Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Not Quite a Gentleman

Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Published: September 2005 (Avon)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 9/10

This is Nathan Oliver's story and the book that came before Never a Lady, which tells his older brother's story. Not Quite a Gentleman has all the things that I love in a historical romance. There's the sassy and smart heroine and the hero who's being driven insane by the things she says and the way he wants her. They wind up engaging in a rather unrealistic affair, being that she's not married and doesn't intend to marry Nathan.

Three years ago, Lady Victoria Wexhall was humiliated when Nathan Oliver waltzed brazenly out of her life after favoring her with one glorious kiss... her very first! Now, when her father insists she pay a visit to Nathan's family estate in Cornwall, the pampered Society beauty devises a plan to drive the heartless rake mad with desire, then drop him cold. Because the man is a cad - and he will rue the day he trifled with her affections!

But Victoria's plan isn't the only plot that's afoot. Nathan's sworn duty to the Crown has immersed him in a perilous intrigue, and he is certain this infuriatingly tempting lady is somehow involved. Using his winning charm and sensuous allure, Nathan intends to discover the lady's secrets.

And the dashing rogue is bound and determined to prove that, while not quite a gentleman, he is every inch a lover!

Nathan and Victoria's relationship is all about opening up to each other. She shows him that she's actually smart and more than a hothouse flower who'll wilt at the slightest challenge. In fact, with the guidance of a notorious book called A Ladies' Guide to the Pursuit of Personal Happiness and Intimate Fulfillment, full of information normally unavailable to women of the time. Victoria is most interested in the section about tormenting men, specifically dumping them, as she wants revenge on Nathan for kissing her silly and disappearing from her life right after. She intends to kiss him silly and leave him just as he had done to her. However, she doesn't take into account her reaction to his kisses, and her plan flies out the window.

Nathan reveals his past to her with refreshing openness and honesty. He tells her about how he used to be a spy but his last mission went wrong, and his own brother and father thought he was a traitor to the country. With Victoria's reappearance into his life, he has a chance to redeem himself and recover the missing jewels that caused his downfall. While searching the estate for the jewels, they shared stories of their childhood that would normally shock polite company. Things like making mud pies or stealing the stablemaster's clothes while he takes his weekly bath in the lake.

Jacquie D'Alessandro really knows how to write romances that are funny, witty, sweet, and steamy all in a perfect little package. Animals often make humorous appearances in her books, and those are always bonus points to me. Nathan, the gentleman doctor, is often paid in animals for his services, and when he goes back to his father's estate to clear his name, he brings his menagerie with him. It includes a cow, pig, goat, several forms of fowl, a kitten, and a dog the size of a small bear, charmingly called "BC," which is short for Boot Chewer.

This was such a lovely book and had so many funny moments, many of which are from characters' inner monologues. Great fun. I've already ordered Love and the Single Heiress, which involves the source of that infamous ladies' guide that Victoria read so ferociously.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Viscount Who Loved Me

Author: Julia Quinn
Published: December 2000 (Avon)
Category: Historical Romance
Series: Bridgerton Family #2
Rating: 8/10

As romance sections in bookstores shrink, there's less and less to choose from. I'll go to the store looking for a particular popular author, but find that she doesn't have anything on the shelf. I did notice that there were a large amount of Julia Quinn books still available, so there must be something special about her if BN is still keeping her in stock.
By this time the gossip columnists have it wrong. Anthony Bridgerton hasn't just decided to marry - he's even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended's older sister, Kate Sheffield - the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate is the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams.

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands - and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate is determined to protect her sister - but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony's lips touch hers, she's suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself.
I love romances where the hero and heroine can't stand each other. It makes for much more entertaining dialogue. However, the characters almost made me doubt finishing the book. Anthony annoyed me a lot in the first third of the book, but the rest of the characters were entertaining, so there wasn't any real risk of DNF. He was so jerky towards Kate, who was just trying to protect her sister. He automatically assumed that she was being jealous and spiteful, even setting up her dog to knock Edwina into the Serpentine.

Kate Sheffield was my kind of heroine. She had a backbone and a heart, but wasn't perfect either. The way she valued her family, despite Edwina being a half-sister, made her even more suitable to join the raucous Bridgerton clan. Well, that and her croquet skills.

I had a good time reading this book, and it was oftentimes funny with the occasional heartbreaking moments. I was annoyed, yet again, at Anthony for thinking that he'd die in a few years because his father died young of a bee sting. But I've decided I like Quinn and her Bridgertons; as the Bridgerton series tells the story of each sibling, I must be on my way to find the rest of them, starting with the first book in the series, The Duke and I, which tells Daphne's story. I'm very interested in that because Daphne and her husband, the Duke of Hastings, were such a cute couple in the croquet game that I have to read their story next!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

High Noon

Author: Nora Roberts
Published: July 10, 2007 (Putnam)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 9/10

Why has this book been sitting in my TBR for so long?? (Answer: Because my TBR is so huge that I don't bother listing it in the sidebar, just the immediate future's reads.)

There's a consequence to reading an excellent NR novel though. I go into some kind of slump where I search for another book that will make me feel the same way, but don't want to break my "don't read from the same author twice in a row" rule. I think I broke that rule when I started reading her J.D. Robb books though. That's okay because those books are like crack. Anyways, it's rather hard to start reading another book after having such a spectacularly good time reading a book like High Noon.

Police Lieutenant Phoebe MacNamara found her calling at an early age when an unstable man broke into her family's home, trapping and terrorizing them for hours. Now she's Savannah's top hostage negotiator, defusing powderkeg situations with a talent for knowing when to give in-and when to jump in and take action. It's satisfying work-and sometimes those skills come in handy at home dealing with her agoraphobic mother, still traumatized by the break-in after all these years, and her precocious seven-year-old, Carly.

It's exactly that heady combination of steely courage and sensitivity that first attracts Duncan Swift to Phoebe. After observing her coax one of his employees down from a roof ledge, he is committed to keeping this intriguing, take-charge woman in his life. She's used to working solo, but Phoebe's discovering that no amount of negotiation can keep Duncan at arm's length.

And when she's grabbed by a man who throws a hood over her head and brutally assaults her-in her own precinct house-Phoebe can't help but be deeply shaken. Then threatening messages show up on her doorstep, and she's not just alarmed but frustrated. How do you go face-to-face with an opponent who refuses to look you in the eye?

Now, with Duncan backing her up every step of the way, she must establish contact with the faceless tormentor who is determined to make her a hostage to fear . . . before she becomes the final showdown.

Duncan, like many of Roberts' heroes, is a protective man, but he's not an in-your-face alpha hero. Even though he wants Phoebe to stay safe, he doesn't do anything outrageous. He says that he'll take care of the man who's harassing her if she doesn't catch him in a week, giving her time to do things her way.

The romance didn't matter as much as the mystery did, as Phoebe's work as a negotiator was so interesting. Roberts really outdid herself with the identity of the villain in this one, as it was easy to blame the woman-hating cop who attacked Phoebe in her station, but it would've been too easy. The real villain was much scarier, and just a little insane.

I couldn't put this book down and had to force myself to slow down. This is a great strong female character book, done so well, without being "I am ultra woman, hear me roar!" Phoebe has weaknesses too, and watching her deal with hiding it from her family reminds me a lot of Eve Dallas. How does Roberts do it?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kiss the Cook

Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Published: May 2000 (Kensington)
Category: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 8/10

Melanie Gibson (Yes, she's called Mel for short...) owns a growing takeout and catering business. She's applying for a loan that will be instrumental in taking the Pampered Palate into the upscale catering world. On her worst day at work ever, where she can't deliver fifteen gourmet meals because of a canceled order, her car won't start, her heel breaks off, it's pouring rain, she meets an irritated man she's blocked in with her double parked car that won't start.

Christopher Bishop is an accountant, but not like the ones you imagine. He looks like he stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad, drives a Mercedes and a Harley, is nice to Melanie's grandmother, has a sense of humor, and knows how to fix things like garbage disposals and cars. That last part is very hot and manly, coming from the viewpoint of someone who had to fix her toilet because her boyfriend didn't know anythinga bout the inside of a toilet tank. After his father died suddenly, he took on the responsibility of sending his siblings to college. At the age of thirty, he's finally finished with that duty and wants to enjoy the freedoms of bachelorhood. But Melanie hurtled into his life and he fell for her and her grandmother's fried chicken.

The blurbs available for this book, including the one on the back cover, are slightly off. Chris does work for the accounting firm evaluating Melanie's business, but he's not the accountant assigned to the case. When he overhears that another eatery is opening close to Pampered Palate, his ethics won't allow him not to tell his coworker working on Melanie's case. And there is the crux of the obstacle-to-HEA. Chris figured he wouldn't tell Melanie about this because he didn't want to worry her for the two weeks that it would take for the bank to evaluate the application, and it could very well be approved despite the info he supplied. Then she got mad at him for not telling her and sleeping with her when he knew about this threat to her business.

There is no unnecessary dragging out of the couple's estrangement after the revelation of the truth, which I really appreciated. People said sorry and marriage proposals were made in the most adorable of fashions. I thought Chris and Melanie were the cutest couple and I laughed more than once, as I find I do when I read a D'Alessandro book.

Definitely pick this up for a quick funny read.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ain't Myth-Behaving

Author: Katie MacAlister
Published: September 2007 (Pocket Books)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 7/10

Ain't Myth-Behaving is composed of two novellas: Stag Party and Norse Truly.

In Stag Party, Dane Kearne, the current Irish fertility God called Cernunnos, is about to have his yearly wedding to his goddess. However, she's run off with Dionysus, who's gone off the drink and become a salsa dancer. If he doesn't get married to a new goddess (becoming his goddess, and therefore immortal, is a perk of marrying Cernunnos, Dane will return to his mortal state, and being over 1000 years old, he'd crumble into dust. As he has about a week to find a candidate, he chooses the one available woman who doesn't annoy him: a travel writer named Megan St. Clair, who's visiting his castle to cover the Beltane ceremonies.

This really wasn't MacAlister's best, and I'm not entirely sure if being a full-length novel would've saved it either. I felt like it was all about the conflict as I didn't get much of a feel for Megan as a heroine. There was no real purpose. Sure, Dane had to marry Megan, but there was some background enemy plotting against him, and his ex-wife, pregnant with another god's baby is back and wants to get rid of the American interloper. At times, the story feels kind of aimless and my favorite part came at the end when Taranis' fury wife took care of all the problems because she wanted to have some barbecued chicken.

Norse Truly was better than Stag Party as it handled the limitations of a novella better. Brynna Lund, an American visiting her Swedish relatives, drives off a cliff and is rescued by a crew of cursed vikings, led by Alrik Sigurdsson. As Brynna has Valkyrie blood, she could bring them to Valhalla, but not until their curse is lifted by Brynna's ancestor. They embark on a quest that involves calling up Alrik's mother's ghost, Brynna marrying Alrik and therefore becoming a mom of sorts to his crew, and meeting a henpecked dragon who wants Alrik to put him out of his misery.

This second half of Ain't Myth-Behaving was really cute and a nice change from the English settings I tend to prefer in my romances. However, that does not mean that I'm going to start amassing viking romances. Are there even any viking romances? I figure Scottish romances are more popular, and I tend to avoid those too.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Never a Lady

Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Published: July 2006 (Avon)
Cateogry: Regency Romance
Rating: 7/10

Sorry, another short one and I'm cheating with a blurb because it's been a few weeks since I read it.

The interesting thing about these particular D’Alessandro books is the not-horrendous cover. But then you open the front cover to reveal the tip-in and it’s very classic smutty romance art. This isn’t a problem except for when I’m checking books in or out of the library and they have to scan the bar code on the inside cover.

Colin Oliver, Viscount Sutton, left his beloved Cornwall for London to find a bride—some comely, proper, wellborn lady to bear him an heir. Certainly not someone like Madame Alexandra Larchmont. Yes, she's the toast of the ton, and a rare beauty to be sure. But she's also a fortune-teller. And Colin has an excellent reason for keeping a sharp watch on this one . . .

The cards have warned Alexandra for years about a dark-haired stranger who would wreak havoc with her life, so when she sees him at a soiree, her first thought is to run. Unfortunately, she overhears a murder plot, and the only person she can turn to for help is a man she knows she should stay away from, a man who eyes her with an undisguised hunger.

But fate's strange turns are Alexandra's stock in trade. And if love is written in the cards, surely nothing is impossible!

Alexandra used to be a street urchin and years ago, she’d attempted to pickpocket Colin, who caught her due to his skills gained as a spy for England. In the years since, Colin searched the uglier parts of London for the young woman he couldn’t forget. Alexandra, on the other hand, was constantly reminded of Colin in her tarot cards (which is a not something she’s faking for the ton’s amusement).

This was one of those Serendipity situations, where two people meet and separate without any knowledge of each other, longing to see the other again, despite the odds. So when Alexandra and Colin meet again, they both realize they’ve finally found what they’re looking for, but Alexandra thinks she’s not good enough for him, and Colin doesn’t admit that he knows about her past. I was getting a little annoyed waiting for the truth to come out.

I thought this book was fun, but not as good as some of D’Alessandro’s other work. A bunch of little things annoyed me enough, but I’m eager to read Not Quite a Gentleman, the book before Never a Lady, which tells Colin’s brother’s story. Dr. Nathan Oliver, a side character in this novel, is a gentleman doctor who loves animals and isn’t shy about sharing them with his older brother.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Edge of the Moon

Author: Rebecca York
Published: August 5, 2003 (Berkley)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Moon Series #2
Rating: 6/10

I was excited to read Edge of the Moon because Killing Moon was a surprisingly good read for a random book that I picked up. Instead of being a werewolf story like the title leads you to believe, it's about Jack Thornton, the cop Ross Marshall worked with in the first book. Neither Jack nor the heroine, Kathryn, have any paranormal abilities or knowledge, and that really hurts the story.

Most of the book was taken up with Jack and Kathryn being confused about what's happening to them. The problem with a world where the paranormal isn't widely accepted is dealing with the characters' blundering about; there isn't even a wise figure who can educate them about this new aspect to the world. Jack and Kathryn dealt with some unknown force from a parallel universe manipulating events for its benefit. They have to be the pawns, or else it will obliterate a good chunk of Earth to escape the clutches of a magician looking to enslave it.

There was a bit of Ross and Megan from Killing Moon, which was nice, but the book fell flat for me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Whirlwind Affair

Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Published: October 2002 (Bantam)
Category: Regency Romance
Rating: 8/10

Ack, I'm about eight books behind in my reviews! I picked this one up because Whirlwind Wedding was a fun book, and I'm slowly gathering the rest of D'Alessandro's backlist for my ginormous TBR. Alberta, the heroine, was mentioned in WW, as the friend that drove Elizabeth to leave her home in America. Elizabeth, now the Duchess of Bradford, had a vision about Alberta's no-good husband-to-be, and Alberta thought her friend was just jealous and trying to ruin her happiness. It turns out Elizabeth's vision was very correct, since Mr. Brown was a womanizer, thief, and blackmailer to boot. As this is one of those books I read a while ago, I'll quote the blurb for summarizing purposes.

After the scandalous duel that made her a widow, Alberta Brown was left destitute--and in possession of a cache of ill-gotten goods. Determined to right the wrongs of her thieving husband, she sailed to England to locate the owner of a gentleman's ring bearing an intriguing coat of arms. But a series of mishaps on-board soon convinced Allie that she was enmeshed in a perilous game. Yet none was more dangerous--or irresistibly tempting--than the dashing stranger waiting on the dock.

The marriage-minded Lord Robert Jamison was searching for a women who aroused that certain something. He never expected to find her in this uncommonly pretty, fiercely independent American he'd been asked to escort back to a splendid country estate. Allie was in grave danger--worse, she vowed never to marry again. Yet Lord Robert's will was just as strong--and he planned to make this maddening creature his wife, even as passion drove them into each other's arms...and a reckless liaison flamed into the season's most indiscreet and irresistible affair of the heart...

It's always refreshing to see a hero who's looking for a love match. Usually it's the fresh-faced virgin who dreams of a handsome, titled, wealthy man to love her, but Allie and Robert are different. She vows never to make herself vulnerable to a man who might hurt her, and Robert knows this is the woman he's been waiting for. While Allie doesn't want to marry again, she knows that she's attracted to Robert and agrees to an affair.

The background plot involving the return of the coat of arms ring is interesting, if not a bit predictable. The ring brings danger for Allie and Robert, as they are kidnapped, and Allie's room in London is burgled twice. However, this danger causes Robert to become protective of her, but not in an overbearing way. It's sweet and makes you want Robert for yourself, and perhaps want to shake Allie a little.

We also get to see Elizabeth and Austin from Whirlwind Wedding, as Robert and Allie arrive at Bradford Hall just in time for the birth of their child. Of course there's some good-natured joking over Austin's worries regarding the length of childbirth and ruining Elizabeth's favorite rug with his intense pacing.

This was a fun read, and I have picked up a bunch of other D'Alessandro titles from the library. Yay for backlists!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Mad, Bad Duke

Author: Jennifer Ashley
Published: November 2006 (Leisure Books)
Category: Regency Romance/Fantasy
Series: Nvengaria #2
Rating: 8/10

I enjoyed Jennifer Ashley's Immortals series, so I figured I'd give her regency romances a try, as they have a fantasy twist. The Mad, Bad Duke has hints of Beauty and the Beast. The Nvengaria series features people from the tiny country of Nvengaria (somewhere in the Balkans) as they wade through British diplomacy and social customs. Nvengarians are a magical and passionate people, very at odds with the stuffy Brits.

Meagan Tavistock, daughter of a not-too-well-off untitled gentleman, was dragged along with her friend, Mrs. Deirdre Braithwaite to a witch's house for the purpose of obtaining a love spell. Deirdre is that sort of friend you wish you didn't have, as she's bossy and threatens Meagan in order to make her fall in to her plan to cuckold her husband by seducing Grand Duke Alexander of Nvengaria, right hand man to Prince Damien (from the first book, Penelope and Prince Charming). He's extremely powerful in that "danger beneath the smooth, civilized exterior" kind of way. Instead of making a love spell for Deirdre, the witch makes the spell for Meagan instead.

The spell treats both Meagan and Alexander to shared erotic visions, and when they meet at a ball, they make love, and get away undiscovered. Alexander, being a man of honor, and one unable to stop thinking about this lovely young woman, proposes marriage... via a letter to Meagan's father the next morning. They do get married, and boink like crazy afterward, but the possibility that they might not be happy with the marriage after the love spell fades looms in the near future.

Clearly, Alexander's obstacle as a hero is his refusal to let go of his cool and super serious attitude. The love spell makes it extremely difficult to stay that way, as every time he and Meagan are in the same general area, the spell drags them into the visions. Well, actually, his other obstacle is dealing with his mother's legacy. She was a logosh, a sort of Nvengarian shape-shifting demon, and Alexander's tight control over his emotions has repressed this side of his nature all his life. The love spell opened the way for his other side to emerge and he's trying to control it without hurting Meagan or his young son from his first marriage. He does that annoying romantic hero thing where he pushes his new wife away without giving an explanation, when a bit of communication would've made things a lot easier.

They do get married, and their relationship is so funny in that bickering kind of way. One particular giggle-inducing moment has Meagan mispronouncing the Nvengarian word for salt so she asks for some penis at the dinner table by accident. Clearly, I have the maturity of a ten-year old. Meagan is unprepared for the role of Grand Duchess and is new to the political intrigues that can occur during a ball. I found myself rooting for Meagan as she rose above the bitchy Deirdre and the society women who thought she wasn't good enough for Alexander.

I really enjoyed reading this book and have placed Penelope and Prince Charming on my "To Buy" list. The third Nvengaria book is Highlander Ever After, is scheduled for April 2008 release. Jennifer Ashley actually stopped by my little blog the other day and left a comment my review on The Gathering! I was so honored and sheepish over the fact that she responded to a comment I made about the name for a certain lion...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Hunger Like No Other

Author: Kresley Cole
Published: March 2006 (Pocket Books)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Immortals After Dark #1
Rating: 5/10

I bought this book because I was trying to get my shopping cart to $25 so I could get free shipping. It's well rated, and a series, so I figured it'd probably be worth it. Sadly, it wasn't very entertaining.

The hero, Lachlain MacRieve, is the king of the Lykae, and was imprisoned by the vampire Horde for 150 years, tortured in mythical Greek style. He was constantly burned to a crisp by these huge fires, but his immortality kept reviving him. He escapes when he catches the scent of his destined mate above his head, walking on the streets of Paris. However, she's not at all what he expected.

Emmaline Troy, the mate in question, is half Valkyrie and half vampire, quite a problem for furthering a healthy relationship with a man who hates what she is (Lykae don't like vampire and Valkyrie). She's rather fragile, and has strict rules about drinking blood. She won't take blood from a living source, getting her nourishment from blood banks, but she's going hungry in Paris while trying to learn more about her vampire father. To make a bad day worse, a big angry Lykae pounces on her and rips her shirt off in the rain to rub his chest against hers, and then kidnaps her, forcing her to stay with him until the next full moon. She doesn't know that she's his mate, as the feeling is pretty one sided, and she's therefore unaware that at the full moon, Lachlain will give in to his instinct and mate with her rather violently.

I was bored for most of the book, as Lachlain keeps Emma prisoner, despite her wishes to go back home, and he forces himself on her (i.e. fondling her in the shower, taking liberties while she's sleeping, etc) while showing his disgust for her vampire heritage. He says that his instinct drives him to protect his mate, but he does a piss-poor job of it the first night, as he forgets that she can't be exposed to the sun. It's not like he didn't know she was a vampire, so maybe he subconsciously wanted to hurt her? Even though he keeps promising that he could never harm her? He keeps hurting her through the whole book, emotionally and physically!

So I spent two-thirds of the book reading of their constant sniping at each other (not even the entertaining kind of sniping), her "woe is me, I can't help myself" attitude while waiting for the inevitable soul-changing bonding ritual, and his "I can' hurt her and have to relieve my pressure in the shower because I want my mate so bad even though I hate what she is" thought cycle. I was also annoyed by Lachlain's accent, as rather than just describing that he has a Scottish accent, Cole wrote his accent into the dialogue, with "ken," "can'," and "doona" sprinkled all over the book.

There's also a ridiculous lack of communication. He lies about her being his mate, later claiming that it was for her protection as he was afraid she'd freak out when she found out. Surprise surprise, she freaks out about him lying after the truth comes out. She doesn't tell him about how she's not full vampire, and starves for four days when she's supposed to feed every day.

And after all of the "I don't want you, let me go home" stuff, the full moon comes and he takes her violently when he was trying to avoid it the whole time, as she's a seventy year-old virgin (take that Steve Carell!). Then she changes her attitude completely and is content to be with Lachlain. I found it too fast after all the animosity and didn't really feel any love from Emma. Lachlain's love was one of lust and desperation and the fact that he finally admired her for her intelligence, wit, and beauty seemed more of an afterthought.

This is not a sweet and entertaining paranormal romance, so avoid this book if that's what you're really looking for.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Perils of Pursuing a Prince

Author: Julia London
Published: May 2007 (Pocket Books)
Category: Regency Romance
Series: Desperate Debutantes #2
Rating: 8/10

This entry into the Desperate Debutantes Trilogy was such candy. It almost went to "so bad it's good" level, with its angsty drama, brooding hero, and surprisingly clueless, yet wanton heroine. I couldn't put it down though, due to some strange drug that must be printed into the pages.

I thought Greer was supposed to be the smart one amongst the three sisters, but she was annoyingly gullible to Mr. Percy's banbury tale and behaved rather shamelessly, kissing both men (not at the same time!). Rhodrick and the setting sort of reminded me of Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre. He's a dark man, not particularly handsome, and has a secret from his past. Fear not, it's not an insane wife stashed in the attic!

Lady Greer Fairchild’s only hope of avoiding marriage to the first bidder is journeying into the untamed Welsh countryside in search of an inheritance she’s not sure even exists—one reportedly controlled by Rhodrick Glendower, Earl of Radnor, also known as the Prince of Powys. Rumor has it that the prince is rough, ruthless—even a murderer. But Greer never imagined that the brute would refuse to let her leave his remote castle until she has proven her identity. Or that she would find herself powerfully attracted to this passionately virile man whose gruff demeanor belies a proud and sensual nature. The further Greer falls under his spell, the more determined she becomes to unravel the secrets of her Welsh heritage and the mystery surrounding the dark prince who dares her to become his wife and princess.

There's something that hints of Phantom of the Opera in Rhodrick's desire for Greer. The first time he speaks to Greer, she drops her handkerchief, he finds it after she leaves, and carries it with him after that. Call it sweet or stalker-ish, but I thought it was so romantic. He finds her beautiful, but there's that whole "I'm a hulking ugly man" thing at the same time. He also has this belief that he can't be happy with another woman after the death of his wife. In a rare occurrence in historical romances, the hero was in love with his first wife.

I love the endings of these Desperate Debutante books, despite the horrible name for the trilogy. They're so dramatically romantic in a magical movie moment kind of way, and I kept wishing that the HEA part (after the couple has acknowledged the fact that they're meant to be together) would keep going. We do get to see the lovely reunion of the three sisters and the humorous introduction of Rhodrick to his new family though.

I can't wait to get my copy of Dangers of Deceiving a Viscount, the final book in the trilogy!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Don't Talk Back to Your Vampire

Author: Michele Bardsley
Published: July 3, 2007 (Signet)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Broken Heart #2
Rating: 7/10

Sorry, this'll be short as I read this a few weeks ago and I'm trying to catch up.

As seen in I'm the Vampire, That's Why, Bardsley really doesn't waste any text in getting into the story. In this second book in the Broken Heart vampire series, Eva, the town librarian, and Lorcan, ancient vampire scholar, become mates. There are some hiccups to their becoming a couple, as Lorcan was the one who "killed" Eva in the first place, when he attacked eleven humans in the first book, forcing the Consortium to Turn the victims.

I was a little disappointed that Bardsley chose to make the next book about a new couple, rather than making the series about Patrick and Jessica, but at least they did appear in a good part of this one. I'm so glad Lorcan found happiness, as he was guilty over what he'd done while undergoing the cure to the Taint. However, I didn't think the storyline was as tight as the first book in the series. There's a mysterious influx of unfriendly vampire-lycan half-breeds. As part of Eva's new vampire powers, she can "talk" to animals, and they follow her around. This talent also affects those vampires who have been trying to cure themselves of the Taint with lycan blood and turned into crazy half-lycans.

I was a little surprised at the true identity of the bad guy in this one, as there was a severe possible consequence to be had upon killing him. I don't think a whole family of vampires died when this ancient one was done in, but maybe they didn't get to figuring that out by the end of the book.

Eh, this one just wasn't as memorable as I'm the Vampire, That's Why, but entertaining still.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Art of Temptation

Author: Lauren Royal
Published: October 2, 2007 (Signet)
Category: Regency Romance
Series: Sweet Temptations Trilogy #3
Rating: 9/10

It appears I was right about there being a dud in every trilogy, as The Art of Temptation was tons better than Tempting Juliana, and I think I might even like this final book better than the first in the trilogy, Lost in Temptation, which turned me on to Royal in the first place. And we finally see the end of Griffin and Rachael's drawn-out side story. I felt like they could've gotten hitched in the second novel, which may have improved it.
Although he had a bevy of beautiful admirers, all Sean Delaney cared about was securing a divorce-for his sister, that is. That's why he was impersonating John Hamilton, her famous painter husband. It was the only way the rotter would agree to a divorce. Little did Sean realize that duping Hamilton's dying uncle would require the help of the very woman who could inspire him to get down on one knee...

Budding artist Lady Corinna Chase never had an interest in getting married. But as the only person privy to Sean's secret, she's more than happy to help him pull off his hoax. Until, that is, she realizes she's met a man who might actually tempt her into tying the knot…

I'm wary of romances where the hero or heroine assumes another identity and we inevitably deal with the trust issue. I was already imagining the "How could you??!!" and "Don't you trust me enough to tell me the truth??" and "You're not who I thought you were!" At first, it seemed like it was going the bad way when Corinna refused to believe Sean when he denied being his brother-in-law. Thankfully, she's rather smart and realizes there's no way a colorblind man can be a famous landscape artist, and helps him in his role as John Hamilton. He's supposed to keep Hamilton's uncle company until he succumbs to his illness, but it doesn't make the task easier when it turns out the supposed jerk of an uncle is a wonderful and generous member of the peerage.

This was a really sweet romance (although naked posing didn't play as large a role as I expected), and Royal's usual obstacle-to-HEA came up near the end of the book. Sean realizes that once the ton realizes that he's been duping a much-loved sick man all along, he and anyone associated with him will be persona non grata. For once, the twist makes for good reading, and I'm glad to say that Hamilton gets his comeuppance.

The Art of Temptation was a good end to the trilogy, and I'm interested in what Royal will do for her next trilogy.


Author: Jayne Castle
Published: May 1998 (Pocket Books)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: St. Helens #3
Rating: 9/10

I really think that no one writes the predatory male better than Jayne Ann Krentz. Rafe Stonebreaker, friend of Nick Chastain and Lucas Trent of the first two books in the St. Helens series, has off-the-charts strat talent, meaning that he's very good with strategy. This talent is considered a throwback to more primitive times, as it's sort of a hunter/predator thing. Sure, Rafe can use his strat talent to make tons of money in the stock market, but he can also use it to take out two skilled attackers in thick fog.

Rafe, in a business ploy to assume control of his family's failing company, has to become respectable in order to garner the board's approval as the next CEO. To compete with his smarmy cousin, who has a wife and children, Rafe has to find a wife... fast. So he turns to the St. Helens institution of marriage consulting agencies. Unfortunately, his counselor can't find a woman willing to marry a strat talent, or one who meets Rafe's stringent requirements (i.e. liking an unpopular style of architecture, liking a certain type of crappy poetry, and must be a full spectrum prism). Since the agency can't find him a bride, his strat talent tells him to find one himself by hiring full spectrum prisms and figuring out which one would suit him as a bride.

He finds his candidate in Orchid Jones, psychic vampire novelist by day, and part-time full spectrum prism by night. They are drawn together for a case involving a missing alien artifact (Krentz/Castle reuses this plot in her Harmony series novel, Silver Master) that has potential to do great harm. And as seen in the previous St. Helens novels, Orchid's talent is very rare and special. She's an ice prism, able to manipulate the shape of her prism to best suit the waves pouring into it, becoming the perfect prism for any talent.

When Rafe and Orchid connect on the psychic plane, the link is extremely sensual, which isn't supposed to happen during a talent-prism connection. Rafe knows that Orchid is the one for him, even though she hates meta-zen-synth poetry. They come to an agreement, where they will be each other's dates at various family functions and solve the mystery together. Of course, the mystery turns out to be more dangerous than they thought, and Rafe has to protect Orchid as well. Aside from protecting her, Rafe also does those fantasy boyfriend things, such as tossing your jerky ex into a lake during your cousin's wedding. As Orchid won't marry without an agency's stamp of approval, and she knows that Rafe is looking for a specific kind of wife, she doesn't want to engage in anything permanent with him, and so they begin a steamy, yet bittersweet affair.

The mystery is well done and the ending is so sweet. The Chastains and Trents make an appearance at Rafe and Orchid's wedding, proving yet marriage agencies wrong once again. A powerful talent can marry a full spectrum prism, despite the belief that such a match is impossible. This was definitely my favorite of the St. Helens books, and I can see how they gave a foundation for Krentz to start her Ghost Hunters series on the planet of Harmony. Really, if there were dust bunnies in the St. Helens series, I'd say I can't pick one over the other!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lover Unbound

Author: J.R. Ward
Published: September 25, 2007 (Signet)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #5
Rating: 7/10

This is a big book in comparison to the first four novels in the series. I'm not entirely sure why I keep reading these Black Dagger Brotherhood books, as I scoff at the ridiculous word spellings (pretty much sprinkling random h's to create another language) and the way the warriors dress (leather pants are a must). At this point, I just want to find out what happens.

Lover Unbound tells the story of Vishous, the guy with the glowing hand that can kill anything it touches, unless it's Butch (or was his vamp name Dhestroyer?). In that case, they have some sort of symbiotic relationship going with their respective weird powers, and Vishous is struggling with his crush on Butch. But then he gets some unwelcome news: his mom's actually the Scribe Virgin (vampire version of God) and his destiny is to become Primale to the Chosen. That means he's got to sire children on forty wives, but the problem is... he might not be attracted to them because he's very much into dom-sub sex play. Who said this wasn't complicated?

He winds up in the hospital, treated by Dr. Jane Whitcomb, brilliant surgeon with a crappy childhood despite rich parents. Apparently, it's not easy being rich. Vishous is immediately attracted to her and kidnaps her. She proves a very unwilling captive, but the discovery of these new race fascinates her and keeps her occupied. As she spends more time with Vishous, she doesn't want to go back to her old life (she knew V would wipe her memory) and lose him. She knows she can't be with him because he's supposed to take on forty wives to further the vampire race.

The annoying factors that were present in the previous books were toned down. I especially appreciated the lack of chapters told from the viewpoint of the lessers (immortal bad guys who smell like baby powder and hunt vampires). In the previous books, I'd skim through those chapters so I could get back to the couple of the moment. There's also less (although not completely eliminated) brand name and hiphop song mentioning. Usually in series, you see previous couples in cameos in later books, but that doesn't really happen in Ward's books. Maybe you'll see Wrath in the course of Brotherhood business, but Beth and the other previous heroines see very little screentime if they're mentioned at all. I'm not even sure if Mary made an appearance, besides a mention of her charity work in passing.

I was left with a big "huh??" at the end of the book. I think the other books have a twist at the end where the hero is about to lose his lady love, only to make some big life change in order to get their woman back. This one was the weirdest one yet. The book is also bulked up by the addition of John's side story, where he finally undergoes his transition, but has a host of problems that come along with it, mainly dealing with his sexual needs when he was abused before being adopted by the Brotherhood. I am very excited about Phury's story, which comes next in the summer of 2008; I guess I find the twins the most interesting characters of the bunch.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Shadow Game

Author: Christine Feehan
Published: August 26, 2003 (Jove)
Category: Paranormal Romance/Suspense
Series: Ghost Walkers #1
Rating: 8/10

Crap. I'm about eight reviews behind in my reading, so this will be short. I picked this one up because I read Night Game a while ago and the premise for the series was pretty interesting.
The classified experiment is the brainchild of renowned scientist Peter Whitney and his brilliant daughter, Lily. Created to enhance the psychic abilities of an elite squadron, it can transform their natural mental powers into a unique military weapon. But something goes wrong. In the isolated underground labs, the men have been dying- victims of bizarre accidents. Captain Ryland Miller knows he is next. When Dr. Whitney himself is murdered, Ryland has only one person left to trust: the beautiful Lily. Possessed of an uncanny sixth sense herself, Lily shares Ryland's every new fear, every betrayal, every growing suspicion, and every passionate beat of the heart. Together, they will be drawn deeper into the labyrinth of her father's past…and closer to a secret that someone would kill to keep hidden.
It's very steamy for the romantic parts. There's no skirting the issue of the relationship for Lily and Ryland. It's instant attraction intensified by their psychic talents as amplifiers. Yes, Ryland wants to protect her, but Lily is so strong behind the soft and pretty exterior. She helps the Ghostwalkers escape and has to teach them how to shield their minds from the bombardment of outside factors, all while unraveling the conspiracy of the psychic project gone bad.

I really enjoyed the action scenes, where the Ghostwalkers carried out their plans and worked together like a perfect machine. There was something thrilling about how committed they were to the team and being honorable, while having the potential to do very hurtful things to their enemies. And it doesn't hurt that they're all really handsome good ol' American boys while we're at it!

The explanation of the psychic abilities was a little fuzzy. Some people are anchors, which means that other people could use their abilities without pain, and further details of the team's skills were ambiguous. I found the descriptions in Night Game less confusing, so I'm guessing Feehan got better with them as she wrote more books for the Ghostwalkers series.

I will make sure to read the rest of the Ghostwalkers series now that two books have been entertaining. Feehan really knows how to write action into her novels!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I'm the Vampire, That's Why

Author: Michelle Bardsley
Published: September 5, 2006 (Signet)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Broken Heart #1
Rating: 9/10

I found this book one day and skimmed the first chapter, thinking "This is pretty good; I'll put it in the TBR." I finished the book I was reading at the time, and was about to start another one, but I couldn't stop thinking about "What happened to Jessica Matthews after she woke up as a vampire, sucking a Pierce Brosnan-lookalike vampire's thigh?"

I'm the Vampire, That's Why doesn't waste any time meandering into the meat of the story. Nope, it sinks its fangs right in. Jessica, single mother with two kids, was taking out the trash (because her teenage son wouldn't do his chores) one night when she was attacked by a hairy monster, and awoke sucking the thigh of a very hot, and very naked man. It turns out that she is Patrick O'Halloran's (hot naked guy) destined true love, and if she does the deed with him, they will form that vampire mating bond where they are "married" for a hundred years.

However, Jessica doesn't want to give in to the hot and romantic vampire she's falling in love with because she has two kids. Patrick is an ancient vampire, the actual son of the father of the vampire race, which makes him powerful in rank and vampire powers. He also had a wife and children who were murdered by ignorant people who were afraid of his father. During that time, he was turned by his father to save his life, and Patrick accidentally attacked his brother Lorcan right after that, and turned Lorcan as well in order to save him.

The brothers later form the Consortium, an organization dedicated to helping paranormals, establishing the first all-paranormal community, and finding the cure to the Taint, a vampire disease that eventually causes madness. Lorcan had the Taint and he underwent an experimental cure which involved giving him Lycan blood, and he went a little werewolf and hungry in Broken Heart, the town that the Consortium was planning to settle in, and nearly killed eleven citizens. In order to save them, the Consortium turned them into vampires, and that's how Jessica wound up sucking Patrick's thigh.

The myth Bardsley constructed for her Broken Heart vampire series is so well done! She combines Celtic myth with vampire myth seamlessly, and I appreciate her treatment of lycanthropes as a species, rather than procreating through a single bite, which makes it seem so easy to turn a human. I rather thought that a book would be swamped in werewolves in that case.

Jessica and Patrick are so close to bonding, but she doesn't want to give in to it so fast because she has two children from her marriage, which ended disastrously. It also resulted in a nemesis in the form of a big-boobed younger woman, who just happened to be turned by Patrick as well, meaning he has to guide her through the transition, and Jessica has to worry about history repeating itself when the upstart goes after him.

This was the best vampire chick lit/paranomal romance I've read, maybe ever. I tried reading the first three MaryJanice Davidson "Betsy, vampire queen" books, but I really didn't like them because the main character was so ditzy and shallow. Don't be fooled by the cartoonish cover; it's not a shallow book. Bardsley packed a lot into this book, taking care of Jessica and Patrick's happy ending while setting up a nice foundation for the rest of the series.

I've already got the next book in the series, Don't Talk Back to Your Vampire, in my TBR and can't wait to read it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake

Author: Laurie Brown
Published: September 2007 (Sourcebooks)
Category:Paranormal/Historical Romance
Rating: 9/10

Oftentimes, heroines in historical romances are actually historical women acting like modern women. In Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake, I finally got to see what it would be like to see a real modern woman stuck in the Regency period. I was a bit wary at first, as I used to think time travel in romances was a horribly cheesy gimmick, due to an unfortunate read of a 90s Timeswept romance.

Josie Drummond, a paranormal investigator, has been working at Waite Castle at the owner's request, trying to certify the existence of the ghost of Lord Deverell Thornton, previously of the Regency period, and noted rake. Amelia Thornton, the last of her line, doesn't have the funds to maintain the castle, and hopes to open the castle to the public, but needs an official ghost certification to draw them in, even though she knows that there really is a ghost. In fact, she takes tea with him every day. As Josie prepares to tell Amelia that there is no evidence of a castle ghost, Deverell appears. He offers her a deal: Go back in time to the Regency period to defraud a charlatan of a medium and he'll answer all her questions about being a ghost.

It is hugely amusing to see Josie go through a crash course in Regency etiquette, dancing, and customs. Amelia, as a former history professor specializing in the period, reveals fascinating details about the period, including the intricacies of dining. Did you know they kept a chamber pot in the corner of the dining room for guests to use? Or that female guests followed their hostess's lead for turning to speak to their left or right neighbor? There was so much to the logistics of the dinner table that I was totally sucked in and it made me rethink previous Regency romances I've read. And I learned more about dancing, and how one dance can last an hour if it has many couples in the line.

Deverell transports Josie back in time, just before his untimely death by duel, so a love triangle begins between Deverell the ghost, Josie, and Dev before death. Of course, Dev doesn't know he's in a triangle. He's just attracted to this American woman who is so unlike any woman he's ever known. However, he's a notorious rake, so he figures the only way to handle this strange new feeling he's experiencing, is to get rid of it by ravishing Josie. Surely after satisfying his desire, the feeling will disappear, as that bizarre male logic dictates. But he keeps imagining a future with Josie, something he's never done before with any other woman. Deverell the ghost finds himself jealous of his former self, and protective of Josie, yet frustrated because he can't do much to help her. And Josie finds herself wanting to be with Dev and missing Deverell when he isn't around. Is she falling in love with the ghost or the man or both?

The mystery of the medium was well developed and the combination of the romance and mystery was balanced perfectly. Too often, the mystery/obstacle portion of a romance novel can be awfully flimsy to the point where you wonder why the author even bothered, but I found myself sucked into reading about the scheme Josie exposed. Supporting characters and minor villains were vivid without hogging the spotlight, and some were pretty funny too.

The ending was surprising, one of those last chapters where you're not quite sure what happened at first and then it clicks after you've read a page. Is Deverell still a ghost? Is it Dev or Deverell? But it was a lovely ending and rather fitting for the book.

I couldn't put it down; this was a great read from start to finish and was extremely well written for a first novel. I have never read a romance like this and I hope to read more by Laurie Brown in the future.