Monday, October 31, 2011

ARC Review: The Iron Knight

The Iron Knight
Julie Kagawa
Young Adult Fantasy
Iron Fey/Book 4
Harlequin Teen/October 25, 2011

Spoilers for previous books

From Publishers Website ~

To cold faery prince Ash, love was a weakness for mortals and fools. His own love had died a horrible death, killing any gentler feelings the Winter prince might have had. Or so he thought.

Then Meghan Chase — a half human, half fey slip of a girl—smashed through his barricades, binding him to her irrevocably with his oath to be her knight. And when all of Faery nearly fell to the Iron fey, she severed their bond to save his life. Meghan is now the Iron Queen, ruler of a realm where no Winter or Summer fey can survive.

With the unwelcome company of his archrival, Summer Court prankster Puck, and the infuriating cait sith Grimalkin, Ash begins a journey he is bound to see through to its end—a quest to find a way to honor his vow to stand by Meghan's side.

To survive in the Iron Realm, Ash must have a soul and a mortal body. But the tests he must face to earn these things are impossible. And along the way Ash learns something that changes everything.

The final book in the Iron Fey series and I'm sad to see it end. But Kagawa ended it on a high with a different view to the ongoing struggle of the world of the Fae. Instead of getting Meghan's POV we get Prince Ash as the narrator. At first I wasn't sure how well this would work since I had come to enjoy Meghan's voice but Ash proved to have an exceptional voice, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Prince Ash of the Winter Court is on a quest. He's been through a lot since meeting Meghan Chase. Now he's without her but trying desperately to get back to her. The problem is that Meghan is now the Iron Queen and if Ash tries to live in the Iron Realm with her, it will kill him. So Ash comes up with a new plan. He will become human. He's willing to give up everything he is to be with Meghan.

This was such an adventure with Ash, Puck, Grimalkin and a couple of surprise companions to round out the group. They are taken on an journey through terrifying and amazing places filled with challenges they can't be sure they'll make it past. The excitement continued throughout the story with Ash forging on over obstacles, determined to make it to his goal. The adventure kept me entranced, wondering what would happen next and who might not make it to the end.

Since this is, in essence, Ash's story, it's not surprising we learn much more about Ash and his history. Details that even Meghan doesn't know. It's heartbreaking to learn some of what Ash has been through and how he was raised in the ice cold world of the Winter Court. Ash worked hard to fit in to the cruel world of the court to please his mother, Queen Mab. By seeing his past, the reader sees how far Ash has come and how far he's willing to go.

The one problem some readers may have is the lack of the presence of Meghan. She is featured in flashbacks, dreams and towards the end but otherwise, this is all Ash's quest. I did mention I liked Ash's voice but I also missed Meghan and her outlook on the world of the Faery. We do get a lot of Robin Goodfellow aka Puck and this is a very good thing. It's hard not to like and Puck and his tireless antics, especially when he sets aside those antics and becomes serious with insight and concern.

So we come to the end of a wonderful series filled with adventure, dangerous situations, friendship and hope. I can't wait to see what Ms. Kagawa has in store for us in her next series.

Rating: A-

Books in this series ~

The Iron King
The Iron Daughter
Winter's Passage
The Iron Queen
Summer's Crossing
The Iron Knight

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Audio Review: New York to Dallas

New York to Dallas
J. D. Robb
Futuristic Suspense
In Death/Book 33
Brilliance Audio/September 13, 2011

From Goodreads ~

Isaac McQueen is a savage pedophile who just can't quit. Now that he's escaped from New York's Riker Island, he has only three goals: Stay free; continue his perverted attacks; and wreak revenge on the cop who brought him down: Eve Dallas. J.D. Robb's 33rd futuristic In Death novel promises to take readers deep into the mind and heart of Eve Dallas than ever before.

A different take on the popular In Death series. This time Eve Dallas, sans the Scooby gang, travel to well, Dallas, to hunt down a nasty bit of human refuge who has a past association with a young Officer Dallas. With Dallas is husband Roarke who is once again there to aid his wife in her work. It's understandable that Roarke refuses to let Eve go to Dallas without him. It's the scene of a past trip to hell that Dallas made as a child. A time that still haunts her.

The scenery might have changed from crowded big city to cowboys and cattle but cops are still cops no matter where they reside. The Dallas police are a little different than what Eve is use to. Their bullpen is much neater and not as noisy but they do learn quickly to work as a team and Dallas gets the support of the other cops. She also meets up with a victim from her past. The victim, Bree Jones, was one of the women Isaac McQueen, sicko killer pedophile, kidnapped. I liked the dynamics of Eve and Bree as they meet again after 12 years. This time it's not cop and victim but cop to cop working together on the same case. The rest of the Dallas police force were simply okay but not memorable.

Roarke is there of course. His and Eve's relationship seems to have settled in, changing very little from recent books. They both support each other and understand the demons that haunt them. Roarke is there for Eve when she suffers the flashbacks of the room with the red light. I've gotten tired of those scenes but wasn't surprised they figured prominently in this installment.

There wasn't much in the way of action and the big surprise, well it wasn't that big or that surprising. Maybe the series is winding down. It felt like it with much of the same happening, just a different location. New York to Dallas wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't up to the caliber of many of the previous installments.

Rating: C+

Friday, October 28, 2011

ARC Review: Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels

Everything I Learned About Love
I Learned From Romance Novels
Sarah Wendell
Sourcebooks/October 1, 2011

From the Publisher's Website ~

Take a dashing hero with a heart of gold and a mullet of awesome. Add a heroine with a bustle and the will to kick major butt. Then include enough contrivances to keep them fighting while getting them alone and possibly without key pieces of clothing, and what do you have? A romance novel. What else? Enough lessons about life, love, and everything in between to help you with your own happily-ever-after.

Lessons like...

Romance means believing you are worthy of a happy ending

Learning to tell the prince from the frog

Real-life romance is still alive and kicking

No matter how bad it is, at least you haven’t been kidnapped by a Scottish duke (probably)

Straight from the heart of influential romance blogger Sarah Wendell, this inventive gift book provides the best wisdom about love that the romance genre has to offer. Laced with signature witty commentary and peppered with thoughts from bestselling romance authors (Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, Debbie Macomber, Eloisa James, Robyn Carr, and lots more) and avid readers, these pages will reveal what every romance reader already knows: while romances are certainly steamy, they have more to offer than just a sexy hero. In fact, they might have more to say about love than we give them credit for. Sarah Wendell is cofounder of one of the top romance blogs,

Well, if you're familiar with Sarah Wendell, then you're probably familiar with her website, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Sarah has been an outspoken advocate for the romance genre. She takes it one step further and breaks down the subtle and not so subtle nuances of the romance genre. This isn't a dry, dull text but a fun and insightful look at why romance novels are so popular and have been for decades and how readers can benefit from reading them.

Through interviews of both readers and authors, Wendell talks about what is important in a good romance novel and how readers are able to relate to the characters whether they be human or something else altogether. Much of this information we as reader are familiar with but by giving examples and discussing excerpts, she gives readers even more to talk about. The excerpts will no doubt have readers nodding their heads either in agreement or remembrance of reading that particular scene and how it made them feel. Wendell also gives those of us still made to feel embarrassed about reading romance novels good reasons why we shouldn't be.

All of this is done with Wendell's trademark humor and sarcasm. Nothing is taboo here. EIKAL is an interesting looking into the world of romance novels for both lovers of the genre and skeptics alike.

Rating: B

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: After the Fire

After the Fire
Kathryn Shay
Contemporary Romance
Firefighters Trilogy/Book 1
Berkley/November 3, 2004

From the back cover ~

Detective Megan Hale has come to Hidden Cove to begin a new life. What she's leaving behind are painful memories - of her father and husband, both policemen killed in the line of duty. What lies ahead for Megan is a dream - to start a summer camp for the orphaned children of firefighters and police officers.

Firefighter Mitch Malvaso vowed to change his life after escaping an inferno - by promising to be a better husband in a marriage-gone-bad. Instead, he finds his newfound peace in Megan's selfless plan, and a deep respect that turns to unspoken love. As they work together on the camp and cross paths in their respective roles as police officer and firefighter, the attraction between them grows; so does the fear that theirs is a love never meant to be - unless they can find the courage to face the past and embrace a passionate future of endless possibilities.

I was in the mood for a contemporary romance and since I like firefighters and small town settings, After the Fire fit the bill. While this is a romance, it's not your typical romance. The hero is married, the heroine a widow still working through the death of her husband and the problems they had before he was killed. It's not an easy road before them. The secondary romance is a friends to lovers romance which I enjoy but when the two people are beyond stubborn, it gets to be tiresome.

Megan Hale is tired of the big city and ready for a change. She takes a job as a detective in the small town of Hidden Cove, about 100 miles from New York City. It's a different environment for Megan but a good change of pace. Megan wants to open a camp for children of fallen police and firefighters and Mitch Malvaso is behind her idea and more than willing to lend a hand. Megan is attracted to Mitch but there is no way she would get involved with a married man even if that man's marriage is falling apart. I liked Megan and respected her stance on not getting involved with Mitch. They do develop a friendship that heightens the tension with everyone involved.

Mitch Malvaso loves being a firefighter and he knows the risks. After nearly losing his life in the Sinco fire he and his two siblings who are also firefighters, decide to improve their lives. Mitch wants to work on his dying marriage but he knows the reality is that it's been over for a long time. He's staying for the kids since his wife is a crazy bitch and he doesn't trust her with the kids. The stress Mitch has at home wears on him and when he meets Megan, she gives him something to focus on, the kids camp. Mitch is a decent guy who married the wrong woman but he's determine to stick with her for the kids sake. Yes, Mitch should have left the bitch but there was a good chance she would get custody of the kids and he couldn't let that happen. Her daddy was rich and powerful so Mitch had good reason to worry.

Being a small town setting, the secondary characters play an important role in the overall story line. There is Jenny, Mitch's sister and fellow firefighter. Her best friend is Grady, an EMT who shares a duplex with Jenny. They are friends who have a boatload of past failed romances between them and neither thinks they are ready for a serious relationship. They both are attracted to the other but have buried those feelings so deeply when they do act on the attraction it takes them by surprise. Unfortunately, they are both stubborn about moving from friends to lovers even though it's obvious they were meant to be together and are miserable apart. I found their story line aggravating at times and wished they'd simply get on with it.

The other secondary character with a troublesome past is Zach Malvaso, Mitch's brother and fellow firefighter. Zach was a ladies man in the past. The only problem is, he was married at the time. He's divorced now but still not ready to let go of his ex. She's moved on but Zach is having a really hard time. He wants to make up for his past sins and be a better father to his kids but he also wants a second chance with his ex. Yeah, that's not happening. I did like Zach but had I known him during his screwing around period, nope. His was an interesting storyline that left me wondering what happens to him. (His story is next in the trilogy)

There are other sub-plots that feed into the Malvaso firefighters stories. Their family and other siblings are a large part of their lives and impact how they continue to change and improve their lives. I did like the family feeling the story had not only with the Malvasos but also the firefighters themselves and to a lesser extent the police force.

I have the next book on the TBR pile and find myself curious about Zach's story and his heroine, who we meet in After the Fire. I'm wondering what her back story is and why she is such a loner. They should make for a compelling couple. The other couple featured in the next book I have no feelings one way or the other. So we'll see. After the Fire is a solid start to the Firefighter trilogy with an uncommon romance and an array of secondary characters to add to the drama.

Rating: B

Books in the trilogy ~

After the Fire
On the Line
Nothing More to Lose

Monday, October 24, 2011

ARC Review: Real Men Will

Real Men Will
Victoria Dahl
Contemporary Romance
Donovan Brothers/Book 3
HQN/October 25, 2011

From Goodreads ~

It was meant to be a one-night stand. One night of passion. Scorching hot. Then Beth Cantrell and Eric Donovan were supposed to go their separate ways. That’s the only reason he lied about his name, telling her he was really his wild younger brother. Hiding his own identity as the conservative Donovan. The “good” one.

But passion has its own logic, and Eric finds he cannot forget the sable-haired beauty with whom he shared one night of passion. When Beth discovers that Eric has lied, however, she knows he cannot be trusted. Her mind tells her to forget the blue-eyed charmer. If only every fiber of her being did not burn to call him back.

The first time I met Eric Donovan I liked him. That was in the novella Just One Taste from The Guy Next Door anthology. Then I read the next two full length books in the series and Eric ended up my shit list. I knew Dahl would have her work cut out for her if I was going to like this hero. Thankfully, Dahl's one hell of a hard worker.

What we know about Eric Donovan is that he's been in charge of the family business since his parents died when he was twenty-four. He also was left to raise his siblings, Jaime, sixteen and Tessa, fourteen. That's a lot of responsibility for someone. But Eric takes his responsibilities seriously, almost too seriously. He's so damn uptight, I don't think he knows what fun is. I get why Eric takes the brewery so seriously. It's the family heritage and was important to their father. I think by seeing things from Eric's POV, Dahl really gives the reader a better insight to Eric. She does an exceptional job showing why he comes off as such an ass sometimes. This is not how he intended his life to be. Is there some resentment? Hell yes! Eric is human but there is also a lot of love for his siblings. They may fight like cats and dogs but in the end, they really do care about each other.

Beth Cantrell doesn't do one-night-stands but for Jamie Donovan, she makes an exception, or does she? Beth meets Eric Donovan but thinks he's ladies man Jamie Donovan and Eric doesn't correct Beth's mistake. To say she's pissed off when she finds out which Donovan brother she really spent the night with is putting it mildly. Beth is a kind and generous person who has what some might consider an unconventional job. She manages The White Orchid, an upscale erotic boutique. It's a source of pride for her to have a place where women, and even some men, can go and feel comfortable exploring their hidden desires. But Beth doesn't look like a woman who runs a store like The White Orchid. I liked that Dahl didn't go with portraying Beth as this sexpot but instead went with projecting a more professional image like that of a business woman, except for the shoes. Beth's shoes drove Eric nuts and I loved it! It's like they were a glimpse of the woman behind that professional persona. A bit of her wild side peeking out.

When Eric and Beth meet again, months after their one night stand, it's a surprise for both of them. It also brings back feelings they thought they had buried. Turns out one night wasn't enough for either of them. When they let go of their inhibitions and gave in to their desires, it was beyond hot. Each pushing the other and willing them to go where they really wanted to. They still have to get past the lying Eric did and that wasn't easy for Beth to forgive or Eric to forget why he did it. Theirs is a complex relationship that works because they have to work for it.

Eric has a secret that has driven him for most of his life. It's something he needs to let go of and realize that the importance he has placed on it is not where his focus should be. It's that and other things that bring the relationship of the Donovan siblings to a head. I liked how the siblings finally had it out and Tessa and Jaime began to understand Eric better and why he acts like he does with them. I only wish they had hashed things out sooner since the arguing between the brothers was at times juvenile and petty. Their relationships are not perfect but it wouldn't be realistic if they were.

The conflicts and emotions run high in this series, with the siblings' relationships providing much of it. The romance and passion also runs high, proving that two people can overcome past mistakes and love being who they are with the person they were meant to be with.

Rating: A-

Books in the series ~

Just One Taste (novella in The Guy Next Door anthology)
Good Girls Don't
Bad Boys Do
Real Men Will

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TBR Challenge Review: Frostfire

Lynn Viehl
Paranormal Romance
Kyndred/Book 3
Signet/January 4, 2011

From the back cover ~

As one of the genetically enhanced Kyndred, Lilah can read and control the minds of animals. Rescuing a group of kids form a wayward bear brings her to the attention of GenHance, the shadowy biotech company willing to murder to acquire superhuman DNA. After being drugged and abducted, Lilah wakes up handcuffed to a half-dead man in a refrigerated truck.

Walker, a soldier critically wounded in Afghanistan, is brought back to life by Lilah's warmth and determination, and resolves to do anything he can to free and protect her. But as the two struggle to escape their grim fate, they stumble upon a remote town hiding a dark secret, and learn that Lilah is also being hunted by someone she never expected to fear: A Kyndred friend.

It's a day late and probably more than a dollar short once you factor in inflation but I finally got my TBR Challenge review up. I won't go in to details but let's just say I've been... distracted. :)

Lynn Viehl's Darkyn series is a favorite of mine so when she began the spin-off series of the Kyndred, I knew I had to read it. With the next and last book of the series due out 1 November, I decided to get ready for release day by reading the third book in the series.

Lilah Devereaux has a way with animals. Unfortunately, it didn't come naturally but through genetic enhancement done when she was a baby. Now those that experimented on her want her and those like her back. Lilah is a survivor and that is never more evident than when she is kidnapped and forced to work with a stranger to stay alive. Lilah is a tough heroine, she was the driving force behind her and Walker escaping and surviving. Walker did it more for Lilah where as Lilah did it for both of them.

Walker Kimball is a contradiction. He is soldier who was thought to be dead but in reality he is more than human and much harder to kill. When he and Lilah are kidnapped, he is protective of her, then his more baser nature comes out and he can't decide if he wants to rip out her throat or have sex with her. I have to say, there were times when Walker confused me. But, all is not lost because in the end his actions made sense. I just wish it would have made sense a little sooner.

The romance happens very fast. And it's not very romantic since Lilah and Walker are in danger for most of the book. They do find some alone time to let loose but the falling in love didn't feel right. It felt too rushed and not believable.

There is a lot going on that isn't necessarily spelled out but inferred through the actions and reactions of the characters. Sometimes I found myself re-reading certain passages to make sure I understood what was going on. It's a complex plot with a number of secondary characters having a large impact on Lilah and Walker's lives. I did enjoy the tie in of the Darkyn characters - Nick and Gabriel. Since I preferred that series over this one, it was good to see some familiar faces of the Darkyn.

Frostfire was a whirlwind story with a number of sub-plots all tying in to the two main characters and their story. While I enjoyed the action and suspense, I do wish there had been more time devoted to the romance and not felt that it was rushed for the sake of the overall world building.

Rating: B

Books in this series ~


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

ARC Review: The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden
Susanna Kearsley
Historical Time-Travel
Sourcebooks Landmark/October 1, 2011

From the author's website ~

When Eva’s filmstar sister Katrina dies, she leaves California and returns to Trelowarth, Cornwall , where they spent their childhood summers, to scatter Katrina’s ashes and in doing so return her to the place where she belongs.

But Eva must also confront the ghosts from her own past, as well as those from a time long before her own. For the house where she so often stayed as a child is home not only to her old friends the Halletts, but also to the people who had lived there in the eighteenth century. When Eva finally accepts that she is able to slip between centuries and see and talk to the inhabitants from hundreds of years ago, she soon finds herself falling for Daniel Butler, a man who lived – and died – long before she herself was born.

Eva begins to question her place in the present, and in laying her sister to rest, comes to realise that she too must decide where she really belongs, choosing between the life she knows and the past she feels so drawn towards.

While I've read some wonderful things about Susanna Kearsley's novels, The Rose Garden is the first for me. If this is any indication of the beautifully told stories that wait for me in Ms. Kearsley's novels, I will certainly be reading more.

The story starts out with sadness and pain. As Eva tries to make sense of her sister's death, she also needs to decide what to do with her own life. Her only real tie to Los Angeles was her sister. Now that she's gone there's nothing keeping Eva there. You get the sense that Eva is looking for comfort so she's not only going back to Cornwall to scatter her sister's ashes, she's going back to where she felt the most comfortable. I liked how Eva eased her way into life at Trelowarth, fitting in and making herself feel useful.

Eva's trips to the past begin with hearing the men speaking then venture into physically being there. Eva, like any of us would, has a hard time believing what she's hearing and what has happened to her. It's funny when she meets Daniel and tells him he's not real. As she comes to realize her reality has shifted dramatically, Eva familiarizes herself with the time period, doing some investigating as to who lived at Trelowarth House during that period. She has to be careful that she doesn't alert the Halletts and others of her interest since she doesn't want them knowing that she is traveling back and forth between the present and past.

The Halletts and their friends welcome Eva and are just what she needs to begin to feel again. I enjoyed the family and friendship bonds that are just as strong as they were years ago. It's like seeing a friend that you haven't seen in years and yet those years fade away and it's as if you were never apart. The secondary characters, both present and past, play important roles in Eva and Daniel's lives, giving insight into their pasts and how they developed into the people they became.

Daniel Bulter is a man of history. Kearsley does well incorporating the history of Daniel's time period with the political upheaval and the danger to Daniel and anyone who is loyal to him. He's a man of principles who doesn't waver on his beliefs. He's also opened minded enough to believe in Eva and her story of time travel. It's not that he doesn't have any questions or concerns, he has a lot, but he's also captivated by Eva and her story. Daniel takes the time to get to know Eva, as well as he can since she never stays around too long. It's an interesting romance with the hero and heroine never knowing how much time they will have together. It makes them truly cherish their time together.

The time travel is not only convincing due to the writing but also due in part to the location. Trelowarth has an enchanted feel about it. You can almost believe that Fae are hiding in the woods. That the fairy tales of old all happened here. If magic does exist anywhere, it's here. I loved how Kearsley describes the land, the rooms of the house and the people who inhabit this bewitching place.

The Rose Garden is a story filled with sadness, hope, fears, laughter and joy. It was at times a roller coaster ride of emotions, making me laugh and shed a few tears. Time travel romances may not be for everyone but Kearsley makes you believe in the unbelievable.

Rating: A

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: Snapped

Laura Griffin
Romantic Suspense
Tracers/Book 4
Pocket/September 1, 2011

From Goodreads ~

On a sweltering summer afternoon, Sophie Barrett walks into a nightmare. A sniper has opened fire on a college campus. When the carnage is over, three people—plus the shooter—are dead and dozens more are injured. Sophie escapes virtually unscathed. Yet as details emerge from the investigation, she becomes convinced that this wasn’t the random, senseless act it appeared to be. No one wants to believe her—not the cops, not her colleagues at the Delphi Center crime lab, and definitely not Jonah Macon, the homicide detective who’s already saved her life once.

Jonah has all kinds of reasons for hoping Sophie is mistaken. Involving himself with a key witness could derail an already messy investigation, not to mention jeopardize his career. But Sophie is as determined and fearless as she is sexy. If he can’t resist her, he can at least swear to protect her. Because if Sophie is right, she’s made herself the target of a killer without a conscience. And the real terror is only just beginning. . .

I knew after reading Unforgivable (Book 3) that I would love Sophia and Jonah's story. And hey, I was so right! I did not want to put this one down. It was such a thrill ride with Sophie and Jonah right along with me.

Sophie may not have a bunch of degrees like many of her colleagues, but as the receptionist and the face of the acclaimed Delphi Center she is smart and resourceful. Sophie is a heroine I knew I would connect with. She's written with flaws and strengths that we can all relate to. She comes from a family of doctors and feels like her intelligence is in questions because she didn't graduate from an Ivy League school. But she is very intelligent and has street smarts that help her out of more than one tough situation. She's not perfect but she is funny with a nice slice of attitude to go with that humor.

Jonah Macon is a big guy - 6'4 with plenty of muscles to go with the height. But I never felt like he was this lumbering neanderthal who used his size rather than his brain. He's smart but like so many men, doesn't understand woman well. One woman in particular confuses him - Sophie Barrett. Jonah has know Sophie for months, ever since she was kidnapped and Jonah was the Detective to find her. There's some sexual tension between them but Jonah is giving Sophie her space, which is very cool. But now she's throwing him some mixed signals and confusing him even more. His confusion made him even more attractive.

Sophie and Jonah together really clicked for me. I could see how they could become a couple beyond the physical attraction. There's plenty of chemistry going on but it goes past that and into a more intellectual connection. There is respect and mutual admiration for their abilities regarding their professions. The sexual tension only adds to the overall attraction they have for each other. Definitely a couple you can cheer for.

The gunman, his motivations and the theories surrounding him are well written with Griffin building the crime investigation in and around the romance. The suspense is kept tight, with a good balance of police procedure and action. The investigation didn't simply pause to add in some romance but worked right along side Sophie and Jonah's developing love story.

The Tracer series continues to entertain with appealing characters and absorbing story lines. Spring can't get her fast enough, bringing with it Ms. Griffin's next release.

Rating: A

Books in this series ~

Twisted (Spring 2012)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: Giving Chase

Giving Chase
Lauren Dane
Contemporary Erotic Romance
Chase Brothers/Book 1
Samhain/September 1, 2006

From Goodreads ~

Together they find a special love-can it survive the threat stalking her? Some small towns grow really good looking men! This is the case with the four Chase brothers. The home grown hotties are on the wishlist of every single woman in town and Maggie Wright is no exception. Maggie has finally had it with the men she's been dating but a spilled plate of chili cheese fries drops Shane Chase right into her lap. The sheriff is hot stuff but was burned by a former fiance and is quite happy to play the field.

After Shane's skittishness sends him out the door, Maggie realizes that Kyle Chase has had his eye on her from the start. Now that Shane has messed up, Kyle has no intention of letting anything stop him from wooing her right into his bed. Despite Maggie's happiness and growing love with Kyle, a dark shadow threatens everything-she's got a stalker and he's not happy at all. In the end, Maggie will need her wits, strength and the love of her man to get her out alive.

After reading Lauren Dane's futuristic romances, I decided to give her contemporary series a try. The setting of small town Petal, Georgia also pulled me in, filling my mood for a steamy small town romance. The town and it's residence definitely give off that good 'ol boy feel of friendly neighbors who look out for each other. That intrusiveness can sometimes be a hindrance to the romance but this time it felt like it belonged.

Maggie is a teacher at the local high school and she looks the part. After a makeover from her best friend, Maggie gets noticed by the notorious Chase brothers. Maggie is a nice woman with some serious image issues. She's been downplaying her looks and now that she's gaining more confidence, she feels like she can handle one of the Chase brothers. I liked how Maggie dealt with her problems stemming from her bitch of a mother and her equally bitch of a sister. They both demoralized Maggie, criticizing her looks and belittling any achievements. Thankfully, Maggie finally stood up to them and the Chase family backed her up. Love that about them!

Shane Chase is the stand-in hero. He screws up with Maggie so Kyle can step in and give her a hero she deserves. Kyle was so cool about his attraction to Maggie while Shane was dating her. Kyle is a decent guy and didn't want to compete with his brother. But once Shane dumps Maggie (he's such an ass), Kyle steps in and boy does he fall fast. It felt a little too fast but he's very clear on what he wants and that's a serious relationship with Maggie. Kyle is almost too good to be true and a little too smothering regarding Maggie.

This is a family affair with the Chase clan welcoming Maggie with open arms. She gets far better treatment from them than she ever did from her mother and sister. It was sweet and sad to see Maggie overwhelmed by the love and affection showered on her by the Chases. She had a hard time believing she deserved it thanks to the number her mom and sister did on her.

Maggie and Kyle's romance moves quickly and the added threat of a stalker only pushes them closer together. There may be a stalker lurking about but that doesn't stop Maggie and Kyle from steaming up the windows! This is erotic and Dane knows how to write it. I would have liked to see more of Kyle and Maggie developing their relationship and less of the stalker sub-plot. It felt that both Maggie and Kyle fell into lust/love too fast. I got that they liked each other but the love felt like it was do more to gratitude on Maggie's part than a deep, lasting love.

Even with the issues I had, Giving Chase was a pleasant way to spend a few hours and meet some new characters I hope to read more of. Three more Chase brothers to look forward to!

Rating: B

Books in this series ~

Giving Chase
Taking Chase
Making Chase

Friday, October 7, 2011

Free Novella From Elizabeth Hoyt

In great anticipation of the upcoming release of Scandalous Desires (October 18), the next book in the wonderful Maiden Lane series, Elizabeth Hoyt has released a free fairy tale novella. Clever John is the enchanting fairy tale at the beginning of each chapter of Scandalous Desires. The novella also includes the first three chapters of Scandalous Desires. So if you're impatient waiting on the 18th, you can get a taste of Ms. Hoyt's next release.

You can get the e-book free at B&N or Amazon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ARC Review: Only His

Only His
Susan Mallery
Contemporary Romance
Fool's Gold/Book 6
HQN/September 27, 2011

From Goodreads ~

Wedding bells are ringing in Fool’s Gold, but not for Nevada Hendrix. Her triplet sisters are engaged, and even her mother has a more active love life than she does. Determined to make a fresh start, she applies for her dream job, only to discover that her new boss is her first love. Maybe she could overlook the fact that they’ve seen each other naked, but she’ll never forget the way he broke her heart.

Tucker Janack agrees to Nevada’s “business only” ground rules. After all, love is a trap that the construction millionaire has avoided his whole life. But when great business partners turn out to be so much more, every rule gets broken. Will either of them be willing to try again…or will their past get in the way?

I was surprised I liked all three of the Hendrix sisters but I think Nevada, with her sometimes brusque manner, intrigued me the most. She has a secret in her past that was alluded to but now we find out that secret is centered around Tucker Janack.

Nevada Hendrix is ready for a change. She works for with her brother Ethan as an engineer but has decided to apply for a position with Janack Construction. They are building a casino and resort just outside of Fool's Gold and Nevada thinks this will be a great opportunity for her. It's a surprise when she find Tucker Janack instead of his father conducting the interview. Nevada is such a dynamic heroine. Someone I can see myself hanging out with. She's so generous and giving, always thinking of others which is where I had some problems with her and wanted to just yelled are her "What are you doing?!". But I'll get to that later. Now, she's trying to move on and get the job but Tucker wants to rehash the past and it just pisses Nevada off. She's more mature about the whole thing than Tucker was - good for her! She handles the situation well and once she's cooled off, listens to advice and makes the logical choice.

Tucker Janack is used to traveling the globe for his work. He never really had a permanent home so life in Fool's Gold is a new experience to him. Nevada Hendrix is not a new experience. They have a past, although Tucker doesn't seem to place as much importance on it as Nevada does. He was too absorbed in the power of Cat, as in Caterina Stoicasescu, a temperamental artist who left an impression on both Tucker and Nevada ten years ago. Tucker isn't the same guy he was ten years ago but I still had a hard time warming up to him. I'm not sure I can say I even really liked him. He was just kind of there but the real focus for me was Nevada.

As Nevada and Tucker start working together, the attraction starts to build but fate is about to bitch slap them both in the form of Caterina Stoicasescu. Seriously, I could never figure out why Nevada was so damn nice to Cat. At first Nevada felt sorry for her but then she actually started to like the stuck up diva. This just bugged the crap out of me since otherwise, I liked Nevada. Could not stand Cat. Far too manipulative and self-centered.

Nevada has other things going on besides her annoying to me, friendship with Cat. Both of her sisters are engaged and it looks like there will be a triplet wedding for two since Nevada has no prospective groom in sight. I felt so bad for her. To have to deal with this on top of everything else. There were a few bright spots in Nevada's life, namely Heidi, Charlie and Annebelle. It was good to see Nevada branch out from her sisters and have some new girls to hang out with. I would imagine all three women will get their own stories, maybe next year.

There is also a secondary romance of Nevada's mom, Denise, and a past love. I thought it was merely okay and Denise at times acted like a hormonal teenager rather than a woman in her fifties. The town of Fool's Gold also get in on the action, as usual but it didn't feel as intrusive to the romance as in some previous books.

I did find myself laughing at some of the situations Nevada found herself in. It's a good thing she has such a great sense of humor, otherwise she probably would have gone crazy!

Only His had some good points, mainly Nevada, but I think I'm ready for a break from Fool's Gold. I hope the next group of heroes and heroines are not as marriage focused as those in the past. While it's sweet and romantic, it can become a little too sweet and unrealistic. So for now I'll say good-bye to Fool's Gold and maybe I'll see you sometime next year.

Rating: B-

Books in this series ~

Chasing Perfect
Almost Perfect
Sister of the Bride (novella in Summer Brides anthology)
Finding Perfect
Only Mine
Only Yours
Only His

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ARC Review: Unleashed

Sara Humphreys
Paranormal Romance
Amoveo Legend/Book 1
Sourcebooks/October 1, 2011

From Goodreads ~

What if you suddenly discovered your own powers were beyond anything you'd ever imagined...

Samantha Logan's childhood home had always been a haven, but everything changed while she was away. She has a gorgeous new neighbor, Malcolm, who introduces her to the amazing world of the dream-walking, shapeshifting Amoveo clans...but what leaves her reeling with disbelief is when he tells her she's one of them...

And shock turns to terror as Samantha falls prey to the deadly enemy determined to destroy the Amoveo, and the only chance she has to come into her true powers is to trust in Malcolm to show her the way...

Going home can be a comfort. It can also reveal a fascinating hidden world of shapeshifters. Such is the case for Samantha Logan. She thinks to start her life new, moving into a house filled with wonderful childhood memories. It's not just the house she goes back to but Nonie, her beloved grandmother. It turns out Nonie isn't the only one waiting on Sam's arrival.

Samantha Logan gave it her best shot but she's tired of waiting to make it big in the art world. She's decided to take a break from New York City and return to the place that's calling her back. It's her grandmother Nonie's home on the coast of Rhode Island where she seeks shelter. Samantha is very down to earth, but it felt like she accepted Malcolm and his shapeshifting a little too easily. She did put up a fight when he told her they were "life mates" and destined to be together. She's a likeable character with plenty of qualities that kept her from falling into the TSTL heroine category. She does have this way of teasing Malcolm that he is so not use to. It was amusing to see him take her out on dates, which he was reluctant to do. He's very old fashion and thinks dating is for humans, of which he does not consider himself. But he wanted to please Sam so he attempted to woo her in the way of humans.

Malcolm Drew is a very attractive man who has been waiting a long to for his life mate. His wait is over and he's anxious to bring Sam into his world of the Amoveo. He doesn't want to scare her off but he also has other concerns, mainly the fact that his powers are growing weaker and there might be a Caedo after Sam. The Caedo are the enemies of the Amoveo and have tried to wipe them out. That's why the Amoveo live in secret. So along with keeping Sam safe he needs to get her to trust him which requires getting to know each other. Sometimes Malcolm was so unsure of himself while dating Sam. He would get nervous, not sure of what to say or do, which was odd since otherwise he was very confident in himself. It was sweet at times but also at odds with how he was the rest of the time. I think it had to do with his lack of experience in dating and developing a relationship with a woman. He had been with women, just nothing long term.

The world building was interesting with the different clans of Amoveo represented by different animals. They also have the ability to speak to each other through their minds and travel at the speed of thought. While there is information on the Amoveo and their history, I was still left with a lot of questions and hope Humphreys will go deeper into the Amoveos and their history in future books.

The plot involving the Caedo held my interest even though I had a pretty good idea of the identity of Sam's stalker. There was a nice twist at the end with both Sam and Malcolm making a joint effort at defeating the big bad. The secondary characters add to the story with Nonie providing Sam guidance and family and Davis, Malcolm's butler, providing some much needed advice for Malcolm. There are other Amoveos who are part of Malcolm's life and they certainly have the potential for future heroes. Sam's best friend Kerry gets in on the action and catches the eye of one of the Amoveos so I wouldn't be surprised if they get their own book.

The romance is sweet at times, intense at others. There is the life mate angle that some readers might not like. Sam and Malcolm did getting to know each other through their dates but for Malcolm it was already a done deal. Malcolm's attitude bothered me but he eventually did come around. I did like how Sam handled his bossiness, letting him know she would and could make her own decisions. He learned how to loosen up a bit and not be so domineering which was good since their relationship wouldn't have worked had he not learned how to bend a little. So, while it started out with Malcolm seemingly holding the power, in the end they both ended up as equals.

Unleashed begins a new series and while it didn't blow me away, it did make me want to learn more about the world of the Amoveo.

Rating: B

Sunday, October 2, 2011

ARC Review: Tempted by His Target

Tempted by His Target
Jill Sorenson
Romantic Suspense
Harlequin/September 20, 2011

From Goodreads ~

Wanted for the murder of a Mexican drug lord's son, party girl Isabel Sanborn fled to Oaxaca. Now she owes her life to Brandon Knox, a passing tourist who just saved her from a hit man.

But Knox is no accidental hero—he's an undercover U.S. marshal assigned to bring Isabel to justice. Instead, wanting to protect her, he joins her on the lam…with cartel goons and corrupt police in hot pursuit!

And as the danger escalates, sexual tension sizzles. For the first time in his career, Brandon considers jeopardizing his mission to safeguard his target. And though Isabel can elude the authorities,she can't escape her feelings…

The opening pulled me in, set on a beach, with the hero watching the heroine surf. (One movie I can watch over and over is Blue Crush). He may be the well-trained one but she can hold her own against the men after them. The setting is not a place we see often either. Although I've only been to Baja, Sorenson did a good job describing not only the landscape but the people and culture of the Oaxaca region. It was an enjoyable change of scenery.

Isabel Sanchez loves the ocean. It's one of the reasons she's living in this region of Mexico. She fled her life and the high living in LA when a night of drugs and loss of memory put her on the most wanted list of a dangerous man and the US government. But it's the drug lord that she's more afraid of since she thinks he wants her dead. Isabel Sanchez aka Izzy Sanborn has come a long way from the party girl she use to be. I liked how Izzy has transformed herself into a survivor. She still makes mistakes but her survival instincts have kicked in.

Brandon Knox is just a surfer, looking for the perfect wave when he shows up on the same beach as Izzy. A harmless tourist who just happens to teach self defense classes which explains why he's so good at saving Izzy from the men who are after her. Just like Izzy, I had no problem buying into this but when Brandon pulls out a gun and ammo, his story started to get shaky. His fear of Izzy bolting if she knew who he really was very genuine. The reason she's in Mexico is because she ran so there's no reason to believe she won't do it again but as they became closer and he thought of them having a life after she was safe, he should have come clean and trusted her.

The romance was an on-the-run romance which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. This time it didn't fully work for me. I got the physical attraction part. Izzy and Brandon had no problem steaming things up, but the actually falling in love part is where I felt the story weakened. Since they were both lying to each other about who they were, it was hard to believe they actually fell for the real person. Too many lies in the way. Maybe if they had had a chance to fall in love after they were no longer on the run, it might have made it more believable.

The suspense runs fairly high with little down time. With Izzy knowing the country and how the drug cartels work, she proved to be a real asset to Brandon. At times, he played the muscle while she was the brains. Even with all of Brandon's training, Izzy was just as important a factor in keeping them alive as he was. (I liked that!) They did learn to work together quickly with part of that due to the fact that they didn't have much choice if they wanted to survive. There was still an air of mistrust between the two which made sense since neither was telling the full truth.

Tempted by His Target was a quick read with a lot of action. The romance seemed to be brought about by the physical attraction and driven by stressful circumstances. I did like the pacing of the story, I never got bored just wish I had believed more in the couple. Looking forward to reading Sorenson's full length novels.

Rating: B