Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Street Game by Christine Feehan

I’m going to apologize right up front for this review because even though it’s taken me weeks to write, I’m still making a mess of it. There are so many things about this book that seemed different to me – unique from the others – and yet, I can’t put my finger on it. It is more a feeling than anything I can point to and say, “This is what makes this one different…”

In Street Game, book 8 of the GhostWalker series, we’re being introduced to a new GhostWalker team, this one headed by Mack McKinley whose specialty is urban warfare and his talents too numerous to name. It seemed that every time I thought I understood what his ability was, he was doing something new.

Jaimie was a member of the team for years, but hers and Mack’s volatile past and a close call during a mission, prompted Jaimie to disappear one night, leaving behind the only family she really ever had, and the only man she’s ever loved.

Mack and Jaimie find themselves reunited, but not under the best of circumstances, and seemingly not by mere coincidence which makes them both jumpy and untrusting of each other. Never a good combination when you’re life depends on those you’re working with.

This latest installment of the GhostWalker series flowed so smoothly from the last team to this one that I didn’t even notice the shift, which was something I was worried about because sometimes when you have so many characters in a series, it’s hard for me to keep track. I don’t feel like I needed a refresher or should have done a re-read of Murder Game (book 7) or anything like that before reading Street Game.

There’s just something special about all the GhostWalkers and I can’t put my finger on it. In each team member, I get the feeling that there’s an underlying sense of… emptiness, which is what binds them together. They are all different. Like, they know they’re men, but not free men. They are human, but not exactly. I often wonder how many of them would take a “do-over” if they could, and choose not to be guinea pigged. But in Street Game as in many of the other books, the heroes of the story say that they enjoy their abilities. But again, I have to wonder… do they really, or are they just making the best of it? I guess that might be a question that never gets answered to my satisfaction.

While the surface storyline of this book is different, we’re still dealing with Dr. Peter Whitney, nut-job extraordinaire. But that’s where the comparison ends because there was something different about this book – something special. I felt a stronger connection to all the team members than I have in the previous books, but I also felt a deeper sense of sadness, not only in them, but for them. Maybe it’s because we – and they – are finding out really how low Peter Whitney sank in his justification of his experiments and how far they really went.

The emotional intensity of Street Game was high. There was Mack, always holding back, never sharing his feelings… holding, holding… then WOW! It was like a dam bursting open when he finally opened up, telling Jaimie exactly what she needed to hear: how much he loves her. That was a truly great moment and frankly, for a while there, I didn’t think he had it in him. And with the rest of the teammates, in addition to their "family" ties, there was a sense of sadness... or a resolve... that I think in many ways connects and keeps this team together. They know what it's like to be who...or what… they are. They relate to each other on a level no one else can. And those commonalities make for some fierce and loyal ties that bind.

This really was a great, 5 star read, but again, I apologize that I just can’t really express why…

Ruthless Game by Christine Feehan

Wow! Another fabulous installment of the GhostWalker series.

This is book 9 of the GhostWalker series. Our Hero and Heroine, Kane and Rose, met in the labs when they were part of Peter Whitney’s experimental breeding program, but even before they were “paired,” they were drawn to one another. When the opportunity arose, Kane helped Rose escape the labs, but then lost track of her. Now, 8 months later, he’s found her, pregnant with his child, and he’s not about to lose her again.

Ruthless Game has all the same elements as the other GhostWalker books do, but for some reason, this one stood out as being an excellent story. Maybe it was the chemistry between Rose and Kane, maybe it was just a better storyline or maybe it was a little of both, I don’t know. What I do know is that I loved everything about this book, and literally couldn’t put it down. There were times I laughed out loud at Kane’s comments and his internal musings, and I loved that while Rose wanted to be independent, she knew when she needed help and wasn’t too arrogant - or too stupid - to accept it when Kane offered it. Alright, alright... when Kane forced it on her - what else would you expect? These are the epitome of Alpha Males, after all. They're GhostWalkers.

Ruthless Game is an exciting, romantic and super sexy story and easily one of my favorites of the series.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Savor the Danger by Lori Foster

Now this is what I’m talkin’ about! 

Savor the Danger is the third book in the Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series, and everything I love in my Romantic Suspense reads! Hot, hot, hot heroes, and sexy, strong, intelligent heroines who do everything in their power to support the man they love – or the man they lust after, as the case may be. And did I mention hot heroes?

This story continues with our hero(es) working to bring down those scum of the earth men and women who make their living off of the misery of others, by buying and selling human beings. Those are among the worse kinds of people I can think of, and knowing that this really happens outside the pages of books makes me sick. There’s a special place in hell for ‘people’ –  and I use the word lightly – who think they have the right to do things like this. And while it could make for a very dark read, Ms. Foster handles this issue in a way that gets the point across without making it uncomfortable. Bravo!

In this story, Jackson has had the hots for Alani for awhile, but kept his distance because, well, for one thing, she was aloof and didn’t much give him the time of day. But most importantly, I think, was that he wanted to give her some time to recuperate from the kidnapping we read about in book one, When You Dare. But when he wakes up to find Alani in bed with him, and has absolutely no recollection of how she got there, they’ve got no choice but to work together and find out who drugged Jackson and why.

Jackson is all the things I love in an Alpha hero. He’s physically able to take out the bad guys in one scene and burn up the sheets – figuratively speaking, of course – in the next. He’s passionate, determined, and incredibly sexy. And, he likes to take time to “talk” things through, if you know what I mean. Usually, the sex-just-for-the-sake-of-getting-off in a story doesn’t do anything for me, but Jackson made it work big time, because honestly? yeah, he wanted Alani in his bed as desperately as she wanted to be there, and in truth it wasn’t just about the sex for either of them.

Going in to Savor the Danger I worried that I’d find more of the TSTL (not the brightest bulb in the box) heroines that I found in Molly and Priss, but thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Alani is smart, level headed, kind, generous and incredibly supportive of her man. She’s had about a year to recover from her abduction by human traffickers, and she has some residual PTSD moments, but overall she was just wonderful, and exactly the kind of woman I’d want for a man like Jackson Savor.

The bottom line – I loved this book and can’t wait for the next installment!

This ebook was provided to me for review by netgalley.com and that had no influence on my rating.

Trace of Fever by Lori Foster

This is book two of the Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series and, in my opinion, felt much more like romantic suspense than the first book, and that made me very happy.

Trace Rivers has every reason to be angry, and he’d made it his life’s mission to bring down organizations like the one that kidnapped his sister, Alani. She was taken by human traffickers and ended up in Tijuana where in book one of the series, When You Dare, she was rescued by Dare Macintosh, a friend and colleague of Trace’s.

Murray Colburn is Trace’s current target, and he’s managed to infiltrate the organization as Murray’s number one body guard where he’s able to get information on when the next “transaction” will be taking place. Everything is going according to plan and nothing, nothing is going to stand in the way of Trace making sure Murray pays for his crimes. But, in walks Priscilla “Priss” Patterson, claiming to be Murray’s daughter, and no matter how hard Trace tries to scare her off, she’s not about to walk away. She has an agenda of her own, one that could end up getting them both killed.

So, there were things I loved about this story and things that just didn’t work for me. I think Trace was an amazing hero. He’s incredibly sexy, and just oozes testosterone. He has the edginess and the intense focus on his mission that made him the kind of guy I can believe will get the job done. He’s not stupid, doesn’t take unnecessary chances, but it’s clear that he’s willing to risk his own life to rid the world of people like Murray. And the story worked for me, with the exception of Helena, Murray’s on call sex goddess. She was over the top bizarre and I really couldn’t imagine that someone in Murray’s line of work would keep someone as volatile and freaky as her around, no matter how good her blow jobs were.

But let’s talk about our Priss. She’s another heroine that just didn’t quite cut it for me. I didn’t feel like she was nearly as dense as Molly was in book one, and I truly mean no disrespect here, but I’ve decided that based on the first two books, this series could also be called Women Who Walk the Edge of Stupidity because once again, we have a female who just wouldn’t stay out of trouble, and in doing so not only threatens to expose Trace’s mission, but puts many lives at risk, especially Trace’s. Sure, she had her own agenda, and damn good reasons for wanting to bring Murray down, but still I found myself shaking my head at some of - most of - her choices.

I didn’t really feel a connection to the characters or their relationship. I mean, yeah, Trace loves Priss and Priss loves Trace, so that’s all that should matter, right? Well, when I’m reading a story, I really need to be convinced of what the author is trying to sell, and in this case, I just barely bought into their happily ever after.

Overall, this was pretty good read and thanks to Trace, a solid 4 stars. I loved him and his sexy sexiness, and I’m really looking forward to reading about Jackson Savor in Savor the Danger.

This book was provided to me for review by netgalley.com and had no bearing on my rating.

Monday, May 16, 2011

When You Dare by Lori Foster

When You Dare is the first book in the Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series and my introduction to Lori Foster’s writing. 
The foundation of this story is one of the more heinous crimes imaginable - human trafficking, and the rescue of a group of females being held in Tijuana, Mexico. We don’t see the actual rescue, but pick up almost immediately afterwards when our hero, Dare Macintosh, has brought two of the victims, Alani and our heroine Molly, back into the United States. Dare hands Alani over to her brother, Trace, who is also a friend and business partner of Dare’s, and the hero of the next book.   But Dare isn’t ready to part company with Molly, who he refers to as an unexpected “complication,”  because she isn’t safe until they can find out who was responsible for her kidnapping and why she was target.  The bulk of the book is devoted to solving this mystery and while it was interesting and sometimes exciting, what I would have liked was to have actually been there for the rescue, rather than just hearing about it after the fact. Romantic Suspense is one of my favorite genres, and I’ve read some amazing books recently, so maybe that’s why When You Dare didn’t quite WOW me in the action/adventure department as much as I had hoped it would. Overall it was an entertaining read, but I felt that the actual suspense was lacking.
Dare was what I typically expect in an alpha hero. He’s a take charge kind of guy, wanting to protect the female, but at the same time wanting to get in her pants! He was sexy as hell and he had that whole “to do her or not to do her” internal struggle going on, and that made for some great sexual tension.
Molly wasn’t my ideal type of heroine. For someone who had just gone through what she had, I would have expected her to have been more adversely affected by it, more traumatized than she was. Now, don’t get me wrong! I don’t mean I wanted a simpering, weak female who couldn’t event take herself to the bathroom, but for a good deal of the book she was almost as alpha as Dare was, and that’s just not my cuppa when it comes to my romantic suspense heroines.
The bottom line – this is an entertaining, steamy story and a decent start to a new series!
This book was provided to me by netgalley.com, which had no bearing on my rating.

Fallen From Grace by Laura Leone

This is an amazing story, and not at all what I thought it would be. For whatever reason – and I can’t recall how or where I came by this idea, I was expecting another run-of-the-mill erotic read. Well, I was wrong, and not just a little wrong, but completely wrong.

Fallen from Grace is a contemporary romance novel, and one of the best I’ve read in a long while. This isn’t a light, carefree story but even though it does show some of the harsher sides of reality, it’s not dark or depressing. In fact, given the subject matter, it’s pretty inspiring. In addition to a great story, the characters are wonderful people who are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they are the kind of people I’d like to have as friends and neighbors, because they’re honest, good and caring people, men and women who struggle to make the best of their lives.

The very nature of this story is controversial, but Laura Leone did a fabulous job tackling the issues that Ryan and Sara had to face in this book, without copping out and ignoring the harsher aspects of life on the streets for a teen age boy. Abuse, hunger, rape, prostitution… it’s all in there and done with no-holds-barred honesty, yet with a depth of compassion that had me nearly weeping for what Ryan had endured. She didn’t glamorize the life, nor did she try to make excuses for Ryan’s choices. What she did do, though, was prove why we mere mortals have no business casting judgments on each other because without having all the facts, we can’t possibly understand why someone like Ryan would make the choices he did, and Ms. Leone did so without being preachy! No small accomplishment, that.

So, the bottom line? If you’re looking for a thought provoking contemporary romance that isn’t shaped from the same cookie-cutter that so many in this category are, I’d strongly suggest giving Fallen from Grace a try. I bet you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

A big hug and thank you to my friend, Autumn, for this wonderful birthday present. This story will stay with me always!


Monday, May 9, 2011

His Ordinary Life by Linda Winfree

His Ordinary Life is the second book in the Hearts of the South series, and a pretty good installment. It's a second-chance romance which delves deeply into the importance of, and what it means to be, a family.

After almost 20 years of marriage, Del and Barbara Calvert are calling it quits. Their divorce is nearly finalized and it appears to each of them that the other is getting exactly what they want – the chance to move on and make the kind of life they’ve always wanted for themselves. It seems to be a done deal, until their teenage son finds himself in trouble and dad moves back home to see what he can do to help, and decides he’s also going to fight to save his marriage.

For me, reading is a form of escapism, and I like my stories to be happy. But with this type of book there’s usually just too much angst and too many hurt feelings for it to be a 'comfort read.' So, generally speaking,  I find that I’m not normally a big fan of troubled marriage stories, especially if there’s been infidelity. Fortunately, that isn’t the case with this book and the author handled the storyline fairly and respectfully, showing both sides of the coin when it came to their marital problems. Don't get me wrong, there was definitely some heartbreak - the very nature of the story demands it - but it wasn't over the top angst.

Since this is a romance, and we know there's going to be a happily ever after I'm not giving away much when I say that I'm a big believer in accepting responsibility for your actions, so it was nice to see both parties admitting to their role in the marital discord. I'm just tossing that out there because if you're like me, this might be of concern to you.

I also appreciated the way Ms. Winfree addressed the troubled teenager part of the story. It felt honest and believable, and the way the parents struggle to understand their son and not just chalk it up to “those teen years” was well done.

Despite being published by Samhain, this is not an erotic read. There are some pretty steamy sex scenes between Del and Barbara, but nothing more than you’d find in any other contemporary romance. I’m only mentioning that for those who might be leery of erotic books, and have hesitated to read this series based on the publishing company. So far, in books one and two, while the sex scenes are definitely steamy, they’re not what I consider erotic.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Hold On to Me.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath

Texas Destiny is the first book in Lorraine Heath’s Texas Trilogy, and my first read by this author. From the reviews and recommendations by friends, I was expecting a really good book, but ended up totally blown away by how much I loved this story. Great hero, great heroine, believable storyline, humor, passion… this book has everything I need for a 5 star read.

Dallas Leigh knew what he wanted and wasn't afraid to do whatever it took to realize his dreams. Already a successful rancher and land owner, the only thing he was lacking was a son to leave his legacy to, so when Dallas saw an ad for a woman looking to become a mail order bride, he began correspondence. After having exchanged letters for a year, Dallas decides that he wants Amelia to be the woman to share his dreams and give him the son he longs for. Just when it was time for him to make the three week journey into Fort Worth to meet his new bride, he fell from a horse he was trying to break and ended up being the one who got broken – his leg, that is. Clearly unable to make the trip to meet the woman who had traveled halfway across the country to marry him, Dallas’ has no other choice than to send his brother, Houston, to meet Amelia at the train station and wait patiently for their return.

I love a story with a tortured hero, and Houston Leigh is certainly that. He has terrible scars on his face and body, a result of a near fatal injury during Civil War where at 14 years old, he was his father’s drummer. He spent so much of his life hiding in the shadows and wishing he had died on the battlefield rather than living the life he’s had to endure. His torment doesn’t just come from his own scars, but from the pain of believing that his father died on that same battlefield because of Houston’s cowardice. He’s certain his brothers, Dallas and Austin, also blame him for their father’s death, and given that no woman can stand to look at him with his disfigured face, he’s resigned himself to a life of solitude.

Amelia Carson is a strong, resourceful woman with a take charge attitude, so traveling across country to start a new life with a man she’s never met is more exciting than frightening. Besides, her life has been anything but easy, and she’s got more than her own share of childhood trauma to deal with and making this trip is nothing compared to the things she’d endured. She was looking forward to meeting her fiancĂ© and spending the time it took to travel back to his ranch getting to know him, but much to her surprise, the man who met her at the station wasn’t Dallas.

The three weeks it takes to get to the ranch made for some great reading. There was laughter, tears, danger and passion, and I enjoyed it all so much I didn’t want the journey to end, but of course it had to. Once they made it to Dallas’ ranch, the story could have become over the top dark and depressing, but it never did. I was sure there would be angst, and there was. Truth be told, it was an emotional roller coaster ride, but it never became so unbearable that I felt like I needed to put the book down to take a breather. In fact, the book was so good I couldn’t put it down at all!

I’m thrilled to have found this trilogy and owe a huge debt of gratitude to my Goodreads friends who mentioned this book again and again. Houston Leigh now holds a spot on my Top Hero shelf, and it’s not easy to earn that place of honor.