Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Deep Sky

Deep Sky
Patrick Lee
Science Fiction/Suspense
Travis Chase Trilogy/Book 3
Harper/December 27, 2011

As the U.S. President addresses the nation from the Oval Office, a missile screams toward the White House. In a lightning flash, the Chief Executive is dead, his mansion in ruins, and two cryptic words are the only clue to the assassins' motives: "See Scalar."

Now Travis Chase of the covert agency Tangent - caretakers of the Breach and all its grim wonders - along with partner and lover Paige Campbell and technology expert Bethany Stewart, have only twenty-four hours to unearth a decade-old mystery once spoken of in terrified whispers by the long since silenced. But their breakneck race cross-county - and back through time and malleable memory - is calling the total destructive might of a shadow government down upon them. For Travis Chase has a dark destiny he cannot be allowed to fulfill...

After reading and loving Deep Sky, I was left wishing Mr. Lee had an extensive back list I could dive into.  Unfortunately, I will have to wait (impatiently) for his next release.  If you've been reading my blog lately you know how much I enjoyed the first two novels of this trilogy.   Its fast-paced, complex world will keep you on the edge and just when you think you have it figured out, Lee will surprise you.  I do like that the more technical aspects of the novels are not over simplified but explained in a way that even the non-technical can understand.  

Travis Chase is back with Tangent. Living primarily underground has become familiar to him, allowing him to establish a routine in the year he's been back.  But nothing is ever routine when it comes to Tangent and what they guard.  When the missile strikes the White House, Travis is pulled into the race for answers and the reader is right there with him.  Travis is a character who tries to keep his life as uncomplicated as possible in a very complicated world.  The more Travis is on the page the more I can see how complex he is.  It's not in just what he does but what he doesn't do and why.  His logic regarding his actions makes perfect sense and yet I found myself wondering if I would make the same choices he does.  He's a character that makes you think, which I loved!

Paige Campbell is right there with Travis as they sort through data and track down clues to what happened so many years ago.  Paige is still the guiding force and the voice of reason.  But Paige and Travis do work well together even though both are leaders.  They have a unique balance and a trust that allows them to defer to the other when necessary rather than playing a game of control.  Their relationship has become their anchor, giving them both more stability and confidence in their actions.  The way their relationship has grown over the three books is a testament to Lee's writing skills for being able to work in this satisfying relationship within the framework of the suspense and technical aspects of the plot.

The last member of the trio is Bethany Stewart, computer expert who is still gun-shy when it comes to the more perilous action.  Bethany is far more comfortable in front of a computer screen than being chased by men bent on killer her.  For all her mad computer skills I felt she was the least developed character of the three.  Maybe it was because she was late to the party, having missed out on the fun of the first book.  She is the mobile tech support, other than that I didn't feel like I truly knew her.

The mystery and suspense still had a techno feel to them with the alien devices playing a large role in the outcome.  The plot also has the trio playing detective and I found I really enjoyed analyzing the clues and coming with possible scenarios for what and who is behind the evil plot to take over the country.  The action is once again edge of your seat, keeping you wondering how the heroes will get themselves out their latest dangerous situation. 

As the final novel in the trilogy, Deep Sky answers the questions we've been asking since the first book and has a feeling of completeness to the trilogy.  Would I like to read more in the world Patrick Lee has created?  Most definitely.  But if there are no more Travis Chase novels, this trilogy ended on a high note, leaving this reader not only satisfied but thrilled to find a new author to read. 

Rating: A-

Travis Chase Trilogy

The Breach
Ghost Country
Deep Sky

Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Doubletake

We're at it again! Nath from Books, Books and More Books and Hilcia from Impressions of a Reader and I joined forces for a buddy review of Rob Thurman's Doubletake.

Half-human/half-monster Cal Leandros knows that family is a pain. But now that pain belongs to his half-brother, Niko. Niko's shady father is in town, and he needs a big favor. Even worse is the reunion being held by the devious Puck race-including the Leandros' friend, Robin- featuring a lottery that no Puck wants to win. 

As Cal tries to keep both Niko and Robin from paying the ultimate price for their kin, a horrific reminder from Cal's own past arrives to remind him that blood is thicker than water-and that's why it's so much more fun to spill. 

So head on over to Breezing Through to find out what we thought about the latest (mis)adventures of the Leandros brothers!

Thanks again to Nath and Hils for the buddy review!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ARC Review: The Immortal Rules

The Immortal Rules
Julie Kagawa
Post-apocalyptic/Young Adult
Blood of Eden/Book 1
Harlequin Teen/April 24, 2012

In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn't easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

After reading and loving Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series I was more than willing to read anything she writes, even vampires. Vampires don't have the pull for me that they use to but Kagawa change my mind with her dark, violent, emotional story of a world gone horribly wrong. At just under 500 pages I was surprised at how fast I flew through this book. It was hard to find a stopping point when I found myself wanting needing to know what would happen next.

Allison Sekemoto could be called many things - fighter, survivor, cold-hearted, loner. She is seventeen but only by sheer guts and instincts has she managed to stay alive this long. Her life is a continuous struggle for survival, living in the Fringe where not only vampires but rival gangs offer a constant threat. With no family, Allison has only her small gang and a need to fight back against the vampires to keep her going.

Allie is such a well developed character. At first she comes across as cold, with little feelings for anyone else. She is loyal to her gang members but much of that comes from the need to belong to a gang to survive. Through Allie we see how the many orphans are forced to grow up quickly if they are to have a chance at survival. Allie is compelled to make so many life or death decisions and it's not just her life in danger. We see how Allie wrestles with her survival instincts as they conflict with the moral dilemmas she faces. Allie is far from being a stagnant character. She changes from a human to a vampire but it's as if being a vampire brings out her humanity.

The Immortal Rules is told from Allison's POV but that doesn't stop the reader from getting to know the other characters. Kagawa does well in showing, through Allison's eyes, how the plague and the sixty years following has affected each character. We don't learn everything there is to know about Allison and the "people" who come into her life but there is plenty there to allow the reader to form opinions about these characters and what drives them to make the decisions they do. No info dumps here but rather the bits and pieces of each characters' lives are well blended throughout the story.

The action may take place on the page but it can get your heart rate up as Allie fights for her life. Even knowing from the blurb that she will become a vampire doesn't lessen the impact of the danger Allie confronts. Long after Allie becomes one of the fanged she still faces enemies that can kill her. The tension and emotions run high but the fight scenes are just as intense. I loved the way the fight scenes were written. It was so easy to picture the action, the moves of each character and the resulting pain and death.

The world Kagawa has created is a dangerous place filled with menacing creatures, courageous humans, a vampire who needs redeeming and a brave and reckless heroine who learns that it's okay to give a damn about others, even at the cost of your own life. In The Immortal Rules Julie Kagawa has proven the vampire crazy is not over but is just gearing up for something new.

Rating: A

Sunday, April 22, 2012

ARC Review: Loss

Jackie Morse Kessler
Young Adult/Fantasy
Riders of the Apocalypse/Book 3
Harcourt Graphia/March 20, 2012

Fifteen-year-old Billy Ballard is the kid that everyone picks on, from the school bullies to the teachers. But things change drastically when Death tells Billy he must stand in as Pestilence, the White Rider of the Apocalypse. Now armed with a Bow that allows him to strike with disease from a distance, Billy lashes out at his tormentors...and accidentally causes an outbreak of meningitis. Horrified by his actions, Billy begs Death to take back the Bow. For that to happen, says Death, Billy must track down the real White Rider—who is lost in his memories.

In his search, Billy travels through White Rider’s life: from ancient Phrygia, where the man called King Mita agrees to wear the White Rider’s Crown, to Sherwood Forest, where Pestilence figures out how to cheat Death; from the docks of Alexandria, where cartons of infested grain are being packed onto a ship that will carry the plague, to the Children’s Crusade in France—all the way to what may be the end of the world. When Billy finally finds the White Rider, the teen convinces the man to return to the real world.

But now the insane White Rider plans to unleash something awful on humanity—something that could make the Black Death look like a summer cold. Billy has a choice: he can live his life and pretend he doesn’t know what’s coming, or he can challenge the White Rider for his Crown. Does one bullied teenager have the strength to stand his ground—and the courage to save the world.

Bullying is a problem many of us can relate to whether we were the bullied, the bullier or were witnessed to it. I've experienced it as well as seen it not only in my youth but in the workplace. As a kid I only had to put up with it for one school year and unlike Billy Ballard, it wasn't an everyday thing. As I read Billy's story I continued to be shocked at what happened to him on a daily basis. But I know enough from experience that bullies tend to be smart and do their bullying away from the eyes of adults, or at least the adults who might stop them.

Billy Ballard's home life is just as stressful as his school life, but in a different way. Both have the potential for physical violence, one from a school bully, the other from a family member. But the motivation is very different for each. Kessler explores those differences, showing how each affects Billy in different ways. We see Billy change when the right catalyst is employed.

Billy had a serious choice to make which he doesn't take lightly - to become the White Rider, Pestilence. He's not a believer at first, who would be? But Death can be very convincing, even in the guise of dead rocker Kurt Cobain. As Billy learns more about the four riders, their abilities and their responsibilities, he also learns how additive power can be. This is a teen who feels he has no power in his life. He's at the mercy of bullies at school and his overwhelming responsibilities at home. Kessler shows how power can not only seduce, it can corrupt.

As Billy attempts to find the real Pestilence, he sees how Pestilence came to be the White Rider. It's a history lesson that dragged on far too long. I would have rather the story focused more on the bullying and Billy's grandfather's Alzheimer's disease. I thought the bullying might show up within the Four riders and how they treated Billy but it didn't really materialize that way. We do see the other Riders interact with Billy but the impact isn't as strong. It's mainly Billy and Death in the spotlight with Death being his usual cryptic self.

Loss delivers some strong messages about bullying and Alzheimer's disease but they almost get lost among the flashbacks. There are important messages for teens as well as adults within the story which makes this a worthwhile read.

Rating: B-

Riders of the Apocalypse


Thursday, April 19, 2012

ARC Review: Sunrise Point

Sunrise Point
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Virgin River/Book 19
Mira/April 24, 2012

Tom Cavanaugh may think he wants a traditional woman, but in Virgin River, the greatest tradition is falling in love unexpectedly....

Former marine Tom Cavanaugh’s come home to Virgin River, ready to take over his family’s apple orchard and settle down. He knows just what the perfect woman will be like: sweet, decent, maybe a little naive. The marrying kind.

Nothing like Nora Crane. So why can’t he keep his eyes off the striking single mother?

Nora may not have a formal education, but she graduated with honors from the school of hard knocks. She’s been through tough times and she’ll do whatever it takes to support her family, including helping with harvest time at the Cavanaugh’s orchard. She’s always kept a single-minded focus on staying afloat...but suddenly her thoughts keep drifting back to rugged, opinionated Tom Cavanaugh.

Both Nora and Tom have their own ideas of what family means. But they’re about to prove each other completely wrong...

Hard to believe this is the nineteenth book (including novellas) in the series. The reason I started reading this series is still there - that close-knit, small town feel good sense I get when reading a Robyn Carr book. I love returning to Virgin River and catching up with old friends and meeting some new ones. Which is good since the romance between Nora and Tom was probably the weakest part of the the story.

Nora Crane knows what it means to be down and out. Landing in Virgin River was one of the best things to ever happen to her but it didn't come easy. Nora is a single mom who fell for the wrong guy. That wrong guy left her and her two girls with no means of support except for the kindness of the residents of Virgin River. Nora doesn't like to take handouts but she will gladly swallow her pride for her girls. Nora is a no-nonsense, hard worker who is very easy to like. Even after everything that's happened to her she still has a positive attitude.

Tom Cavanaugh loves apples. The orchard has been in his family for years and he knows everything there is to know about apples. I liked that Tom was happy to be taking over the family business instead of resentful that it fell to him. He and his grandmother, Maxie, run the family business and have a wonderful relationship. The problems I encountered with Tom were his inflexible ideas of what makes the perfect wife. Far too often I wanted to yell "she's right there Tom!" and point at Nora. But Tom thinks he's too smart, he knows what he wants and Nora and all her problems not to mentioned her kids, didn't fit his idea of perfect. Oh Tom, why do you have to be such a fool!

The romance begins as employer/employee relationship with Tom not wanting to hire Nora but getting pushed into it by his grandmother Maxie. I did like seeing how Tom's first impression of Nora changes as he sees beyond her small stature and lack of experience to her tenacious will to succeed. As Nora and Tom work together Tom begins to fall for Nora but still thinks she all wrong for him so he's looking elsewhere. Nora stays cool through it all and shows she's the mature one in the relationship.

The gangs all here! Once again we get to see many of the familiar faces of Virgin River. I loved catching up with Jack and Mel, Preacher and Paige. Then there's Luke and his friend Cooper, a new character who has future hero written all over him. So while the romance didn't thrill me, I was still happy to be back in Virgin River if only for a little while. Until next time...

Rating: C+

Virgin River Series

1. Virgin River
2. Shelter Mountain
3. Whispering Rock
4. A Virgin River Christmas
5. Second Chance Pass
6. Temptation Ridge
7. Paradise Valley
8. Under the Christmas Tree (novella in That Holiday Feeling)
9. Forbidden Falls
10. Angel's Peak
11. Moonlight Road
12. Midnight Confessions (novella in Midnight Kiss)
13. Promise Canyon
14. Wild Man Creek
15. Harvest Moon
16. Bring Me Home for Christmas
17. Hidden Summit
18. Redwood Bend
19. Sunrise Point
20. My Kind of Christmas (October 2012)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TBR Challenge Review: The Wild Marquis

The Wild Marquis
Miranda Neville
Historical Romance/England/1818
Burgundy Club/Book 1
Avon/March 9, 2010

The Marquis of Chase is not a reputable man.

He is notorious for his wretched morals and is never received in respectable houses. The ladies of the ton would never allow him in their drawing rooms . . . though some of them have welcomed him into their bedchambers. Ejected from his father’s house at the age of sixteen, he now lives a life of wanton pleasure. So what could the Marquis of Chase possibly want with Juliana Merton, a lovely, perfectly upstanding shopkeeper with a mysterious past?

A moment’s indiscretion?

A night’s passion?

Or a lifetime of love?

Even the wildest rakes have their weaknesses...

Little history on how this book landed in my TBR pile. Last summer Romance Writers of America(RWA) held their annual conference in New York City. The wonderful Nath from Books, Books and more Books ventured across the border to join in the craziness that is RWA. After braving the insanity of the author signings, Nath was a sweetheart and sent me a box of delicious books she got at RWA. Hilcia from Impressions of a Reader was kind enough to add The Wild Marquis to the box. I love getting books but this was especially nice since it was from two of my favorite bloggers!

   [bib-lee-oh-mey-nee-uh, -meyn-yuh] noun excessive fondness for acquiring and possessing books.

With a heroine who loves books it was easy to relate to Juliana Merton. Juliana grew up literally surrounded by books. Her guardian was a collector to the point of obsession. She gained her love of books early and it continued when she met and married Joseph Merton who owned a bookshop. After her husband is murdered Juliana takes over the shop but it isn't easy for a woman in trade. I did like Juliana, very much. She's smart and witty but practical when it comes to her position in society. Her reaction to the Marquis of Chase is realistic but he does bring out a romantic side of her, which I loved!

The Marquis of Chase has made a name for himself among the ton as being The Wild Marquis. He's not the type of man you would expect to have an interest in rare and collectible books which is why he needs Juliana's help. Cain is smart but he knows when to seek assistance. He's surprised when he finds J. C. Merton is a woman. But he's quick to see the potential in obtaining Juliana's help. Cain is an enigma of a hero. His background is shady but he is a titled lord of the realm. He enjoys allowing others to think he is nothing more than a rake but there is much more behind that rakish grin.

The plot centers around an auction of rare and collectible books, all from the same collector. As the days of the auction progress, Juliana and Cain spend more time together with both revealing little bits and pieces of their pasts. When Cain's family commitments encroach on their time, we see another side of both Cain and Juliana. Cain and Juliana must also deal with an unknown enemy who is after what they are not sure of. So there is a mystery to solve as well as the romance running throughout the story.

The look into the world of book collecting is fascinating. With the collectors bidding against each other, trying to determine who is after what and how to win against their rivals. It's a small, inclusive world and with Juliana's help Cain is able to fit right in. I really enjoyed solving the mystery of who was after Juliana and how she and Cain discovered her link to the auction's collection.

The romance is a fun one with Cain and Juliana far more similar than you would imagine. Juliana shares her love of books, teaching Cain about the various bindings, origins and histories while he shows Juliana that she is far better than she believes. She was a little too stubborn when it came to her feelings of inadequacy regarding her relationship with Cain going beyond a working relationship and into a more romantic, permanent one.

Overall this was a lovely romance with an absorbing mystery to solve. It was also my first Miranda Neville but will not be my last since I have the next two books in the series sitting not so patiently on the TBR pile.

Rating: B+

The Burgundy Club Series

The Wild Marquis
The Dangerous Visount
The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton
Confessions From an Arranged Marriage

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: Facing It

Facing It
Linda Winfree
Contemporary Romance/Suspense
Hearts of the South/Book 8
Samhain/April 7, 2009

Mired in a brutal marriage for far too long, Ruthie Chason takes her courage and her children in hand to flee the trap that has become her life. Yet she’s no fool. She knows he’ll come after her once he discovers she possesses criminal evidence that will put him away for good—and seal her deadly fate if he ever catches up with her.

Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Parker offers emotional refuge, a safe place to begin to reclaim her life…if she can let herself trust the strong, quiet cop that far. Chris surprises himself when he agrees to act as guardian for Ruthie and her children. He does it as a favor, then finds something about her calm strength soothes his battered soul. Now if only he can silence the demons from his past that make him cautious of falling too fast for any woman.

I just can't seem to keep myself away from this series! This time it's the quiet deputy Chris Parker along with his police dog Hound who fall for the abused sister of Chris' friend and boss. Ruthie and her kids run home after escaping the man who controlled their lives. In Facing It Winfree examines domestic violence and does it in a way that is different but keeps the characters real.

For years Ruthie has been planning and hoping for the opportunity to escape her abusive, controlling husband. When she does, she heads home to Georgia and her family. Her brother, Tick Calvert, is with the local law enforcement and is more than willing to help Ruthie and her kids. I liked how Winfree shows Ruthie's fears and how she must overcome those fears not only for herself but for her kids.

Chris Parker has been a character in this series for some time now but we don't know much about him. Neither do his coworkers. They know he's a good cop and an all-around good guy but know very little about his background. There are even rumors that he's gay. It's odd that in this small town where everyone seems to know everyone and everything about each other, little is know about Chris. Which made it all the more interesting to get to know him right along with Ruthie. Turns out he's not gay, Ruthie confirms that. :) He is a good guy who has some deep buried secrets not so different from Ruthie's.

Ruthie is of course hesitant to start any romance, she's still married and her husband isn't about to give her and their kids up easily. But she does begin to feel something for Chris. I think it had to do with Chris' own experiences which gave him an ability to read Ruthie better than most. I won't say I found their romance truly believable under the circumstances but the emotions were so strong it was easy to get swept up in their story.

There is a secondary romance that was pure bliss to read. Two FBI partners are trying to fight off their attraction for each other, all the while not realizing the feelings are mutual. I think I was just as invested in their story line as I was in Chris and Ruthie's. I wanted to know where this romance was going and how it was going to get there. Considering it wasn't the main romance, it still left a strong impression.

I've mentioned before that this is a family centered series and that is unmistakably felt here. Ruthie's family rallies around her and her children, giving them many shoulders to lean on. In the end it's Chris' shoulder Ruthie leans on and he ends up leaning on her.

Rating: B

Hearts of the South ~

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Memories of Us

Memories of Us
Linda Winfree
Contemporary Romance
Hearts of the South/Book 5
Samhain/June 10, 2008

Beneath the lies is truth - and temptation that neither of them can resist.

Investigator Celia St. John is hopelessly attracted to the one man she shouldn't want, district attorney Tom McMillian. Arrogant and completely alpha, McMillian is the type of man she likes - a tough son of a bitch. The problem? He's her boss, and he's still hung up on his ex-wife.

Since his marriage to a law enforcement agent failed after the death of his infant son, Tom has avoided emotional involvement with any woman. Despite his attraction to Celia, he refuses to get involved with another cop.

Their no-strings affair quickly becomes a tangled web of intrigue as they investigate an illegal baby adoption ring and more than one murder, one of which points to Tom as a suspect. The more they dig under the lies, the higher the risk, not only to their relationship, but their lives.

Yes, I'm moving right on through this series, the end is near which makes me sad. The last book published in the Hearts of the South series was released in July of 2009, since then there has been no sign of any more books to come. Which is sad because this is a very good romance series with the added feature of a small town setting and suspenseful plots.

Celia St. John is a top investigator for the District Attorney's office. She is smart, professional and she's also fallen for her boss. He's clueless. hehe. Celia does know about Tom McMillin's past and the feelings he still has for his ex-wife. But that doesn't stop Celia from going for what she wants. Thankfully she wasn't a wimpy, crying heroine. Celia is tough when it comes to doing her job and that strength comes through in her pursuit of Tom.

Tom McMillian is a District Attorney with a reputation for not backing down. It took me a long time to warm up to Tom. His fixation on his ex-wife really bothered me. He admits their marriage was over years before the divorce and yet he comes across at being obsessed with her. She's moved on with a new husband and baby on the way so it's not as if Tom has a chance of getting her back. Then when he does get over her it's "BOOM", hey it doesn't hurt to see her anymore. It felt as it his letting go was forced to make way for Celia.

Celia and Tom do get it on with the caveat that it's only casual, no strings attached. And they won't let it affect their working relationship. Yeah, we all know how that's going to play out. LOL Tom and Celia make their fantasies come to life. The scenes are classy and sexy with a wildness to them. Loved it!

The mystery surrounding the murder and the possible illegal adoption ring is a strong emotional part of the story. Winfree doesn't sugarcoat the facts of the violence involved in the murder, it's brutal. I did enjoy seeing how the DAs office interacts with the local police force as well as catching up with previous heroes and heroines of the series. The books are family centered whether it be biological family or work family, they all pull together and are there for each other. I really appreciate how well those elements factor into the series.

Even with my slow warm-up to Tom, I was easily pulled back into this small Georgia setting and the characters that populate it. Even if there are to be no more books in this series, I have no doubt I will be re-reading and revisiting these characters in the future.

Rating: B+

Hearts of the South ~

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

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: A Week to Be Wicked

A Week to be Wicked
Tessa Dare
Historical Romance/England/1814
Spindle Cove/Book 2
Avon/March 27, 2012

When a devilish lord and a bluestocking set off on the road to ruin…Time is not on their side.

Minerva Highwood, one of Spindle Cove’s confirmed spinsters, needs to be in Scotland. Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, a rake of the first order, needs to be…anywhere but Spindle Cove.

These unlikely partners have one week to
• fake an elopement
• convince family and friends they’re in “love”
• outrun armed robbers
• survive their worst nightmares
• travel four hundred miles without killing each other
All while sharing a very small carriage by day and an even smaller bed by night.

What they don’t have time for is their growing attraction. Much less wild passion. And heaven forbid they spend precious hours baring their hearts and souls.

Suddenly one week seems like exactly enough time to find a world of trouble. And maybe . . . just maybe . . . love.

After reading and thoroughly enjoying the first book in this series and the novella, to say that I was looking forward to A Week to be Wicked would be an understatement! Hats off to Ms. Dare. Colin and Minerva's story was totally worth the wait!

Minerva Highwood has a habit of fading into the shadows of her beautiful sister Diana. Minerva is rather bookish and prefers the attention of others diverted elsewhere except when it comes to the very rakish Lord Payne. Minerva doesn't want his attentions anywhere near her sister and she's determined to make it so. This sets off a chain of events that even the intelligent Minerva could not have foreseen. She is wonderful in her loyalty to her family and her exuberance for her love of rocks. I found Minerva to be an amusing heroine with plenty of depth hidden behind her glasses and her books. Her curiosity is endearing, whether it be about fossils or Colin's body. She is easy to relate to which can be a challenge when you're talking about a character from nearly 200 years ago.

Colin Sandhurst comes off as a typical rake of the time period. He loves women, flirts shamelessly and doesn't deny it. In walks Minerva into Colin's depraved lifestyle and turns it upside down. Colin has dark childhood memories driving him in his life. He plays at the indulgent lifestyle but doesn't truly engage in life. In a way he stays on the outside, much like Minerva. As Colin and Minerva's road trip progresses we get to see Colin become more than the rake he plays so well and become a man worthy of Minerva. I loved how Dare showed us Colin coming out of his shell and being who he was meant to be. Dare also does well showing how Minerva's influence on Colin not only affected him, but also affected her. She began to see the power she had on him.

The romance is a road trip romance, which I love! It's a journey for Minerva and Colin not only in the physical sense but it became an emotional awakening for both of them. They take on different roles to suit each situation they find themselves in. This gives them a chance to explore what they want to be. I loved how Dare gave Minerva and Colin room to grow and make mistakes along the way. I would say this is a romantic comedy with Minerva and Colin trading barbs with underlying tenderness. The dialogue is sharp and witty. I lost track of the times I laughed out loud at their antics.

A Week to Be Wicked was pure pleasure to read. It can be read as a stand-alone, Dare does well filling in the various characters back story. But I would highly recommend this series.

Rating: A

Spindle Cove Series ~

A Night to Surrender
Once Upon a Winter's Eve (novella)
A Week to be Wicked
A Lady by Midnight (August 28, 2012)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review: Risk No Secrets

Risk No Secrets
Cindy Gerard
Romantic Suspense
Black Ops Inc/Book 5
Pocket Books/May 18, 2010

A deadly international mission reunites a sexy Black Ops, Inc. hero and his sizzling former love in Cindy Gerard's seductive romantic thriller.

A red-hot attraction...
Twelve years of chasing bad guys didn't erase beautiful Sophie Baylor from Wyatt Savage's memory. If he had another chance, he'd never let her leave. So when she tracks him down from El Salvador and begs for help, he doesn't ask questions -- he just goes.

Starts with a terrifying threat...
Sophie is grateful her daughter survived a kidnapping attempt, but she won't forgive herself until the girl who was mistakenly abducted is safe. Wyatt is the only man brave enough to take on the mysterious terrorists behind the crime; and the one irresistible man she wishes she had never let go.

...and unleashes an unforgettable adventure
Sophie knows Central America's steamy jungles and sticky politics better than anyone. Yet she refuses to hide in fear. Then she becomes the enemy's number-one target. Wyatt lost her once, and he won't lose her again -- even if he has to fight, kill, or die to save her.

Moving right along in this series. I did read the previous book, Feel the Heat but for some reason didn't review it. Probably because it was my least favorite in this series. The good news is, Risk No Secrets is a winner! It's a second chance romance, which is one of my favorite tropes. Gerard played it out beautifully with both Wyatt and Sophie showing maturity regarding their feeling and the stressful situations they find themselves in.

Wyatt Savage is reevaluating his life. He's taking a break from his high stress job as an operative for Black Ops Inc, and spending some time at his parents home in Georgia. In his words he's feeling "Battle-weary. Bone-weary. Soul-weary." I like that Gerard addresses the fact that these warriors do burn out and get to the point where they have to be realistic in their abilities. How the job not only affects their physical health but their mental and emotional health. Wyatt is smart enough to realize that while he's still in top form, he can't continue in his line of work indefinitely.

Sophie Baylor has made a life for herself and her daughter in El Salvador but it's not without it's dangers. Kidnapping is a very real fear in a country where it is becoming commonplace. When the kidnappers strike close to home, Sophie turns to Wyatt for help. After twelves years and Sophie calls Wyatt tells you something about how deep her feels for him were and still are. The fact that Wyatt doesn't hesitates to help Sophie tells you how deep his feelings still are. It's much more than friendship on both their parts whether they want to admit it or not. Sophie tends to be more cautious when it comes to her feelings for Wyatt. I didn't really get why since she is divorced so there's no reason to hold her back.

Wyatt and Sophie do have a history and Gerard shows us some of it in flashbacks. I'll be the first to admit I'm not a fan of flashbacks but these were fairly short and showed how a young Sophie and Wyatt had the beginnings of a romance before someone else came between them. The present situation doesn't allow much time for romantic interludes but Gerard made the romance work, allowing enough time for Sophie and Wyatt to get reacquainted and realize they both still had feelings beyond friendship for each other. The tenderness Wyatt shows for Sophie really came off as genuine making it easy to see why she fell for him.

One of the strengths of this series is the "band of brothers" feel each story has. The guys are there for each other, they don't let their brothers go it alone. I really like that Gerard continues this aspect of the series, it strengthens the values each of the men places on their team. The developing romance is still front and center, enhanced by the company of the men.

Risk No Secrets is another winner in the Black Ops Inc. series. There's only a few more heroes left and while I look forward to reading their stories, I know I'll miss these heroic men.

Rating: B+

Black Ops Series ~

Show No Mercy
Take No Prisoners
Whisper No Lies
Feel the Heat
Risk No Secrets
Leave No Trace (novella in Deadly Promise anthology)
With No Remorse
Last Man Standing

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

ARC Review: Enraptured

Elisabeth Naughton
Paranormal Romance
Eternal Guardians/Book 4
Sourcebooks/April 3, 2012

Spoilers for Previous Books

ORPHEUS—To most he’s an enigma, a devil-may-care rogue who does whatever he pleases whenever he wants. Now this loose cannon is part of the Eternal Guardians­—elite warriors assigned to protect the human realm—whether he likes it or not.

Orpheus has just one goal: to rescue his brother from the Underworld. He’s not expecting a woman to get in the way. Especially not a Siren as gorgeous as Skyla. He has no idea she’s an assassin sent by Zeus to seduce, entrap, then ultimately destroy him.

Yet Skyla herself might have the most to lose. There’s a reason Orpheus feels so familiar to her, a reason why her body seems to crave him. Perhaps he’s not the man everyone thinks… The truth could reveal a deadly secret as old as the Eternal Guardians themselves.

There she goes, sucking me right back into the world of the Argonauts. Elisabeth Naughton has once again written a fast paced, sexy, emotional romance set in the fascinating world of warriors and the woman who are their equals. The more I read of this series, the more I want. It's as simple as that.

Orpheus is a familiar character if you've read the previous books but we still don't know much about him. He bears the markings of the Argonauts but isn't truly one of them. No one trusts Orpheus, save perhaps the new Queen, Isadora. Orpheus has earned that distrust by doing pretty much as he pleases and only truly caring about his brother, Gryphon. Now we get to see another, more heroic side of Orpheus and I loved it! Naughton didn't suddenly turn him into a knight in shinning armor, his armor still had a few dents. But Orpheus does show a far greater affinity for becoming an Argonaut than anyone would have expected, especially Orpheus himself. It wasn't a sudden transformation so much as the situation bringing out his true self.

Skyla has been a siren for over 2000 years. She is loyal to Athena and Zeus but her current mission has her beginning to question that loyalty. Skyla is a total kick-ass heroine with the boots to go with the attitude. The thing about Skyla's loyalty is that she is not blinded by it. She can and does think for herself and when things don't add up, she questions why. Her feelings for Orpheus are conflicted when she realizes he's not what she expected. I liked seeing how she resolves this conflict. She not blinded by loyalty or by love, but uses what she knows as the truth to make her decisions.

The dynamic between Orpheus and Skyla is intriguing in that they don't trust each other but they are stuck working together towards similar goals. I liked how Orpheus and Skyla see past their preconceived ideas of who they thought the other was. As they work together, fight together and ultimate form a tentative trust, we see those preconceptions fall apart. Their relationship isn't what I would call romantic but given the situations they find themselves in, romance isn't a priority. Instead they have these sweet and tender moments of intimacy that I think surprises both of them. Oh, the hot sex didn't hurt either. ;)

The action is a very integral part of this series and that holds true again. It's not only the fight scenes but the before and after the fight scenes that can leave you out of breath and a little in awe of how these characters get themselves into these situations and then make it out alive. Naughton makes you believe in this brutal world of monsters and heroes.

One of the things about this series is everyone has a role to play. So once a hero and heroine find their Happy Ever After, they don't get to ride off into the sunset but continue to be integral parts of the fight against the Daemons. Which is a treat for readers since we get to catch up on previous heroes and heroines. This isn't exactly one big, happy family but a rather loving but dysfunctional extended family. Which makes it all the more interesting.

If you enjoy a fast paced, fascinating world where mythology blends with the human world and heroes and heroines fight evil while falling in love, Eternal Guardians is the series to read.

Rating: A

Eternal Guardians ~

Enslaved (November 1, 2012)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Review: Hearts Awakened

Hearts Awakened
Linda Winfree
Contemporary Romance
Hearts of the South/Book 6
Samhain/September 2, 2008

It’s not the past that wounds us…it’s the ghosts we hold on to.

A lifetime ago Mark Cook’s pregnant wife vanished, taking everything and leaving an empty, aching hole in his life. Since then, as penance for his failure as a husband and father, he’s refused to allow himself to live. Refused to lay his sleeping heart on the line for any woman.

Enter Tori Calvert, his best friend’s baby sister. Suddenly, against his will—and against his better judgment—that same damaged heart seems determined to reawaken. And Mark’s not sure he can withstand the pain.

When she was a teenager, a vicious attack ripped away Tori’s very essence as a woman. Finally she feels ready to focus her existence on something other than her job as a rape crisis counselor. And to step outside the shelter of her loving, protective family. She trusts Mark more than any man, yet fear holds her back.

Fear that even the healing light of love may not be enough to banish the shadows of the past.

Mark and Tori - two people hiding from their pasts. This was such an emotional story. Winfree knows how to show the pain of loss and the long lasting effects that loss has a someone. What surprised me was what a good feeling the story left me with, even with the very difficult themes Winfree took on.

Tori Calvert runs the local women's crisis center where she helps women deal with domestic violence, having suffered the horrendous violation of rape when she was a teen. It's been years but the damage the rape inflicted on Tori still controls her. She has tried dating but after the last guy she dated turned out to be a horrible mistake, she now questions her judgement when it comes to men. The exception being Mark Cook, her brother Tick's coworker and good friend. Tori has had feelings for Mark for quite some time but doesn't feel comfortable action on them. I loved how Tori is portrayed as a woman who has overcome much of her past but realistically it's still there and has shaped her life. She's a very strong heroine who understandably still has a vulnerable side when it comes to men.

Mark Cook, aka Cookie, has been a cop for nearly 20 years. He's a nice guy, a guy everyone likes but he doesn't talk about his past. He's very good at keeping up a facade of this easy going, ladies man when the reality is Mark is trying to keep any deeper feeling buried. So he dates women he knows he won't form any long-term attachment to. Then there's Tori. The way Mark fights his growing feelings for Tori really showed how much he's holding on to the past but there's a part of him that wants to start living for more than just his work. Winfree does a wonderful job in showing Mark's need to have more than just casual flings but he still has a fear of committing to a serious relationship.

Tori and Mark's romantic relationship develops out of growing friendship. Both are hesitant to explore the romance yet each has an almost desperate need for more than what they now have. I loved these two together! Their romance was believable in not only the obstacles they had to overcome but how they dealt with those problems. As they become closer they really start to "get" each other and that is so important when building any kind of relationship. I also loved how they looked out for each other long before the romance. They both lived in the same apartment complex and each kept an eye out for the other, with Mark looking out for Tori's safety and Tori watching to make sure Mark got home after his late nights. It was sweet!

A story in the Hearts of the South series could not be complete without having some well meaning, if a bit meddling, friends and family members involved. We get to catch up with past characters and see how both Mark and Tori look to others for advice and support. I really like this small southern community.

If I had any problems it was Tick's stubbornness when it came to Tori and Mark. It took him a long time to look beyond Mark's past string of flings to see the man he admired. Tick's overprotective nature with Tori began to wear thin. If it had been up to him, Tori would never have dated let alone had a serious relationship. Tori really should have stood up to Tick a lot sooner.

There are a roller coaster of emotions played out in Tori and Mark's story. The very difficult subjects of rape, abuse and loss of a loved one are all seen through these characters. The darker story line is tempered by the affable teasing of Mark and Tori's family and friends. Another well written addition to the Hearts of the South series.

Rating: A

Hearts of the South

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