his unique psychic abilities to try and wrest the ruby red object from the suspicious duo, keep his desire for Celinda in check and keep them all safe from those who will do anything to possess the relic.

I love dust bunnies and they are probably the top reason I read Castle's (aka Jayne Ann Krentz) Harmony novels. Silver Master ups the dust bunny entertainment by providing hero and heroine each with a dust bunny, of course Davis has a boy bunny named Max and Celinda has a girl bunny named Araminta. Max is totally adorable with the way he sleeps on his back with all six paws in the air and a penchant for over-imbibing alcoholic beverages. And Celinda has to deal with Araminta in heat or whatever you call dust bunny mating season.

Celinda has a rare psi talent of being able to read people's psi patterns, and she's extremely, off-the-charts powerful in it. She uses her talent to match people perfectly, but keeps the nature of her talent secret, as she's also able to manipulate people's emotions slightly (if she so chooses). Aside from this secret, she has a scandalous past involving a Guild boss candidate from her old home town, where she was painted as his mistress, and ruined her reputation.

Davis Oakes, investigating the missing ruby artifact for Mercer Wyatt (Guild boss of Cadence City), also has an off-the-charts talent that he keeps secret. He's able to manipulate silver light and can eliminate ghosts with it, as well as turn invisible. As society tends to be afraid of unique talents, and labels them freaks, he tells as few people as possible. Unfortunately, his former fiancee couldn't handle his freak talent and backed out of their covenant marriage.

How fortunate that Celinda, upon first meeting Davis, realizes that his psi pattern is so compelling that he must be perfect for her. But she quickly downgrades him to almost perfect when he reveals his stance on marriage consultants (worthless), is a Guild man even though he isn't a ghost hunter, and Araminta runs off with the relic that belongs to the Candence City Guild. However, Davis is rather determined to know Celinda better and explore the sparks of attraction between them. The heat that Castle wrote for them was fantastic and there was a great sense of humor too. It was also refreshing for the hero and heroine to COMMUNICATE with each other. There are far too many romances out there where the conflict exists only because the couple doesn't know how to communicate.

I was sad when the book had to come to an end. The action was well written (dust bunnies get into the fight!) and the bad guys were entertaining. Plus I like how Castle is expanding the world of Harmony more with each book. I can't wait for the next Harmony book!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Caressed by Ice

Author: Nalini Singh
Published: September 4, 2007 (Berkley)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Psy-Changeling #3
Rating: 9/10

What is with all the men without shirts on my romance covers? And it's not like they're naked waist up; they're wearing leather vests or jackets (see left) with nothing underneath! I commented, "It says nowhere in the book that they didn't wear shirts!" and a coworker said, "But they didn't wear a shirt at the cover shoot!" No-shirt status or not, this was my favorite of Singh's Psy-Changeling novels. There is nothing like a strong and silent hero

As an Arrow, an elite soldier in the Psy Council ranks, Judd Lauren was forced to do terrible things in the name of his people. Now a defector, his dark abilities have made him the most deadly of assassins—cold, pitiless, unfeeling. Until he meets Brenna…

Brenna Shane Kincaid was an innocent before she was abducted—and had her mind violated—by a serial killer. Her sense of evil runs so deep, she fears she could become a killer herself. Then the first dead body is found, victim of a familiar madness. Judd is her only hope, yet her sensual changeling side rebels against the inhuman chill of his personality, even as desire explodes between them. Shocking and raw, their passion is a danger that threatens not only their hearts, but their very lives…

I can't get over how much I enjoyed this book. Brenna was a fabulous strong female character. Despite the fact that she's still recovering mentally from her encounter with Enrique Santana (crazy Psy Councilmember), she's determined to move on with her life, and will not hesitate to voice her opinion on that issue. Her brothers have been overprotective and effectively put her in a cage to keep her safe, when doing so kept her from having confidence. She even lost the ability to shift into wolf form after the kidnapping.

Judd, a rare Tk-Cell designation, is just below cardinal level and capable of extremely violent acts, but his ability has healing and sharing capabilities as well. However, Judd is an excellent example of why Silence was enacted, as he could kill accidentally with his Psy power. While he's attracted to Brenna, even thinking about her could cause him pain through his conditioning. It got to the point where his feelings were so strong for her that he'd get nosebleeds and his brain almost exploded because of the Tk.

The chemistry between Brenna and Judd is perfect and HAWT. He stands up for her when her brothers want to keep her in her rooms, knowing that's absolutely not what she needs. And Brenna sees what's beneath the Iceman (so everyone in the den calls Judd) and doesn't take no for an answer (good thing she's not a rapist). It's always touching to see the set-in-his-ways hero change for the woman he loves (i.e. Mr. Darcy for Elizabeth), and for Judd, being with Brenna means going against the conditioning he's stood behind for most of his life.

There was some Psy Council maneuvering. I read those parts really fast so I could get back to Brenna and Judd.

I loved it, and I don't know how the next book, which goes back to the DarkRiver leopards, will keep up.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Author: Jayne Castle
Published: October 1996 (Pocket Books)
Category: Paranormal Romance
St. Helens #1
Rating: 6/10

It's so funny how I don't have problems reading non-contemporary romances that were written over a decade ago. This is another of Jayne Ann Krentz's alien world-paranormal romances, but set St. Helens, another Curtain-colony, before she started writing books set on Harmony.

As this is one of those reviews that I've started and put off for a couple weeks, here's the cover blurb:

Amaryllis Lark is a beautiful psychic detective on St. Helen's, an Earth colony recently cut off from the mother planet. Lucas Trent, the rugged head of Lodestar Exploration, isn't keen on the prim and proper type and Amaryllis is excruciatingly proper. But a hunch leads the pair to a wild murder investigation and a red-hot love affair inevitably follows. The affair surprises them both - Amaryllis is shocked and Lucas is delighted. But can extraterrestrial evil keep them apart?

Some corrections to the blurb: Amaryllis isn't a detective. She's a prism for hire (explained below). And there's no extraterrestrial evil. It's more like a psychic vampire from St. Helens' popular fiction.

Apparently, the buzz word on St. Helens is "synergy," like "resonate" and its various "rez" forms on Harmony. As I've only heard the word "synergy" in relation to business, it did distract me several times while reading. Psychic talents are a little ambiguous in this series, probably because it's Castle/Krentz's first psychic paranormal romance. Amaryllis Lark, our heroine, is a prism, meaning that her talent is an inactive ability that helps those with active psychic abilities focus so they can use their talents for sustained amounts of time. Without a prism, nobody can use their abilities for more than a few seconds. Lucas though, is an off-the-charts illusion talent. He doesn't like to publicize his powerful talent because (like in other Krentz books), characters with unusual powers are afraid of what society will think of them with these freakish talents, until their perfect mate comes along.

I see certain things that have been used in Krentz's later novels, such as the matchmaking services for psychics, and a psychic power scale with 10 being highest (both seen in White Lies), and the idea that strong talents don't get matched. Of course I wasn't surprised when Amaryllis and Lucas were matched by the most expensive service in town, Psynergy Inc. They were practically rigging the results because after they met each other, they started listing the other's qualities on their list of desirable features in their match. I thought the desire for the perfect marriage agency match was a lot like making a good marriage in a historical romance.

Amaryllis was a good start to building a new world, but I wasn't that crazy about Amaryllis and Lucas. Something slightly missed the mark for me. Maybe it was her annoying relatives. The book also set up for the next two books in the series, with heroes who're friends of Lucas.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Whirlwind Wedding

Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Published: September 2000 (Bantam)
Category: Regency Romance
Rating: 7.5/10

I can't remember why I picked up this book, one of D'Alessandro's earlier titles. Maybe I saw a review of one of her newer books and figured I should read an older book before I go running off buying a new author. I can say that since reading Whirlwind Wedding, I've ordered three more of her books. Hooray for finding new authors with backlists! There's a teensy hint of the paranormal in this romance, as the heroine, Elizabeth has visions of the future.
Austin Randolph Jamison, ninth Duke of Bradford, met the uncanny beauty at the ball at Bradford Hall. And from that first moment, he was stunned. How could this unsophisticated female, who climbed a tree in a ball gown to rescue a kitten, know secrets that could ruin his family and speak of danger that threatened them all? Who was she, this American bluestocking who knew too much, whose innocence shone in her eyes even as her full lips tempted sin? Suddenly the duke knew he could not afford to let her go...

At their first, and might I add enchanting, meeting, Elizabeth rescues Gadzooks the kitten. Charmingly, Austin's groom named each kitten as it was birthed, like "Gadzooks! There's another one!" and not all of the names are fit for a lady's ears. Austin finds conversation with Elizabeth to be like a breath of fresh air and how he's strangely attracted to someone so un-ladylike, until she proclaims that his brother is still alive - a brother who may have betrayed the country in France, but is honored as a hero who died.

While a houseguest in Austen's home, Elizabeth has a vision of him being shot at after she had already warned him he'd be in danger on a particular night. Of course, he doesn't listen to her and nearly dies, if not for her running out in the middle of the night to find him and care for him, which led to her being compromised when they were discovered together the next morning.

Something that annoyed me: Right when Austin's about to say the big "I love you," relatively early in a romance novel, Elizabeth pretends that she doesn't care for him and her vision of their daughter dying means that she can't have ANY children with him at all, and that she only married him to become a duchess, and hey, can I have a divorce? All of this was just piled on in the span of a page and I can't blame Austin for being angry and feeling deceived. And Elizabeth was being cowardly and then acted all pitiful when he sent her away to wait out the month and find out if she'd gotten pregnant during the happy portion of their marriage.

Good stuff: D'Alessandro writes well, and the characterization of Austin and Elizabeth was great and they were so lovely together. I didn't have a problem with the writing; the plot was what bugged me.

Still a good read, if you disregard the cheesiness at the end (near-death experience).

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Holiday in Death

Author: J.D. Robb
Published: June 1, 1998 (Berkley)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Series: In Death #7
Rating: 9/10

Another fine entry into the Eve Dallas series! I was quite eager to read Holiday in Death because of how things were left with Summerset in the previous novel, Vengeance in Death, with Eve saving his life and him being a teensy tiny bit nicer to her. But when we see Summerset again, it appears nothing has changed in their relationship.... on the surface at least. He shows his acceptance of her in subtle ways. Anyways, here's the blurb:
No one likes to be alone during the holidays. For New York's most posh dating service, Personally Yours, it is the season to bring lonely hearts together. But Lieutenant Eve Dallas, on the trail of a ritualistic serial killer, has made a disturbing discovery: all of the victims have been traced to Personally Yours. As the murders continue, Eve enters into an elite world of people searching for their one true love--and a killer searching for his next victim. A world where the power of love leads men and women into the ultimate act of betrayal...
It seems with each book, Eve becomes more human. She notices in Holiday in Death that she suddenly finds herself with several friends when she was so used to having none. Her big moment of humanity is when she questions Peabody's dating Charles, the licensed companion (futurespeak for licensed prostitute). Peabody takes offense to Eve's inquiry and they have a falling out, which Eve has a hard time figuring out.

Roarke is perfect as always. Sometimes I think that he's too perfect and too wonderful, but then I think about his dark past in Ireland, where he started his business in a not-so-legitimate way. I guess the only negative thing I can say about Roarke is that he needs a haircut. Sorry Fabio, I don't like my guys with long hair.

I found it amusing that dating services in the future aren't much different from the matchmaking services being offered today. In fact, Personally Yours seemed a bit of a step backwards, where a lot of it is conducted in person as opposed to the internet with all those big-name websites available today.

And Roberts got a little risqu é with this one, with some twin sibling incest! Wooo! It's not like she describes an act of incest! It's just part of the characters. Don't let that stop you from reading the book.