Thursday, February 28, 2008

Face the Fire

Author: Nora Roberts
Published: May 28, 2002 (Jove)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Three Sisters Island Trilogy #3
Rating: 7/10

In Face the Fire, the confident and sexy Mia Devlin, dumped by her lover a dozen years before, has to deal with him returning to love her forever. But after so many years blocking out the heartache, Mia's not so willing to accept him again.

This was my least favorite of the trilogy, with Mia annoying me even more than Riley. For some strange reason, I find Riley's behavior and fear of her power more than Mia's behavior. Mia is the wisest one of the three, and she had no problem nudging Nell and Riley in their matches. And when her destined mate comes along, she hems and haws about it for most of the book. Yes, she was hurt by Sam, but is she really going to do with her ancestor did and toss herself over a cliff instead of grasping the new chance for love?

It surprised me quite a bit to find that Sam is also a witch, representing the fourth element of water. He's very skilled, and it's really interesting to see the three come together with their menfolk participating as well.

The ending was a bit anticlimactic, but it was a nice closing to the trilogy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Survivor in Death

Author: J.D. Robb
Published: August 30, 2005 (Berkley)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Series: In Death #20
Rating: 9/10

The title of this In Death book is especially fitting. A well-to-do family is slaughtered by military-style hitmen, but Lexie, a little girl escapes because she got up during the night to sneak a soda. Her best friend, sleeping over, took the hit intended for Lexie.

Lexie, the survivor of her family's cold deaths, made the story so compelling. This little girl who did everything right when professional killers is alone in the world, and looking at Eve with big eyes for justice. And we know that Eve doesn't do well with kids... She found the child, hiding in a bathroom, and seeing the little girl smeared with blood brought Eve's childhood nightmare rushing back to her on the job.

Eve and Roarke deal with a bunch of things that make them uncomfortable. Mavis is around, helping with Lexie, and at first opportunity grabs Eve's hand to touch the growing bump of her pregnancy. Most of us find experiencing that heartwarming, but Eve regards pregnancy as a time when an alien being is growing inside your belly. They have to care for Lexie as she has nightmares and asks awkward questions about death, and it gives the reader a peek into the future, when she and Roarke have kids, if that ever happens in the series.

Really good read for characters, but mystery was eh for me. There have been better.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Heaven and Earth

Author: Nora Roberts
Published: December 1, 2001 (Jove)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Three Sisters Island Trilogy #2
Rating: 8/10

I loved Dance Upon the Air so much that I was upset when I didn't have Heaven and Earth in my TBR, just Face the Fire, which is the last book in the trilogy. I know, there are worse things in life than having to wait a few days for a book to arrive.
But before Ripley and Mac can dream of what lies in the future, they must confront the pain of the past. For Three Sisters shelters centuries of secrets—and a legacy of danger that plagues them still…

Ripley Todd just wants to live a quiet, peaceful kind of life. Her job as a sheriff’s deputy keeps her busy and happy, and she has no trouble finding men when she wants them—which, lately, isn’t all that often. She’s perfectly content, except for one thing: she has special powers that both frighten and confuse her—and though she tries hard to hide them, she can’t get them under control…

Distraction soon arrives in the handsome form of MacAllister Booke—a researcher who’s come to investigate the rumors of witchcraft that haunt Three Sisters Island. Right from the start, he knows there’s something extraordinary about Ripley Todd. It’s not just her blazing green eyes and her sultry smile. There’s something else. Something he can detect, but she’ll never admit. Fascinated by her struggle with her amazing abilities, he becomes determined to help her accept who she is—and find the courage to open her heart.

Riley grated on me a little in Dance Upon the Air, so I was wary of her book. I was amused that Riley's love interest would turn out to be a scientist who couldn't get enough of magic, studying it in the most respectful of ways, unlike the villain. This time it's a reporter looking to get rich exposing Nell's story and the truth of the events on Three Sisters Island. Some evil spirit had been using Nell's ex-husband as a tool to repeat the tragic events that killed the original Three.

Now it's Ripley's turn to face this new incarnation of evil, but she has to get over her fear of repeating Earth's mistakes, giving in to the temptation of using dark magic. Because she's afraid of abusing her power she tried shutting away all magic, but once Nell came to the island and set events in motion, Ripley's power couldn't be held back any longer, or she'd feel awful pain.

Heaven and Earth was good, but I loved Dance Upon the Air a lot more, probably because Nell's story seemed more interesting to me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to Marry a Marquis

Author: Julia Quinn
Published: April 1999 (Avon)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 7/10
Quote of Choice: He is a man, after all, and therefore stupidly proud.

How to Marry a Marquis follows To Catch an Heiress in this duology, telling the story of James, best friend to Blake Ravenscroft. If you haven't read TCAH, James comes along to reveal that Caroline isn't the spy Blake thought her, and pushes the reluctant Blake along in the courtship, offering the ultimatum that if Blake will not have Caroline, then he will make her his marchioness instead. I love supporting characters like that in romances, so when the prospect of reading James' story came, I was quite excited.
When Elizabeth Hotchkiss stumbles upon a copy of How to Marry a Marquis in her employer's library, she's convinced someone is playing a cruel joke. With three younger siblings to support, she knows she has to marry for morney, but who might have guessed how desperate she's become? A guidebook to seduction might be just the thing she needs - and what harm could there be in taking a little peek?

James Sidwell, the Marquis of Riverdale, has been summoned to rescue his aunt from a blackmailer, a task that requires him to pose as the new estate manager and his primary suspect is his aunt's companion, Elizabeth. Intrigued by the alluring young woman with the curious little rulebook, he gallantly offers to help her find a husband... by practicing her wiles on him. But when practice becomes all too perfect, James decides that there is only one rule worth following - that Elizabeth marry her marquis.
One of my pet peeves in historical romances is mistaken identities. It's one thing where the ruse is kept up for a very short time, like in The Spymaster's Lady, but when it's for a good chunk of the book, and hurts someone's feelings, I get annoyed. James, using his position as the humble estate manager, gets closer to Elizabeth first for the purposes of the investigation, and then to romance her. Then he has to deal with the fallout of her discovering the truth when Caroline and Blake make their entrance and expose him.

Of course, my being annoyed at this one aspect doesn't mean that this was a bad book! Lady Danbury, a very amusing supporting character in the Bridgerton books plays a large role, as Elizabeth's boss and James' aunt. Lady D being Lady D, she's actually concocted this whole blackmailing scheme to play matchmaker for these two young people she loves and knows will be right for each other. There's also Malcolm the cat, who saves the day, despite Elizabeth's claims that he is a "stupid cat."

Definitely read this if you're a Quinn fan. Maybe you won't be like me, waiting for most of the book for the shoe to drop, knowing that Elizabeth will be angry and hurt by James' deception.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Visions in Death

Author: J.D. Robb
Published: January 25, 2005 (Berkley)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Series: In Death #19
Rating: 8/10

Now this is an improvement on villains, with a murderer shaped by childhood abuse from his mother. It seems a lot of fictional murderers' problems are blamed on the mother, sometimes well deserved. In Eve and Roarke's case, they haven't let their horrible childhoods make them into evil adults.

On one of the city's hottest nights, New York Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas is sent to Central Park-and into a hellish new investigation. The victim is found on the rocks, just above the still, dark water of the lake. Around her neck is a single red ribbon. Her hands are posed, as if in prayer. But it is the eyes-removed with such precision, as if done with the careful hands of a surgeon-that have Dallas most alarmed.

As more bodies turn up, each with the same defining scars, Eve is frantic for answers. Against her instincts, she accepts help from a psychic who offers one vision after another-each with shockingly accurate details of the murders. And when partner and friend Peabody is badly injured after escaping an attack, the stakes are raised. Are the eyes a symbol? A twisted religious ritual? A souvenir? With help from her husband, Roarke, Dallas must uncover the killer's motivation before another vision becomes another nightmare...

The psychic assisting on the case really annoyed me, because while in Eve's time, there are reputable "sensitives," I was still skeptical about her. Her visions weren't really helpful, and she was so whiny in a "I didn't ask for this to happen to me, why me, why me" way.

The twist at the end was pretty good, but wholly unnecessary if you were to get rid of the psychic all together. The book would've been fine without her side plot.

Friday, February 15, 2008

To Sir Phillip, with Love

Author: Julia Quinn
Published: July 2003 (Avon)
Catgory: Historical Romance
Series: Bridgerton Family #5
Rating: 8/10
Quote of choice: Her brothers should never have been talking about such things in front of her, but even more, the last thing she wanted to know was whether Sir Phillip had tupped a tavern wench with bosoms the size of soup tureens.

I suddenly realize that I never posted a review for Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, which told Colin Bridgerton's story. The events in that book spurred Eloise's actions in To Sir Phillip, With Love. Since the death of Marina, Phillip's wife, and Eloise's distant cousin, Phillip and Eloise corresponded frequently. It started with Eloise's condolence note to Phillip, and they became penpals over about 18 months.

Phillip, widowed and with young, mischievous twins, needs a mother to run his house an care for his children so he can pursue his botanical studies. He figures Eloise is a good choice because they know each other through their letters, and she's a spinster. Surely his offer of marriage would be most welcome. He suggests a visit to see if they will suit, and Eloise was hesitant, until Penelope gets married, and she runs off to Gloucestershire.

Their courtship lasts about two days, where Eloise is subjected to pranks from Phillip's children, and Phillip realizes he's not very good at romance. Eloise's brothers show up to break Phillip's legs, and Anthony tells Eloise she must marry Phillip or else her reputation will be in shreds.

Quinn really knows how to tug on the heartstrings. After they're married, Eloise tries to get Phillip more involved in his children, and wants them to have a good marriage based on more than lots of time in bed. Phillip, dealing with an abusive childhood at the hands of his father, figures he married Eloise so he wouldn't have to worry about his kids, so he pushes her away, only to soon find out that the children's nurse is beating them. The scene made me all teary-eyed.

Next one up: When He Was Wicked.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Divided in Death

Author: J.D. Robb
Published: August 31, 2004 (Berkley)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Series: In Death #18
Rating: 7/10

I think this one may be my least favorite of the series.

Roarke's head of security, Reva, who happens to be daughter to his personal admin, Caro, is found at the scene of her husband and his mistress's murder. Rather than calling in the crime, Reva calls her mother, who gets Roarke involved. Eve takes the case for him, because he trusts her over any cop that may have been assigned to it in her place.

The writing is good and it's fun to see Peabody mentioning her new rank every chance she gets.
This time, the mystery bored me. Reva was set up by a rival government agency that was miffed Roarke's company got a government contract. It turns out this same agency was doing surveillance on Eve's father, and witnessed the abuse to the minor on premises. Instead of coming to young Eve's aid, the observers chose not to do anything, because it would ruin their investigation. Their investigation wound up coming to an end, as Eve killed her father, and they have it on record, as well as the identity that was assigned to her by the state when she was found.

There's no reason to skip reading this one. It seems each book is written with some new tidbit of Roarke or Eve's past, or some new development in characters' relationships, increasing the must-readability of each new title. I enjoyed this one for the characters, not the mystery.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dance Upon the Air

Author: Nora Roberts
Published: June 1, 2001 (Jove)
Category: Romance/Paranormal Romance
Series: Three Sisters Island Trilogy #1
Rating: 9/10

I picked this one up for two reasons: 1. Jennie recommended it and 2. I'm craving another Nora Roberts + magic trilogy since the second book in her Sign of Seven trilogy doesn't release until May. Don't remind me of the Circle trilogy, because that was so bad I don't like to think about it.

When I started reading Nell Channing's story, I thought, "Oh here we go, it's a mix of Angels Fall and Montana Sky." Nell suffered an abusive marriage for three years and escaped by faking her death, changing her name, and traveling from California to Three Sisters Island off the New England coast. Unlike those other books, Nell was destined to wind up on that island.

During the late 1600s, when the great witch hunts were occurring, three sister witches, called Air, Earth, and Fire, called on their power to create a safe place, and according to legend/history, Three Sisters Island split off from Massachusetts. However, an evil spirit hunted down the sisters, cursing the island to crash into the sea unless their descendents could break the curse.

Roberts created the island so perfectly, with her descriptions of this little town where everyone knows everybody. It sounded so lovely that I wanted to live there! I loved the descriptions of Nell's work at Cafe Book (owned by Mia Devlin, another descendent of the three), and her romance with Zack Todd, sheriff of the island, was so sweet. Of course he was meant for her, and he was patient and determined to show Nell that he was definitely not like her abusive husband.

I loved this book so much that I wanted to pick up the next one, which is about Ripley (Zack's sister), the descendent of Earth. Woe is me! I have the third book in my TBR, but never got my hands on the second, so I have to order it and not get instant gratification.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mine to Possess

Author: Nalini Singh
Published: February 5, 2008 (Berkley)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Psy/Changeling #4
Rating: 8/10

I have a feeling I'm going to cop out on a lot of the next several reviews and use the cover blurb to summarize the story.

Clay Bennett is a powerful DarkRiver sentinel, but he grew up in the slums with his human mother, never knowing his changeling father. As a young boy without the bonds of Pack, he tried to stifle his animal nature. He failed... and committed the most extreme act of violence, killing a man, and lost his best friend, Talin, in the bloody aftermath. Everything good in him died the day he was told that she, too, was dead.

Talin McKade barely survived a childhood drenched in bloodhsed and terror. Now a new nightmare stalks her - the street children she works to protect are disappearing and turning up dead. Determined to keep them safe, she unlocks the darkest secret in her heart and returns to ask the help of the strongest man she knows...

Clay lost Talin once. he will not let her go again and hungers to possess her with a clawing need born of the leopard within. As they race to save the innocent, Clay and Talin must face the violent truths of their past... or lose everything that ever mattered.

This is the first book with a human hero/heroine, and Tally, seeing herself as the weak half of the couple, has a hard time with the fact that she's a plain ol' human. To make things worse, she's got some untreatable brain illness and will die soon. But Clay doesn't care about any of those things because he'll find a way to overcome them so he can be with her finally.

The plot thickens in the war against the Psy. They're conducting experiments on what seems to be a random selection of children, but with the Psy, everything has a purpose. It's creepy when you think about how cold the Psy are, with the attitude that their way is the logical way. They believe it so much that the idea of right and wrong no longer exists for them. There's only ONE way, so why do we need a moral right and wrong?

Caressed by Ice is still my favorite in the series, but this was a good read. I do love my alpha males. I'm pretty excited about the next book in the series, Hostage to Pleasure, which features Dorian, the latent leopard, and Ayasha, the Psy scientist who actually cares for her son, and engineered the escape of her test subjects in Mine to Possess. HtP is scheduled for September release.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Imitation in Death

Author: J.D. Robb
Published: August 26, 2003
Category: Romantic Suspense
Series: In Death #17
Rating: 9/10

Umm.... I read this one over a month ago.

Salient points? Eve is investigating a serial murderer who imitates famous murderers of the past (i.e. Jack the Ripper). With each body, he left a cocky note on expensive and very hard-to-find paper to Eve (paper made from non-recycled paper is illegal in the future), and the paper led to several possible suspects. I was most pleased when the murderer's identity was determined.

One of the most entertaining parts of the book was Peabody studying for her detective's exam. Peabody, being Peabody, would constantly doubt herself when her instincts are quite good to start with. McNab and Eve provided support in their very different ways, McNab's ways being more naked. Of course Peabody passes and Eve wears her uniform for the ceremony, much to Roarke's amusement.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Wedded Bliss

Author: Barbara Metzger
Published: March 2004 (Signet)
Category: Regency Romance
Rating: 8/10

I figured it's been a while since I read a Metzger, and Wedded Bliss features a favored Regency romance device: the marriage of convenience that becomes a love match. It fulfilled my need for a sweet book with happy endings and appropriate comeuppance for evildoers.
When Robert Rothmore, Earl of Rockford, receives word that a neighbor has taken his son, he hastily vows to enforce the kidnapping laws. But he quickly discovers that widowed Alissa Henning is no criminal. Instead she is exactly the kind of woman who'd make the perfect mother for his sons. Marriage would be an ideal arrangement for both of them, wouldn't it?

At first, Alissa swears she wills pend the rest of her life scraping pennies together rather than wed the insufferable earl and becoming a glorified governess. Still, she can't very well let her own children starve, and there is no doubt that Rockford will provide for them. So she reluctantly accepts his offer, but there's more to a good life than what's in one's pockets. And Alissa intends to find out what's in her new husband's heart....
I find Metzger hit or miss, and this one's a hit. We get a bunch of young boys, which leads to hijinks, a spinster sister who runs away with a crook, and a despicably unsuitable suitor for Alissa's younger sister. Of course the spinster sister finds her true love, and Alissa is reunited with her dead husband's family (they had disowned her husband for marrying beneath him).

I was surprised by the sexytime scenes, because I had Metzger categorized with the very traditional Regency authors who avoided the nitty gritty stuff. Alissa, already attracted to Robert, confronts him about the non-consummation of their marriage, and demands a daughter. Robert tries to do his duty and not further the mushy feelings he has about his convenient wife, so she's disappointed by the event. So disappointed that she drops a big hint by leaving a copy of the Kama Sutra under his pillow...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

To Catch an Heiress

Author: Julia Quinn
Published: July 1998 (Avon)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 8/10

To Catch an Heiress is the first of a duology involving two best friends who happen to be gentleman spies. I do love me some gentlemanly spying! I picked this one up after I read the excerpt on Julia Quinn's website. Caroline has been set up by her nefarious guardian, leaving her with his disgusting son with the goal of compromising her reputation, thus leaving her no choice but to marry the son and keep her fortune in her guardian's control. However, Caroline isn't one to follow instructions to the tee, and shoots her erstwhile suitor (merely a flesh wound) instead.

When Caroline Trent is kidnapped by Blake Ravenscroft, she doesn't even try to elude this dangerously handsome agent of the crown. After all, she's been running from unwanted marriage proposals. Yes, Blake believes she's a notorious spy named Carlotta De Leon, but for six weeks until her twenty-first birthday, when she'll gain control of her fortune, hiding out in the titillating company of a mysterious captor is awfully convenient - and maybe just a little romantic too.

Blake Ravenscroft's mission is to bring "Carlotta" to justice, not to fall in love. His heart has been hardened by years of intrigue, but htis little temptress proves oddly disarming and thoroughly kissable. And suddenly the unthinkable becomes possible - that this mismatched couple might be destined for love.
Blake's obstacle to true love is his dead fiancee. She was also a spy, and she died on a mission while Blake was ill. He feels responsible for her death, thinking he should have stopped her. After that, he couldn't open himself up to mushy feelings. Caroline realizes her feelings early on, but has to compete with a dead woman for Blake's love.

Entertaining read, full of Quinn's trademark witty banter. James, Marquis of Riverdale (why isn't it marquess?), was great for annoying Blake, and his declaration that he would marry Caroline if Blake wouldn't, was perfectly timed. James' story is told in the second book of the duology, How to Marry a Marquis.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Portrait in Death

Author: J.D. Robb
Published: February 25, 2003 (Berkley)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Series: In Death #16
Rating: 9/10

The 9/10 doesn't come from the quality of the villain, but from the growth in Roarke's back story. I was disappointed in the villain this time because the investigation was very loosey goosey. The murderer considers himself an artist (pronounce it like "artiste"), killing people and taking perfectly posed death photos. Then he dumps the body in public places and sends the pictures to Nadine Furst so he can get some media exposure. The selection of the victims was pretty random, so it felt like there was nothing Eve could do to stop future killings.

At Roarke's newly established women's shelter, he meets the therapist on staff, who knows more about his past than he does. She tells him the story of his true mother, not the Meg Roarke he knew and hated, but a pretty young girl who stayed with the abusive Patrick Roarke because she wanted her son to have a family. The news shocks Roarke so much that he takes it out on Eve and Summerset, shutting them out. Eve winds up thinking that he's tired of her, and it's all his fault that she's in love with him when she didn't want this whole love thing in the first place.

Eve also puts Peabody's name in for the next detective's exam, since she's been working in homicide for 18 months already and closed a cold case in the last book. Officer Troy Trueheart, placed under Baxter's wing for training, plays a larger supporting role this time, and it's nice to see that he's doing well after working with that horrible officer in Conspiracy in Death.