Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ARC Review: Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea

Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea
Sophia Nash
Historical Romance
Royal Entourage/Book 1
Avon/February 28, 2012

The morning after the most scandalous bachelor party of the century, the dukes of the royal entourage must face all of London’s fury . . . when not one of them can remember a thing.

Roxanne Vanderhaven always believed herself the perfect wife. But when her husband, the Earl of Paxton, leaves her clinging to the edge of a cliff, she’s forced to face the truth: she married a murderous blackguard. Her eventual rescuer, Alexander Barclay, Duke of Kress, is one of England’s most disreputable peers — a member of the notorious royal entourage, no less – and certainly the last man she can count on. Indeed, the Prince Regent himself exiled Barclay to Cornwall, and now, by decree, the dashing duke must seek a royal bride to regain favor and help quell the public’s fury against the excesses of the crown.

Roxanne desperately wants a new life — after she’s uncovered the cause of her husband’s despicable actions — and she finds herself drawn, most surprisingly, to her unlikely champion. The Duke of Kress may not be quite the scoundrel he appears…but if she gives him her heart, will Roxanne be making the same mistake twice?

This was surprisingly funny for a historical romance. I don't usually expect much humor when reading historicals unless it's the sarcastic, self-deprecating humor usually imparted by the long suffering hero. This time around it's both the hero and heroine who try to out-do each other with their sharp wit. Their bantering reminded me of David (Bruce Willis) and Maddie (Cybill Shepard) from the show Moonlighting.

After being sent to the wilds of Cornwall to redeem himself by finding a suitable bride, Alex Barclay instead finds a lady hanging on for dear life. Being somewhat of a hero, he rescues her then finds himself caught up in her crazy scheme to fake her death. It wasn't that hard to convince Alex to help Roxanne, he expects to be bored in Cornwall and thinks Roxanne might liven things up a bit. Alex is an adorable scoundrel that I couldn't help but be smitten with! His humor, kindness and protectiveness all make for a most excellent hero.

Roxanne is an outsider. Her father was in trade (how dreadful!) which made her marriage to the Earl of Paxton on the scandalous side. She received a title, he received a large dowry. Roxanne didn't think Paxton was madly in love with her but she did think he liked and cared for her. So wrong! The man was a complete ass and when Roxanne realizes this, she comes out of her shell and becomes a woman on a quest. She was delightful in her schemes and plans for revenge on her husband. She still has doubts about her appeal as a woman but Alex erased those doubts. I felt sorry for Roxanne in that she didn't fit in anywhere. The peerage looked down on her and she stayed away from her childhood home because she didn't think her old neighbors would welcome her. I enjoyed seeing her make a home with Alex and his odd assortment of family and friends.

The secondary characters are there for moral support, good-nature ribbing, trouble and alcohol (Not always in that order). They are a fascinating assemblage including a few dukes, a duchess, an eccentric aunt and a number of locals for added flair. This is the first book in a planned series and we do meet some of the heroes and heroines of future books but there wasn't a feeling of "setting up" for the next book while overlooking the current story. The developing friendship and eventual romance between Roxanne and Alex was front and center. If I had one issue with the story it was Roxanne's husband and how he was dealt with. Not what I would call satisfying.

The first book in a new series needs to grab you, give you interesting characters and make you want to come back for more, Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea does all that and more.

Rating: A-

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: His Ordinary Life

His Ordinary Life
Linda Winfree
Contemporary Romance
Hearts of the South/Book 2
Samhain/September 2007

Reunited by their teenage son’s possible involvement in a murder…old passions and new needs are destined to explode.

Del Calvert has spent his life in quiet desperation, trying to meet everyone’s expectations and feeling like he never quite measured up. From his teens, Barb was everything he wanted and needed, but knowing he wasn’t enough for her drove him out of the marriage.

Barbara Calvert is afraid to need anyone—especially the soon-to-be ex-husband she still loves. She’s reluctant to fall under his seductive spell of love and security once more.

But when their son’s secrets threaten his life, everything changes. Del must help his son as unseen and threatening forces move ever closer, putting the entire family at risk. And along the way, he hopes to convince Barbara to give him one more chance to win back the wonderful, ordinary life he didn’t appreciate until it was gone.

Second chance romances are not easy to pull off. The author must show why the couple broke up in the first place and why they should get back together. Sometimes the reason(s) for the breakup is the annoying "big misunderstanding" that could have been easily fixed if they had just talked. Unfortunately that was the case here. The good news is that it didn't completely overshadow my enjoyment of the romance.

Del is pulled back to his hometown and his family when his teenage son starts getting into trouble. His soon-to-be ex-wife isn't sure how she feels about Del sticking around longer than a weekend. Del's not exactly sure either. He wants his family back but doesn't know how to fix the rift between him and his wife. He doesn't think she wants him anymore but he's willing to try to make things right. Del really was a good guy but he so desperately needed to ask questions rather than assuming he knew what his wife was thinking.

Barbara doesn't want to rely on Del but when her sixteen year old son sneaks out of the house in the middle of the night, she doesn't feel like she has a choice. When Del decides to stay a few nights, Barbara has mixed feelings about having him back in the house. Barbara still has strong feelings for Del, she still loves him but his leaving hurt her and she's not sure if she's ready to take a chance at being hurt again. Barbara may have said the wrong thing to Del and given him the wrong impression but he's the one that walked out. I liked that Barbara doesn't sit around and feel sorry for herself but instead focuses on her kids and her work.

Del and Barbara are not the only ones who have problems to work through. Their three kids are affected by the separation and Del moving back in, if only temporarily. Winfree does well showing how the kids' react differently to their parents rocky relationship. These kids mean the world to their parents and the fact that they are being hurt by what their parents are doing is obvious and really has a profound affect on Del and Barbara. I liked that Winfree doesn't sugar coat the kids' reactions but makes them a very real part of these young characters.

This does take place in a small town and as such has that small town "everyone knows everyone else" feel to it. Which I liked. It also had a close family feeling with Del's brother and sister trying to help Del and Barbara however they could. Del's brother Tick is an interesting character who has this feeling of sadness surrounding him. I'm looking forward to reading his story.

There is a suspense sub-plot connecting Del and Barb's son with a murder. It wasn't a strong part of the book, more of a reason to bring the family together. I did like the overall story but found the misunderstanding between Del and Barbara annoyingly juvenile. It was good to see both take responsibility for their problems, if they'd only done it sooner and then could focus on their children.

The secondary characters who populate the small Georgia town will bring me back for more from Ms. Winfree.

Rating: B-

Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: The Royal Talisman

The Royal Talisman
Tracy Cooper-Posey
Erotic Historical Romance
Self Published/January 7, 2012

It is 1884 and France is at war with China. Stuart Sutherland-Bruce returns to England after a posting in China as a member of the English diplomatic corps. He meets the astonishingly beautiful Bian, an exotic woman who turns his life upside down with the power of his desire for her. As she continues to astonish him at every turn with the unexpectedness of her life and her responses to him, he falls deeply in love with her.

But Bian did not wander into Stuart’s life accidentally. She has orders to become intimate with him and prove he has been giving English secrets to the Chinese. Yet as she works her spell on Stuart, she learns he does not seem to be the traitor her British superiors assure her he is.

Bian is caught in a trap: If she reveals to Stuart her real — and shocking — identity, she will lose the man she loves. If she honours Stuart’s highest values and does her duty, then Stuart will be tried for espionage and hanged.

Although a quick read, The Royal Talisman provides much in the way of suspense and romance. The romance happens rather quickly, practically love at first sight for Stuart. Bian is more cautious and continues to play her role. She tries to keep her distance from Stuart but he is determined to follow his heart where it leads - right to Bian.

Stuart Sutherland-Bruce is awestruck when he meets the beautiful and mysterious Bian. He needs to know more about this exceptional beauty. Stuart came across as a straightforward character, not much mystery which left me feeling very little curiosity for him. His desire for Bian was superficial - he was a man who wanted what he couldn't have. Like a little boy, tell him he can't have it and he wants it that much more.

Bian is playing a dangerous game with Stuart. She takes the lead and continues to lead Stuart where she wants him to go. Stuart is proving to be more of a distraction that Bian anticipated, making her feel things she doesn't want to feel for him. Bian stole the show for me. She was the driving force behind the story. It was obvious there was far more to her than she let on.

The romance was quick with Stuart pursing Bian while she tried to keep to her role but failed when she realized she was falling in love with him. I found Bian's feeling towards Stuart more believable than his towards her. Even though Bian believed Stuart capable of treason, she let his actions determine her feelings towards him. For Stuart, he didn't know Bian well since she was keeping secrets about who she really was.

Bian's unconventional background and her place in society were interesting in that it set her apart from the usual historical heroine. I do wish there had been more information on Bian - I feel like we only scratched the surface of a fascinating character. Stuart was a little too bland, having the habit of fading into the background while Bian took the spotlight. I do like the time period and would love to see these characters again in perhaps a more exotic setting.

Rating: C+

Thursday, February 23, 2012

ARC Review: Redwood Bend

Redwood Bend
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Virgin River/Book 18
Harlequin/February 28, 2012

Katie Malone and her twin boys’ trip along the beautiful mountain roads to Virgin River is stopped short by a tire as flat as her failed romance. To make matters worse, the rain has set in, the boys are hungry and Katie doesn’t have the first clue about putting on a spare. As she stands at the side of the road pondering her next move, she hears a distinct rumble. The sight of the sexy, leather-clad bikers who pull up beside her puts her imagination into overdrive.

Dylan Childress and his buddies are on the motorcycle trip of a lifetime. But the site of a woman in distress stops them in their tracks. And while the guys are checking out her car, she and Dylan are checking out one another.

In one brief moment, the world tilts on its axis and any previous plans Katie and Dylan might have had for their futures are left at the side of the road.

Virgin River is such an idyllic place - even the tough looking, leather clad bikers are helpful and polite! It seems like the perfect place to start a new life. Or to hide away from life for awhile. Either way, I always enjoy my trips to Virgin River - catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.

Katie Malone's life hasn't been exactly idyllic but it's getting there. She and her boys have been through a lot in the past months and now they're starting over in Virgin River. Katie's brother, Connor, recently moved there and family is important to both of them. Katie is a widow and Connor provides an important male influence in her boys lives. It's obvious Katie is use to being a single parent but I wish she had not been so stubborn when it came to accepting help.

Dylan Childress loves to get away on his bike. To hit the open road and leave your worries behind. The only problem is those worries are still there at the end of the ride. Dylan is a former child star who now runs a small charter flying company in Montana. The company is not doing well and Dylan is considering getting back into acting, purely for the money. I found it odd that Dylan could get back into acting, with such a good role, after being away from Hollywood for so long.

The biggest problem I had with the story is the romance. Katie and Dylan didn't fit for me. Yes there is a physical attraction, no surprise since they're both good looking and likable. But beyond that, I had a hard time seeing these two together. And with Dylan's work taking him to California and Montana, they're not together very much. Dylan also thinks he's meant to be alone, no family, no kids and no picket fence. For Katie, she already has the kids, the close family ties now she just needs the husband to complete the picture.

Katie, for all her self-reliance is an example how life does go on after a tragedy. I did like how she tried to keep a positive attitude for her boys and herself. It's Dylan that has a habit of dwelling on past mistakes and losses. A little too much self-doubt for a man who has made a good life for himself in spite of himself.

We do get to catch up with the Virgin River regulars. I swear if I ever find my own "Jack's Bar" I'm never leaving. Even with the weak romance, I still enjoyed this trip to Virgin River and look forward to the next time.

Rating: C+

Virgin River Series

1. Virgin River
2. Shelter Mountain
3. Whispering Rock
4. A Virgin River Christmas
5. Second Chance Pass
6. Temptation Ridge
7. Paradise Valley
8. Under the Christmas Tree (novella in That Holiday Feeling)
9. Forbidden Falls
10. Angel's Peak
11. Moonlight Road
12. Midnight Confessions (novella in Midnight Kiss)
13. Promise Canyon
14. Wild Man Creek
15. Harvest Moon
16. Bring Me Home for Christmas
17. Hidden Summit
18. Redwood Bend
19. Sunrise Point (April 24, 2012)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ARC Review: Time Out

Time Out
Jill Shalvis
Contemporary Romance
Harlequin Blaze/February 21, 2012

Sign up for recreational adult programs now!

Class: How to Drive Him Crazy

Instructional program for women unexpectedly facing the totally dishy guy from their past. Everyone welcome!

NHL coach Mark Diego's plan to spend his off-season volunteering in his hometown goes awry when he learns that not only is he coaching teenage girls, but that the program is coordinated by energetic (and five feet two inches of trouble) coordinator Rainey Saunders, his childhood friend - and the woman he could never stand to see dating any other guy.

When their tempers flare, Mark and Rainey discover their fireworks don't just burn angry - they burn very, very hot! But that'll just sweeten the victory. Because Mark always plays to win. And with Rainey, he's planning on playing very dirty, too.

This was a fun, quick read. If it was summer time, I'd say it's a perfect beach read. The hero may be a hockey coach but it's off season and hot and steamy when he and his players are trying to repair their image by volunteering in the community. Mark is a local boy and not only does he still have family in the area, he finds a girl from his past is all grown up and not a little girl anymore.

Rainey Saunders' world is is shaken up when Mark Diego comes back to town. Rainey's teenage crush is still very crush worthy but Rainey is an adult now and not into crushes. She's into long-term relationships and with Mark only there for the summer, long term isn't in his plans. Rainey keeps busy at the local Rec Center where she works as the junior sports coordinator. The center is in part of town where the kids really need a place to go after school where they are kept safe and out of trouble. Rainey's compassion comes through when working with the kids. It was interesting to see her watch Mark coach the teen girls and realize there's more to the star hockey coach than meets the eye.

Mark Diego may not be a star player but he does share the spotlight often enough with his players. He's young, sexy and available. He may seem like a ladies man but the guy has more going on than just his good looks. Mark is an extremely likable hero - almost too perfect. Which can drive Rainey crazy at times. He's one of those guys that's annoyingly good at just about everything! I did like Mark but he could have used a bit more bad-boy-genes to make him more interesting and not quite so perfect.

Rainey and Mark's personal lives collide with their work lives. Working at the Rec Center lets them seem how much they have in common, seeing as they both care about what happens to the kids there. There is also a sub-plot of troubled teens that adds stress to Rainey and Mark's lives but also shows them how much they care about each other. I did like how Mark and Rainey joined forces to help the kids which brought out strong emotions and made them confront their own feelings for each other.

The plot may have been fairly predictable and the hero a little too perfect but it still made for a lively romance.

Rating: B

Monday, February 20, 2012

ARC Review: Dead To You

Dead To You
Lisa McMann
Young Adult
Simon Pulse/February 7, 2012

Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family. It's a miracle... at first. Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn't going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he'd be able to put the pieces back together. But there's something that's keeping his memory blocked. Something unspeakable...

This is not your typical young adult novel. No vamps, angels or end-of-world scenarios here. What there is, is a underlying feel of something not quite right. It's expected there would be a period of adjustment for the family after Ethan's miraculous return. The adjusting goes both ways with Ethan and his family trying to understand what happened in the past and what is happening now. McMann does well to keep the tension high without letting it overwhelm the characters.

The happy homecoming is filled with tears and awkwardness. Ethan's memory loss leaves him in an unknown world filled with people and places that have little meaning to him. He's taken to the home he grew up in and yet any memories he has are two dimensional, leaving him questioning what memories are real and what are imagined. He's not the only one who has questions. His parents welcome him with open arms but his younger brother Blake desperately needs to know why Ethan got into the car the day he was kidnapped. His sister Gracie doesn't know him, she was born after Ethan was kidnapped. Ethan's relationships with his siblings are polar opposites with Gracie taking Ethan for who he is while Blake is suspicious and wanting answers.

As Ethan questions the memories he does have of his family and home the conflict within the family continues to grow. Ethan is busy trying to fit in not only with his family but at school. He slowly begins to form a new life for the new person he is becoming but all does not go according to plan. I liked how Ethan is portrayed as a typical teen in some instances but then something will trigger his anxiety and he shows that he is not adjusting as well as he pretends to be.

Dead to You is a quick read but does manage to pack some emotional punch. The pacing is slow at first and took me a while to get into the story but it does begin to pick up as the tension in the family rises. As the ending neared the revelations come as no real surprised and the story felt as though it was abruptly cut off, leaving me with a sense of incompleteness.

Rating: B

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

TBR Challenge Review: Conor's Way

It's the third Wednesday of the month and you know what that means - TBR Challenge Day! This month I did a little something different and did a Buddy Review with Nath from Books, Books and More Books blog. It turns out we both read the same book for the challenge and decided to do a Buddy Review of Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke. No surprise, the Kristie influence is everywhere. :)

Head on over to Breezing Through to read our Buddy Review of Conor's Way and find out what we thought of this beloved historical romance.

A courageous woman

In the aftermath of the Civil War, beautiful and stubborn Olivia Maitland was determined to save her family and their new-bankrupt Louisiana plantation no matter what - even if it meant taking in cynical ex-boxer Conor Branigan in exchange for help. It wasn't long before she discovered the secret pain hidden beneath his rugged ways. And his ache touched something in her, lighting a fire in her heart.

A hard-fighting man

Conor Branigan had seen his family and his hopes destroyed in Ireland and had sworn never to care for anyone again. But now he dared hope for a love greater than any he'd ever dreamt of, with Olivia and her three adopted children - and a future that he would fight to keep forever.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: On the Line

On the Line
Kathryn Shay
Contemporary Romance
Firefighter Trilogy/Book 2
Berkley/July 6, 2004

Special Investigator Eve Woodward has come to Hidden Cove with one thing on her mind: to nail fire chief Noah Callahan for the string of mishaps that have led to accidents, fires - and even the deaths of his own firefighters.

What Eve doesn't expect to find is a man who is respected by his community, adored by his family, and unswervingly dedicated to his job. Observing him critically and working with him side-by-side has revealed to Eve an incredibly complex man - and sparks a totally unethical attraction. With her job - and lives - on the line, Eve must reconcile the facts, or the passionate fire that flows between them will burn into ashes...

Kathryn Shay has taken that small town feel and captured it within the firefighter community. It's a place where everyone knows everyone else whether they're from the same firehouse or not. They may not always get along but they respect the fact that their fellow firefighter is there when they need them. That's why it's so hard for an outsider to come in and question the ability of one of their own. For Eve Woodward, that's exactly what she needs to do. Question the abilities of a respected fire chief.

Eve is good at her job, even when it comes with unpleasant and stressful conditions. She doesn't expect to be welcomed into the fold but she does expect to be able to do her job. She lucky Noah Callahan is cooperating with the investigation since it's him she's investigating. Working closely with Noah, Eve is able to learn a lot about the man, more than she expected. It's an interesting situation with the heroine having the power, at least potentially, to ruin the career of the hero. It would seem Eve has all the power in their relationship but that's not how it plays out.

Noah Callahan is not happy having Eve Woodward in his life. First, she's there because of him and the questions surrounding recent fires. Then, there's the attraction he feels for her. But Noah also wants answers just as much as Eve. So he works with her which only fuels the attraction. Both Noah and Eve have been around the block a few times when it comes to romance. I liked that they were older with the baggage that comes with age. That's not to say their ancient, they can still burn up the sheets, but they're smart enough to learn from their past mistakes.

There is a second romance between two firefighters, Zach and Casey, who are shocked when they realized how attracted they are to each other. I really liked their romance because it was so messy! They're both screwed up in the head when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. Zach went through a divorce from a woman he loved very much. He was such an ass towards his ex, and now he realizes his mistakes and is trying to be a better person. Casey doesn't think she's good enough for anything serious and she's earned a reputation for sleeping around. They both have emotional hurtles to overcome and Shay does well showing how Zach and Casey work through their problems and fall in love. One of the better secondary romances I've read in a long time.

Along with the developing romances is the ongoing investigation and the continued problems in the fire department. Noah and Eve do spend time alone together but they never loose sight of the reason Eve is there. The tension between the two is well done with Eve trying to do her job, investigating the man she's falling in love with.

The conclusion and the reason behind the accidents didn't come as much of a surprise. In that respect, the suspense didn't run as high as the tension betweent he two couples. One thing about these characters is that they are seriously flawed, almost too much. Both Eve and Casey have secrets that they guard fiercely. Noah and Zach both have issues. It's as if they can't be well adjusted people until they go through hell and find someone who's also been there. Still, it makes for a compelling story.

Rating: B

Firefighter Trilogy

After the Fire
On the Line
Nothing More to Lose

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: Whisper No Lies

Whisper No Lies
Cindy Gerard
Romantic Suspense
Black Ops/Book 3
Pocket/December 30, 2008


When a high roller at the Vegas casino where Crystal Debrowski manages security makes a scandalous proposition, she flat-out refuses, especially given rumors of his shady overseas connections. But then counterfeit bills mysteriously flood the gaming tables, and her reputation — and her life — are on the line.


Despite his big, flirty grin, Texas heartbreaker Johnny Duane Reed can't get sassy Crystal off his mind. When she is abducted by an international crime lord with a threatening obsession, Reed enlists his Black Ops, Inc. team to pursue a dangerous mission to rescue her.


Between Crystal and Johnny burns a scorching flame, but as they battle her relentless abductor, they uncover a malicious arms trafficking and white slavery ring. Together, they must destroy the tyrant's wicked enterprises or face his reign of terror themselves....

Aside from having to wonder why a very powerful international crime lord would fixate on Crystal when he could have kidnap younger, more beautiful women, this was a fantastic read. It's not that Crystal isn't attractive but compared to the other women caught in the slavery ring, she quite a bit older. I chalked it up to Crystal turning him down and not being impressed by who Mr. Big was. His ego was hurt and he needed to prove to her just how powerful he was. So he sabotaged her career and had her kidnapped. Yeah, way to win her over big guy!

Crystal and Johnny have a little history. They met through mutual friends, then had a one-night-stand while Johnny was keeping an eye on Crystal. Now Crystal is in big trouble and Johnny is about to come to her rescue. But it turns out Crystal isn't waiting for anyone to rescue her! I liked that about her. No sitting around crying and praying to be saved. She smart and doesn't suddenly get stupid when things get tough. I hate when you have a smart heroine then they find themselves in trouble and think the only way out is if the hero saves them.

Johnny is a good guy who likes adventure. He also likes women and doesn't hide the fact. When it comes to Crystal, he's had a hard time getting her out of his mind. So when he finds out she's been kidnapped, he's more than ready to save her. Johnny is a wonderful hero who knows he's good at what he does but doesn't take himself too seriously. He's the type of guy that everyone likes. He does have a serious side and Gerard does well showing it without compromising Johnny's easy going nature.

The team is also included in the mission and once again I loved the camaraderie and the sense of brotherhood these men have. They also have no problem admitting Crystal into their group. They're smart enough to realize she can be an asset. But they still maintain that alpha maleness when it comes to protecting their women.

Johnny and Crystal steam up the pages but they also have conversions! It may seem like it would be hard to get to know someone while fighting an international crime lord, but Johnny and Crystal do have some downtime and use it to their advantage. Their romance didn't feel like it was all wrapped up in the dangerous situation they were in. It may have taken them longer, but I think had they not been thrown together due to Crystal's kidnapping, they would have made their way back together.

Rating: B+

Black Ops Series ~

Show No Mercy
Take No Prisoners
Whisper No Lies
Feel the Heat
Risk No Secrets
Leave No Trace (novella in Deadly Promise anthology)
With No Remorse
Last Man Standing

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: Under the Gun

Under the Gun
Helenkay Dimon
Romantic Suspense
Mystery Men/Book 1
Harlequin/March 16, 2010

Who wanted her dead? That’s what Claire Samson wanted to know. On the run and alone, there was only one man she trusted to find her. Recovery agent Luke Hathaway was the best at locating and saving, and she needed the best if she wanted to live. But the handsome agent who promised salvation had some conditions of his own. If he were to help, she needed to stick close by his side. Very close. And the only thing more dangerous than her current situation was the way Luke made her feel. From the protective look in his green eyes, she could tell he felt the same. But every second that brought them closer together was also ticking toward an explosive confrontation that might tear them apart…

The first book in the Mystery Men series starts out quickly on a suspenseful note, continuing at a fast paced. There is a lot of action packed into this category but there is also a romance that moves right along with the action.

Claire Samson is wanted by the police but they're not the only ones after her. She turns to her former fiancé, Luke Hathaway, supposedly an antiques dealer. Fortunately for Claire, Luke is not into antiques rather he's into guns and knives and his ability with weapons comes in handy. Claire going after Luke but then running away from him confused me. There is some back story on why she broke the engagement but it was thin and didn't make sense considering the heat these two were giving off. It would have made more sense if Luke had broken up with Claire because of the dangers and secrecy of his job.

Luke hasn't forgiven Claire for practically leaving him at the alter two years ago. He's still hurting but being an alpha male, pretends he's over her and simply wants to find out who is out to kill her. What's interesting is that he doesn't take her word that she's innocent of killing her husband. Instead, Luke must see the crime scene and verify that it was impossible for Claire to have committed the murder. I really didn't get why these two would have been together other than the physical attraction. They still loved each other but I didn't get why.

Luke's good friends and coworkers, Adam and Holden, really added depth to the story. I enjoyed the camaraderie these three shared and how both men looked out for Luke. Neither trusted Claire and didn't want Luke to get tangled up with her again. She did win them over but they made her work for it.

The suspense and mystery surrounding the murder are what kept me reading. Claire and Luke do get there HEA but at that point I was ready for more of Adam and Holden. Lucky for me, both men get their own books.

Rating: C+

Mystery Men ~

Under the Gun
Guns and the Girl Next Door
Gunning for Trouble
The Big Gun

Monday, February 6, 2012

Changing the Game

Changing the Game
Jaci Burton
Erotic Romance
Play by Play/Book 2
Berkley/August 2, 2011

Most people play by the rules. Gavin and Liz aren't most people....

Win at any cost. That's always been the mantra of sports agent Liz Darnell. When she carries things too far and risks losing her number-one client, baseball pro Gavin Riley, Liz realizes that she'll have to work extra innings to win him back. It might not be too much of a stretch. She's had a thing for this player's moves since she first laid eyes on him, and by the looks of it, he wants her just as bad.

Gavin's more than ready—especially when Liz is offering herself as part of the bargain. And as much of her as Gavin wants. For added thrills, he decides to throw a little curve ball Liz's way to see just how far she's truly willing to go to keep him as a client. But when love unexpectedly enters the playing field, neither Liz nor Gavin are ready for the biggest game-changer of them all.

After Liz's actions in the first book, many a reader didn't care for her and felt she had a lot of redeeming to do before being worthy of heroine status. Personally, I didn't have as much of a problem with Liz. I liked her and understood why she did what she did regarding Mick, Tara and Tara's son Nathan. It was a case of poor judgement based on Mick's previous dating history. If you didn't read The Perfect Play (book 1), let's just say Liz used underhanded tactics to get Tara out of Mick's life. Not cool but she did try to make amends and now the only one who's still pissed off about it is Mick.

Gavin knows his agent has been avoiding him and he's tired of it. He's very much an alpha male and knows how to push Liz's buttons. Right off I liked the chemistry between Gavin and Liz. It's intense with a dash of playfulness that lets both of these high achievers release the stresses their careers bring into their lives. Gavin is highly dominate in the bedroom and that seemed to be exactly what Liz needed.

Liz Darnell suffered not only a professional blow but a personal one when Mick Riley fired her as his agent. She's been trying to recover as well as not lose Mick's brother Gavin as her client. It's not only a professional relationship Liz has with Gavin but person in that she is very much attracted to her star client. Liz's life is her career, with a daddy complex pushing her to excel. Through Liz's actions we see how hard she must work in a male dominated profession. I liked Liz with all her flaws and after getting to know her better, felt sorry for her. Not only for her background but where her life had taken her to this point. I truly wanted her to be happy.

As it was in The Perfect Play, the sex scenes are smoking with Gavin and Liz going wild and leaving their inhibitions at the door. But what I really liked was their friendship. They have known each other for years, Liz is considered family to the Riley clan, and Gavin doesn't want to give her up. Gavin's family does play a large role in the romance since they are a close family and Liz is part of that closeness. One problem I had was Mick's role in Gavin and Liz's romance. Even after everyone has not only forgiven Liz but told Mick it was time to get over it, he still proved to be a blockhead and an ass towards Liz.

While I liked Gavin I found Liz to be the driving force of the story. She's what kept me turning the pages, wanting to know more about her. Gavin captured the physical element and Liz captured the emotional. That's not to say Gavin didn't show emotions, but Liz was written with far deeper emotions that got to me in a way Gavin didn't.

As mentioned, the Riley family plays a big role in the story, maybe a little too big. At times I wanted them to back off and give Gavin and Liz more breathing room to work at their evolving relationship. I did like the close-knit family aspect but my favorite parts were Gavin and Liz playing, laughing and loving.

The next book, Taking a Shot is about sister Jenna Riley and hockey star Tyler Anderson who are both featured in Changing the Game. I'm totally looking forward to their story and thankfully only have a month to wait!

Rating: B+

The Perfect Play
Changing the Game
Taking a Shot (March 6, 2012)
Playing to Win (September 4, 2012)

Serious Love for These Covers!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review: Take No Prisoners

Take No Prisoners
Cindy Gerard
Romantic Suspense
Black Ops/Book 2
Pocket/October 21,2008

A Dangerous Attraction...

Abbie Hughes no longer trusts men, but despite her cool indifference, her long legs and showgirl face still draw plenty of attention. Between working as a blackjack dealer, going to school, and keeping an eye on her younger brother, Cory, there's no time for romantic adventures -- until the night a sexy, mysterious stranger places a wager at her table.

Spurred by revenge...

Sam Lang left Black Ops, Inc. when tragedy struck his family. Although he's determined to retire his M-16 rifle to lead a quiet life on his ranch, a vengeful quest will send him on a manhunt for the ruthless multimillionaire who murdered his sister.

Reveals a savage threat they can't ignore...

Though Sam suspects Abbie is in on a lucrative gem-smuggling deal her brother made with the enemy, their attraction is undeniable. Now Cory is missing, and together they search the wild Honduras back country to find him. With danger on their trail, they must trust each other completely or face certain death alone....

This time Ms. Gerard takes us into the criminal world of Honduras. It's the darker, more brutal side with Sam gunning for revenge and Abbie trying desperately to save her brother. The landscape didn't make a huge impression on me, but worked more as a backdrop for the action.

Sam Lang is pulled back into the action when information on a previous target leads him to Abbie Hughes. He's playing a role, trying to get information from her but ends up falling for the beautiful Vegas dealer. Abbie falls too and it all leads to hurt and mistrust. Then they find themselves forced to work together for a common goal. So not only do they have their issues to get past, they're also thrown into extremely dangerous situations.

Abbie Hughes has no choice but to go to Honduras and find her brother. It kind of reminded me of Romancing the Stone in that Abbie is out of her element and must rely on her wits and Sam to get her out of trouble. Abbie may not be trained in combat but she uses her brain and doesn't let the guys push her around.

There is a lot of action in this series and Sam and Abbie's story is no exception. This time around I found the action is what I liked best. It's fast paced and kept me glued to the page. The romance didn't work as well for me. I liked Sam and Abbie but it felt like a lack emotional connection between the two. The sexual chemistry was off the wall but emotionally it didn't feel like they were in sync.

Overall, a solid romantic suspense with the action taking the better part of the spotlight. There are a number of Black Ops, Inc. men just waiting for their HEA and I know I'll be right there when they find it!

Rating: B

Black Ops Series ~

Show No Mercy
Take No Prisoners
Whisper No Lies
Feel the Heat
Risk No Secrets
Leave No Trace (novella in Deadly Promise anthology)
With No Remorse
Last Man Standing