Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ARC Review: Lucky in Love

Lucky in Love
Jill Shalvis
Contemporary Romance
Lucky Harbor Series/Book 4
Grand Central Publishing/May 22, 2012

Mallory Quinn has had enough of playing it safe. As a nurse and devoted daughter, she takes care of everyone but herself. And as the local good girl, she's expected to date Mr. Right. But for once, she'd like to take a risk on Mr. Wrong. And who could be more wrong than Ty Garrison? The mysterious new guy in town has made it clear that he's only passing through, which suits Mallory just fine. Besides, his lean, hard body and sexy smile will give her plenty to remember once he's gone...

For the first time in his life, Ty can't bear to leave. Helping this sexy seductress-in-training walk on the wild side is making him desire things he shouldn't -- including leaving the military for good. As their just-for-fun fling becomes something more, Mallory and Ty wonder if they could really be this lucky in love. After all...anything can happen in a town called Lucky Harbor.

One of my favorite contemporary series is back!  The newest installment in the Lucky Harbor series has a new trio of women who have their own, unique set of problems when it comes to the opposite sex. This new group of women find comfort in chocolate, an undertaking I can totally get behind!  The Chocoholics (CA), as they called themselves, are comprised of Mallory Quinn, Amy Michaels and Grace Brooks.  They meet once a week to catch-up on life and enjoy something full of chocolatey goodness!

Mallory Quinn, having grown up in Lucky Harbor, knows just about everyone, the exception being Mysterious Cute Guy (MCG).  But that is about to change.  Mallory works hard at staying out of trouble.  She has this desperation to always do the right thing, to be the best.  It stems from a great loss in her past and her guilt over the loss.  Mallory's love life suffers from her need to be perfect by trying to date Mr. Right.  Her fellow chocoholics talk her into giving Mr. Wrong a try.  MCG, also known as Ty Garrison, is Mallory's chance to be bad for a change.  He's her Mr. Wrong who's so very wrong he's just right! 

Ty Garrison came to Lucky Harbor to recover from an injury.  It's been six months since he's hidden himself away, working to get back into fighting shape.  He's beyond ready to get a clean bill of health and get back to the action.  As a former Navy SEAL, Ty isn't use to sitting around.  His life after the teams kept him in the action, still working dangerous assignments for a private contractor.  Ty's life in Lucky Harbor has gotten into a routine of working out and working on old cars.  In Ty we see a wounded warrior who needs more than just physical healing.  Not surprising, Ty is a darker hero than previously seen in the series.  I liked him but felt he was more difficult to know and never quite got that "click" of knowing him.

Mallory and Ty's romance starts out as a misunderstanding, leading to some hot sex in a storage room and regrets and embarrassment later.  They both have their demons to fight and Shalvis does well showing how Mallory and Ty try their best to pretend their relationship is nothing more than sex when they both know, deep down, it's becoming much more.  I liked how their relationship matured as they both learn to lean on each other as well as their friends.  

This is a small town romance and as such, the characters of the town will have their say in the romance.  Everyone has an opinion, some like to voice it on the town's Facebook page which I found amusing.  Shalvis' trademark humor is very much in evidence, coming through in the assortment of charming characters that inhabit this seaside town.  The humor in Mallory and Ty's relationship is often rooted in their misunderstanding and lack of communication. While cute at times, also had me wishing they would open up and avoid their misunderstandings.

There were either mentions or appearances of the heroes and heroines of the first three books, but this one ventured away from the Inn and more into the heart of the town, with the hospital getting more of the focus where the Inn had before.  There did seem to be darker moments in this book with Mallory and Ty's reasons for carrying a heavy load of guilt. 

Lucky in Love is another wonderful addition to the Lucky Harbor series.  If you enjoy funny, quirky, small town romances, this is the series for you.

Rating: B+

Lucky Harbor Series ~ 

Simply Irresistible 
The Sweetest Thing
Kissing Santa Claus novella in the anthology Small Town Christmas
Head Over Heels
Lucky in Love
At Last (June 26, 2012)
Forever and a Day (July 31, 2012) 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review: Colorado Dawn

Colorado Dawn 
Kaki Warner
Historical Western Romance
Runaway Brides Series/Book 2
Berkley/January 3, 2012

After only three letters and one visit during her six-year marriage to a Scottish Cavalry Officer, Maddie Wallace decides to build a life without him. Accepting an assignment from a London periodical to photograph the West from a female perspective, she sails from England, determined to build a new life as an independent woman.
After injury ends his military career, Angus Wallace returns home to find his wife gone, his family decimated by fever, and himself next in line to an earldom. His new mission is clear--find his wife and sire heirs. His search takes him across an ocean and half a continent, but he finally tracks her to Heartbreak Creek, Colorado. There his biggest challenge awaits--to convince his headstrong wife to return home as his viscountess.

Amidst statehood struggles, claim jumping, and railroad disputes their passionate battle rages...until word comes that Angus has become the earl. Now they must decide between a life in the mountains of Colorado, or in the glittering ballrooms of London...and between duty and desire.

Since reading Heartbreak Creek (book 1) I've been curious about Maddie Wallace and what drove her to Colorado. We're told she is there to take pictures of the American West but why is she willing to go so far from home and who is she running from?  We find the answers and the romance in the second book of this wonderful western series.

Maddie Wallace doesn't think of herself as a quitter but a woman can only take so much rejection.  Maddie left her homeland for America after being left adrift by an absentee husband.  She felt there was no reason to stay and grabbed the opportunity to pursue her love of photography.  Maddie is enjoying her new life in Colorado, making friends and establishing a career.  Then her past comes roaring back in the form of her lost but not forgotten husband.  Immediately we see the chemistry between Maddie and Angus.  There is also tension, anger and sadness.  Maddie's conflict is well written, showing the conflict between her love of photography and her love of her husband.  She doesn't think she can have both and she's afraid Angus only wants her out of duty, not love.

Angus Wallace has come a long way, literally.  Across the Atlantic, then crossing a large part of America, all to find his wife.  But is is duty or love that drives him?  Sometimes I don't think even Angus was certain of the answer.  He takes his new role of Earl as he does everything else, seriously and with a great sense of duty.  In order to fulfill his role as Earl he needs to provide a heir, that's where the wife part comes in.  :)  Angus thinks he only needs to tell Maddie to come home and she will.  Oh, Angus, you poor fool!  Instead he finds he needs to do some serious convincing and in the convincing is reminded why he fell for Maddie in the first place.

Maddie and Angus' romance isn't the standard fare.  He's consumed with duty, she with independence.  What it all comes down to is love.  How much and how far are they're will to go for love.  There are tender moments and humorous moments that gave me hope for these two.  The thing about the romance is that Angus doesn't just fall in love again with Maddie, he also falls in love with Colorado which allows him to understand Maddie and her need to stay much better.  I really enjoyed the conflict Maddie and Angus went through between what their hearts want and what they feel obligated to do.  Warner made me believe in their final decisions rather it being the forgone conclusion.

The story isn't just about Maddie and Angus but also the good friends Maddie has made in Colorado.  They are skeptical about Angus but eventually welcome him into the fold. Declan, his wife Ed and their children, mysteriously wealthy Lucinda Hathaway and schoolteacher Prudence and her protector the Cheyenne Dog Soldier, Thomas Redstone.  I especially liked how Pru and Thomas' story evolved with more of their backstory given.  It's a sweet romance of two people who have learned to fight for everything they have and must fight for their own HEA.  A lovely secondary romance, worth the pages devoted to it's development.

With an unknown enemy causing trouble, the politics for statehood and the great big west, Colorado Dawn is more than just a romance, it's an adventure. 

Rating: A-

Runaway Brides Series ~

Heartbreak Creek
Colorado Dawn
Bride of the High Country

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: With No Remorse

With No Remorse
Cindy Gerard
Romantic Suspense
Black Ops Inc/Book 6
Pocket/July 19, 2011


For Luke Colter, downtime is an illusion.  He should know better than to ever leave his gun behind, especially since now he's risking his life to save world-famous supermodel Valentina.


Val thought traveling incognito through the mountains would be the perfect cure for her bruised heart ... until someone tries to kill her.  Without knowing who is after her - and why - does she dare trust her irresistible protector?


Luke's elite military training offers little defense against his feelings for Val.  When his BOI team links her ruthless enemy to the cutthroat global weapons trade - and to a man from her troubled past - he'll do anything to save her.  So when Bal offers herself as bait, will he make the right call ... or surrender to the hold she has on his heart?

Black Ops Inc is such a intense romantic suspense series!  Ms. Gerard has a talent for creating fascinating characters, placing them in dangerous situations and putting the reader right in the thick of it, feeling everything the characters feel.   Luke and Val's story holds that same intensity throughout most of the book with only a few minor hitches in the plot.

Poor Luke "Doc" Colter can't even take a vacation with getting shot at!  If that's not enough, he gets to go all fan-boy on his teenage crush, supermodel Valentina.  It's every man's wet dream come to life, except for the bullets and bad guys chasing them.  Along with the action and suspense is Luke's trademark humor, his way of dealing with tough situations.   I've liked Luke from the beginning of the series and he holds up well in his own story.  He has a darker bent to him this time.  After nearly dying a year before, Luke's lost the love of the chase and the rush that comes from his dangerous work.  He's questioning his purpose and his abilities to not only keep himself safe but save others.

Valentina is trying to take a break from the spotlight after the breakup of her marriage.  So where does a supermodel head for rest and relaxation?  Peru - of course!  She does have her reasons but I was a little surprised at the location.  Val isn't my favorite heroine of the series but she wasn't as annoying as I was expecting a supermodel to be.  It's the one thing that would have made me skip this book had it been the first book in a series. I have a hard time getting behind a supermodel as a heroine.  But Val did prove me wrong and she came through in the most dangerous situations.

It's not a Black Ops Inc (BOI) book without the gang getting into the action.  I love how Gerard has incorporated females into the team.  Crystal and B.J (from Whisper No Lies & Feel the Heat, respectively) now hold important roles within the BOI.  They're not there as support staff, these women kick-ass - blowing up things and applying their considerable weapons skills.  The men of the team are still protective of the women but they do respect their abilities and put the women in danger because of that respect.

The sixth book in the series delivers all the action and suspense I've come to expect with smart, often fearless heroes and heroines.  With the last book in the series already out, I look forward to seeing how Gerard closes out the series - no doubt with a very satisfying bang. 

Rating: A- 

Black Ops Inc Series 

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

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: The Last Boyfriend

The Last Boyfriend
Nora Roberts
Contemporary Romance
Inn BoonesBoro Trilogy/Book 2
Berkley/May 1, 2012

Owen is the organizer of the Montgomery clan, running the family's construction business with an iron fist - and an even less flexible spreadsheet. And though his brothers bust on his compulsive list-making, the Inn BoonsBoro is about to open right on schedule. The only thing Owen didn't plan for was Avery McTavish... 

Avery's popular pizza place is right across the street from the inn, giving her a first-hand look at its amazing renovation - and a newfound appreciation for Owen. Since he was her first boyfriend when they were kids, Owen has never been far from Avery's thoughts. But the attraction she's feeling for him now is far from innocent. 

As Avery and Owen cautiously take their relationship to another level, the opening of the inn gives the whole town of Boonsboro a reason to celebrate. But Owen's hard work has only begun. Getting Avery to let down her guard is going to take longer than he expected - and so will getting her to realize that her first boyfriend is going to be her last...

When I opened my print copy of The Last Boyfriend, I couldn't help but look through the lists of published works by Ms. Roberts and her alter-ego J. D. Robb.  It's an impressive collection of single titles, trilogies, series and anthologies.  And while I haven't even come close to reading every book listed, I have enjoyed many and look forward to enjoying many more!

The friends-to-lovers trope is one of my favorites.  The appeal is the solid friendship at the core of the relationship and seeing how that evolves into the attraction and love of the couple.   Own and Avery grew up together, their fathers were best friends so you would think Owen might view Avery as more of a sister than a love interesting and you would be right.  But children grow up and their viewpoints change, sometimes with a little help.

Owen isn't an alpha hero at first glance.  He's anal to the nth degree with his lists, spreadsheets and compulsive neurotic planning.  He gave me the impression of cute, nerdy guy who's a sweetheart, always putting his family and friends first.  Then we get the scenes with Owen working with his tools and I realize that he may be a nerd but he's got muscles other than his brain and he knows how to use them.  Owen is the best of both worlds - sexy, hunky geek.   Own is easy to like and I enjoyed seeing him try to break away from his strict regiment to loosen up a bit, with Avery's help of course.

Avery McTavish is an independent woman who owns the local pizza parlor.  She's worked very hard at making Vesta Pizzaria a success and while her business is doing well, her love life has stalled out.  Could be because she's carrying a torch for her first boyfriend?  Avery is another character that is easy to like and I could see hanging out with if she were a real person.  She's funny, kind and loyal to her friends.  Blunt at times, but has a good heart.  Avery and Owen already have a good relationship but you can feel that there's something missing.  It's a solid relationship but an outsider, in this case the reader, can see that it has the potential for much more.

As Owen and Avery explore their romantic side, they come up against some problems of getting romantically involved with a friend.  Number one being, what happens to the friendship if the romance doesn't work out?  Neither wants to lose their friendship and this is something that they struggle with.  I did like how it was dealt with but had a hard time wondering why these two, who have such strong chemistry hadn't done something about it sooner.

The renovations continue at the Inn Boonsboro with all three Montgomery brothers, along with their mother, involved in the project and preparing for the big opening.  Innkeeper Hope Beaumont is also heavily involved in the details and is about as list crazy as Owen.  It's been pretty obvious from book one who Hope will be paired up with.  I'm actually looking forward to their story but more for the hero than for Hope.  Just haven't warmed up to her yet.

There is quiet a bit of time devoted to describing, in detail, the renovations being done to the Inn - the decorations, furnishing, paint color, menu etc.  And while I like the details, they became too much and made me feel as if I was in a HGTV show.  I wanted more of Owen and Avery and less paint colors and menu planning.  Avery is pretty standard fair when it comes to heroines but Owen is that elusive beta hero with a dash of alpha thrown in.  I would have liked more of them and their romance.

One ongoing story line is of the resident ghost of the Inn.  It's kinda cute, kinda sad and kinda silly but it does add a sprinkle of whimsy to the mix without being too annoying.  And progress is made as to who the ghost is and why they continue to haunted the Inn.  I don't usually care for ghosts but I think I have a bit more tolerance for this one since it reminds me of a show I watched as a kid, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  A classic!

The Last Boyfriend is a sweet, often very funny story with romance and family at it's center.  The family is well represented but the romance, even with some tender and humorous scenes felt like it was giving up the spotlight too often to the Inn. 

Rating: B 

Inn Boonsboro Trilogy ~

The Next Always
The Last Boyfriend
The Perfect Hope

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: Just Down the Road

Just Down the Road
Jodi Thomas
Contemporary Romance
Harmony Series/ Book 4
Berkley/April 3, 2012

Harmony, Texas, is a place where dreams are born. As the townspeople face unexpected endings and new beginnings, they also come face to face with themselves—and what’s most important in life...

When Tinch Turner lost his wife, he gave up on living. Now he spends his nights brooding, boozing, and brawling. When one of his escapades lands him in the ER, he finds himself staring up at the beautiful new doctor in town. For the first time in years, he feels a spark, but Addison Spencer wants nothing to do with the unruly rancher—or any man for that matter. She’s only in Harmony four months, long enough for the trouble she left behind to be over. But then a vulnerable little boy barrels into both their lives, forcing them out of the past—and into a future where love is just down the road...

In the meantime, as Reagan Truman grieves for her beloved uncle, she finds comfort in the makeshift family she’s made in Harmony—and in a new baby, the first born in the Wright Funeral Home in 45 years, proving to everyone that life does go on…

So happy to be back in Harmony, Texas!  It's like going home after being away for a long time.  The people, the places all hold memories of previous visits and times of happiness and some sadness too.   This time is no different, catching up with favorite characters and learning more about some newer folks in town.

Tinch Turner, at first glance, comes off as a drunken loser.  The guy is known for bar fights and trouble in general.  But beneath the rough, bleary-eyed exterior is a man in pain.  His wife wasn't simply his wife but she was his best friend, lover and childhood sweetheart.  His whole life centered on the fact that they would be together, growing old.  Now he is forced to face a new reality without her.  And Tinch does his best not to face it.  The way Tinch is written, it is so easy to not only sympathize with him but want to help him.  He's not a lost cause and Addison realizes this as she continues to see more of Tinch and the man underneath the pain.

Addison Spencer is in hiding.  She's taken the temporary job in Harmony to regroup and make some tough decisions.  Her run-ins with Tinch cause Addy to view him in a different light.  Then when Tinch is in desperate need of help, not only for himself but for a child, Addy comes to Tinch's rescue.  I really liked the role reversal with Addy helping Tinch.  And while it may seem like it is Addy doing the rescuing, Tinch also has a hand in helping Addy with her tough decisions.  Their romance was beautifully written and I loved see how each was able to give more than what they thought they could give, finding that inner strength they thought they had lost.

Big, Reagan and Noah - what a fascinating, complex triangle.  It's not a love triangle but a friendship triangle with both men loving Reagan in their own way and Reagan loving, in different ways, each of the men.  But it's their friendship at the heart of the relationships.  It's Noah Reagan wants to lean on but it's Big who's there when she needs someone the most.  Even knowing that Reagan is in love with Noah, you can't help but be thankful that Big is there for her because sometimes you need the friend that doesn't question you, that is simply there for you and that's what Big is for Reagan.  Their relationship is simple - it's friendship at it's deepest level.  Reagan and Noah's relationship is a rough and rocky one with potentially insurmountable obstacles.  It's definitely worth sticking around just to see how these three will handle everything life throws at them.

The funeral home is a busy place.  Who would have thought?  Not only is the usual business of attending to the dead keeping Tyler Wright, owner and funeral director, busy but the living are keeping him up late.  He's finally found the woman to spend the rest of his life with but he's left waiting for her to finish her last mission for the military.  Then there's Tyler's pregnant housekeeper who's about to give birth at any moment, keeping everyone nervous and ready for the baby's arrival.  I didn't feel a lot of concern for these characters as individuals but felt they rounded out the small town feeling with everyone pitching in to help each other.

I do think this series not only continues to grow but continues to get better, giving the reader even more to love and come back for.  The strength of the series are it's characters.  It's not only the people but the town and how they each contribute to the attributes and quality of the town to make Harmony what it is.   I look forward to continuing this journey with the residents of Harmony when we next meet. 

Rating:  A- 

Harmony Series ~ 

Welcome to Harmony
Somewhere Along the Way
The Comforts of Home
Just Down the Road

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TBR Challenge: Secret Admirer

Secret Admirer
Susan Napier
Contemporary Romance
A Year Down Under Series
Harlequin Presents/May 1993

Grace under pressure
Running into a potential business partner late at night in a broken elevator - when one was wearing a glamorous fur with nothing on underneath - was awkward, but Grace Blair was cool enough to handle a hot situation.

Her poised, controlled demeanor belied the insecurity she felt taking over her late husband's business empire, but Scott Gregory was able with one caressing glance to strip away all her pretenses. Especially since the handsome New Zealander had made it clear from their first inauspicious meeting that in business, knowledge was power - and that he knew exactly what he wanted.

This is not the first book I picked up for this month's challenge.  I started with a historical western but after a week and only 125 pages in, I decided to set it aside.  Unfortunately, I decided this yesterday morning which meant if I was going to make the challenge deadline, I would need to pick something I could read and review in a day.  So I dragged out the underbed storage box filled with Harlequins and came up with a Susan Napier romance.  I've not read Ms. Napier but have read some positive reviews of her work which is how she landed in my TBR pile.

 What a memorial impression Grace leaves on Scott Gregory upon their first meeting!  She is mortified, he is intrigued.  Fast forward a few months and Grace is trying to keep her late husband's company afloat, learning as she goes.  It turns out Mr. Gregory is in the same business  Grace now finds herself in and he has an interesting business proposal to make.  

Scott Gregory is not only known for his amazing business ventures but also for escorting a variety of beautiful women about town.  He can be either a ruthless competitor or an asset to Grace's company.  Right off you know Scott has plans that extend past the boardroom when it comes to Grace.  His fascination with her may have started in the elevator but it has gone beyond there.  He does have this tendency to show up everywhere Grace goes.  Stalker-ish or a man who goes after what he wants?  It didn't feel like Scott was a stalker simply because the intent was not malicious.  Yes, he does want to get to know Grace and she says she wants to keep things business only but the vibes she's sending out say something else.

Grace Blair has gone through a lot in the past months.  Her husband's death left her feeling alone and insecure in running the business he left to her.  She doesn't give up but instead is determined to learn what she needs to know to run the business. Grace is a former model, starting in childhood with a stage mother who focused all of Grace's time and energy on her career.  We see how Grace's modeling experience only feeds into her insecurities when it comes to business.  Grace was too indecisive when it came to her personal life and her feelings for Scott.  When she did make a decision, I was merely waiting for her to change her mind.

There is a big ol' WTH moment about two-thirds of the way through.  It was plausible, given the character's childhood but believable?  Yes, but ... I still had to remind myself that this is fiction.  Speaking of childhoods, both Grace and Scott has some bumps from theirs with Scott's bumps being far more traumatic.  Looking back, it is surprising how much detail was put into this category.  The focus does stay on Grace and Scott with little to no development on the secondary characters.  That didn't really bother me since it is a short format.

Even with the less than stellar heroine, the WTH shocker and the potential stalker moments, Secret Admirer turned out to be a engaging, short romance. 

Rating:  B-

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ARC Review: The Proposal

The Proposal
Mary Balogh
Historical Romance
Survivors' Club/Book 1
Random House/May 1, 2012

In Mary Balogh’s engaging and seductive new novel of drama and romance, a woman comfortable in her solitude allows temptation to free her heart, when a daring war hero shows her how truly extraordinary she is.

Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy, especially since a freak accident took her husband much too soon. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. But when Hugo, Lord Trentham, scoops her up in his arms after a fall, she feels a sensation that both shocks and emboldens her.

Hugo never intends to kiss Lady Muir, and frankly, he judges her to be a spoiled, frivolous—if beautiful—aristocrat. He is a gentleman in name only: a soldier whose bravery earned him a title; a merchant’s son who inherited his wealth. He is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. He doesn’t wish to court Lady Muir, nor have any role in the society games her kind thrives upon. Yet Hugo has never craved a woman more; Gwen’s guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face have ruined him for any other woman. He wants her, but will she have him?

The hard, dour ex-military officer who so gently carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman’s heart. Despite her cautious nature, Gwen cannot ignore the attraction. As their two vastly different worlds come together, both will be challenged in unforeseen ways. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, she cannot resist Hugo’s devotion, his desire, his love, and the promise of forever.

A new series from Mary Balogh is always a reason to celebrate.  In the Survivors' Club, Ms. Balogh explores what happens after the war is over and those left behind must find a way to move on.   We also see how someone with no war experience can still suffer survivor's guilt and must learn how to release that guilt and move on.

Hugo, Lord Trentham prefers the quiet life of the country, feeling uncomfortable and confined in the crowded world of the London ton.  He is proper if a bit cold, lacking the formal training other titled lords possess.  Even with his dislike of Gwen, Hugo is pulled in by her grace and kindness.  I really liked seeing Hugo loosen up and become more open with Gwen.  At first he attempts to keep his distance, not easy when he is the one who rescues her and feels responsible for her.  As he warms up to Gwen, Hugo takes a tremendous step by opening up his home, his retreat, to his family.  He does this not only for his sister but for Gwen. 

Gwen is a lady, raised as such and familiar with proper society.  This fact puts her above Hugo, who feels he is only a gentleman in name only.  Gwen doesn't care about how Hugo came into his title, in fact, she's impressed by his courage and his loyalty.  Gwen is an older heroine, thirty-two, who has the experience of not only marriage but great loss, giving her an outlook on life that a younger, more sheltered heroine might have.  I did like how Gwen continues to maintain her proper composure while becoming fascinated by Hugo and his very blunt manner of speaking.  She teasing him about it while enjoying his directness.

Both Hugo and Gwen have family obligations that play into their feelings and actions towards each other.  We see how Hugo's feelings of responsibility towards his half-sister lead him to seek a wife who will help him secure his sister a respectable husband.  He is stubborn when it comes to keeping away from the titled gentry due to his own feelings of inadequacy regarding his title.  Hugo and Gwen both carry a load of guilt which they work through before they can reach for their Happy Ever After. 

Enough information is given about the other members of the survivors club to give the reader a taste of things to come without overtaking the romance of Hugo and Gwen.  I know I'm intrigued to find out more about each unique individual.  I would say that while I enjoyed Hugo and Gwen's romance, it took it's sweet time meandering through the trials and tribulations of love.  There were a few moments when the story lost it's momentum.

The Proposal is a lovely romance with plenty of secondary characters to give the reader a need to come back for more of the Survivors Club.

Rating: B

Monday, May 7, 2012

Review: Fair Game

Fair Game
Patricia Briggs
Urban Fantasy
Alpha & Omega/Book 3
Ace/March 6, 2012

They say opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son-and enforcer-of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant alpha. While Anna, an omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.
Now that the werewolves have revealed themselves to humans, they can't afford any bad publicity. Infractions that could have been overlooked in the past must now be punished, and the strain of doing his father's dirty work is taking a toll on Charles.
Nevertheless, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston, when the FBI requests the pack's help on a local serial killer case. They quickly realize that not only the last two victims were werewolves-all of them were. Someone is targeting their kind. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer's sights...

It feels like ages since the last Alpha & Omega book.  Which is close to the truth.  The previous book, Hunting Ground was released in August 2009.  No wonder if feels like ages.  But the wait was worth it!  Ms. Briggs has written a compelling novel with Charles and Anna taking the lead in a intrinsic search for a killer.  Of course we also get another gorgeous cover from the very talented Dan Dos Santos.  Love his work! 

Anna knows Charles can't take much more of his role as the Marrok's assassin, she's losing him and is afraid of what might happen if Charles breaks.  When the FBI requests the packs help, Bran sends Anna and Charles to find the one responsible for killing werewolves.  It's still grisly work but at least Anna and Charles are together which gives Anna the chance to pull Charles back from the edge.

Charles has a reputation as a stone-cold killer.  And he is to a certain degree but there is so much more to this born werewolf.  We get to see the other sides of Charles as Anna brings out not only his deep need to protect but his humorous side, his tender side and his playful side.  He's still very much the alpha wolf, still fighting to maintain control and not go over to the dark side. The more I see of Anna and Charles, the more I like them as both a couple and as individuals.  It's important to note that Briggs shows all aspects of these characters.  She shows not only their strengths and weaknesses as a couple but also as individuals.

The trip to Boston and the subsequent investigation in the murders is revealing in how the werewolves, the Fae and the FBI are entering new territory in working together.  I found all the characters interesting and well developed for secondary characters.   I liked seeing Charles and Anna interact with this variety of mundane and supernatural characters.  If it were up to Charles he would prefer to stay at home with his mate but that's a thing of the past since the wolves revealed themselves to the public.  Now Charles is not only Bran's enforcer, he must also be a bit of a diplomat.  This is just another side of Charles we get to see and Anna is there to help him along.  I find it interesting how Anna, I don't want to say manipulates Charles into doing what she wants, for his benefit.  He knows it but he still goes along with her because he also knows her intent is in his best interest.

The world that Patricia Briggs has created is never stagnant.  She brings out the best and the worst in these characters.  It's an interactive world with all the players contributing to the story.  There are no fillers here, no waste of words.   Fair Game is an exceptional addition the the Alpha and Omega series.  With a powerful ending, I can't wait to see how it all plays out.

Rating:  A

Alpha & Omega Series ~

Alpha & Omega novella in On the Prowl anthology
Cry Wolf
Hunting Ground
Fair Game

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

ARC Review: Under Fire

Under Fire
Catherine Mann
Romantic Suspense
Elite Force/Book 3
Sourcebooks/May 1, 2012

A decorated hero, pararescueman Liam McCabe lives to serve. Six months ago, he and Rachel Flores met in the horrific aftermath of an earthquake in the Bahamas. They were tempted by an explosive attraction, yet parted ways. Still, Liam has thought about Rachel every day—and night—since. 

Now, after ignoring all his phone calls for six months, Rachel has turned up on base with a wild story about a high-ranking military traitor. She claims no one but Liam can help her—and she won’t trust anyone else. 

With nothing but her word and the testimony of a discharged military cop to go on, Liam would be insane to risk his career—even his life—to help this woman who left him in the dust.

This is team leader and commanding officer of the pararescuers Liam McCabe's story.  I've been curious about him since book one.  Three times divorced, Liam loves to fall in love.  Which is unusual for a hero.  But Liam is not your usual hero.  He is alpha when needed but he's also an easy going, fun loving guy.  He's not that dark, brooding hero that you might expect as the leader of these brave men.  He's also thirty-eight and ready to give up his military career after just one more mission. 

Liam McCabe is an adorable mix of playful puppy and serious military man.  He's got this vibe going that makes you want to be friends with him, knowing that you'll have a good time but that he's also got your back.  When Liam met Rachel Flores in the Bahamas six months ago, he was thoroughly smitten and a little in love with her.  Yes, he falls fast, very fast!  But one thing about Liam is he is aware of his propensity to fall in love quickly.  And I found that I liked that about him.  I thought it would bother me but it didn't because he was so honest with himself.  He also knows this scared Rachel since she is the opposite when it comes to love.

Rachel Flores loves her dogs and her work but burnout is a reality when you're under the pressure of search and rescue missions.  Knowing your ability to find someone quickly could mean the difference between life and death takes a heavy toll on the spirit.  After working in the aftermath of the earthquake in the Bahamas, Rachel was burnt out and needed a change.  So she moved to Florida, leaving search and rescue behind for training and working with therapy dogs.  Rachel isn't into long term relationships which is why she never returned Liam's calls after returning from the Bahamas.  But that doesn't mean she didn't think about him.  I liked how Rachel's feelings for Liam conflicted with her beliefs about relationships.  Liam is all about the love and marriage and Rachel wants none of that but, she wants Liam. 

The romance worked on a certain level with definitely chemistry between Rachel and Liam.  Rachel has to remind herself that she came to Liam for help and protection, not hot sex on the run.  Liam has to stop himself from saying the L word.  I did like how Rachel's dog Disco plays chaperone for the couple.  The pup likes to sleep close by to Rachel which gave Liam an interesting challenge in getting her alone without interference from Disco. 

There is also a secondary romance that was sweet and I did like these two together.  I do wonder if it wasn't the situation that had the man wanting the woman and if the situation had been different, would he have taken the initiative and gone for it or would he have faded into the background?  I'm not sure if his motivation was at all realistic or just heroine worship.  

The suspense begins well, with Rachel running from someone whom she thinks want her dead.  Turns out she's right.  Liam is drafted as the hero and he's more than willing to play the role but also a little skeptical about Rachel's story.  Which made sense since it was a little far-fetched.  Then the bullets start flying and Liam's a believer!  The traitor was a bit of a nut-job with quite a few incompetent underlinings.  It wasn't easy to take this guy seriously and it surprised me that he had gotten as far as he did. 

In the end Under Fire was a solid addition to the Elite Forces series.  I do wish the traitor had been more believable and the pacing had flowed better with fewer stops and starts.  I did enjoy Liam and his different take on love and romance.  I'm not sure who the next hero will be but I'll be there to see what  new adventures await these brave men.

Rating: B

Elite Force Series

Cover Me
Hot Zone
Under Fire