Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Unforgiven by Joy Nash

I’m just going to say this right up front – I loved this story! But before I go into all the reason why, I want to give you a little background about me and my obsession with the Nephilim –

For as long as I can remember, since the first time I heard the word Nephilim, I wanted to know more about this race of beings. Were they truly the offspring of “fallen angels” and human women? Were they really cursed for the sins of their fathers? Giants or heroes, wicked or valiant, there are so few biblical references to them that we really don’t know much about them at all, and maybe that’s why I find them so compelling! In Genesis 6 they were called the heroes of old, men of renown, and yet they were also spoken of as some of the beings who were so wicked that God sent the flood to cleanse the Earth of them. The Book of Jubilees and The Book of Enoch have a lot more to say about the Nephilim, also known as Watchers, and their history, including the names of their chiefs, some of which are mentioned in The Unforgiven.

Now on to the important stuff – what you really want to know!

The Unforgiven is one of the best “fallen angel” stories I’ve ever read, and an excellent start to the The Watchers series. It’s exciting, compelling, and action packed with the perfect blend of PNR and Fantasy. Curses, spells, magic and alchemy all play a big part in this story, along with demons, revenge, rivalry and a heavy sense of good vs. evil. I’m very impressed with Ms. Nash’s vision of this race and their history, and I have to say she’s done a fantastic job of sticking close to what few things we actually know about them, and creating an incredible story in which to bring them to life.
“You keep talking about a crisis,” she snapped. “If you think that’s going to scare me, forget it. I’ve got terminal brain cancer, remember? All the fear’s been leached out of me.”
Madeline Durant is about to find out that being diagnosed with terminal cancer is a walk in the park compared to what’s about to happen to her. She is a Watcher dormant, a pre-transitioned Nephilim, and not just any Nephilim. Maddie is a descendant of one of the most powerful and dangerous clans known, and her magic, once she comes into it, could save the Clan Samyaza from the Clan Azazel who wants to see Samyaza totally annihilated.
A car approached, motoring in the opposite direction. Cade stepped on the gas and flew past it. “You’re wrong about that. Believe me, Maddie, there’s going to be plenty of room for fear when you confront your demon nature.”
To help her through her transition, and to gain control of her powers for his Clan, Cade Leucetius, a Watcher adept, is sent to anchor Maddie during her transition, and if anyone can make sure she survives the ordeal, Cade can. It was only a year or so ago that he himself went through it, so he knows firsthand how painful, frightening, and deadly it can be.

I can’t tell you how badly I want to give The Unforgiven 5 stars, and if I were rating the Nephilim storyline alone, I would have. I really loved both Cade and Maddie as individuals. I felt their frustration, their anger, their passion, and felt that there was definitely potential for an amazing relationship, but unfortunately, it never quite reached it. I still enjoyed their page time together and they had incredible sexual chemistry, but it somehow just didn’t develop into a romance that left me breathless or cheering for them. I’m hoping that we’ll see more of Cade and Maddie in the next book so I can be assured of their happily ever after.

Overall, The Unforgiven is a great read. The storyline is well written and executed, and kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next. Despite Maddie and Cade's relationship not being as developed as I would have liked, it was still steamy and emotional. The secondary characters are complex and compelling beings who will have amazing stories of their own and I’m definitely looking forward to continuing this series!

This book was provided to me by netgalley.com in behalf of Dorchester publishing, and my review, in no way, was influenced by this.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Texas Splendor by Lorraine Heath

Texas Splendor, the final book to Lorraine Heath’s Texas Trilogy, is Austin Leigh’s story. It picks up five years after Texas Glory, with Austin’s release from prison where he’d served time for a murder he didn’t commit. As he makes his way home from Fort Worth to Leighton, there are only two things on Austin’s mind – clearing his name and claiming the girl who promised to wait for him. What he finds, however, is that Becky has married his best friend, finding the real killer isn’t going to be easy and returning to his old life is nearly impossible.

Watching Austin grow from a young man into a mature adult as the books progressed was a treat. I’ve come to love him as if he was my own brother, and sharing in his successes as well as his struggles endeared him to me all the more. And because of this, my heart really did break when he found out that the girl who he’d planned to build his life with and whose memories had kept him going while he was in prison had married his best friend. I knew it was going to happen, the book synopsis makes that clear, but still, my heart ached for him, and even knowing what was coming I wasn’t prepared for the impact it had on both Austin and myself.

Loree Grant. Wow, what an amazing, loving, passionate, compassionate, tortured heroine. I’m not at all sure that I could have kept going after what she had lived through, honestly. In the real world, I believe that from time to time, God brings two people together whose life’s experiences have been so tragic that the only way they can grow and heal is with someone who’s been there, too. And in this fictional tale, such is the case with Loree and Austin. I can’t imagine another human being on the face of the planet who could have been a more perfect match for Austin, and he for her. I won’t go into the details of their relationship except to say that I was so happy, for both of them, to find the comfort they needed in one another. Austin gave her a family, after having her own brutally taken from her. And she… well, she gave Austin a desire to not just live, but to follow his dreams and live life to the fullest.

One of many favorite quotes from this book -
"Don't stop loving me, Loree. You want me to learn what those little black bugs on those pieces of paper mean, I'll learn. You want me to play the violin from dawn until dusk, hell, I'll play till midnight, just don't stop loving me."

She flung her arms around his neck and felt his arms come around her back, the violin tapping against her backside. "Oh, Austin, I couldn't stop loving you if I wanted."
Texas Splendor is a wonderful story, and amazing ending to the Texas Trilogy. It’s not often that I say this, but I hated to see it end. There were many other characters whose lives I would have loved to follow, but most of all, Rawley Cooper. In this book we see how he’s grown into quite a young man. Someone with honor, integrity and all the makings for an amazing hero should he ever get his own story. I can only keep hoping that Ms. Heath will feel the way I do and make sure that Rawley gets his own happily ever after, too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lord of the Vampires by Gena Showalter

Warning! This book contains sex… wow. Hot, crazy, vampire sex! And lots of it.

Lord of the Vampires is the first book in the new Royal House of Shadows series, and my first read of Gena Showalter’s writing. I’ve heard her name mentioned time and time again as friends encouraged me to read her Lords of the Underworld series, but when I saw Lord of the Vampires listed on netgalley, I just couldn’t pass it up!

The first thing that really stood out, and I enjoyed very much, was just how edgy and vicious Nicolai is. Hell bent on a revenge he had to have but didn’t quite understand, he’s bloodthirsty and brutal in getting what he wants. Calling Nicolai “alpha” is like calling a tornado a gentle breeze. Caveman, Neanderthal, heathen… seriously, he’s the most over the top brute of any book I’ve read in a long time! And. I. Loved it! Every time Nicolai growled, “Mine” or “Want you…” I got all tingly inside!

Then there's Jane, our heroine, who is summoned to rescue Nicolai.

Speaking of Nicolai – Have I mentioned how much I love him? A hot, sexy vampire, cursed, memory stolen, he can summon me any day!

I’d say the first half of the book was a solid 5 star rating for me. I was impressed with the world building, the unique storyline and interesting characters – especially Nicolai. Rawr! Then somewhere into the second half we suddenly started getting a lot of repetition of thoughts... internal rehashing of things that had already been hashed to death. That would have been fine had I been reading only a chapter or two every few days and needing reminders of things I’d previously read, but that wasn’t the case, so I found myself skipping over things, and being annoyed at having to do so! I wanted more Nicolai time, not time spent listening to Jane whine about being attacked by witches and nearly raped by Ogres. Whatever, Jane! Grow a set and get over it! Anyway, the second half of the book gets about 3 stars from me, so I’m giving it an overall rating of 4 stars.

Some of my favorite quotes from the story all come from Nicolai -
“Mine,” Nicolai snapped. “No touching.”

Behind her, she heard Nicolai jerking against his chains. “Mine!”

And her resistance…gods, he’d wanted to quash it. Still did.
Wanted her to know his bite, his kiss.
His possession.
Perhaps she was merely a challenge he had to triumph above. He didn’t care. Quite simply, she was his. That was not in question. Mine, his cells continued to scream. All mine.

“Mine,” he said more forcefully, perhaps sensing her doubts.
“What do you mean by that? Explain.”
“Want you. No secret of that. You want me, too.”
God, those short, abrupt sentences were sexy as hell.
As if his mind was locked on one thought—pleasure—and nothing could penetrate his determination to have it. With her and only her.

And my favorite of all -

"Want. You."

Be still my heart! So romantic, so hot, sooo... caveman!

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Lord of Rage which will be written by Jill Monroe.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Texas Glory by Lorraine Heath

Texas Glory is the second book in Lorraine Heath’s Texas Trilogy and to be honest, I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy it because the first book, Texas Destiny was such an amazing read that I didn’t see how this one could possibly compare. Well, I’m glad to say my fears were for naught. This was, quite simply put, an incredibly emotional story. I liked Dallas in the first book, but I love him now!

In Texas Destiny, Dallas Leigh stood and watched - not without putting up a fight, though - as his own mail-order bride fell in love with his younger brother, Houston, and his dream of having a son to pass his legacy onto slip through his fingers. Now, while his dream might have been temporarily waylaid, it was not forgotten! His all consuming desire for a son has Dallas taking advantage of a water rights feud with Angus McQueen, a neighboring rancher, and offering to marry his daughter, Cordelia, in exchange for the right to use water on Dallas’ land. It certainly isn’t a love match, and rumor has it that not only is Cordelia homely, she also lost her nose in a tragic accident. But the way Dallas sees it – as long as she gives him a son, he doesn’t care what she looks like!

I’m not going to go into the plot other than to say it’s pretty brutal sometimes. Gunfights, robbery, murder, and attempted murder… this book has everything we've come to expect from the Wild West, including a child abuse of the most heartbreaking kind. We're introduced to Rawley Cooper, a young boy whose story broke my heart, and I sobbed for what that child was forced to live through. Thank God for Dallas and his kindness, compassion and his sense of justice, and Cordelia for her unconditional love.

Texas Glory, like Texas Destiny, is a wonderful story. Heartwarming tales of the trials of frontier living, the love of family, and the joy of finding your happily ever after in the most unlikely of ways.

5 of 5 stars

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Beatrice Munson by Lorena Bathey

Meet Beatrice Munson, high school nemesis and boyfriend stealer. Well, that's how Marissa Lyons remembers her, anyway. Even after all these years she hasn't forgiven Beatrice for swooping in on Jeffrey, the love of Marissa's life - who in truth barely even knew that Marissa existed. So now that Beatrice has moved into the house right across the street, what's Marissa to do? After the initial panic wears off, she decides to meet her enemy head on! This is her turf, after all. She was here first! So Marissa does the only thing she can possibly do in this situation - She marches right up to Beatrice's front door armed with a plate of homemade cupcakes and welcomes her to the neighborhood!

And nothing in Marissa’s life, or Vista Heights, would ever be the same.

Beatrice Munson is one of those stories that really makes you think about what your life might have been like had you made different choices. Maybe it would have been better, or maybe not. It’s a sometimes lighthearted, sometimes emotional story about letting go of your past, opening up to the possibilities of the present, and learning to trust, to love and to let yourself be loved. It’s about accepting yourself for who you are, and accepting others for who they are, too. And, in my opinion, its most valuable lesson is to not be afraid of stepping outside the beige colored world you may have lost yourself in, and embrace life and the amazing colors it has to offer you.

While this debut, self published novel was not without some flaws – minor editing errors and some scenes that were a lot of “tell” when I would have preferred more “show,” I have to say that this has turned out to be one of my favorite books of the year, and a great introduction into the “what genre is that exactly?” world of Chick-Lit. Beatrice Munson had me laughing one minute, crying the next. Cheering for some people and booing others. And I enjoyed every minute of it!

Some of my favorite quotes from the story:
“It doesn’t matter. These are just things. You don’t get it, do you? I have substituted my entire life for things. I don’t have a man who loves or respects me. But I have the perfect shade of mushroom on my walls. I don’t have a son who feels like he can run and throw his arms around his mommy, but my dishes are perfect with no nicks in them. I have everything I thought was important and nothing that really is.”

“There are all kinds of pretty in the world, hon. But what you have is a depth of soul. You are beautiful way deeper than just skin deep. And your eyes, well a man could get lost there.”

As I left my house and moved down the street I looked up at the houses. Where before every house had looked the same and the shades of beige had been prevalent, I saw that now every house had a new color. Some were vibrant ochre, some were blue or green. There were new lights, more flowers and lots of sounds from wind chimes. Looking in the windows I saw people laughing, a few couples kissing in the window and an ease about the energy…
So, what are you waiting for? Get on over to Vista Heights where Housewives don’t have to be Desperate, The Burbs have never seen so much excitement, and Stepford doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell against Beatrice Munson!

I want to thank the author, Lorena Bathey, for asking me to read and review this book, and for the opportunity to get to know these wonderful people. I hope to revisit Vista Heights again someday, very soon.

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Seduced by Her Highland Warrior by Michelle Willingham

I recently finished off Ms. Willingham’s MacEgan Brothers series, so I was very excited to find that she has a new series, and instead of Irish warriors, she’s writing about Highlanders!

Seduced by Her Highland Warrior is the second book the MacKinloch Clan series and picks up right where book one, Claimed by the Highland Warrior left off. The MacKinloch clan has come under attack by the English, with their keep and most of their homes having been burned to the ground. Now, once again, the clan must stand united and rebuild not only their buildings, but their lives. The Goodreads blurb -
Alex MacKinloch is chief of his clan and, in these dark times of unrest, he has united his people.

The void between him and his wife is proving a much harder challenge. When Alex discovers Laren has been keeping secrets from him, his thinly veiled frustration can no longer be contained.

The pleasures of the marital bed seem long forgotten to Laren. Yet her warrior husband is looking at her with increasingly hungry eyes… This powerful highlander has seduction on his mind and his wife in his sights!
Now, that might sound like this is just another “seduce her ‘til she succumbs” caveman read, but that’s not at all the case. Seduced by her Highland Warrior is a touching story about two people who, though they’ve been through one of the most difficult times a couple can face – the loss of a child – realize that if they want their marriage to survive, they will have to fight for it. Through well written flashbacks we see Alex and Laren’s early years together, and get both points of views into the hows and whys their relationship fell apart.

This could have been an angsty story, but it wasn’t. I mean, yes, the clan was going through difficult times, and Laren had so much growing to do, but the relationship itself, that of husband and wife trying to regain what they'd lost… I thought it was very well written. This is definitely a romantic, inspirational story and Alex and Laren are a couple I could cheer for with a happily ever after I could believe in!

I can’t wait for the next installment of the MacKinloch Clan series, that quiet, tortured soul Callum’s story!

4.5/5 stars

This ARC was provided to me for review by netgalley.com.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Line of Fire by Jo Davis

Line of Fire is book four of the Firefighters of Station Five series and ended up liking much more than I thought I would.

At 23 years old, Tommy Skylar is the youngest member of Station Five, and everyone treats him that way – not like a kid per se, but they’re always watching out for him and in fact, they do call him “kid.” He’s a sweet, easy going Brad Pitt lookalike who gets along with everyone, so he’s come across as kind of wimpy in the other books. But the thing about Tommy is that he’s known some serious grief in his life, so his experiences have made him a mature, wiser-than-his-years man, a side of him which we finally get to see now that he’s got his own book.

Shea Ford is a 28 year old ER nurse who happens to be on duty when Tommy is brought in with a head injury he received during a rescue. Tommy hasn’t hidden his feelings for Shea, and even though she’s pushed him away time and time again, when she sees him this way she can no longer fight her feelings, and things really start to heat up between them.

The story was pretty interesting, with a corrupt politician and a home grown terrorist trying to set up house in Sugarland, TN, but even so the most exciting things that happened actually took place during the scenes with the firefighters on the job. But one thing that really bugged me - and it’s a plot detail so don’t peek unless you’ve read the book, but (view spoiler)[ when Tommy went back into that building the last time and was hit over the head and left to die… how was it the person who attacked him was able to lay in waiting for him in a dangerously burning building? How could said attacker see through the smoke to know that it was Tommy there, underneath all that gear? And last but certainly not least, how could Tommy’s murder have been planned in this way when they had absolutely no way of knowing he’d be the one going into the building? (hide spoiler)] Now, did I miss something there? If so, please set me straight! So anyway, while I love these books and I find Jo Davis’ writing to be exciting and easy to read, in each book there’s been something that takes away from the overall story. It might be coincidences that border on unbelievable, or some other things that happen which leave me shaking my head with more questions than answers, but book after book, it’s there.

Fortunately, those hot, hunky firefighters of Station Five always make the stories worth reading and in fact, they’re the only reason I read these books. In typical Jo Davis fashion, Line of Fire is an incredibly erotic non-erotic book, and it turns out that Tommy has some kink lurking beneath the surface which made for some very steamy sex scenes. And as with the previous books, there was at least one close encounter of the anal kind, which has me wondering if perhaps there’s something in the water…

4 of 5 stars

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Claimed by the Highland Warrior by Michelle Willingham

I’m a big fan of Michelle Willingham’s historicals, and so when I saw this book, I knew that I just had to have it!

Claimed by the Highland Warrior is the first book in the MacKinloch Clan series and we're introduced to an amazing family and a wonderful supporting cast of friends and clan members. Taking place during the time of William Wallace, Braveheart, it's a historical adventure that could have been bogged down with the necessary world building and character introduction that takes place in most first books in a series, but I didn’t feel any of that. In fact, the story was so well told that I read it in a single day and found the secondary characters to be every bit as important and compelling as our main couple.

Goodreads blurb –
Bram MacKinloch has spent seven long, torturous years in captivity with only three things to keep him alive—pure brute strength, a thirst for revenge and the memory of his pretty wife's face.

Shock is only one of the emotions coursing through Nairna's body when she sees Bram again. His scars tell of suffering, the hunger in his eyes speak of a burning desire so raw it could consume them both. But a lot has changed since they so innocently wed…
On his wedding night, Bram left his young bride, Nairna, and went with his father and brothers into battle, having never even consummated the marriage. Then came the news that Bram and his brother, Callum, and their father, were killed, leaving Nairna to mourn a man she cared deeply for. Seven years later as this story opens, Bram has escaped his hellish prison and makes his way back to his wife’s family’s holdings so he can finally claim the woman he loves. Of course Nairna is overjoyed to see him alive, but neither of them are the same people they were when they first married, so she isn’t sure what to expect. Then as if that isn’t enough to contend with, when they make their way to Bram’s family at Glen Arrin, they find the keep in near ruin, the clan divided, and the Laird and his wife barely speaking, but it’s all of these things that make the story so interesting – and keeps Nairna busy!

Watching Bram and Nairna deal with what we now know as PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - was at times heartbreaking, but Nairna is such a strong, grounded woman that even though she was dealing with her own tumultuous emotions, she was able to help Bram deal with the memories and nightmares of his years of torture and captivity, while devoting herself to her new clan and her role as a wife. There are so many things to love about this story, but first and foremost were Nairna and Bram, watching as they had to first learn to trust one another and then love.

While there were some slower moments in the story, Claimed by the Highland Warrior is a romantic, passionate, and exciting beginning to the MacKinloch Clan series, one which I’ll continue to follow.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tangled Past by Leah Braemel

When I requested this book from netgalley, I knew it would be a hot historical western, and because I’ve read Ms. Braemel’s writing before, I knew I’d enjoy it. Well, Tangled Past turned out to be more than just another erotic read.

This story addresses racial prejudice – two of the characters are “half –breeds”; and sexual intolerance – two of the characters are gay. So as you can imagine, there’s a good, emotional story to go along with the sex.

Nate and Jackson are two cowboys in love, but they keep it under wraps because hey, who wants to ruin a perfectly good day by being hung? But due to a misunderstanding, Jackson is forced to marry Sarah McLeod, and even though he doesn't want to marry her, he vows to do right by his new bride. So where does this leave Nate? Well... pretty lonely for a good deal of the book, and that was a problem for me as a reader because I often found myself wondering about how Nate, the odd-man-out during this part of the story, was handling everything that was taking place. Unfortunately, it had me questioning Jackson’s affection for him beyond anything but the physical and negatively affected my hope for a happily ever after that I could believe in. Which leads me to another point; this book is tagged “ménage” but I have to say, it took a long time to get there, so I’m more inclined to call it a m/m, m/f, m/f/m romance with a ménage scene thrown in.

I enjoyed the epilogue, getting a glimpse into their lives about 20 years down the road, and I’m hoping there will be a story for Nate, Jackson and Sarah’s descendants.

3.5/5 stars

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Seduction & Scandal by Charlotte Featherstone

There’s just something about Charlotte Featherstone’s writing that sweeps me away into another time and place, and I don’t feel like I’m merely reading a story, but living a dream!
The first time I met Death, it was at a ball and we danced a waltz, and I feared him, feared the things he made me feel, made me want. That night I ran from him, but Death was right behind me, chasing me and I wanted him to catch me.
Isabella Fairmont is a young woman who has known hunger, pain and scandal. The daughter of a woman who gave her heart and her body to a man who she fancied herself in love with, Issy has had to live with the memories of what it was like to be poor and looked down on by the ton. When her mother passed away, Issy was taken in by her uncle and was given the kind of life she should have had. But she can’t put her mother’s past behind her and doesn’t plan to make the same mistakes, so she’s settled on an appropriate, respectable man to marry. But Isabella lives out her dreams in her writing where love, desire and passion are safe to experience. But when she meets Lord Black and he evokes those feelings in her outside of the pages of her book, she finds herself torn between longing for what he offers, and fearing it.
Never tell what you know. Never say what you are. Never lose faith in your purpose, for the kingdom to come will have need of you and your sons.
The mysterious Earl of Black is no stranger to scandal. Having been suspect in the death of his mother, brother and fiancée, he’s become reclusive, hiding dangerous secrets of his own. As a member of the Brethren Guardians, he protects valuable, centuries old artifacts that, should they fall into the wrong hands, could destroy the world. He knows of Isabella’s past, and knows the woman she’s become - and he wants her with a depth of desire that is nearly uncontrollable.
“Why, Isabella Fairmont - ” Lucy beamed incredulously “- you have, at last, been properly seduced!”
Isabella tries to resist the mysterious Lord Black, but with his pale blue eyes and brooding sensuality that are exactly as she described Death in her book, she finds herself drawn to him like a moth to a flame, and realizes that she may not have the strength to refuse him.
“I will admit it is a rather strange concept.”
I truly enjoyed the very unique storyline, and while there were some slow moments that are common when we’re being introduced to a new series and its world, Seduction & Scandal was a beautiful tale full of intrigue, excitement and passion. Issy and Lord Black are a perfect match and I was anxious to see them finally get the happily ever after they so deserved!

I’m looking forward to the next installment of the Brethren Guardians, Pride & Passion, the story of Issy’s cousin, Lady Lucy Ashton, and the “stuffy” Duke of Sussex.