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!

Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor by Ann Bryn

Several years ago I bought this cookbook on a whim, and tonight when I was looking for a way to "doctor" up a boxed cake mix I bought at the market today, I immediately grabbed this book! Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor is a great go-to cookbook, loaded with recipes, tips and tricks to take any boxed cake mix from mundane to magnificent with very little effort.

In the front you'll find a few pages with pictures of each recipe, along with the page number. The rest of the book is divided into sections:

1. Chocolate Cake Mix 101
2. Luscious Layers
3. Chocolate Pound Cake
4. Sheet Cakes
5. Cheesecakes, Pudding Cakes, and So Much More
6. Chocolate Angel Food and Chiffon Cakes
7. Muffins, Cupcakes, and Little Cakes
8. Cookies, Bars, and Brownies,
9. Frostings
20. Conversion Table
11. Chocolate Cake Glossary

We've made the Old-Fashioned Devil's Food Cake with Fluffy Chocolate Frosting so many times that the page is not just wrinkled and *gasp* dog-eared, but there are chocolate smudges all over it, too! Another favorite is the German Chocolate Cake recipe, and just tonight I found the Upside Down German Chocolate Cake recipe. I have no idea how that one escaped my notice!

Anyway, I can't recommend this book highly enough - it doesn't get easier than this!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pamela Clare News!!! has named Breaking Point by Pamela Clare one of their Top Ten Romance Novels of 2011. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Kelsey's Song by Lanie Kincaid

Kelsey’s Song is the first installment of The Wilder Books and let me just tell you, it was a delightfully refreshing story! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like it, but with Kelsey’s calm strength, JD’s vulnerability but never-say-die spirit, and three adorable kids between them, I was captivated from the first page to the last. Then, as if that weren’t enough, throw in JD’s band-mates, a great storyline and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!

Kelsey Conklin is a single mom, raising two children on her own. It’s rough going, but like all things in her life, she just does what needs to be done and keeps moving forward. One day while shopping with her kids at a local Target store, she hears a young girl throwing the temper tantrum from hell! Feeling sorry for the child’s father, Kelsey does what she can to help him out, accepts his thanks, and heads home wondering what had brought the man and his daughter to this point in their lives.

JD Hewitt gave up a lucrative career as a stock market investor to pursue what he loves most – making music!! He’s a guitarist, singer and songwriter whose dream is to have a successful band, so he packed up and moved to Nashville where a man's dreams can come true. Then three years later his ex-girlfriend died of cancer and, out of the blue, JD is handed a daughter he hadn’t even known about. Juggling this newfound fatherhood and his struggling band, Wilder, JD is nearly at his wit’s end when he meets and befriends Kelsey, an amazing woman who just seems to have it all together. The friendship they develop is fun and mutually beneficial, but as the months go on, it becomes obvious that friendship isn’t quite enough for either one of them. But afraid of ruining the incredible relationship they have, neither Kelsey nor JD are willing to open up and admit their true feelings.

There are just so many things right about this story, but for me what stood out most was the way these people came together, loving and supporting, each helping the other to fulfill their dreams, and redefining the word "family." See, I think that too many people believe that a family has to be made up of blood, or some legal document that decrees them as such. But one of my favorite parts of this story came when Kelsey looked around and realized that the people she had surrounded herself with were the true definition of family.
Kelsey wanted to stop time. Her kids were happy, truly happy. She now had the same size family as she’d had previously, but she was willing to admit that this one was better. In so many ways. Oh, God, Andrew forgive me. But the weight that had been lifted from her when Andrew died became even lighter when JD stepped up to really share the load.

He didn’t vacuum her living room, or do her laundry, or mow her lawn. But she had a sounding board that she trusted when she didn’t know what to do. When she wasn’t sure she’d handled something right. When she just prayed for someone to tell her that they saw she was doing her best. It was far more than she had imagined, knowing that someone had her back. No one had had her back for as long as she could remember.
The bottom line - Kelsey's Song is not without its flaws, but those things aside it is a beautiful love story, in every sense of the word. While the relationship building went on a bit longer than I would have liked, I was pleased that their sexual relationship didn't happen overnight. In fact, it was made all the more believable because they didn't become intimate 'til near the end of the book, and when they did, despite the awkwardness afterwards, it felt so right. This book is a light and funny story, with a sweet, romantic and steamy ending. I will absolutely be looking for more by Lanie Kincaid.

My sincerest thanks to Griffyn Ink for providing me with an ecopy of this book, via

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Don't Mess with Texas by Christie Craig

“I wanted to talk, but I wasn’t going to talk about sex. Not that I don’t like talking about sex. I just prefer having sex to talking about it.” He grinned. “But talking about it isn’t bad.”
Don’t Mess with Texas is my introduction to Christie Craig’s writing, and a delight to read! It was fresh, funny, and steamy and I loved the world she wrote. The characters are interesting, quirky people who I want to know more about. I’m fairly new to the straight, non-erotic, non-suspenseful Contemporary Romance genre, and unfortunately I don’t often find the stories detailed or interesting enough to hold my attention. Thankfully that’s not the case with this story!

Story blurb:
Nikki Hunt thought her night couldn't get worse when her no-good, cheating ex ditched her at dinner, sticking her with the bill. Then she found his body stuffed in the trunk of her car and lost her two-hundred-dollar meal all over his three-thousand-dollar suit. Now not only is Nikki nearly broke, she's a murder suspect.

Former cop turned PI, Dallas O'Connor knows what it's like to be unjustly accused. But one look at the sexy-though skittish-suspect tells him she couldn't hurt anyone. The lead detective, Dallas's own brother, has the wrong woman and Dallas hopes a little late-night "undercover" work will help him prove it . . .
I loved the ‘if something can go wrong, it will’ nature of the story because rather than angsty, those things were all handled with humor. Some of the funniest moments in the story could actually have been dismally dreary, but Ms. Craig did a great job of keeping it light, easy to follow and a joy to read. The family dynamic between Tony, Dallas and their father was laugh out loud funny at times, as well as heartwarming and poignant. The interactions with Dallas and his partners, Austin and Tyler – anyone else notice they’re all named after major Texas cities? – were also pretty darned funny at times, and that’s all part of what made the book so enjoyable. But I have to be honest and tell you, Bud, the English Bulldog with flatulence issues was one of my favorite characters. And speaking of Bud, this was one of my favorite scenes:
Her heart swelled with hope. “We should start all over, try dating, and just see—”

He put a finger over her lips. “No.”

Her chest grew tight.

“I don’t want to start over. I want you back at my place. Bud hasn’t been the same. He’s not eating right. I carried him to the vet and he said he’s depressed. He’s farting like crazy and there’s no one there to laugh with me about it. It’s pathetic.”

She chuckled. “This is supposed to make me want to go back?”

He smiled. “You love Bud. Don’t deny that.”

She took a deep breath and decided to be honest. “He’s not the only thing I love, Dallas. And that scares me because if you don’t feel the same way—”

“For God’s sake, Nikki, what the hell do you think I just said?”

She considered his question. “Saying you want me to share your dog’s farts is not saying you love me.” She laughed.

He dropped his head back on the sofa and laughed with her. Seconds later, he looked at her. “Then let me say it. I love you.” He kissed her nose. “I love all of you. There’s nothing I don’t love about you. The way you talk to yourself. The way you care about your crazy grandmother and her friends. The way you accept people and make everyone happy. Including me. You make me happy, Nikki. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve been happy? Oh, and I love your body. I really love your body.”

She smiled. “I love you, too.”

“And my body?” he asked, his blue eyes twinkling with sexy humor.

She laughed again. “I love your body, too.”
The bottom line – This was a really enjoyable read. Christie Craig knows how to write fun, sensitive, honorable people who I couldn’t help but fall in love with! And the secondary characters were just as interesting, entertaining and captivating as Dallas and Nikki. And speaking of secondary characters, I think one of my favorite side stories was watching Dallas' dad, recently widowed, find new friends and reasons to keep living. I’m hoping that there will be more books coming because Austin and Tyler both need a happily ever after.

This ebook was provided free of charge by in behalf of Grand Central Publishing. This had no influence on my rating or review.

No Holds Barred by Callie Croix

Eyes wide, Caitlin set her wineglass on the granite counter and stared at her fiancé in disbelief. “You would share me? Actually share me with another man?”
Cait and her fiancé, Nathan, have a very satisfying sex life – or so she thought. But when out of the blue, Nate asks Caitlin if she’d be interested in a three-way with his best friend Liam, it not only shocks her, but has her worried that Nate might be getting bored with the way things have been.

Based on her reaction, it’s clear to Nate that this isn’t something Caitlin is interested in, and that surprises him. But he’s head over heels in love with her and isn’t going to force or coerce her into anything she doesn’t want. The thing is, he’s pretty damned sure she does want it, but fear of what might happen afterwards is standing in her way of letting go and experiencing this with him.

Liam is staying the weekend with Nate and Caitlin before his leave is up and he returns to Afghanistan. He adores Cait, and has for as long as he’s known her, so when Nate suggests a threesome, Liam is more than okay with the idea. But truth be told, he’s also pretty shocked because he knows how much Nathan loves Caitlin and never dreamed that he’d want to share her.

Will they be able to convince Caitlin to give into her desires and let them take her to heights of pleasure she has only ever fantasized about? Of course they will, silly! Otherwise there wouldn’t be a story, right? And oh, sweet Mary! What a hot story it was! But that said, when reading ménage, I’m always concerned about the fallout of these one-time-deals. Will everything be okay, or will there be jealousy and hurt feelings? In this story, I was glad to see that it bothered Nate when Cait kissed Liam goodbye, because it made Nathan seem more like a man in love rather than just a guy who didn’t mind sharing his fiancé.
The bottom line - No Holds Barred was a short, hot read, and I’m hoping, really hoping, that we’ll get a story for Liam, who sounds like a man in need of some lovin’. Generally, I like more intensity in these kinds of stories, where military men are involved, but this was okay, otherwise. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more by Callie Croix, who also writes romantic suspense as Kaylea Cross.

This ebook was provided by in behalf of Carina Press, in exchange for an honest review.