When I read a romance, and it gives me the classic romantic comedy vibe (circa 1930s-1960s), that's a high compliment. I love the mix of laugh out lou...moreWhen I read a romance, and it gives me the classic romantic comedy vibe (circa 1930s-1960s), that's a high compliment. I love the mix of laugh out loud humor and passion that a very good contemporary romance delivers. And Tongue in Chic definitely delivered.
I am no stranger to Christina Dodd. She is one of my favorite authors. Yet, I am gun shy about contemporaries (other than the series romances). They just don't hold my interest like a good paranormal or historical romance. But, I bought this book because I buy all of Christina Dodd's books. And I liked the plot. Natalie Meadow Szarvas sneaks into the house of her estranged grandfather to steal a painting that her grandmother left behind when her grandfather kicked her out after she admitted to an affair with her painting instructor. Many years later, Meadow goes into the house to find that it belongs to real estate magnate with the reputation of a shark, Devlin Fitzwilliam, who has converted it to a hotel called The Secret Garden. She ends up hitting her head and waking up to a gorgeous, but scary-looking man standing over him. She does the first thing that comes to mind, pretends amnesia. Devlin is nothing if not an opportunist. He seizes the chance to get revenge against his nemesis, the grandfather of the woman who has broken into his house. And if pretending like he's married to her can deliver that, he's all for it. And there's also the fact, that's he's very attracted to Meadow.
This book had the recipe for a good read, and in Christina Dodd's capable hands, it was a delicious confection of laugh-out loud humor, and sexy romance, with the addition of a dash of suspense and emotional angst. Ms. Dodd's prose is not weighty, but concise, yet descriptive in a pleasing matter that sets a great scene for the reader.
Ms. Dodd writes wonderful heroes, masculine, sexy, determined, possessive, and compelling. And Devlin is no different. He's got a reputation for being a dangerous man to cross. But I loved that Meadow had a way of getting to the soft heart of him, helping to heal the broken places inside of him, and encouraging him to do the right thing, and be okay with it. And to take risks, that this thoughtful man wouldn't have taken, were it not for love. In reality, Devlin is a good guy. He's just a tiger who can purr in one moment and strike with deadly force in another. I love how he came to realize that winning was nothing, if he didn't have Meadow in his life. He has to overcome some demons from his past related to his illegitimacy, and Meadow helps him to do exactly that, in more ways than one.
Meadow is one of those heroines who's free-spirited and artistic. But she's not annoying or over the top with it. I found her very endearing. I liked that she wanted to see the best in Devlin, although she could also see his ruthless streak. She has an agenda that one can get behind, but I like that she hasn't lost grip on what is right or wrong in her goal to steal back her grandmother's painting. She falls hard and fast for Devlin, and like a person who is at ease with her emotions, she lets her body go where her heart leads. But it never comes off as tawdry.
Tongue in Chic is populated with interesting and entertaining secondary characters. I loved the Southern vibrancy of this book. It takes place in Charleston, and the charm is very evident in the small town personalities, and their distinctly Southern behavior and ways. The antics of the old codgers that formed Meadow's grandfather's circle, Four, Devlin's ne'er-do-well childhood friend and son of his nemesis, and Devlin's employees and the inhabitants of the town added delightful texture to this book.
The sexual tension, attraction, and most importantly, the love connection between Meadow and Devlin was lovely. I loved the scenes in which they were acting like a married couple. It felt very natural, despite the fact that they had never met each other before Meadow breaks into the hotel. I could see how the other characters had no trouble accepting that they were a married couple, despite the shaky cover story they gave about meeting in Majorca, but having a fight and becoming estranged. This is one of those books where the tension builds satisfactorily, making you eager to read the scene where their attraction culminates into lovemaking. The love scenes were well done, and sexy, but far from vulgar or smutty. They were very enjoyable to read.
This book was just what I needed. It was a lighter read, but meaty enough to have an impact on me, since I don't tend to go for fluffy books. This story has encouraged me to read more contemporaries, but I know that I will look for those that give me the same satisfaction that Tongue in Chic delivered. Hopefully, I will find some that I enjoy as much as I did this book. If you're looking for a fun, fast-paced, but rich contemporary romance, I say give Tongue in Chic a try. (less)
Reunited lovers and estranged spouses just don't work for me as a theme. I tend to avoid these books like the plagues of Egypt. Too much baggage for t...moreReunited lovers and estranged spouses just don't work for me as a theme. I tend to avoid these books like the plagues of Egypt. Too much baggage for this reader. However, Sarah Morgan is an author that I really enjoy reading, and I will collect all of a favored author's books (for the most part). So, I grabbed this book off my bookcase with trepidation. I was not disappointed. I ended up thorougly enjoying this book.
There were issues in Stasia and Rico's marriage before they parted: a lack of communication a big one. Stasia started to feel neglected, almost like a mistress. She barely saw Rico other than when he came home to have sex with her. When he found a naked male in her bed, that was the end of their marriage. A year later, Rico has his lawyers drawing up the divorce papers, ready to get his faithless wife out of his life for good. That is, until his younger sister is gravely wounded, and calls out Stasia's name. At that point, Rico is willing to bring his estranged wife back to Sicily if that will help his sister come out of her coma. He is determined to keep her frozen out of his heart, and to maintain a distance between them for the time she is in Sicily.
When Rico shows up on her door, he's the last person Stasia wants to see, even though she's still in love with him. He hurt her terribly by not believing she was innocent, and not coming after her when she walked out. He even blocked all her calls. She's tried to build a new life for herself, a life without him. When he demands that she comes back to Sicily to help his sister, she wants to decline, but can't. Her good heart won't let her.
The close proximity that this estranged couple share breaks down the walls of distrust and resentment, and soon they are hot and heavy again. There was never much ability to resist the fiery attraction between them. If only they can overcome the issues that tore them apart to begin with.
I liked that this book featured a hero and a heroine who were both good people, even if neither of them were perfect. Stasia is very passionate and impulsive, and her anger caused her to walk away instead of defending herself. Rico felt that when Stasia left, she was leaving for good and admitting her guilt. His possessive jealousy throws him into a rage that she cheated on him with another man, when he tried to give her everything. He tried to wash his hands of her and to learn to hate her, but he couldn't. When they are reunited and forced to live as man and wife again, because his sister has amnesia and thinks they are still married, they have to deal with each other and their issues. Much like Capelli's Captive Virgin, this book won me over because the characters actually do talk out their issues and spend a certain amount of time communicating in ways other than physical. This book is pretty steamy with plenty of love scenes, but the emotional interactions between Rico and Stasia really make it a worthwhile read for me.
One thing that frustrated me was how Chiara (Rico's sister) got away with murder (at least figuratively). Her immaturity and selfishness ruined Rico and Stasia's marriage. I disliked how Stasia allowed Chiara to shirk her accountability because she didn't want Chiara to hate her any more than she did. I also disliked that Chiara never came clean about her culpability in the situation that lead to their marriage breaking up. Stasia was a nice person, but she was too nice. The bratty sister should not have been allowed to come between Stasia and her husband. In the long run, that was not good for building that young woman's character to get away with her unconscionable behavior, and for Rico to be none the wiser about his sister's real personality. I understood that there were bigger issues, like the lack of communication that Stasia felt ruined her marriage, but this certainly was the icing on the cake. It inflamed my sense of justice for this to have happened the way it did, although the truth does come out in the end; inadvertently through Stasia, not through Chiara.
Public Wife, Private Mistress was a great surprise. Not in the sense that I expected the writing to be bad. Sarah Morgan is a proven author. It just surprised me how much I liked this book, because this scenario is one of my least favorites in a romance novel. But, Ms. Morgan did a great job with it. That's why I gave this book five stars.(less)
The Tracker was an excellent western historical romance that delivers a great story, a passionate romance with intensity and emotional connection betw...moreThe Tracker was an excellent western historical romance that delivers a great story, a passionate romance with intensity and emotional connection between its characters, and exciting adventure. This is my fourth book by Jenna Kernan, and she hasn't let me down yet. She takes me back to the 19th century, when the American West was still young, and where a man or a woman proves his or her mettle against the unforgiving wilderness, and the dark heart of humanity of all colors and creeds.
What stands out in this romance was its hero, Troy. Troy Price is a man of mixed blood. His mother was of the proud Cherokee people, one of the five civilized tribes. They lived next to whites and held similar beliefs, but when gold is found in the ground beneath their land, they were uprooted and forced on the Trail of Tears. Even though Troy's father was a white man (Irish), he was deemed not good enough for his young lover, Rachel. Since the tragic end of their love affair, Troy has sworn to stay away from white women. He couldn't bear being rejected again, or causing the despair that loving an Indian would bring to her. I loved Troy, for the man he was. He was a mover and a shaker, and a man of deep integrity. I loved his ability to survive in the wild, and his way of looking deep inside a person and seeing not who they seemed to be, but who they were at their heart. Many times, I told Eleanor if she thought she wasn't good enough for Troy, I'd be happy to take him off her hands! Troy was definitely my kind of hero!
When he shows up at the docks to pick up his latest group of scientists for a tour up the Yellowstone, he sees a beautiful, elegant white lady who is the only one of the group to survive a Cholera outbreak. He refuses to take her, until she questions his honor. No man likes having his honor questioned. And for a half-breed with little to his name, his honor is his prized possession. He reluctantly takes on the redheaded greenhorn, who knows about as much about surviving in the wilderness as he does of navigating the ballrooms and parlors of Boston. Troy is convinced that Eleanor Hart will come to her senses when she gets a small taste of frontier life, but she proves to have more mettle than he expected.
Eleanor comes off as being very ignorant and closed-minded. She has lived in a smaller world than she realized, raised by bigots and social snobs who know only about power and status. Her parents' loveless marriage and procession of lovers is the model for what she can expect for the marriage she agreed to contract in exchange for this trip out West to paint wildlife. She really doesn't want that future, but how can she go back on her word? I never disliked Eleanor, who Troy calls Lena, even though she makes some very thoughtless, prejudiced comments to Troy, pouring salt into his wounds about being treated like less than a man because of his Cherokee blood. I could see she wasn't a bad person, just a person who had no real understanding of what makes a man or woman honorable or worthwhile. It's not race or heritage, or about money or status. It's about integrity and grit. This trip shows her exactly what she needs to learn. She did frustrate me as she continued to hold on to her ideas about the rightness of the society she was raised in. However, I could see that Troy and this trip out West had awakened the woman she was meant to be, and I cheered her on.
This novel touched me on an emotional level, and I also loved the action and adventure as Troy and Lena face life in the wilderness. The ending had me on the edge of my seat, and I hoped that Troy and Lena would fight for each other, and the life they could have together. I knew that being together on their own terms (not society's) was the right choice for both, but they had to come to that conclusion for themselves. And Kernan doesn't take it easy on the reader as you see just how painful that choice will be for Lena (and in ways I didn't imagine initially).
Because this book gave me pretty much what I wanted in a book when I read it, I am rating it 4.5/5.0 stars.
I read this book by an author I had become a fan of after reading The Wicked Truth, and I was struck by the uniqueness and the beauty of this romance....moreI read this book by an author I had become a fan of after reading The Wicked Truth, and I was struck by the uniqueness and the beauty of this romance. Jonathan is considered an idiot savant because of his incredible abilities as a composer but his lack of social skills. Knowing this initially, I wasn't sure how things would go before I met him, but I fell in love with him. I really like books with unusual heroes and heroines. Jonathan is that. He's perfectly intelligent, he just has a different way of looking at things. He doesn't care much for what's going on in the world, and has a tendency to be wrapped up in his music. I would use the phase, "He needs a keeper," to describe him. He bonds almost immediately with Kathryn and in a very sensual way. It involves a piano bench. Definitely a wow moment for me. I knew I'd like this book at this point. Another truly enjoyable thing about this book was how capable and practical Kathryn is. If you are a fan of Jessica Trent from Lord of Scoundrels, I think you would like Kathryn. She is slightly older than Jonathan, and has taken care of herself for many years. She is the perfect match for Jonathan, tempering his passion with reason, although he brings out the latent passions in her. He gives her what she needs, the desire to nuture and love him and his children. Kathryn gently encourages Jonathan, supporting him in his music, but giving him nudges to remember that there is a world outside there beyond his music. There are poignant moments that involve how he was farmed out to women to father their children so they could have children who were musical geniuses. Kathryn helps Jonathan find all his children, and they bring them to live with them, and start a ready made family. I enjoyed seeing their family moments and the marital intimacy between Jonathan and Kathryn. I found it very touching. I really love this book, although most people have never heard of it. If you want to read a wonderful love story with a different kind of hero who will endear himself to you very quickly, I think you'd like this book.(less)
I put off reading this book for a while, because I didn't like the idea of the hero cold-bloodedly setting out to seduce the heroine because he was bo...moreI put off reading this book for a while, because I didn't like the idea of the hero cold-bloodedly setting out to seduce the heroine because he was bored with his inactivity and seclusion while his broken leg was healing, and he needed a distraction. I started it once, because it's about the sister of the heroine from The Sheikh's Ransomed Bride (Surrender to the Sheikh), a book I loved. But I put it down because I wasn't in the mood for that kind of hero. As I embarked on my Weekend Harlequin Presents Marathon, a tradition I have that I truly enjoy, I picked it up and started reading it again. I am glad I finally did read this book.
How could I have doubted you, Annie West? You know how to write a great, intense romance. The process of showing the courtship and the seduction of Arik by Rosalie (note I didn't say the opposite) was so beautifully executed by you. Arik thought he knew all the moves, had women figured out, and knew how to get his pleasure out of a woman and move on. He saw Rosalie and wanted her body. But when he spent time with her, saw the mix of vulnerability and beauty that was her, not just her body, he wanted more from her. I have trouble with playboy heroes that think all women are the same, just warm bodies for pleasure. So I was predisposed to dislike Arik. He had to work very hard for me to like him. But he succeeded. He succeeded by showing he was a sensitive man. The way he gave Rosalie time, and let her come to him, made allowances for her skittishness, and didn't force the issue, that really helped me to like him. Also how he became obsessed with her, completely drawn in, so that by the time they were actually lovers, it was more than just that. For the short time period that this happened in, I have to give Ms. West some credit. I've read books where the couples have a love affair that spans much longer time periods, and the love aspect, the connection was missing. Not with this book.
Like the other books that I've read by Annie West, the intensity that turns a HP from an enjoyable read to a real pleasure and a favorite, was there in spades with this book. I liked how the struggle within Rosalie to claim back her life, to open her heart to love and a physical relationship with man after she was raped was shown. Even though Arik didn't know she was raped until near the end, he was very caring and considerate to her, and that helped Rosalie get past her fears and her issues. And Arik went from being kind of shallow, a rich playboy (even if he did have a heart for his people and worked hard, his attitude towards women was very shallow) to a deep, caring, loving man who fell truly in love, completely captivated by a woman before my eyes. I think this was done so well.
This was a great book. I'm a big fan of sheikh romances, but I liked that this was one was more intimate. There were hints about Arik's wealthy and powerful identity, but that was in the background. The focus was on the relationship between Rosalie and Arik. How a wary heart found a once shallow man and turned him into a man who was so lovestruck, he wanted nothing more than the one woman he had initially decided to seduce out of boredom. That's the most awesome kind of book that takes a story you're kind of 'meh' about, and completely draws you in.
What do you do when you feel like a stranger in your own land? That’s the question that Zora and Nicky face. They both grew up in the church, children...moreWhat do you do when you feel like a stranger in your own land? That’s the question that Zora and Nicky face. They both grew up in the church, children of ministers. Their whole lives were about living and walking in the footsteps of Jesus. But when did it become a matter of trying to please their fathers more than Jesus? When did this require the sacrifice of their entire identities?
Both Zora and Nicky are adrift. Nicky is the prodigal son, returned to the fold to try to rebuild his troubled relationship with a father who never showed him the loving embrace that a dad should show his son, like Jesus loves His church. Nicky wants to be a writer, but the words won’t come. He feels so alone and trapped. His girlfriend is the perfect girl for the life that his parents want for him. But not for Nicky. And Nicky is dealing with three years of celibacy and sobriety, after wild teenage years of leading church maidens astray when he was asking for help from a family who left his cries unheard. When he goes to a bible study held by his boss, he encounters the beautiful, dark-skinned Zora, and feels a mix of emotions that do not strike him as healthy with everything else on his plate. Is it just lust or he could he be in love?
Zora is the daughter of a minister who preaches prosperity to those who can proclaim God’s word with faith. He has no tolerance for poor Christians or those who just want to get by. Although he gives her everything material she could wish for, designer furniture, clothes, and a Lexus, he controls every aspect of her life, and seems blind to the true unrest in his church. Zora walks out of church one day, praying that God would show her how to be poor in spirit. She goes to a bible study full of white people and feels that intense emotional connection with God that she feels like has been absent, but she’s embarrassed by the way she breaks down in front of the other bible study members. And then there is the gorgeous blue-eyed, blond rogue that she’s been warned about although they truly love Nicky. How can she be drawn to a troubled and rascally white man when she doesn’t even love the perfect black man hand-picked by her father, and groomed to be the future minister of his church? What does she do when her father takes everything away because he feels she’s in rebellion just by trying to be herself? And to her surprise, the white folks from her bible study, and the roguish Nicky, come to her aid when her family and most of her church turns a blind eye.
Zora and Nicky is a very moving romantic story, but it also strikes at the heart of a reader who grew up in the Christian faith, but is trying to find out where she or he fits into the flock of God’s church. I loved how Ms. Burney wasn’t afraid to get real. She showed how church is full of people who do one thing and say another, but it’s also clear that there are many who love God so much, but they just don’t know how they are supposed to go about doing that. I just loved both Nicky and Zora’s characters. Not because they were perfect, but because they were real and hurting and damaged. They both had a genuine love for Jesus, and they wanted to be wrapped in His arms in all their wounded, flawed selves. Not only that, they wanted to have fathers who knew how to love them, and accept them for who they were. Their troubled relationships with their fathers clearly affected their relationships with God, because they didn’t know that unconditional love that Jesus has for us, unused to feeling that in the model for His love that one’s father and minister should show.
The racial issues in this story are pertinent and handled well. Ms. Burney addressed the ugly things that normal people think and do on both sides of the racial issue. Although the way Nicky’s grandfather and father act about Zora was absolutely chilling, Ms. Burney also shows that black folks can be just as racist in their thinking as white folks. And neither is okay. Because humans are just human. And no person should be seen as the stand-in or representative for their race. It isn’t fair, because you can only be you. And Christians of all people should know better than to judge someone for the outside, the mere difference in melanin that means nothing to God. Although it was clear how powerful the bond was between Zora and Nicky, they had to work out their own issues about race so that they could see each other with the love that God put in their souls for each other.
Even with the sometimes mean things they said to each other, I loved how they seemed to get who each other was deep down, and supported that, even when people who should have loved, supported and understood each other didn’t. I loved that their relationship was passionate even with no sex taking place (just very passionate kisses), how they talked to each other, fought for each other, and dreamed together. I loved that they both shared a powerful love for Christ that was another thing that bound them together. They had the makings of a relationship I could truly see flourishing fifty years in the future.
Zora and Nicky was a book that made me cry. It made me angry in some scenes. It affected me deeply, and probed into the hurting places that I have regarding my own walk in the Christian faith; dealing with that feeling that you don’t fit into the body of Christ the way you should. That even though Jesus loves you the way you are and wants the best for you, others don’t think you measure up. Also seeing the superficial Christianity that seems okay for most, and how you want something deep and true and it feels like you can’t find it. I could identify so well with those aspects of this book. And the romantic in me loved the beautiful story of love found between Zora and Nicky. I felt that God did bring them together, and He was working in both of them for their good and for their emotional wholeness and healing.
I didn’t much care for either Nicky or Zora’s father. Actually, I think they failed in very profound ways. I did feel that at the end of the day, their mothers did show the love that both Zora and Nicky needed, even though it wasn’t enough to balance out the pain that each father caused them. I also liked Zora’s relationship with her friend MacKenzie. They stood by each other through tough times, encouraging each other to reach for their dreams.
I really appreciated the characters of Linda, Rick, and Billie, who are members of the bible study. Also Ms. Pamela, one of the members of Zora’s congregation. Who all represent Christians who are filled with the love of Jesus, and have made it their mission to show it, even though some Christians wouldn’t find them fitting or good enough to represent the faith. However, they represent Jesus in the purest way. Jesus was the despised, rejected man who owned nothing but the robe on his back, was born in a manger, and died on a cross. And He is the one who is able to save and love everyone. So that’s alright with me if a shabby person shows me Jesus in my everyday life. And they were there to show that love when Nicky and Zora needed it. Just writing this review is making me cry. I just loved this book. It was so meaningful to me. I can’t recommend it highly enough. (less)
This was my favorite of the Throne of Judar series because we see a hard, immovable man brought to his knees with the realization that he did wrong th...moreThis was my favorite of the Throne of Judar series because we see a hard, immovable man brought to his knees with the realization that he did wrong the woman he loved and who loved him. Not that I like to see a person suffer, but this hero does grovel and does make amends for the horrible way he treated the heroine when he should. He also makes a decision that a power-craving man would only make if he really loves a woman, although he is in no way manipulated or guilted into doing so by Aliyah. He was told some things about Aliyah that were definitely lies, and his own misgivings and fears based on an event in his past made him push her away.
Aliyah had some personal issues that affected her health and personality, and made it easier for Kamal to believe the lies he was told, and made his rejection even more devastating. I also loved that Aliyah was strong in her own right, and was an incredible queen and this was realized fully by Kamal and those around her. The first scene between Aliyah and Kamal was great. She didn't turn into a ball of mush because of his awesome masculinity. She told him off and didn't back down from his imperious manner. Bravo, I was thinking. At the same time, she made a choice to marry a man she thought she hated for the good of her country and his. That took some bravery and emotional strength.
As characteristic of Ms. Gates' novels, the writing is deeply involving and emotional as you see and experience the love and anguish that her characters feel. There are also vivid descriptions of Judar and its customs and the beautiful surroundings that its characters inhabit. The wedding ceremony is one of the best I've ever read. It practically played like a scene from an exotic movie. The love scenes are scorching and passionate as well. If you are a fan of sheikh romances and want to read a romance with three-dimensional characters who take an emotional journey from desolation and loneliness to a deep, abiding love, you should read this book.(less)
The Duke of Shadows was a meaty, involving historical romance, the kind I love! I admit I put off reading this book because I wanted to be in the righ...moreThe Duke of Shadows was a meaty, involving historical romance, the kind I love! I admit I put off reading this book because I wanted to be in the right mood for it. I was hesitant when I started it, feeling it would be too much for me right now. However, it turned out to be a good book to read at this time, because I was completely focused on the storyline.
I completely respect the way Ms. Duran addressed the setting of the British Raj in India, mid 1800s. She showed the complex issues at work: nationalism, prejudice, exploitation, cultural insensitivity, imperialism, loyalty, race; and for Julian and Emmaline, add falling in love to that picture. Although I have discussed with some romance fans who don't enjoy exotic settings about the tendency to pander to stereotypes or to oversimplify the pertinent issues, I enjoy exotic settings very much. Probably because I crave a good story of adventure and of travel to far away destinations--it adds another desirable layer to the escapist joy of romance reading. Of course, I do want to experience writing that does reach that 'next level,' and that addresses the important topics that go along with imperialism in a clear, thoughtful, and honest way. I feel that Ms. Duran did accomplish this in writing The Duke of Shadows.
As the descendant of African slaves, Native American tribespeople, and Irish immigrants to America, I can identify with the anger and sense of injustice of being under someone's economic and social yoke, with the wrong belief by the overrriding culture that they are bettering the savage or inferior race, showing a profund lack of respect for the beliefs and cultures of that 'conquered' group of people. I definitely could see the side of the native Indians, their land taken over, their cultures devalued, their people abused. On the other hand, the savagery in which the natives attack the British residents, civilian (including children and women) and soldier alike was very difficult and injust in a different way. Two wrongs never make a right. Duran shows both cultures at their best and their worst, making it clear that at the heart, we are all humans, good and bad.
I'm sure that Julian felt like he was being ripped in two by the uprising, having both Indian and English blood flowing in his veins. Not to mention that he never seemed to belong fully to either culture--too Indian to be a British person, and too British to be an Indian man. On top of that, was the fear that he couldn't protect Emmaline, the woman he'd fallen in love with, or his Indian relatives. This made for a very dramatic, somewhat shocking in parts, and extremely poignant read. Also, seeing Emma's breakdown and her struggle to survive after what she'd seen and experienced, and had to do for her survival. I can understand her anger at Julian in believing he'd failed to honor his promise to her, that he'd forgotten about her. Especially after the traumatic loss of her parents.
The reunion between these reunited lovers in London had me glued to the page. It was both what I would expect, and completely different. I was prepared to it to be powerful. I had not counted on Emma's rage. I didn't expect for Julian to be so out of control and primal in his need to hold Emma, even in polite company. Of course it made sense. Although their time together in India was short, a profound bond had formed, and their separation had left enormous holes in each other's hearts. They had come to love and rely on each other deeply, both in the tamer times in the British Raj, and during the fires of blood-soaked revolt. Despite all that had passed while they were separated, that love still simmered deep inside them both. However, they had to break past the barriers and the pain that Emma faced. From what I surmised, Julian would have taken up where they left off without a second thought, making Emma his duchess, since his love had never died. To my surprise, Emma turns out to be the more tortured person in this book. Julian's life had always been troublesome to some extent, because of his mixed heritage. He had many years to develop strong defense mechanisms that protected him from the scorn of society, and he had cultivated a reputation for being a fairly notorious, edge-riding member of the Ton. Not one easily dismissed, but not completely accepted by all in the snooty British society realms. For Emma, to go from being a coddled young girl with loving parents, to an orphan forced into a loveless engagement, to fighting for her life in a world in which she is hated and people want to kill her and her kind (and seeing her countrymen commit their own unspeakable acts of brutality), was no simple thing to recover from. It left deep scars on her psyche. It might have destroyed a more frail person, I'm sure.
Meredith Duran's writing reminds me of some of my favorite historical romance writers, like Laura Kinsale, Connie Brockway, and Anna Campbell, in a good way, although she establishes her own unique style and voice. It has a depth and an authenticity that shows me that she respects the time period and the impact of a historical romance with a powerful sense of period, texture, and intensity of emotion and passionate romance. Julian and Emma both are potent, vivid characters that resonated within me as I read. I think that Ms. Duran will likely become a favorite for the manner in which she writes, and the compelling charisma of her characters. This book just has that 'extra wow factor' that I look for in a historical romance, after more than twenty years of reading this genre.
Although there were parts of this novel that I felt weren't ideally paced, I think this is a five star read, because I was so involved and transfixed by this story. And I have to say this is an excellent effort for a first time author. I formed a bond with this book. I didn't just read it, I experienced the story of Julian and Emma as an active participant. The powerful pull into a story will urge me to give a book five stars, as I did in this case. Recommended!(less)
With Taken for Revenge, Bedded for Pleasure, India Grey gave me what I wanted in a rainy Sunday Harlequin Presents read. There is fiery passion, inten...moreWith Taken for Revenge, Bedded for Pleasure, India Grey gave me what I wanted in a rainy Sunday Harlequin Presents read. There is fiery passion, intense emotions, painful self-discovery, and the union of two lost souls whose families have been enemies for fifty years.
Olivier Moreau appears to be the standard Harlequin Presents hero at first glance: devastatingly handsome and virile, rich, powerful, and utterly ruthless. He was without question a sexy man, but not especially likeable initially. I liked that Ms. Grey peeled away the layers to this cold, manipulative man and allowed me to feel for him, to come to believe he was worthy of being loved by Bella.
Bella is the damaged, lost, rich girl. She never felt like she had anything of value to offer her powerful, politically active, aristocratic family. She was used by her last boyfriend, and he exposed her and the Lawrence family to pubic ridicule in a way that lead to her attempting suicide. Since then, she has been trying to rebuild her life and her sense of purpose, one step at a time.
For Olivier to settle on Bella as the instrument of revenge would presumably cause automatic hatred, if not dislike for him. However, with the manner in which this story unfolds, I didn't feel that way towards him. I wasn't sure how much I liked him, but somehow I could understand his drive for power, when he'd lived under the thumb of the aristocracy and saw how his father, Julien, had been destroyed by the Delacroix family, because of his affair with their matriarch, Genevieve, who is Bella's grandmother. Julien created a painting in which he poured all his love and devotion for a woman who was forbidden to him. He also lost his chance at fame as a painter when he injured his hands in a fire set by a Delacroix, trying to save the painting that was the work of his life. So he was left with nothing. Olivier lost his father before he'd ever known him, growing up with a shell of a man; and his mother left when he was two. Olivier doesn't understand what love is. He only understands power and control. His pursuit of Bella is seemingly driven by revenge, but something about her calls out to him. It only makes seducing her a more pleasurable duty in his mind, but no more than that. Clearly, his behavior is far from honorable initially.
As this book unfolds, there is a very complex tangle of emotions and motivations present in the relatively short 184 pages. I wondered where things were going to go, and it wasn't predictable. Surprisingly early on, Olivier seemed to grow a conscience, and had a self-loathing for his actions that surprised me. I am used to the heroes in these books being so unforgiveably arrogant and blind to the truth, until they receive a last-minute epiphany. In this story, it's more of a gradual, and believeable evolution in Olivier. Instead of thinking Bella is not good enough for him, he knows he's not good enough for her.
Bella has a vulnerability that I found distressing at times. She never quite managed to grow a thick skin, despite what had happened to her. She was a little too honest in expressing her emotions and the allowing of them to show, despite coaching herself otherwise, for my comfort. But maybe this was as her grandmother said. She wasn't meant to be hard and cold, unfeeling, and empty, like she tried to be. As her grandmother told her early on in the book, she was meant for love and life. Perhaps that was what helped Olivier to turn away from the dark path he had dedicated his life to. To choose love and a sense of emotional connection, for once.
This book is rife with evocative imagery and the passion between Olivier and Bella simmers off the page. I loved the descriptions of high class, glitzy London, and even more, the French countryside. It was most enjoyable seeing Olivier out of his big city environment, revealing his French pastoral roots, cooking freshly picked mushrooms with wine and rice, or an herb omelet. I freely admit my love for men who cook.
Although I am admitted fan of this line of books, it's especially rewarding when I read one that has a lot of substance along with a fun, drama-filled read. I thought that Ms. Grey created a very vivid hero in Olivier, a man who I grew to like as I watched him struggle to realize what was truly of value to him. I would feel hesitant to see a fragile flower like Bella, a girl that I couldn't help but like and feel protective towards, end up in the hands of a cold-hearted bastard like the old Olivier. Fortunately, he showed glimpses of who he truly was deep down, encouraging her to be her sweet individual self, and choosing her as the most important thing to him, in ways that weren't necessary to his plan for revenge. So, in the end, I was more than happy that they found their happy ending together.
After reading this book, I'm going to add India Grey to my roster of authors who I can look to for delivering a satisfying, evocative, and satiating read in the Harlequin Presents line. This book proves her mettle. Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.(less)
This was a classy, emotional romance. I really liked Drake and Grace as a couple. The idea of lonely people who drift through life, and find each othe...moreThis was a classy, emotional romance. I really liked Drake and Grace as a couple. The idea of lonely people who drift through life, and find each other, two pieces of a heart coming together always makes me feel mushy and sentimental in the best way. That's the ultimate kind of romance to me. Add on top of that, a hard, lethal man who melts only for one person, the woman he loves... Yup, I go into instant sighing mode. Despite the fact that this could have been rather cheesy in theory, this book is not cheesy in the slightest. At least, not to me. I love the dangerous hero who will do anything for his woman. And Drake definitely embodies that.
Lisa Marie Rice has an elegant, smooth writing style that makes for a quick, involving read. The love scenes are just right, although I could have done without the 'c' word for the woman's anatomy. I can understand that from the perspective of a rough man like Drake that he would use terms like that and the 'f' word for the sex act, so I was able to deal with it. I could see that his feelings for Grace were so deep, multi-layered and real. He never viewed her as a disposable sex object, which is a huge turnoff for me in a hero. He was just a rough guy who grew up in the worse circumstances, and to whom gentleness and love were foreign, until she came into his life, and everything changed. I'm not an erotic romance person, but I felt right in my comfort zone with the love scenes in this book ('c' word aside). The scenes show a sensuality teamed with an emotional connection that progressed the story nicely. Nothing too crude, kinky, or off-putting for me.
The action and suspense elements won over this exacting action/adventure fan. I knew I was going to like Drake from early on. This man knows how to handle himself. He might have bodyguards, and he is wise to do so, but he is lethal all by himself. Anyone who comes after him and his woman has a serious death wish, and there was no question about that. The strong, silent, lethal hero is my favorite type, and I will add Drake to my list. I also liked the way that sweet, gentle Grace handled herself in some dangerous circumstances, keeping her cool and showing a lot of resourcefulness. She proves that she can handle being in Drake's world.
I really enjoyed this book. The scenes of emotional and physical intimacy were perfectly rendered. Drake is the larger than life kind of hero that you do have to suspend disbelief to read (because he just makes normal men just fade in comparison), but that's the fun of it. Grace is a woman that you know is more than worthy of his love, who gives back even more than she takes, even from a man who would hand her the world on a platter. I can see them living happily ever after, more deeply in love each year of their long lives together. I love reading romance books that are like action movies with very good and extensive romance elements. That's the perfect combination for me. The adrenaline rush from both the danger and the swoonworthy romance. And this book definitely delivers that. I can see why this is such a well-liked book. I'd recommend it, even if you aren't into erotic romance. It gets the Danielle seal of approval, if that means anything to you.(less)
I am very late to be reading one of Julie Garwood's romantic suspense, especially since I consider her one of my favorite authors, and I love her hist...moreI am very late to be reading one of Julie Garwood's romantic suspense, especially since I consider her one of my favorite authors, and I love her historicals. Honestly, I had my pout on because she doesn't write historicals anymore, and I just never got around to reading the contemporaries, although I planned to do so at some juncture. I am glad I finally got that nudge from the Julie Garwood group on Goodreads, because what most of what I love about her historical book is here in Heartbreaker. The main difference is the contemporary setting, the subject matter being much darker, and more emphasis on the suspense. That is as it should be, of course.
As far as characterizations, as usual, I loved the main characters. Laurant has both the sweetness and determination of the usual JG historical heroine. I like that she's a very nice woman, but strong and stands up for herself. She really earned my respect that she fought past her fears and took personal responsibility of helping the FBI draw out the killer who was stalking her. And she was very afraid. But she didn't want any more women to die in the meantime. She was brave enough to admit she fell in love with Nick, even knowing that chances were against them working out. I also loved Nick. He is the strong, solid hero that JG writes so well. He also expresses the bewilderment that cracks me up about JG's heroes when he falls so hard for Laurant, despite his determination not to do so. It was hilarious how he acted when Laurant told him she loved him. He was determined not to believe her because he was afraid to acknowledge that he loved her back. I think his gesture at the end was perfect, considering how petrified he was about flying.
If you've read enough of my reviews, you know I am not a big fan of the serial killer theme, so I won't beat a dead horse. I do have to say that the villain in this book was pretty darn nasty, and Garwood surprised me at who it was. I had gone through my list of suspects and the culprit was not who I expected. She did a good job with the red herrings, where you couldn't immediately pick out the bad guy. I'm glad she wasn't too descriptive with the acts of the killer. That is a real turnoff for me. I had enough information to realize he was a sick puppy, and that was good for me. I felt terrible for his victim. The poor girl never got a chance to make a good life for herself.
I also loved the secondary characters like Tommy, Laurant's brother, Noah, an FBI colleague of Nick's who is absolutely shameless, and the inhabitants of the small town of Holy Oaks. I would love to see more of Tommy because he's a sweet guy. And Noah is definitely a character I want to follow. He made me laugh a lot! Garwood's homey storytelling was evident in the interactions between her main characters and the supporting ones. I laughed a lot and it tempered the disgust and fear the villain engenders. The climax was very exciting. The sense of risk very evident. I loved how Laurant thought on her feet, despite her desperate situation. The villain was suitably dangerous, definitely not a paper tiger. I was glad they got him, and although it wasn't without cost, things worked out well. And I was able to see how much Nick cared about Laurant, despite his determination to walk away. He tickled me at how he was acting in the emergency room!
With a combination of Julie Garwood's singular romance writing and intense suspense, Heartbreaker is a very good book. I can't give it five stars because it doesn't quite measure up to her historicals and like I said, the serial killer theme isn't a favorite of mine. But despite those things, I enjoyed reading it and I am glad to find more Julie Garwood characters to follow. Looking forward to diving into Mercy next, as soon as I am able to find a copy and have time to read it!(less)
Fire of Spring has some beautiful, descriptive writing, and it hooked me emotionally. The imagery was very vivid, with the descriptions of the Colorad...moreFire of Spring has some beautiful, descriptive writing, and it hooked me emotionally. The imagery was very vivid, with the descriptions of the Colorado landscape under the grip of a cold spring in which snow is still on the group, and the promise of a warm Spring lurks around the corner. The title of this book really ties into the storyline in a number of ways, relating to the weather, the emotional intensity between the characters, and the tapestry that Dawn is working on that reflects her hopes for her relationship with Logan. Additionally, anyone who has read Elizabeth Lowell’s romances knows how well she writes sensuality. She never gets too explicit, but there is a fire and a power in her descriptions of the attraction between her characters, and their eventual lovemaking.
Both Dawn and Logan have suffered in their lives, and the cause of their suffering is in part due to the same woman. However, Dawn chose to put that pain behind her and get on with her life. In contrast, Logan hangs onto the hurt of seeing his brother kill himself with alcohol, and after years of feeding him full of nonsense about how bad women are and how they will destroy you, because his brother fell for the wrong woman---Dawn’s mother.
Logan hurt Dawn very badly by taking her young love and turning it into something dirty, offering her the position as his mistress until he tired of her. Instead of taking him up on that, she left and moved on with her life. Three years later, Dawn’s friend Kathy, Logan’s sister begs her to come and take care of Logan, who is sick with walking pneumonia. Dawn doesn’t want to go back down that painful path, but she owes Logan a debt, and she intends to pay him back. She hopes that she can keep herself from loving him again, knowing that he will only break her heart.
This is definitely a well-written story, and I zoomed through it. However, Logan is a mean bastard. He is deliberately cruel to Dawn, and I think most women would probably have beaten him to death with a frying pan. Dawn takes a lot off this guy, probably too much, out of her love for him. She tries to break down the corrosive wall of anger and bitterness that Logan has around his heart so that he can be free, even if she won’t be able to claim his love for her own. Part of me wondered that he was even worth the effort. But deep down, Dawn knows that Logan does love her. He just has to overcome that bad programming that his brother entrenched into his mind and spirit. She tries her best to help him, even though she weeps from the wounds that Logan’s ugly words inflict on her vulnerable heart, and she stays until he tells her to leave. She was a strong woman to put up with that. Strong in that yielding and standing sort of way that is underappreciated. I really liked Dawn. Logan, not so much, especially after he humiliates Dawn in front of the ranch hands. He comes around, realizing how much he loves Dawn, but I would have preferred some extended groveling and an epilogue in which Logan shows how much he adores Dawn. Because these essential elements weren’t on offer, this couldn’t be a five star read for me. However, this is a very good book, if you can tolerate a jerky, cruel hero who needs some remedial lessons in love and groveling. (less)
This was a pretty good book. I had some issues with some of the choices for execution that Ms. Shaw made, and I'll discuss those.
Russian Hero: Major p...moreThis was a pretty good book. I had some issues with some of the choices for execution that Ms. Shaw made, and I'll discuss those.
Russian Hero: Major points there. However, I didn't like that his edgy, dangerousness was mainly due to his ruthless manner in which he would go through women. He was a serious womanizer who never got emotional with his bed-partners. His pursuit of Ella was pretty coldblooded, although there was serious sexual tension and attraction between them. I didn't like how he would think of her as nothing but a sex partner, and he said something pretty cruel to her, although it was in the heat of a moment in which he was grieving what he lost in his past. I have to say, I didn't really like him all that much. He was alright, and he came around. But not a favorite hero of mine. That's a shame, since I love my Russian heroes. I liked the depth that Ms. Shaw gave him, showing his point of view, and how he was tortured by the loss that he blamed on his own actions. I think it could have made him more sensitive to the heroine's needs. But, it didn't seem to do that.
Heroine who is unwilling to marry or make a commitment to a man: I liked this aspect, but Ella's actions seem to belie this. She had a father who was really cruel, cheating on her mother (who was physically frail and had a heart problem), and locking Ella up in a room that was known to be haunted. He squandered the family fortunes on gambling, booze, and women. In other words, the worst role model ever, definitely enough to make a girl sour on men. And yet, Ella fell for a man who had some of her father's traits (at least the cruel womanizer ones) really fast. She told herself that she was just going to have a no-strings sexual affair with him, but she showed emotional involvement very fast. Also, for a woman who prized her independence from a man, it didn't quite ring true that she would allow herself to become a man's mistress. She didn't like him using that term, but she allowed him to treat her as his mistress. I think she should have set more boundaries with him. Such as: not sleeping over, not allowing him to buy her clothes, and jewelry, and having more control over the time she spent with him. That would have rang more true with me, given her emotional scars.
So, I was not blown over by this book, although it had some really good steamy romance, emotional intensity, and was fast-moving. I just had trouble with some of the actions that the characters took, and I wasn't too fond of how things unfolded. One thing that frustrates me is when the heroine falls way too easily for the hero. Where's the conflict in that? I want to see the hero have to do some chasing, and dealing with his feelings for a woman he can't get out of his mind. It seemed as though all he had to do was kiss Ella, and she melted. I realize that the strong attraction is important to the storyline, but I'd like to see some backbone as the heroine fights the attraction. After all, we know the hero is fighting his feelings. Why not show the heroine doing more of the same? I would have preferred that Vadim had to spend more time actually wooing Ella, and showing his feelings evolve as he worked hard to get her. She seemed to be a fairly quick conquest. Too quick for me. It was almost as though her hormones got the best of her.
Overall, this was a good read. I'll probably keep it because of the Russian hero.
Although I wouldn't call this book unputdownable, I enjoyed it. It had a deep element that I don't always see in Harlequin Presents. I liked the way t...moreAlthough I wouldn't call this book unputdownable, I enjoyed it. It had a deep element that I don't always see in Harlequin Presents. I liked the way that Nikki could see there were two aspects of Harper that were fighting each other. The part of him that was a protector, sweet, and loving; and the predatory, domineering, take no prisoner part of him. She saw that he was in conflict, feeling like he needed to supress one over the other, and that this would be an issue in him accepting his love for her, instead of pushing her away altruistically. Nikki was young, about 23, but she was pretty mature and insightful. I loved that she was an artist. She reminded me of my mother, in fact. She was a pretty layered character. Harper was also deep and rich in characterization. I liked him from the beginning. He has that tough, strong, intense nature that I love in a hero, but also the warm, sweet, loving, caring personality that is equally irresistible. And he was a British hero. We need more Brits in the HP books! Another thing I liked about this book was that Harper was a family man. He was raising his nephew since his parents died when he was a baby. He was also close to his mother. I think Ms. Carpenter wrote this book with some elements that enriched it in a way that I wish I saw more in this category of books. This was a good book, and I wish I had read it fast, but I kept picking it up near bedtime when I was too sleepy to enjoy it as much as I could.
If you want to sample a Harlequin Presents that veers away from the whole Mediterrean/Latin billionaire playboy with the arm-candy heroine, you should check this out. I hope to find more of Amanda Carpenter's books since I enjoyed this one and The Great Escape.
Bitter Frost was a good read that sucked me in as I read, and I appreciated getting immersed into this world, with Breena and her secret heritage. How...moreBitter Frost was a good read that sucked me in as I read, and I appreciated getting immersed into this world, with Breena and her secret heritage. However, I do feel that it was far too brief and seemed....unfinished, and I don't mean the cliffhanger ending. I felt a little cheated that it was so short. It was 196 pages. Long enough for me to get sucked in, and then it was over. Of course, this is a series, so I am encouraged to keep reading. I'm all for series, but I think this could have been twice as long and delivered more a satisfying read. I felt kind of annoyed that I have to buy the next book for $10 to get some closure when this book could have been twice as long and I would have probably given it a higher rating, because I would have been much more satisfied with the book.
The ideas were so good, so I did wish I could rate this one more highly, but I just needed more. I wanted to learn more about Breena, sink under her skin. I wanted more worldbuilding. I wanted to see Kian more clearly, and maybe like him or feel more compelled towards him as a person as Breena apparently felt. I am hoping that Breena's friend Logan will get more stage time in the next book, because I am loving him, big time. He's such a sweetie, but also tough as nails. He was so caring with Breena, and he clearly adores her. I feel that a relationship with Logan has a lot of potential, moreso than with Kian. Kian, I wasn't super-fond of him. He seemed a little empty to me. I didn't really feel that the conflict between his feelings for Breena and his duty to his kingdom was that compelling. To me, it seemed as though he could easily leave Breena as second fiddle to his duties. And I'm supposed to root for Breena to choose for him? Um, not so much. Now Logan, drool, swoon, sigh!
Let me just take the time to address a pet peeve I have with far too many young adult fantasy books now--the love triangle. Why do most of these books have to have a love triangle? Is this an absolute requirement for publication? How about a more deep, more developed relationship progression between the heroine and one love interest? How about more focus on the development of the character? How about more action and less "which guy should I choose?" I'm just saying. Maybe I'm the only one who has an issue with this. I mean no disrespect against Ms. Gow or any other YA writer. I just wish that this plot device would stop being so heavily relied on in YA fantasy. I'm not the target audience, since I'm in my 30s, so maybe this is a thing that the younger readers enjoy. But I think a book can be perfectly enjoyable with a heroine who has one love interest. And, as I addressed above, I didn't feel that the love triangle aspect rang true. To me it's an obvious choice who Breena should end up with. If I'm going to be pulled in two directions, I need to feel like the heroine could go with either choice, and Kian ain't ringing my bell right now.
So....It's hard for me with this book. It had a lot of potential. Some great ideas. But not enough here for me to be blown away. That's why I couldn't give it more than 3.5 stars. Honestly, I am miffed that I will have to shell out the not inconsiderable bucks for the next book, afraid I will feel the same dissatisfaction, but I will be coming back for more. That seems like a Pyrrhic victory to me.
I picked this up as an audiobook from my trusty library because I enjoyed The Magic of Recluce by this author. Although I think I liked The Magic of R...moreI picked this up as an audiobook from my trusty library because I enjoyed The Magic of Recluce by this author. Although I think I liked The Magic of Recluce a little more, this was a very good book.
Mr. Modesitt's style is fairly distinctive. He writes what I would call 'grounded fantasy'. He is detail-oriented, and spends a lot of time building his world and setting the scenes. He is clearly a 'foodie', because he describes food in great detail, and it sounds very scrumptious to me. I obtained a very comprehensive visual of this world in which Rhennthyl lives, rather like Renaissance era Europe, although with some later historical touches.
The concept of people who are able to visualize things into being, and how they become part of a Collegium was interesting. I felt that the process could have been a little more dynamic when described (the scenes were a bit one-dimensional at times), but it definitely had me listening.
Although I liked the spy novel-esque vibe, this book is probably a bit more political than I like my reading to be, with a focus on the tangled situations between various governments, the one in which this book is set, and nations that they danced around conflicts with. However, I can't say that it was extraneous to the plot of this story. In fact, The Imager Collegium plays an integral war in keeping the political situation balanced by protecting the Council (who runs the country), and resolving situations in a discreet fashion that allows the status quo to continue. At times, I did feel my mind wander a little bit when the discussions in this book delved too deeply into waters of political intrigue, because this reader is just not wired to be very interested in such subject matter. I liked seeing Rhennthyl think on his feet to navigate these shark-infested waters, though.
Rhennthyl is a protagonist that I appreciated reading about. He doesn't have an easy road, despite his formidable abilities (hard-earned and honed) as an imager. I liked that he does have to struggle a little bit, work hard, and think hard, even though he advances very quickly in the hierarchy of Imagers from a primary. He felt like an everyday sort of guy, not excessively intelligent, nice, or charismatic. Just normal. Enough of all those things for me to like him, though. The guy was in a tough situation, as the Collegium was basically dangling him out as bait for the assassins who were plotting to kill young imagers. I have to say that he held his own, and managed to extricate himself from many a bad situation.
I found the romance between Rhennthyl and Celiora (spelling might not be right since I listened on audio) to be well-written and very important to this storyline. She is a good match for him. She is wise, insightful, loving, and independent and strong. He's the kind of guy who wouldn't do well with a softer, malleable woman, and Celiora is the opposite of that in all the best ways. If things progress the way I believe they will, Celiora will be a great mate for Rhennthyl.
This was a fairly long audiobook, but I was happy to keep listening. Although Modesitt's writing might be a bit too detail-oriented for some readers, I like how he builds the foundation of how his magic system works, using quite a bit of proven science that makes sense, and a concept that I found interesting. I also loved the artistic aspects, as Rhennthyl starts his training as an artist, and continues to maintain that artistic sensibility.
I mentioned above, the only shortcomings with this novel were the sometimes dry political aspects, and the less than dynamic action sequences (I'm a bit of a tough customer when it comes to that). Otherwise, I think this is a very good fantasy book, that I would recommend to those who might be interested in this sort of storyline. I'm adding the next book to my wish list.(less)
It's hard to say exactly what I felt for this book without rambling. First of all, let me say, I think this book has one of the most tormented heroine...moreIt's hard to say exactly what I felt for this book without rambling. First of all, let me say, I think this book has one of the most tormented heroines I've ever read about, both in adult and young adult literature! How much crap can one girl go through? As I listened, I kept thinking how morose this story was. But I had to keep listening. Hoping that Plain Kate would find joy and a place to call home.
This is a novel that shows the destructive effects of prejudice in an interesting way. In this book, anyone who is different or odd has to be a 'witch.' Everyone is so busy blaming everything that goes wrong around them on witches (who are more than anything just anyone who sticks out), they don't even have the sense to go after the real cause of the problem. Even those who are outsiders don't show nearly the amount of tolerance that they should. That makes for a very bitter pill to swallow.
What I loved about this story, what kept me reading was Kate. It was not easy to walk alone, and to keep walking after all she had lost. But she does. And I admire her for that. Also her cat, Taggle. Talking about a scene stealer. I loved him. The author knows cat behavior very well. I would laugh at Taggle's antics and what he would say. He's charmed so that he can talk, but he expresses himself in very much the way I can imagine my cats talking. I definitely give the author brownie points for that.
Although it's never stated, the setting is very Russian. Even the folkore gives this story an indisputible Russian stamp. Russian elements always work for me!
The tone of this story was hard to handle at times. It's very grim in a way. There are spots of brightness and joy like a ray of sunlight shining through a cloudbank. But for the most part, this story has a very downcast feel to it. That sadness that permeated this story grabbed at me. I was glad that Taggle was there for needed comic relief. As an optimist, I looked for evidence of hope for Kate, another thing that kept me reading, even when one event had me sobbing out loud. I mean really crying. I was thinking how much can this one person suffer?
Although definitely the most depressing young adult book I've read in a long time, Plain Kate was a very good book. It's not one of those books that you put down with a smile, though. Instead, you feel a sense of moody reflection. If only to convey how ugly prejudice is, this book succeeds on that point. Substitute any class of people for the 'witches' as the persecuted group and you have a powerful story told in an imaginative way, and the lesson will get transmitted to an audience who I hope will take this lesson very seriously. I think that one should think hard about these issues. Thinking clearly might help a person to see that hatred of others because of their differences is just wrong. And a world that condones that kind of injustice makes for a cold, cruel world for all of us. If I have to read a book that's not so sunny and happy to get that message, I guess that's a good thing in the end.(less)
There is something very distinct and elegant about Caitlin Crews' writing that appeals to me. I noticed that in her first book for HP, Pure Princess,...moreThere is something very distinct and elegant about Caitlin Crews' writing that appeals to me. I noticed that in her first book for HP, Pure Princess, Bartered Bride, and it was evident here as well. I liked the strength of her heroine in Tristanne. She was afraid, she was wounded emotionally, but she was strong! She approached a very dangerous man and offered to be his mistress, for the sake of her mother. And that's not the end of her troubles, because she's gone from the frying pan to the fire. Nikos Katrakis is not easy to manipulate into a fake arrangement as she planned. He's the kind of man who gets exactly what he wants, and he has plans for her and for revenge on her family. Nevertheless, she ends up falling into his bed and in love with him.
Although I feel that this story could have had more dialogue (it's almost entirely introspective thoughts and description), it was still exciting and intriguing, what a good Harlequin Presents should be. Crews has a great way of writing the exquisite tension between her characters where I was holding my breath in anticipation. Also expectantly waiting to see what will happen next. I didn't believe that Nikos would go through with his ruthless, cold-blooded plan for revenge. When he does, my heart sank. I sorted through my own emotions and wondered if Tristanne could forgive him. I have to say that the scene in which they reunite really threw me. Tristanne shows what love truly is. Instead of plunging the knife that Nikos hands her into his black heart and twisting it, she forgives him. Because she loves him. Because she sees that this man didn't know what love was. And it was her job to teach him.
This story is quite different from Caitlin Crews' first HP novel, and I really liked it for its difference, although the first is still my favorite. I liked the intense emotions and the very admirable, mature, self-sacrificing, but painfully self-aware heroine. I liked the blazing hot passion between Tristanne and Nikos. And I loved how Ms. Crews took the standard self-made, ruthless HP tycoon, and gave me a tortured, hurting man who had been used and hated by everyone who should have loved him. She took this character and put him into the hands of the perfect heroine to show him what it meant to love and to be loved in return. It makes me think of Nature Boy by David Bowie
This was a lovely little contemporary western romance with a prominent Gothic feel. Stormy Jones has not seen her father since she was five years old....moreThis was a lovely little contemporary western romance with a prominent Gothic feel. Stormy Jones has not seen her father since she was five years old. In fact, she was told he died. She has spent the majority of her life in her mother's women-centered commune, with little to no contact with men. Yet she feels something missing from her life. When Jonathan McBride enters her life, she is blown away by his rugged male appeal, and has a sinking feeling he is just what he was waiting for. He's like the proverbial forbidden fruit, a virile male, and the epitome of what scares her mother and her followers about men.
Jonathan came to Los Angeles to meet his employer's daughter and deliver important news. Her father is sick and wants to see her before he dies. One look at her tells her she's trouble. He saves her life and ends up in her bed. He is sidetracked by an unfortunate attraction to Stormy that leads to a night of passion. He wakes up the next day, determined to put Stormy at a distance. His experience with love in the past taught him that women could only destroy a man. He feels enormous guilt at sleeping with Hugh's daughter, and just wants to forget about it. Unfortunately, Stormy is a hard woman to forget or to push away. Plus, Stormy still needs to see her father, and when she blurts out a confession of her involvement with Jonathan, the conniving old man changes his will to require a marriage between the two at his death. Jonathan doesn't want another wife, but he does want his inheritance from her father, and marriage is the only way to get it now. Stormy feels deep inside that Jonathan is a man capable of love, no matter how hard he pushes her away. And she's carrying his child, so she doesn't want to walk away. The problem is, someone keeps trying to kill her. Stormy refuses to believe it's Jonathan, despite the cloud of rumors about his last wife's death hanging around him.
I really liked this book. It had a lot of emotion and intensity. I liked the Gothic vibe, and I enjoyed the push/pull between Jonathan and Stormy. I love when the hero is hard and rough and wants to push the heroine away, but needs her and the love she shows him. Jonathan was really quite tortured. He'd had a very rough life and it had taught him that loving and trusting others was a dicey proposition. Stormy's innocent hope and vital passion was just what he needed in his life. While he fights his love for her throughout the book, it was enjoyable to see him fall for her.
The western atmosphere was very well done as well. I felt like I was on a cattle ranch in Southwest Texas, where the land is closer to desert than anything else. This book had a lot more suspenseful vibe than I associate with the typical Silhouette Desires, with someone trying to kill Stormy, and Jonathan's dark past. I miss these old vintage Harlequins which are full of lots of drama and intensity. The newer books just don't have that zing.
I am glad I was able to read this book. Definitely worth looking up if you want a good vintage modern western contemporary romance.
His Christmas Virgin sort of has that 'A Christmas Carol' vibe. That's a good thing because I love 'A Christmas Carol.' Jonas is sort of a modern-day,...moreHis Christmas Virgin sort of has that 'A Christmas Carol' vibe. That's a good thing because I love 'A Christmas Carol.' Jonas is sort of a modern-day, toned down Scrooge. He has divorced himself from emotional relationships because of his parents' horrible marriage, and how it affected him. While Mac is an artists, she shatters the stereotype that all artists are bohemian in their morals. In fact, hers are rather old-fashioned. She doesn't believe in sex without love. She is close to her family and embraces the commitments of family. While Jonas tells himself he needs to stay away from Mac and doesn't want to be bothered with her, he continually finds himself in her sphere, falling deeper and deeper for him. Mac doesn't like Jonas' attitude towards relationships, and finds him rather brisk and hard to like, but he is an intensely attractive, appealing man who 'does' it for her. Love breaks through all their barriers and causes both to risk their hearts to each other.
Mortimer wrote a story that is passionate and romantic, and with a modern feel. Never is there a doubt that Mac is a modern woman. She is just a modern woman who doesn't believe in casual sex, and had good reasons for her virginity. She finds it nothing to be ashamed of. While Jonas is quite uncharitable to her in that regard, I felt that he was making a last ditch effort to wiggle out of the trap of his feelings for her, and using that for an excuse, knowing she won't settle for just his physical body and not all of him. He falls in love while he doesn't believe in such a thing. I liked that each person stayed true to who they were, but also realized that being locked into a certain mindset can limit ones' possibilities. When they come together at the end, it feels right and felt very romantic.
His Christmas Virgin was a pleasant and fairly quick read. Definitely what I needed for this time of year when things are so hectic. (less)
This was a very competent book, and I enjoyed reading it, but I felt that too much time was spent on Brodie's internal dialogue, so I couldn't rate it...moreThis was a very competent book, and I enjoyed reading it, but I felt that too much time was spent on Brodie's internal dialogue, so I couldn't rate it quite as highly as I would like to, since I think Leigh Michaels is a very good writer, and I liked the story idea.
What I liked:
*I really liked Drew's character. He's everything that I admire in a man: hardworking, honorable, steadfast, loving, caring, not a pushover. He was 33-years-old, and he had a mature attractiveness that appealed to me. You could look at him and say, "Now here's a man." Compared to Brodie's ex, there was no question of who was the better man, although it took a while for Brodie to see that. I liked how he didn't ever try to force or push Brodie into anything. He had loved her for a long time, but he was willing to let her go if that was how she could be happy. I think he was very patient with her, considering her earlier immaturity and some potentially bad decisions she was going to make.
*I liked how Ms. Michaels showed Brodie's transition from spoiled girl to mature woman. At first, I was worried that I wouldn't like her. She made some assumptions that she could have her cake and eat it: get married young, drop out of school, live with Drew, have him pay for her and her husband's support. Really? However, she grew up, and I really liked her from that point on.
*For some reason, I love that guardian falls in love with his ward storyline. I admit that it could be creepy, unless the author has a mature hero like Drew that you can respect and trust to do the right thing.
*What can I say? I am a sucker for unrequited love. It was very clear from the beginning that Drew loved Brodie, but he never was selfish in his love. That's true love to me.
*I have to give Ms. Michael's kudos for touching on domestic violence so well. Brodie's ex was about to hit her when he found out she didn't have money of her own. She broke up with him, and he found himself a sweet (and shy and browbeaten by her rich father) young thing who was very rich. He started hitting on her, and beat her up so badly after they got married, she had bruises on her face and all over when she comes to Brodie for help. This was pretty dark subject matter, but it's very real life. I was glad that Brodie wasn't the kind of girl to stand for that, and Drew wasn't going to let anyone hurt her like that. And I liked that she helped out the girl her ex married to get out of that ugly situation.
*Small town life: the good and the bad. It was well-presented here. Brodie was in a weird situation. She was living with Drew because his father was best friends with her father. They were really penniless, but people thought of her as a rich girl. When her fortunes change, it was interesting to see how the town treated her.
What I didn't like:
*The over-dependence on Brodie's internal monologue drug down this story for me. I would have liked to see more interaction and dialogue between Brodie and Drew because they had good chemistry together. I realize the older HPs didn't really show the hero's VP very much, but I think Drew was much too interesting to spend so much time focused on Brodie's thoughts. More of Drew could have been conveyed through action, although the glimpses of his psyche were very tantalizing.
*That it took Brodie most of the book to figure out she wasn't in love with her ex, and that she loved Drew. I realize only a short time had passed, but I would have liked it better if there was a more gradual realization of how much Drew meant to Brodie.
Overall conclusion: After analyzing this book as I reviewed it, I think I will go ahead and bump this up to 4 stars. I think readers who enjoy the guardian/ward relationship theme will like this book.
It's very hard to top a book like Water Bound, but this is a very good follow up. I think that Lev and Stefan managed to feel different although they...moreIt's very hard to top a book like Water Bound, but this is a very good follow up. I think that Lev and Stefan managed to feel different although they are brothers, both very dominant, possessive, dangerous, edgy, and surprisingly passionate men. I'm not going to lie and say that I wouldn't have liked Stefan even if he was too much like Lev. I just have no resistance to this kind of character. But, I am glad that I liked him in a different way. Lev started out very rough and turned into, not a puppy dog when it came to Rikki, but a lethal guard dog, who loves her and her sisters so much that he can be soft for them. Stefan is still learning how to be soft. He undoubtedly loves Judith very much, but he's not going to soften the way Lev did in that way. Instead, his strength and his hard core are given to protecting his beloved and her family, her way of life. It should be interesting to see how Stefan adapts to being part of the family of sisters and husbands in Sea Haven.
Christine Feehan does have the tendency to be long-winded, so it makes her books a bit harder to read than a more concise author (my favored writing style). But she utterly worth the effort. She does passion, danger, dark love in a captivating, distinct way. It's interesting how her and Anne Stuart (my #1 author) write the same genre of romance, but do it very differently. And each one is obligatory in my reading regimen. When I want the domineering (which isn't my favorite except how she does them, go figure), possessive, lethal beyond belief hero who falls head over heels for a woman, along with an interesting intersection of mystery and paranormal, friendship, familial love, and an appreciation for the important things in life, I run to Feehan, because it's her trademark.
Okay, rambling aside. I really liked this book. It didn't move me like Water Bound, because that's just a one of a kind read. But there was a lot to offer in this book. I loved Judith. She has an effervescence, and a strange air of the zen in the middle of a swirling wind of chaos. That's not really easy to convey, but I get that from her. Stefan is the right man for her, because she can handle the things about him that make him a very tough sell for other women, and she touches his heart, makes him feel like a man, not a shadow. And for Judith, Stefan is the one. He calms her in ways she needs calm, opens her up and encourages her to be at peace with her abilities and her emotions, the good and the bad, and he meets her head on with the fiery passion she craves in life. Plus, he appreciates the importance of art in her life.
I thought long and hard, and I have to give this five stars, because even without being perfect, it meets my needs. As a emotional reviewer, that's five star criteria.
Man, these books don't help my Russian fixation at all!(less)
This book was a pleasant surprise. I picked it up off my shelf because I needed a 'Q' book for my A to Z challenge. The blurb didn't really call my na...moreThis book was a pleasant surprise. I picked it up off my shelf because I needed a 'Q' book for my A to Z challenge. The blurb didn't really call my name at all. However, I started reading and sunk deep into this story, leaving Texas and finding myself in Regency England. The writing flows naturally and smoothly, and the characters meant something to me. I could see where Diana was coming from with her very real issues. What happened to her was awful! And Brett wasn't the cad I expected him to be. He actually had some scruples, and was motivated by more than just his own pleasure. I started to realize that Diana really did need to come out of her self-imposed shell, because it wasn't healthy. She had let her dead fiance' steal away most of who she was as a person. Brett did have a way about him that definitely translated an irresistible vibe, and I enjoyed their flirtation and deepening relationship. I also liked the way the author turned things around. Brett was somewhat hoisted by his own petard, but in this case, it wasn't the best thing for either Brett or Diana. I was glad that he's a persistent fellow, and not one to settle. As far as any obvious flaws, I can only think of one--some parts got a little confusing as far as character motivation, but not so much that it ruined the book.
For a quick, enjoyable Regency read, I think this book will suit very well. It was nicely sensual, and the period aspects rang true. I liked both the hero and the heroine, and I wanted them to end up together. That adds up to a successful read for me. I'm glad that I have several of this author's books since I have a subscription to the Harlequin Historicals. (less)