Monday, January 31, 2011

ARC Review: The Iron Queen

The Iron Queen
Julie Kagawa
Young Adult/Fantasy
Iron Fey/Book 3
Harlequin Teen/January 25, 2011

*Spoilers For The First 2 Books*

From the author's website ~

In less than twenty-four hours I'll be seventeen.

Although, technically, I won't actually be turning seventeen. I've been in the Nevernever too long. When you're in Faery, you don't age. So while a year has passed in the real world, agewise I'm probably only a few days older than when I went in.

In real life, I've changed so much I don't even recognize myself.



I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.


If you've read my previous reviews of the first two books in this series then you know how much I love this world of the Fae Kagawa has created. This is a world of dark and light. Of hope and despair. For Meghan, it's a world she is still learning her way around and it is constantly changing. With the Summer and Winter Courts battling the Iron Fey, it's only a matter of time before Meghan, Ash, Puck and Grimalkin are back in the thick of the fight.

The story picks up where The Iron Daughter left off, with Meghan and Ash back in the real world, having been exiled from Faery. They are making their way to Meghan's home when destiny once again intercedes, threatening Meghan's family. It turns out there's no going home, so Meghan and Ash must find somewhere else to hind out from the Iron Fey until Meghan is strong enough to face the False King. They end up in a most obvious place for exiles. It's here that Meghan is able to reconnect with her human father and begins to learn to control and use her magic.

Kagawa continues to develop Meghan and Ash's relationship, showing them talking and learning about each other. I think it's important for them to have those quiet moments between the two of them otherwise, their sacrifices would not feel as genuine if they only knew what was on the surface. And I can't forget Puck aka Robin Goodfellow aka Meghan's best friend and long time enemy of Ash. Puck is still very much in Meghan's life although the have gone through some rough times. I do think the love triangle was put to rest in The Iron Daughter but if there was any doubt, it's gone. But Puck isn't going anywhere except into battle with Meghan and Ash. Puck not only provides his fighting abilities but also his gift of comic relief when the stress becomes too much.

The character development is strong in this installment with both Meghan and Ash facing difficult decisions that test their loyalty and love. Ash is said to be this very cold, soulless Winter Prince but he is so far beyond cold when it comes to his feelings for Meghan. We see time and again Ash showing his love for Meghan. Meghan continues to surprise me with her ability to whine less and take charge when confronted with situations that would send many adults running for cover. By the end of the book these two have become even more well rounded and well developed characters.

There are so many fascinating secondary characters, both new and old. Of course there is Ash's mother, Queen Mab of the Winter Court. She is still the cold ice bitch but does show a little warm when it comes to her son. And there is Oberon, King of the Summer Court and Meghan's father. He is still commanding and intimidating but does let his pride in his daughter show, if only a little. There are many Iron Fey, on both the rebel side and the False King's forces that come into play. Glitch and Razor are two characters that play major roles - one grudgingly aligning with Meghan and the other over joyed to help her. And Grimalkin continues to pop in and out, sharing his wisdom as he sees fit. He's like the Yoda of Faery - you may not always understand what he says but you know it's important.

The action is once again fierce with Summer and Winter court battling the Iron Fey. Kagawa choreographs the fighting to the point that it is easy to envision the knights with their gleaming swords slashing across the battlefield. Dragons and gryphons, sliding across the sky. Or the giant fortress of the False King, ready to take over all of Faery. And in the midst of it all are Meghan, Ash and Puck.

The grand finale - the battle against the False King, is filled with such strong, nearly overwhelming emotions. It is fate, twisting and turning until choosing what to do becomes so hard and yet so easy for Meghan. There really is no choice and she once again shows how much she has grown and how much she is willing to sacrifice to save those she loves.

Another amazing installment in what is one of my favorite fantasy series. The ending will leave you in such an emotional state - saddened for what had to be yet hopefully for what is to come. The Iron Knight ~ Ash's story, is next up in the series. Personally, I can't wait to find out what is in store for these amazing characters.

Rating: A

Books in this series ~

The Iron King
Winter's Passage (download free novella)
The Iron Daughter
The Iron Queen

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: A Bride in the Bargain

A Bride in the Bargain
Deeanne Gist
Historical Inspirational Romance
Washington Territory/1865-66
Bethany House/June 1, 2009

From the back cover ~

In 1860s Seattle, redwoods were plentiful but women scarce. Yet a man with a wife could secure 640 acres of timberland for free.

Joe Denton doesn't have a wife, though. His died before she could follow him to Seattle and now the local judge is threatening to take away his claim. In desperation, he buys himself a Mercer bride--one of the eastern widows and orphans brought to the Territory by entrepreneur Asa Mercer.

Anna Ivey's journey west with Mercer is an escape from the aftermath of the Civil War. She signed on to become a cook--not a bride. When she's handed over to Denton, her stubborn refusal to wed jeopardizes his land. With only a few months before he loses all he holds dear, can he convince this provoking, but beguiling, easterner to become his lawfully wedded wife?

I first heard about Deeanne Gist when Wendy aka Super Librarian blogged about her trip to The Biltmore Estate that she won from Ms. Gist and her review Ms. Gist's novel Maid to Match got me itching to read one of Ms. Gist's novels. With my love of the mail-order-bride trope it was an easy choice to pick up A Bride in the Bargain, along with Maid to Match at the library. The bonus - I have this thing for lumberjacks. I just love reading about them! The hero in A Bride in the Bargain is a lumberjack. Double Win!

Joe Denton is in a bind. If he can't prove he was married, he will lose half of his land. Land that he's work hard on for ten years to build into a logging camp. When his last chance at proving he was married falls through, Joe is desperate enough to hand over $300 to Asa Mercer for a bride. It takes months but Joe's bride finally arrives and just in time. Joe is ready to get his bride and get married. The only problem is, no one told the bride.

Anna Ivey is a resilient and resourceful woman who, in desperation, agrees to make the long journey to Washington Territory. She has nothing left to keep her in Massachusetts and every reason to leave. I loved how Gist didn't skip over Anna's trip on board the S. S. Continental but made the hardships and wonder of the trip come alive for this reader. After everything that Anna goes through, she is still a little too naive when she arrives in Seattle. This adds to the confusion over what role she would play in Joe Denton's life, making for some amusing dialogue. Anna's comments leaves Joe thinking one thing and Anna meaning something completely different. After everything is sorted out, Joe still needs a wife but he'll take a cook. He still isn't giving up and decides to try to spend his time convincing Anna to follow through with the marriage.

The romance is sweet but not too sugary. Anna and Joe have two very different goals in mind when it comes to their relationship. Joe wants Anna to marry him but Anna only wants to repay Joe for her travel expenses by cooking for his crew. Anna does try to think of Joe as only her employer but living in close quarters with him leaves her wanting more. Even with the attraction, Anna is determined to keep to her belief that she is not meant to be anyone's bride. But it takes a man of strength and dedication to make it in the territory. Joe puts those traits to good use when convincing Anna to be his bride.

The life a lumberjack is a physically grueling hard one. I enjoyed the descriptions of that life that Gist included in the story. Not only is the work demanding but it's also very dangerous. One miscalculation and the tree could come down the wrong way, hurting or killing anyone in it's path. The men that made up Joe's crew were a colorful bunch of characters who added another layer to the rugged landscape of the story.

Since this is an inspirational romance novel there are scripture references as well as mentions of god gingerly sprinkled throughout the book. In fact, there were times when I was wondering why there were not more references made. The religious overtones were minimal, with enough to show the characters' beliefs without feeling preachy.

The romance suffered a few bumps along the way with both Anna and Joe being too stubborn for their own good. They could have resolved things sooner had they just talked it out. I did find Anna's reason for not wishing to marry somewhat over the top. There were times when she seemed to carry around so much guilt, I was amazed she could find any happiness in life. The ending was fairly predictable, with Anna and Joe getting their happy ending.

Rating: B

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Pleasures of a Notorious Scoudrel

Pleasures of a Notorious Scoundrel
Lorraine Heath
Historical Romance/England/1855
London's Greatest Lovers/Book 2
Harper Collins/December 1, 2010

From the back cover ~

As the black sheep second son of an Earl, Stephen Lyons has gained a reputation in the art of seduction, but when his wicked ways result in scandal, he joins the army to redeem himself. On the battlefield, he proves courageous . . . until he is seriously wounded. Returning home to recover, he discovers he can't remember the angelic beauty who arrives at his doorstep, his babe nestled in her arms.

Mercy Dawson will risk everything to protect the son of the dashing soldier she once knew and admired. When Stephen offers to do the honorable thing, she is determined that London's most notorious gentleman will desire her and no other. But Mercy fears that what began as an innocent deception could destroy her dreams and their blossoming love if Stephen ever learns the scandalous truth . . .

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.

The first book in the series, Passions of a Wicked Earl, was about the eldest of the three brothers, Westcliffe, who was cool and aloof. Now we get Stephen, the middle brother's story. Stephen is the rogue of the family and works hard at it. After reading the first book I didn't care much for Stephen and was really wanting to read Ainsley, the youngest brother's book. But it doesn't come out until July and since I like to read series in order, I went ahead and read Stephen's book. Heath made me love Stephen!

The story opens with Stephen tumbling out of bed, leaving a woman in it, and preparing to go off to war. But she isn't the only women there to see him off. As he gets caught up in the parade of soldiers marching off to war the women seem to come out of the woodwork to wish Stephen good-bye. His family is also there to see him off. His mother, who I adore. His two brothers and his sister-in-law Claire. While they might argue and disagree, you can tell these brothers love and care about each other. I liked that closeness that came through, even when they didn't wish for anyone to see it.

Fast forward and Stephen is home from the war a changed man. Not only in body but in mind. He was seriously injured, his family told he was dead. Thankfully he wasn't and is now recovering from his wounds at his family home. It is here that he meets the woman who claims to be the mother of his child. A woman he doesn't remember. You can't help but feel for Stephen, losing nearly two years of his memory. I found myself hoping there would be some miracle cure or a trigger that would bring back his memories. They are memories mostly of war and death but they are still his memories and leave him feeling less than completely without them.

The marriage between Stephen and Mercy takes place with little pomp and pagentry. Mercy and child are welcomed into the family by Stephen's mother, who I adore. She is such a wonderful change from the usual haughty, uptight mothers and mothers-in-law found in historical romances. Stephen's brother, Ainsley, the Duke, is far more reticent in his welcoming of Mercy. He isn't cruel but is cautious, with a need to know more about this woman who claims to have fathered his brother's son. In this we see why Ainsley, while he may be the youngest of the brothers, is every inch a Duke. He protects his family and is more than capable of being the head of the family.

As Stephen and Mercy go about their married lives they come to enjoy each other's company. Mercy tries to get Stephen to take an interest in his son. Stephen is hesitant, knowing nothing of babies, but he slowly gets to know his son to the delight of Mercy. I loved seeing not only Mercy and Stephen's relationship develop but also Stephen learning about and caring for his son.

Mercy's love for Stephen's son is all encompassing and she will do anything for the child. Her love for the baby might have seemed overdone but the affect of the war ran deep and this child was the one good thing to come of it. As a nurse, she had seen so much pain and death, is it any surprise that she would latch on to this innocent child and do everything in her meager power to see him safe? She was a wonderful heroine who did some truly heroic acts of bravery and self-sacrifice.

This isn't a story that I would consider a light read. It brings forth strong emotions, with Heath making her characters loose nearly everything they love before they find their Happily Ever After. I now waiting impatiently for Ainsley's story.

Rating: A

Books in this series ~

Passions of a Wicked Earl
Pleasures of a Notorious Scoundrel
Waking Up with the Duke (July 2011)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: Call Me Irresistible

Call Me Irresistible
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Contemporary Romance
American's Lady/Book 3
HarperCollins/January 2011

From the inside cover ~

Lucy Jorik is the daughter of a former president of the United States.

Meg Koranda is the offspring of legends.

One of them is about to marry Mr. Irresistible - Ted Beaudine - the favorite son of Wynette, Texas. The other is not happy about it and is determined to save her friend from a mess of heartache.

But even though Meg knows that breaking up her best friend's wedding is the right thing to do, no one else seems to agree. Faster than Lucy can say "I don't," Meg becomes the most hated woman in town - a town she's stuck in with a dead car, an empty wallet, and a very angry bridegroom. Broke, stranded, and without her famous parents at her back, Meg is sure she can survive on her own wits. What's the worst that can happen? Lose her heart to the one and only Mr. Irresistible? Not likely. Not likely at all.

Is it just me or is that cover so very meh? It might be hard to tell, but seeing it in person, the hand looks like a maniquins hand. The the cover as a whole doesn't tell me anything about the story. Good thing the story inside was far better than the cover. :)

If you've read SEP's backlist than you're probably familiar with many of the players in this romantic comedy set in the small Texas town of Wynette. If not, that's okay. There is enough character background given to fill new readers in on the various relationships and histories of the characters.

The heroine, Meg Koranda, is one who starts out lacking in the obvious heroic traits. She's capricious, irresponsible, impulsive, brazen and a bit reckless. For all her faults she is a good friend. She is loyal to her friends and when she loves, she loves deeply. I liked what we saw of Meg in What I Did for Love. While she did exhibited all those traits, she was interesting and I wanted to know more about her. Meg is a work in progress, learning much as she goes. She's flawed, oh boy is she flawed. But I liked that about her. She's very relatable although I do hope I wouldn't make quite so many mistakes if I were in her shoes. When she does screw up, it usually isn't on purpose but more from good intentions or lack of knowledge. She was easily my favorite character of the book.

Ted - Mr. Irresistible, Mr. Mayor, Mr. Brilliant, Mr. God's Gift to Womankind, Mr. Pain-In-The-Ass - is so lacking in flaws it's beyond irritating. He is perfection in the flesh. He is the man who can do no wrong but apparently there is something wrong with him since his fiancée left him at the alter. HA! It took me a very long time to warm up to Ted, years it seemed. I didn't like how he or the majority of the residents of Wynett (aka Tedville) treated Meg. But boy did I love it when Meg made him loose his cool! And sometimes she wasn't even trying!

After the aborted wedding, Meg is stuck in Tedville with no money and no friends. Sure she's irresponsible, terrible with money and has a tendency to call Mom & Dad to help her out. But that's not an option. This time she's on her own. And you know what? She does okay. Not great at first but she does manage. She goes through some really rough times and I liked her all the more for her tenacity. She works at crappy jobs and sleeps in her car she calls the Rustmobile. Those were some emotional scenes - with Meg all alone, desperately needing a friend, a hug, just someone to care about her. She slowly becomes self sufficient and carves out a life for herself in the town that wants her gone. It gets to the point where it's a matter of pride for her to not be driven away.

Ted is one of those that says he wants her gone. He even offers her money. She doesn't take it. So Ted uses other, more dirty tactics to get rid of Meg. His family isn't crazy about Meg either, especially Ted's mother. Ted's problem is that while he wants Meg out of town, he wants Meg. Yeah, poor Ted wants the women who everyone thinks is the reason his fiancée ran out on him. When Ted and Meg do get together it's perfect because Ted is perfect. Meg thinks it's like he read every sex manual ever written and he knows exactly what to do. Except that it's not quite right and Meg can't figure out what the problem is.

The town and it's inhabitants play a major role in Meg and Ted's excellent adventure in romance. They all have their opinions of Meg, nearly all negative. They all adore Ted and are very protective of him. Not a good combination when you've got nosy "well-meaning" people butting into your life. When a potential developer comes to town, without trying, Meg manages to get involved and makes Ted's life that much more complicated. It was the humorous, classic SEP dialogue that I've always enjoyed.

There's is this one thing that kept coming up that I'm still not sure why so much attention was paid to it. It's the detailed description of what everyone is wearing. Seriously, every gathering, outing and nearly anytime a character came on the page, the wardrobe was described from the clothing, shoes, purses and jewelry. At first I thought it was to emphasize the vast differences between Meg's quirky, thrift store fashions and the designer fashions of Ted's family and close friends. There was a twist near the end the had to do with the clothes that Meg bought at the local resale shop but I think the detailed descriptions were overdone.

I did say it took me a long time to warm up to Ted but, eventually I did. While I still think he could have used a smack upside the head early on, I really did like him by the end. He and Meg made the best of couples. A good balance of responsibility and whimsy. Now that Ted and Meg got their HEA it's Lucy's turn next. I'm not sure what she did or where she went when she left the church but I know I'll be reading her story to find out.

Rating: B+

Books in this series ~

Fancy Pants
Lady Be Good
Call Me Irresistible

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: Thread of Fear

Thread of Fear
Laura Griffin
Romantic Suspense
Glass Sisters/Book 1
Pocket/September 30, 2008

From the back cover ~


Forensic artist Fiona Glass is the best in the business—which is precisely why she’s quitting. Her skill at mining victims’ memories to re-create the faces of sadistic criminals has left her haunted and wary, and only Jack Bowman’s dogged persistence convinces her to help him. The rugged police chief is hunting a serial killer who’s targeting teenage girls. But what seems like a simple assignment is fraught with complications, including a searing attraction to Jack that’s tempting Fiona to let her guard down in potentially dangerous ways.

Jack never intended for Fiona to become so deeply involved in the case—or his life. And now that she’s right in the killer’s crosshairs, the only way to keep her safe is to unravel a small town’s darkest secrets, one terrifying thread at a time…

After reading Ms. Griffin's novel, Untraceable, I wanted to do some backtracking and read some of her previous novels before continuing with the Tracers series. I began with Thread of Fear because the hero of Untraceable is in it and I wanted to read Courtney's book Whisper of Warning but Thread of Fear is Courtney's sister Fiona's book and it comes first in the time line. My OCD wouldn't let me read Courtney's book without reading Fiona's first. Makes sense right? :)

I find the forensic artist to be a fascinating character. Whether they use a sketch book and pencils or a computer program, the ability to pull those hidden details out of the subconscious of the witness and bring it to life is a rare gift. Fiona has this gift - she's very good with traumatized children and women. The job has its rewards when the suspect is found or the missing person is recovered but it also takes its toll on Fiona. She has nightmares and has been threatened by the criminals she has helped arrest. She does have a day job, an art professor at the community college. She's trying to "retire" from being a forensic artist but because she is one of the best, she keeps getting pulled back into the work.

Jack Bowman is a small town police chief with a murder victim that is eerily similar to a case from years ago. The only difference is that victim lived. He's determined to find the murderer before it happens again. He's given Fiona's name by a mutual friend with the Austin PD and basically wears her down until she agrees to talk to his witness. Jack was a mix of small town police and big city cop. He had that way about him that made the locals trust him but he also had the experience of a big city cop that enabled him to look at the bigger picture.

Fiona is under a lot of stress and her sister Courtney only adds to it. Courtney moves into Fiona's loft apartment in Austin and sticks her nose into Fiona's business, namely the men in her life. Courtney acts like a trampy party girl but there's definitely something deeper going on with her. Even with her hectic life, Fiona still finds time to fit romancing in. Fiona and Jack were attracted to each other but they had the murder case to solve, Jack's major baggage concerning the case and Fiona constantly pulling away from Jack. Fiona needed to make up her mind about her work and then stick with her decision. She wants to concentrate on her art and not get involved with Jack but does just the opposite. Jack and Fiona were okay as a couple. I felt there was too much going on with the police work for them to really get to know each other and fall in love.

Overall I liked the story. The mystery of the potential serial killer and learning about the work of forensic artists. I think the romance could have been stronger but I did like Courtney and still want to read her book so that's always a good thing.

Rating: B

Books in this series ~

Thread of Fear
Whisper of Warning

Monday, January 24, 2011

Access Romance Day. . .

Today's my day at the Access Romance Readers Gab and I'm talking about category romances and why I finally started reading them. Come on over and tell me what you think about these shorter format romance novels. Do you read them?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: The Hawk

The Hawk
Monica McCarty
Historical Romance/Scotland/1307
Highland Guard/Book 2
Ballantine/August 31, 2010

From the back cover ~

Erik MacSorley is unrivaled on the seas, a brilliant seafarer who has never encountered a wind he could not harness nor a woman he could not win—until he drags a wet, half-naked “nursemaid” out of the waters off the Irish coast. Ellie’s ordinary appearance belies the truth: she is in fact Lady Elyne de Burgh, the spirited daughter of the most powerful noble in Ireland, and a close ally of the English king. Worse, this confounding, fascinating, irresistible woman is determined to prove herself immune to his charms—a challenge he cannot resist.

Her captor may look every inch a powerful, rugged warrior, but Ellie vows it will take more than a twinkle in his blue eyes and a wickedly suggestive caress to impress her. Erik is as wild and untamed as the wind, sweeping away her resistance with a desire that resonates deep within her heart. Still, he is a man driven by loyalty, and she is a woman with secrets that could threaten his mission and jeopardize Bruce’s chance to reclaim his throne. As the battle for king and country sounds across the shores, will Ellie’s love be enough to finally tame the legend known as the Hawk?

This was a sweet romance of mistaken identity, dangerous situations and courageous men and women. If you read my review of the first book in this series, The Chief, then you know how much I enjoyed it and was looking forward to reading more in this series. After reading The Hawk I can't wait to read The Ranger, book 3.

This time our hero is a ladies man. Oh, my is he ever! Erik MacSorley or Hawk as he's know to his fellow Guards, is the youngest child with 5 older sisters. He loves women, all women. He enjoys their company and in true alpha male form is also very protective of them. One thing I did like is while he could be overbearing, he really did treat all women well whether they be lady or village maid. He's also very fierce in his loyalty to Scotland and almost a little too reckless with his own safety. I think it was a matter of being a bit overly confident in his abilities. He's an easy hero to like right off. He's one of those guys that is smart, good looking and charming but isn't arrogant about it.

Lady Elyne de Burgh is the daughter of the powerful Earl of Ulster and betrothed to Sir Ralph de Monthermer, former son-in-law of King Edward. But when she is captured by Hawk, she tells him she is a nursemaid, in an attempt to protect her life. So now she is Ellie, nursemaid and captive of the Scottish rebel, Hawk. Ellie is afraid and with good reason since she's in the hands of the enemy, even if he's gorgeous and a charmer. She's smart but also desperate to get away and does takes some serious risks but I really couldn't blame her. I liked that while she may have had a TSTL moment or two, she acted out of desperation and not stupidity. Certainly made for a more realistic read than her being the perfect captive.

The romance of Hawk and his captive is sweet and funny. I was pleasantly surprised at how amusing their dialogue was. Ellie is far better educated than the nursemaid she claims to be so her discussions with Hawk were not what he was expecting. She surprised him and sometimes confused him. She proved that he doesn't know women as well as he thought. LOL

Once again there is a lot of politics within the story. I loved how the various relations of this lord and that lady were woven with in the story. Some readers might not like all of the political and court intrigue - there are quite a few characters to keep track of. I like it when there are actual historical figures and McCarty does a good job bringing them to life.

I was caught up in the continuing story of the Highland Guard and Robert Bruce's quest for a Scotland free of English rule. I didn't enjoy The Hawk as much as The Chief primarily due to the story slowing down too much in the middle but it picked up towards the end with Hawk wooing and winning the woman of his heart.

Rating: B+

Books in this series ~

The Chief
The Hawk
The Ranger

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: Dreamveil

Lynn Viehl
Paranormal Romance
Kyndred/Book 2
Onyx/June 1, 2010

From the back cover ~

Rowan Dietrich knows how hard lie can be. After running away from her abusive home life, she struggled to survive on the streets. The brutal lessons she learned while there still resonate in her mind and heart. Now she wants to start anew, find a job, and keep her identity as a Kyndred - as well as her ability to "dreamveil" herself into the object of others' desires - secret.

She isn't using her gift when world-class chef Jean-Marc Dansant helps her after a motorcycle spill. He's genuinely attracted to Rowan's own beauty and strength. But just as Rowan begins to find a life for herself, the GenHance corporation pursues her, eager to take her back to where sh ewas created. And a bounty hunter hired by a ruthless millionaire wants Rowan for his own sinister reasons...

In Viehl's second book of her Darkyn spin-off series we are reunited with Rowan Dietrich, who was a secondary character from the first book, Shadowlight. Rowan was a strong character in the first book and she continues with that in Dreamveil. Rowan is making her way to Boston and decides to make a quick stop in New York City but things don't go as planned and Rowan finds herself accepting a job offer from the alluring Jean-Marc Dansant.

The story starts out with Rowan crashing her bike and deciding to stay a while in New York and work for the handsome and mysterious chef Dansant. Rowan knows her way around the kitchen and finds herself in awe of Dansant's mastery of cooking. A man who cooks, and cooks well is a sexy thing indeed. Rowan is attracted to her new boss but she's also curious about the mysterious air that surrounds him. Add to that her grumpy but very fine looking neighbor and she's in for some serious sexual frustration. I liked the love triangle. I don't want to give away any spoilers but it was certainly different!

There is a lot going on in Dreamveil and Viehl does an admiral job working in the background of the Kyndred and GenHance's involvement. I did find myself doing a little back-tracking and slowing my reading down in order to absorb all the details. It's a complex world of genetics and supernatural abilities that Viehl has created. Rowan's ability is particularly intriguing and sad at times.

Rowan and choosing between the two men in her life is not the only drama in the story. There is a mystery girl that hangs around the alley behind the restaurant. Rowan tries to make friends with the girl. She's skittish and doesn't run as long as Rowan keeps her distance. It all comes together in a twist of fate that I thought Viehl choreographed well.

The more I read of this series the more I'm pulled into this world. Granted I'm only two books in so far but I'm liking it. Not as much as Viehl's Darkyn series with the vamps but still, I like the twists of fate and the characters are certainly unique.

Rating: B+

Books in this series ~


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

TBR Challenge Review: An Independent Wife

An Independent Wife
Linda Howard
Contemporary Romance

*Spoilers - trust me, it's better than reading the book*

From the back cover ~

Seven-Year Itch

Their marriage had been passionate, painful - and brief. Their break had been final. Absolute. From that day on, Sallie Baines had truly changed. She could barely remember the timid girl who'd clung to love, but lost everything - even her pride.

Rhy Baines hadn't changed at all. After seven years, he remained the most attractive man Sallie had ever known. And now, fascinated by the independent woman his wife had become, Rhy still wouldn't take "no" for an answer...

My first book for the TBR Challenge and the best thing I can say is that I'm happy it's off my TBR pile. Do any of you remember the show Dallas and the character J. R. Ewing that Larry Hagman played? The hero, and I use that term very loosely, was channeling J. R. through much of this book. Total and complete Ass with a capital A. You know how sometimes in my reviews I'll say I wish someone would just shoot "insert character name" ? Well, shooting would have been too good for Rhy Baines. String him up, drawn and quarter, put him on the rack... well, you get the idea.

I probably should have just put this in the Goodwill bag and picked another book. It's not like I don't have plenty of categories to choose from but instead I kept on reading, thinking, hoping, praying, it would get better. It didn't. This is an early Howard, her second published I believe. And it's dated - 1982 but seriously, it was like something from the sixties the way the men treated Sallie, the heroine. Calling her doll, honey etc. And those were the men she worked with! Once I got through the first 100 pages or so, it was like a train wreck, I just could not look away. Most of the time I was reading I'm sure I was swearing under my breath.

The heroine starts out as Sarah Jerome, a quiet, timid young woman who's parents are killed in a car accident when she's eighteen. She lives next door to Rhy Baines' aunt and has known Rhy for many years. After her parents death, Sarah and Rhy begin dating, three whole dates before he asks her to marry him. Which in it self is weird but add in that he's 28, she's 18. He's a world traveling foreign correspondent. She's a small town girl. Emphasis on girl. It made no sense so it was no surprise that the marriage didn't last. She couldn't handle him being gone all the time, he couldn't handle her complaining about him being gone all the time. He's not there when she really needs him. She complains some more. He has enough and walks out. She stops feeling sorry for herself, goes to college and gets a job. Gets a break and becomes a, wait for it... world traveling reporter.

Years pass and Sarah is now calling herself Sallie and loving her job as a reporter for a weekly news magazine. She has changed from the shy, timid girl to an outgoing field reporter. She has also changed her looks from short and plump to petite and curvy. She's a very attractive and striking woman. Then she gets the news that her husband Rhy Baines will be making his way back into her life. And he's still her husband because neither one of them bothered to get a divorce after seven years apart. Rhy did try to find her but had no luck because she changed her name and is using her maiden name.

Rhydon Baines is a good looking, famous television reporter whose work takes him all over the world. Men want to be him and women just want him. He's decided to slow things down and cut back on his world traveling by buying a news magazine. He's now Sallie's big boss. When he realizes who one of the top reports for the magazine is, he's in complete shock! His little mousy wife has turned into a sexy little thing that he wants back in a big way and he'll do anything to get her.

Rhy starts with grounding Sallie, no more reporting from dangerous places. She's stuck in the office, having little to do. Then he threatens Chris, Sallie's male co-worker and friend. Rhy doesn't like Sallie's relationship with Chris and will fire Chris if it doesn't stop. This while Rhy is dating dingbat model Coral Williams. Rhy also tells Sallie she can't refuse him his "marital rights", after Sallie tells him she doesn't want to be his wife and won't sleep with him.

Rhy keeps pushing Sallie to be his wife again. And it turns out that Sallie isn't totally over Rhy, no she's still in love with the ass. She gives in, they have sex, yada, yada, yada. But she still doesn't want to be his wife. Seriously! What did she think would happen after she slept with him? That he would leave her alone? And the model that he's been dating? Sallie tells Rhy to go be with her but he says "I do what I want to do with whomever I choose - and right now I choose my wife." Awe, how romantic. Ass!

Rhy does agree to allow Sallie to go on an overseas assignment, with him. Rhy is his usual, domineering self and Sallie is still trying to be the independent woman. They argue, fight, split up and come back together. But Sallie still doesn't want to be Rhy's wife. Ugh!

Rhy takes the ultimate step in securing Sallie - he removes everything from her apartment and moves it to his. Of course he does this without her consent so she comes home, sees her things gone and thinks she's been robbed. When she finds out it was Rhy she is livid! Thank god! But this doesn't last long, she caves and moves in with him! At this point I thought they deserved each other. Fine, go back to him because you are such an independent wife. Ha! But wait, they have to have one more misunderstanding and Sallie must flee the bastard.

They get back together, again, because this is a romance after all. *eye roll* And I will say the last few pages Rhy actually seems like he might be redeemable but it's a case of too little too late. He's still an ass.

Rating: D

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Best Of...

Finally!!! I know I'm very late with this, a couple weeks at least. In choosing the top ten, I selected not necessarily the books with the highest grades but the ones that stood out and stuck with me. These are the books I can see myself re-reading or the ones that made the biggest impact, eliciting the strongest emotions. So, in case anyone is interested in my favorite books published in 2010, here you go in no particular order.

Now, I said all the books on the list were published in 2010. That was purely for selfish reasons, to make it easier on me to pick a top ten. But, rules are made to be broken and I'm breaking that rule. The first book on the list was technically published 29 December 2009. Close enough, I say.

A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

The story of a forced marriage gets the Balogh treatment with a delicious spin. The romance of Annabelle and Reginald was a lovely treat to read. The flashbacks were well written and didn't annoy me in the least.

My review for A Matter of Class.

Silver Borne By Patricia Briggs

Mercy and Adam finally solidify their relationship and Mercy's place in the pack. Sam goes a little wild and gets saved from someone from his past. Briggs writes one of the best, well-developed UF series out there and I have no doubt I'll continue reading her as long as she is writing.

My review for Silver Borne.

Roadkill by Rob Thurman

Oh boy, do I love this series! I love Cal. I love Niko. I love Goodfellow. Yep, lots of love for this series. And Roadkill was another joy ride of an addition. The brothers, Cal & Niko, are such a dynamic duo with their snarky brotherly love.

My buddy review with Nath & Hils for Roadkill.

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt

The beginning of a new series by Hoyt is always something to get excited about. Wicked Intentions is no exception. Not only do we get an exciting romance, we also get the story-within-the-story and some wonderful secondary characters that are crying out for their stories to be told.

My review of Wicked Intentions.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

The second book in Stiefvater's Young Adult trilogy has Grace and Sam trying to build a relationship while nature is determined to pull them apart. With well developed secondary characters and a major cliff-hanger ending, made me wish I had Forever ready and waiting.

My review of Linger.

My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent

This is another Young Adult series that has completely captivated me. It's not only the world in which Kaylee, Nash and the Scooby gang live but the Netherworld - the mirror image of ours with its distorted imagines and beings.

My review for My Soul to Keep

Chimera by Rob Thurman

This isn't related to her Cal Leandros series but it still had that close knit brother relationship that I so enjoy. Stefan and Michael go on a road trip, getting to know each other while being chased by the evil monster that wants Michael back.

My buddy review with Nath for Chimera.

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

I read so many good YAs last year. I think I could have easily come up with a top 10 YA list. If I did, this would be at the top. The adventure Meghan Chase finds in Faery with Ash and Rob kept me spellbound.

My review for The Iron Daughter

A Wild Light by Marjorie M. Liu

This is such a unique UF series. The tattoos that come alive. Heroine and hero whose goals, at times, seem at odds with each other. And the world building that pulls me in and doesn't let go.

My review of A Wild Light.

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

Three sisters with little in common, forced to work together. Add in a sexy man with a tool belt and that Shalvis humor that I love and you've got a winner.

My review for Simply Irresistible.

So that's it! It wasn't easy to pick ten, I certainly could have made a longer list. How many on my list made it on your list? Are there any on your TBR pile? I always love seeing books on my TBR pile make someone's best of list. It just reinforces my choice in picking it up.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: No Place to Run

No Place to Run
Maya Banks
Romantic Suspense
KGI/Book 2
Berkley/December 2010

From the back cover ~

Sam Kelly Was Her First Love.

The last person Sam Kelly expected to pull wounded from the lake was Sophie Lundgren. Once they had shared a brief, intense affair while Sam was undercover, and then she vanished. She's spent the last five months on the run, knowing that any mistake would cost her life and that of her unborn child - Sam's child. Now she's resurfaced with a warning for Sam: This time, he's the one in danger.

Now He's Her Last Chance.

Sam has too many questions to let her slip away again - like why she disappeared in the first place. This time he vows not to be seduced. But one look in her eyes and the passion burns again, and Sam knows he'll do anything to keep her and his child safe. However, Sophie's dark past is more dangerous than he imagines, and the only way for either to survive is to outrun it.

The first book in the series, The Darkest Hour, I thought was okay and liked it enough to give the next book a try. This time many of the secondary characters are back but they're more familiar so there wasn't such an overload of who's who. The hero and heroine have a bit of a history but they didn't really get to know each other, it was mainly sex that kept them together the first time. Now they're back together and they still don't have a chance to get to know each other because they are being hunted and constantly on the run.

This is Sam's story, the eldest son of the Kelly clan. Sam is a true alpha male. Commanding, intelligent, a born leader. He's also a bit of a loner. He's close to his brothers, the Kelly family is a close knit family. But I do think Sam keeps himself apart from the women he's intimate with. You get this vibe from him that he has to look out for his siblings and his parents and has no time for a real personal life for himself. He does think of Sophie, even five months later, but has no idea where she is. Ha - careful what you wish for!

Sophie Lundgren has lived with the father from hell. He uses her and abuses her, causing her to fear for her life. She makes her escape and eventually goes to Sam for help. Sophie is a strong and brave heroine who is also preggers and let me tell you those hormones were a raging! She cries a lot and granted she has a lot to cry about but there were times when I was relieved when Sam or one of his brothers drugged her. It was easy to feel sorry for her, because of her background and her current situation. She loves Sam, is preggers with his child and she's not even sure if he loves her let alone trusts her. But that's okay cause they can still have wild monkey sex!

Is it just me or does it seem like the sex in mainstream romances is sounding more like what you would expect to read in an erotic romance? I have read some of Banks' erotic romances so I'm familiar with her other work. But in general, it seems like the wording in sex scenes is becoming more explicit in mainstream romances. Or it could just be my reading selections. :)

So back to Sam and Sophie - they still have a very strong attraction and find time to act on that attraction between hiding out, getting shot and the general mayhem that comes from being on the run from a vicious drug lord. They did have their sweet moments and Sam did give Sophie the benefit of doubt, against his brother Garrett's opinion, that she was telling the truth and wasn't working for her father. Sam, being an alpha, was very protective of Sophie but she still managed to escape him. That made me laugh. I think that might be a reoccurring theme in this series - the heroine running away from the hero at least once.

It's not just Sam and Sophie that are on the run. The whole Kelly family is in danger so we get to catch up with not only Sam's brothers but his parents and their adopted sister Rusty. Along with the member of the KGI teams, it made for a full character list. It didn't bother me as much this time, maybe because they were more familiar and gave the story it's momentum. All Sam and Sophie seem to do is argue, cry and have sex. The real action happened when the brothers and the team members were involved.

The story is fast pace, with lots of shooting, killing and dangerous situations. The boys and their toys are in full force with Sam, his brothers and their team members sporting lots of weapons, driving big SUVs and wearing a lot of black. I found No Place to Run a quick and somewhat entertaining read, but nothing that really stands out from the rest of the pack.

Rating: B-

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: Marry Me

Marry Me
Jo Goodman
Historical Romance/Colorado/1884
Reidsville/Book 2
Kensington/December 1, 2010

From the author's website ~


Rhyne Abbott is fierce, brave, and used to a life of isolation on her father's spread on the outskirts of Reidsville, Colorado. But when, overcome with sickness, she collapses, she knows she must return to town if she is to have any hope of recovery. Only there is no place for her but the new doctor's home, and he wants more than just to heal Rhyne. He wants her hand in marriage.


Doctor Cole Monroe's hands are already more than full with his orphaned little sister to look after, and yet somehow he can't resist the magnetic pull of Rhyne's bewitching eyes—or her tempting kiss. But convincing her to trust him won't be easy. For Rhyne's heart needs as much tender care as her ailing body. And the only cure is the thing she most fears: to let herself fall in love...

The cover makes me think Marry Me will be a sweet, romantic love story. And at some points it is but it also has a few very dark, disturbing scenes that some readers may find upsetting. I was surprised at what happened to Rhyne since the blurb gives no indication of what a truly horrendous event Rhyne has gone through. Having said that, I did enjoy Rhyne and Cole's interactions when they were able to be themselves, talking and teasing each other. The scenes with just the two of them were some of my favorites.

Dr. Coleridge Monroe loves his little sister but she can truly be a meddlesome creature. It is because of Whitley's meddling that Cole finds himself accepting the position of Town Doctor in Reidsville, Colorado. I liked Whitley right off. She is a sixteen year old young woman with strong opinions and a fierce loyalty to her brother. It's just the two of them and while Cole is Whitley's guardian, I think they both took care of each other. Cole is a dedicated doctor but he is also interested in continuing his research and moving to Reidsville would allow him to do that. Cole is an intelligent hero and while he might be accustomed to city living he does try and usually succeeds when confronted with something out of his realm of experience. I liked that he didn't suddenly become this perfect western hero, as comfortable in the wild west as he was in the city.

The youngest of the Abbott clan has a reputation for shooting straight and never shying away from a fight. When the new town doctor pays a visit, he finds Rhyne in desperate need of medical attention. After seeing to her immediate needs, he convinces her to come back to town with him. It's there that she begins her new life. As Rhyne recovers from her injuries she is hesitant to leave the doctor's home. She has conflicted feelings - she wants to stay but she doesn't feel as if she fits in. Rhyne is a heroine who is certainly outside the normal realm of heroines. I liked how she is shown to be intelligent and not afraid to ask questions about the things that interest her. She doesn't understand that it's not proper for her to discuss the body and it's various parts with Cole, an unwed man. Those were some of the scenes that I enjoyed best. Cole and Rhyne would discuss whatever interested them at the time. It showed not only their intelligence but how they were comfortable in each others company.

Cole, being a doctor, is far more matter of fact about what he discusses with Rhyne and with Whitley. He can be blunt at times and overprotective at other times. It's as if the practical doctor warred with the protective brother/lover. His wanting to marry Rhyne was based on practicality with his desires coming in second. I liked how he began to see her for who she still was and who she was becoming. It was as if a new Rhyne had emerged and Cole's practicality be damned! He wanted her simply because he couldn't live without her.

There is a lot of drama in this little town with Cole and Rhyne in the midst of it. The way they both handled the crisis showed how well they had come to know each other. They worked well as a team and I think it was Cole's professionalism that gave Rhyne confidence when helping him. Once again, some of my favorite scenes were with just Cole and Rhyne, without any interference from the secondary characters.

Characters from the previous book, Never Love a Lawman, also made appearances and impacted Rhyne and Cole's lives. I must say I do wish everyone would stop referring to Will Beatty as "that no-account Beatty boy" it got very old, very quickly. He is a deputy and not some low-life drunkard. The town itself plays an important role in the shaping of Cole and Rhyne's relationship. Through the opinions of the townsfolk, the treatment of Rhyne and how the people react to Rhyne and Cole as a couple, Goodman showed how strong those outside influences can be.

Even though Rhyne gets away from her father, he still has a strong hold on her. That story line involving Rhyne's father left me cold. Someone should have shot him and put him out of everyone's misery! There is a lot that Rhyne doesn't know about her mother and father and while some of the discoveries are shocking, she handles them well. Almost too well. I think that was part of the problem I had with Rhyne. I liked her but because she had suppressed her emotions and feelings for so long, she kept herself distant and wasn't easy to get to know.

There is some sequel bait that comes riding in at the end. I didn't mind it and at this point, I find myself looking forward to Whitley's book. I do hope she gets one but would imagine it's a ways down the road.

Rating: B

*Thanks to Dear Author for the copy of Marry Me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

ARC Review: Night Betrayed

Night Betrayed
Joss Ware
Paranormal Romance/Futuristic/2060
Envy Chronicles/Book 4
Avon/January 25, 2011

From the author's website ~

The Change that devastated the earth didn't destroy Theo Waxnicki. It made him something more than human eternally young, eternally beautiful ... but not immortal.

When he dies on a mission against the Strangers, he is lost to the darkness...until a miracle lady brings him back.

Born during the apocalyptic storms and earthquakes that left the world in ruins, Selena has dedicated her life to easing the pain of others. But Theo is the first in her care to actually survive. Responding to Selena's tender touch, Theo starts to live again, to feel and desire again.

But joined in a world of terrors, the secrets they can never share make them targets. And love could be the ultimate betrayal.

I've said it in previous reviews, I love the world Joss Ware has created in her post-apocalyptic series. The romance on the other hand, generally came in second to the world. I was pleasantly surprised this time with both Theo and Selena. Theirs is a romance begun with chance and continued with mutual attraction and respect.

Theo is a wonderful hero who proves computer geeks can be sexy! The fact that he's also buff and has a wicked sense of humor doesn't hurt either. Theo was born before the Change and is nearly eighty years old but looks closer to thirty. You would think this would be an asset but Selena, who is fifty, gets hung up on the fact that she thinks Theo is much younger than her, and he doesn't come right out and correct her. Selena's harping on Theo's age got old after a while. In this dark world, consenting adults should take their pleasure where they can. Theo and Selena's relationship begins with Selena prepared to help Theo pass on to the next life. But he surprises her and survives. While Theo is recovering at Selena's settlement, he finds his curiosity aroused, among other things, as he gets to know Selena. He also finds more information on the Elite and the Cult of Atlantis.

Selena isn't sure why she is able to help the dying cross over to the next life but it's something that she feels compelled to do. But it's not only the humans she needs to help. Helping the creatures that come out at night puts Selena in danger but she takes the risk. She took this risk, knowing that other people counted on her and I have to question why she put it above her family and friends. Selena has a calm about her that I think draws Theo to her. She offers him compassion, warmth and companionship. I enjoyed seeing them get to know each other in this less than romantic setting. Selena spending many of her days with the dying and Theo is busy helping around the settlement and getting some computers working. Even with Theo and Selena being older, they still showed the wonder and awe of falling in love. Of realizing how important this person has become. They had some very hot, very romantic scenes. Which just proves there can be love and romance in a post-apocalyptic world.

The story may be centered around Theo and Selena but we do catch up with characters from previous books. Theo's brother Lou is very much involved in helping set up the computer network. He's brilliant when it comes to computers and being Theo's twin, they share a special bond. Lou is different from Theo in that Lou didn't stop aging the way Theo did. So they may be twins but Lou looks like a grandfather while Theo looks like a man in his prime. That doesn't stop them from acting like brothers.

Ian Marck is also around, stirring up trouble. He is a bounty hunter who had run ins with the Theo and his friends from Envy. I'm still not sure what side Marck is on. His side, I think. He's an intriguing characters and I hope we've not seen the last of him.

In addition to the character growth, the overall series arc continues to progress with some shocking revelations that change perceptions and give the remaining human population something else to fear. The more I read this series, the more I'm in awe of Ware's ability to not only create a fascinating world, but to be true to that worlds' canon. No one is safe. There isn't a magical wand to wave and make everything better.

Night Betrayed
left me wanting more. More of the world of Envy. More of the people who are trying to make a life in a hostile world full of danger and the unknown.

Rating: A-

Links to my reviews of 1st three books in the series ~

Beyond the Night
Embrace the Night Eternal
Abandon the Night

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review: before i fall

before i fall
Lauren Oliver
Young Adult/Fantasy
HarperCollins/March 2, 2010

From the author's website ~

What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last. Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

There were moments when I loved this book. Then there were moments when I wanted to stop, set it aside and make up my own ending. I wanted to pretend that I didn't know how it would end. But I knew. So I kept reading and even though the side of me that longs for the Happily Ever After was sad, the other, more practical side of me knew this was how it was meant to end.

I didn't like Sam Kingston very much when she first came on the page. It actually took a long time for me to warm up to her. The same goes for her three closest friends - Lindsay, Ally & Elody. They are the type of girls I avoided in high school. They are the girls who judge you by what you wear, how you look and where you live. They only look at the surface, too important to bother looking any deeper. They're all about being popular, being in on the latest gossip and being at the center of attention. Then IT happens and Sam starts looking at things differently. She gets a unique viewpoint of her life, her friends and herself.

This is such a different story from the flood of young adult novels on the market. It's an emotional read, with Oliver making me care about these characters even though I didn't like them very much. To me, that says something about the talent of the author. It wasn't until well into the book, when Sam's eyes are opened and she starts to look below the surface, that I came to like her and care about her.

One of the things I did like about Sam is her loyalty. Even after she begins to realize how superficial she and her friends are, she stills finds the good in them and still considers them her best friends.

As Sam begins to change, her relationships change and become more focused on what's important. I loved how she began to appreciate her little sister Izzy. Their relationship turned from an annoying little sister to Sam seeing how much she treasures her little sister. Sam has breakthroughs in other relationships, people from her past, seeing them in a new light. In a way it made it that much worse with it all happening at this point in her life.

I don't think I can recommend this book without some reservations. I do believe it to be a well written, compelling novel. But, damn it made me so sad. Sad for the what ifs, the what could have been and the what will never be. It also made me laugh at some of the oddest things. And it made me think. Maybe that's what's most important.

Rating: B+

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: The Chief

The Chief
Monica McCarty
Historical Romance/Scotland/1305
Highland Guard/Book 1
Ballantine Books/March 23, 2010

From the back cover ~

An elite fighting force like the world has never seen...

Scouring the darkest corners of the Highlands and Western Isles, Robert the Bruce handpicks ten warriors to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule. They are the best of the best, chosen for their superior skills in each discipline of warfare. To lead his secret Highland Guard, Bruce chooses the greatest warrior of all.

The ultimate Highland warlord and a swordsman without equal, Tor MacLeod has no intention of being drawn into Scotland’s war. Dedicated to his clan, the fiercely independent chief answers to no one—especially not his alluring new bride, bartered to him in a bid to secure his agreement to command the deadliest fighting force the world has ever seen. The treacherous chit who made her way to his bed may have won his hand, but she will never claim his heart.

Although her husband’s reputation is as fierce as his manner, Christina Fraser believes something softer hides beneath his brutal shell. But the only warmth she feels is in their bed, in the glorious moments of white-hot desire that disappear with the dawn. When Christina’s reckless bid to win her husband’s love goes awry and thrusts them into danger on the eve of war against England, Tor will face his ultimate battle: to save his wife and open his heart—before it’s too late.

Aside from westerns, historical romances set in the Highlands of Scotland are some of my favorites. The setting of the wild, rugged Highlands with the equally wild and rugged Highlanders makes for some enticing reading. The Chief holds true to that belief even though technically, Isle of Skye is where Tormod MacLeod rules as Chief of MacLeod. I found myself swept up not only in the political intrigue, the tension of the time period but also in the fragile and tenuous beginnings of the romance.

Tormod MacLeod is a leader, born to it. He's been leading his clan for over 20 years, since he was ten and his parents were killed in a raid. He allows nothing to come before his clan. Not even an unexpected wife. His reasons for marrying Christina Fraser are purely political, for the good of his clan. Tor is in for a surprise with his new wife. He expected them to lead separate lives, only spending time together in bed and even then he wouldn't allow himself the luxury of staying in her bed for the night. All that began to change with Tor coming to appreciate what Christina gave him, not only in bed but outside of bed. Even when his viewpoint began to change, he still stayed true to his character and put his clan above all. He simply began including his wife as part of his clan, not separate. Then he got stubborn, but more on that later.

Christina Fraser is caught between a cruel father and a man who both fascinates and frightens her. She is left without any choice but to set aside her honor and do what she can to save her sister. This puts her in a marriage she had no wish for but vows to make the best of. I was seriously thankful that she didn't bitch and moan about her situation. She wasn't always happy but she wiped her tears away and did the best she could. The one thing she could do that most women of the time could not was read. This was explained and I thought the author gave a plausible reason for it.

There is a lot of conflict, both with the politics of the time and the relationship between Tor and Christina. He wants to keep her out of his business, mainly the training of the Guard which must be done in secret. She wants to be part of his life, to know him and help him however she can. Tor begins to thaw and spend more time actually talking with his wife. Shocking, I know! But Christina does managed, inadvertently, to get herself into some trouble leading Tor to decide he was right after all, and that they should lead separate lives. No more getting close and sharing thoughts and feelings for this Highlander. Men!

Speaking of men... oh my, the Guards are coming! I loved the whole scenario of these fierce warriors coming together to form this elite band of warriors. The fact that many are born enemies only adds to the hostile environment that they must overcome. I'm looking forward to reading the books of all of the Guard. And while I don't have a favorite, I am completely intrigued by the ultimate loner, bad boy of the group - Lachlan "Viper" MacRuairi. I just know he's got a story to tell!

All of the Guard are give what they call "war name" or what we would refer to now as call signs. They reflect that warrior's special ability and in a way become terms of respect and affection. Another thing about these men, they are not knights, with the exception of one. This is mentioned a number of times, emphasizing the fact that they will not fight like knights but like warriors.

I was surprised at what a fast read this turned out to be. I tend to read historicals at a slower pace. I think because there is usually more narrative than there is dialogue. There was a lot of narrative but I still flew through the 400 pages fairly quickly which shows how much I enjoyed the story and the writing. The only minor problem I had was the language. Most of the time the syntax had the feel of the place and time but a few times it had a 21st century feel in the words and phrasing which caused me to pause and re-read, breaking the flow of the story.

I do hope that all the Guards get their own books. I'm fascinated with the period and the characters. The author, Monica McCarty, has extensive notes on the history and background of this series on her website. I had such fun exploring her site and learning more about the history that helped in inspire the series.

Rating: A-

The Highland Guard Series so far ~

The Chief
The Hawk
The Ranger

Monday, January 3, 2011

Gulliver's Travels, Jack Black's Belly & Eric Bana To Make It All Better...

Last Friday the boys, the husband and myself ventured to the movies to see not one but two epic 3D features. Middle wanted to see Tron, youngest wanted to see Gulliver's Travels. Guess what I got to see? Jack Black's naked belly - a lot!

So Gulliver's Travels wasn't that bad but if I never see Jack Black shirtless again it will be too soon! I can't really recommend the movie unless you are a young boy, my youngest is 9. The movie relied on what I refer to as "boy humor" with bodily functions, fluids and general grossness which youngest loved. So I liked it by default. There were a couple of times when I glanced at youngest and he gave me a big grin. Added bonus - movie popcorn! Word from the Tron camp - awesome! Hubs said Tron was good and was just happy he didn't have to see Jack Black's naked belly. :)

After the movies the boys compared notes.

Middle to youngest: Was there any making out? *grins*
Youngest: No, just some kissing.
Me to youngest: Do you know what making out is?
Youngest: Lots and lots of kissing. *grins*


While at the movies I did see a poster for the upcoming I Am Number Four, based on the book of the same name which I reviewed here. I'm curious about it, it has Timothy Olyphant (Justified back on next month on FX!) and I liked the story. Here's the trailer. ~

Then there's Eric Bana who I seriously love! He has a new movie coming out in April that looks creepy fantastic! It's called Hanna and it also stars a big bad Cate Blanchett and Saoirse Ronan who was in The Lovely Bones. There's something about a kid trained as an assassin that appeals to me even though I know it shouldn't. The trailer certainly grabbed my interest. ~

Did anyone take in a movie or two over the holidays? Any thing you can recommend? I'd like to see True Grit and hubs said he would too so we'll try for this coming weekend. I'd also like to see Tangled but the boys refuse so I'll wait for the DVD.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Party's Over...

Okay, we didn't really party a lot but hey, the holidays are over and it's back to the regular schedule. Which can be good, especially for those of us who seem to think candy has no calories during the holidays. :)

I spent much of yesterday sorting through my books and trying to organize the tbr books, the series books and the keeper books. Although I did want a new camera, and still do, I got a new dresser instead. It's something that I've been wanting for a while and I finally found one that I liked and was within our budget. It has 7 drawers, 3 small across the top and 4 larger drawers below. Wanna guess what I put in those drawers? Did you say books? Yep! I'm trying to sort my tbr pile into sub-piles and I decided I needed different areas to keep them. The 4 large drawers are for my "Future" tbr books. Those are the ones I hope to get to within the next few years. The "Pending" tbr books are those that are next in line to move to the "Current" tbr books. Both the Pending & Current tbr books are kept on bookcases. Most of the keepers and series books are in containers either under the bed or in closets. I did use the 3 small drawers for lingerie so as not to feel guilty for buying a dresser solely for books. :)

I also did some weeding of the tbr books and now have 3 of those re-useable grocery bags full of books to take to the UBS. I'm trying to cross check what I have with the library's e-books and cut down on the number of print books I have. There is only so much room to store them and the reality is that it's gotten out of hand.

Oh, and I've found a new author that I'm preparing to gloam - Monica McCarty. I started reading her Highland Guard series. The Chief is the first book and I love it! I've got the second book, The Hawk and book three, The Ranger, just came out. Plus - I have 2 or 3 of her previous books on the Current tbr pile. :) Her website is awesome too. Loads of information on Scotland and the clans with family trees (love those!) character lists, and pictures of her trip to Scotland complete with castles and beautiful scenery. Scotland is one of those places on my list of places to go along with Australia and Alaska. Anyway, I printed some of the character information and and taking notes while reading. It's obvious she did a lot of research and what a great idea to put that information on her website for history geeks like me. :)

I did squeeze in a quick trip to Borders today and used my 50% off coupon to get Tracy Wolff's Unguarded. This one came highly recommend by Kristie and since the Super Romance line is one of my favorites it was an easy choice.

I've also been finishing up writing out thank you cards and poking, prodding and giving the stink eye to the kids to get theirs done. ^_^

So what did you all get over the holidays? Any good books or maybe you were really good and got an e-reader?

Do tell!