Monday, November 30, 2009

Author Interview and Giveaway ~ Cheryl St. John

Please help me welcome author Cheryl St. John to Leslie's Psyche.

I remember first hearing about Cheryl St. John from Kristie of Ramblings on Romance, who has mentioned a number of times that Cheryl is one of her favorite authors and she writes western historicals (win!) I knew I had to add her name to my to buy list.

I started by reading the highly recommended Joe's Wife. And yes, it was all that Kristie said it would be. Loved that book! (You can read my review here.) The thing about Cheryl's writing is that it's real. Real people and situations that the reader can relate to even when those people lived in another time and place.

Some information about Cheryl from her website ~

Cheryl St.John is the author of over thirty Harlequin and Silhouette books. Her first book, RAIN SHADOW was nominated for RWA’s RITA for Best First Book, by Romantic Times for Best Western Historical, and by Affaire de Coeur readers as Best American Historical Romance. Since then she's received several RITA nominations and three Romantic Times Achievement Awards. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real life situations."

As well as being an avid collector and a gardener, Cheryl is an amateur photographer. Visit her blog to see photographs of her garden, her family, and learn about the things that make her laugh--and there are a lot of them.

Cheryl is admittedly blog crazy. She has a personal blog, From the Heart, a recipe blog, and a blog that follows a home remodel. She guest blogs whenever and wherever she's asked, and blogs twice a month at Petticoats and Pistols.

Cheryl has led writing classes on a local and national level, and she teaches monthly online workshops for writers. Her motivational gifts of exhortation and encouragement make her a sought-after speaker. She's the worship leader at the fastest growing Word of Faith church in her city, serves on her church's advisory board, and is active in Heartland Writers Group, her local RWA chapter.

Does she sleep? Not much.

Cheryl was nice enough to indulge my inquisitive nature and answer some deep and meaningful questions. Okay, the questions may not be too deep but Cheryl's answers are insightful and interesting. She has great taste in authors (Maggie Osborne and Pam Morsi, two of my favs). She likes the angsty dark brooding hero (don't we all) and gave us a peek at what she's currently working on.

Leslie ~ Is there any one particular book you are most proud of? Why?

Cheryl ~ That is such a difficult question to answer. It's like thinking about which of your children you are most proud of. They're all special in a different way. There are books I am LESS proud of than others, but I won't say which ones or why. When I think back, there are books that stand out in my mind as projects I particularly loved and still do: Land of Dreams, Saint or Sinner, The Doctor's Wife, Joe's Wife, Prairie Wife, Marvel's story in A Western Winter Wonderland, Her Montana Man and my upcoming Her Colorado Man.

L ~ What do you enjoy reading? Romances, non-fiction, mysteries. Who are some of your favorite authors?

C ~ I saw you reviewed The Promise of Jenny Jones recently. I love Maggie Osborne. I fell in love with romance by reading LaVyrle Spencer, Candace Camp/Lisa Gregory, Francine Rivers, Jill Marie Landis, Pam Morsi and others. I still love the Americanas and western the best. I also enjoy contemporary romance and an occasional Stephen King or Dean Koontz.

L ~ When you start writing a book, what do you start with - the main characters and build the plot around them or do you start with the plot and build the characters around it?

C ~ A combination probably. Usually some glimmer of an incident or situation that grabs me. Ideas strike writers at odd moments, usually when we're not trying too hard. When the left-brain backs off and allows the right brain freedom, ideas flow. This happens in the early morning, in the last hour before falling asleep, in the shower, driving, and while baking. Relaxing my left-brain is my reason for shopping and making brownies. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. I start with a situation and a character and then flesh out the character, add more people and create a believable lot from there. Sometimes it takes me as long as a year or two to actually get all the pieces to come together. Such was the case with Her Colorado Man. I had this idea that a man would get letters from a child and then--to the mother's dismay--pretend to be the child's father. How in the world I would make that believable was the problem, so that binder kept going back on the shelf. Occasionally I'd pull it out and drive my critique partners crazy trying to brainstorm it. And then finally, when I wasn't trying too hard, the answers came to me.

L ~ Do you have a favorite type of hero you prefer writing?

C ~ A couple of types. I love the wounded, angsty dark brooding hero, but I adore the guy next door equally well. I don't mind a guy with a secret, but most often it's my heroines who hide things. And how.

L~ On your website you mention that you enjoy photography, gardening and collecting. Do you incorporate these joys into your writing?

C ~ Laughing here, because I'm doing that right now. In my current story, my heroine is a fish out of water, trying to make a home for her governor candidate husband and impress the locals, while she knows nothing of normal families. The ladies put a bug in her ear that she needs to do crafts and decorate her home, so she's ordering and decorating, and I'm having a heyday with the research. I love Victorian collections. An excess of possessions were so much a part their society that they defined people's and morals and culture. And thank you for visiting my website! It's still shiny new and I'm super proud of it.

L ~ Do you have a favorite place where you like to write? Or do you write wherever you happened to be when the mood hits you?

C ~ I work at my desk. It's a method that works for me. When I sit and put my fingers on the keyboard, words come. Occasionally when I only want to see a few lines and not edit, I sit on a sofa and use my Alphasmart, but I'm basically an office writer.

L ~ What book are you currently working on?

C ~ My working title is Wyoming Wildfire. I brought my heroine from a bordello in Dodge City and married her to a man running for governor of the Wyoming Territory. And whoops--he doesn't know about her past. What fun this is going to be!

L ~ You're well known for your historical westerns, is there another genre that you would like to write?

C ~ I like to write contemporaries as well. It's a change my brain needs from time to time. I can only choreograph story people on ranches and horses for so long before I want them to drive a Mustang and drink a Coke, you know?

Cheryl has a wonderful backlist of treasures to search out at your UBS. If you don't have a UBS handy you're in luck. Wendy aka Super Librarian, recently shared some exciting news about some of Cheryl's hard to find books. The people at eHarlequin were smart enough to ask Wendy for some recommendations for ebook bundles, see Wendy's posts here and here. Two of the bundles selected will feature Cheryl's books. The first bundle, The Harvey Girls, to be released in January will include Cheryl's books; The Lawman's Bride, The Preacher's Daughter and The Doctor's Wife. The second bundle, Love American Style, to be released in February, will include Cheryl's book Prairie Wife along with books from Judith Stacy and Cheryl Reavis. Check back at either Cheryl's website or eHarlequin for ordering information as the release dates near.

Cheryl's newest release (December 2009) is Her Colorado Man.

When eighteen-year-old Mariah found herself pregnant and unmarried in her small Colorado town, she disappeared. One year later, she returned with a baby—though minus the "husband" who had conveniently ventured off to Alaska's gold fields to seek his fortune….

But now, with handsome adventurer Wes Burrows turning up and claiming to be the husband she had invented, Mariah's lies become flesh and blood—and her wildest dreams a reality!

I haven't read it yet but Kristie did and you can read her review here. She gave it a 4.5 out of 5!

Also available are three reissues from Cheryl's Montana Mavericks series.

The Magnificent Seven (September 2009)

Marry Me...Again (December 2009)

Cheryl, I just want to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and visit here at Leslie's Psyche!

And now for the giveaway ~ Cheryl has been generous to offer two books from her backlist, as long as she has copies. You can go here to view Cheryl's backlist. Since Cheryl will be sending these out and postage has gotten so expensive, this is open to US residents.

In addition to Cheryl's two books, I'm giving away one copy of Cheryl's new release - Her Colorado Man. This is open to any one that Book Depository ships to.

So that's three winners! Leave a comment on this post by midnight Sunday, December 6 to be entered in the giveaway.

Friday, November 27, 2009

YotC Review: Home for the Holidays

Title: Home for the Holidays
Author: Sarah Mayberry

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: November 2009
Harlequin Super Romance

From the back cover ~

Joe Lawson has a thing for his new neighbor Hannah Napier. As a single dad, he shouldn't be thinking what he is about her. Still, that doesn't stop them from getting close. And the way she connects with his kids, it's as if they're a family.

Turns out it's too good to be true. Seems Hannah has plans that don't include staying in Melbourne. Joe won't stand between her and her dreams, even though letting her go is nearly impossible. The holidays are looking grim, with him and his kids missing Hannah like crazy. But it is the season of surprises, and Hannah may have one for them!

The cover ~ I like it. It's not too sugary sweet. The people look "real" and although most of the book doesn't take place during the holidays it still gives the feeling of the book.

So what is going on? Someone who used to shun Harlequins is now buying them when they are released? The world has tilted on it's axis and life as we know it has cease to exist. Okay, not quite that dramatic but still... a category author is now an auto buy for me is not something to sneeze at. Sarah Mayberry has become one of my favorite authors for 2009. I've yet to be disappointed by her books. I relish the chance to read her and will no doubt be sad once I've read her entire backlist. Then I'll have the long wait for her next release.

Home for the Holidays isn't a typical romance. There's a deceased wife, two kids - one's a teenager, an ex-fiance and a strained sibling relationship. Add to that the rocky start Joe and Hannah get off to and it certainly doesn't seem like they have any chance at becoming friends much less a couple. But Mayberry works her magic and Joe and Hannah get beyond those bad first impressions and get to know each other.

Joe Lawson is still feeling his way through the rough waters of single parenthood. He moves himself and his two kids, Ben and Ruby, to Melbourne to start over and be near his mum. In doing so he puts himself next to a woman who is so not his type. His first encounter with Hannah does not go well and he doesn't look forward to seeing his new neighbor again. Hannah isn't too happy about the "jerk" that has moved in next door. They almost subconsciously notice the attractiveness of the other but squash that down because how could they possibly be attracted to someone so exasperating?

Hannah Napier could not be described as a "delicate flower of womanhood". I can practically hear her snorting at the thought. LOL She is a mechanic and enjoys working on restoring a classic motorcycle in her spare time. Most comfortable in jeans and t-shirt, she is out of her comfort zone when dealing with dresses and make-up. But even in jeans and t-shirt Joe can't help but notice Hannah's curves. Even while being irritated by her, he still notices that she is all woman under her grease monkey exterior.

The conflicts, and they are many, are well developed for such a short format. Joe and Hannah must not only deal with their growing feeling for each other but also with the feelings of Joe's two kids. Ben is a teenager (13) who's unhappy with the world and is under pressure from school to try and fit in. Ruby is a precocious 10 year old that quickly takes to Hannah. At first, Joe isn't happy about Ruby hanging around with their "biker chick" neighbor. As Joe gets to know Hannah, he realizes what an important part of his family she is becoming.

I really enjoyed the dynamics of the characters. The way everyone kind of shifted and moved into place to create a new family. The moves weren't always smooth, there were definitely bumps along the way. Sometimes more shifting needed to be done but eventually two people became a couple and four people became a family.

So chalk up another win from Mayberry. Once again she's given the reader a romance couple different from the usual fare. With a heroine who can rebuild an engine and a hero who does laundry and washes dishes. The love scenes were sweet, sexy and funny. Two people who resort to getting hot and heavy in a car because they have no privacy at home makes for some hot and frustrating scenes. And the way they overcame their past pains to get to the point where they could trust and hope again was well written and left me, once again, happy to have found Sarah Mayberry's books. (Thanks KMont!)

Sarah Mayberry's website can be found here.

Rating: A

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Ah, childhood memories. I loved watching Sesame Street when I was a kiddo. Strange, I don't remember this episode...

Well, it's Thanksgiving here in the states. We're spending the day relaxing at home, the turkey will be in the oven and the house will be filling up with the smells of delicious food. If your celebrating today I hope you enjoy the good company of family and friends.

Even if you don't celebrate the traditional Thanksgiving take a moment to to think of what you are thankful for, you might surprise yourself at how much you have.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: Kiss of Fury

Title: Kiss of Fury
Author: Deborah Cooke
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Dragonfire/Book 2
Published: August 2008

From the back cover ~

For millennia, the shape-shifting dragon warriors known as the Pyr have lived peacefully as commanders of the four elements and guardians of the earth's treasures. But now the final reckoning between the Pyr, who count humans among the earth's treasures, and the Slayers, who would eradicate both humans and the Pyr who protect them, is about to begin…

Scientist Alexandra Madison was on the verge of unveiling an invention that would change the world—then her partner was murdered, their lab burned and their prototype destroyed. When recurring dragon-haunted nightmares threaten to land her in a psychiatric hospital, Alex knows she has to escape to rebuild her prototype in time. But first she must return to her ruined lab…

Handsome, daring, and impulsive, Donovan Shea is more than willing to do his part in the Pyr/Slayer war and save The Madison Project. Assigned to kidnap Alex, Donovan is shocked when her presence ignites the firestorm. He has no desire for a destined mate, but when Alex is attacked by a Slayer, Donovan finds himself meeting fire with fire in her defense. Won over by Alex's intelligence and determination, Donovan fights to rebuild her invention in a race against time. By the time the Slayers close in on their prey, Donovan knows he'll surrender his life to protect Alex, --but will have to lose his heart to possess her...

The second book in the series made me happy I started this series. I think the author did a better job engaging the reader in the romance while still continuing with the world building. I felt more connected with Alex and Donovan than I did with the hero/heroine from the first book.

Donovan isn't as into the mythology of the Pyr as his fellow dragons. He's also decided he will not claim his mate when his firestorm comes. Which is really too bad since it's here and he's been ordered to keep Alex, his destined mate, safe from the people who killed her partner and are now trying to kill her. Donovan's not a happy camper. But he's up for the challenge until he has to deal with Alex. She's not exactly willing to simply put her life in his hands. The friction between these two added to the fact that neither one wanted to get involved with the other but the firestorm had other plans. There's no resisting the desires the firestorm stirs. The more they try to resist the stronger the pull becomes.

Alex is an intelligent woman but it's more book smarts than street smarts. That's not to say she's stupid and innocent of the outside world but the world that she's thrown into isn't anything like she's ever experienced. There's no way to plan for having men who turn into dragons hunting you down. At first she's not sure who to trust. Her partner is attacked and killed by dragons then Donovan shows up doing a "Come with me if you want to live" routine. She knows she needs help but is still wary of Donovan and not willing to follow his orders. Alex definitely makes Donovan work to keep her safe!

The tension between Donovan and Alex continues to increase as does the continued threat from the Slayers and the zombie dragons the Slayers have created. Yes, zombie dragons. And like zombies they're hard to fight and harder to kill. I liked the way Donovan and Alex worked together towards their goal once they got past their initial distrust. They seemed to fit together well and even though they are "destined" to be together it still felt there would have been an attraction without the firestorm.

The rest of the Pyr rally around their brethren to offer help in completing Alex's "green machine". It was nice to see the Pyr that we got to know in Kiss of Fire. (read my review here) Cooke continues to give the reader more information on each of the Pyr, keeping up the interest in the Pyrs' with stories still to be told. The Slayers that lived through book 1 are also in attendence with new Slayers showing up to give the Pyr more trouble and some of the fun fight scenes that I enjoy. I have to say the Slayers are down right nasty. These guys aren't wimps and could swap stories with Attila the Hun. This definitely appeals to me because it evens up the odds against the Pyr. Which makes it much more interesting. I don't like it when the good guys win every time. Not very realistic and I want realism when reading about dragons. LOL

Overall, better than book one. Now to see about book three. And book four just came out. Wow! Dragons all over the place. And if dragons aren't your thing Deborah Cooke also writes historicals under the name Claire Delacroix.

Deborah Cooke and Claire Delacroix can be found here.

Rating: B+

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tis the Season For Some... Shopping!

I'll bet you think I'm talking Christmas shopping. Nope. Shopping for ME! Okay, maybe I picked up some Christmas gifts along the way but I was shopping for boots for me. While I love to wear flip-flops or sandals, even in the US southwest desert it gets cold in the winter. So I was looking for boots; black, cuff boots. Didn't find any but I did stumble across these at the BX/PX no less. (That's the military equivalent of a department store for you non-military types).

Yes, Coach makes heavy duty plastic boots. If that's not enough, they even had them in clogs. Clogs? I haven't worn clogs since I was a kid. Are they popular? Probably with the younger crowd of which I'm not. Unfortunately, I can't tell you the price. I was so stunned by their um... vividness, that I forgot to check the price. And when I checked the Coach website, they weren't there. Hmmm... maybe the military got a really good deal on them. :)

Then it was a stop at Borders cause I had a coupon. Borders always gets me in there with their coupons. Both my youngest and oldest really like Pocky. It's these thin wafers coated in strawberry, chocolate and sometimes other flavors. I spotted one of the other flavors. I couldn't help but get a chuckle out of the fact that the Men's Pocky is flavored "bitter" chocolate. Is bitterness a sign of maturity? Oh, and surprisingly, didn't buy anything at Borders.

Last stop was to Sprouts Market or what we call "the bin store." They specialize in healthy, natural foods. Lots of fruits and veggies and offer everything from peanuts, trail mix, beans and rice in serve yourself bins. Their Virginia peanuts are great. Much better than prepackaged, not nearly as salty or greasy. Those and pumpkin seeds are my favorites. Anyway, they also have a decent selection of wine considering it's not that big of a store. Not nearly as big as a chain grocery store. They do have some interesting wines. This one caught my eye.

It's not a red but a White Zin for $10. I didn't get it but I'm wondering if it's sales increased due to the release of the latest Twilight movie. There are a lot of 21+ Twilight fans. I can totally see the adult fans having a little after party and Vampire Wine would certainly fit the theme.

So, I'm still looking for boots but I did find some interesting items out there. Anyone else have some fun shopping this weekend?

And there should be a law that stores can't play holiday music until after Thanksgiving. At least I didn't hear the dreaded Feliz Navidad. That song will send me out of the store.

*apologizes for the quality of the pics. All photos were taken with my cell phone*

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Brief Review: Forever Yours

Title: Forever Yours
Author: Charlotte Featherstone
Genre: Historical Erotic Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Spice
Published: October 2007

From publisher's website ~

Despite their love for each other, lovemaking has become routine and predictable for the Duke and Duchess of Sutcliffe. Desperate to save their marriage, they begin exchanging passionate, erotic missives detailing needs and fantasies they never before dared to express. Soon, they’re acting out those fantasies and discovering a consuming desire like none they’ve ever known...

Quick, lovely read. I have Featherstone's Addicted in my TBR pile somewhere. I'll need to dig it out next time I have a taste for an erotic historical. Featherstone's writing is very vivid, bringing forth the characters' inner desires and the constrains society and family life have placed on them.

The Duke and Duchess of Sutcliffe love each other very much but after four children in 10 years their time together, alone, has all but vanished. Christian, the Duke, has issues with his wife's doting on their children. He loves his children but feels they take up too much of his wife Elizabeth's time. That she rushes to the children's aid too quickly instead of letting them grow up and become independent. Christian has a wife and mother to his children, now he wants his lover back.

Elizabeth loves her husband and her children but is having difficulty dividing her time between them. She knows she and Christian have drifted apart even though there is still a strong attraction and sexual need between the two. She's afraid of losing him to another woman but doesn't know how to get him back. Until she receives a note...

One of the things I liked about Forever Yours is that it's about an established couple. Something we don't see a lot of. They know each other well and yet there are still things they have to learn. This is a historical where the hero and heroine are members of the aristocracy and yet they face some of the same problems the modern couple does. The way they make their way back to each other and re-establish that connection of lovers made for a satisfying read.

I was able to obtain Forever Yours as an e-book from the library. It's also available at Harlequin's site . Charlotte Featherstone's website can be found here.

Rating: B+

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: Show No Fear

Title: Show No Fear
Author: Marliss Melton
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: SEAL Team 12/Book 7
Published: September 2009

From the back cover ~


Lucy Donovan always gets her man. As a fiercely independent CIA agent, she's survived hundreds of death-defying missions. But her latest may just get her killed. Weighed down with a secret she's desperate to keep, the last thing Lucy needs is to be sent undercover with a man who brings out the best--and the worst--in her.


Navy SEAL Gus Atwater never turns down an assignment, even if it means working with the only woman he's ever loved and lost. So with a volatile mix of desire and distrust, Lucy and Gus confront their tangled past. Pretending to be man and wife is risky enough, but now the clock is running out. As their mission escalates from desperate to deadly, will Lucy's secret expose them both?

The latest book in Melton's SEAL series was a quick read, coming in at just under 300 pages. The hero and heroine are former college sweethearts that, due to a tragedy, have gone their separate ways. He's now a SEAL who is occasionally "loaned out" to the CIA. She is a field operative for the CIA, one who has repeatedly put her life in danger. The two meet up during a daring rescue after not seeing each other for eight years. The spark is still there but they both have jobs to do.

Lucy Donovan has a horrible memory of death riding her. After recovering from her last dangerous mission she finds herself on a new mission with an old partner. Her college sweetheart James Atwater aka LT. James "Gus" Atwater. To say she's surprised to see him is an understatement. The last time she saw him was nearly a year ago under extreme conditions. She never thought she'd see him again. Now they are being sent in undercover as part of a UN contingent attempting to broker the release of two hostages of FARC. Lucy isn't happy about teaming up with Gus, she prefers to work alone, not depending on anyone. Adding their past relationship and tension between the two is high.

Gus Atwater's dream wasn't to be a Navy SEAL. He went to college with dreams of being an architect. But 9/11 changed that and changed the focus of his life to serving his country in the best way he knows how. He's done well, honing his body and mind into that of a warrior. His focus has been on his career while his personal life has taken a bit of a backseat. He never forgot Lucy and is thrilled to see her again but has some serious reservations as to having her on the mission.

Gus and Lucy are an interesting pair. Their college memories are ones of a close relationship of friends and lovers. If certain events had not occurred the reader is given to believe that Gus and Lucy would have continued on to a permanent relationship, most likely marriage. But things did happen and Lucy broke all ties with her past life for her new life in the CIA. Gus and Lucy are both attracted to each other and in their current situation everyday could mean death to one or both of them.

Since college, Lucy and Gus have both dramatically changed their outlook on life. Both have seen war and death. Now that they're together again the feelings they had for each other have come back to the surface. For me, the new Lucy and Gus didn't quite click - had it not been for the mission, I don't think Lucy would have let Gus get close to her again. She was still too much of a loner. She doesn't want anyone close, too much chance of loosing them if they get close.

The plot with the UN representatives, FARC and the Colombian Army tended to take the spotlight from the romance. It's hard to get romantic when you're in the jungle, living among a rebel army and worrying about what might be in living in your shoes when you wake up in the morning. The romance was thin, Lucy and Gus had way too many other things on their minds. The parts that did have them together, well, I couldn't help but think about where they were, bug infested jungle, poor bathing facilities etc. and that they were rarely alone. The accommodations left little room for privacy. So if you're looking for a novel with more romance, I would suggest trying one of the earlier books in the series.

Overall, I did like the story but felt the romance was overshadowed by the military/political plot line. Melton does manage to write a compelling story with lots of action and suspense, just light on the romance. Show No Fear is probably one of my least favorites in the series. I need a better balance of romance/action/suspense. No word on who or when the next book will be out, according to Melton's website, she is looking for a new publisher.

Rating: B

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review: One Lucky Cowboy

Title: One Lucky Cowboy
Author: Carolyn Brown
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Lucky Trilogy/Book 2
Published: November 2009

ARC Review

From the publisher's website ~

Jane Day is on the run from the paid assassin who had been her fiancé. In Wichita Falls, Texas, she meets Nellie Luckadeau, a spitfire of an old lady who desperately needs someone to work on her ranch. But Nellie's drop-dead gorgeous grandson "Lucky Slade" is sure he can spot a con artist a mile away. He's determined not to let some upstart like Jane fleece his granny.

When his signature intimidation methods don't convince Jane to leave, he pours on the charm to make her spill what she's up to. She's happy to play along, but she's not going to let this hot, hostile cowboy run her off his land when all she needs is a lucky break…

Funny and sweet with a hero and heroine that had me laughing at their banter and their mutual distrust of each other, One Lucky Cowboy proved to be a pleasant read.

Slade Luckadeau is a hard working, honorable man who looks out for his family. His grandmother, Nellie, tries his patience at times but he loves her and would do anything to make her happy, except let Jane Day stay on as Nellie's hired help. Slade does his best to send Jane on her way but Jane is stubborn. She proves to be more difficult to get rid of than ticks on a hound dog!

All through One Lucky Cowboy I kept feeling there was a bit of say, a Reba McEntire influence, with all the comical sayings. I love the show Reba with it's quirky, down-home humor. That's what you get with Slade and Jane. Even though Jane is in danger, her life threatened, I didn't feel like this was a romantic suspense. It wasn't dark enough and far too funny. It was more a romance with elements of danger and suspense. Jane is temporarily safe on the ranch but you know eventually her ex-fiance', the assassin, will catch up with her.

Jane Day has to stay hidden for the next six weeks then she can return home and claim her inheritance and seek justice. Until her birthday, Jane has to earn her keep as cook and driver on the Double L ranch. She figures it's as good as any place to hide out but what she didn't figure on is coming to care for Nellie, her friends and especially the annoying, irritatingly good looking Slade Luckadeau. Jane tries to keep her distance, she doesn't want to get close to anyone. But that's hard to do with Slade keeping an eagle eye on her and Nellie telling tales of Slade.

Slade, oh lordy, but he was in for a rough time, trying to get Jane to leave while trying not to notice how cute she is or her kindness towards his grandma. Slade was absolutely certain that Jane was there to con Nellie out of whatever she could get. He refused to believe that Jane's motives were anything but false. It was fun to watch him get so frustrated that he couldn't get this little slip of a woman to leave. LOL

I have to mention Nellie and the gang. LOL They are what I aspire to be when I grow up! These ladies know how to have fun and they don't let their advanced age or their disabilities stop them. Nellie's sister Ellen joins in the fun and holds nothing back. She isn't afraid to tell it like it is. They are a hoot!

While I liked Jane and I liked Slade, they really worked much better when they were together. Watching them together and reacting to each other, each with their own preconceived idea of the other. Neither one of them wanted to like the other let alone trust, but they found themselves in situations where they had to rely on each other. That's when we see their relationship go beyond what they wanted and become what they needed. I really appreciated their rocky romance; the arguments and the way they were surprised when they found themselves actually being nice to each other and enjoying their company. It made the ending that much better.

The first book of the trilogy, Lucky in Love, was released in September. Book 3, Getting Lucky, features another handsome Luckadeau man and is scheduled for release on January 1, 2010. Carolyn Brown and her books can be found on her website.

Rating: B+

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Review: Hot Mail

Title: Hot Mail
Author: Janice Maynard
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Published: January 2009

From the back cover ~

One Naughty Valentine At A Time.

She's Going To Fulfill Her Secret Fantasy...

And Make Him Hers...

Jane has wanted Ethan for years but has never found a way to tell him. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, she decides to seduce him by sending anonymous erotic valentines every Friday until the big day. Then she’ll finally reveal her true feelings— and wildest desires.

But when her stationery store is vandalized, it’s Ethan who comes to her rescue—and the sparks start flying way ahead of schedule. Now Jane and her erotic alter ego are competing for Ethan’s affections— and the results couldn’t be hotter.

A friends to lovers story, add a little mystery and a sweet secondary love story and you've got Janice Maynard's Hot Mail. I read another book from this author, The Perfect Ten, and enjoyed her voice so when I came across Hot Mail at the library I swiped it up, thinking it might be a nice, quick read and I wasn't disappointed.

The idea of sending anonymous erotic poems to entice a man was a last ditch effort for Jane Norman. She and Ethan Oldham had been friends for nearly fifteen years but that changed four years ago when Ethan became engaged, then ended the engagement, to a woman Jane knew was bad news. So Jane decided to keep her distance from Ethan. Their relationship became cordial but remote. No more hanging out together, watching movies or going hiking.

Jane decides that she misses Ethan but this time she wants more than friendship from him, she wants everything from him. She's thirty-two and thinks that it's now or never, that she needs to make a move on Ethan because it doesn't seem like he'll be making any moves on her. So she sets a time table for herself. Starting after New Years she sends a poem a week to Ethan with plans for the big finale on Valentines Day. She has six poems to write and send, hoping that they'll do the trick and get Ethan back in her life.

Ethan is the assistant chief of police of Statlerville, Tennessee. He loves his job and will love it even more once his boss retires. As it is, Ethan pretty much runs the station, waiting for his boss to retire in a matter of months so that he can take over as chief. Ethan's personal life is another matter. His dating has hit a dry spell ever since his engagement ended in less than ideal circumstances. He's also confused as to why Jane has cut him out of her life. He misses her and wants her back as his friend but doesn't know how to get her back. Then he's called to a break-in at Jane's business and they find themselves together again because of it.

When Ethan receives the first poem he has no idea what to think. He certainly doesn't think it's Jane doing the sending. But he is curious as to who would send it and why. In the mean time he's spending more time with Jane and they are slowly getting closer again. It's at this point when Ethan surprises himself and begins to see Jane in a different light, not as that of friend but as that of an attractive woman. Took you long enough Ethan! LOL

Jane is happy to be spending time with Ethan but she's hesitant to think that it's more than just Ethan doing his job. She continues to send the poems then gets upset with Ethan for not telling her about them. LOL In spite of that I liked Jane. She was a smart business woman who was practical in everything except her relationship with Ethan. If they had been such good friends for fifteen years, if she loved him so much, why wait so long to do something about it?

I liked Ethan a whole bunch. He had that small town cop vibe going. You know where they know the people and actually care about what happens to them. Ethan also had an older sister, Sherry, that he cared a great deal about. Sherry got pregnant in her teens, married the baby's father, then divorced him and raised her daughter alone. Sherry devoted her life to her daughter, after 20 years her daughter decides to live with her father in Florida. This leaves Sherry at loose ends. In comes Ethan to help Sherry out, hiring her to provide healthy meals for the police station. And this is where the secondary love story comes into play. It was sweet and added another aspect to the small town feel.

And because this is an erotic romance the sex scenes lived up to that label. Once Ethan got clued in that yes, he was attracted to Jane, he made sure Jane knew it! All in all a fun, sexy romance.

Information about Janice Maynard and her books can be found on the author's website.

Rating: B+

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Review: Double Play

Title: Double Play
Author: Jill Shalvis
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Pacific Heat/Book 1
Published: July 2009

From the back cover ~

Getting to first base is a cinch...

But getting home will take a grand slam...

Pace Martin is the ace pitcher for he Pacific Heat. He's got the arm, the experience, and the wins. He's also got the pain, the pressure, and the possible end of his career looming over him. The last thing he needs now is a distraction, even if it comes in the form of a tough, beautiful, tell-it-like-it-is writer who sees past his defenses.

Holly Hutchins knows a good story when she sees one, and the tall, dark, and slightly attitude-challenged Pace Martin fits the bill. But when she realizes there's more at stake than just a win, she starts to see the handsome, broad-shouldered jock in a different light.
Pace and Holly begin a seductive game, but in the face of unexpected betrayal and challenges, they'll have to find the courage to swing for the fences...

I've gotten to the point with Jill Shalvis that she has become a sure thing. I've come to count on her ability to tell a story about people falling in love and making me believe in that story. Shalvis writes such real romances. Her characters are flawed and genuine. You get to know them and care about them. Such was the case with Pace and Holly.

Pace Martin is a baseball player who makes millions but would play for peanuts. He loves the game, it's his life. But an injury could prove to be more serious than what his career can handle. Pace is a man that I easily and quickly came to care about. Sure he's a famous baseball player that makes millions of dollars and he's got good looks too. But underneath all that is a guy that loves the game and shares his love for the game. He spends time with kids who might be spending time in juvenile detention if it wasn't for Pace's positive influence. He does because he cares, not for the publicity since he keeps that part of his personal life private.

Holly Hutchins has been given an ultimatum - write about the Santa Barbara Heat baseball team or quit. Holly doesn't have much choice, she wants to keep her job. She writes a weekly blog about one specific subject for three months, this time it's baseball. She picks Pace Martin to focus on for her first posts. Holly appreciates Pace's good looks, she is female after all, but she's after what's underneath all those gorgeous muscles. She's looking for secrets. That's her angle for her articles. She's received awards and recognition by digging beneath the surface of her subjects and finding out the truth.

Pace and Holly are wonderful together. I loved when they were on the page. Their banter, both spoken and unspoken, left me laughing and wanting more of these two. The attraction between them and their attempted denial of that attraction built up the tension. Then when they do give in Shalvis comes through with her exceptional ability to make the sex scenes more than just sex. They are steamy hot, with lots of passion and just plain down and dirty, I need you right now -any way - any how, sex.

The story itself doesn't get lost in all the steam. Pace and Holly are under a lot of pressure. They've both enjoyed success in their careers which means they have some high expectations to live up to. The way that Shalvis combined the romance with the demands of baseball and publishing made for some interesting reading. I like the fact that once Holly and Pace became intimate their careers didn't take a backseat. Instead, Shalvis had these two career minded individuals trying to combine their passion for their careers with their passion for each other.

The team of secondary characters added another dimension to the ins and outs of baseball and the reports who cover it. It was a treat to go into the locker room and discover the superstitions that the players had and watch Holly become part of those superstitions. LOL I've never been much of a baseball fan, got dragged to Cubs, Brewers and the occasional Sox games when I was a kid, so you don't need to like baseball to enjoy Double Play.

This was a fun, sweet, sexy read with likable characters and an interesting plot. The secondary characters of star catcher Wade O'Riley and Samantha McNead will be next up to bat in the book Slow Heat, excerpt, due out in February. From the bits and pieces we got of Wade and Sam in Double Play, I'm definitely looking forward to reading their story.

Jill Shalvis and her considerable back list can be found on her website. Shalvis also has a daily blog about life as a writer in the beautiful Sierras.

Rating: A

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Review: Kiss of Fire

Title: Kiss of Fire
Author: Deborah Cooke
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Dragonfire/Book 1
Published: February 2008

From the back cover ~

For millennia, the shape-shifting dragon warriors known as the Pyr have lived peacefully as commanders of the four elements and guardians of the earth's treasures. But now the final reckoning between the Pyr, who count humans among the earth's treasures, and the Slayers, who would eradicate both humans and the Pyr who protect them, is about to begin…

When ace accountant Sara Keegan decides to settle down and run her quirky aunt's New Age bookstore, she’s not looking for adventure. She doesn’t believe in fate or the magic of the tarot cards, but when she’s saved from a vicious attack by a man who has the ability to turn into a fire-breathing dragon, she questions whether she’s losing her mind—or about to lose her heart.

Self-reliant loner Quinn Tyrrell has long been distrustful of his fellow Pyr. When he feels the firestorm that signals his destined mate, he's determined to protect and possess Sara, regardless of the cost to himself. Then Sara’s true destiny is revealed—and Quinn realizes he must risk everything—even Sara’s love—to fulfill their entwined fates.

Dragons - I'm not exactly drawn to dragons, I can only recall reading a few books where the shape shifters are dragons. But I read some positive comments about this series and thought I'd give it a try. It took me a bit to get into Kiss of Fire, but the dragons turned out to be a nice change from the vamps and weres that seems to be running rampant in PNR lately. I did find myself more curious about how the men looked in their dragon form than in their human form. LOL Cooke's descriptions of the dragons makes them seem fierce, dangerous and beautiful all at the same time.

Sara Keegan, our heroine, is an an accountant by trade and an odd choice for running the New Age bookstore she inherited from her aunt. She likes order and doesn't believe in the mystical the way her late aunt did. But she's decided that she will give it a try. I thought Sara was an okay heroine. I wouldn't say I really liked her but I didn't actually dislike. I found myself a bit bored when it was only Sara on the page. She was someone that I might sit and politely listen to while I'm actually day-dreaming about being somewhere else. Fortunately this book wasn't only about Sara. Things definitely perked up when Quinn showed up.

I love the loner, bad-boy type. Now I wouldn't call Quinn a real bad boy, he's more of a leave me alone and I'll leave you alone, unless you get in his face. Then all bets are off. Quinn appealed to me in the way he shunned the Pyr and all their traditions. He didn't want anything to do with the other Pyr shape-shifters. He wanted to be left alone, to work in peace at his metal shop. But he couldn't deny the pull of his firestorm. Nor was he too proud to ask for help when he really needed it. He's the kind of guy that makes me want to help him. You know the type that you think shouldn't be alone and all he needs is "The Love Of A Good Woman." LOL

There's this thing called the "firestorm" that each Pyr goes through. This is when they find their destined mate. I know some reader don't like the whole destined mates idea so if that puts you off, well then you might have a problem with this series. Personally I'm okay with it as long as the author shows me that the hero and heroine belong together. So Quinn feels his firestorm coming and goes in search of Sara. The problem with the firestorm is that it works like a beacon for all the Pyr and the Slayers. The Slayers show up to kill the destined mate of that Pyr's firestorm. The Slayers are the Pyr that have crossed over to the dark side. They basically want to kill the good Pyrs and humans and take over the world. They try to kill the destined mates of the Pyrs so no more new Pyrs can be born.

Quinn and Sara meet but Sara doesn't know anything about why the heck sparks are literally flying when they touch. She of course finds out that this hot guy that she's so attracted to is actually a dragon. Okay... Seeing is believing and Sara seemed to take it all in stride, especially after her life is threatened and Quinn is there to fight off the Slayer trying to kill her.

The world that Cooke has created is interesting with all it's ceremonies, history and the whole good vs. evil thing going. Cooke does a good job explaining the world and how the shape shifters co-exist with humans. I do have what seems to be an ongoing problem with how the sightings of the dragons are explained in regards to humans. When the dragons shift and fight they are often in the sky, because they're dragons and dragons fly. :) They do have the ability to control what humans see but not on a large scale and they can't be expected to know which humans might have seen them fight. They are too busy fighting! While I like the fight scenes the believability does detract from them.

The main thing Kiss of Fire did was introduce me to this fascinating world and make me want to read more about these dragon shape-shifters. Which is why I read the next two books in the series and have every intention of continuing with the series.

Deborah Cooke, aka Claire Delacroix aka Claire Cross, and her dragon shape-shifters can be found here.

Rating: B

Friday, November 6, 2009

Review: hush, hush

Title: hush, hush
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Published: September 2009

*Some Spoilers*

From the author's website ~

Falling in love was never so easy . . .
or so deadly.

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

This was an odd read for me. On the one hand, I liked some parts of it. On the other hand, I definitely has some problems with it. The ending had some WTH moments for me. And there were plot points and one particular character that irritated the heck out of me. And there’s the absentee parent again. And there's the much older guy, who looks like a teen, going for the teen girl. As you can see, a number of issues with this story.

Nora Grey is a responsible sixteen year old sophomore who is home alone many nights while her mom travels for work. Her father was murdered about a year ago and Nora is still attempting to get her life back together after the loss of her father. Nora’s mom does employ a housekeeper who acts as a pseudo-parent for Nora but Nora is still left on her own a lot. Nora was a character I felt the author did a fairly decent job at portraying. She was responsible but still had the immaturity and inexperience of a teen to do things she knew she shouldn't. Heck, even adults do things they shouldn't. Nora would have these internal dialogues, trying to talk herself out of doing something she knows could lead to trouble. But most of the time she still caved to temptation.

Nora is also anemic. What I found odd was the way she kept iron pills and would take them when she “felt the need” for them. As in, she was feeling a bit weak, etc. so she took a couple iron pills. It seems like you would take them at the same time, everyday, to keep your iron levels stable. Not just whenever you felt the need. I’ve never heard of people carrying iron pills around with them. So it came across as a weak plot device to make Nora seem, flawed? IDK how accurate the scenario is but it seemed off.

Vee Sky is Nora’s BFF. She also drove me nuts! It’s possible she meant well but she really had no clue when it came to what Nora wanted. Vee was pushy and very immature, definitely looking to have fun and ignore the consequences. She was also quick to smart off to anyone and had a chip on her should that she dared anyone to try and knock off. I never understood why Nora and Vee were friends.

Patch, hmmm... I found his character interesting. I wanted to know more about him and what his motivations were but I also felt an ick factor with regards to his attraction to Nora. We're not sure how old Patch is but we know he's really, really old. Numerous centuries old and immortal. And Nora's sixteen. Ick. That was something that I had a hard time getting past. Patch also showed up wherever Nora went - stalker behavior that Nora didn't exactly ignore but she didn't keep her distant from him either.

The way Patch came across was not that of a teen so in that respect his character worked. It wouldn't make sense for him to act like a teen if he's hundreds, possibly thousands of years old. Unless he was faking it but Patch didn't do that. He acted more like an adult, hustling pool, winning cash and cars. His character was an odd combination of bad boy and wanna-be-boyfriend. Sometimes he was nice to Nora, other times he gave off a very menacing feel towards her. It wasn't always clear who's side he was on. Which makes sense in an odd way since he didn't always know who's side he was on.

The ending, oh boy. I felt like I was suddenly in a B horror movie with the heroine doing everything but venturing down to the basement where the creepy noise was coming from. People appearing and disappearing and just a general state of confusion. And the way things were tied up at the end just left me with an okaaay... kind of feeling. It was just too neat.

So why did this book get so much hype? My guess would be that it started with the stunning cover. It really is unique and the use of the black and white with the touches of red makes it stand out. But after all the hype, hush, hush just didn't live up to my expectations.

By the end I was just reading for the out come rather than for the characters and story. More of a "well, I've gone this far, might as well finish it" than an actual enjoyment of it. The book felt off for me, as if I was missing something that was just out of reach. Maybe I'm too old to get it. *shrugs* The grade, hard to grade. I did finish it and it did hold my interest in an odd way. (Remember I said this was an odd read for me.) But I think there are more entertaining YA books out there, sadly this one just didn't work for me.

There is a second book due out next year but I think I'll be passing on it. Ms. Fitzpatrick's website can be found here.

Rating: C

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review: The Promise of Jenny Jones

Title: The Promise of Jenny Jones
Author: Maggie Osborne
Genre: Historical Romance
Published: April 1997

Note: This was my book for Nath's Re-read Challenge but I am way behind in posting reviews. But since I loved this book so much I just had to write the review. Enjoy!

From the back cover ~

The One And Only Thing Jenny Jones Doesn't Do Is Lie...

Jenny Jones was a mule driver, a buffalo skinner, and in self-defense, a killer - not a baby-sitter. Yet when a rich dying woman offers to take Jenny's place in front of a firing squad - in exchange for bringing her six-year-old daughter safely to California - Jenny gives her solemn oath. It won't be easy, Graciela hates her on sight. The kid's greedy, gun-toting relatives are soon hot on their trail. And there's a certain tall, handsome complication...

Ty Sanders thought that looking for his brother's long-lost daughter was a fool's errand. That was before he stumbled upon a tough-as-nails young woman battling desperadoes to protect the kid. Now all Ty wants is for Jenny to hand over his niece. But Jenny Jones has a suspicious nature and a promise to keep. Plus her word is all she has - until a little runt of a girl softens her defenses...and a rugged cowboy steals her heart when she isn't looking.

I LOVED this book! Hunt it down and read it because I'm keeping my copy. :)

Okay, seriously - I really loved it. Loved the characters, the plot, the dialogue. It has everything. A heroine who is so very different from the usual. A hero that doesn't want to be a hero and would rather be anywhere than where he is. And a little girl that could charm you in one breath and sorely try your patience in the next. Then there's the slew of bad guys that are ruthless and relentless in all their badness. Loved them all. As I was reading I remember how I felt the first time I read it, exciting to be reading a story that was so different from the usual western romances. I loved it just as much then as I do now.

Jenny Jones is a rough, loud, abrasive and thoroughly honest young woman. Her word is her bond and she will do everything she must to keep that word. She has been taking care of herself for as long as she can remember. She has this very no nonsense attitude that makes her come across as one of the guys. She doesn't care about dresses or finery and while she likes to be clean, she can go quite some time without bathing. LOL In some ways she reminded me of an old west version of Eve Dallas from the "In Death" series. Both of these women downplay their femininity, instead relying on their physical and mental strengths.

What I liked about Jenny? She made me laugh. She made me cry. She made me cheer for her and she made me care about her. Jenny and Graciela's interactions were some of my favorite parts. Jenny doesn't like kids and makes that perfectly clear from the start. Her attitude towards Graciela is one of obligation not affection. Graciela's attitude towards Jenny is hatred, plain and simple. Graciela blames Jenny for her mother's death. Jenny tries to explain but Graciela won't listen. Watching the relationship between Jenny and Graciela grow and change was written beautifully and came across as genuine and staying true to the characters and the situations they were in. They drove each other crazy but also came to care about each other despite their very different backgrounds.

Ty Sanders is one of my favorite types of hero - the anti-hero. The "I don't want to be here and I'm only doing this because I said I would, not because I'm a nice guy," kind of hero. He finds his attraction to Jenny very odd. She's not at all his type. He likes women who are, well, feminine. When he first sees Jenny she's rolling around on the ground, fighting a man. And she's holding her own. LOL Ty steps in to help, when another bad guy shows up and both Jenny and Ty have their hands full fighting off Graciela's cousins. And after a few encounters with Jenny poor Ty, he really didn't know what to make of her.

The fact was, he couldn't get a fix on her. Certainly he didn't understand her position regarding this niece. Her tone and words convinced him that she didn't' like Graciela. Yet he'd witnessed a touch of tenderness when he followed them back to their hotel. And she should have bowed out of the picture the instant she understood who Ty was, but she hadn't.

Everything about this strange woman fascinated him in a way few other women had. He felt a twinge of regret that he wouldn't see her again, would never learn what forces had formed her.

page 122

Ty and Jenny both intend to take Graciela to her father in California. They've both made promises and plan to keep them. While making the trip out of Mexico they keep running into each other, trading off traveling with Graciela, although not intentionally. They steal Graciela from each other while Graciela is trying her hardest to get home to the hacienda and her cousins. She can't believe that her wonderful cousins want to hurt her.

So while Jenny and Ty may not spend a lot of time together, Osborne makes the most of the time they do spend together. She has them thinking and wondering about the other when they're apart. Their curiosity about each irritates the heck out of them because for Ty, he doesn't see Jenny as his type. And Jenny, she doesn't want anything to do with men and doesn't think a man like Ty would be attracted to her. Jenny's education was one of experience, not the traditional school room but she loves learning new words. She has this beat up dictionary that she carrys around with her, I think it's one of her most treasured possessions. After meeting Ty she looks up the word virile.

"Virile," she said quietly. A soft word for a hard thing. Pursing her lips, she considered, then composed a sentence using the word. "The cowboy is virile."

Heat rushed to her cheeks, surprising her. Damned if thinking about the cowboy and virility didn't make her blush. Embarrassed, she looked around to see if anyone had noticed. There wasn't a soul who knew her who would have believed she was capable of blushing, including herself.

page 60

The dialogue between Ty and Jenny as well as Jenny and Graciela is wonderful. Jenny gave as good as she got and didn't back down from either Ty or Graciela. Jenny's approach to life is a very common sense approach of hard work and relying on yourself. Graciela is a spoiled little girl that doesn't understand why her world has been suddenly turned upside down. Ty is just trying to fulfill his obligation to his brother, he doesn't want to get involved with a woman or a kid. He's a bachelor through and through.

The plot itself kept my interest with all it's twists and turns. Even when things slowed down I found there was more to learn about these characters that I had come to know and love. The ending was both sweet and left this reader with the warm fuzzies. Perfect way to end a story.

Maggie Osborne's last book, Foxfire Bride, was published in 2004. According to Wendy aka Super Librarian, Ms. Osborne has retired from writing. Dang! That makes me sad. So to get your Maggie Osborne fix check out this list of her books here and start hunting in the UBS.

Rating: A+