Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: Truth and Consequences

Truth and Consequences
Linda Winfree
Romantic Suspense
Hearts of the South/Book 1
Samhain/April 1, 2008

From Goodreads ~

When deceit and desire collide, the results can be deadly Book One of the Hearts of the South series. For undercover FBI agent Jason Harding, coming face to face with the grown-up version of his adolescent dreams is a nightmare. Kathleen Palmer sees him as a despicably corrupt small-town law officer and a murder suspect. Trapped in a web of his own making, he must see his mission through to the end and bring down the crooked cops whove run Haynes County for decades. To do so, he must betray the only family hes ever known and fight his growing love for Kathleen, a relationship that could get one, or both of them, killed.

Determined to uncover the truth, Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Kathleen struggles with her attraction to the one person who's awakened her since she buried her heart and emotions in her sons tiny grave. Listening to her heart could destroy all she has left in life her career and reputation. When the truth about Jason's identity surfaces, they both face unimaginable consequences: Jason may lose his life and Kathleen the man she loves.

This e-book has been sitting on my nook for a couple of months. It really should have sat there for a while longer since there are plenty of books I've had longer but the power of Twitter could not be denied! Popping in for a quick peek at Twitter one day, I saw @ReneeRBA, @Cranberrytarts & @mctclover discussing this series, which they all liked. I knew the author's name sounded familiar and low and behold, I actually had the first book! It must be fate. :)

Small town politics unfortunately play a roll in agent Kathleen Palmer's life. She must deal with some of the small-minded men who work in law enforcement. Some of the worst offenders come from the Haynes County sheriffs department. When Kathleen is called to investigate a shooting, she comes face to face with Haynes county's newest deputy. Right off, Winfree shows the reader the tension between the Haynes sheriff department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Kathleen being female doesn't help at all, she doesn't have the right equipment to be a good ol' boy. Pretty quickly, I had some concerns for Kathleen's safety. These good ol' boys play rough. But Kathleen holds her own, not giving an inch even when threatened. She's a smart heroine but not cold or emotionless. I think that's what made her so approachable.

Jason Harding is playing a dangerous game. He has to act like he's in with his cousin, Jim Ed, the disgusting ass of a deputy for Haynes county. Which makes it hard for him to make a good impression on agent Kathleen Palmer. Jason doesn't have it easy but his attraction to Kathleen makes his job even more difficult. Jason's job is causing a lot of conflict within himself and Winfree does well showing this conflict. Jason suspects Jim Ed is dirty and he's never liked him but he's family and Jason's short on family. You couldn't help but feel sorry for Jason getting stuck with this ass of a cousin and then having to pretend to go along with the ass.

Both Kathleen and Jason have some heavy baggage that they've been dragging around for a while. Winfree does a good job making both discuss their past hurts and come to grips with it. I liked that both characters are not only well developed but mature. They've both experienced life and have the scars to prove it. Also, Kathleen's a few years old than Jason, not much but it adds to the feeling of her being in charge. Not that Jason's a pushover but he does respect her intelligence and her experience. I really liked these two together.

The small town vibe was flowing strong throughout the story. With everyone knowing everyone's business, making it really hard for Kathleen and Jason to keep their affair a secret. Sometimes that small town vibe was too thick, making me think I'd gone back in time to the last century. The idea that the corruption had been going on for decades without any state or federal interference was a bit hard to swallow.

The romance is present but not as strongly as the suspense which makes sense since both hero and heroine are heavily involved in the struggle to uncover and put a stop to the corruption. The plot and secondary characters all add to the good verses evil of the story with Winfree giving the reader plenty of potential heroes and heroines to look forward to.

Rating: A-

Books in this series ~

Truth and Consequences
His Ordinary Life
Hold On to Me
Anything But Mine
Memories of Us
Hearts Awakened
Fall Into Me
Facing It

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Face of Danger

Face of Danger
Roxanne St. Claire
Romantic Suspense
Guardian Angelinos/Book 3
Grand Central/May 1, 2011

From the back cover ~

She's a risk-taker playing a deadly role...
He's a rule-follower fighting to keep her safe...
Together they're facing a killer who could be anyone, anywhere, anytime...

Private investigator Vivi Angelino has never met a risk she wouldn't take-and her latest client, a starlet with a madman on her heels, gives Vivi the perfect opportunity to walk on the wild side. That is, as long as she can make sure a certain overprotective, overly gorgeous FBI agent stays out of her way-and out of her fantasies.

Special Agent in Charge Colt Lang is not about to stand back and watch Vivi dangle herself as bait for a serial killer. Yet trying to rein her in means throwing his well-worn rulebook-and his iron self-control-to the wind . . . and taking the chance that his heart will become collateral damage in an already perilous case. Because a woman who can't stop searching for the truth is impossible to resist-even when every discovery she makes brings them closer to a calculating murderer with nothing to lose.

I'm really liking this series and not just the close family feel of it. The characters are interesting and not your typical cookie cutter romantic suspense hero and heroine. I was particularity interested in Vivi Angelino right from the start of the series. Now it's time for her story and it didn't disappoint!

Vivi Angelino isn't what comes to mind when most people think of a PI. She's has her own unique style that's a reflection of her love of skateboarding. But looks can be deceiving and Vivi is far more than the laid-back skatergirl she portrays. She's smart and sneaky and doesn't like to play by the rules. Which drives Special Agent Colton Lang crazy. Which Vivi secretly enjoys doing. Vivi also has a darker side, a secret in her past that still lays heavily on her. St. Claire does a wonderful job peeling back the layers of Vivi and showing the reader how Vivi the high school cheerleader came to be Vivi the smart tongued, relentless pursuer of justice.

Special Agent in Charge Colton Lang is a by the book, FBI agent who likes his life orderly, nothing out of place. Vivi knocks everything off kilter in Lang's world and he doesn't know what to make of it. Lang is a perfect contrast to Vivi. A past loss affects Lang's choices and makes him fight his attraction to Vivi. It's a case of opposites attract but it turns out they also work well together. They play off each other and bring out the best parts of each other. Vivi gets Lang to open up and be more relaxed. The dude was pretty uptight!

The suspense is tied up with Hollywood and serial killers. With Vivi posing as a double for a famous actress, Lang gets pulled into the action through the FBI's involvement. It's a complex plot with more than one suspect and the Angelino's adding their expertise to the mix. I love how this family pulls together, with each contributing to the job, none any more important than the other. I do hope Gabe's book is next. I'm not big on men who curse a lot but for some reason it sounds good coming from him. LOL

Even with the intricacies of the suspense plot the romance is still well developed with both Vivi and Lang facing their demons and allowing the other to help them work through it. I thought that was really important that they had developed a relationship they were both comfortable in. It not all smooth sailing and the tension does run high in both the suspense and the romance. By the end, St. Claire ties up the loose ends and lets the reader enjoy the HEA along with the hero and heroine.

Rating: A-

Books in this series ~

Edge of Sight
Shiver of Fear
Face of Danger

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: Undeniably Yours

Undeniably Yours
Shannon Stacey
Contemporary Romance
Kowalski Family/Book 2
Carina Press/November 1, 2011

From Goodreads ~

One-night stand + two percent condom failure rate = happily ever after?

Bar owner Kevin Kowalski is used to women throwing their phone numbers at him, but lately he’s more interested in finding a woman to settle down with. A woman like Beth Hansen. If only their first meeting hadn’t gone so badly...

Beth’s tending bar at a wedding when she comes face-to-face with a tuxedo-clad man she never thought she’d see again. She tries to keep her distance from Kevin but, by last call, she can’t say no to his too-blue eyes or the invitation back to his room. Then she slips out before breakfast without leaving a note and, despite their precautions, pregnant.

Kevin quickly warms to the idea of being a dad and to seeing where things go with Beth. After all, he’s not the player she thinks he is. But she’s not ready for a relationship and, given his reputation, it’s going to take a lot to convince her to go on a second date with the father of her child...

After reading and loving the first book in the Kowalski series I was dying to read Kevin's story. This time around most of the action takes place in and around Kevin's sports bar. The Kowalski clan is present but not as intense as in the first book. Instead, a secondary "second chance" romance runs throughout the story, adding a contrast to Kevin and Beth's romance.

Beth is an only child of parents who suffered a number of miscarriages. This lead them to be what Beth calls "hovering and coddling" when she was a child. Beth feels that her relationship with her parents was claustrophobic and lead to her nomadic lifestyle. I had a hard time getting Beth and her motivation for her transit lifestyle. She's twenty-six and I guess my perception is that by twenty-six there should be more stability in your life than getting low paying jobs and moving around the country every few months. I get the need to be independent but not the unwillingness to having any ties to anyone. Her relationship with Kevin also took some hard hits because of her overwhelming need to not be dependent on anyone. He wants to help her and make things better for her and their unborn child and she fights him every step of the way. She thinks he's trying to control her when he's really trying to be responsible. Be thankful he didn't tell you to take a hike, some guys would.

Kevin Kowalski comes from a large, boisterous, loving family. A former cop, his career and marriage went up in flames and left Kevin heading home to New Hampshire and buying a sports bar. It's been a couple years, his business is doing well, he has his family and good friends around him but something is missing in his life. Kevin is another Kowalski man that's so easy to like. He's funny and charming when he wants to be. He's responsible and caring. But he's also been burned and I found myself in his corner cheering for him and not so happy with Beth when she would do something that hurt him. I definitely had some issues with how she treated him. I liked how genuine Kevin's reaction to Beth's pregnancy was. He's a man I expect to do the right thing whether it be financial or emotional support. Do Kevin and his family come on a bit strong? Sometimes, but their hearts are in the right place and eventually Beth realizes this.

Beth and Kevin get along well from the start of their relationship. There is physical attraction but they also talk before jumping in the sack. Then when Beth shows up pregnant after her disappearing act, there is of course tension due to the circumstances but there's still that attraction so at least they have something to work with. Add in that Kevin is hard to resist and Beth's got an uphill battle to keep things strictly as friends. I loved how Kevin courted Beth. How he was there when she needed him but would back off when she got bitchy. Even his family got into it, giving Beth a look at what it would be like to be part of the big, loving Kowalski family. In the end Beth and Kevin were exactly what the other needed.

Undeniably Yours is a sweet romance with tender moments, laughter and love. Even with my sometimes annoyance with Beth, I still enjoyed the romance and seeing characters from the previous book. Shannon Stacey writes well developed characters with real problems and real flaws. I found her writing to flow well which made it easy to get caught up in the story. Undeniably Yours could be read as a stand alone but I would recommend starting from book one to get the full Kowalski effect. :)

Rating: B+

Exclusively Yours
Undeniably Yours
Yours to Keep

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: When Beauty Tamed The Beast

When Beauty Tamed The Beast
Eloisa James
Historical Romance
Fairy Tales/Book 2
Avon/January 25, 2011

From Goodreads ~

Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is a Beauty . . . Naturally, she's betrothed to a Beast.

Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. And rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman.

Linnet is not just any woman.

She is more than merely lovely: her wit and charm brought a prince to his knees. She estimates the earl will fall madly in love—in just two weeks.

Yet Linnet has no idea of the danger posed to her own heart by a man who may never love her in return.

If she decides to be very wicked indeed . . . what price will she pay for taming his wild heart?

Finally! My first Eloisa James novel. I have a number of her books on the TBR pile and yet what do I pick for my first indulgence in this lovely author? Her newest release. LOL I will admit it was the House angle that drew me to When Beauty Tames the Beast. Love that show and a hero based on the character of the irreverent Dr. Gregory House could not be passed up!

Linnet Berry Thrynne is one of the most beautiful woman of the ton. She had suitors lining up at her door but she made a minor mistake with a princely suitor and now she is considered less than desirable as a wife. Linnet doesn't cry and weep in despair but discusses the situation frankly with her father and her chaperone. The dialogue is quick and funny. Linnet is all that is proper and yet, she has this sharp wit that she lets come through. She shows her spirit and backbone when dealing with the cutting remarks her chaperone, Mrs. Hutchins, dishes out.

Linnet counted to five and then said, stonily, "It's the only chest I have, Mrs. Hutchins, and everyone's gowns are designed like this. There's nothing special about my neckline."

"It makes you look like a light frigate," she observed.


"A light frigate. A light woman!"

"Isn't a frigate a boat?"

"Exactly, the type that docks in many harbors."

"I do believe that it is the first jest you've ever told me," Linnet said. "And to think I was worried that you might not have a sense of humor."

After that, the corners of Mrs. Hutchins's mouth turned down and she refused to accompany Linnet back to the drawing room. "I've naught to do with what's come upon you," she said. "It's the will of heaven, and you can tell your father I said so. I did my best to instill principles in you, but it was too late."

"That seems rather unfair," Linnet said. "Even a very young light frigate should have the chance to dock at one harbor before she's scuppered."

Love the way Linnet isn't afraid to disagree with her chaperone. And she does it in such a way as to show her disdain without being opening rude. It's important that she has a strong will and won't be cowered because Piers is good at making people cower.

Piers Yelverton is not hero material by any stretch of the imagination. And yet, James makes him not only heroic, but actually likable by the end of the book. He's brash, rude, argumentative and brilliant the medical field. It's that brilliance that keeps people coming to him for help, regardless of his beastly attitude. Piers' complete disregard for the proper societal conduct made him that much more fascinating. He's too busy with his patients and medical studies to be bothered with the niceties of manners. Of course there are ghosts that haunt him and that only make him that much more disagreeable. He can and usually is brutally honest, even hurtful at times but Linnet gets past that and sees the man behind the mask.

Linnet's father comes up with a scheme to marry Linnet off to Piers. Her father may have thought he was doing what was best for her but really, the man was an idiot. I was glad she got away from him. So off to Wales Linnet goes to meet her intended. Piers, on the other hand, doesn't want a wife and makes it very clear in his very Piers way. But Linnet has that backbone and she stands up to him in her own way which surprises him. The interactions between Piers and Linnet were at the heart of the story. We see how from the first they have this quick back and forth, give and take, in their dialogue. It's as if they're challenging each other to a duel with words. Both are intelligent and have a clever sense of humor that they enjoy employing on each other.

Piers and Linnet don't get off to the best start but they find themselves drawn to each other which eventually leads to the more physical aspect of their relationship. As Piers and Linnet fall deeper in lust, because of course it can't be love, they actually spend time talking and learning about each other. I don't think many people bothered to learn much about either one of them - Linnet because society had her high on a pedestal and Piers because he's well, Piers. So in addition to them lusting after each other they become friends, confidants. They "get" each other and are comfortable with each other in a way they had never been with anyone else.

A trace of brine lingered on his lips. And his kiss was pure Piers: rough and demanding, without a trace of civility. Linnet felt as if she were the slave girl again, lying at the feet of her master. No, not at his feet, since her whole body was thrilling to the weight of him.

Lying under her master, submitting to his -

"Bloody hell," Piers said, lifting his mouth and glaring at her. "Why do I feel as if I'm making love to a rag doll here? You seemed to know how to kiss yesterday."

She pulled her hand free and wrapped her arms around his neck. "We're not making love."

"Right. Let's go back to my initial comment, stripped of the love part. Why am I bothering to kiss a limp -"

She stifled a groan. "Shut up, Piers."

Their eyes met for a single, electric moment. Then his eyes darkened, and his mouth took her again.

I think they are by far, one of the best couples I have read in a long time.

Everything doesn't go smoothly for these two and they both must deal with their deepest fears and their deepest feelings. As is often the case, tragedy brings out the best in people and makes them realize what is truly important. This was such an enchanting fairy tale of overcoming fears and prejudices and finding love in the most unlikely place. A love story you won't want to miss!

Rating: A+

Books in this series ~

A Kiss at Midnight
When Beauty Tamed the Beast
This Duke is Mine (2012)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Last Day at Access Romance Readers Gab...

Some of you may have heard that Access Romance is closing at the end of the month. So today is my last post there. Please come by and find out all the reasons us readers get each other.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

TBR Challenge Review: Exclusively Yours

Exclusive Yours
Shannon Stacey
Contemporary Romance
Kowalski Family/Book 1
Carina Press/June 7, 2010

From Goodreads ~

When Keri Daniels’ editor finds out she has previous carnal knowledge of reclusive bestselling author Joe Kowalski, she gives Keri a choice: get an interview or get a new job.

Joe’s never forgotten the first girl to break his heart, so he’s intrigued to hear Keri’s back in town — and looking for him. Despite his intense need for privacy, he’ll grant Keri an interview if it means a chance to finish what they started in high school.

He proposes an outrageous plan — for every day she survives with his family on their annual camping and four-wheeling trip, Keri can ask one question. Keri agrees; she’s worked too hard to walk away from her career.

But the chemistry between them is still as potent as the bug spray, Joe’s sister is out to avenge his broken heart and Keri hasn’t ridden an ATV since she was ten. Who knew a little blackmail, a whole lot of family and some sizzling romantic interludes could make Keri reconsider the old dream of Keri
Joe 2gether 4ever.

This one hasn't been on my tbr pile for long but I will confess that I got caught up in the mass of positive reviews for book 3 in this series, Yours to Keep, so I had to start this series! And it is a contemporary so I could justify bumping it up the list since it fits in with this month's category. See how that works? We readers can justify nearly anything when it comes to books. :)

A book that starts with the mention sex in the backseat of my first car* not only brings back memories, it makes me glad I didn't have that car for long. Lord, that car was ugly! Although, Joe's car is brown and my was blue, still... ugly car.

Keri and Joe were high school sweethearts who thought they had everything planned out, then Keri went and changed the plans. It's almost 20 years later and Keri is put in a position where she must go back home to and see Joe again. Her job is on the line and since her job is the Most Important Thing In Her Life, she's willing to do anything to get the story.

I felt sorry for Keri, for putting so much into her career that she had so little left to give to any other part of her life. Sure, she had friends and other interests but they held such a small part of her time. The vast majority was given to her job. And she was okay with that. I think she had become use to her life centered around her job. Then, when she goes to interview Joe she begins to see what has been missing from her life - family.

Joe *deep sigh* I adored, lusted and just plain wanted Joe. Yeah, I know, he's fictional. So what? Isn't that kinda the point? LOL Joe is this immensely popular author whose career has brought him fame and fortune but not much happiness in the romance department. He is very close with his family and Stacey does a fantastic job not only showing but explaining that bond that the Kowalski siblings have. They argue, fight, tease and torment like pros but their loyalty and love always comes through. Even with all his fame, Joe is very down to earth. He doesn't embrace his celebrity but rather hides from it. He just wants to be left alone to write and enjoy time with his family. He's easy to like and easy to get to know, kind of an open book. :) With Keri, we see his vulnerable side. We see how much her leaving hurt him. I liked seeing that in the hero. Who says they have to be strong and stoic all the time? Let them show us how they're feeling and how deep they feel. Stacey does that and does it well with Joe.

There are certainly lighter and very humorous scenes throughout Exclusively Yours brought to you by the Krazy Kowalski family. The whole camping/ATV vacation that Keri is forced to go on is an adventure in endurance, patience and fortitude with a healthy dash of irritation thrown in. She also experiences that close bond the family has and can't help getting caught up in the their wild antics. I loved how she surprised herself by actually enjoying the trip

Joe's instructions to Keri as to what to bring on the camping trip ~

BRING: Bug spray; jeans; T-shirts; several sweatshirts, at least one with a hood; one flannel shirt (mandatory); pajamas (optional); underwear (also optional); bathing suit (preferably skimpy); more bug spray; sneakers; waterproof boots; good socks; sunscreen; two rolls of quarters.

DO NOT BRING: cell phone; Blackberry; laptop; camera, either still or video; alarm clock; voice recorder; any other kind of electronic anything.

She had no clue what it meant, other than Joe wanting her half-naked and unable to text for help.

Love Shannon Stacey's humor that's splashed throughout the story. I found myself laughing out loud so much and sometimes thankful that I wasn't in Keri's shoes, which were often dirty, wet, muddy and/or stinky. :)

Keri and Joe do have a history and that history also includes Joe's twin sister Terry. There is a boatload of tension between these former BFFs and while Joe tries to keep from getting stuck in the middle, he doesn't always succeed. I thought having that secondary relationship between Keri and Terry explored, it made the overall story more realistic to have Keri tied to this family not only by Joe but by Terry.

If there was one thing that bothered me just a little it was the time spent on Terry's problems with her marriage. While I felt it was important to show how she was feeling and what she was going through, if only to explain her reaction to Keri and Joe, I did feel it took a little too much of the story away from Keri and Joe's story. And there is also some drama with Joe's other brother and his wife. So lots of drama in the Kowalski camp.

After reading Exclusively Yours I went and bought Undeniably Yours and saw Netgalley had Yours to Keep for request and was lucky enough to get that too. Knowing I have more hours of reading pleasure from the Kowalski brothers makes me one happy camper!

Rating: A-

Books in this series ~

Exclusively Yours
Undeniably Yours
Yours to Keep

*1978 Ford Granada. Mine was dark blue.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: Where She Went

Where She Went
Gayle Forman
Young Adult
Sequel to If I Stay
Dutton/April 5, 2011

*Spoilers for If I Stay*

From the inside cover ~

My first impulse is not to grab her or kiss her or yell at her. I simply want to touch her cheek, still flushed from the night's performance. I want to cut through the space that separates us, measured in feet - not miles, not continents, not year - and to take a callused finger to her face. . .

But I can't touch her. This is a privilege that's been revoked.

It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future–and each other.

Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

The follow-up to the emotional If I Stay turns the tables and gives the readers Adam's POV. It's an interesting twist to a young adult novel where so often if only one POV is given, it is the female. Adam's voice is quick, harsh and intensely honest at times, if only with himself. He tries to keep this bubble around him, keeping everyone out, distancing himself from the possibility of feeling anything too intense. When he does think or say what he feels, it can be shocking, not only to the receiver but to Adam himself.

The look inside Adam's head was insightful. He's such a guy at times - doesn't understand women, doesn't always want to understand women. Trying to understand women makes his head hurt. But he does get Mia. Or at least he did until she cut him out of her life. It's that cut that was the catalyst for who Adam is now. You get this overwhelming sense that he just doesn't care anymore. He's going through the motions and it's pulling him down even deeper. Then Mia comes back into his life and you can see how he's afraid to hope that he can have her back. He's afraid of her.

Forman puts those emotions on the page for all to see, giving the reader a in-depth look at what Adam has been through and is still going through after losing not only Mia but her family as well. It's heartbreaking to see Adam and Mia at a loss as to what to do. These two who knew each other so well, now feel unsure and uncomfortable in each others company. Mia's actions and reactions to Adam show how the loss of her family and of Adam affected her deeply, causing her to make hard but sometimes necessary choices. While we don't get Mia's POV, we do get to know what she's been going through and how she feels about Adam. But ultimately, this is Adam's story, then Adam and Mia's.

There is this strand of hope throughout the story that can be stretched so thin to almost be transparent. Hope that Adam and Mia will be the reunited lovers of fairy tales. Hope that Adam will say what he needs desperately to say to Mia. Hope that Mia won't walk away from Adam again. Hope that the world won't conspire against them. I loved how that tiny bit of hope kept lingering.

Where She Went is a beautiful continuation of Adam and Mia's story with Adam's POV lending the story a distinct voice in the young adult genre.

Rating: A

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: Breaking Point

Breaking Point
Pamela Clare
Romantic Suspense
I-Team/Book 5
Berkley/May 3, 2011

From the author's website ~

While investigating border violence in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Denver journalist Natalie Benoit is caught in a bloody ambush and taken captive. Alone in the hands of ruthless killers, she will need every ounce of courage she possesses to survive.

Betrayed by another operative, Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride has endured a week of torture and interrogation at the hands of a bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartel. Ready to give his life if he must, he remains unbroken—until he hears the cries of an American woman.

Although Natalie is only a voice in the darkness of their shared prison, her plight brings renewed strength to Zach's battered body. With her help, he overpowers their captors, and they flee through the desert toward the border, the attraction between them flaring hotter than the Sonoran sun.

But past loss and tragedy leave both of them reluctant to follow their hearts, even when the passion between them reaches its breaking point. Faced with feelings neither expected, they fight to stay ahead of the danger that hunts them as forces more powerful than they can imagine conspire to destroy them both…

Pamela Clare is an author with a gift of true story telling. She not only gets you into the characters head, she lets you live there. As I started reading Breaking Point I had a feeling it would be different than her other I-Team novels in that it takes place primarily away from the teams office. The subject matter of human trafficking is spotlighted and Clare does a incredible job of showing the different affects it has on people.

While Natalie Benoit has been in previous I-Team books, very little is known of her background. She's considered a southern belle, beautiful but not exactly approachable. Natalie has a shattered past that keeps her from getting too close to anyone. She chooses to be more focused on her work, maintaining relationships with co-workers but still keeping them at a distance. As Natalie finds herself in desperate, life-threatening situations, she shows what she's made of. I would say she is one of my favorite heroines of this series. She's smart, brave but still has that southern belle feel to her. Steel Magnolia. Clare showed Natalie doing things that she never thought she would or could do, but she did them because she is a survivor. I liked how Natalie was sicked by the violence she was forced to carry out but she understood that if she didn't fight back, she would be dead. Her feelings and reactions were genuine to the situation without any TSTL moments to irritate this reader.

Zach McBride is in a world of hurt. He's looking death in the face and it's ugly. Then he hears a voice out of a dream and he has a reason to keep living. Zach and Natalie are forced to trust each other if they're going to get out alive. It's a unique way to begin a romance since, at first, neither can see the other and then when they do, they are looking far from their best. Zach is a scarred hero, both literally and figuratively. He doesn't make any promises to Natalie, just tells it like it is. The pacing is furious and you wouldn't think they would have much time to get to know each other but they do and it felt right when they do get together. And boy do they burn up the desert with their very hot, very emotional scenes. There is definitely romance and passion between Natalie and Zach.

The suspense is intense and the environment brutal. Clare doesn't hold back on the savagery or the desperation of the circumstances Zach and Natalie find themselves in. I think I would have found it disappointing had the tone been less harsh. Kudos to Clare for not backing off when it comes to showing the reality of a life where the cartels hold the power.

Another great thing about Breaking Point are the heroes and heroines from the previous novels lend a hand to help Natalie and Zach. It was wonderful to see them again, pulling together for their friend. I loved the camaraderie between the men, especially Marc and Julian.

After everything Natalie and Zach go through escaping the cartel, they still have some heavy baggage to deal with. They worked hard for their HEA and Clare gave them a lovely ending that not only wrapped up the loose ends but gave them a beautiful beginning.

Rating: A

Books in this series ~

Extreme Exposure
Hard Evidence
Unlawful Contact
Naked Edge
Breaking Point

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: Enclave

Ann Aguirre
Young Adult/Dystopian
Razorland/Book 1
Feiwel & Friends/April 12, 2011

From the inside cover ~

In Deuce’s world, an enclave deep underground, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained to join one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

Once again, another well known author of adult fiction has branched out into Young Adult territory. Ann Aguirre has made a name for herself, first with her Sirantha Jax series, then her Corine Solomon series. If that wasn't enough, she also writes under the pen names Ava Grey and Ellen Connor (with Carrie Lofty). Yet, Ms. Aguirre has managed to find time to write her first YA novel and how lucky we are that she has!

Brutal, harsh, creepy, suspenseful, gruesome - all could be used to describe the world of Razorland. It's a place where survival is a daily gamble, never knowing who will fall victim to the Freaks that prowl the tunnels. But it's not just the Freaks that might get you. The laws ruling the enclave of survivors are made to eliminate the weak, going so far as to breed them out. If you don't follow the rules, you are banished from the enclave to take your chances in the tunnels with the Freaks. The story opens with Deuce's birthday, which brings her pride because it is her naming day. She is also aware that it brings her that much closer to her death.

[Deuce] Today was my birthday. Each one added a layer of fear, and this year, it was worse. I lived in an enclave in which our oldest had seen twenty-five years. His face was withered, and his fingers shook when he attempted the smallest tasks. Some whispered it would be a kindness to kill him, but they meant they didn't want to see their futures written in his skin.

The story is told in Deuce's POV and she gives it a unique view as her limited knowledge of the world outside her enclave grows. Deuce is smart, compassionate, a loyal friend, a fierce fighter and most of all a survivor. It was easy to slip inside her head and see this bleak world through her eyes. I liked how Aguirre didn't keep Deuce from absorbing the darker side of this world. As Deuce's knowledge grows, her innocence fades. She realizes that everything and everyone are not as they seem and she must change her perceptions if she is to survive.

Fade becomes Deuces partner when she becomes a Huntress. Not much is known about Fade. He keeps to himself so the little knowledge that Deuce does have is supplied mostly from rumors. She does know that he is the best fighter and there is a lot she can learn from him. Their relationship has to grow quickly because they must rely on each other when hunting. Alone, they would have little chance of defeating a band of Freaks so they must work together.

The story progresses quickly, with Deuce and Fade patrolling and hunting. The fight scenes against the Freaks are ferocious, it's always a fight to the death. As the Freaks' tactics begin to change, becoming more coordinated, Deuce and Fade also face trouble within their enclave. The emotions Aguirre evokes are savage in their honesty. It is a brutal world but it's the only one Deuce knows - it is her home. Which makes her loyalty to her enclave hard to witness as they don't hold that same degree of loyalty for her.

As Deuce and Fade are forced to make desperate choices, they also expose themselves to the truth and must trust in those truths if they are to survive. As the story progresses, Deuce and Fade strike out on their own, now completely dependent on each other. We see how they must adjust to this new world and how it tests their fragile bond. I did expect that bond to be stronger than it was and not become stretched so tight. The ending was more a beginning and will leave the reader wishing for the next chapter in this conflicted world of survival.

Enclave is truly an intense world filled with compelling characters you won't soon forget. I can not wait to read Outpost!

Rating: A-

Books in this series ~

Outpost (Tentative ~ Fall 2012)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

ARC Review: Portrait of Seduction

Portrait of Seduction
Carrie Lofty
Historical Romance
Sequel to Song of Seduction
Carina Press/May 2, 2011

From Goodreads ~

Salzburg, 1805

Greta Zwieg forges masterpieces. With her copies on their walls and the original paintings safely hidden, the noble families of Austria can rest assured their treasures will survive Napoleon’ s advances. But now Greta's uncle is changing the rules, selling her counterfeits as originals. Greta abhors the deceit. Anxious for her family's safety in a perilous time, she is nevertheless determined to put things right.

Oliver Doerger is living a lie of his own. Acting as valet for his aristocratic half brother, Oliver thwarts an attempt on Greta's life and is overwhelmed by the forbidden passion that flares between them. Although he’ s not truly a servant, he is a bastard and a spy—certainly no match for a woman of such exquisite quality.

Though both fear discovery, they cannot resist each other. When the truth comes out, and the city falls into chaos, Greta and Oliver will be forced to choose: love or duty?

What a lovely change of place for a historical romance. Often, romances written during this period either take place in England or France. Rarely, do authors venture into other lands and give readers a look at the turmoil caused by Napoleon and his need to conquer. Ms. Lofty takes the reader into Salzburg, where the aristocracy refuses to let the threat of Napoleon spoil their fun. It's here that Oliver and Greta meet in a most inauspicious occasion.

Greta Zwieg was left under the guardianship of her uncle at the age of ten. She feels indebted to her uncle for taking her in after her parent deaths. To prove herself worthy of his hospitality, she paints and her uncle sells her paintings, allowing Greta to feel as though she is contributing towards her keep. It's when he begins to sell her copies as the original works of art that throws Greta into conflict. She tries to stop him but he is a cold bastard and reminds her of his "generosity" in allowing her to live with his family all these years. It's easy to feel for Greta. She really has no choice at this point but to go along with her uncle. I thought Lofty did well in showing the few choices women had in this time period. Falling for Oliver doesn't help, since he is a servant and below her station.

Oliver Doerger is more than meets the eye. A valet/servant for his half-brother, Oliver is also a spy, having spent time in the army, learning his craft. He's very good and not easily distracted until he sees Greta. He knows he has no chance with her, she is of the nobility and he a servant. But he's still deeply attracted to her. They continue to find themselves together at various functions and at one point living in the same house. It doesn't take long for them to act on the attraction, leaving them both wondering where it could lead, if anywhere.

The romance is mixed with the turbulence of the time and the past that comes back to haunt Oliver. You feel that Greta, at least, wants to take control of the only thing she can, her body. She begins as the aggressor and I liked that about her. You go girl! She fumbles a little but her and Oliver are so right together, you know they just have to give in to it. And boy do they! Beautiful, steamy love scenes with that sense of danger just lurking around the corner make for some tender and heartfelt moments.

The story took a bit for me to get into and get caught up in. There was a secondary characters whose story line I felt dragged on for too long, slowing down the flow at times. Once I did get drawn into Greta and Oliver's adventurous romance, there was no turning back. The feel of the time period, the mounting tension of the political arena all added to make a captivating story.

Portrait of Seduction is the sequel to Song of Seduction but I believe it could be read as a stand alone. The hero and heroine from Song do make an appearance but enough back ground is given on them that I didn't feel left of out the loop as they became part of Greta and Oliver's story. Now I must go back and read Song of Seduction!

Rating: B+

Monday, June 6, 2011

ARC Review: You Belong to Me

You Belong To Me
Karen Rose
Romantic Suspense
Signet/June 7, 2011

From the author's website ~

Years ago, a young girl was beaten and raped while onlookers did nothing. Now those witnesses are becoming victims themselves…

Baltimore city Homicide Detective JD Fitzpatrick has seen a lot of horrific violence, both as a cop and during his deployment in Afghanistan, but nothing like the trail of tortured bodies that are turning up throughout the city. He’s up against a brutal killer with a very personal vendetta. And now JD is beginning to suspect that his medical examiner may be shielding some crucial evidence linked to the case.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Lucy Trask is intrigued by JD’s compassion, but she isn’t about to mix work with pleasure. Not while there’s a ruthless killer on the loose. And definitely not while she’s keeping a dark secret that could connect her to these vicious killings—and put her next on the killer’s hit list…

Karen Rose is one of my favorite romantic suspense authors. She delivers wonderful, multi-layered characters with plots that twist and turn and have you on the edge of your seat. Her newest release is no different. There are a new set of characters with a couple of secondary characters from previous books, and a new city to get to know. The antagonist is dark, evil and intelligent, making it a real challenge for the hero and heroine to defeat. The plot is intricate, with just enough clues to keep the reader guessing.

Lucy Trask - Oh, I like this new heroine. She's smart, tough, feisty and doesn't intimidate easily. She also has a soft side that she shows to her friends but maintains a separation from her professional life. She might come across as a private person but her background and past experiences play into that need for privacy. Lucy is also a creature of habit. She likes order and strongly dislike anything smelling of danger. She much prefers order in her life. Rose did an exceptional job developing Lucy into a heroine who is not only likable but one the reader can connect with.

JD Fitzpatrick is new to homicide but not to death. Prior to working homicide he worked narcotics and before that he was in the army. JD has a lot of baggage that he keeps locked up tight. We get to know him through his relationships with his partner and friend, Stevie Mazzetti. Stevie is the widow of a good friend of JD's so they have a history. I liked how they interacted with Stevie being the more experienced homicide detective and JD having no problem deferring to that experience. JD's an alpha but he's also a smart man and knows when to ask for help on the job. His personal life is another story. He's baggage is from the army and from the death of his wife and their broken relationship. Yeah, he's got a lot to work through.

There are a number of new secondary characters who not only add to the feel of this new city and new police force, but they incorporate themselves well into the overall story. Everyone has a part to play and they all play it well. There are a few that I would like to see more and and hope they get their stories told.

The murders are gruesome. There's just no getting around it. Torture and mutilation are what this killer likes. The killer also likes to play games with the police and with Lucy. Some might think it was overdone but I felt it was in line with the character's background and previous actions. The pieces of the puzzle come together slowly, giving the characters as well as the reader a chance to get to discover the back story of the victims and piece it all together. The pacing is well done with that attention to details that Rose is known for. I love when I get those "AH" moments, realizing when earlier clues all fit together to form the final picture.

This is certainly not one to miss. A great mystery and wonderful romance with strong characters and an equally strong plot. Ms. Rose has another winner on her hands and left this reader hungry for more.

Rating: A

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Review: Shiver of Fear

Shiver of Fear
Roxanne St. Claire
Romantic Suspense
Guardian Angelinos/Book 2
Forever/April 1, 2011

*Possible Spoilers for 1st Book

From Goodreads ~

The legacy that haunts her . . .

The mystery she must solve . . .

A man who threatens to reveal her secrets . . .

and break her heart.

Burned by a failed marriage, former FBI agent Marc Rossi wants back in the investigation game with no emotional strings attached. Taking an assignment for his enterprising Angelino cousins, he heads to Northern Ireland to pry a key piece of evidence from a missing socialite-any way he can. But when the ice queen turns out to be warm, beautiful, and on a secret mission of her own, the job becomes a passionate reminder of what happens when duty and desire mix. The daughter of an infamous fugitive, Devyn Sterling has survived betrayal only to find that her mother has mysteriously disappeared. When her search uncovers secrets, lies, and threats, Devyn and Marc must trust each other when every instinct says they can't . . . and a terrorist wants to make sure they won't live to try.

After reading and enjoying the first book in this series, Edge of Sight, I was looking forward to reading about Marc Rossi, cousin the the Angelino twins, Zach and Vivi. I liked the whole family feel the series takes on and we learned just enough about Marc in Edge of Sight to make me want to know more. Marc heroine was also in book one as a minor character and little was known about her.

Devyn Sterling is not a heroic type of woman. She's accustomed to the good life of fine living. Her world is turned around when her husband is killed and she learns her true parentage. She sets out to find her biological mother and get more information about her infamous biological father. Devyn's background doesn't equip her for the intrigue and danger she finds in Ireland. She pulls a few TSTL moves and I really had to wonder about her survival instincts. Thankfully she pulls it together and she's lucky Marc Rossi is one of the good guys since she joined up with him without knowing anything about him. Apparently she forgot you're not suppose to get into a car with a stranger!

Marc Rossi is not much for heroics. He prefers to let others take the limelight. His first assignment for the newly formed Guardian Angelinos sounds right up his alley. Marc's patience is put to the test when he has to deal with Devyn Sterling and her stubbornness. I thought Marc showed real restraint when dealing with Devyn. They have a strong attraction going but it took a while for me to feel like these two could make a couple.

The romantic suspense keeps Marc and Devyn on the run and searching for answers that just lead to more questions. The traveling in Ireland was a nice change of pace. Often, readers only read about Ireland in historicals. I liked the whole feel of the modern Ireland with all it's beauty and it's darker side. The mystery of who, what and WTF was well done. I liked that things were not always what they seemed - it keep Devyn and Marc on their toes. I would go so far to say that the suspense kept me engaged far more than the romance.

I think one of the best things about this series so far is the sense of family and loyalty. The way they support each other, even when they don't agree, gives the reader something to relate to and cheer on. I only wish I hadn't found some of the heroine's actions questionable. For me, that was the weakest point in the story. She didn't irritate the crap out of me but she didn't exactly endear herself to me either. In the end, it was the suspense and the hero that I enjoyed the most.

Rating: B

Books in this series ~

Edge of Sight
Shiver of Fear
Face of Danger

Thursday, June 2, 2011

May Reads...

May was suppose to be a good month. An easy month. It was anything but. After the trip to the ER and the stay in the hospital I'm ready for some non-drama time. The pneumonia is almost gone and I'm taking full advantage of ordering the kids around. They are learning how much work goes into keeping the house clean. The teen even recruited the youngest to help wash her car. Now I just need to get them to wash mine. :)

I did pretty well on the reading front. Lots of good reads, with only a few so-so. I'd call that a good month. If everything goes well, I should be going to Denver this month. We're just waiting for my brother's cancer to go into remission. I've been getting ready by starting a pile of paperbacks to take with me. (Hey, I know my priorities!) So far I have a good mix of genres - mystery, YA, contemporary, PNR, and a historical. I'm sure I'll add more to the mix.

In case you're curious ~

A Cold Day for Murder ~ Dana Stabenow
Angel Star ~ Jennifer Murgia
Unguarded ~ Tracy Wolff
Frostfire ~ Lynn Viehl
Follow My Lead ~ Kate Noble

I'll also be taking my nook and since I have a droid phone now, I have the Kindle app with books there as well. If I'm feeling okay, I might even sneak in a trip to a UBS. :)

The May Reads...

Audio Books

1. If I Stay/Gayle Forman/YA/A
2. Crimson City/Liz Maverick/PNR/C+

If I Stay was a quick listen at only 5 hours long. As an example, Julia Quinn's newest release, Just Like Heaven is 10 hours. Even though it was quick it was very emotional, had me tearing up. I have the follow up book, Where She Went waiting not so patiently on the tbr pile. I would definitely recommend If I Stay.

After reading Julia Spencer-Fleming's One Was A Soldier I downloaded the audio book from the library, listened to it and enjoyed it all over again. Can you tell I really love that series?

Print/Electronic Books

1. Breaking Point/Pamela Clare/RS/A (review to come)
2. The Greyfriar/Clay & Susan Griffith/Steampunk/A
3. You Belong to Me/Karen Rose/RS/A (review to come)
4. Enclave/Ann Aguirre/Fantasy/YA/A-(review to come)
5. The Ranger/Monica McCarty/Historical Romance/A-
6. One Was A Soldier/Julia Spencer-Fleming/Mystery/Romance/A-
7. Edge of Sight/Roxanne St. Claire/RS/A-
8. Portrait of Seduction/Carrie Lofty/Historical Romance/B+(review to come)
9. Dragon Bound/Thea Harrison/PNR/B/B+
10. Touched by an Alien/Gini Koch/SciFi Romance/B
11. Play of Passion/Nalini Singh/PNR/B
12. Shiver of Fear/Roxanne St. Claire/RS/B (review to come)
13. Invincible/Sherrilyn Kenyon/UF/YA/C+
14. A Reason to Believe/Maureen McKade/Western Historical/C+
15. Nate/Beth Williamson/Western Historical/C+

The Numbers...

Historical Romance ~ 2
Mystery ~ 1
Paranormal Romance ~ 2
Romantic Suspense ~ 4
Science Fiction Romance ~ 1
Steampunk ~ 1
Western Historical ~ 2
Young Adult ~ 2


Print ~ 12
E-book ~ 3

Odd, no contemporaries. But still a good mix. I've been busy trying to catch up on reviews. Still a little behind but I'm getting there. If I stay on schedule I should be caught up by this time next week. Yeah!

*Photo from National Geographic site

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cover Love & Free Novella...

Julie Kagawa, author of the oh so wonderful Iron Fey Young Adult series has posted the cover for the next book, The Iron Knight, For those of you that read this series, you know this is Ash's book and I'm really looking forward to getting his POV.

Personally, I think all the covers in this series are beautiful and this is another winner. They all convey that feeling of something magical.

But that's not all. She has also published a free e-novella, Summer's Crossing, that is from Puck's POV so you know it will be fun. You can download the free e-novella at Harlequin's site.

Books in this series ~

The Iron King
Winter's Passage (novella)
The Iron Daughter
The Iron Queen
Summer's Crossing (novella)
The Iron Knight (October 25, 2011)