Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review: Divided

Divided
Elsie Chapman
Dualed Series/Book 2
Young Adult/Dystopian
Random House/May 27, 2014

West Grayer is done killing. She defeated her Alternate, a twin raised by another family, and proved she’s worthy of a future. She’s ready to move on with her life. The Board has other plans. They want her to kill one last time, and offer her a deal worth killing for. 

But when West recognizes her target as a ghost from her past, she realizes she’s in over her head. The Board is lying, and West will have to uncover the truth of the past to secure her future.

How far will the Board go to keep their secrets safe? And how far will West go to save those she loves? With nonstop action and surprising twists, Elsie Chapman’s intoxicating sequel to Dualed reveals everything.

If you haven't read the first book, Dualed, you might feel a little lost when starting Divided.  There is back story given but you get a greater understanding of the main characters and the world if you have read Dualed, which tells how West and her boyfriend Chord got to the point they are at now.

The world West Grayer lives in is a lot like our world on the surface.  There are families living in what looks like either cities or the suburbs with kids heading off to school and hanging out after school but just beneath the surface is a completely different world.  A world where children learn to kill because if they don't they will be the ones killed.  It is a bleak existence for these kids, knowing someday they will have to kill their someone who looks like them - their alt.  The survivor is the one deemed worthy to defend their world from outside forces.

West Grayer isn't an easy character to like.  There are some reasons to feel sympathy for her, her home life is filled with loss of family and friends because of the system of Alternates (Alts) killing each other.  Some of the decisions she makes are very hard and not always easy to understand.  In Divided, reinforced is the fact that survival is ultimately all that drives West.  She needs to survive not just for herself but for Chord and for those she's lost.  Still, she makes some brutal choices that make her less than easy to like.

The idea behind Kersh and the Alternate program is for the city to be comprised of the best fighters in order to defend themselves from the Surround which is everyone outside Kersh's walls.  There are some glaring problems with this plan.  First off, not everyone has the same opportunities for training.  It reminded me of the Hunger Games with the twelve districts and the huge economic discrepancy between districts.  It is why West decides to become a Striker, so she can afford better training.  This also leads to some Alts or their family members having the money to hire Strikers to take out their Alts so they don't have to fight them.  How does this provide Kersh with the best possible Alt remaining?  It would make more sense if the Alts were to fight it out in a supervised arena. Sick but more fair and no chance for innocent bystanders to be hurt or killed, which does happen.  Or better yet, train the teens to become an army to defend the city.  Why none of this was not questioned by the general population, especially parents of kids who are dead, I don't know.

It does turn out that things are more complex and truths are revealed behind the reasoning of the Alternate system.  While we do learn more of how and why Kersh came to be, I still found the world West lives in depressing.  The one standout of the story is the writing.  I just wish the world of Kersh made more sense.

Rating: C

Thursday, July 3, 2014

ARC Review: Shattered

Shattered
Kevin Hearne
Urban Fantasty
Iron Druid Chronicles/Book 7
Del Rey/June 17, 2014

For nearly two thousand years, there was only one Druid left walking the Earth—Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword kept him alive while pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company.

Atticus’s apprentice Granuaile is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy.

And Owen has some catching up to do.

Atticus takes pleasure in the role reversal, as the student is now the teacher. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen must also learn English. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether the wily old coot will be an asset in the epic battle with Norse god Loki—or merely a pain in the arse.

But Atticus isn’t the only one with daddy issues. Granuaile faces a great challenge: to exorcise a sorcerer’s spirit that is possessing her father in India. Even with the help of the witch Laksha, Granuaile may be facing a crushing defeat.

As the trio of Druids deals with pestilence-spreading demons, bacon-loving yeti, fierce flying foxes, and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time
 . . . three’s a charm.

With Shattered, the seventh book in the adventurous Iron Druid Chronicles, Mr. Hearne has done it again. Not only has he given readers a wonderful ride filled with adventure, intrigue and comedy but he has woven a number of pantheons into a cohesive plot with gods and goddesses vying for the chance to either help Atticus or hasten him to his death.

The story is told in alternating chapters in three different point of view - Atticus, Granuaile and Owen.  Owen is Atticus' archdruid, his teacher who has been spending the last two thousand years on a time island.  But now he is free and it is Atticus' job to see that Owen becomes acclimated to the new world he finds himself in.  Of course, Atticus doesn't exactly have an abundance of free time but he does feel a responsibility towards Owen,  It was interesting to see their relationship unfold in a new direction with Atticus in the role of the teacher and Owen the student.

Granuaile is now a powerful Druid in her own right.  She can kick-ass right alongside Atticus.  She is pulled in another direction when her past association with Laksha comes calling.  With Granuaile, we see how she has embraced her life as a Druid but she brings a more modern outlook to the series.  I do like when Atticus and Granuaile are together because they work so well as partners but they spent most of Shattered apart.

I can't forget to mention Oberon, mostly because it might hurt his feelings.  The hound is in fine form if a little less page time than I would have liked.  Oberon is the comic relief, although not always intentional on his part.  He is the reason I find myself laughing out loud while reading Mr. Hearne's novels although Owen does give Oberon some competition in that arena.

Along with the three different points of view we also have three different plots converging into a final epic battle.  Hearne certainly knows how to choreograph battle scenes.  There are a multitude of fighters with various weapons but the action plays out like a well directed play with everyone knowing their part.  But there is also a great display of emotion in these scenes.  With friends and family members falling under the blade, whether they be god or long lived mortal, they all feel the pain of loss.

Shattered is another well written addition to the series.  It has that roller coaster feeling of exciting, thrilling, scary and left me wanting to get back in line for more.

Rating: A-

The Iron Druid Chronicles ~

Hounded
Hexed
Hammered
Tricked
Trapped
Hunted

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: Do or Die

Do or Die
Suzanne Brockmann
Romantic Suspense
Reluctant Heroes/Book 1
Random House/February 4, 2014

Navy SEAL Ian Dunn went rogue in a big way when he turned his talents to a lawless life of jewel heists and con jobs. Or so the world has been led to believe. In reality, the former Special Ops warrior is still fighting for good, leading a small band of freelance covert operatives who take care of high-stakes business in highly unofficial ways. That makes Ian the hands-down choice when the U.S. government must breach a heavily guarded embassy and rescue a pair of children kidnapped by their own father, a sinister foreign national willing to turn his own kids into casualties. Shockingly, Ian passes on the mission... for reasons he will not–or cannot–reveal.

But saying no is not an option. Especially not to Phoebe Kruger, Ian’s bespectacled, beautiful, and unexpectedly brash new attorney. Determined to see the abducted children set free, she not only gets Ian on board but insists on riding shotgun on his Mission: Impossible-style operation, whether he likes it or not.

Though Phoebe has a valuable knack for getting out of tight spots, there’s no denying the intensely intimate feelings growing between Ian and Phoebe as the team gears up for combat. But these are feelings they both must fight to control as they face an array of cold-blooded adversaries, including a vindictive mob boss who’s got Ian at the top of his hit list and a wealthy psychopath who loves murder as much as money. As they dodge death squads and play lethal games of deception, Ian and Phoebe will do whatever it takes to save the innocent and vanquish the guilty.

Or die trying.

First off, if you loved Brockmann's Troubleshooters series, this is a spin-off so you can expect more of the same fast paced action and a  hard bodied alpha male to take on the bad guys and win.  Do or Die is actually set in Florida and we meet up with some secondary characters from the Troubleshooters world.  

One thing Brockmann always brings to her stories are those smartass alpha heroes and Ian Dunn is certainly one of those.  He may have been a Navy SEAL but he is not into listening to authority anymore but instead prefers to do things his way.  Of course this causes numerous clash with his heroine Phoebe Kruger.  She's no pushover and Ian must learn to listen to Phoebe and respect her expertise in certain areas.  

Phoebe is a lawyer who is more than meets the eye.  She's smart and thinks quick on her feet which comes in handy when she gets caught up in Ian's world.  She isn't use to Ian's intense world of danger and intrigue.  Her world is filled with suits and courtrooms, not guns and surveillance vans.  While I thought Phoebe was an okay heroine, she didn't standout from previous Brockmann heroines.  

There is a lot going on in Do or Die, maybe a little too much.  The different story threads mixed in with the numerous characters became overwhelming at times.  The pace is fast, with some down time but that fast pace got in the way of realistically developing the potential for a long lasting relationship between Ian and Phoebe.  But by the end of the story, that's what we are suppose to believe.  there was attraction but too much going on and too many people involved to lend itself to deep romantic discovery between theses two, let alone love.

The plot itself is a bit familiar and Ian and Phoebe could be switched out for any number of Troubleshooter couples.  Still, there is a reason why that series was and is still so popular.  And for many readers familiar with Ms. Brockmann's novels, the gay rights theme is present in the form of two secondary characters.  I almost hesitate to call them secondary characters since their story seems to have nearly as much development as Ian and Phoebe romance.  While I understand how close this cause is to the author, it can be a little tedious to continually be reminded how horrible it can be to be gay in America when you are reading a romance novel.  

Rating: C

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review: It Had to Be You

It Had to Be You
Jill Shalvis
Contemporary Romance
Lucky Harbor/Book 7
Grand Central Publishing/May 28, 2013

Ali Winters is not having a good day. Her boyfriend left her, everyone in town thinks she's a thief, and now she's about to be kicked out of her home. Her only shot at keeping a roof over her head and clearing her name is to beg for help from a police detective who's as sexy as he is stern.... 

After a high-profile case goes wrong, Luke Hanover returns to his hometown for some peace and quiet. Instead he finds a bombshell brunette in a heap of trouble. As he helps Ali put her world back together, the pieces of Luke's own life finally seem to fall into place. Is this the start of a sizzling fling? Or are Luke and Ali on the brink of something big in a little town called Lucky Harbor?

If you've ever spent time in Lucky Harbor, then you know what an eclectic bunch of people live there.  It's always fun to go back and catch up with familiar faces but this time those faces don't have as much of a role in the romance of Ali and Luke.  If you haven't read the previous books in the series, you should because it's a very good series.  But if you're short on time, It Had to Be You can be read as a standalone.

For Ali Winters, life hasn't always been easy but she continues to think and expect the best of people.  To give when asked and to enjoy helping others.  She has a tender heart which unfortunately, gets abused and stomped on by her ass of a boyfriend.  It's a good thing she has friends to be there for her.

There's no place like home...especially when you're running from mistakes and seeking refuge.  For Luke Hanover that means heading back to the house his grandmother left him and shutting out the world.  Instead, Luke's hormones are set on fire by the barely dressed woman he finds in his kitchen.  Loved the moment when Luke and Ali first meet.  It's funny, sexy and sets the tone for their future encounters.

Ali and Luke appear to be opposites, with Ali having such an optimistic outlook and Luke the cynical cop.  It turns out this couple has more than just physical attraction in common.  Ali and Luke's romance brings out the best in each other, making them both stronger for what they have endured.  If there was one issue it was with Ali.  She was too sweet, too forgiving.  I found it a little too much to swallow.

The town of Lucky Harbor still plays a major role, giving welcome to both new and former residents.  We get to meet more residents of this quaint town along with some potential future heroes and heroines.  No sequel baiting here, just a cast of interesting characters.

Rating: B

Lucky Harbor Series ~

Simply Irresistible 
The Sweetest Thing
Kissing Santa Claus novella in the anthology Small Town Christmas
Head Over Heels
Lucky in Love
At Last 
Forever and a Day
It Had to Be You

Thursday, June 5, 2014

ARC Review: Tease

Tease
Sophie Jordan
New Adult Contemporary
The Ivy Chronicles/Book 2
William Morrow/May 27, 2014

What happens when a girl who always calls the shots meets a guy who't too wild to even her? 

A born flirt and good-time party girl, Emerson has never had a problem finding a willing guy. She's always chosen her hookups carefully, and she's never broken her three cardinal rules: Never let them see the real you. Never fall in love. Always leave them begging for more.

Then Shaw comes along. A hottie from the wrong side of the tracks, he's immune to her flirtatious banter and come-hither smile. After rescuing her from a disastrous night at a biker bar, he doesn't even try to take her to bed--he calls her a tease and sends her home instead. Unable to resist a challenge, or forget the sexy, dark-eyed, bad-boy biker, she vows to bring him to his knees. 

But instead of making Shaw beg, Emerson finds herself craving him. For the first time in her life, she's throwing out her rule book. Suddenly, she's the one panting for a guy she can't control--a guy who won't settle for anything less than the real Emerson and who forces her to do things she's never imagined, including facing a past she thought she'd buried. A guy who just might leave her wanting more. . .

After reading Ms. Jordan's first book in the series, Foreplay, I was curious to find out about Emerson and how much of her party girl persona was real.  Turns out there is a lot more going on with Emerson than just flirting and hook-ups.  And that's what Shaw sees, the woman behind the mask Emerson wears.

Emerson - so much more to her than meets the eye.  I really enjoyed getting to know her more than the glimpse we got in the first book, Foreplay.  She has her reasons for being how she is and living her life the way she does.  It's why it is hard to relate the party girl Emerson to the serious Emerson.  Her family life is a wreck and really left me angry for her.  There were also times when I just wanted her to be mature and deal with her problems head on.  While I liked Emerson I also found her frustrating at times.

A man who knows what he wants is very sexy.  Shaw had the looks but he also had the determination to not only go after what he wanted, Emerson, but let her know how he feels about her.  Imagine!  A guy who isn't afraid to voice his feelings.  Granted, he doesn't get all touchy-feely, but he does make his feelings clear.  No playing games with this guy.  Too bad Emerson wasn't as open with her feelings.  It made for a rough road for Shaw and Emerson but the end result was so worth it.

Looking forward to the next book, Wild, due out this November.


Rating:  B

The Ivy Chronicles Series ~

Foreplay
Tease
Wild (November 18, 2014)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Going Over

Going Over
Beth Kephart
Young Adult/1983
Chronicle Books/April 1, 2014

It is February 1983, and Berlin is a divided city - a miles-long barricade separating east from west.  But the city isn't the only thing that is divided.  Ada, almost 16, lives with her mother and grandmother among the revels, punkers, and immigrants of Kreuzberg, just west of the wall.  Stefan, 18, lives east with his brooding grandmother in a faceless apartment bunker of Friedrichshain, his telescope points toward freedom.  Bound by love and separated by circumstance, their only chance lies in a high-risk escape.  But will Stefan find the courage to leap?  Will Ada keep waiting for the boy she has only seen four times a year for a long as she can remember?  Or will forces beyond their control stand in their way?  

Told in the alternating voices of the pink-haired graffiti artist and the boy she loves, Going Over is a story of daring and sacrifice, choices and consequences, and love that will not wait.

For those not very familiar with the Berlin Wall or maybe you only know what you learned in history class, Going Over gives a fascinating look at what life was like for those living within sight of the famous wall.

Ada and Stefan have known each other for years, ever since Ada was two years old.  They are able to meet four times a year when Ada travels to East Berlin.  This doesn't stop them from falling in love.  It is that love that keeps them going, keeps Ada hoping and gives Stefan a reason to try for freedom.

Ada is a gifted story teller.  During the day she tells stories to the children at the daycare where she works.  At night, she tells stories with her graffiti, sprayed across the wall for Stefan to see.  With her stories she tells the children not to be afraid and encourages Stefan to escape.  Ada never gives up.  It's what makes her such an endearing character.

Stefan is left with a legacy of sorrow but a life still filled with hope thanks to Ada.  He is practical, he's had to be, living as he does.   He sees the logistics in the plans Ada proposes.  His point of view comes from someone who has already lived his life in the prison of East Berlin and wants to start a new life of freedom but must wait until the time is right.

The writing is filled with vivid descriptions and strong emotions.  Kephart does well in bringing the reality of life in both the East and West Berlin of the early eighties.  The plot moved a long quickly but I would have liked greater development of the secondary characters.   Going Over is a story for both young adults and us older adults who may have forgotten what it was like when there was a Berlin Wall.

Rating:  A-

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: Blindfolded Innocence

Blindfolded Innocence
Alessandra Torre
Contemporary Erotic
Innocence Series/Book 1
Harlequin HQN/January 28, 2014
(First Published July 19, 2012)

Brad De Luca is incorrigible. The premier divorce attorney in town, he is a forty-year old walking hunk of sex, bedding half the town, including his own clients. Brad is used to getting whatever, and whomever, he wants, and when the newest intern arrives - Julia Campbell, a pre-law student fresh off a failed engagement - he embraces the challenge. Only, happy in her new independence, the last thing Julia wants, or needs, is an older man who could destroy her job prospects, and possibly her innocence.

Julia is confident in her sexuality, and her effect on men. But she is far out of her league. Before she knows it, Brad is stretching her boundaries and opening up a forbidden world of sensual and sexual exploration.

This isn't a romance so much as an exploration of a young woman's boundaries and how an older man's experience pushes her into wanting to explore past those boundaries.  It wasn't an easy story for me to get into, but instead took some time before I felt that need to know what happens to these two characters.  Still, it was more about what was physically happening between them than their emotional changes.  Part of the problem was, I just didn't care much about Julia and didn't like Brad.  She should have stayed away from him.

The only good thing I can say about Brad in regards to his sex life is he never makes promises or leads women on.  He is very blunt with what he is willing to give to women.  He tells Julia he is not boyfriend material and if that's what she is looking for, he's not it.  But he also sends her mixed signals by giving the impression that if he can't have her, no one else can either.  I never warmed up to him and if Julia had been my friend I would have told her to stay clear of him unless all she wanted was sex, no strings attached.  The problem was, Julia was getting attached, quickly.

Julia is working as an intern at the law office where Brad is one of the partners.  She isn't his intern but he is still one of the partners and in a position of power.  I'm not in favor of office romances when there is such an inequality of power.  But this isn't exactly a romance so there is some gray area there.  Julia tries not let Brad dominate her and does a pretty good job but eventually gives in to his assertiveness.  She goes back and forth between thinking he's an ass and wanting to jump into bed with him.  This is why it was difficult to sympathise with her situation.

The word man-whore is a good fit for Brad De Luca.  He has a well earned reputation and has been warned by the other partners to keep his dick in his pants when it comes to the interns.  Does Brad listen?  Not when it comes to Julia.  I didn't like Brad for the simple reason is that he thinks he knows what Julia wants and is determined to give it to her.  Which was annoying because Brad didn't really know what he wanted.  He thought he wanted to continue his man-whoring ways but not all of his actions reflected that.

The story is explicit and goes way beyond vanilla so if you're not into that, walk away.  I found it interesting how Julia reacted to what Brad exposed her to.  The alcohol consumed definitely influence Julia's reactions and when she got away from him, she saw things in a different light at least for a little while.

The point when I knew I wouldn't continue with this series was when Brad revealed his dark sexual secret.  Not a fan of his particular fetish.  I think it's the romantic in me.  

Rating: C+

Innocence Series ~

Blindfolded Innocence
The Diary of Brad De Luca novella
Masked Innocence
End of the Innocence


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ARC Review: The Chance

The Chance
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Thunder BPoint/Book 4
MIRA(Harlequin)/February 25, 2014

With its breathtaking vistas and down-to-earth people, Thunder Point is the perfect place for FBI agent Laine Carrington to recuperate from a gunshot wound and contemplate her future. The locals embraced Laine as one of their own after she risked her life to save a young girl from a dangerous cult. Knowing her wounds go beyond the physical, Laine hopes she'll fit in for a while and find her true self in a town that feels safe. She may even learn to open her heart to others, something an undercover agent has little time to indulge.

Eric Gentry is also new to Thunder Point. Although he's a man with a dark past, he's determined to put down roots and get to know the daughter he only recently discovered. When Laine and Eric meet, their attraction is obvious to everyone. But while the law enforcement agent and the reformed criminal want to make things work, their differences may run too deep…unless they take a chance on each other and find that deep and mysterious bond that belongs to those who choose love over fear.

It's small town love on the beautiful Oregon coast.  It's hard not to enjoy the setting when Ms. Carr paints such a breathtaking picture of this fictional town.  Makes me want to visit, if not live there.  For Laine Carrington and Eric Gentry, they are living there and acclimating to small town life and the chance at love.

Ever since meeting Laine in the previous book, The Hero, I've been curious about her.  She's an FBI agent who is in desperate need of some down time.  It's also obvious she tends to keep herself from getting too close to people.  I thought it might be difficult to know Laine but her thoughts and actions allow for insight to this intelligent, independent women.

Eric Gentry has lived through some rough times but doesn't hold any anger regarding what life has thrown at him.  He simply tries to do the best he can, it's admirable if a little boring.  Eric is likable enough but he fell flat when compared to Laine.  I would have liked to see more of Eric's relationship with his daughter.  I didn't feel like I really got to know Eric as well as I would have liked.  Maybe he was too easy going, too complacent about his past.  Maybe I just needed him to be a little bit more bad.

The romance could have used more sparks.  It was sweet but predictable.  What pulled me in and kept my interest were the other characters, most of whom we've met in previous books.  I do like how Laine opens up and allows herself to make friends and settle in to her rental home.  Something she didn't plan on but instead evolved as she changed the focus of her life.

Overall, a sweet romance with a strong heroine who takes control and drives the story.

Rating: B

Thunder Point Series ~

The Wanderer
The Newcomer
The Hero
The Chance
The Promise (June 24, 2014)
The Homecoming (August 26, 2014)


Monday, February 24, 2014

Review: Watch Your Back

Watch Your Back
Karen Rose
Romantic Suspense
Baltimore/Book 4
Signet/February 4, 2014

A cold case reopened. A murderer re-emerging more deadly than ever before.

Baltimore Homicide Detective Stevie Mazzetti has suffered losses no woman should have to endure. And, despite it all, she’s still a fighter. When she learns that her ex-partner might have miscarried justice, she’s determined to put the past to rights, even when she becomes a target.

It’s former Marine Clay Maynard’s job to see the risk in every situation, but he doesn’t have to look hard to find the danger surrounding Stevie. Since the minute he first saw her, Clay has wanted to protect the wounded officer, and he started loving her not long after that. So when Stevie attracts the attention of a vicious psychopath, Clay will do whatever it takes to keep her alive. That is, if he can stay ahead of a killer with everything to lose—and something terrifying to hide...

Ms. Rose has once again delivered an amazing suspenseful romance that kept me on the edge of my seat.  It's Stevie and Clay's turn to have their lives turned upside down.

Stevie Mazzetti is looking into the corruption of her former partner.  She is determined to bring the right criminals to justice and free the innocent.  Not everyone is happy about this which is why Stevie's and everyone around her is in danger.  Someone keeps trying to kill her and Clay is determined to keep her safe.  I enjoyed this storyline with Clay adding his experience as a Marine and a police office to that of his PI work to not only keep Stevie and her daughter Cordelia safe but to unravel the who and whys.

Stevie, well I liked her, have liked her since she first showed up a few books ago but she really needs to work on relying on her police training and not fall for being lured out into the open.  It irritated me the way she would go running into a situation with little or no thought for the fact that someone has been trying to kill her on nearly a daily basis.  Use your head Stevie!

The romance was sometimes a bit of a two steps forward and one step back which isn't surprising given the situation Stevie and Clay find themselves in.  There isn't a lot of alone time and the stress factor is over the top with a killer on the loose.  Still, Clay and Stevie do find some moments and eventually give in to those raging hormones.  They still have to deal with keeping Stevie and her daughter safe while unraveling the mystery of who is trying to kill them.  I liked how the story continued to progress, unfolding the layers of mystery while giving reminders of the romance that is also developing amid the chaos.

The plot moves along at a steady pace, keeping the interest high between the hunt for the killer, the mystery of dirty cops, and how it's all connected to Stevie's past.  Loved the way everyone gets involved in helping not only protect Stevie but those she loves.  Another winner from Ms. Rose.

Rating: A-

Baltimore Series ~

You Belong to Me
No One Left to Tell
Did You Miss Me?
Watch Your Back

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

ARC Review: To Tempt a Viking

To Tempt a Viking
Michelle Willingham
Historical Romance/Ireland/875 AD
Forbidden Vikings/Book 2
Harlequin/January 21, 2014

She’s Testing His Resolve!

Warrior Viking Ragnar Olafsson stood by as his best friend claimed the woman he desired the most. There was only one way to quench the deep darkness within him—become merciless in battle.

When Elena is taken captive, fearless Ragnar risks everything to save her. Now they are stranded with only each other for company. Suddenly every longing, every look, every touch is forbidden. Elena could tempt a saint—and sinner Ragnar knows he won’t be able to hold out for long!

To Tempt a Viking is certainly a romance but it contains a plot device that some readers may have an issue with.  The heroine is married when the story begins.  Not only is she married but she's married to the hero's best friend.  The husband is not abusive or a complete ass, he's just not in love with his wife.  Most of the time this didn't bother me since the husband isn't around for most of the story.  This made it easy to forget about him and concentrate on the developing romance between Ragnar and Elena. The only problem I had was when reminded of Elena's marital status.  Then I felt uncomfortable and wished her husband had been dealt with prior to the beginning of the story.

Elena Karlsdotter has spent the five years of her marriage trying to please her husband.  She keeps their home clean, tries to anticipate his needs and most of all longs to have his child.  They have grown distance when they journey to Ireland to establish a settlement.  They are met with resistance from the Irish and separated during the fighting.  Elena is saved by Ragnar, her husband's best friend.  This is when we see Elena and Ragnar's long standing friendship.  Then, and what I truly enjoyed, the friendship desperately wants to become more on both their parts but their loyalty to Styr, Elena's husband, keeps them from acting on the attraction.

Vikings can be such misunderstood heroes.  Underneath the brooding face and brutally muscled exterior may lie a heart and soul any woman could love.  Ragnar Olafsson is one of those Vikings. For Ragnar, battle is his outlet.  He is able to release his frustrations, the main one is his desire for his best friends wife.  Ragnar didn't have the best childhood.  You could say he came from the wrong side of the tracks, if there had been tracks in 875 AD.  He didn't feel his was good enough for Elena, her family being part of the haves and Ragnar being part of the have nots.  But when she is dependent on him for her safety, his skill at fighting becomes a huge asset. I liked how both Ragnar and Elena's strengths are shown in their struggle to survive.  Clearly, Ragnar is the physically stronger of the two but Elena has her own strengths to lend in their survival.

The romance is sweet, frustrating and emotional.  Sweet in how Elena took care of Ragnar the boy when they were children and continues to try to take care of Ragnar the man.  Frustrating in how Ragnar continues to think he isn't good enough for Elena.  How she deserves better, forgetting himself and what he deserves.  And emotional in how both Elena and Ragnar's emotions are not only revealed towards each other but towards Styr, family and what being a family means.

I think if you don't mind the heroine being married and you like Viking stories, then you'll enjoy Elena and Ragnar's romance.

Rating: B

Forbidden Vikings Series ~

To Sin with a Viking
To Tempt a Viking