Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: No Mercy

No Mercy
Sherrilyn Kenyon
Paranormal Romance
Dark Hunters/Book 19
St. Martins/September 2010

*Spoilers for previous books*

From the author's website ~

Live fast, fight hard and if you have to die then take as many of your enemies with you as you can. That is the Amazon credo and it was one Samia lived and died by. Now in contemporary New Orleans, the immortal Amazon warrior is about to learn that there’s a worse evil coming to slaughter mankind than she’s ever faced before.

Shapeshifter Dev Peltier has stood guard at the front of Sanctuary for almost two hundred years and in that time, he’s seen it all. Or so he thought. Now their enemies have discovered a new source of power- one that makes a mockery of anything faced to date.

The war is on and Dev and Sam are guarding ground zero. But in order to win, they will have to break the most cardinal of all rules and pray it doesn’t unravel the universe as we know it.

And here's another series that I'm still reading - 19 books and no end in sight. I'm not sure if it's always been so full of snark but everyone, and I mean every supernatural being, was full of the snark in this one. It got old after awhile. I expected it from Dev, he's always been a smart ass, but everyone else from the Dark Hunters to the Daimons had a quick smart mouthed comeback no matter the situation. Running for your life - snark attack. Fighting off hordes of Daimons - snark attack. End of the world - snark attack. I would have liked a few more serious, mature characters. Considering some of these guys are thousands of years old, I don't think that's too much to ask, right?

Dev Peltier is a bouncer at his family's club. That simplifies his life because he really is so much more. He's a good brother, a good uncle and a good friend. You would think he would have close relationships but he holds himself apart, even from his family. Until recently the club, Sanctuary, was under the protection of Savitar. It was a place where supernatural beings and humans mingled with no violence allowed. But in the previous book, Bad Moon Rising, Savitar revoked Sanctuary's protection and the club burned down. It's been rebuilt but Dev and his family are always on the alert for any new threat. Dev's an easy werebear to love. He's just so darn cuddly! LOL

Samia (Sam) is an Amazon and a Dark Hunter (DH). But she's not just a regular DH, she's one of the Dogs of War. Which just means she's even more kick-ass and she's not easy to control. She and the other Dogs give Ash a hard time. I liked Sam but she had some major issues and by the end of the book I couldn't help but wonder how she had stayed alive for thousands of years. The thing about any DH is that they can lose their powers if they focus on the memory of why they became a DH, usually it was their death or betrayal. This happened a lot to Sam. She's fighting, all kicking ass and taking names then - Wham! She's remembering her death and the death of her family. Results - no powers. Then she either gets kidnapped or Dev swoops in and saves her. When she did fight she was amazing, even impressing Dev, but you'd think after all these centuries, she's like 5000 years old, she would have learned to control her emotions and not get sucked into her past.

The overflowing world of Kenyon's is just so hard to keep track of anymore. There are the characters that have been around for numerous books, there are recently introduced characters that may have only been mentioned a couple of books ago, and the new characters that keep popping up in every new book. I really wish some of these characters would just tell their story, take their HEA and fade off into the sunset. LOL I like many of them but that's the problem, there are just too many! Kenyon does have an extensive characters list on her site which is nice as a refresher before reading the next book but I found myself referring to it more and more while reading this book.

The story is about Dev and Sam falling in love while being hunted down by those nasty Daimons. In between fighting off Daimons, searching for the holy grail of all girdles and getting over their past failures, there is some hot loving going on. Dev and Sam are a good fit as a couple but have so many issues to work through that some serious intervention was needed by some very powerful beings before the HEA was attainable. I would have preferred less external conflict and more focus on their internal conflicts. There was too much going on, too many subplots that took the focus off of Dev and Sam and left me wondering how they went from "Hi" to "I love you".

So, I'm still reading this series and I might read the next book, Redemption (August 2011). I'm on the fence since it's about Jess/Sundown (DH) and Abby, new characters. *sigh* I think Sundown has been mentioned before but just briefly. I might skip it. I do want to read Savitar's book but it's not even a glimmer on the horizon. He's the only one I'm holding out for and at this rate I might have stopped reading the series by the time his book rolls around. I guess if you're a fan of the series, then I would recommend reading No Mercy but it's hardcover so try getting it from the library.

Rating: C+

Monday, October 25, 2010

Access Romance Day. . .

Guess where I am today? Yep, Access Romance Readers Gab talking about kids. Not my kids but kids in romance novels. Do you like to read about them? Would rather your hero or heroine didn't have little ones under foot? Come on over and let us know what you think.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ARC Review: Passions of a Wicked Earl

Passions of a Wicked Earl
Lorraine Heath
Historical Romance/England/1853
London's Greatest Lovers/Book 1
Harper Collins/October 2010

From the publisher's website ~

Known throughout for his prowess in the bedroom, Morgan Lyons, the eighth Earl of Westcliffe, cannot forgive an unpardonable affront to his honor. Discovering his young bride in the arms of his brother was a staggering blow—so he banished the beautiful deceiver to the country and devoted himself to the pursuit of carnal pleasure.

Claire Lyons was an innocent, frightened girl on her wedding day, seeking chaste comfort from a childhood friend. Now, years later, she has blossomed magnificently and has returned to London with one goal in mind: the seduction of her notorious husband. Unskilled in the sensual arts, she burns nonetheless for the kisses too long denied her. And she has but one Season to win back the heart of the rogue she betrayed.

They are masters of seduction, London's greatest lovers. Living for pleasure, they will give their hearts to no one . . . until love takes them by surprise.

When I began reading Claire and Westcliffe's story, I liked both of them but I wasn't sure if I liked them together. Sometimes you can tell right off if the hero and heroine are a good match through their initial interactions. Sometimes it's more of a feeling when they're in a scene without directly interacting. And in the case of Claire and Westcliffe it was a slow build-up. The more I saw them together, the more I liked them together. The more I got them as a couple.

When Claire arrives in London she knows she has a difficult task before her. She has heard the rumors about Westcliffe and his mistresses. She knows that he hasn't remained celibate during their three year separation. She's not happy about it but she does understand that it's something she will have to get past if she wants to make a real marriage with Westcliffe. I thought Claire showed a great deal of maturity when she arrived in London. She's there so her sister can have a season and hopefully find a husband but she's also there to mend her relationship with Westcliffe. She stands her ground, refusing to leave London. She stays and in a way begins to "court" Westcliffe. She encourages his participation in outings and talks with him about his interests. Their relationship evolves into a real marriage complete with the passion and insecurities newlyweds face.

There is a third person in Claire and Westcliffe's marriage. It is Lady Anne, Westcliffe's current mistress. Technically, Westcliffe and Claire are married but Westcliffe has been having affairs during the three years they've been apart. Some readers might have a problem with that and I do get why but. . . it's 1853 and marriages of the aristocracy were not necessarily made for love but for wealth and title. In Claire and Westcliffe's case it was for Claire's dowry. Add to that, Westcliffe finding Claire in bed with his brother Stephen on the wedding night and well, you can see how he wouldn't put fidelity at the top of his priority list. So I got why he wasn't faithful to Claire. The problem I had was that it took too long for Westcliffe to break it off with Anne once Claire was in London. Even if he planned to send Claire back to the country after the season, he should have cared what the gossips of the ton said about his relationship with Anne while Claire was in town.

It's been three years since Morgan, the Earl of Westcliffe has seen his wife. When she shows up without warning in his London home he is anything but pleased to see her. Claire isn't the frightened girl he remembers and now she's invaded the sanctuary he's created in London. He doesn't want her there and is determined to get her out of his home and back to the country estate where she belongs. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Westcliffe. There's this feeling of loneliness surrounding him. He keeps everyone at a distance, concentrating on building his wealth so he will never need to rely on anyone else. His relationship with his mother is strained and distant. He is the eldest of the three brothers but it feels like he's the forgotten brother rather than the leader as you would expect the eldest to be.

The plot is a fairly standard historical romance with the hero & heroine making amends only to have a big misunderstanding, tragedy occurs and then they make up again in time for their HEA. What Heath does within that standard plot is give readers characters to care about. By the end you want need Claire and Westcliffe to reconcile and get the happy ending they deserve. You want the brothers to become closer and build friendships that only brothers can have.

The secondary characters round out the cast adding dimension to this dysfunctional family. Ransom Seymour, the Duke of Ainsley and youngest son is mysterious and his story will be told in the third book. Book two, Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman, due out next month, is middle brother Stephen's story. I didn't find him very likable in Passions of a Wicked Earl but I think his life is about to change, causing him to do some maturing by the time his story is told. I look forward to reading more about these three very different brothers.

Rating: B+

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Taken By Midnight

Taken By Midnight
Lara Adrian
Midnight Breed/Book 8
Dell/September 2010

*Spoilers for previous books*

From the back cover ~


In the frozen Alaskan wilderness, former state trooper Jenna Darrow survives an unspeakable breach of body and soul. But with her narrow escape comes an even greater challenge. For strange changes are taking place within her, as she struggles to understand—and control—a new hunger. To do so, she will seek shelter in the Boston compound of the Order, an ancient race of vampire warriors whose very existence is shrouded in mystery. Perhaps the most mysterious of them all is Brock, a brooding, dark-eyed alpha male whose hands hold the power to comfort, heal . . . and arouse.

As she recovers under Brock’s care, Jenna finds herself drawn to the Order’s mission: to stop a ruthless enemy and its army of assassins from subjecting Earth to a reign of terror. Yet in spite of their resolve, a purely physical relationship without strings soon binds Brock and Jenna together with a desire fiercer than life and stronger than death itself—until a secret from Brock’s past and Jenna’s own mortality challenges their forbidden love to the ultimate trial by fire.

Wow - book 8 and I'm still reading the series, that's always a good sign, right? I plan to read the next book, Hunter's story - another good sign. So while I'm continuing with the series and it still holds my interest, I'm not rushing out to get the book on release day. In fact, I waited on this one for the library copy to be available. I'm not sure what it is, I like the cast of characters, I like the premise - alien vampires crashing on Earth but... it's become a comfortable read. As in I pretty much know what to expect based on previous books and the blurb. There are a few surprises but nothing earth shattering.

Jenna Darrow was introduced in the previous book, Shades of Midnight. She is good friends with Alex Maguire, heroine from that book. After Jenna's vicious attack she is taken to the Order's compound in Boston to recover under the care of Brock, a Breed warrior. It's there that Jenna begins to learn what was done to her and the after-effects of the attack. I liked Jenna but it wasn't like "hey, she great!" more of a "oh, she's nice". She does have a couple of TSTL moments triggered by the freakish situation she finds herself in. She was attacked by an alien vampire and now she's living underground with more vampires and something weird is going on inside her. That would freak anyone out. But she deals with it and with her growing attraction to Brock.

Brock is the calm in Jenna's storm. His ability to take away pain with just a touch keeps him by Jenna's side after she's attacked. He cares about her but he doesn't want to get too close. His past mistake with a female has him determined to keep his distance from Jenna which is hard to do since he's basically put in charge of her. So the inevitable happens, they give into their attraction and spend a hot time between the sheets. And then tell themselves it was only sex. Yeah, right. Brock is a hero that would rather stay in the background. Most of the time he's not an overbearing alpha but he does try to order Jenna around a bit but it was his need to see her safe and not an ego trip. Jenna is more outwardly alpha than Brock. But Brock's easy enough to like. He's a typical vamp hero - dark, dangerous side tempered with a gentle, caring side for his mate.

While Jenna and Brock are denying their growing love, the rest of the Order is working on finding the evil that is Dragos. He has eluded them for sometime but they have been making progress. One thing I do like about this series is that the females, both current and former heroines, don't fade into the background. This time they are working to find the missing Breedmates that they think Dragos kidnapped to use for his breeding program. The women even have their own "war room" in the compound and use their brains and special talents to track down potential leads. And it's not just the men humoring them, they take the women seriously and want their input and involvement as long as their safety isn't jeopardized.

The overall story arc, centered around Dragos, doesn't move along as much as I had hoped. There are a few questions answered but also more crop up. We do find out what is causing Jenna's transformation but it's unclear what she's becoming. A few new characters are introduced with the potential for their own stories but it didn't feel like sequel bait, they actually did add substance to the plot.

The relationship between Brock and Jenna was full of bumps and bruises. They both had past tragedies to overcome before they would allow themselves to feel worthy of being loved. Neither had any problem caring about the other, it was the fear of permanence that held them back. I did think Adrian did a good job showing both Brock and Jenna coming to terms with their pasts and realizing it was okay for them to move on to a lasting relationship. I also liked that Jenna told Brock why she was letting him go, rather than pretending she didn't want him or care about him. Of course, they worked it out and got their HEA.

The next book in the series, Deeper Than Midnight (June 2011) is Hunter's story and yes, I will be reading it. Hunter is one of Dragos' former assassins who is now a member of the Order. He's hard to know, keeping to himself and showing no emotions so it will be interesting to see how he evolves when he falls in love.

Rating: B

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: Infinity: Chronicles of Nick

Infinity: Chronicles of Nick
Sherrilyn Kenyon
Young Adult Urban Fantasy

Chronicles of Nick/Book 1

St. Martin's Griffin/May 2010

From the inside cover ~

At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends. . .until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.

Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one: a world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead.

But before he can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh eating zombies. And he’s next on the menu. As if starting high school isn't hard enough. . .now Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, his chainsaw from the principal, and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended. How in the world is he supposed to do that?

Well, Simi's still annoying. LOL Guess she's always been that way. Seriously, I can only take her in small doses. Infinity has the trademark Kenyon smart-ass snark that her characters seem to have in abundance but there is also the pleasure of seeing a very young Nick Gautier. I liked this young Nick who has a chip on his shoulder (probably born with it) and a lot of love and respect for his Mama. We get a bunch of back story on some favorite characters and there are new characters who play important roles in Nick's life.

goes back to before Nick Gautier knew about Dark Hunters, Were Hunters and Daimons. It starts when Nick is a student at a private high school in New Orleans. He's there because he received a scholarship otherwise, there's no way he and his mom could have ever afford the tuition. Even Nick has a job to help pay the bills. He's very aware of his status as the poor kid at a school were most kids get brand new cars when they turn 16. Nick doesn't even have a TV, let alone a cell phone and definitely no car.

Nick's day starts out as usual with him running for the bus to school. Then the bullying begins, another thing he's used to. His day goes from bad to worse when he's suspended for fighting. You definitely feel for Nick. He tries to be good and stay out of trouble but it just seems to follow him. He does meet a new girl who makes a strong impression on this teen age boy with hormones racing. She's pretty and sweet and she actually talks to him! Nick is starved for attention and Kody's friendship is just what he needs.

Nick's life takes a turn when he gets caught up in a bad situation but there is a light at the end of the tunnel - Kyrian, the Dark Hunter who steps into Nick's life and decides to help him, hiring him as his assistant. Nick is in shock at Kyrian's wealth and very skeptical as to Kyrian's motives. It was amusing to hear Nick constantly questioning Kyrian about what Nick's new job would require. Nothing illegal and no getting naked were two of Nick's main concerns. *snort*

There are a bunch of new characters introduced and most are not human. Nick gets a crash course in the supernatural when his school and neighborhood are overrun with zombies. There's quite a bit of action with fighting zombies, running from zombies and just the general mayhem in a world full of supernatural beings. There are twists and turns with numerous characters to keep track of. It does help if you're already familiar with Kenyon's Dark Hunter series since characters from that series are featured plus the mythology and world building are the same, just with a different point of view.

Infinity's plot of high school kids turned zombies and attacking their classmates was merely okay. At times it felt like a B horror movie with the cast doing exactly what you would expect in a horror movie. What I liked was finding out the history of Nick and the Hunters. It gives more insight into what is going on in the current time line of Kenyon's adult series. The writing was standard Kenyon fair, simply toned down for a younger audience.

Rating: C+

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: The Reluctant Cowgirl

The Reluctant Cowgirl
Christine Lynxwiler
Contemporary Inspirational Romance

McCord Sisters/Book 1

Barbour Books/April 2009

From the publisher's website ~

Actress Crystal McCord gave up the closness of her big family in order to make a name for herself on the New York City stage. But when life in the Big Apple turns sour, she follows a country road back to her parents' Arkansas ranch.

The last thing she expects to find in cowboy country is a new leading man. Still, she can't help but imagine handsome rancher Jeremy Buchanan in the role. Unfortunately, Jeremy's been burned by Crystal's type before. Or has he? Every time he thinks he knows her, the multi-faceted woman surprises him. Will the reluctant pair allow their hearts to guide them, or will their common stubborn pride keep them miles apart?

One of my favorite romance tropes it when either the hero or heroine leave their small hometown then come back years later, wondering why they left. Then they find that the reasons they first left no longer hold the same place of importance. The Reluctant Cowgirl is one of those stories. It's about a young woman who follows a dream to the big city only to find that when she goes homes years later, her dreams have changed.

Crystal McCord knows how much hard work it takes to make it on Broadway or even off Broadway. After her current role comes to a close and her love life takes a serious turn for the worse, she heads back to Arkansas to help out her family. She isn't happy about going but she feels a bit a drift after everything that happened in New York. Crystal has some ghosts to face back home and she's not in any hurry to face them. Right off I liked Crystal. She's a country girl in the big city and while the city has changed her to a certain degree, she's doesn't embrace the fast lifestyle of her roommate. Even though Crystal loves to perform, you do get the impression that she's not completely committed to the dream of Broadway. There's something missing from Crystal's life but she's afraid to admit it.

Jeremy Buchanan is a rancher and loves what he does. He would love it more if his ex-wife hadn't taken off with their daughter. Now he's busy trying to get his ranching operation going and find his daughter. Jeremy is the type of guy who tries to do the right thing. He's honest and open and easy to get to know. I thought he was a good fit for Crystal. He provided not only friendship to Crystal but also gives her another point of view outside of her family. Jeremy's search for his daughter was a test of his faith. The search did get a little slow at some points with Jeremy hiring a private investigator and Jeremy following leads. I was surprised that it took so long to get news coverage of the kidnapping.

The romance between Crystal and Jeremy starts off slowly with Jeremy helping Crystal at her family ranch. They start feeling comfortable in each others company, talking about their likes and dislikes, their hopes and their fears. Crystal still plans to return to New York and doesn't want to get serious with Jeremy. She wants them to be friends only. As Jeremy starts falling for Crystal he wants her to stay but he doesn't push her when the time comes to decide. I liked that he let her know how he felt but didn't resort to persuading her to stay, knowing it had to be Crystal's decision.

After Jeremy gets his daughter Beka back she doesn't fade into the background. She's there with him while he courts Crystal. Jeremy and Beka are a package deal and Crystal knows that. The search for Beka and her subsequent homecoming was a big part of the story. It did bring Jeremy and Crystal closer, having that common goal and then the happiness that comes from reaching that goal. There is also some matchmaking going on by Crystal's siblings. They are a close family who look out for each other. They're all worried about Crystal and want her to be happy and hope that maybe she would be happy with Jeremy and Beka. They don't push but they do encourage the relationship. It was sweet and funny to see Crystal and her siblings sharing that closeness that comes from growing up in a family that loves each other.

I wouldn't consider The Reluctant Cowgirl heavy on the preaching or scriptures. They are present and it's certainly a big part of the family's life but it's not just about going to church every Sunday. It's also about how you live your life the rest of the week and how God is there with you always, not just on Sunday. I thought Lynxwiler did a good job in showing how everyone deals with their problems differently but eventually they rely on God, family and good friends. Crystal had drifted away from the church but coming home, she is reminded of her former self and the way her life used to be.

Lynxwiler does an admiral job of showing how coming home can be a good thing and sometimes you have to face the past to move forward and embrace your future. The romance was sweet and tender with Jeremy and Crystal becoming good friends before they became a couple. That was important for them not only because of their religious beliefs but because they both had been hurt and betrayed by someone they loved. They needed that trust first before the serious romance.

The Reluctant Cowgirl is a thoughtful story with down-to-earth characters and a charming romance. The next book in the series, Cowgirl at Heart, is about Crystal's sister Elyse who is a dog whisperer. Elyse was funny but shy and unsure around men. She's an interesting character and I look forward to reading her story.

Rating: B+

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Tourist ~ Johnny Depp

I'm not a fan of Angelina Jolie but I've adored Johnny Depp, ever since he was on 21 Jump Street. And after watching the trailer, I can only say he gets better and better with age. I'm not crazy about the scruffy facial hair, but I like it on him. He even makes pjs look good! The movie looks smart and funny with some action thrown in.

So, anyone else plan on seeing this movie somehow, someway in the midst of the craziness of holiday shopping?

The Tourist is set for release December 10, 2010.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: The Darkest Hour

The Darkest Hour
Maya Banks
Romantic Suspense
KGI/Book 1
Berkley/September 2010

From the back cover ~

It’s been one year since ex-Navy SEAL Ethan Kelly last saw his wife Rachel alive. Overwhelmed by grief and guilt over his failures as a husband, Ethan shuts himself off from everything and everyone.

His brothers have tried to bring Ethan into the KGI fold, tried to break through the barriers he's built around himself, but Ethan refuses to respond… until he receives anonymous information claiming Rachel is alive.

To save her, Ethan will have to dodge bullets, cross a jungle, and risk falling captive to a deadly drug cartel that threatens his own demise. And even if he succeeds, he’ll have to force Rachel to recover memories she can’t and doesn’t want to relive—the minute by minute terror of her darkest hour—for their love, and their lives, may depend on it.

The story started out very strong. Ethan Kelly is trying to get through the one year anniversary of his wife's death. He tried drowning his sorrows, that only left him with a hangover. You can really feel his despair, his lack of direction in life. He's full of regrets and has no way of correcting his mistakes. When he receives evidence that Rachel might still be alive, he's completely thrown and afraid to hope it's true. He turns to his brothers for help. They're shocked as well but also grieve over Rachel's death and want to believe that she's still alive. So they set out to rescue her. It's after the rescue that the story begin to lose me with the continued ineptitude of these men to keep this woman safe.

Rachel Kelly has been living in hell for the last year. She's an incredibly strong woman, we see that in her will to live. She isn't sure if she's hallucinating when her "angel" appears. She's been dreaming of him and now here's really there to get her out of that hell hole. I liked how Rachel was portrayed during her rescue. She's wired on drugs, physically weak and yet she doesn't give up when given that chance to run. Her survival instinct are very strong and they kick in with a vengeance. Once she's back home she surrounded by people she has little memory of. Dealing with the drug withdrawal and memory loss take it's toll on her. I thought Rachel dealt with her situation well, showing that courage that helped her survive the past year.

Ethan Kelly comes from a large family. There are 6 Kelly boys, all either former or current members of the military. Ethan is a former Navy SEAL. They are a close bunch, with each other and with their parents. Ethan has everyone worried about him. He's become withdrawn since Rachel's death and his family is ready to close ranks and pull him out of his depression. Ethan knows this but isn't sure what to do. Then his second chance with Rachel comes and he grabs it, thinking he can make their marriage work this time.

The Kellys don't know why Rachel's death was faked and she was kept prisoner. The Kelly brothers, through KGI, have made some enemies. So they need to figure out why this happened to Rachel. I didn't feel like they did enough to find out why the faked death and kidnapping. It seemed obvious that she might still a target, at least until they find out why she was taken. And this is one of the main problems I had with the story line. I was surprised at the poor choices that were made regarding Rachel's protection.

After Rachel had been home about a week, Marlene Kelly, Ethan's mom, asks Ethan and Rachel over for a "simple family gathering". They agree but instead of just the family they find a party full of people, strangers to Rachel. Remember, Rachel has huge gaps in her memory, she doesn't even remember all of the Kellys. It made no sense to subject Rachel to this situation given that she's still recovering and would feel uncomfortable around strangers. It came across as a weak ploy to develop drama in the story.

A few weeks after Rachel returns to the states she decided to see a therapist. Great, except she doesn't want Ethan going with so she drives herself there. Which didn't make sense at all. She was malnourished and a drug addict when she was rescued from her Colombian captors. She had been captive for a year, so no driving during that time. Now she's back for a few weeks, still needs to gain weight, still battling withdrawal from the drug addiction, they still don't know why her death was faked and she was taken prisoner, but here she is driving herself to see a therapist. Why didn't Ethan take her, then pick her up an hour later? There was a good chance it would be an emotional session and she wouldn't be in any shape to drive. I was amazed that Ethan and his brothers thought it was okay for Rachel go off alone when the possibility that her life was still in danger was very real.

I really wish there had been more attention paid to Rachel dealing with her drug withdrawal. To finding out why she was kidnapped. To Rachel and Ethan's problems with getting to know each other after she comes back from the dead. With Ethan's deception of Rachel regarding their marriage before her kidnapping. There was too much sequel bait. Marlene takes in a stray teenager, who causes conflict for Rachel then fades into the woodwork. The two youngest Kelly brothers make an appearance but didn't add anything the other Kelly boys couldn't have done.

Maybe the second book, No Place to Run, will be more streamlined and focused on the hero and heroine now that so many secondary characters have been introduced. I'm still on the fence if I'll pick it up. I like the strong sense of family that we find in the Kelly clan but still need a better balance between the romance and the suspense. I did like the time that Rachel and Ethan spent together, when they were trying to get comfortable around each other. That was real but too little of it. Rachel was a strong heroine but shouldn't have had to save herself so often when so many of the Kelly brothers were around.

Rating: C+

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review: Assassin's Honor

Assassin's Honor
Monica Burns
Paranormal Romance

Order of the Sicari/Book 1

Berkley/June 2010

From the back cover ~

A woman with visions of the past. . .

Archeologist Emma Zale sees the past when she touches ancient relics. It’s how she uncovered evidence of an ancient order of assassins—the Sicari. When a sinfully dark stranger shows up on her Chicago doorstep demanding an ancient artifact she doesn’t have, he drags her into a world here telekinesis and empaths are the norm. Now someone wants her dead, and her only hope of survival is an assassin who’s every bit as dangerous to her body as he is to her heart.

Bonded to an honorable assassin. . .

Ares DeLuca comes from an ancient Roman bloodline of telekinetic assassins. A Sicari, he’s honor bound to kill only in the name of justice. But when the woman he loved was murdered, Ares broke the Sicari code and used his sword for revenge. Love cost him dearly once before, and he’s not willing to pay the price again. At least not until hot, sweet, delectable Emma walked into his life. Not only does she hold the key to a valuable Sicari relic, she might just hold the key to his heart.

Their dangerous passion will redeem an assassin's honor. . .

A heroine archeologist - is it just me or does there seem to be a lot of hero and heroine archeologist lately? I guess Indiana Jones never goes out of style. I personally like the Indi style of heroes and heroines. Smart is sexy whether it be the hero or heroine. And when they're smart and out of their element - that can make for some fun reading.

Emma Zale is a brilliant archeologist who finds herself caught in the middle of a murder investigation and then her life is threatened. She doesn't know who she can trust, not even the annoyingly handsome stranger who shows up in her home. Emma is happiest on dig sites, not fighting assassins in her Chicago home. She may be smart but man can she cry! She's being chased by a man with a sword whom she believes is trying to kill her. Ya think? She trips and falls to the ground, in terrible pain. She gets up and continues moving down the street, trying to get away. She looks back and sees him right behind her, she falls to ground and starts crying. What?! Woman, drag your ass into the bushes if you have to. Don't just give up and sit there crying! I liked her but there were times when she really just needed to suck it up.

Ares DeLuca has some wicked powers. He's not only an expert with a sword, he also has telekinetic powers which he likes to show off. Ares comes from a long line of Sicari warriors, part of an intricate secret society who protect the innocent. I liked how detailed Burns wrote the Sicari world. There is a hierarchy, laws and a code of honor they are expected to follow. The laws and punishments seemed barbaric at times. At one point, in front of the council members and warriors, Emma unknowingly interferes, thinking she's helping Ares. She is put on trial and her ignorance of their laws is not considered an acceptable defense. Ares takes her punishment. He must run a gauntlet, made up of warriors, which he might not survive. It was very dramatic but I couldn't help thinking that they are putting one of their best warriors at risk because of a misunderstanding. There are plenty of people trying to kill Ares without adding his own people to the mix.

The other members of Ares team or guild as they are called, are a close family unit. Fighting and sometimes dying alongside each other they have formed that bond of brotherhood. They have that strong connection of growing up in the Order. Even Ares sister Phaedra is a member of the Sicari and of Ares guild. I liked the tight-knit, family feel of the guild. I also liked that it wasn't solely men but had female warriors fighting against the Praetorians, the Sicaris long time enemies. Both groups are after an artifact, the Tyet of Isis, and Emma might just know how to find it.

The romance is definitely there. From the moment Ares is in the same room with Emma, she's aware of his presence. As they are fighting for their lives and searching for the Tyet of Isis they make time to do a full exploration of their more baser needs. Emma drives Ares nuts in bed and it's actually kind of funny. He's Mr. Warrior, always in control then Emma makes him lose it in bed and after, he gets mad at himself for getting involved with her! I love it when the heroine drives the hero bonkers, just wish she hadn't drove me nuts too. Stop crying already!

The mystery surrounding the search for the artifact leads Emma to begin to question the motives of people she trusted. She gets to the point were the only one she can trust is Ares. I did like how the archeological aspects were incorporated into the story. The way Emma is able to "read" artifacts was useful not only in the search but also getting to know Ares. The ending left plenty of room to continue the series with secondary characters.

Despite the fact that the heroine drove me crazy at times, the use of swords over guns had me puzzled, (yes, it does take place in present day) the story did leave me wanting to know more about this world of the Sicari. This is one of those stories where I found the action scenes and secondary characters grabbing my attention more than the hero and heroine. I'm curious about the next book, Assassin's Heart and the hero and heroine, who we meet in Assassin's Honor. I'm hoping they will prove to be a more dynamic pair than I found Emma and Ares to be.

Rating: B-

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: Open Country

Open Country
Kaki Warner

Western Historical Romance
New Mexico Territory/1871

Blood Rose Trilogy/Book 2

Berkley Trade/June 2010

From the back cover ~

Molly McFarlane is as desperate as a woman can get - even one alone on the frontier. Forced to flee with her late sister's children, she must provide for her words while outrunning the relentless trackers their vicious stepfather has set on her trail. To secure their future, she marries a badly injured man, assuming that when he dies his insurance settlement will provide all they need. But there is one small problem.

The man doesn't die.

Hank Wilkins doesn't remember the train wreck that he barely survived - and he certainly doesn't remember marrying Molly. But he takes her home to his ranch, where Molly is quickly caught up in the boisterous Wilkins family. Molly knows little about caring for children, and even less about caring for a man - especially silent, brooding types like Hank. But even as Molly and Hank discover each other, the specter of the truth of Molly's past threatens to tear them apart - and doom both her and the children she must protect. . .

Book two in Kaki Warner's Blood Rose trilogy is middle brother Hank's story. He was the strong, silent type in the first book and he's fairly quiet this time around, except when Molly gets him riled up. Then Hank can be down right talkative. Molly and Hank together get the sparks flying after a rocky start.

Molly McFarlane is thrown into a situation she's completely unprepared for. She suddenly finds herself the guardian of her recently deceased sister's children. Good thing Molly is smart and resourceful because she seems to be having a run of bad luck. After the train Molly and the children are on derails, Molly finds herself lying to survive. She tries to use logic to excuse the lie but you can tell she doesn't want to lie. She feels she has to if she and the children are to have a chance at getting away from her pursuers. Molly is use to hard work and harsh conditions. She worked with her father, a surgeon, during the war and she's seen enough blood and suffering to last a lifetime. Now she's both waiting for a stranger to die and trying to save his life.

Hank Wilkins is a decent, honest, hard working man who wakes up from nearly dying to find himself married to a women he doesn't remember. Hank has questions for Molly, and Hank's brother Brady. They give him answers and convince him that Molly is his wife. Hank has no reason to think they are lying. I felt bad for Hank because Molly and Brady are deceiving him and believing them, he tries to be a good husband and step-father. He's such a good man and didn't deserve that from his brother. Hank begins to grow suspicious when his memory starts coming back and what he's told doesn't fit with what he remembers. By this point Molly has gotten under his skin and he's fallen for her.

Molly's still hiding from her brother-in-law and the men who are after her. She heads to the Wilkins' ranch with Hank and Brady, hoping she and the children will be safe there. It's here she gets to know the Wilkins family and starts to feel like she belongs. She and Hank live as thought they are married and Molly begins to feel guilt over her deception of Hank. Some readers may not agree with what Molly did, marrying a dying man and then lying to him when he doesn't die. In her situation, I can understand and even excuse it. I do think she should have told him once she realized what a good man he was and wouldn't kick her and the children out.

The suspense of Molly's pursuers keeps the tension high and the story moving with the mystery of what exactly her brother-in-law is after and why. There is also the additional drama of Jessica (heroine from book 1) and her risky pregnancy. Molly's doctoring skills are needed and we're shown how precarious life on the frontier can be.

Hank and Molly were an engaging couple with some major obstacles to over come. They both had moments of foolishness with Brady throwing in his questionable advice. The romance was sweet and tender at times. The interactions between Hank and Molly's niece and nephew were believable and added substance to the story.

The final book of the trilogy, Chasing the Sun, is the story of the youngest Wilkins brother, Jack and his adventures. It's due for release in January. I look forward to reading Jack's story and hope Ms. Warner continues to give us these wonderful western romances.

Rating: B+

Books in Trilogy

Pieces of Sky
Open Country
Chasing the Sun

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review: Hot Island Nights

Hot Island Nights
Sarah Mayberry

Contemporary Romance

Harlequin/September 2010

From the back cover ~

Elizabeth Morgan didn't intend to abandon her very proper life. But that's the best way to find her true - and less proper - self. So here she is in Australia, standing in front of a man who's clad only in a towel. Nathan Jones is so tempting he could be the ideal candidate to help this good girl be very bad!

Sure enough, thanks to Nathan's talented hands, Elizabeth is living all her sensual fantasies. And while the sex is great, something more is developing. She trusts him, and wants to share her secrets with him, and . . . Suddenly this feels more like a real relationship than some fun in the sun. Luckily, there's a cure for too much commitment - more wickedness!

Awe, I just love Sarah Mayberry. Once again she's written a romance in the short Blaze format that feels much longer. The characters are well developed. The setting is vivid and has a decided island feel to it. Both Elizabeth and Nathan have some baggage and Mayberry explores their pasts and how it got them to where they are now - on Phillip Island outside of Melbourne, Australia.

Elizabeth is a well-bred, proper English woman who suddenly finds out a family secret that sets her off on a journey to confront the truth. She travels from England to Australia but before she finds what she's looking for she finds sexy Nathan Jones. The sparks were flying from their first encounter. Elizabeth is funny in how she deals with Nathan's rudeness and lack of clothing. She doesn't have much experience with flirting and with men who come on strong the way Nathan does. She's smart and picks up quickly on how to deal with Nathan and his shocking behavior.

Nathan Jones wants to be left alone. He's got his routine down pat - sleep late, hit the beach for some surfing, evenings at the bar getting drunk. Then he walks/stumbles home to pass out and hope the nightmares don't wake him. Nate's cute and sexy in a gruff type of smart-ass way. And you guys know, I love those smart-ass heroes! He's sad too. And the loneliness pores off him in waves. He acts like he's having a good time, surfing and drinking, but it's all an act. Nate's hiding out from his past and the last thing he wants is a proper Englishwoman messing that up. But he is curious - he wants to see what's under those proper clothes.

Nate gets his wish when Elizabeth has a little too much to drink and decides to pursue her fantasy of a one night stand. Holy Guacamole Batman! These two are hot! When Elizabeth lets her hair down she doesn't hold back. She shocks Nate with her willingness and enthusiasm. Mayberry's ability to write hot love scenes while continuing to show character development is evident in Hot Island Nights. Nate and Elizabeth both have hang-ups when it comes to sex, although it's usually after the sex when those ghosts appear.

While Nate and Elizabeth continue with their island fling, the rest of the world tries to intrude in one form or another. It's not all paradise when reality knocks in the form of Elizabeth's former fiance'. I thought Elizabeth dealt well with the situation. Nate, not so much. His jealous side was showing which really irritated him since he's not serious about Elizabeth. Nope, not him. Men! Mayberry shows how at the beginning it seemed Nate was the experienced one but as their affair continues it's Elizabeth who has the knowledge and experience to help Nate confront his past.

The story isn't all fun in the sun. Both Nate and Elizabeth have serious decisions to make, including the willingness to risk rejection. The issue of alcoholism is addressed but not in any lengthy, in depth process. If Hot Island Nights had been a full length novel, then I would have expected the alcoholism addressed in greater depth but for this length I thought Mayberry gave it just enough page time.

Mayberry continues to be one of my go-to authors for contemporary romances. Hot Island Nights proves it once again. A steamy, romantic love story with complex characters in a beautiful setting.

Rating: A

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Review: Dark Peril

Dark Peril
Christine Feehan

Paranormal Romance

Berkley/September 2010

*Possible Spoilers for previous books*

From the inside cover ~

Dominic, of the Dragonseeker lineage—one of the most powerful of the Carpathian lines—is desperate to go to the very heart of the enemy camp and learn their plans. There’s only one way to do so: ingest the parasitic blood of a vampire. He knows that it is a mission from which there is no return. With little time before the blood takes effect, he’ll get the information he needs, relay it to the leader of the Carpathians, and go out fighting. There is no more honorable way to end his life.

Solange Sangria is one of the last of the jaguar people, a royal pureblood, a dying species that cannot recover from bad decisions made over hundreds of years. She has long been alone, fighting to save the remaining shapeshifters from the hands of Brodrick the Terrible: her own father, who slaughtered her family and everyone she loved. Wounded and weary, she plans one last battle, hoping to stop the man who has made an alliance with the vampires, accepting that she will not come out alive.

They are two warriors who have lived their lives alone. Now, at the end of their time, they find each other—an obstacle neither can hope to ignore.

Another entry into the Carpanthian saga. This time the pairing of Dominic and Solange may have come as a surprise to some since there had been speculation that Solange would be paired with Zacarias De La Cruz. It did make sense since they are both in South America and Solange has ties to the De La Cruz family through her cousins. But, Dominic is on a mission that brings him to Zacarias' territory and to Solange.

Solange Sagria has been a warrior for most of her life. She's a shapeshifter who is of the royal jaguar line, the last of the line. Her father is a crazy bastard who has joined with the humans and the vampires in attempts to keep the female jaguars from leave and mating with human men. They leave because they are horribly mistreated and viewed as nothing more than objects to reproduce the race. Solange fights to free the women who have been imprisoned by her father and his men. She is fearless, brave and smart. I liked her a lot, until she meets Dominic face-to-face, then she becomes this insecure, timid creature that I didn't recognize.

Dominic Dragonseeker is a very ancient Carpathian. He has given up finding his life mate and instead has undertaken a mission that he is certain will end in his death. And he's okay with that until he literally meets the woman of his dreams. He has been dreaming about Solange for some time now. When he finds out she's real he is in shock. She is his life mate but his life is about to be over. He's screwed. Dominic tries to make the best of a very bad situation and tells Solange about his mission and that it wouldn't be right to bond with her. Plus, no sex since he can't chance passing the parasites on to her. Damn - he really screwed up!

Solange and Dominic together are not my favorite couple of the series. They did way too much thinking of how wonderful, beautiful, honorable etc the other is. Lots of narration in this one. Maybe the series has always been like that and I've just forgotten. I was seriously getting tired of all the descriptions of the landscape, the animals, the people, the colors. . . it seems to go on forever. The chemistry between Solange and Dominic didn't do much for me either. Dominic is a typical Feehan hero with his attitude of "I know what's best for you". Then he would tell her how she was smart, brave etc and could make her own decisions, as long as they agree that he knows what's best for her. HA! And Solange with her warrior woman/mousy girl twist drove me nuts! I get that she's seriously uncomfortable around men because of her past but she knew Dominic wouldn't hurt her, she's familiar with Carpathian men because she's been around the De La Cruz brothers. Her change in attitude was hard to buy into. Thinking back to the heroines that I've liked in this series - they're the ones that stood up to their life mates. I can handle the extreme alphas as long as the female isn't a pushover.

The plot and overall story arc did move along at a decent pace when the h/h weren't thinking about how wonderful their life mate was. *rolls eyes* I did like the finding out more about the jaguar culture, the vampires that are working together to defeat the Carpathians and the fight scenes. There is an interesting twist at the end that I didn't see coming. That could make future stories very interesting, depending on the direction Feehan takes it. And Zacarias does get some page time - he's my favorite and the one I'm holding out for. The next book is called Dark Predator, set for release sometime next year. I hope it's Zacarias' book. If it is then I might be finished with this series after his book, maybe.

So the verdict - Dark Peril, not a favorite, could have been shorter with less narration and a heroine who stays true to her character.

Rating: C+

Friday, October 1, 2010

ARC Review: Blue Knight

Blue Knight
Tracy Cooper-Posey
Erotic Romantic Suspense

Guns 'N Lovers/Book 3

Ellora's Cave/October 1, 2010

From the author's website ~

Held hostage by the Insurrectos for weeks and forgotten by the world, Olivia has watched Daniel bed everyone women but her, who he can’t see. Daniel lives dangerously and is forced to use her window one night to avoid the guards. Naked and faced with a long-legged woman who doesn’t want him, his curiosity is piqued.

Under the hostile, suspicious gazes of the guards, they begin a game of heated seduction where the stakes are so high no one, not even their fellow hostages, must suspect there is a connection between them. As Daniel teaches her how to defy the guards the tension between them, both sexual and personal, spirals until it threatens to shatter.

Olivia learns that Daniel is not quite who she thought he was. Now she is fighting for Daniel’s life too, for if the Insurrectos find out who he
really is, then the man she has come to love will be instantly executed…

Blue Knight is the third book in the Guns 'N Lovers series and does feature characters from the first two books. Cooper-Posey does a good job filling in the character relations and politics of the series. I had no problem following the continuing political story arc from the two previous novels and did find myself intrigued by the couples from the first two books. I'm sure I'll be reading those in the future.

Olivia Davenport is a diplomat trained to deal with tense situations. The situation she currently finds herself in is the most extreme. She has been taken hostage, along with other diplomats and staff, in a hotel in the country of Vistaria. A country who's interim government is desperate to keep control since the revolution, desperate enough to take hostages. It is here that Olivia meets Daniel who she finds dangerously attractive but also sees his flaws. She calls him on his bed hopping and points out that he didn't stop by her bed until he was forced to. And she doesn't exactly welcome him there. I loved how the story opened with a naked Daniel making himself at home in Olivia's bed. Daniel is far from shy and Olivia is anything but quiet. She makes it clear to Daniel that he's not her type, no matter how good he looks naked in her bed.

The term sex-on-a-stick could easily be used to describe Daniel. He is seriously smoking hot. In addition to that he's smart and cunning. A man who's good at staying one step ahead of the enemy. He's also a serious horn dog until he literally shows up in Olivia's room wearing nothing but a grin. I found it refreshing that he didn't apologize for his sexcapades, rather than making excuses. He has his reasons for no long term relationships, aside from the fact that he likes sex. Daniel is a complex character who brings a number of secrets into his relationship with Olivia.

The political intrigue and action of the story are surprisingly well done. I say surprisingly because this is an erotic romance. I did like many of the secondary characters but at times found myself wishing for more Olivia and Daniel time. There is violence, lots of gun totting Insurrectos, and while the violence was in line with the plot, it was shocking at times. I do think a balanced was achieved with the overall plot of the Insurrectos and the danger that Olivia and Daniel find themselves in. I certainly found the political angle of Blue Knight interesting.

There is a secondary romance that took a twist I wasn't expecting. Kudos to the author for going that route. I'm curious to see what happens in the fallout of that romance. The central romance of Olivia and Daniel wasn't typical in that they were in a tense situation where nearly every move they made is monitored. They had to get creative to find time alone and when they did they made the most of it. The love scenes were passionate with both Daniel and Olivia having issues to overcome while still enjoying the physical side of their new relationship.

I found Blue Knight to be an entertaining story with spicy and tender love scenes, a well matched hero and heroine and plenty of action and suspense to keep the reader immersed in the story.

Rating: A-

Books in the series~

Red Leopard
Black Heart
Blue Knight