Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nightfall by Norah Wilson

Nightfall is the second installment of Norah Wilson’s A Vampire Romance series, and the war against the rogue vampires who are preying on the less fortunate among us, continues. The homeless, the drug addicts, the prostitutes… anyone who won’t be missed if they don’t come home at night are especially vulnerable, but in this book we’re introduced to another unique player in the battle, Samantha Shea, whose ability promises to make a big dent in the rogue vampire population.

Our hot, sexy hunter is Aiden Afflack--
“Sorry, you said Affleck? Like Ben Affleck?”

“No, not like Ben. It’s Afflack with an A, like the duck says.”

Yeah, and he was cute and harmless as that duck. Right.
**clears throat** – as I was saying, Aiden Afflack is a vampire hunter and one of the best there is, but there’s something about him that, when he’s near Sam Shea, kicks her ability into overdrive and turns them into an unstoppable team. From the start there's an attraction between them that can't be denied, and fortunately for Aiden and Sam - and us - they don't bother trying.

The bottom line - Nightfall is not only exciting and romantic, but burn up the pages hot. Aiden is one of the sexiest vampires I've read in a long time, and he made the story for me. If Sam ever decides she doesn't want him anymore... oh, baby... six ways to Sunday... just sayin'...

A few minor editing issues kept this from being a solid 5 stars, but I'm giving it 4.5/5 stars because I fell so hard for Aiden.

I'm so happy the author offered these books to me for review, and can't wait to read more in this series. Eli's story. Or RJ's... are you listening Ms. Wilson?

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Merzetti Effect by Norah Wilson

After being attacked and infected with the vampire virus 170 years ago, Dr. Delano Bowen is still searching for a cure so that those who, like himself, wish to go back to being human, can do so. He has every reason to be angry and bitter, but instead of losing himself to those useless emotions and turning rogue himself, he’s focusing his efforts on helping others. Aware that he can’t do it alone, he arranges to meet with Ainsley Crawford who, according to legend, has the Merzetti bloodline that he believes will turn the tide of this war in his favor.

Unemployed and in dire need of money, former Level 1 Trauma Center nurse, Ainsley Crawford, jumps at the chance to interview for a job with Dr. Bowen, but before she’s able to meet with him, she’s brutally attacked by a vampire and nearly killed. Before the vamp can finish her off, and before she succumbs to the darkness, Ainsley is rescued by a good Samaritan who turns out to be none other than Delano Bowen, himself. Before she even knows what hit her, Ainsley finds herself caught in a world where there’s a fine line between good and bad, and there’s a lot riding on her willingness to be a part of it all.

As with all first books in a series there is the necessary world building that, because of the medical backdrop, was a tad confusing to me. However, that aside, I really enjoyed this story because in addition to finding a cure that would make vampirism a choice, not a curse, Dr. Bowen also wants to make sure that these rogue vampires, like the one that turned him, can’t continue preying on society’s weak or less fortunate. To do so, he’s working on a... deterrent, if you will, something akin to being scared straight, and without saying more about it than that, I have to tell you, it’s one of my favorite parts of the story.

The characters, their trials and triumphs… these are people and beings I became invested in and care about. I loved Delano and his dedication to protecting not only the vampire race, but the human race as well, and finding a way for both to exist peacefully. And Ainsley is a great heroine... smart, determined, caring, compassionate… exactly the kind of woman Delano needs by his side. The supporting cast of characters introduced us to some people definitely deserving of their own stories, and I really hope they get them!

The bottom line – In a genre saturated with vampires of every shape, size, color and tormented disposition, it’s always refreshing to find an author who provides a unique take on these beings… their world, their humanity – or their lack thereof, and with The Merzetti Effect this author has given us something a little different, and definitely hot!! I am hoping, hoping, hoping that there will be many more books in Norah Wilson’s Vampire Romance series to come!

My thanks to the author, Norah Wilson, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shrouded in Darkness by H.D. Thomson

Margot Davenport’s life has been turned upside down. She divorced her husband two years ago and lost her corporate attorney job soon after, but none of that compares to the heartbreak she’s dealing with now – the death of her brother, Johnny, who she adored.

Jake Preston doesn’t have long to live, thanks to an experiment gone wrong. He needs to get his hands on the antidote, but the last known person to have it is his friend and co-worker, Johnny Davenport. Unaware of Johnny’s death, Jake shows up at Margot’s front door looking for him, and a place to stay. When he learns about Johnny’s car accident, which he’s pretty sure wasn’t an accident at all, he’s even more convinced that the cure he’s looking for can be found somewhere in Margot’s house.

Maybe it was the way-too-much alcohol she’d been drinking to deaden the emotional pain of her brother’s death, or the fact that Jake is a living, breathing connection to her beloved Johnny, whatever the reason, Margot reluctantly agrees to rent Jake a room for the couple of weeks he'll be in town. Odd things start happening around the house, things she can’t explain and when she starts to think that maybe Johnny’s ghost has come to visit, she realizes she’s really losing it. But when Malcolm, her ex-husband, shows up desperate to find some file Johnny had been working on, Margot is certain there’s much more going on than meets the eye, and that Jake isn’t who, or what, he claims to be.

Shrouded in Darkness is book one of the The Shrouded Series, and I'm glad I was given the opportunity to read it. Jake Preston is the kind of hero I can love – tormented, honorable and strong, yet vulnerable and desperate, but I had a tough time connecting with Margot or sympathizing with her over the things she was going through. The story was good and kept me guessing, wondering who the bad guys were and what they were hiding. I don't want to spoil the story for you, so I can't go into a lot of detail, but I do want to mention that, in my opinion, Shrouded in Darkness felt more sci-fi than paranormal, though not futuristic or techy.

The bottom line - If you enjoy mysteries with a twist you might want to check this one out. The writing isn't without flaws, but Shrouded in Darkness is an entertaining read, and left me wanting to know more about the dark world Jake Preston and Johnny Davenport had found themselves caught up in.

My thanks to the author, H.D. Thomson, who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

3.25/5 stars

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Firelight by Kristen Callihan

Unique, exciting, poignant, thrilling, sexy, funny, romantic… these are the words I’d use to describe Firelight, and yet, it’s so much more! I can’t really compare it to anything else I’ve read and it can’t be lumped into a single genre because in this first installment of the Darkest London series, author Kristen Callihan gives us the beauty of historical romance along with the dark, edginess of paranormal and the magic of fantasy. All of these elements combined have made this one of the best series’ premiers I’ve read in a very long time, maybe ever.

'She walks in beauty like the night; shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?'
Miranda Ellis is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, and she is no ordinary woman. Since birth she’s possessed a very powerful gift, one she’d managed to keep hidden, but it only took one slip, one moment’s loss of control and her life, and the lives of her family, were forever changed. She is lovely, and certainly far better than he deserves, but Archer can't help it, he's drawn to her like a moth to the flame and he has to make her his.

‘I might call him a thing divine, for nothing natural I ever saw so noble.’
Lord Benjamin Aldo Fitzwilliam Wallace Archer, Fifth Baron Archer of Umberslade is no ordinary man, but what makes him different is not a gift he was born with. In fact, it’s not a gift at all, rather the horrific consequence that comes when man thinks to play God. He's bitter, boorish, demanding, pushy... but Miranda can't seem to fight the attraction she feels for him. Despite the mask he wears to hide his scars and his secrets, despite everything about him, she wants him like she's wanted no one else.

Miranda and Archer are fabulous characters, both suffering from their own brand of torment, each one trying to save the other. Archer, so strong, so dangerously powerful and yet with a vulnerability born of foolish arrogance that makes me want to take him in my arms and love him forever. And Miranda... vulnerable not because of her gift but in spite of it. Apart they are lost, but together they are the perfect match, giving each other what they need to overcome the obstacles keeping them apart. And the sexual tension between Archer and Miri sizzled throughout the book and when they finally came together... well, it burned up the pages!

There were many wonderful quotes, but I'm going to share my favorite two. This first one is truly, truly romantic:
Wonderful, beautiful, blissful, gorgeous, lovely. Adjectives floated around in Archer’s head like cherry blossoms falling in late spring. He wanted to laugh, shout, and run amok singing at the top of his voice. Snatches of romantic poetry learned in his salad days came to mind. She walks in beauty like the night; shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? He smiled then, looking up at the ceiling above his bed. He certainly did not possess the talent to fit into words what he felt. Too bad Byron was dead. He’d have hunted him down and introduced him to Miri. The master poet would have found words to do her justice.
And then this one... so poignant, as Archer lays his heart bare:
He spread his arms wide in entreaty before letting them fall. “I lied. I lied when I said your beauty does not affect me. I look at you, and I’m breathless, dizzy from it. I want to kneel at your feet and worship you. While the baser part of me wants to fling up your skirts and stick my cock in you until we forget our names.” His nostrils flared as he glared at her, accusation and pain mingling within his eyes.

“But none of that matters,” he said, trembling before her, “because every day that I am with you, I am more convinced that God made you just for me. For in ninety years on this earth, no one has made me feel the way you do, as if every day is an adventure. You make me laugh. And I never laugh. I go around smiling like a witless fool. So yes, I kept it from you, because I am so desperately in love with you that the knowledge that you might love me too was irresistible. And I was afraid it would turn to dust should I take off that mask.”
The bottom line - This is truly a great story. I started it not knowing what to expect, but was WOW'd from the first page to the last. The secondary characters stand out, demanding their own stories be told, and that makes me very happy because I can't wait to return to the world of Darkest London!

This book was provided by in behalf of Forever, an Imprint of Grand Central Publishing.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Protecting Paige by Norah Wilson

Tommy Godsoe’s life hasn’t always sucked, in fact until recently, it’d been pretty damned awesome. Being a cop was his life, being a dog handler was his passion, but being shot during a police raid has put a damper on things. Days that were once spent serving with honor and purpose are now filled with pain and uncertainty. Unable to stand the thought of the pity he'd see in the eyes of his ex-fellow officers, Tommy has closed himself off from any and all contact, but much to his displeasure, the fortress of painkillers and bitterness he’s locked himself in has been well and thoroughly breached by his new neighbor who comes bearing dinner, and — despite his best efforts to get rid of her, won’t take no for an answer.

It’s not easy being a single parent, just ask Paige Harmer, she’ll tell you. Her son, Dillon, is a really great kid, but at 18, he’s not much of a kid anymore, and so Paige has to perform that tough balancing act of caring but not smothering. Dillon’s smart, respectful, ambitious… he’s pretty much everything a mom could hope for in a son, but unfortunately for them, his clean cut, boy next door image is exactly what Derek Weaver is looking for, and Derek is not one of the good guys.

Nervous and in need of something to do and someone to talk to, Paige takes dinner to her next door neighbor who, according to her landlord, is recovering from a recent surgery. The man is gruff, rude and clearly unappreciative of her offering, but Paige, being the strong, persistent woman she is, won’t take no for an answer.

Protecting Paige is the third book in the Serve and Protect series and is, hands down, my favorite! Being a parent myself, I always worried that my kids would fall in with the wrong crowd and get involved in things they shouldn’t, so I was able to relate to this story. And because Paige was facing those same things that all parents are familiar with, her character drew me in. Her strength, her devotion to her son, and her determination to do whatever she had to do to protect him…the magnitude of her love for him truly pulled at my heartstrings and made her a woman I could understand and admire.

And then there’s Tommy. Though we didn’t see a lot of him in the earlier books, we saw enough to know that he was an honorable cop who loved his job and the men he worked with. It was a little bit heartbreaking to see the bitterness that had taken hold of him, heartbreaking but understandable. I can only imagine what it would be like at 30 years old to lose any chance of returning to the job you loved, the one you’d planned to spend the rest of your life doing.

I've always felt that when things go wrong in your own life, when you just can't figure out what to do next... help someone else. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself or fretting over things you can't do anything about, devote your time and energies to the needs of others and everything else will fall into place. So, with that in mind, one of the high-points of this book, for me, was that when Tommy did just that... when he focused on helping Dillon and Paige... that's when things in his own life fell back into place and he once again became the man he was born to be - an honorable, powerful, caring man and a force to be reckoned with!

Okay, sorry - enough rambling!

The bottom line – If you’re like me you love romantic suspense, but sometimes you want the stories to be about everyday people, people who could be your friends, neighbors, or even yourself. You want to be able to relate to what’s going on in their lives, believable events and situations that could, for the most part, happen to anyone. So yeah, if you look for those things in stories, too, then I really do think you’d enjoy Protecting Paige. It’s emotional but not angsty, the characters are flawed but not stupid, and the friendship, the romance, the courage... all of these things combined have made this my favorite book in the Serve and Protect series and I’m hoping there will be many more books to come!

4.5/5 stars

Friday, January 13, 2012

Saving Grace by Norah Wilson

Police Detective Ray Morgan and his wife, Grace, an up-and-coming newspaper reporter, have it all – jobs they love, a nice home, and the perfect marriage. Or so it seemed. But when Grace announces that she’s leaving Ray for another man… well, no one ever saw that coming, especially not Ray. Stunned and devastated by Grace’s revelation, Ray can only watch as the woman he loves walks out the door. He can't imagine anything being worse than this, but then just a few hours later he gets a phone call telling him that Grace has been in a car accident. The angry, betrayed part of his heart tells him to keep his distance, to let her lover care for her now, but the husband part, the part that still loves her, wants to go to her, to make sure she’s okay. When Grace claims no recollection of the hours before her accident, Ray can’t be sure whether she’s faking the amnesia or not. He wants to believe her, but doesn’t want to be hurt again, but can he trust her… does he want to?

Saving Grace is the second book in Norah Wilson’s Serve and Protect series, and another exciting read. When we first met Grace and Ray in Guarding Suzannah, we learned that Ray is well liked and respected by his fellow officers, devoted to his job and very good at what he does. But despite Ray's camaraderie with the guys, both on and off the job, Grace has never quite felt like she fit in, never felt that she was really accepted by the wives of the officers Ray works with. She’s smart, pretty, chic, and perfectly proper… not at all like the other women, so of course things might be awkward for all of them. But what I loved about Grace in this story is that we get to see the woman she really is, her heart and soul, and we also see that the car accident is probably the best thing that could have ever happened to their marriage.

Now, you might be thinking, 'Oh, no! Not another amnesia story!!' because yeah, let's be honest… that storyline has been done time and time again, especially in romantic suspense, but I have to say, I really enjoyed this version of it! It’s fresh, exciting, emotionally charged… and watching Grace and Ray, these two people who care deeply for one another, try to salvage their marriage by learning the truth about what led up to Grace’s supposed affair… it was both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and in the end, absolutely beautiful.

The bottom line - Once again Ms. Wilson has created a story that fits her characters, and characters that make the story. Even though there were moments of predictability, I enjoyed Saving Grace a lot. It’s romantic, passionate and very sexy, and I’m soooo looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Protecting Paige and anything else I can get my hands on by Norah Wilson!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O'Connell

As he finally stopped fighting sleep, he wondered if maybe just occasionally the gods designed a woman fit for a king or a prince and then gave her to an ordinary man. Maybe they did such a thing once in a while, knowing an ordinary man would treasure her more, love her better. Maybe they even let him keep her — for a while.
Wow! Where to begin... well, I'll start with that quote. It's one of my favorite hero quotes from any book I've read, and in just a few sentences shows us Cord's hope and his heart. And reading it again for the umpteenth time, knowing what led up to it, I'm having a hard time holding back the tears.

Cord Bennett is an outcast, a savage, a pariah. He has no real friends, and even his family is afraid of him. Under different circumstances - that is to say, if he were like the other, 'normal' men in town, the things he’s done would be understandable, but his father was white and his mother was Cherokee, so Cord is – *gasp* – a half-breed, and nothing about him is the least bit acceptable.

Anne Wells isn’t the proper young woman her parents want her to be. She’s not a ravishing beauty or in the least bit biddable. She’s stubborn, and again– *gasp* – she thinks for herself, so when her father arranges her marriage to a man who is all kinds of repulsive, Anne not only makes her displeasure known, she does everything she can to make sure the wedding never takes place. When Anne’s father stoops to an all time low, thinking he can force her into agreeing, Anne knows that she needs to escape the hell that has become her life, before it’s too late. But when she chose to hide in Cord Bennett’s barn and ask for his help, she had never even considered that the hell she had escaped was nothing compared to that which she and Cord would have to endure together.

I really don't think I'll be able to explain why this story evoked such a deep, wide range of emotions… well, not and do it coherently, anyway. I was so angry at times, so heartbroken at others, sobbing so hard I was shaking and my chest hurt. Maybe it was just timing. Maybe had I read this another day, week or month, it wouldn’t have affected me the way it did, but honestly, I don’t think timing had anything to do with it. It was the characters, their story, their determination to live their lives in peace, their incredible strength of character and their pride. It was their unwillingness to allow others to break them, their ability to find happiness in the smallest things. But most importantly, it was what they found in each other; someone to share with. To share the work, the heartache, the joy, the secrets they'd kept buried for so long... someone to make being alone seem less lonely. And they saw in each other what no one else could see... Kindness. Honor. Generosity of spirit. And most importantly, through all the adversity, all the heartbreak and trials, they found in each other a happily ever after for the ages.

The bottom line - Cord and Anne captured my heart, and when their story broke it into a million pieces, they were there to put it back together again. The writing isn't flawless, but it's all of the things I mentioned... the sorrow, the joy, the sacrifice, determination and devotion... all of these things combined have made Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold one of my favorite stories ever, and Cord and Anne have more than earned their place of honor on my Top Couples of All Time shelf. If you love stories whose characters touch your heart, who pull you in and don’t let go… if you want their trials and triumphs to really mean something, then you’ll want to get your hands on this book as quickly as possible.

This is a beautiful story, one I won't soon forget. Thank you, Autumn. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, because without your encouragement and generosity, I probably would have never read this story, and what a horrible loss that would have been.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Guarding Suzannah by Norah Wilson

Guarding Suzannah is a fun, sexy, romantic suspense novel, and my first taste of Norah Wilson’s writing. I enjoyed her easy, comfortable way of storytelling, and the voice she gives to her characters, making them believable, quirky people I couldn't help but love!

Suzannah Phelps is a criminal defense attorney who has been dubbed ‘The Ice Princess’ due to her cold, calculating demeanor in the courtroom. She’s every cop’s worse nightmare because with her razor sharp mind and well honed skills, she can tear their cases apart, and few of the people she represents ever end up behind bars.

John “Quigg” Quigley is a no-nonsense Detective who has seen firsthand how The Ice Princess works in the courtroom, but despite her aloof, seemingly snobbish behavior, he sees something else in her, too – that Suzannah’s need to keep people at arm’s length, to be in absolute control of her life is her way of making sure no one sees how vulnerable she really is. But when it becomes clear to John that Suzannah’s life is in danger, there’s no way he’s going to let her out of his sight. John knows she needs the kind of protection he can provide, and despite her protestations to the contrary, becomes her self-appointed bodyguard.

I really enjoyed this story. While it is romantic suspense, it’s more romantic than suspenseful, and I loved that through their budding relationship, the characters drove the story. There's certainly a ‘bad-guy’ plot there - and a well told one at that, but what I loved about it most is that it enhanced, rather than overshadowed, the romance. Another thing that I enjoyed about Guarding Suzannah is the location. This story takes place in Canada which made it refreshing in that phrases, dialogs and settings were not the same places we so often read about.

The bottom line – If you're looking for something fresh, and you enjoy romance in your romantic suspense like I do, you’ll definitely want to give Guarding Suzannah a try. As I said, it’s a fun, sexy story and I’m thrilled to have found another author who knows how to tell a tale – by letting her characters pull us in and keep us coming back for more.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Breach of Promise by Victoria Vane

On the night of her betrothal, seventeen year old Lydia Trent is given just a small taste of the carnal bliss her fiancé, Marcus, Lord Russell, has to offer. But six years later, having not set eyes on him since that most wickedly exciting night of her life, Lydia is done waiting for him to return and sends a message requesting his permission to break their promise to marry.

Marcus is stunned by Lydia's request to be released from their betrothal, and isn’t about to give her what she asks. Realizing the error of keeping his distance for so long, he arranges to see her again, but what he finds is that the biddable young lady he last spent time with is now a very grown up, beautiful, and exceedingly stubborn woman! What he thought would be an easy task – convincing Lydia to change her mind and marry him, despite her apprehensions, turns out to be quite a challenge, one he has no intention of failing. No matter what it takes - charm, seduction or ruination, he’s determined to make Lydia his.

A Breach of Promise is a historical erotic romance filled with humor, passion, and a fun, delightfully sexy storyline. With rich depictions of life, dress, and beautiful period prose, Victoria Vane swept me away to the heart of Georgian era England where I devoured every word, every sigh, every sinfully delicious moment. And even though this story has it all, I was left wanting for more!

The bottom line – To say I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this story is to say the least. It’s not often an author can deliver everything Ms. Vane did – and do it well – in a novella. If you enjoy historical romance with a lot of heat but not a lot of kink, I know you’ll love A Breach of Promise. It’s one of the best historical erotic romances I’ve read and I am truly hoping for more by this author!!

For those interested, this book contains scrumptiously detailed sex - oral, vaginal and anal play involving a very lucky thumb – and is definitely erotic, but not vulgar.

4.5/5 stars

My thanks to Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.