Friday, December 30, 2011

Edge of Survival by Toni Anderson

I Spread My Wings and Keep My Promise - 14 Squadron RAF
Who are my favorite heroes? Those tormented men who have served their countries with honor, risking all, asking for nothing in return… those men who look death in the face, every day, for no other reason than to make the world a safer place for people they don’t know, people they’ll never meet. Show us his pain, his demons, his vulnerabilities… give me a man like that and you’ve given me a hero I’ll fall in love with, a hero like Daniel Fox.

Who are my favorite heroines? Those strong women who have struggles of their own but refuse to give up. The women who do what they can to make a difference, to make the world a better place, however they can, who don’t let the difficulties that life has handed them stand in their way… that’s the kind of woman I would choose to be, a woman like Cameran Young

What are my favorite storylines? The ones that center around real life situations, the kinds that challenge the characters to step up and be the best people they can be. Believable, thought provoking stories that grab hold and never let go, and leave me questioning the things I’d be raised to believe… political, environmental… it doesn’t matter, as long as I finish the book asking myself what I can do to make the world a better place, that’s my kind of story… a story like Edge of Survival.

There are just so many things to love about this book that it’s nearly impossible to list them all! I’ve already mentioned the great characters and the awesome story, but another one of my favorite things is how each chapter is introduced with a saying or motto belonging to branches of the armed services, each one somehow representing the theme of that chapter. I tried to choose only a few favorites, but just couldn’t do it, so I decided to share them all:
Chapter 1: In Harm’s Way - USS John Paul Jones
Chapter 2: Ready for All, Yielding for None - 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines
Chapter 3: Ready for Anything - The Parachute Regiment
Chapter 4: The Team Works - The Royal Navy
Chapter 5: Death On Call Tactical Air Control Party - U.S. Air Force
Chapter 6: Swifter and More Keen than Eagles - 11 Squadron RAF
Chapter 7: Difficulties Be Damned - King’s Regiment (Liverpool)
Chapter 8: Make Peace or Die - 1st Battalion, 5th Marines
Chapter 9: Rise Above the Rest - The Royal Air Force
Chapter 10: Semper Fidelis Always Faithful - U.S. Marine Corps
Chapter 11: By Strength and Guile - British Special Boat Service
Chapter 12: Nemo me impune lacessit None Attack Me with Impunity - Black Watch
Chapter 13: Per Ardua Through Adversity - The Royal Air Force Regiment
Chapter 14: The Impossible We Do Every Day, Miracles Take a Bit Longer - 4404thCSG/PERSCO Dhahran AB, Saudi Arabia
Chapter 15: Return With Honor - 31st Fighter Wing
Chapter 16: In futurum videre To See Into the Future - 4 Squadron RAF
Chapter 17: Fidelity, Valor, Honor - 3rd Marine Division, USMC
Chapter 18: Guardians of the North - 28th Bomber Wing
Chapter 19: I’ve Not Yet Begun To Fight - USS Bonnehomme Richard
Chapter 20: Who Dares Wins - British Special Air Service
And my favorite:
Chapter 21: I Spread My Wings and Keep My Promise - 14 Squadron RAF
The bottom line – If you’re a fan of great Romantic Suspense like I am, and you’re always on the lookout for your next fix, then look no further. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Edge of Survival is without a doubt, one of the most exciting, romantic, sexy stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year and I will definitely be looking for more by Toni Anderson.

My thanks to Carina Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this wonderful book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mine Until Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

There’s something just so special about a historical romance done the Lisa Kleypas way. Light, yet with substance. So much sexual passion and yet such tender love. Her books are always a delightful escape and her heroes are always so sigh-worthy.

This is a touching story about a tight knit, albeit quirky, family consisting of four sisters, Amelia, Win, Poppy, and Beatrix; their one brother, Leo, and Merripen, who as a young boy was wounded and left for dead following a Gypsy hunt. He was brought into the Hathaway family by the siblings father and although they considered him one of them, he always kept himself apart - more than a servant, yet not quite part of their family.

In Mine Till Midnight, while there are many, many things happening involving all of the siblings, the romantic focus of the story is on Amelia, the eldest of the Hathaway siblings, and Cam Rohan who we met in Devil In Winter. I’m not going to go into plot details, because there are several sub-stories going on and it would be too complicated, so I’ll just touch on the things I loved – or not so much – about this book.

What I loved: I’ll start with Cam Rohan because I am, after all, a mature, red blooded woman with healthy desires who loves a hot, sexy man who wants to take charge in the bedroom and give as much pleasure as he gets. I especially love it when he… umm… errrr… that is to say… forgive me, for I digress. As I was about to say, I love how comfortable Cam is with who he is and who he isn’t. He knows what he wants and is willing to give up all his wealth to try and find it. He’s not a tortured soul in need of fixing, which is probably why I didn’t connect with him on some deeper level, but I wanted to bring him home and love him up all the same.

What I loved and didn’t love: Amelia. Dear, sweet Amelia; what an interesting character she turned out to be. In fact, the very thing I admired most about Amelia is that which I also disliked about her. She’s a take charge kind of woman, getting the job done no matter the cost to her own happiness. Willing to set aside any hope for a marriage for herself, she set about trying to ensure the best possible future for her brother and sisters. She was very protective of the family, which in some ways is good, but we all know that you have to let people learn lessons on their own, sometimes. Amelia was so concerned about protecting them that she wasn’t letting them live. She was suffocating them. And even when Cam came along, offering to help share her burden, she kept refusing. She had some twisted sense of obligation and responsibility for the family that made me want to throttle her with my bare hands! Fortunately, that didn’t last too long and she eventually saw the error of her ways.

Interestingly enough, the things that touched me the most about this book were not even related to Amelia and Cam, but Win and Merripen, which is who I felt the most connected to. It was heart wrenchingly clear that they care for each other – I’d even go so far as to say that they love each other.

**Spoiler**In one heart breaking scene, Merripen has been badly burned in a house fire and infection has set in. Cam knows of a poultice that he’s certain will help, but would be very, very painful to apply. So despite Merripen’s hatred of morphine, knowing he’d refuse to take it, Win devises a plot to sneak it to him in mint tea. They make the tea very strong and overly sweet to try and mask the flavor of the drug, but Merripen can still taste it. In his weakened, delusional state of mind, he’s certain that Win is trying to give him an overdose to spare him any more suffering.

I sobbed:

Dying in her arms…cradled against her as he relinquished his scarred soul to the darkness…Win would be the last thing he would ever see, hear, feel. Had there been any tears in him, he would have wept in gratitude.

He drank slowly, forcing down every swallow. He drank part of the next cup until his throat would no longer work, and he turned his face against her chest and shuddered. His head was spinning and sparks were drifting all around him like falling stars.

Win set the cup aside and stroked his hair, and pressed her wet cheek to his forehead.

And they both waited.

“Sing to me,” Merripen whispered as the blinding darkness rolled over him. Win continued to stroke his head as she crooned a lullaby. His fingers touched her throat, seeking the precious vibration of her voice and the sparks faded as he lost himself in her, his fate, at last.
**End Spoiler**

I'd have never thought to find that kind of emotional connection or torment in a secondary relationship, but that scene, the way it was so poignantly written, will stay with me for years and years to come.

I'm so thankful to have found Lisa Kleypas' historicals because, regardless of which novel I'm reading, I finish the story with a smile on my face.

The Last Cowboy by Lindsay McKenna

I was very excited to read this book because I looooovvvvvvve me some cowboys, and the author’s note at the beginning had me even more convinced that this would be a great read. As it turned out, however, I enjoyed her note more than the book itself. It’s not that it was bad, but it’s not the romance I expected. I’ll try to explain why this one just didn’t work for me.

I’m going to start by saying that The Last Cowboy was really a difficult book to read and review. While it was very well written, we spent the first 30+% of it learning about the equestrian world of dressage and techniques of endurance riding, the way horses are tested to see if they’d make good endurance runners, and other details of the sport. That would have been fine had it been necessary to the story, but I don’t believe that it was, and it took away from what I consider to be far more important – the characters. And even though Ms. McKenna used the character's interactions and dialogs to impart all of this information, we didn’t get a good feel for Slade and Jordana until well into the book - and I do mean well into it.

What I'm trying to say is that as a reader, I’m first drawn into a story by forming emotional attachments to the people, but instead I found myself immersed in details that I had little interest in. Better balance would have gone a long way to making this a really good read, but to be completely honest, I had a hard time staying focused or even mildly interested in the story or the characters. Sadly, while the characters have great potential, the story doesn’t allow them to shine.

The bottom line - If you’re wild about horses and love everything about them; riding, training, competition, health, temperament... then I do think you’d love this book! However, a large part of the story read more like contemporary fiction than contemporary romance, so don’t expect to fall in love with the characters or to get a strong, romantic, happily ever after. Go into this story because you love horses, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

This book was provided by in behalf of HQNbooks, a Harlequin Imprint.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Enticed by His Forgotten Lover by Maya Banks

Enticed by His Forgotten Lover is the first book in the Pregnancy & Passion series, and while I can't say I'm a huge fan of Maya Banks’ books, this one is definitely a hit! It’s a heartwarming tale about what happens when a man gets a second chance and is willing to do whatever he has to, to have a future with the one person in this world who makes him feel things he’s never felt before – true, passionate, soul deep love, and the need to be a better man.

And despite the fact that the writing isn't flawless, and even though this is a storyline that's been done again and again, I really enjoyed the setting and the characters in this book.

The bottom line - Enticed by His Forgotten Lover is a fun, romantic and sexy story about forgetting, forgiving, letting go and moving forward, and I will definitely be looking for more by Ms. Banks in the Pregnancy & Passion series!
4 of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis

Once again Jill Shalvis has made magic happen in Lucky Harbor, in an absolutely delightful, sexy, and heartwarming addition to the series. She’s given us a beautiful love story and truly incredible characters who jump off the page, becoming honest-to-God living, breathing, feeling people who I can’t help but adore.

Chloe is the only one of Phoebe Traeger’s daughters who was actually raised by their quirky, free spirited mother, and Chloe has that same nature. Her sisters love her to death, but sometimes see her as a bit selfish, and definitely undependable, but I don’t see her that way at all. I see Chloe as a unique, loving woman who doesn’t fit the expectations of those around her, nor does she need to. She has her issues, but don't we all? Thankfully for her, Sawyer can see in Chloe what she can not – yes, she's flawed, but perfectly so.

With his troubled past and his need to make amends for crimes both real and imagined, Sawyer captured my heart. So strong, so honorable, and yet so very vulnerable in ways he’d never imagined, Sawyer is the kind of hero I’m drawn to, the kind I can’t help but love. And lucky for Sawyer, Chloe sees him for the man he truly is - yes, he's flawed, but perfectly so.

For me, the thing that makes Head Over Heels such a romantic love story is that both Sawyer and Chloe don’t believe that they can be loved… they truly, to the depths of their souls, believe themselves to be unlovable – and in Sawyer’s case, even worse – unworthy of love. Watching as they came to see themselves through the other person's eyes was just so beautiful, so... I can't even put it into words.

The bottom line – As I’ve said with each book in this series… don’t waste another moment thinking about reading this book… just do it. These are romantic, sexy, hopeful, uplifting stories about every day people who want what we all want; to live, laugh and love, and to find our own happily ever afters just like the ones waiting to be discovered in Lucky Harbor.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Bastard by Brenda Novak

The Bastard by Brenda Novak is an action packed historical romance, much of which takes place aboard the Royal Navy ship, The Tempest. It’s the story of a bastard son, Lieutenant Crawford Treynor, whose life is the sea and greatest ambition is to Captain his own ship. It’s a tale of a young bride, Jeanette Boucher - now Lady St. Ives who, on her wedding night, learns exactly what a monster her new husband is. Her family survived the hell of the French Revolution but can she survive the hell that is to be her marriage?

This is very exciting and romantic story, but I also found it interesting to read about life at sea during the late 18th century. And I’m not just talking about the ‘hoist the sails’, ‘swab the decks’, and the ‘hold him down while I tattoo him at against his will’ things, either. I’m talking about the horrible living conditions and the class distinctions and politics involved in buying a rank, even if you weren’t as capable or qualified as someone who had no such connections. All it took was money and title to give someone the advantage of rank which, as we learned from this story, could lead to deadly consequences.

The Bastard is my first taste of Ms. Novak's writing, but it won't be my last. Her characters are honorable - for the most part, and devoted to those they love. Were they perfect people? No, of course not, but that just made them all the more believable and endearing. With their troubled pasts and uncertain futures Treynor and Jeannette grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go! I'd tell myself 'just one more chapter' only to end up reading several, and still not want to stop and only when I was dragged from my hiding place to greet my Christmas Eve guests was I able to put the story aside.

The bottom line - If you're tired of the same old storyline and are looking for something a little different but have hesitated to read Ms. Novak's historicals because she's not yet one of the "big names" in this genre, I urge you to wait no longer! This was such an exciting, enjoyable story and I'll definitely be reading more by this very talented author!

This book was provided by in behalf of Brenda Novak.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pamela Clare Book Giveaway!!!

I want to thank everyone who helped me celebrate my first blog book contest and the re-release of Pamela Clare's SURRENDER and UNTAMED!

And the WINNERS are!!!!!!!!

1st prize - LADY

2nd prize - Charmed Mom

3rd prize - jennilyn

I'll be getting in touch with you via the email addresses you supplied to make arrangements to get your books to you!!

Blithely Bookish Reviews (that's me)
has been up and running for over a year now, and believe it or not, I've never held a contest!

  Alas, it's true! I can hear your gasps of disbelief and your scornful murmurings. But fear not, dear friends, loved ones and people who just like winning free books, because I've seen the error of my blogging ways! Never again will I have to hang my head in shame! 
I can now stand tall and proud amongst the best of you!

 When I realized the need to atone for my failure as a blogger, I knew I'd have to go with something super awesome in order to earn your forgiveness, and so it took me no time at all to decide which book I'd be offering!!  

So, without further ado, I bring to you my 

  First Ever Blog Giveaway!!!!!!!!

Those of you who know me know that I am a die-hard Pamela Clare fan! That woman can write anything and make it romantic, exciting and very sexy! Whether she's sending her hot, hunky Highlanders off to fight in the French and Indian War, building ships in Colonial Virginia or taking down modern day slave traffickers and drug cartels, there is nothing she can't write and make it all kinds of awesome! 

Her most recent book release is actually a re-release of Surrender, the first in the MacKinnon's Rangers series, with additional scenes that had been cut by her original publisher. It's been a dream of Pamela's to be able to see her beloved Highlander's stories published the way she had intended them to be told! Now that her dream is finally coming true, we're going to help her celebrate!

What I'm Giving Away

1st prize:
1. Your choice of a signed (by Pamela Clare, not me)  paperback copy of the new version of Surrender, or an ebook copy from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
2. An ebook copy of the new version of Untamed, the second book in the MacKinnon's Rangers series which will be released in January.
3. A $5.00 Starbucks gift card.

 2nd prize:

1. An ebook copy of Surrender.
2. An ebook copy of Untamed when it's released.

3rd prize:

1. An ebook copy of Surrender

To enter this contest you must:

1. Be a follower of this blog.
2. Leave a comment telling me about your favorite genre, and whether or not you're a long time historical romance fan or if you're a newbie! 
3. Include your name, and a way I can get in touch with you should you win.

Rules (Come on, you knew there had to be some)

1. This is an International giveaway. Anyone can enter as long as Amazon and Barnes & Noble will allow me to send the ebooks to you.
2. Names will be drawn at random on December 24th,  using the most sophisticated non-technical means available. Each name will be written on a piece of paper, and placed into a Santa hat, from which my oldest grandsons, blindfolded, will each draw a name. (I can’t let the 1 year old draw because he’d eat the paper before we would have a chance to read the names. Maybe next year.)
3. The winners must provide me with their email address, the one associated with their Amazon or Barnes & Noble accounts so that the ebooks can be correctly gifted to your account. If you win the signed paperback, you must provide me with a physical address so that the book can be mailed to you.

So that's it! Please Tweet, Re-Tweet, Blog or shout from the rooftops about this contest!  

Good luck, everyone!!

Oh! This just in! My very sweet friend, Jayne, is having a Pamela Clare giveaway, too! After you've entered here, be sure to head over to Lady Jayne's Reading Den and comment there for another chance to win a copy of Untamed.

Fortune's Son by Emery Lee

Emery Lee is one of the few authors who can write historical fiction and make it come to life, sweeping us away to another time and place! Through her authentic period dialog and beautiful, vivid descriptions of Georgian era clothing, customs, and the day to day life of both those who have and those who have not, Ms. Lee pulls us into the story and makes us believe we’re right there, living it all, and not just reading about it.

Fortune’s Son, the sequel to The Highest Stakes, had my emotions jumping all over the place and I never knew where they’d end up next. I went from loving our hero, Phillip, one moment, then despising him the next, only to find myself in love with him once again. And our heroine, Lady Messingham… la! If she had any idea of the creative ways I had planned out her slow, painful demise, she’d roll over in her grave! To say she spent a good portion of the book as not my favorite heroine ever, is putting it mildly. But what truly matters is that, in the end, I loved them both and wanted them to find their happily ever after, one that they had spent years working toward and truly deserved.

In case you’re wondering, Fortune’s Son works well as a standalone novel but, honestly, it works much better when read after The Highest Stakes where we are first introduced to Phillip, a major player in that book. To really appreciate Phillip and the personal demons he needs to slay, you need to know the man he was, the man he became, and the man he had the potential to be.

The bottom line – Once again Emery Lee gives us a powerful story of friendship, love, ruin and redemption, and takes us on an emotional journey, a journey you won’t want to miss.

4 of 5 stars

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Men Under the Mistletoe, an Anthology

Men Under the Mistletoe is a great collection of four very hot, very heartwarming stories penned by some of the most talented writers of the male/male genre out there. These authors; Ava March, Harper Fox, Josh Lanyon, and K. A. Mitchell, have struck the perfect balance between sweet and edgy, making all of these stories so perfectly sexy, that they could be considered erotica if they weren’t also so romantic, too.

This anthology includes:

1. My True Love Gave to Me by Ava March – 4 stars! This was such a great historical romance. Well written, emotional – a tale of acceptance, forgiveness and a love that survives years and distance

2. Winter Knights by Harper Fox - 4 stars! Magical, fanciful, and just so fun! A unique holiday tale featuring a modern day Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere – do you believe in Christmas miracles? If so, this story is definitely one you won’t want to miss!

3. Lone Star by Josh Lanyon - 4 stars! Another wonderful, romantic story! Josh Lanyon gives us a heartwarming tale about following your dreams and learning that, despite the ‘old saying,’ you really can go home again.

4. The Christmas Proposition by K.A. Mitchell - 3.5 stars! This story was a bit edgier and angstier than the others, but still funny, romantic and incredibly hot!

The bottom line - If you love male/male stories with plenty of heat but not lacking romance, you’ll really, really want to grab this anthology. The perfect holiday reading for yourself, or as a gift, this collection is sure to have you smiling, sighing and fanning yourself all the way through the New Year!

Men Under the Mistletoe was provided by in behalf of Carina Press. The stories in this anthology are also available for sale individually.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Artistic Appeal by Andrew Grey

Artistic Appeal is a heartwarming story about life, love and taking chances. It’s about family and acceptance, and learning from the past so you can have the best, brightest future imaginable.

This is the sixth book in the Bottoms Up series and continues where Legal Artistry left off, with Gerald and Dieter’s legal efforts to regain Deiter’s family artworks which had been confiscated by the Nazis during WWII. In this installment, we do get to revisit Gerald and Dieter, but the main focus is more on the developing relationship between Brian and Nicolai, and Brian’s daughter, Zoe. The fate of The Woman in Blue and the other pieces of artwork are revealed in this book, but not until the very end.

I could go on and on listing all the things there are to love about this story, but I'll spare you and just get to the bottom line; If you’re in the mood for a wonderful m/m book to curl up with, look no further! Artistic Appeal will have you smiling, sighing, fanning yourself and never wanting it to end because when it comes to sweet, sexy, truly romantic stories, no one writes them like Andrew Grey.

This book was provided by in behalf of Dreamspinner Press.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Kisses, an Anthology

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Love!!!

A man gives the gift of trust and receives a second chance at love in return. A woman helps to heal the wounded heart of a soldier. A couple finds that true love knows no distance. And a young widow learns that there can be two great loves in a lifetime. Love, romance and passion come together in this collection of four seasonal shorts.  

1. This Time Next Year by Alison Kent - This was just such a wonderful story about life, the choices we make, love and healing. Dillon is one of those heroes who I can never get enough of. He’s tormented by things in his past, things that no one should have to deal with. Breena is a wonderful, giving heroine who has what it takes to help Dillon move forward, let go of the things he has no control over and open himself up to the possibility of love. 27,000 words

2. A Rare Gift by Jaci Burton - Jaci Burton is a gifted writer, and this started out being a great holiday tale, but ended up just being a frustrating story about two people who really had no business being in a relationship. Wyatt’s stubbornness bordered on cruelty, and Calliope just kept going back for more when she should have kicked him to the curb. And unfortunately, the resolution needed so that they could be together just felt too rushed to make me believe that everything was going to be okay. As I said, Ms. Burton is a gifted writer and I'm sure if this had been a full length story, or even just a little longer than it was, she could have pulled it off. Unfortunately, this story just didn’t have that ‘feel good’ Christmas magic that I look for in my holiday reads. 28,000 words

3. It's Not Christmas Without You by HelenKay Dimon -  This is another author whose works I’d not yet had the pleasure of reading, but you can bet I’ll be checking out her backlist, soon. This was a funny, sweet, romantic and steamy story about loving enough to let go. This one had me laughing one minute, crying the next and all the while knowing that “If you love something set it free; if it returns it’s yours forever, if not it was never meant to be.” 28,000 words

4. Mistletoe and Margaritas by Shannon Stacey - Wow! Easily my favorite of the four! What a wonderful story!! I’m a huge Shannon Stacey fan and my love of her writing just keeps growing. This is an emotional 'best friends to lovers' story that had me in tears because, even though it's been years since the death of Claire's husband, who was also Justin's best friend, they have so much guilt about being able to move on and fall in love, especially with one another. Mistletoe and Margaritas has a perfectly magical happily ever after. 20,000 words

The bottom line - I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love reading holiday themed stories, and this is one of the best Christmas anthologies I've read, written by four very talented and creative authors. If you're looking for some great stories to cuddle up with on a cold winter's night, look no further than this great collection!

5 stars!

This ebook was provided by in behalf of Carina Press.

Note: The stories in Holiday Kisses are also available for purchase separately, if that's more to your liking.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Small Town Christmas, an Anthology

I absolutely love reading holiday themed stories, especially during the Christmas holidays because they just seem to make the season that much more magical. These three stories are not deep or thought provoking, nor are they at all very steamy, but they are definitely sweet and very romantic.

Kissing Santa Claus by Jill Shalvis

NASCAR driver Logan Perrish returns to Lucky Harbor, Washington, with love in his heart and a ring in his pocket. But can Sandy Jansen forget the past and give him a second chance? Or will Logan be spending another Christmas alone?
It was such a sweet treat, returning to Lucky Harbor for another Christmas celebration. It seems like love is always in the air during the holidays there, and this time it’s Logan’s turn to find his happily ever after. 3.5 stars

I'll Be Home for Christmas by Hope Ramsay
After ignoring the advice of Miz Miriam Randall, local matchmaker, Annie Roberts expects another hum drum holiday in Last Chance, South Carolina. But when a stray cat arrives in the arms of Army sergeant Matt Jasper, a calico named Holly just may be the best matchmaker of all.
This was a very sweet story about finding love where and when you least expect it. The writing wasn’t perfect, but the story had me a tad teary eyed in places. It's one of those stories that are just so magical at Christmas. 3 stars

Little Town of Bramble by Katie Lane
All Ethan Miller wants for Christmas is to celebrate in Bramble, Texas, with family and friends. But when his childhood neighbor, Samantha Henderson, comes home for the holiday, Ethan realizes that the girl-next-door could be the girl of his dreams.
Okay, this was one of the cutest, sweetest, funniest short stories I’ve read in a long time! The town's "live nativity scene" had me giggling and laughing out loud to the point that my kids demanded to know what I was reading! 4 stars

The bottom line - If you’re looking for some fun, feel good stories to help ring in the holidays, and you enjoy sweet, uncomplicated stories that you don’t have to hide from your Great Aunt Gertie who has a heart condition, or your mother-in-law who … well… anyway… you really should consider giving this trilogy a read!

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a copy of this ebook through

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas in Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis

Christmas in Lucky Harbor is actually the first two books in the Lucky Harbor series; Simply Irresistible and The Sweetest Thing, and if you've ever thought about visiting Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor, now's the time because you can get two great stories for the price of one! And honestly, I loved them so much that I read both stories in less than two days, and yet I'm finding it nearly impossible to review them now because there is just so much to tell, so many funny quotes, so many sigh-worthy moments... I just can't decide where to start or what to share, so I'll just keep it simple.

1. Simply Irresistible is the first book in the Lucky Harbor series and such a great story. I'm sitting here with this silly grin on my face because it's been a long time since I've read a book, any book, that had me smiling, giggling, sighing and fanning myself as much as this one did. Simply put, Simply Irresistible is a wonderful, funny, sexy, romantic, feel good story! I went to sleep thinking about this book and woke up thinking about it. The hero, Jax, is the kind of man that you really could find in Anytown, USA, and the heroine, Maddie, is a real woman. The kind with curves, flaws and insecurities... someone we can all relate to. 5 stars!

2. The Sweetest Thing is the second book in the Lucky Harbor series, and once again I was left with a silly grin on my face, unable to stop thinking about Ford and Tara, and the other crazy friends and family who made this story so fun! And let me just tell you, this is one incredibly romantic and sexy story that had me fanning myself, laughing out loud and sighing often. With honest, believable characters that I couldn't help but care about and cheer for, it’s a tale of first love, lost love, and love renewed – and a story you definitely do not want to miss!  5 stars!

If you’ve ever read some of my reviews you know I’m not joking when I say that I could go on and on, paragraph upon paragraph, listing all reasons you need to read this book, but I’ll just cut to the chase: Do yourself a favor and just go buy the book, because the sooner you do, the sooner you’ll discover for yourself the amazing people and the magic that is to be found during Christmas in Lucky Harbor.

My thanks to Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a copy of this ebook through

Friday, December 2, 2011

To Command and Collar by Cherise Sinclair

Cherise Sinclair is the author who introduced me to the exciting world of BDSM through her Masters of the Shadowlands series. Every story has been sweet, funny, and very sexy, and the Masters and their subs are always wonderful, loving, and sometimes emotionally and physically scarred people who I can’t help but care about. I can’t explain it, but there’s just something in the way Ms. Sinclair tells a story, the way she pulls us into the minds and hearts of these people that makes everything between them feel so… right. And while this was definitely not the story I expected, nor can I say I even begin to understand the Master/slave relationship, I still loved it. It pushed some boundaries for me, made me uncomfortable at times, but most importantly – it had me thinking about other peoples’ needs, not judging theirs based on my own, and not only trying to understand, but wanting to understand where those needs come from. And in the end, it doesn’t matter where they come from, only that they are people – just like you and me, who want to love and to be loved in return.

Okay, so about the story. To Command and Collar, the sixth book in the Masters of the Shadowlands series, was much more intense than the previous books and the most emotionally draining of them all. Following right on the heels of Make Me, Sir, the Shadowlands Masters are once again working with the FBI to take down the sex slave operation known as The Harvest Association. In this story we’re given a more candid look into what it’s like for those women who have been kidnapped; their lives in captivity, their physical, sexual and mental abuse, as well as the business side of the sex slave trade, itself. There are many distressing aspects about this 'business', but one of the things that upset me the most is the emotional detachment of the ‘handlers.’ I just can’t understand how one human being can see another as nothing more than merchandise, and treat them like animals. And then what these poor women have to suffer after they’re freed – if they are ever freed… damn. Heartbreaking. Gut-wrenching. I was often in tears for them because even though I know this is just a story, I also know it’s not. The names are changed, the places are different… but the people are real. Somewhere, they’re real. They had lives and families and dreams... and now, right this very minute, they may have stopped hoping to ever have those things again. And because of that, I broke down sobbing when I read our heroine Kim's thought, "Dreams die before people do."

Master Sam’s role in this story and his nature as a sadist was touched on, and while I was mildly curious about him before this book, I’m now fascinated by him. I’ve read a couple of S&M stories in the past that left me feeling dirty and cold because to me their sexual intimacies were nothing more than acts of pain. But just in this tiny glimpse we were given into Sam I know that, for him, it's about so much more than that. If I could request one thing from Ms. Sinclair it would be to give Sam a story, because I know that she could present it to us in a way that would take us deep into his heart and soul, and show us exactly what it takes to make him love, and why.

As I've said, this is a very emotional story, but some of my favorite scenes were those that included the other Masters. Whenever they and their subbies all get together for a party, good food, lots of laughs and great sex are guaranteed. And I can't tell you how many times I giggled when one of the Masters would spot a subby walking awkwardly and knew that she'd been 'punished' for some infraction. Hell, I'll be honest here - the Master's creativity when it comes to discipline would have me looking for ways to be punished, but my favorite thing about them is how they aren't afraid to show their little subs, the women they love, how much they are adored.

The bottom line – Once again Cherise Sinclair has delivered a book that not only touched my heart, it captivated me. Was the story perfect? No,  but it's damned close! For me, when it's all said in done, it's how I feel when I finish that final page, that final thought, that matters most. To Command and Collar made me feel things I hadn’t felt before, and want things I didn’t know I ever could. Master Raoul and Kimberly, Master Sam, Linda… and especially Holly… will stay with me in my thoughts for a very long time.

Note: This book contains anal and oral sex, and intense scenes of sexuality, including whipping, spanking and bondage, as well as descriptions of varying non-consensual acts forced on the captive women. 

4.5/5 stars

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Vampire for Christmas, an Anthology

There’s nothing like curling up with a great romance during the holidays, and when those romances come from an anthology, I’m even more excited because the stories are short, varied and almost always have that magical happily ever after. And another plus is that they often give me a chance to get to know authors whose work I might not have never tried, otherwise. However, one of the problems inherent with anthologies is that the authors have to perform a balancing act when contributing to them, especially when their contribution comes from a world they’ve already created through a series. They have to give those of us who are unfamiliar with their series enough information to keep us from feeling lost while at the same time not filling too much of their limited and very valuable page time with unnecessary information. One of the stories in this collection suffered from ‘too much information’ and another suffered from ‘not enough,’ but all-in-all, I enjoyed this collection and have discovered authors whose work I’ll be watching for.

So here we go, my thoughts on each individual story.

1. “Enchanted by Blood” by Laurie London – This novella is part of the Sweetblood series and I can tell that Ms. London has created a unique, exciting world, but even though I enjoyed this ‘second chance at love’ tale, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had been following the series before reading this book. As I said above, it’s a tough balancing act for an author, and in this case I felt like I was getting way too much background information laid out for me rather than being able to watch it unfold naturally. Maybe had the plot been about something other than the politics of their world, more time could have been devoted to the characters themselves which should always be the driving force of any romance book, regardless of the length.

And speaking of the characters; from what little I saw of them, I really liked Trace, but Charlotte didn’t do a lot for me, which I think could have been remedied if more time had been spent on character and relationship development. The sex definitely sizzled, but their romance didn’t give me the warm fuzzies I like, especially in my holiday reads.

All that said, I’m definitely interested in reading more of this series because I really enjoyed Ms. London’s easy, comfortable style of writing and something tells me that I’d quickly get hooked on the world of Sweetblood! - 3 stars

2. "Monsters Don't Do Christmas" by Michele Hauf – I had very high hopes for this story because it started so out strong and I was sure it would hold, but then it just fizzled. There was so much potential for a great tale, but I found myself doing a lot of skimming and I was never able to become all that invested in either Daniel or Olivia, which in turn made it hard to stay interested in the story. I wish I had learned more about Daniel being changed and the world he gave up. I get being bitter and all, but I could have totally invested in him if I had felt, and not just been told about, his anger.

What I did like about it was the way Christmas commercialism was played down, and how Daniel, who believed himself to be a monster, didn’t let the darkness rule him. It was exactly the kind of Christmas story I would normally love, but something about the delivery just didn’t grab me. – 2.5 stars

3. “When Herald Angels Sing” by Caridad Pineiro – I really enjoyed this story. It was such a sweet, romantic, sexy tale about learning from your past mistakes, admitting you were wrong, and being willing to sacrifice anything and everything for those you love. As Damien and Angelina learned, “believe in the power of love and all of Heaven will be yours.” 4 stars

4. “All I Want for Christmas” by Alexis Morgan - Now see, very rarely is it that a novella can earn 5 stars because to do so the author has to be very careful to strike the perfect balance of world building and character development, while making it all emotionally compelling. And let’s be honest, that’s hard enough to do in a full length novel, let alone a short one. But this story had it all. The plot was interesting, yet didn’t require a lot of page time to set up, which made more character and relationship development possible, and in the end, allowed me to become totally invested in Eagan and Della, as well as the secondary characters, Tenn, Lupe, Harry, Daniel... I'd love to know more about them all! – 5 stars

The bottom line - While I enjoyed all of the stories, or at least parts of them, the last two carried the anthology and I'll definitely be reading more by these authors.

This ebook was provided by in behalf of HQN Books.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Hideout, An Anthology

Once upon a time, a middle-aged couple named Ken and Jillian Vickers rented a cozy cottage overlooking Lake Tahoe in hopes that a weekend away would revitalize their marriage. The plan worked so well that they bought the cottage. But it was far too small to accommodate their children and grandchildren, so on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, it sat empty.

Ken suggested renting it out for those holidays, which made financial sense to Jillian. But after several seasons, an unusual pattern emerged. Renters routinely left notes expressing their joy at either rekindling an old love or finding a new one during their stay at the cabin.

The consistent theme of the notes fascinated Ken and Jillian, both sociology professors at the University of Nevada in Reno. Perhaps the little cabin had a special effect on couples. If so, Ken and Jillian vowed to collect enough evidence to uncover its secret.…
What a fun setting for all three of the stories in this anthology. This is exactly the kind of light, magical, exciting Christmas reading I look forward to.

The Thanksgiving Fix by Vicki Lewis Thompson – 4.5 stars -
Finding Mr. Right is the furthest thing from Beth Davis's mind when the Reno professor takes Thanksgiving break at a colleague's Lake Tahoe cabin. Until Coinneach McFarland arrives to fix a suspicious leak. It looks like somebody's playing matchmaker for two people sworn to stay single. But as things heat up, Beth is astonished to find she has discovered her soul mate just as she'd given up looking.
I really enjoyed this “finding love for the first time” story. It was funny, sweet, and very hot. Mac, with his easy going, laid back attitude, and Beth, a strong, independent woman, were awesome characters. Watching as they each started questioning their self imposed ban on committed relationships was funny and heartwarming! But could they compromise, with themselves and each other, to give love a chance? You'll have to read it for yourself and find out!

The Christmas Set-Up by Jill Shalvis – 4 stars
Competing architects Zoe and Jason have two weeks to come up with the design to win a coveted new project. But when a snowstorm strands them together at a secluded cabin, Zoe sees her chance to show Jason how she really feels. With romance blooming under the mistletoe, can she get the gorgeous Scrooge into the true Christmas spirit?
While reading this story I was reminded of this passage from Corinthians: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
This was a very sweet, very sexy “love was right in front of me all along” story. Funny, heartwarming, passionate… even as I’m sitting here writing this review I’m smiling. I wonder if this story is related to any others by this author? Anyone know?

The New Year's Deal by Julie Kenner – 3.5 stars
Five years ago, Cleo Daire and Josh Goodson said goodbye and went their separate ways. But first they made a promise to reunite. Now the ex-lovers are spending New Year's Eve in a romantic cabin, where passion takes them by surprise and long-wished-for dreams can sometimes come true.
I enjoyed this “second chance” romance, but had a hard time getting into it. I couldn’t understand how they could so easily say goodbye in the first place. But once they found themselves together, in a magical cabin during a magical time of year, they couldn’t deny what was still between them.

The bottom line – Holiday Hideout is a wonderful, romantic, sexy trio of stories to warm up the holidays, and to remind us that with a little hope, a little patience and a lot of faith, anything - even falling in love - is possible!

This ebook was provided by in behalf of Harlequin.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

White Dawn by Susan Edwards

Territory of Michigan, 1810
Late spring

“Satan’s spawn!”

The harsh bellow shattered the early-afternoon peace, startling Emily Ambrose. Her hands froze in midwring as her gaze flew from the pile of laundry to her father, a tall, rail-thin man with a wild mane of ash-brown hair. The tails of his overcoat flapped angrily behind him as he marched down the bank with a Bible in one hand and a whip-thin switch tucked beneath his arm. He stopped less than a foot away from where she knelt in the shallow water.
Emily Ambrose lived in fear of her Christian missionary father’s wrath and no matter what she did, she just couldn’t please him. It had never taken much to set him off, but when she was nearly raped by a Jesuit priest, and then blamed for tempting the “man of God,” beyond endurance, her father, mother and Emily left the mission that had been their home, disgraced. As far as Timothy was concerned, Emily was a nothing more than a sinner and he would allow no more shame to fall on the family because of her. He’d had all he could take, so he did the unthinkable – he left Emily, ‘satan’s spawn, the devil’s daughter,’ alone in the wilderness, for God to deal with, uncaring of whether she lived or died. Well, I'm happy to say that God 'dealt' with all of them.

Historical Romance novels hold a special place in my heart, be they Medieval, Georgian, Victorian, Regency, Colonial or American West, but believe it or not, I hadn’t yet ventured into the world of Native American historicals. Now, granted, only a small portion of this book was devoted to the Native American theme, but thanks to Susan Edwards, I’ll most definitely be reading more!

Ms. Edwards' beautifully detailed descriptions of the cultures and landscapes, hardships and joys of life in the wilderness, captured both my heart and my imagination. I couldn’t help but admire Swift Foot, Emily and John as they found so much happiness in the smallest things, and through that happiness found the strength to not only survive, but to trust, to love, and to do the right thing, regardless of the cost to their hearts. They were hardworking, honorable and devoted, and I couldn’t help but love.

The bottom line – While White Dawn wasn’t without its flaws, I really enjoyed this tenderly poignant, romantic and passionate story, and will definitely be reading the next book in the series!

Note: Originally published in paperback in 2002 as the seventh book in Ms. Edwards’ White series, White Dawn is actually, chronologically speaking, the first book series, and I would strongly recommend readers new to these books to read it as such. I was happy to learn that this entire series is being re-released in ebook format by Carina Press, with the first four books – White Dawn, White Dusk, White Shadows and White Wind becoming available November 21, 2011.

This ebook was provided by in behalf of Carina Press.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Double Shot by Christine d'Abo

Double Shot is the first book in the Long Shots series, as well as my first read of Christine d'Abo's writing. I read this book in a single sitting, not just because it's pretty short, but because I was having such a good time with the characters. I wish it had been longer, because just a couple more pages of background and character development would have taken this from enjoyable to great. But all in all, I found Double Shot to be a sweet, funny, and very sexy 'friends-to-lovers' tale and I'm looking forward to continuing the series, and reading more by this author.

Just a heads-up: The majority of this story took place in a BDSM club, but there was no BDSM involved. There was, however, a very hot game of "Sadie Says..." that had me fanning myself and wishing I could play, too!!

3.5/5 stars

My thanks to  for providing me with this book in behalf of Carina Press.

Pulled Long by Christine d'Abo

Yes! Pulled Long is the third book in the Long Shots series, and the story I’ve been waiting for!!

Ian Long has kept his heart locked away after a series of events has him convinced that everyone he touches will get hurt. Like his sisters, he’s thrown himself into working at the family coffee house and bakery, not only to see it become successful, but because it helps him keep his mind off of “Blue Eyes,” the one man he’d finally started to think might be worth taking a chance on. But Ian’s bad luck still holds true and he finds out that Blue Eyes is going through a divorce – from his wife and Ian isn’t about make himself some straight guy’s rebound experiment. Months have gone by since Ian ran him off, but now he’s back and he’s not taking ‘no’ for an answer.

Okay, after reading the three books in this series I can now say, without hesitation, that Christine d'Abo is an author whose stories I'll be looking for. She knows how to take characters I've only just met and make them seem like people I've known forever. With her comfortable, easy to read writing style and storytelling, she manages to accomplish in a short story what many authors struggle with, even with double the page count. If this is what she can do with a novella, I can only imagine how phenomenal she'd be with a full length novel.

I am definitely looking forward to reading more by this author.

This ebook was provided by in behalf of Carina Press.

A Shot in the Dark by Christine d'Abo

A Shot in the Dark is the second installment of the Long Shots series and in this story, the focus is on Paige Long, the oldest of the Long siblings. For years she's buried herself in her work in order to avoid another relationship catastrophe like the one that nearly killed her. She knows her nature, and what her sexual needs are, but doesn't want to have to sit down and explain it all to the next man she might decide to date.

Enter Carter, a local firefighter whose every move screams "Dom." He's gorgeous, charming, and determined to get Paige to open up to him, and against her better judgment, just can't say no to her inner submissive that she's kept locked up for far too long.

As I said, this is the second book in the series, and only the second book I've read by this author, but I can promise you that it won't be the last. I love the way she creates her characters and situations that just seem to 'fit,' and her writing is so easy to follow.

Short, sweet and very sexy is how I'd describe this story, and I can't wait to get my hands on the next!

This ebook was provided by in behalf of Carina Press.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Avenger's Angel by Heather Killough-Walden

Long ago, the Old Man gathered together his four favored archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Azrael. He pointed to four stars in the sky that shone brighter than the others. He told the archangels that he wished to reward them for their loyalty and had created for them soul mates. Four perfect female beings—archesses.

However, before the archangels could claim their mates, the four archesses were lost to them and scattered to the wind, beyond their realm and reach. The archangels made the choice to leave their world, journey to Earth, and seek out their mates.

For thousands of years, the archangels have searched. But they have not searched alone. For they are not the only entities to leave their realm and come to Earth to hunt for the archesses. They were followed by another. . .

Avenger’s Angel is the first book in Heather Killough-Walden's new Lost Angels series, a theme that seems to be quite the rage these days. Angels, whether they’re 'of Dark,' 'of Light,' 'Fallen' or 'Arch,' are the “in” thing to write about, and so I appreciated this fresh take on their world. The quote I opened with tells you all you need to know about the storyline of this series, so I’ll skip right to my thoughts on this book, in particular.

As I’ve said, I enjoyed this fresh telling of the story, but I had a really hard time with the world building and character introduction early on in the book because there was just so much to absorb. Names, titles, powers, abilities… I felt like I needed to take notes just so I could follow along. For example; just as each angel had a name, they also had their title; Michael, the Warrior Archangel; Uriel, the Angel of Vengeance; Gabriel, the Messenger Archangel; and Azrael, the Angel of Death. Now, the names and titles were used interchangeably and that was a problem for me because when reading any story, I want to feel like I’m part of what’s going on. For example, if “Michael turned to the Angel of Death and said…” I want to know who he’s talking to, Uriel, Azrael, or Gabriel? I don't want to have to stop and think, 'Wait, which angel is that?' Unfortunately, I found that to be very distracting and disruptive to the flow of the story. Yet, I feel the need to mention that I found there to be a lot of repetition in places, so maybe that was the author's way of trying to help us remember those details?

Now for the good stuff! I’d say it was about a third of the way into the book when everything finally clicked into place for me and the story took off. From that point on, I honestly couldn’t put it down. It was fast paced and action packed, and with bad guys coming out of the woodwork our Archangels were kept on their toes! Uriel suddenly became this incredibly sexy, alpha being who was protective and tormented… and I fell hard for him. Ellie, his archess, is a female who had her own brand of tormented to deal with, and I loved how they finally came together, a perfect match. That said, I do want to share with you this little snippet, Uriel and Ellie’s initial reaction to one another:
Uriel’s heart stopped beating. His jaw dropped open.

He couldn’t be seeing what he was seeing in that moment. He couldn’t be feeling what he was feeling. Not now. Not here, in a bathroom— after two thousand years. Maybe he’d slipped in the rain outside and hit his head.

No, that was impossible. He was relatively invincible. Being hit on the head would do nothing to him but make him a little cranky.

She was really standing there before him. She was real; he could see her, hear her— he could even smell her. She smelled like shampoo and soap and lavender.

Jesus, he thought, unable to refrain from letting his gaze drop down her body and back up again. She was everything that he had ever imagined she would be, from her tall, slim body to her long jet- black hair, and those indigo blue eyes the color of a Milky Way night. Her skin was like porcelain. Her lips were plump and pink and framed perfect, white teeth. She was an angel.

She was his archess. And she was . . . scowling at him?
The bottom line - While Avenger’s Angel is not without its flaws, it really did turn out to be a very unique, sexy and entertaining story. I'm excited by the groundwork that has been laid for the future books, and I'm really looking forward to reading more about Michael, Gabriel, Azrael and their Guardian, Max, and even Samael, one very bitter angel known as The Fallen One. They each have their own demons to battle and I can't wait for their stories. Overall, this really is a 3 star read – slow to start but a great finish, but because it did leave me so anxious to get my hands on the next book, I’m bumping it up to 4 stars. I have no doubt whatsoever that this will be an awesome series, one I have every intention of continuing.

I wish to thank Signet Eclipse for providing me with a copy of this ebook via

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Still, Small Voice by D.W. Marchwell

From the cover - After a student’s accusation of sexual assault destroyed his reputation, Noah Birchwood left the teaching career he loved. The school system that should have protected him and an ex-lover who should have known better shattered his confidence, and it took Noah six years and another university degree to finally get his life back on track.

He loves his new job as a computer programmer and keeps busy on weekends performing at a drag club with his best friend, Aiden. It’s there that he meets shy, chivalrous Oscar, the owner of the club and, just maybe, the love of Noah’s life. But everything turns upside down when a specter from his former life moves in next door. Noah will have to face his fears and discover the truth about his ordeal if he wants to move past it once and for all and face the future with Oscar at his side
A Still, Small Voice is a m/m story that touches on an emotional issue and had the potential to be a very powerful tale about letting go, moving on, and living rather than merely existing. I was drawn in to Noah’s world as he was finally able to recount the details of the most devastating event in his life, but sadly, that’s where the potential for a poignant story ended, and this book almost landed on my ‘did not finish’ shelf. I am, however, very glad I stuck it out because in the end, it was a sweet, romantic and uplifting story.

I’ve not read anything by D.W. Marchwell before, so I had no idea what to expect. I found the writing and the storytelling to flow well, and I loved that I could feel the joy, the humor, and the awkwardness, even as an adult, that comes when getting back on the relationship horse again, especially after the betrayal of someone you thought you could trust. The romance was good, and I was definitely happy to see Noah moving on, but the ‘specter from the past’ part of the story that also had such great potential not only fizzled, but felt unresolved.

As for our characters, I loved Noah, Oscar and even the ‘villain’ Paul, but Noah’s best friend, Aiden, drove me up a wall. I’m not into the overly flamboyant characters, be they male or female, and Aiden reminded me too much of a movie my mother watched every single time it was on TV, Auntie Mame. That woman frightened me - Auntie Mame, not my mother - and to this day I cringe when I think of her. I'm sorry, Aiden, but you never stood a chance with me.

The bottom line – This was a really sweet story that had the potential to be a fantastic one. I liked it and found it entertaining, but because I was able to so clearly see what could be, yet wasn’t, I was a bit let-down. I will, however, be looking for more by this author because as I said, I enjoyed the easy, comfortable flow of the writing and storytelling.

This ebook was provided by in behalf of Dreamspinner Press.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dark Predator by Christine Feehan

Dark Predator is the 22nd installment in the Carpathian series and I just not sure how I feel about the book. I can understand why some will be disappointed in it, and while I definitely enjoyed it, this wasn’t exactly the story I had anticipated. I’ll try to explain.

Zacarias was, in my opinion, perfect. He was true to what I would expect from a Carpathian who is as ancient as he is. He’s kept himself at a distance from his brothers and from modern civilization as a whole and he really is a loner, in every sense of the word. Physically, mentally, emotionally… he’s a man who embraces solitude. Because of that I can see how he would have no idea, whatsoever, what a modern woman would be like. How independent they are, how self sufficient. They’re no longer the shrinking violets in need of protection that they used to be and are more capable of taking care of themselves. Had he been around more, he’d know that they had to “evolve” in order to survive, and this is especially true of the Carpathian women.

For the most part, Marguarita seemed to have a foot in both worlds. She was thoroughly modern and self sufficient, and yet she seemed to know exactly what Zacarias needed and why, and had no problem accommodating him. She accepted him for the male he is, and while she tried to help him see things through her eyes, she didn’t resort to the kinds of ridicule that some of the females in the stories have when they met their lifemates, and I respected her for that. BUT, I never got the feeling that she was surprised, or honored, to be Zacarias’ lifemate, and that’s something I really had expected.

Regarding the story itself, there didn’t seem to be as much action, or overall plot resolution or progression as there has been in the last couple of books, and that surprised me. The first ½ of Dark Predator seemed entirely focused on Marguarita’s and Zacarias’ relationship. Normally that would be great, but the problem is that because Marguarita pretty much did whatever Zacarias wanted, there wasn’t a lot of page time devoted to the relationship building - that struggle for independence and acceptance that normally occurs in this series. I didn’t mind that Marguarita didn’t fight and argue, not at all, because she was true to her nature. True to the woman she’d been raised to be. She was still a strong female, but she was exactly the old fashioned kind of woman Zac needed for his Lifemate. But with that lacking in Dark Predator, the relationship building seemed uneventful to me.

And what happened to the celebration we always see when a male finds his lifemate!? There was nothing… just… nothing. This is Zacarias we’re talking about! Why didn’t we see his brothers celebrating life with him! And how very sad that, even though he has his lifemate, he’s still so alone. If there’s one thing I want out of the next book, it’s to see Zacarias and his brothers able to be together, to be a family again.

So, as I said, I really enjoyed the story, but I have to be honest and tell you that I didn’t love it, and that makes me very sad. Zacarias deserved a story with depth, passion and intensity, and in my opinion, he didn’t get it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Clockwork Christmas - An Anthology

A Clockwork Christmas is a fun collection of four Steampunk novellas and I honestly enjoyed each story. They're a terrific sampling of the genre, and if you've never read Steampunk before but would like to, this is a great way to explore this very unique world.

My spoiler free breakdown of each story:

1. Crime Wave in a Corset by Stacy Gail– A thief steals the heart of a vengeful professor. This was a great story! Funny, sweet, very sexy… I LOVED it! 4.5 stars

2. This Winter Heart by PG Forte - A man learns that love isn't always what you expect. This was a very unique story of faith, hope and unconditional love. Very good! 4 stars

3. Wanted: One Scoundrel by Jenny Schwartz - And an American inventor finds love Down Under. What a fun story! An Americanized English rake takes on a smart, feisty Suffragette from Down Under! Another great one! 4 stars

4. Far From Broken by JK Coi - Changed forever after tragedy, a woman must draw strength from her husband's love. Okay, now this one was so emotional, and is another story of forgiveness and unconditional love. *sigh* So, so good! 5 stars

The bottom line - The stories in this anthology gave me everything I want in my Christmas themed readings. The tales are sweet, and funny, and filled with hope, honor, love, generosity, charity and even some sexy goodness… but most importantly to me - forgiveness and redemption. Of course I wish they had been longer, but they are what they are and I'm so glad I had the chance to read them! I'm excited to have discovered four very talented new-to-me authors and look forward to more of their writings!

Overall rating - 4.5 stars

This ebook was provided by in behalf of Carina Press.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Highest Stakes by Emery Lee

The Highest Stakes is author Emery Lee’s debut novel and, quite simply put, a story of epic proportions! It’s a tale of betrayal, murder, redemption, love lost and love found, scheming, more betrayal, heroes and villains, heroines and shrews, war and peace, retribution, manipulation, love lost again, then found again, greed, humor, sorrow, twists, turns and… well… sounds a bit like a historical soap opera, doesn’t it? But I’m telling you… General Hospital was never this good!!

I've often found that in order to hold my attention, I need a story heavy on the romance, so having been told that this book isn’t really a romance at all, I hadn't felt the urge to read it. Really? Not a romance? Well, I beg to differ, because while romance is not the primary focus in this story, it’s definitely the reason for it! Yes, quite a lot of the tale is dedicated to the sport of horse racing, and the passion of all things equine, but the driving force behind this story is love, and doing whatever is needed to be with that one person who is more important to you than any other; the love of your life.

One of my very favorite things about historical novels is that wonderful feeling of leaving the present behind and being swept away to another time and place, and Emery Lee gave me that! With richly detailed descriptions of life in Georgian England and authentic period dialog, I was right there with our characters whether they were at the races, hearts pounding in anticipation of victory, or in battle fighting for their very lives, and even experiencing something as simple as that first kiss. I was there through it all and it doesn’t get any better than that.

While I do admit to skimming through most of the more detailed blood-lining and breeding techniques which took up a good bit of the early pages, what I did read of it was fascinating. And, for those of you who might be wondering, if I were to rate this story based on violence or sexuality, I’d call it PG-13. Any scenes of intimacy were only alluded to and took place behind closed doors. That said, while I normally like a little more steam in the books I read, I don't feel that this story suffered for the lack of it.

There were quite a few quotes I would have loved to use in this review, but most of them would have given away far too much of the story, so I’ve narrowed it down to just two. This first one comes after a scene I found quite heartbreaking and, like it or not, has the ring of truth to it.
"Now as to our business, sir. I have done your bidding, though it was clearly contrary to my conscience and cost me dearly. In truth, no dowry could compensate for what I have lost."

Sir Garfield pulled a fat coin purse from his pocket. "And what would you expect as recompense for your losses?"

"There is no restitution for integrity," he said bitterly.

"On the contrary, Major. Integrity always has a price. To lose or to keep; there is invariably a cost. Some just pay more dearly than others."
And this second quote – well, I was laughing as I read it. Those of us who love our historical romance novels know that many a bride-to-be didn’t want to be. So this little exchange between mother and daughter was pretty humorous, especially the first paragraph. Maybe it was this kind of thinking that gave birth to the phrase, "God's gift to women!"
Lady Felicia reassured her with a pat on the hand. "My dearest daughter, though it is a sad injustice, a woman seldom weds to her own volition. The Good Lord bestowed upon males the greater reasoning and intellect, thus it is for us women to obey them."

"But what if the man is a besotted lech… or a fusty bore… or ill-visaged, bad tempered, and deformed… or stingy, cruel, and close-fisted… or all of it!" she wailed.

"Trixie, I clearly sympathize, but pray cease the histrionics. As to your apprehensions, a clever woman can learn to manage her husband, even one who is… shall we say… less than desirable."

"But, Mama, I don't want such a husband!"

"Hear me out, Beatrix," she admonished. "If your husband should be faithless, affect ignorance. If he has a predilection for strong drink, feign tolerance; if he is choleric or sullen, be long-suffering until his mood spends itself. If he be a close-fisted despot, adopt a demure address. But if he be a weak and incompetent man, count your blessings, for you need only give him the very orders you should later receive from him. Lastly and most importantly, if you have wealth and position, your marriage need not be the least incommodious, regardless of your husband's temperament."
The bottom line - The Highest Stakes was a pleasure to read and I highly recommend it to any fan of historical fiction and storylines that haven’t already been done to death. If you’re like me, you want to feel as though you’re actually a part of the stories you read rather than just a curious onlooker. You need to care about the men and women and their struggles and triumphs. Well, if that's the case, I really do think you’d enjoy this story. I found my emotions all over the place, feeling sorrow one minute, joy the next, and even laughing out loud at times! But most importantly, I found myself in love with our hero and heroine, Robert and Charlotte, and cheering them on as they fought the less than favorable odds for their happily ever after.

I’m very much looking forward to Philip’s story, Fortune’s Son, and can’t wait to see if, or how, he can possibly be redeemed!