Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Defiant

Pamela Clare
Historical Romance
American Colonies/1760
MacKinnon Rangers/Book 3
Berkley/July 3, 2012

Major Connor MacKinnon despises his commander, Lord William Wentworth, beyond all other men. Ordered to rescue Wentworth's niece after the Shawnee take her captive, he expects Lady Sarah Woodville to be every bit as arrogant and contemptible as her uncle. Instead, he finds a brave and beautiful lass in desperate peril. But the only way to free Sarah is for Connor to defeat the Shawnee warrior who kidnapped her—and claim her himself.

Torn by tragedy from her sheltered life in London, Lady Sarah is unprepared for the harshness of the frontier—or for the attraction she feels toward Connor as he guides her first through the consummation of their forced union and then through the dangers of the wilderness. When they reach civilization, however, it is she who must protect him. For if her uncle knew all that Connor had done to save her, he would surely kill him.

But the flames of passion, once kindled, are difficult to deny. As desire transforms into love, Connor will have to defy an empire to keep Sarah at his side.

It's been nearly four years since the second book in the series, Untamed (November 2008) was released.  Since then many fans have wondered what would happened to Connor and when would he get his Happy Ever After?  Well, Connor has his HEA and I couldn't be more thrilled with how it turned out!  

Connor MacKinnon has spent the last five years fighting a war he wants no part of.  He and his two brothers were blackmailed into creating a superior fighting force that has become known as MacKinnon's Rangers.  Connor is now the last of the MacKinnon brothers still fighting and he longs for the days when the war will end.  I simply adored Connor!  His loyalty to his brothers and the men he fights with makes it hard to resist this hero.  We also see what he considers his weaknesses which only work to epitomize the depth of his character.  Family is everything to Connor and when he must rescue a family member of a man he has sworn to kill, it makes it hard to look past to the woman beyond the name.

Lady Sarah Wentworth left London in disgrace and in her attempt to reach her beloved uncle, is taken captive.  Sarah is resourceful, courageous and stubborn.  Which all come in handy when she gets a crash course in survival.  She learns how dangerous the colonies can be as well as how beautiful they are.  Sarah doesn't know about the bad blood between Connor and her uncle, Lord William Wentworth.  Instead, Sarah has heard only of the bravery of MacKinnon's Rangers.  This makes for much conflict between Sarah and Connor as they fall in love.  I really liked how Sarah was torn between her belief in the goodness of her uncle as she comes to realize what he has done to Connor and his brothers.  She's very conflicted over the two men she loves.  Even when she sees her uncle's deviousness, she doesn't stop loving him but aches over the loss of  his greatness in her eyes.  

Connor and Sarah have such a beautiful and at times tragic romance.  They must overcome so much which is consistent with everything going on around them.  The war ugliness of war isn't glossed over and set aside to make room for the romance.  Instead, Connor and Sarah must make the best of the situation they find themselves in, which only makes their love that much stronger.  Pamela Clare has a way of getting to the heart of her characters by showing their courage in the face of adversity.  

This wouldn't have been such a wonderful story without the secondary characters of the MacKinnon brothers, Ian and Morgan and their families.  There is also Captain Joseph, blood brother to the MacKinnons and the Rangers themselves who add to the camaraderie and historical feel of the story.  

Pamela Clare has again giving readers a great romance bound within a fascinating setting that only makes me want more.  Perhaps Joseph will get his own book?  We can only hope!

Rating:  A

MacKinnon Rangers Series ~


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: The Great Escape

The Great Escape
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Contemporary Romance
Wynette, Texas Series/Book 7
William Morrow/July 10, 2012

"Where do you run to when your life has fallen apart?"

Lucy Jorik is a champ at never embarrassing the family she adores--not surprising since her mother is one of the most famous women in the world. But now Lucy has done just that. And on her wedding day, no less, to the most perfect man she's ever known.

Instead of saying "I do" to Mr. Irresistible, Lucy flees the church in an ill-fitting blue choir robe and hitches a ride on the back of a beat-up motorcycle plastered with offensive bumper stickers. She's flying into the unknown with a rough-looking, bad-tempered stranger who couldn't be more foreign to her privileged existence.

While the world searches for her, Lucy must search for herself, and she quickly realizes that her customary good manners are no defense against a man who's raised rudeness to an art form. Lucy needs to toughen up--and fast.

Her great escape takes her to his rambling beach house on a Great Lakes island. Here, she hopes to find a new direction . . . and unlock the secrets of this man who knows so much about her but reveals nothing about himself. As the hot summer days unfold amid scented breezes and sudden storms, she'll also encounter a beautiful, troubled beekeeper; a frightened young boy; a modern-day evil queen; and a passion that could change her life forever.

Yep, been waiting for this one.  Was the wait worth it?  Oh, yes.  This is the other side of the story - the would be bride's side of what happened on that fateful day when the highly televised wedding came to a sudden stop.  

Lucy Jorik is very good at being perfect.  She is the perfect daughter, the perfect professional, the perfect fiance.  Then Lucy decides it's time to stop being so perfect and start being herself.  One thing I can say about Lucy - when she rebels, she goes all out!  I liked what I read of the young Lucy in First Lady and I liked her even more after she's all grown up.  After trying to bury her childhood insecurities and rebellious side for so long it was good to see Lucy simply be Lucy.  It turns out she's very likeable without being perfect.  

Panda, if ever there was a classic hero name, that's not it!  But oddly enough it suits him.  He is opposite of the men Lucy is accustomed to and he's exactly what she needs.  He doesn't let her get away with anything but instead treats her like Lucy, the person instead of Lucy the public figure.  He does have a job to do and can be an ass while doing it, he's still turns out to be this funny, smartass and very likeable hero.  

Lucy's escape from perfection to her true self has her meeting up with some very unusual characters along the way.  They all help Lucy with her transition into finding who she really is and what she really wants out of life.  Panda is right there with her, not always happy to help, instead trying to get Lucy to go back to her old life.  He's not a firm believer in the new Lucy and he does take some convincing.   Of course the convincing comes in many forms one being physical, which turns out Panda and Lucy are very good at!  

Along with the romance is the classic humor of SEP.  From the slapstick comedy to the witty dialogue, there is such a well defined flow it, making the reading almost effortless.  It's not all laughs, Lucy, Panda and their friends take on responsibilities they don't always feel comfortable with.  There were a number of issues discussed and tackled and while I sometimes found myself wanting to get back to some of the lighter moments, the relationships were all so very interesting, I didn't want it to end.

Rating:  A-

Monday, August 20, 2012

ARC Review: Within Reach

Within Reach
Sarah Mayberry
Contemporary Romance
Harlequin/August 7, 2012

Being a single dad was never on Michael Young's agenda. Yet with the sudden loss of his wife, that's exactly the role he has. On his best days, he thinks he can handle it. On his worst… Luckily, family friend Angie Bartlett has his back, easily stepping in to help out.

Lately, though, something has changed.

Michael is noticing exactly how gorgeous Angie is, and how single she is. She's constantly in his thoughts and he feels an attraction he never expected. Does he dare disrupt the very good thing they have going? If they have a fling that goes nowhere, he stands to lose everything—including her. But if they make it work, he stands to gain everything!

Ms. Mayberry has delivered a deeply emotional romance which shows how someone can come back from a most painful loss and learn to live again.  It's not only Michael and Angie who must deal with the death of Billie, Michael's wife and Angie's best friend, but also Michael and Billie's children and Mayberry does well demonstrating each characters grief.   

The story starts out with a happy setting but soon turns tragic.  It's not a light read but ventures into some profound emotions on the part of the hero and heroine as well as the kids.  Mayberry doesn't rush the romance, it would have felt untrue if she had.  Instead, she takes her time developing Michael and Angie's friendship then takes the next step when their both ready.  They are tentative friends, not sure exactly where their friendship stands without Billie there to connect them.  

Michael goes into a downward spiral, merely going through the motions.  When he finally comes out of it he still has a lot of healing to do but is now on the path to living again.  Mayberry's portrayal of Michael's grief is so intense, it's almost as if you are reading the real life emotions of a widower rather than a fictional character's feelings.  I was a little surprised at how much he distanced himself from his kids instead of pulling closer to them.  

Angie is going through similar emotions as Michael but she doesn't let them rule her the way he does.  She still feels profound grief but learns to work through it, mainly by keeping extremely busy with her work as a jewelry designer.  Angie could have easily falling into deep despair but didn't.  I liked how we see two different reactions to grief, showing how different people deal differently with loss.  

The romance, as I mentioned, took a while to develop.  There is a boatload of guilt carried by both Michael and Angie regarding their attraction.  The disloyalty to Billie's memory is foremost in their minds.  It's something they must work through but it doesn't come easily.  Had it come easily I think it would have lessened their great loss over Billie's death.   

This is not always an easy read but it is well written with insight to loss, pain and the happiness that can come after if you only let it.   

Rating: A-

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TBR Review: Wicked Intent

Wicked Intent
Lora Leigh
Erotic Romance
Bound Hearts/Book 4
Ellora's Cave/April 2004

Control has meant everything to Tally Raines. Control of the office she ran as Jesse Wyman's secretary, and now control of Lucian Conover's office as well. But Lucian isn't content to be controlled by his fiery secretary. As a matter of fact, Lucian thinks she needs to loosen up and let the sexy, sensual woman hiding beneath her cool exterior free. And he will dare her to do just that. With a little help.

Lora Leigh was one of the first erotic authors I read eons ago when I finally got back into reading romances.  I was use to the historical romances of the 80's so to say I was shocked as how graphic not only the sex scenes were but the dance leading up to them was putting it mildly.  Wicked Intent is classic Leigh in that it's all about the sex and the dominance of the male.  But there is the underlying power the female holds over the male.  He simply thinks he holds all the power when in reality the power struggle is there until they find that balance that allows them to be everything to each other.   

Tally Raines thinks she has the worst boss ever.  He's arrogant, demanding, and as beautiful as an angel.  And that's just in the office!   She's also very attracted to him but in denial about the attraction.  He's far too much an ass for her to want anything to do with him.  Right.  Tally is a strong heroine but like all submissives she eventually crumbles under the pressure that not only Lucian puts on her but his twin brother Devril adds to the mix.  Yep, this is one of those novels.  Two brothers, one woman. Tally was okay as a heroine and she didn't give the brothers an easy time, making the boys work for their woman. 

First there was Lucian, then Devril.  Twin brothers whose looks are night and day but whose sexual tastes are very similar.  They are both members of The Club.  A exclusive club primarily for men, but with a few female exceptions, that caters to very specific taste in sexual adventures. Mainly, sharing women.  Which fits nicely when you have twins.  Their tastes in women and sex are not the only things these brothers share.  They also share a psychic link, allowing each brother to feel any strong emotions the other is feeling.  Yeah, you know where this is going.  Erotic novel plus brothers with psychic link equals steamy scenes that don't require all three participants in the same room.   

The premise is fairly standard and the plot moves in the expected direction with little to no deviation.  I didn't feel the strong sexual tension I would have expected.  From the first, I knew where this was going and how the characters would get there.  The writing is descriptive regarding physical attributes but there wasn't much in the way of emotional depth other than sexual frustration and anger.  All in all, this is merely a standard erotic romance.  If you're into brothers, then read it for the hot sex scenes.  If not, then pass.  

Rating: C

Bound Hearts Series ~ 

Wicked Intent
Forbidden Pleasure
Wicked Pleasure
Only Pleasure
Guilty Pleasure
Dangerous Pleasure

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cover Love ~ Patricia Briggs ~ Frost Burned

Shapeshifter Mercy Thompson's life is calming down, at least enough that she can focus on mundane matters like Black Friday sales. But on her return, Mercy is unable to contact her mate, Alpha Adam Hauptman, or the other members of their pack. All she knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam's disappearance may be related - and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from the most unlikely of allies: the vampire seethe.

Don't you just love Dan Dos Santos' artwork?  You can see more of this wonderful artist's work here

If you haven't heard, or seen, the cover & blurb for the next book in the amazing Mercy Thompson series was posted.  Sadly, it's not due out until March 2013.  *sigh*  So far away...  until then, we'll have to make due with the blurb.  And if you want a look into what it's like to live with a writer on deadline, pop over to Patricia Briggs' website and read what her husband Mike has to say (mid-page).  I always enjoy reading Mike's take on the writing process.  Very insightful and funny. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

ARC Review: Pushing the Limits

Pushing the Limits
Katie McGarry
Young Adult Contemporary
Harlequin Teen/July 31, 2012

"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

This one surprised me.  In a good way.  I had read a couple of positive comments about the book and I did like the premise.  Plus, there doesn't seem to be as much Contemporary Young Adult as there is the more popular Fantasy Young Adult.  So I started Pushing the Limits and teared up by the end of the second chapter.  In a good way.   

The second chapter would not be the last time this story brought tears to my eyes.  It is, obviously, a very emotional read at times.  Both Echo and Noah have been through their own private hells and are still there trying to make their way out.  They've each gone through horrible loss and McGarry doesn't hold back when it comes to pulling out the emotions from these characters.  Not surprisingly, both Echo and Noah have their share of attitude, especially when it comes to adults.  As we all tended to be as teens, we think we know better than adults and adults have no idea what we're going through.  Echo and Noah are lucky when one adult, the school counselor, comes into their lives and refuses to leave.  Mrs. Collins was a wonderful character that didn't fall into that complacent spot so many adults in young adult novels do.

Echo's life is so far from perfect but it could be a lot worse without her friend Lila, who has stuck by her.  The way Echo and Lila interact and how their friendship plays out in the story shows very well the impact of  having someone stand by you when you are at your lowest. I'm glad McGarry gave plenty page time to show the depth of their friendship.  

Noah, whoa, my heart was breaking for him.  His life went from a happy, stable family to a foster home where he basically takes care of himself.   He needs more than what he is getting but his time in the foster care system has taught him not to trust adults.   Noah's life has made a complete 180°and we see how conflicted he is from who he was before and who he is trying to be now.  This is a kid who feels like he lost everything and is desperately trying to get some of that back.  McGarry created Noah in an image of a bad-boy persona but was still able to make him not only believable but get the reader to sympathize with him.   

Echo and Noah together rub either other the wrong way from the beginning.  They don't think they have anything in common and want nothing to do with each other.  But remember I mentioned Mrs. Collins, the school counselor?  She is smart and thinks Echo and Noah can help each other.  So they're put together for tutoring sessions.  As time passes, Noah and Echo each see beyond each others' outer-self to what is really going on inside.  I loved how they really began listening to each other and letting go of their preconceptions, allowing them to trust again. 

Pushing the Limits deals with a number of dark topics which the author handles well, delving into the subject matter with clarity and compassion.  Ms. McGarry is a welcome addition to my "must read" authors list. 

Rating:  A

Pushing the Limits
Dare You To (2013)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Upcoming Historical Romances

I don't read nearly as many historical romances as I like to, there just isn't enough time!  But here are three that are on my list.

The next installment of Tessa Dare's wonderful Spindle Cove series comes out in a few short weeks!  I really love this series and would highly recommend it.

A Lady by Midnight ~ August 28

A temporary engagement, a lifetime in the making...

After years of fending for herself, Kate Taylor found friendship and acceptance in Spindle Cove--but she never stopped yearning for love. The very last place she'd look for it is in the arms of Corporal Thorne. The militia commander is as stone cold as he is brutally handsome. But when mysterious strangers come searching for Kate, Thorne steps forward as her fiance. He claims to have only Kate's safety in mind. So why is there smoldering passion in his kiss?

Long ago, Samuel Thorne devoted his life to guarding Kate’s happiness. He wants what's best for her, and he knows it's not marriage to a man like him. To outlast their temporary engagement, he must keep his hands off her tempting body and lock her warm smiles out of his withered heart. It's the toughest battle of this hardened warrior's life...and the first he seems destined to lose.

Carolyn Jewel's second book in her historical series in which I love the covers and the blurbs have me intrigued. 

Not Proper Enough ~ September 4

The Marquess of Fenris has loved Lady Eugenia from the day he first set eyes on her. Five years ago, pride caused him to earn her enmity. Now she’s widowed, and he’s determined to make amends and win her heart. But with their near explosive attraction, can he resist his desire long enough to court her properly?

After the death of her beloved husband, Lady Eugenia Bryant has come to London to build a new life. Despite the gift of a medallion said to have the power to unite the wearer with her perfect match, Eugenia believes she won’t love again. And yet, amid the social whirl of chaperoning a young friend through her first Season, she finds a second chance at happiness.

Unfortunately, the Marquess of Fenris threatens her newfound peace. Eugenia dislikes the man, but the handsome and wealthy heir to a dukedom is more charming than he has a right to be. Constantly underfoot, the rogue disturbs her heart, alternately delighting and scandalizing her. And when their relationship takes a highly improper turn, Eugenia must decide if the wrong man isn’t the right one after all.

Lorraine Heath's second book in her Lost Lords of Pembrook trilogy.  I still have the first book on my TBR pile but that won't stop me from adding this one!

Lord of Temptation ~ September 25 

Three young heirs, imprisoned by an unscrupulous uncle, escaped—to the sea, to the streets, to faraway battle—awaiting the day when they would return to reclaim their birthright.
Once upon a time, he was Lord Tristan Easton—now he is Crimson Jack, a notorious privateer beholden to none, whose only mistress is the sea. But all that will change when exquisite Lady Anne Hayworth hires his protection on a trip into danger and seduction. . .

Desperation brought Anne to the bronzed, blue-eyed buccaneer. But after the Captain demands a kiss as his payment, desire will keep her at his side. She has never known temptation like this—but to protect her heart, she knows she must leave him behind. Yet Tristan cannot easily forget the beauty—and when they meet again in a London ballroom, he vows he won't lose her a second time, as fiery passion reignited takes them into uncharted waters that could lead the second lost lord home.

What future historical romances should I add to my list?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: Heart of Glass

Heart of Glass
Jill Marie Landis
Historical Inspiration Romance
Irish Angel Series/Book 3
Zondervan/February 14, 2012

Kate Keene's childhood memories compel her to take her newly-acquired architectural skills to a dilapidated Louisiana mansion. But when she returns to the Reconstruction-era South, she's shocked to discover the man she's dreamed of for so long has become a bitter, angry recluse. 

Colin Delany, the handsome older brother of her best friend, has lost all he once held dear, with no hope of ever restoring the Belle Fleuve mansion and plantation. Filled with spunk and determination, Kate feels it's her duty to help, so when Colin demands she roll up her drawings and get out, she refuses. 

And when Colin forces Kate to promise his dying sister they will care for his niece and nephew, she complies. Having been orphaned herself, Kate realizes she must put the children's welfare above her own, even if it means a marriage of convenience. 

But will Colin's hovering darkness ever lift? And can Kate's persistent love and faith transform their uncertain future? 

Even thought this is the third book in the series, it stands well on its own.  The inspirational touches are fairly light.  God and faith are mentioned but the writing doesn't preach, merely informs and makes faith or the loss of it, a trait of each character.

The Civil War, or the War of Northern Aggression as southerners refer to it, has been over for a decade but the aftermath is still highly visible in many parts of the the south.  One place it is still visible is the plantation Belle Fleuve.  It's here Kate Keene is drawn back to and here where her heart lies.  Kate is determined to bring Belle Fleuve back to it's original glory.  Her main obstacle is the current owner, Colin Delany who also happens to be the man she's in love with and has been for many years.  Kate is a smart woman and isn't afraid to show her intelligence, even in the world of architecture.  I liked Kate but I did find the easy acceptance of her as an architect hard to believe.  It's not only 1876 but the south where women are firmly in the traditional roles of wife and mother.  Kate's abilities as an architect are viewed with surprise but she doesn't have any real obstacles when applying for a position. 

The war has taken it's toll not only on the land of the south but the people.  Colin Delaney is one of those young men that left to fight what was thought to be a short war and ended up taking years.  Then thinking he had nothing left to go home to, he signed on with the Union Army to fight out west.  He's back now, injured and depressed.  Colin is a sad, bitter hero who really needs a kick in the pants to get him past his depression and into the land of the living.  I felt sympathy for Colin but he did seem to wallow in his misery a little too long.  His turn-around in attitude came quickly but he still had a few idiotic moments.  I wish he had cherished his life, family and home more from the beginning.    

This is not a lighthearted read but a look at the long-term affects war has on the ones who fight and the ones who are left behind.  Landis does well in conveying very strong emotions in her characters.  I enjoyed seeing how Kate and Colin overcome their fears, grief and longing for something that no longer exists.  They must find a way to create a new life in the world after the war and they do this through perseverance and their love for each other and their family. 

Rating: B-

Irish Angel Series ~

Heart of Stone
Heart of Lies
Heart of Glass