Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: The Recruit

The Recruit
Monica McCarty
Historical Romance/England/Scotland/1306
Highland Guard/Book 6
Ballantine Books/October 30, 2012

Fiery, aggressive, and bold, Kenneth Sutherland is a true champion—skilled with any weapon and driven to win. Now Kenneth is ready for his greatest challenge: joining Robert the Bruce’s secret army to fight among the elite. Kenneth’s best chance to attain that honor is by winning the Highland Games.  Focused and prepared for victory, he is caught off guard by a lovely wisp of a woman—and a stolen moment of wicked seduction. Her innocent arousal and her shameless hunger fire his blood. He will win his place in the guard—and in Mary of Mar’s bed. 

The ruggedly handsome hero-in-the-making stirs a heart that should know better. Mary vows that her surrender will be sport only—no promises, no heartbreak, just one night of incredible passion. Nothing, she swears, will persuade her to give up her hard-wrought independence and put her fate in the hands of another powerful man. But with every gentle touch and heart-pounding kiss, Kenneth makes her want more. Now Mary wants his heart. But is this determined champion willing to surrender everything for love?

After having lost the mood for historical romances, I must thank Ms. McCarty for getting me back into the mood with The Recruit.  With the sixth book in the wonderful Highland Guard series, Ms. McCarty leaves off focusing on established members of the guard and instead gives the reader a hero who must prove himself worthy to be taken into the brotherhood of the guard.

It's an uphill battle but Kenneth Sutherland is ready for the challenge.  What he's not ready for is the attraction he feels for Mary of Mar.  A complication he doesn't need in his life right now but one he finds to hard to resist.  I liked how Kenneth is not easily welcomed into the guard.  Given  his family history of supporting England up until the previous year, it makes sense the other guard members would be wary.

Mary is this gentle, kind noblewoman who finds herself caught up in the volital politics between King Edward and Robert the Bruce.  It's dangerous, not only for her but for her young son.   Mary is a heroine of her time, meaning she is basically at the mercy of men.  She is controlled by her husband and then by her king.  She has no say in where she will live or when she may see her son.  It was so easy to not only to like Mary but to emphasize with her.  She is portrayed as a woman of her time who still has strength of character.  Which isn't always easy for author's to pull off without  making the heroine feel too modern.  McCarty did a wonderful job in keeping Mary true to her time period.

Mary and Kenneth are a couple that you really root for.  As the story progressed, I wanted so much for them to have their happy ever after which isn't necessarily unique when reading a romance novel but with them I felt they deserved it so much after everything they went through.

If you love highlanders, romance, history and suspense - give the Highland Guard series a try.

Rating: A-

Highland Guard Series ~

The Chief
The Hawk
The Ranger
The Viper
The Saint
The Recruit
The Hunter (June 25, 2013)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

ARC Review: The Favor

The Favor
Megan Hart
Harlequin/MIRA/June 25, 2013

Janelle Decker has happy childhood memories of her grandma's house, and even lived there through high school. Now she's back with her twelve-year-old son to look after her ailing Nan, and hardly anything seems to have changed, not even the Tierney boys next door.

Gabriel Tierney, local bad-boy. The twins, Michael and Andrew.

After everything that happened between the four of them, Janelle is shocked that Gabe still lives in St. Mary's. And he isn't trying very hard to convince Janelle he's changed from the moody teenage boy she once knew. If anything, he seems bent on making sure she has no intentions of rekindling their past.

To this day, though there might've been a lot of speculation about her relationship with Gabe, nobody else knows she was there in the woods that day...the day a devastating accident tore the Tierney brothers apart and drove Janelle away. But there are things that even Janelle doesn't know, and as she and Gabe revisit their interrupted romance, she begins to uncover the truth denied to her when she ran away all those years ago.

Ms. Hart continues to venture out of her erotic roots and into the realm of mainstream fiction and mystery.  In The Favor, childhood memories play a critical roll not only in the choices the characters make but the choices they refuse to make.  The mystery surrounding Janelle and the Tierney brothers is hinted at throughout the story, giving the reader a number of possibilities while maintaining the undercurrent of tension.

In developing the characters, Hart shows how people react differently to the same event.   The long term results are not always what is expected or even wanted but must still be dealt with.  For Janelle, going back to St. Mary's is something she has been avoiding for years but now must face it, and her past, head on.  A big part of that past is right next door in the form of Gabe Tierney.  At first, Gabe is not a likable character nor is he meant to be.  As we get to know Gabe we see how he has become this unhappy, depressed man living in penance for his past.  No one needs to punish Gabe for his sins, he's become very good at punishing himself.  I waited to feel sorry for him, but never really got to the point of feeling sorry for the man he had become.

Janelle is a single mother who tries to give her son a stable life but allows her need to run from her past make creating that stable very difficult.  I liked the patience Janelle showed towards her grandmother.  Their relationship was portrayed with love, devotion and a strength that many of us can only hope to show when faced when taking care of a terminally ill family member.

I found myself drawn into the story until the point when the mystery of what happened all those years ago was revealed.  At that point I debated if I should continue with the book.  Not to get into spoilers but I was very disturbed by the events and disappointed in the characters and the choices made when they were younger.  Yes, they had been young but youth is not always a viable excuse.

In the end, I liked seeing how these characters built and rebuilt their relationships.  The Favor is a look at family ties, both the good and the bad, and the long lasting affects of those relationships.

Rating:  B

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: Written in Red

Written in Red
Anne Bishop
The Others/Book 1
NAL/March 5, 2013

As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut — a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

Anne Bishop, where have you been all my life?  Yes, apparently I've been living under a rock since this is my first Anne Bishop novel.  I do have a few of Ms. Bishop's novels on my TBR pile but instead decided to start my Bishop reading experience with her latest release.  If her previous novels are anything like Written in Red, I will be one very happy reader!

Ms. Bishop has created a captivating world combining humans, vampires, shapeshifters and other worldly creatures to create an absorbing tale of a woman trying to survive in the midst of these creatures.  Meg Corbyn escapes right into the path of Simon Wolfgard who both scares and fascinates her.  But Meg has no choice, she must work for Simon and try to fit in if she is to have any chance of avoiding capture and returning to enslavement.  Meg brings a different light to the district.  She has plenty to fear from but she tries not to prejudge everyone she meets, instead overcoming some of her fears and in turn making friends.

I love how the district is made to feel like a small town with some very odd citizens.  One of the things that stands out is how those citizens each have their own sense of identity and place in the community. The ponies for one, are such a treat with their unique personalities.  I loved when they came on the scene.  The characters show life's contrasts and how tragedy can bring together even the most unlikely allies.

Ms. Bishop has created a world reflecting our own world of diversity, her inhabitants just happened to have some unusual abilities.  I would highly recommend Written in Red.  

Rating: A

The Others Series ~

Written in Red
Murder of Crows (March 2014)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review: Coming Home

Coming Home
Christine S. Feldman
Contemporary Romance
Crimson Romance/March 25, 2013

No woman ever really forgets her first love. Callie Sorenson is no exception. Hers was tall, tanned, and—as her older brother’s best friend—completely off limits.

Danny McCutcheon.

It’s a name that Callie hasn’t spoken in years, even if the man to whom it belongs has never really been all that far from her thoughts. Or her heart.  But now a twist of fate will bring her back to the childhood home she left behind years ago, and to the hometown boy for whom she secretly longed.

When her mother takes a bad fall and breaks her hip, Callie leaves the bright lights of New York City to fly back west and help with the rehabilitation. It’s a tense homecoming due to a long time estrangement between mother and daughter, and it drives Callie to confront both a painful personal loss and her unanswered questions about the father who abandoned her when she was just a child.

It also brings her face to face with Danny again, and Callie quickly realizes that old feelings die hard.

But for Danny, it’s new feelings that are a problem. Callie is not the young girl he remembers but a woman now, and a very desirable one. They both have reasons to fight the growing attraction between them, but the temptation may just prove to be too much to resist, despite some very real risk to their hearts. The past casts a long shadow over the future, though, and Callie will have to overcome it or else face losing the one man who means the most to her.

Callie and Danny's romance is a sweet romance of a life long friendship finally turning to something more.  But it takes getting to really know each other and themselves before the tentative romance can become something deeper.

When we first meet Callie, she is living the life she thought she wanted.  No real ties to anywhere, just going where she wants and living how she wants to live.  But you can tell something is missing in her life.  Callie rushes back to her hometown when her mom needs her help after an accident.  Ms. Feldman does well in developing Callie and her need for moving around and lack of desire to put down roots anywhere.

I'm really glad we get Danny's POV.  His insight into Callie gave a different perspective that would have been missed and left me wondering how others close to Callie viewed her.  Instead, we see Danny's faith in Callie and how it affects not only her but him.  Danny is a strong hero who doesn't push Callie, instead he's there when she needs him.

As Callie's homecoming progresses, she sees her hometown in a new light and Danny as more than just the guy she had a crush on.  I genuinely enjoyed how Callie and Danny's relationship developed from childhood friends to romantic couple.  It didn't feel rushed at all but solid by the end.

This is a sweet, gentle romance showing how one woman can go back home a make a life for herself where she thought it wasn't possible.  It was a bit slow at times, making me wish the pace would pick up but overall an enjoyable story.

Rating: B+

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: Frost Burned

Frost Burned
Patricia Briggs
Urban Fantasy
Mercy Thompson/Book 7
Ace/March 5, 2013

Mercy Thompson’s life has undergone a seismic change. Becoming the mate of Adam Hauptman — the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack — has made her a stepmother to his daughter Jesse, a relationship that brings moments of blissful normalcy to Mercy’s life. But on the edges of humanity, what passes for a minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn into so much more….

 After an accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam—or anyone else in the pack for that matter. They’ve all been abducted.

Through their mating bond, all Mercy 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 any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

I read this shortly after it was released but never got around to reviewing it.  Since the Mercy Thompson series is one of my favorites, it wasn't a hardship to do a quick re-read and then review.

It's one of the most insane days on the planet and Mercy finds herself right in the middle of the insanity.  Black Friday has Mercy and Jessie, Mercy's stepdaughter, fighting the crowds which are  almost as dangerous as fighting supernatural beings.  The plot gives the reader a better look at Mercy and Jessie's relationship, which I really enjoyed.  It's not easy taking on the role of stepmom but Mercy finds the balance between authority figure and friend for the teenage Jessie.

Mercy is out of her comfort zone, having to make critical decisions for the pack.  She is the mate of the pack's Alpha so it's not out of place for her position within the pack had she been a werewolf.  But being a coyote shifter means she has had to and continues to have to prove herself. Of course she does well under pressure and even has a few abilities the werewolves don't have at her disposal.  I liked seeing Mercy out of her element and having to rely on some unusual characters for help.

We didn't learn as much as I'd hoped for after the events of Fair Game (Alpha & Omega, book 3) but Frost Burned still provided some great character development and an interesting, entertaining story.

Rating: A-

Books in this series ~

Moon Called
Blood Bound
Iron Kissed
Bone Crossed
Silver Borne
River Marked
Frost Burned

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Review: The Lost Prince

The Lost Prince
Julie Kagawa
Young Adult Fantasy
The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten/Book 1
Harlequin Teen/October 23, 2012

Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for. 

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series is a favorite of mine. The world Kagawa has created is filled with such memorable characters and fast paced action, I was thrilled to venture back into it.

Little Ethan is all grown up, mostly. He may be in high school but his past experiences with the Fey are still with him, governing his every move. He's going through more than the typical teenage angst, Ethan is being pulled back into a world he wants nothing to do with. Ethan was an interesting character when he was a little boy. I still found him interesting but his teen angst became redundant with his "poor me" attitude.

I like how we see Ethan trying to fit in to the "normal" world of teens all the while keeping his defenses up against whatever the Fey might thrown at him. It was a little odd, seeing Ethan as the main character without his big sis watching over him. As the story progresses, Ethan becomes a stronger presence and begins to come out of the shadow of his sister, the Iron Queen.

There is plenty of backstory so if you haven't read the previous novels, you get a pretty good idea of what has preceded up to this point.  The problems came up with the main female character, Mackenzie aka Kenzie.  She's determined to find out what is going on with Ethan Chase.  I found her pushy, overbearing and difficult to like.  She made me miss Meghan and her quiet strength. Maybe it's not fair to compare the two but I couldn't help but compare Ethan and Kenzie to Meghan and Ash and found the new couple lacking.  Still, I was left curious to see what happens next in Ethan's world.

Rating: B

The Iron Fey:  Call of the Forgotten Series ~

The Lost Prince
The Traitor's Son (October 29, 2013)