I want to write some really insightful and meaningful review, but I seem to be tongue-tied. (Finger-tied?) This was just a gem of a story -- it's shor...moreI want to write some really insightful and meaningful review, but I seem to be tongue-tied. (Finger-tied?) This was just a gem of a story -- it's short, but every word has a punch. It's kind of dark and rough, yet somehow manages to sparkle at the same time. It's about reality and fantasy and why we need both -- and it gives us both. Loved it.(less)
This was pretty much the same general story as Last Bridge Home, with a hero with paranormal abilities who fell in love with the heroine from afar; sh...moreThis was pretty much the same general story as Last Bridge Home, with a hero with paranormal abilities who fell in love with the heroine from afar; she gets caught up in his situation and doesn't know who to trust.
I wish I hadn't read them in a row -- Andrew was the baby born in the first story, and he's obviously learned his courting habits from his stepfather Jon. Fall in love with her without knowing her and then act as if you own her the minute you meet. Creepily insert yourself into her life while gently assuring her that you'd never harm her. Be mysterious and keep important secrets from her for her own good.
The intensity of feeling does makes this craziness fun and Andrew, who is about five years younger than Lilyi, adds a special sweetness to make it even more palatable. (view spoiler)[The age difference makes for a real ick factor though: if I did the math right, he must have been about 14 when he decided to donate sperm for her. (hide spoiler)] (less)
4.5 stars. Every one of the Maiden Lane books has been an improvement on the last, and the fourth continues the trend; I wouldn't say there's no room...more4.5 stars. Every one of the Maiden Lane books has been an improvement on the last, and the fourth continues the trend; I wouldn't say there's no room for the fifth to be even better, but not much.
The end of Scandalous Desires left the infamous Ghost of St. Giles, finally revealed to us as the orphanage manager Winter Makepeace, wounded and close to exposure. This satisfactorily picks up exactly where that book left off, as Lady Isabel Beckinhal finds the wounded "Ghost" and aids him, without guessing his identity. But Isabel is no fool, and it's not long before she begins to suspect that the dour schoolmaster Winter and the exciting masked hero might be one and the same.
Despite the extravagant plot element of the Ghost, who haunts St. Giles like a vengeful Georgian Batman, this is largely a character driven romance. And what lovely, rich characters they are. Winter is a deeply moral man driven to fight injustice, not just as the Ghost but on a daily basis. His entire life is given to helping others, and he sternly represses anything that might get in the way, such as his sex drive.
"'...you're not a priest,' she said. ''Surely you can have both a wife and family and help those in St. Giles.'
He glanced down at her, so beautiful, so full of that life. 'No, I don't believe so. A husband and father's first duty is to his wife and family. Everything else is secondary. How can the people of St. Giles ever comes first if I am married?'"
Winter is perfectly sincere, and once he's involved with Isabel has no thought of rejecting her again. When he falls he falls hard, but in a way that's consistent with his principles and his basic character. Isabel just allows him to bring out the parts of himself he's kept locked away. Their first sexual encounters, in which she has to teach him everything, are breathtakingly exciting; I only wish we saw one of them from Winter's point of view. (Incidentally, I strongly suspect the title Thief of Shadows to be an homage to a book with another virgin outlaw hero, The Shadow and the Star.)
Isabel is a match for Winter: despite her frivolous love of clothes and society, she's intelligent, self-assured, and has a strong social conscience of her own. Both of them are intrinsically good people, but also lovably human. And though Isabel is older and far more experienced that Winter, their relationship quickly equalizes.
I particularly liked (view spoiler)[how the story treated Isabel's infertility. (A very hot button for me.) Winter absolutely disregards it as a reason not to marry Isabel, but with the knowledge that "soon, very soon, he would need to mourn the children he would never have." Both realistically feel pain when people close to them become pregnant. The story ends on a happy note, with Winter embracing the idea that it's okay to love the children he's in charge of, and Isabel adopting her late husband's child with another woman -- not in a glib "that will solve everything" way, but because she's truly come to care for him. (hide spoiler)]
I'd recommend this story for anyone who loves romance with strong, intelligent, well-matched characters. Although you could read Thief of Shadows on its own, it's probably best to read the series in order; the next book looks very interesting, and its backstory is built throughout the series.(less)
I don't even know how to write a real review of this, I just wanna squee. It's not like its got the best writing in the world… and there's a dumb myst...moreI don't even know how to write a real review of this, I just wanna squee. It's not like its got the best writing in the world… and there's a dumb mystery plot… and some other dumb stuff at the end… but still, this book managed to hit virtually all of my happy buttons.
Business acquaintances Matthew and Rachel are on uncomfortable terms after an incident at a party in which she was providing security. Rachel sneakily douses the aggressively intoxicated Matthew in a nearby pool and drags him off to a guest room -- she is, as she tells him, "taller, stronger and fitter than you are." The ensuing scene in which Matthew drunkenly tries to seduce her might make sensitive readers tense, but I thought it one of the best no-actual-sex sex scenes ever. It helps, of course, that Amazonian Rachel is well able to take care of herself.
This book was all about the characters for me. I love everything about Matthew -- starting with his glasses, which tend to highlight his emotions: "He had smoothed down his wildly disordered hair but his eyes still had a hectic glitter behind the silver frames." I love how he is indeed a bit shorter and several years younger than Rachel, as well as (view spoiler)[a virgin widower, can you believe it, for extremely interesting reasons. (hide spoiler)]. The balance of power between them feels unusually equal and Napier teases us a bit by suggesting kinky ways in which they could play with that, without ever actually going there. (Rachel subdues Matthew by tying him to the headboard; he tells her, "I like it when you're rough with me.") It's almost like a subtle femdom story, except as I said, the overall effect is a feeling of balance.
I love Rachel's size and physical strength -- Matthew calls her "lioness" -- as well as her emotional resilience. She has some tragedy in her past but doesn't let it rule her. Matthew also has a painful past, so they wind up being very vulnerable with each other.
It's an unconventional Harlequin Presents in many ways and there isn't much crazy drama, but I sure didn't miss it. (The attempt to throw in some angsty conflict at the ends was a big mistake, IMO.) Flawed though it is, it's a five star read for me.(less)
A romance between adoptive siblings is inherently icky to me, but a good writer can certainly work the angst angle and capture my interest. This book...moreA romance between adoptive siblings is inherently icky to me, but a good writer can certainly work the angst angle and capture my interest. This book though, seemed designed to emphasize the ick as much as possible. I felt like the author was deliberately playing with the taboo for its titillation value; I guess the title should have been a hint, as well as the fake-out opening, which is designed to make a non-sexual scene sound sexual.
The hero is Grant, who's been sneaking touches from his stepsister since he was thirteen years old (she was sixteen) and he kissed her in her sleep. When he finally decides to pursue her, he does it in a still sneaky and very invasive way, pretty much forcing her to accept his touches and innuendos. In front of their parents, no less. Yeech.
Cammie's end of the story is off-putting too: she thinks of Grant as a brother, but then gets thoroughly turned on after seeing him naked. She's then helpless to resist his advances. This is not a scenario I want to read about. It makes me think they would have felt and behaved the same way if they were really blood siblings. The arguments that Grant puts forth don't help; "How can anything so good be wrong?" he asks. I'd feel so much better if the argument was, "we're not really brother and sister and we don't feel like we're brother and sister." Instead, the book seems to be trying to have it both ways -- they do feel like brother and sister, and still want to have sex with each other.
No offense intended to anyone who enjoys this sort of story. It's just not for me.(less)
This is an awfully sudden romance. Chapter three ends with Tucker learning about Lily's "crazy," woman-scorned past, then in chapter four he declares...moreThis is an awfully sudden romance. Chapter three ends with Tucker learning about Lily's "crazy," woman-scorned past, then in chapter four he declares he wants a full-on relationship with her. I needed to see a little more of his thought processes -- perhaps instead of the section devoted to setting up Gibson's next book.
Rule-breaking props for having a hero on the short side and heroine with implants. I also liked that Lily was the one with commitment issues, a reversal of Gibson's usual scenario. And the steamy scenes were very nicely written.
Pet peeve: the depiction of Lily's older sister Daisy's pregnancy (I'm not quite sure of her age, but Lily is 38) didn't ring true for me. Having a baby after 40 is generally not such a casual thing.(less)
I vaguely remember reading in Kate Rothwell's blog that she got flack for writing a story inspired by the classic young adult romance Daddy Long Legs...moreI vaguely remember reading in Kate Rothwell's blog that she got flack for writing a story inspired by the classic young adult romance Daddy Long Legs but with a foul-mouthed former criminal as its protagonist. What an incredibly short-sighted attitude. This is not just Daddy Long Legs gender-reversed and updated for shock value, but a thoughtful and really interesting re-imagining of how the story might play out in today's world.
There are light homages to the original, which add a bit of extra glow to the romance if you're a fan, but what really made the story for me were the differences. It turns out the unknown philanthropist, here dubbed by our narrator Ben as "Mrs. Moneybags," has private, very unexpected motivations for helping orphaned Ben through college. And it was appropriate that Ben, who's described as very smart and thinking outside the box, catches on to what those are.
I don't know if I'd classify this as young adult or not: it's not sexually explicit, but unquestionably rough, particularly Ben's teenage experiences at "helping pay the rent" for a predatory female landlord. On the other hand, Ben is really a great character, and I loved seeing the tough, cynical kid who's trying to hold his family together also be someone who loves learning.(less)
This was fun in a fantasy porny sort of way; it seemed like it should have begun with the words "Dear Penthouse." My main complaint was that the "we'r...moreThis was fun in a fantasy porny sort of way; it seemed like it should have begun with the words "Dear Penthouse." My main complaint was that the "we're going to start with menage because it's hot but discover we love each other and go solo after that" scenario is starting to seem cliche to me, and it always felt kind of phoney. (less)
3.5 stars. The first of Higgins' books with recurring characters is follow-up to two others, one of which is my highest rated book by her (Catch of th...more3.5 stars. The first of Higgins' books with recurring characters is follow-up to two others, one of which is my highest rated book by her (Catch of the Day) and one of which I couldn't finish (The Next Best Thing.) Somebody to Love doesn't hit either of these extremes. It's very readable and has its share of humor and romance, but compared to some of Higgins' other work, it was a little lacking.
Parker (who had a child with the hero of The Next Best Thing) is hit with a bombshell: her father has been arrested for insider trading, and her home and trust fund are gone. Since Parker donates the money she earns from writing gawdawful children's books to charity, all she has left is a home in Maine that she's never seen. While her son is vacationing with his father, Parker sets out to renovate and sell the wreck of a house, which is in the friendly town of Gideon's Cove (home of Maggie and Malone from Catch of the Day.) Help comes in the form of her father's lawyer James, known to Parker (incessantly) as "Thing One." The nickname is, we will learn, a way of distancing herself from some uncomfortable history and jealousy.
Parker seemed very sensible and likable in The Next Best Thing, so I was surprised to find her an inconsistent and occasionally obnoxious character. Sometimes she's an upper crust ice princess, other times she's a fluffy chicklit nitwit, and the most essential aspect of her character in terms of the plot is that she's very, very good at holding a grudge. James, a warm and generous man who hides a lot of pain behind a facade of success, is much more appealing; if he has a flaw it's that he puts up with too much crap from Parker.
Somebody to Love runs a lot on repeated themes. Some of these are funny, like the ludicrous children's books Parker writes in her head when upsetting things happen to her: "Once upon a time, there was a baby shark named Swimmy. He asked his mommy, 'Does God still love me, even though I eat the other fishies?' and his mommy said, 'Who cares?' and ate him and Swimmy was delicious." I also enjoyed the frequent internal visitations of her disgustingly cheerful book characters, The Holy Rollers, as in this scene in which Malone has just publicly proposed to Maggie:
"'Oh! We have the warm fuzzles!' the Holy Rollers crowed.
'You sicken me,' Parker thought."
As the book goes on, the imagined Holy Rollers get older and more cynical; one becomes a hoodlum and offers relationship advice while stubbing out cigarettes on his palm. This was fun, but other repetitions, like "Thing One" and the references to "Lady Land" -- a catch-all phrase for Parker's tingly bits -- got pretty old.
Overall, it was an entertaining book, without having much bite or depth. I felt like Higgins was playing it safe in this one -- though considering I DNF'd her most thematically challenging book, I can hardly blame her. I gave it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars -- which seems to be my standard "likable, better than average, contemporary romance" grade.
While I admire Higgins for writing different and difficult romance plots, this one was just too challenging for me. Falling in love with an in-law aft...moreWhile I admire Higgins for writing different and difficult romance plots, this one was just too challenging for me. Falling in love with an in-law after you’re no longer in-laws is one thing, and Higgins does that plot fairly gracefully elsewhere. But a widow using her husband’s younger brother as a booty call... well, that’s pretty icky, and from skimming the book, she just generally comes off like a callous, clueless user. I'm not going to give a rating though, since I didn't read it through. I am looking forward to seeing the character of Parker, who seems very sensible and likable, get her own story in Somebody To Love.(less)
It’s hard to think of a less likely couple to inhabit an anthology called “Wild and Steamy” then the shy Const...more"The Blushing Bounder" by Meljean Brook.
It’s hard to think of a less likely couple to inhabit an anthology called “Wild and Steamy” then the shy Constable Newberry and his ailing, resentful, proper wife. (Oh, I guess this is steamy as short for steampunk.) This was a sweet story but needed more development. 3 1/2 stars -- the extra half star is for the adorable huge, blushing hero.
"Vixen" by Jill Myles
Now we’re talking “wild” and “steamy.” Miko is a were-fox who’s opted out of relationships, because its her nature to want more than one mate. Then her mother sends her two were-cat bodyguards, because illegal foxhunting is happening nearby. The two men seem to do everything together -- but will they do everything together? It’s a very thin story and set off my “too obvious a fantasy” alarm (the cherry on top was when they clean her house) but I thought the menage was fun. 3 stars. (And by the way, it seems kind of unfair for reviewers to criticize this story for being too porny -- with that title, what did they expect?)
"Kitten-tiger & the Monk" by Carolyn Crane
Am waiting to read this one til I start the series it’s in -- will fill in my review later. (less)
I started this wanting a light, easy but not frothy book as a break from some intense reading and I pretty much got it. It was so much what I was in t...moreI started this wanting a light, easy but not frothy book as a break from some intense reading and I pretty much got it. It was so much what I was in the mood for that even though it hit a lot of my pet peeves/least favorite plot lines, I was thoroughly enjoying it until the very end. Alas, it then delivered the kiss of death.
Dakota, sister of the hero of book 2, is on temporary assignment with a reality show set in the town of Fool’s Gold. When she meets Finn, on a rampage to rescue his twin brothers -- show contestants -- from living their own lives, they start a very deliberately casually affair -- after all, he’s just waiting to be free of the responsibility of his brothers to go back to his own life, and she’s so committed to starting a family, she’s in the middle of the adoption process. There’s no way way it could possibly last.
Throughout the book, the primary romance was always pretty low-key and the clinical feeling sex scenes don’t help. It’s very tab A slot B; I never felt any chemistry. It didn’t really bother me because taken as a whole, all the subplots and threads were interesting -- especially a sweet romance between one of Finn’s younger brothers and his “date” for the reality show, an older, lonely woman who’s been under her mother’s thumb all her life. But towards the end, the subplots fade away (more with a whimper than a bang), the main story takes an “oh please” turn, and I’m left with a hero who has never had any stronger feeling about the heroine than that he likes her. Some last minute reprehensible behavior and a dramatic turnaround fails to save the entirely tepid romance. This might have been better published as chicklit, where it wouldn't need to provide a happy-ever-after.(less)
I confess, I read the short story and book that start this series mainly so I could work my way towards this one. The premise of the starchy older wom...moreI confess, I read the short story and book that start this series mainly so I could work my way towards this one. The premise of the starchy older woman letting her hair down with a younger man just grabbed me somehow. I was happy to get the kind of story I was hoping for -- and even more.
Olivia and Jamie couldn’t seem less alike. Olivia’s a serious, divorced teacher who’s never been with anyone but her husband; Jamie’s a charming bartender who’s never been in a serious relationship, but has been in plenty of frivolous ones. But Jamie and Olivia share a common struggle: they have big dreams, which the important people in their lives have never respected. Both are longing to do something more with their lives.
When they first start seeing each other, Olivia views it as a fling, with mutual benefits: she’ll give Jamie help with his business plan, he’ll help her learn how to enjoy life more. She resolutely refuses to believe that Jamie is actually interested in her, thinking she’s only with him because of his “universal love of women. If it wasn’t for that, she’d never have gotten even a taste, so what was the point of resenting it?” And though Jamie realizes how much their dreams complement each other, Olivia can’t see it... and can’t understand how much she’s hurting him by seeing him as just a charming, attractive guy who can’t be taken seriously.
I didn’t feel much angst from the first book in this series, but though this one also has an adult, believable conflict, it packed much more of an emotional punch. Jamie, especially, has serious pain to work through -- there’s a lot going on behind his charming facade. The character’s relationships with other people are vital to the story: I loved seeing Olivia with her awful ex, how strong and aware she was, while Jamie’s interactions with his critical older brother show his insecurity and vulnerability.
There are steamy love scenes, of course, but I really enjoyed this most for the story and the characters. It has a depth and intelligence really needed in contemporary romance.
(I reviewed this from an e-arc provided by netGalley.)
3.5 stars. This worked better for me when I originally read it out of order; rereading it after having finally read Ruthless made some plot holes appa...more3.5 stars. This worked better for me when I originally read it out of order; rereading it after having finally read Ruthless made some plot holes apparent. (view spoiler)[How could illegitimate Etienne possibly think he would inherit his cousin's title? And why did his character change so drastically from the first book? This question is asked but never answered. (hide spoiler)] There was also a added level of sadness about what happened to the hero and heroine from Ruthless and a questioning of their good judgment that sort of spoiled that book too. If I hadn't enjoyed reading the secondary romance so much again, I'd be sorry I reread it at all.(less)
Four Regency-ish romances featuring characters in somewhat scandalous situations. I pretty much expect anthologies to be meh, so I wasn’t disappointed...moreFour Regency-ish romances featuring characters in somewhat scandalous situations. I pretty much expect anthologies to be meh, so I wasn’t disappointed -- except perhaps in the Jo Beverley story. Beverley is generally the highlight of any anthology she’s in, but though her story has by far the most original and interesting plot, it’s talky and claustrophobic feeling, with very little action. And the age difference between the characters is pretty squicky. (He is thirty, she is sixteen.)
Vanessa Kelly’s story about a grieving widow is a pleasant, quick read, featuring a younger man who finally wins the older woman he’s always loved. I really dislike the sophomoric sex humor in Sally Mackenzie’s books but in the smaller doses of a short story, it wasn’t so bad. Kaitlin O'Riley’s summer romance was okay. Overall, the whole book was okay.(less)
You can tell I read a lot of romance and not much erotica, because when our heroine Myrna meets sexy rockstar Brian and all his sexily-named band-mate...moreYou can tell I read a lot of romance and not much erotica, because when our heroine Myrna meets sexy rockstar Brian and all his sexily-named band-mates, my first innocent thought was, “Gee, I bet all those other guys are going to have their own stories later,” not “Woo hoo, I bet all those other guys are also going to get it on with Myrna!” As it turned out, the focus is on the primary relationship with Brian, though a couple of the other guys do come into the story, if you know what I mean and I think you do.
This was a kink smorgasbord, with a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Bondage, menage, anal, voyeurism, m/m, sex in public... I may have forgotten a few things. It was like the old saying about the weather -- if you don’t like the sex, just wait a few minutes. It was also a weirdly charming look at wild but lovable rockers on tour, if you could get past the nasty way they treat their groupies (including Brian.) There was a lot of fantasy going on, and if I have to ignore dubious hygiene, dubious safe sex and some “don’t try this at home” moments, I don’t see why that one aspect has to be so realistic.
Also on the negative side, I didn’t buy Myrna being so hung up on her ex-husband’s nasty namecalling that she expects Brian to think she’s a whore for enjoying sex. She’s a professor of human sexuality for crying out loud; even if she was affected on an emotional level she should have known on an intellectual level that it was all nonsense.
But overall, this was a very fun read, even for someone like me who prefers romances that don’t have sex scenes on 95% of the pages.(less)
I was tempted to give this five stars, since it is amazing and special in many ways. But it was also just a little too irritating.
Miss Hattie, popular...moreI was tempted to give this five stars, since it is amazing and special in many ways. But it was also just a little too irritating.
Miss Hattie, popularly known as "Horseface Hattie" is the town spinster. At age 29, she's never been courted, or even kissed. Hattie is only too willing when a widower with seven children announces his intention to court her, seeing a last chance at a man and family of her own. But Reed Tyler, who works for Hattie and has known her for years, is strangely perturbed, despite having a beautiful young fiance of his own.
This is a tender, warm story about someone who is genuinely plain--not romance novel, ohmygodmyboobsaretoobig plain--finding love with someone who genuinely appreciates her as a person and so learns to love her looks. (Not to mention her boobs.) The secondary romance, in which we see the hidden depths of Reed's petty, immature fiance, is also satisfying. And the background of hard working, honorable people doing their best with what they have is a pleasure to read.
Speaking as someone married to a younger man--who met him when we were both quite young--I also appreciated the way age differences were handled in this book. The way the characters treat each other really demonstrates that it's a state of mind more than anything else; both Reed (five years younger than Hattie) and his fiance Bessie Jane decide not to be treated as youngsters anymore and claim their maturity.
The star-off is for the language; I get easily tired by cute sexual metaphors and this book overuses them something fierce. It's playful at first, then it just gets wearing. Still, a wonderful read overall.(less)
I love the role-reversal in this romance: the villain is the passionate, possessive, uber-masculine dude, and the hero is the sweet nice guy who wants...moreI love the role-reversal in this romance: the villain is the passionate, possessive, uber-masculine dude, and the hero is the sweet nice guy who wants the heroine to make her own decisions and so would inevitably get slotted into the "let's just be friends" slot in a different book. Way to see the nice guy finish first for a change! But it's hilarious that the publishers chose a scene between the heroine and villain as the inside blurb, as the only way to get the standard kind of romance interaction.(less)
Reckless had a potentially awesome premise: what happens to the son of a notorious rake who reformed for love? A...more(I won this book through First Reads.)
Reckless had a potentially awesome premise: what happens to the son of a notorious rake who reformed for love? Adrian is the heir of Francis, the hero of the first book in this series -- I haven’t read it yet, but it’s clear that Francis was one of Stuart’s usual bad boys. Adrian, rebellious against a father he sees as a hypocrite (and goaded on by someone with an axe to grind), not surprisingly wants to outdo his old man. So he experiments -- a lot -- with sex and drugs and naughty Regency sex and drug clubs.
This makes him sound young and he acts it, too -- less one of the truly scary, amoral heroes that Stuart does so well than a bit of a bored, petulant brat. That actually worked for me, because he runs up against Charlotte, who is strong-willed enough to be a match for him and put him in his place on occasion. Also, of course he is sexy as hell.
I had trouble getting into the story at first, because all kinds of niggling little details kept taking me out. The scandalous sex club that’s a theme of the series seemed oddly conceived, with conflicting rules that didn’t make much sense or feel historically authentic. Then there’s fact that Rohan is supposedly so careful. His method of protection? He pulls out. Yeah, that’ll keep him from having any bastards or STDs. I was also bothered by how much the story resembled the prequel to the series, which I just read. Same type of hero, same type of heroine, same type of relationship between them, even a similar locked-in-together scene.
But when the romance really got going, I feel under Stuart’s spell as usual and was thoroughly engrossed. I also liked the somewhat unusual secondary romance. In the end, I enjoyed Reckless, yet felt disappointed that Stuart didn’t do more with a premise that had so much potential, instead sticking mostly to her standard formula. It could have been one of her best books. Instead it’s just a pretty entertaining story.
A note for sensitive readers: there’s a sex scene of somewhat dubious consent and a lot of crude language.(less)