At it's heart, Darfur Diaries is about the journey of three young filmmakers who went on a quest in 2004 to foster moreReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
At it's heart, Darfur Diaries is about the journey of three young filmmakers who went on a quest in 2004 to foster more widespread awareness of the events that were unfolding in Darfur, but not receiving a great deal of media attention at the time. I was impressed with the courage that these three humanitarians exhibited in traveling to and spending weeks in a dangerous, war-torn region, but what impressed me even more were the people that they met along the way. These Darfurians showed a spirit of generosity in sharing not only their food and transportation, but most importantly their personal stories. While a few of the interviewees expressed a desire for revenge, usually for the deaths of family members, I was surprised that several did not seem to harbor ill feelings toward their oppressors, instead simply wanting to live in peace again. Another thing that really stood out to me was how much the Darfurians value education. Living in a country where we seem to take this privilege for granted, it was very enlightening and affecting to see such a passion for learning being expressed. I was also amazed by the resilience of the human spirit, how these people somehow still manage to continue living even in circumstances that most Americans or Westerners in general could hardly fathom. The authors attended a wedding that took place in the midst of all the destruction and in spite of the potential dangers. I found that story to be a stirring and poignant reminder of life still abiding in the midst of death.
The only real complaint I have it that when I saw the title of this book, I thought that it would chronicle in depth stories of survivors of the conflict in Darfur. It did cover the personal narratives of many Darfurians, and while some were long enough for me to get a pretty good feel for the person being interviewed and what they had been through, others were just too brief to satisfy me. Perhaps this is a good thing though, as the details of the atrocities these people had suffered would certainly not be for the faint of heart. As it is written though, I think that almost anyone could read it without feeling too depressed or overburdened, which may give it appeal to a wider audience.
Darfur Diaries was certainly not a deep political treatise on the area, but I did learn some things about the history of Sudan and the political climate that led to this conflict. I think that not bogging the book down with too many details on history or politics made it an easy read that would be accessible to anyone who would like to know more about Darfur and it's people, and I would readily recommend it in this capacity. The companion film which the authors finished and released in 2006 is titled Darfur Diaries: Message From Home. After reading Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival, I am now very interested in checking it out, so that I can see and hear the people to whom I was introduced in the book....more
The Audacity of Hope was published several months before Barack Obama announced his bid for the U.S. presidency, and as such, I don't think that his iThe Audacity of Hope was published several months before Barack Obama announced his bid for the U.S. presidency, and as such, I don't think that his ideas and policies in the book are quite as fully developed and detailed as they are now. People who have closely followed Senator Obama's historic campaign will likely not find much new material here, but I still thought this was a great read and would highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in getting to know the Senator, and what he would like to do for the United States. He may be idealistic, but his ideals are firmly planted in the hope of the American people, that if we all work together, we can fix many of our problems and make the country great again.
My favorite thing about The Audacity of Hope is that it is not just a dry political treatise, that can only be understood by the most educated people. Instead the book is written in very down-to-earth language that is accessible to anyone, while still showcasing Senator Obama's own intelligence. He definitely has an ingenious and articulate way of communicating, which is a rare find anywhere, but particularly in the political arena. I also enjoyed all the personal stories from his own life, as well as anecdotes of people that Senator Obama has met over the course of his career in public service, not only as a politician, but as a community organizer. These stories really helped to bring vibrancy and urgency to his ideas. The Senator also has a great sense of humor, especially when he is being self-deprecating, which often had me LOL. This is not to say that Senator Obama doesn't take things seriously, but simply that he also knows how to find the lighter side of life too.
Non-fiction of any kind is not usually my first reading choice, but overall I would call this book an enjoyable read. I recommend it along with Dreams From My Father (another great read IMO) for anyone who is still undecided about the upcoming elections. They both should help to shed light on the character, background and policies of the man who may be the next U.S. president....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" A Town Called Christmas is a sweet, easy holiday read that celebrates not only romance, but the warmth and simplicReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" A Town Called Christmas is a sweet, easy holiday read that celebrates not only romance, but the warmth and simplicity of hearth and home with a family Christmas in small town America. I really liked the close-knit ties of the York clan, and that even though they didn't exactly approve of Merry's out-of-wedlock pregnancy, they were nonetheless very supportive. I also enjoyed their family-owned Christmas tree farm and snack bar/gift shop that was a very important part of the little town of Christmas, Michigan (which according to the author's note at the beginning of the story, is a town that actually exists). The Christmas parade and festivities were cute and reminiscent of ones I've seen before in my days as a small-town girl. I could also appreciate the big family gathering on Christmas day which again was very much like ones that I attended in my youth and occasionally as an adult. All these elements really came together to give the story a very festive holiday feel.
The hero and heroine were both likable characters, with Mike as an active-duty Navy fighter pilot stationed in the Persian Gulf (presumably for the Iraq war, though that isn't specifically stated), and Merry as an expectant single mother who had moved back home to manage her family's business after her father's heart-attack. While I liked Mike and Merry both individually and as a couple, what didn't really work for me was the short time frame of the initiation of their relationship which was only one week. Readers are supposed to believe that this was love at first sight, and even though the author gave the story a nice infusion of emotions which is a must in making these types of stories believable to me, I still couldn't quite buy it. After much contemplation, I realized that during their short week together, Mike and Merry's conversations and interactions rarely went to a deep personal level. In fact, Merry didn't even officially tell Mike who the father of her baby was until he was nearly ready to leave town, and in all honesty, the circumstances of the pregnancy were a little weak to begin with, in my opinion. Also, Mike's over-active sense of commitment to certain people, born out of his father's accidental death years before, wasn't explored fully enough for me to completely understand him. Because Mike and Merry both initially felt that a long-term relationship would be impossible, due to a need to come to terms with their past mistakes, as well as present circumstances (the baby and his military service), it seemed that they, for the most part, held each other at arms length instead of totally giving into their feelings. Even after their correspondence during his six-month deployment following Christmas (an entire chapter is devoted to their letters and emails to one another) and subsequent reunion, I still didn't fully and completely feel their commitment to and love for one another.
In spite of Mike and Merry's relationship not being quite there for me, this was still a pleasant read. I did feel something between them, even if it wasn't quite enough to thoroughly satisfy me. There were also several secondary romances to enjoy: Merry's brother and Mike's best friend, Nicky and his wife, Shannon, who were high-school sweethearts, now married, and still hopelessly in love; Merry and Nicky's younger sister, Noelle, and her long-time boyfriend, Jeff; Merry's best friend, Jackie, and the town's geeky author of romance and mystery books, Oliver. These were all cute and likable romances in themselves, and I don't think I've ever read a novel that had so many different side romances going on at one time. These characters and many others gave A Town Called Christmas an extensive and varied supporting cast. Even though the story was very simple and I can't quite say it wowed me, it did give me a festive dose of Christmas cheer. Any reader who is looking to lift their spirits with a light, family-centric tale this holiday season would likely find A Town Called Christmas with it's warm, cozy atmosphere to be an agreeable way to spend a few reading hours. This was my first read by Carrie Alexander, but it has left me open to perhaps trying some of her other stories in the future.
Note:A Town Called Christmas is part of the multi-author series 9 Months Later, a theme series by Harlequin in which each story involves a pregnancy. A Town Called Christmas is #55 in this series, but to my knowledge is a stand-alone novel with no connection to other books in the series except the theme....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Typically I prefer my romances to have enough realism in them to be believable, but still have the illusion of a fantasy. WhatReviewed for THC Reviews Typically I prefer my romances to have enough realism in them to be believable, but still have the illusion of a fantasy. What She Wants for Christmas, in my opinion, had a pretty heavy dose of reality to the point that it felt like I was reading about the rather mundane day to day lives of the residents of a rural Washington town with something of a focus on the hero and heroine. I know that there are readers who enjoy this type of storytelling, so from that perspective, I can see how this book might be very appealing to some. For me though, it was a little on the bland side. Also, for a novel that has “Christmas” in the title, I expected it to be more “Christmas-y”, but the holiday season really only came into play during the last third of the book. I ended up feeling like the story could have taken place at any time of the year, and the holiday was little more than an afterthought. In addition, I didn't feel like Joe and Teresa spent enough time together on the canvas. They each had plenty of scenes interacting with the various townspeople, including their families, but there seemed to be very long stretches in between the couple's alone times. They went on several dates during the months after they met, but for the most part they weren't covered in much detail nor was there a lot of deep discussion or strong emotional interactions between them. Not surprisingly, my two favorite scenes in the book were ones that conveyed some of these more intense feelings, one being their first love scene and the other being where Joe finally reveals his secret to Teresa. Still, they weren't quite perfect. The love scene was one of those anger turned to passion moments (not my favorites), but I could at least sense Joe's fear of possibly loosing Teresa and his desperate need to connect on another level. The revelation of his secret was more profound, but then he stubbornly pushed Teresa away in the end.
Perhaps it was the ordinariness of the story itself, but neither Joe nor Teresa ever really stood out to me. Joe was tortured by his secret, which in most cases would have made him very sympathetic to me, but I felt he was being a little too obstinate for the circumstances. While I understood that he had endured a lot of ridicule and intense struggles during his years growing up with this challenge, general understanding of his problem has advanced in recent years to the point where I think he could have done something to attempt to overcome it. Instead he chose to live with the status quo and simply not even try. His family had been supportive of him over the years, but they too seemed a little too accepting of his decision to do nothing further. When Teresa came along and encouraged him to seek help and even offered to help him herself, Joe acted as though she had rocked his safe little boat to the point of creating a tidal wave. Then he repeatedly kept thinking that she was ashamed of him and they could never have a future together because he was unworthy. I just felt like he was protesting too much, and even the ending was rather ambiguous about whether he intended to try to make life changes or simply continue the way he had for years. Perhaps I would have understood him better if his feelings about his problem had been explored more fully and/or he had shown more growth. However, he never really wanted to talk about it, and Teresa ended up either walking on eggshells around the issue or making mistakes. I did admire Teresa in many ways. She was a little on the feisty side, speaking her mind and making a good life for herself and her children after the death of her first husband. Teresa was a veterinarian who was kind and compassionate to both animals and people, and had a good disposition, never having a tendency to feel sorry for herself even though her teenage daughter was being a pain and the local dairy farmers in her new hometown were resistant to letting her treat their animals. Still, after an argument with Joe, Teresa did an almost complete about face in the final chapter, thinking that she had done something so stupid and unforgivable that their relationship was certainly over, and nearly gave up. This seemed pretty out of character for a woman who had taken the bull by the horns many times earlier in the story.
There were a few other things in What She Wants for Christmas that I thought could have been better too. I was initially rather annoyed by Teresa's self-absorbed teenage daughter, Nicole, who was resentful of their move to a “hick” town. She acted pretty bratty in the beginning, but she did lighten up and become a little more likable as the story progressed. My biggest complaint about Nicole's role though, is that every couple of chapters there was a passage written solely from her point of view. In my opinion, these excerpts were little more than filler and didn't really add much value to the main plot. I also found myself being a little bit skeptical of the dairy farmers being against Teresa treating their animals simply because she was a woman. Maybe I just haven't spent enough time in rural communities and I fully realize that even today there are plenty of people with gender prejudice, but we do live in modern times where there are plenty of female vets. Also this part of the plot never seemed to go anywhere as though it was just a little something extra thrown in to add more conflict. I will say that the author either has first-hand experience with dairy farming and logging or did her research very well. There were many details sprinkled throughout the book about both of these industries that seemed pretty authentic. Unfortunately, unless these topics are of interest to the reader (regrettably they weren't to me), they have a tendency to slow things down. Ultimately, I found What She Wants for Christmas to be an OK read that wasn't bad, but in my opinion, could have been greatly improved if all the padding had been replaced with more interaction and relationship development between the hero and heroine. However, What She Wants for Christmas is one of Janice Kay Johnson's earlier works, and since I read another one of her novels this year that I liked very well, I certainly won't be deterred from trying other books by her in the future....more
I really like the premise of this quartet of romantic novellas. The book's prologue written by Catherine Anderson was aReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
I really like the premise of this quartet of romantic novellas. The book's prologue written by Catherine Anderson was an intriguing beginning to the story, but it left me with many questions about the gown's creator and her one true love. I had hoped that those questions would be answered as the stories progressed, but that was not to be the case.
A Perfect Fit by Barbara Metzger – A Perfect Fit was very much a traditional Regency romance, probably in a similar vein as Georgette Heyer (though I admit that I have yet to read any of her books). The story had classic Regency plotting and lots of authentic words and phrases which gives the reader the feel of actually being in the Regency period. In addition, although it had some mild sexual tension, it was completely non-explicit, making it suitable for both younger and more sensitive romance readers. For a short story, I thought the characters were nicely developed. My only complaint would be that there were a few too many of them, and I found myself occasionally loosing track of who was who. Forde and Katie were both very likable, as were nearly all of the characters in the story, although I can't say that I found myself connecting on a deep emotional level with anyone. In my opinion, there were only a couple of exceptions in this otherwise “nice” cast, with one being Katie's daughter, Susannah, who I thought acted rather spoiled and ungracious, but she did mature a bit by the end. The other was Susannah's future mother-in-law who was a rather prim and snobbish member of the ton, but I believe was meant to be an extreme caricature, who added some mild comic relief. The romance was very sweet, but I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. Throughout most of the story, Forde and Katie were sizing each other up and dealing with wedding woes and eccentric relatives. I didn't really feel that it left enough time for them to believably fall in love. All of that happened in a few paragraphs at the end. Overall though, I found A Perfect Fit to be a pleasant, if predictable, read that was not a bad way to spend a few hours of my time. This novella was my first story by Barbara Metzger, but I found it enjoyable enough to leave me open to trying more of her works in the future. Rating: ***1/2
Glad Rags by Connie Brockway – Glad Rags was a combination romantic comedy and reunion romance, both of which I usually enjoy, but this tale fell flat for me on both counts. I consider myself to have a pretty good sense of humor, but I thought this story was just rather silly. The author tries to build a case that Alex is a very attractive man and an honorable war hero, but I just couldn't get past the ridiculous notion of him being dressed in drag for more than half the narrative. Granted he had a decent reason, that of a lost bet, but it still came off as rather juvenile humor to me. I smiled in amusement maybe a couple of times, but the rest of the time, I was, for the most part, doing a lot of eye rolling. Since Alex and Lucy had been separated for two years, in part due to Alex's service in the Crimean War, I thought there might at least be something for me grasp with their reunion, but I was sadly mistaken. I found the reasons for their separation to be mainly selfish and prideful and brought about by rather absurd miscommunications that could have been easily resolved with a simple heart-to-heart conversation. Once they do reunite, things move far too quickly, for the most part fueled by physical desire. In spite of their declaration of undying love, I never really felt any emotional connection between the two characters. I ended the story never feeling like their old issues were ever truly resolved. They just continued to argue and vie for control in the relationship for the whole novella, which did not leave me with the feeling that these two could have a lasting happily-ever-after. Considering that the anthology is about a wedding dress, I have to admit that I was also disappointed that this story did not even contain a wedding. Admittedly, having the guy wear the wedding dress was an interesting twist, but it just didn't work for me. In the end, I simply felt that the beautiful wedding gown that is supposed to be the centerpiece of these novellas deserved a much better story. This was my first read by Connie Brockway, and as I've heard some positive things about her writing, I will try to reserve judgment on her talents until I've read something else that will hopefully be better than this, in my opinion, woefully underdeveloped farce. Rating: **1/2
Something Special by Casey Claybourne – I do hope readers will forgive my triteness, but I have to say that I found Something Special to truly be “something special.” It was a sweet romance that was very enjoyable to read. Unlike the first two novellas in this anthology, I actually found myself looking forward to picking it up again each time I had to put it down. I thought that the plot was very tight and the characters were very likable. I am not usually drawn to not-so-bright heroines, but Penny was a real sweetheart. It didn't take me long to realize that she was really a product of a lack of education rather than a lack of intelligence. Penny was very street-smart, and when anyone took the time to help her out, she was actually a quick study academically. I initially had a few misgivings about Josh leaving his daughter, Eliza, for such long stretches of time without parental involvement and with minimal female guidance, but he proved to be a very loving and caring father who had just been trying to build a successful business. Eliza was an adorable and precocious child who was simply too smart for her own good, and Seamus Macgorrie, their reluctant nanny, cook and housekeeper was good for some amusement with his dry wit and wisdom. I also liked the rather unique setting of historical Seattle, Washington. As I have said in some of my other reviews, love at first sight romances are not really my favorites, but lately I have a found a few authors who have made me rethink my position. Casey Claybourne has become one of them. She infused the narrative with just enough tender emotions to make the short time frame of the relationship development actually seem believable to me. It is a very rare novella on which I am able to bestow keeper status, but I am going to do exactly that with Something Special. This was my first read by Ms. Claybourne, and in fact, I had not even heard of her until reading this story. After such an enjoyable reading experience though, I will definitely be checking out her other works. Rating: ****1/2
Beautiful Gifts by Catherine Anderson – Beautiful Gifts is yet another winning story from Catherine Anderson. It is the first novella I have read by her, but I thought it had enough substance to rival her full-length novels. I loved this story of two wounded people finding the healing and love they so richly deserved in each other's arms. Faith was a very admirable heroine. She was a city girl, born and bred, who I thought exhibited strength of character to leave her cold, cruel father in an attempt to make a new life for herself and her young daughter away from his influence. She was also a loving, caring mother who was willing to do anything to keep her daughter fed and protected. Patrick had not always been a very nice character in Keegan's Lady, the previous book in this series, where he first appeared, but his part in that story had ended on a high note, giving me the feeling that a happy ending was in the works for him. I thought that Ms. Anderson redeemed him very nicely by having him show a great deal of remorse for his past actions and in the process, demonstrated the true power of forgiveness. By the time this novella commences, he has returned to being the kind, caring person that he was in his youth, and that I suspected still lurked beneath the surface even in his darker moments. The one and only thing that I thought might have made the story better would have been a slightly more detailed love scene for them. Normally, the subtle nature of the love scene would have been just fine with me, and it certainly was mild enough to be appropriate for younger and more sensitive readers. However, much had been made of Faith's first husband having insulted her skills as a lover, and she was greatly lacking confidence in that area. I think that a little more details in that scene, not just physically but emotionally as well, would have made it more believable to me that her confidence was being restored. Otherwise, this was a near-perfect sweet romance that definitely left me with a very satisfied feeling, another surprising short-story keeper. Beautiful Gifts is the second story in Catherine Anderson's Keegan/Paxton Families series (or Coulter Historical series as it is sometimes called). The first book is Keegan's Lady and all of the main characters in that story make an appearance in Beautiful Gifts, including Ace and Caitlin, the hero and heroine, as well as Joseph, Esa, and David Paxton. Joseph Paxton becomes the hero of book #3, Summer Breeze, and Ms. Anderson is hard at work on another book in the series which will possibly be released sometime next year. I am very much looking forward to continuing this heart-warming family western series. Rating: ****1/2
Catherine Anderson wrapped up this quartet of novellas with a very tender epilogue of a modern lady who finds the magical wedding gown and in the process finds what one assumes will become the man of her dreams. It was such a lovely little mini-tale that I found myself wishing that there was more to their story, but it was still a nice ending to this anthology....more
"3.5 stars" Summer Breeze was a pleasant read, but the first 2/3 of the book was rather slow and at times, mundane. InReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"3.5 stars" Summer Breeze was a pleasant read, but the first 2/3 of the book was rather slow and at times, mundane. In my opinion, this was due in part to story limitations because of Rachel's agoraphobia. She interacted with few characters other than Joseph, and all those interactions were limited to her safe, barricaded room. Hence, most of this part of the story felt like little more than an average frontier couple going through their daily routine. Around the time that Joseph and Rachel got married, things picked up a bit, but I have to say that the sensuality was extremely mild throughout the entire book with nothing even resembling passion occurring until about 2/3 of the way in. This would not have bothered me except that I wasn't feeling a strong connection between the two protagonists already. One might think that having a couple spend the majority of their time together day and night would lead to some really deep and expressive emotions, but for me, it did not. I think part of this was the previously cited limited scope of their interactions and part was Joseph stubbornly holding Rachel at arms length, but the primary issue was how Joseph handled Rachel's agoraphobia. In most romance novels where one protagonist has a major obstacle to overcome, the other one is usually doing everything he or she can to aid in their recovery, and all of their efforts are part of what makes the story so romantic. In Summer Breeze, I felt that Joseph spent more time facilitating Rachel's disability than helping her to overcome it, and in the end, they failed to really light that romantic spark for me. Also, all the folksy colloquialisms, many of which I had never even heard of, were overused to the point that they became a bit annoying to me, and there were other phrases that seemed rather anachronistic. Additionally, there was a scene where Ace expounds on the true meaning of a long happy marriage as though he's been down that road when in reality, he's still a virtual newlywed himself. It was really lovely, but he just didn't seem like the right character for the speech. For me, the best part was the strong, suspenseful ending and a sweet epilogue. The mystery aspect of this story was good, and kept me guessing all the way to the reveal of a surprise villain, although I would say that Joseph's retelling of the whole story to Rachel in the second-to-last chapter was pretty dull and redundant. Also, Joseph's love letter to Rachel in his waning years was extremely romantic. Overall, this was just a light, easy read.
While Joseph and Rachel were both certainly likable, I can't say that they really stood out to me. In my opinion, Catherine Anderson has a talent for writing heroes with more beta-like characteristics, but her alphas thus far have fallen rather flat for me. Joseph was definitely an alpha who could be very stubborn and even a bit prickly at times. He denied his feelings for Rachel for a large part of the story, constantly saying that he liked his freedom and had no intentions of marrying, but then rather suddenly proposed, which was another reason that the relationship was a little hard for me to believe. Joseph was very physically attracted to Rachel, but very adamant about not making love to her until they were married. While I found the sentiment to be commendable, the timing of his proposal almost made it seem like an excuse for sex, even though I know that wasn't the author's intention. Also Joseph was a very plain-spoken man who always said what was on his mind, which for some readers may be endearing, but didn't really do anything for me. Overall, Joseph was a good and admirable man, just not really my favorite kind of hero. I suppose that the agoraphobia made Rachel a very unique and rather memorable character, but other than that one aspect of her life, she just didn't stand out to me either. I think that part of it was once again the storytelling limitations due to her affliction that made her seem very ordinary and also her suppressed memories of her family's deaths made it difficult to get inside her head to fully understand her condition, as she never really expressed her feelings about the tragedy. Rachel was a sweet and lovely girl who I liked and wanted to connect with, but again just never completely did.
The secondary cast was strong and varied. Readers get a decent visit with Ace and Caitlin from Keegan's Lady, as well as their son, little Ace. Joseph's other two brothers, David and Esa, play substantial roles, particularly David, who I would have guessed to be the next member of the family to get a story, but that is not to be the case. There was also a brief mention of Patrick (also from Keegan's Lady) and Faith from the novella, Beautiful Gifts, and even a quick nod to Luke Taggert, the hero of Simply Love, a completely unrelated book except that they both take place in Colorado. I also liked the appearance of Tucker Coulter and his mother from the present day in the prologue and epilogue, and how Ms. Anderson used this story as an inspiration for his own future romance in Sun Kissed, though I agree with another reviewer who pointed out the oddity of the diary never being mentioned in the main body of the narrative. I really enjoyed Joseph's dog, Buddy, who was quite the character. I thought it was very cute how Joseph would talk to Buddy and Buddy would “talk” back. Ms. Anderson has a talent for creating love not just for the young, but the young at heart too. I liked the secondary romance between Rachel's ranch foreman, Darby, and her spitfire aunt, Amanda. I thought this senior love story was very sweet, but also very sad that they had loved each other for decades and had basically been kept apart by a big misunderstanding. All the residents of No Name really came together in a loving show of frontier community oneness, when they each contributed to Rachel's courtyard, but one has to wonder why they didn't try to reach out to her sooner instead of leaving her to languish in solitude for five years. There was also the distasteful, bullying Pritchard clan who had a longstanding feud with Rachel's father. All in all this was a very well-rounded supporting cast, though I have to say that a few of them reminded me very strongly of some characters from the Little House on the Prairie television show, which makes me curious if that is where Ms. Anderson got her inspiration for them.
Summer Breeze is the third story in the Keegan/Paxton Family series (aka Coulter Historicals). It is preceded by Keegan's Lady and the novella, Beautiful Gifts, from the anthology, The True Love Wedding Dress. At present, Ms. Anderson is working on the next book in the series which will probably be released sometime late next year or in early 2010, and will feature Eden Paxton and Matthew Coulter. It appears that she also has plans to eventually write stories for David and Esa Paxton as well. Even though Summer Breeze was not one of Ms. Anderson's best novels, in my opinion, it was still a pleasurable read that was worth the time spent on it. I intend to continue this series when the next book comes out, and look forward to continuing my exploration Ms. Anderson's backlist until then....more
When I finished Bronwyn Scott's Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady, I was left with an unsatisfied feeling about Julia's couReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
When I finished Bronwyn Scott's Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady, I was left with an unsatisfied feeling about Julia's cousin, Grayson. He had been missing and presumed lost at sea for the entire novel, only to appear on her doorstep in the final chapter, but no explanation of his whereabouts was provided in that novel. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Gray's story had actually been released first in a Harlequin Historical exclusive online e-book, and I just had to know where he had been for all those months. I have to say that I was not disappointed with the story Ms. Scott gave him. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of short stories, as they are often simply too short leaving me wishing for more. That was not the case with Grayson Prentiss's Seduction. I thought that Ms. Scott did a very good job of keeping the plot tight and reasonably credible, and overall found it to be a very satisfying read.
Grayson and Elena are both lovely characters, and even though Elena at first deceives an amnesiac Gray into believing he is her missing husband, I still found her to be very sympathetic. She never seemed like a conniving woman, just one who was desperate for survival, and of course both of them fell hopelessly in love with each other during the course of the charade. In spite of the short story format and the fairly short time frame of only a few months that passed during the course of the tale, the author managed to convey the building feelings between the two characters very well, making their love believable. Admittedly, there are several cliched romance novel elements in this tale, but as with Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady, Ms. Scott managed, in my opinion, to keep everything fresh and interesting with a very strong focus on Gray and Elena's relationship.
Grayson Prentiss's Seduction is the first story in Bronwyn Scott's series about the Prentiss and Ramsden families. Although it preceded Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady, the two stories take place simultaneously. It appears that the next book in the series, Peyton's Bride, which features Julia Prentiss's brother-in-law, Peyton, as the hero will be due out sometime next year. It also seems that there are plans for more books featuring the Prentiss and Ramsden brothers in the works. Although Grayson Prentiss's Seduction is a very simple love story, I found it to be an extremely pleasant and enjoyable diversion. In fact, each time I finished a chapter, I just had to read one more to see what happened next. At the moment this novella is only available in a free online e-book format from eharlequin.com, but I liked it well enough to consider purchasing the book if it were ever released in print format. At any rate, I am definitely looking forward to reading the future installments in this series, and checking out Bronwyn Scott's other novels, including those written as Nikki Poppen....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Do you believe in Christmas miracles? Do you believe in guardian angels? My guess is that most readers of this booReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Do you believe in Christmas miracles? Do you believe in guardian angels? My guess is that most readers of this book will either want to believe or have their beliefs reconfirmed after reading this enchanting tale. Marilyn Pappano has woven yet another magical Christmas story in the little town of Bethlehem, New York, a place that is watched over by a very special guardian angel. Some Enchanted Season is all about redemption and reconciliation, as well as the precious gift of love that was once lost but found again. I don't think I have ever read a romance novel in which the hero and heroine are already married at the beginning of the story, but are essentially estranged and must find their way back to the deep love they once shared. I wasn't sure if I would like it, because I don't usually care for a lot of relationship conflict in my romance and prefer to watch the couple go through all the ups and downs of new love. Well, I ended up thoroughly enjoying this captivating story that was filled with depth and emotion. While there was conflict, it didn't seem at all overdone due to past circumstances, and when misunderstandings arose they never lasted long. All things considered, I thought that Ross and Maggie communicated pretty well. It was also wonderful watching them rediscover their love that had never truly died but had been long buried under a heavy weight of ambition, anger, resentment and guilt. Having them reignite the passion that had marked the early years of their marriage, and learn that true love can overcome and forgive a world of hurt and past mistakes was equally wondrous.
Ross and Maggie were a very likable and relatable couple with a story that was very believable and realistic. The Ross readers see at the beginning of the book is the type of character that it would be very easy to dislike. He is a deeply ambitious man who became obsessed with money and power to the point that it blinded him to the truth of what's really important in life. Ross had also made a huge mistake and the revelation of that event is what led to the horrific accident that changed Maggie's existence forever. Normally this type of element in a romance novel would be a major turnoff for me, but as the story progressed, I found myself understanding quite well what had led Ross to this dark place, making him a very sympathetic character. Also, his intense remorse and self-loathing for his pasts sins, his fear of loosing Maggie forever which made him vulnerable, and the gentle, respectful way he treats Maggie all came together to make me truly like Ross, warts and all. The magic of Bethlehem has a way of healing the people who come there, and Ross was no exception. His change of heart from an almost Scrooge-like character as well as the emotional growth he exhibited were nothing short of miraculous and exceptionally heartwarming. Maggie was an incredibly strong woman who had endured the past half-dozen years of her contentious marriage as well as eleven months of painful surgeries, recovery, and rehab with her spirit, dignity and dreams for the future still mostly intact. I also thought that she had a very big heart to forgive Ross for all the past hurts he had caused and be willing to make a forever commitment to their marriage. Occasionally she was a bit short-tempered with him, which was pretty understandable given their history, but she was apologetic when appropriate. Maggie's growth and changes weren't quite as dramatic as Ross's, but she ultimately completed her healing process, both physically and emotionally in Bethlehem.
The town of Bethlehem really comes to life in such as way as to almost be a character unto itself, but I think that is owed more to it's gentle guardian angel, Noelle, and the host of warm, friendly townspeople who made me feel like I had just walked into a Currier & Ives painting. There are many carry-over characters from the first book of the series, Season for Miracles, including the hero and heroine of that story, Nathan and Emilie, and their family, as well as the Winchester sisters, two adorable old ladies who are like the world's best grandmothers to everyone, the Thomases, the Walkers, Harry and Maeve from the diner, and Holly McBride, the owner of the only inn in town. There was a little side plot about the Thomases desperate desire to have a baby, but so far being unable to, and a possible budding romance between Harry and Maeve. I will be interested to see if these stories are continued in future books in the series. Readers are also introduced to several new characters who will play major roles in other books. Dr. J. D. Grayson, a handsome psychiatrist, loves kids, left the big city for small-town life, and becomes the hero of the next book, Father To Be. Ross's cynical, cut-throat attorney, Tom Flynn, gets paired with the feisty Holly in book #5, First Kiss, and his personal assistant, Lynda Barone, becomes the heroine of book #6, Getting Lucky. Also, Leanne Wilson, the owner of the local baby boutique, becomes the heroine of book #9, Small Wonders. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but each one lends something special to the story, and really helps to bring it to life.
I found Some Enchanted Season to be a sweet slice-of-life romance that was a near-perfect joy to read. The only thing that might have been better is if both characters had done a little less redundant inner protesting. For example, Ross would begin to wonder if all he really needed was a little moderation in his business dealings to have a life, but then would immediately discard the idea thinking that his business was his life. He repeated this line of thinking quite a few times, even though it was obvious that he was already beginning to make changes. Maggie also had similar repeated introspections about whether their marriage was truly over, but I guess maybe they just needed time to convince themselves of the truth. Otherwise the plot was tight, and even though the ending seemed a tad rushed, it was still satisfying. Since Ross and Maggie spent a lot of time holding each other at arms length because of fears and trying to convince themselves that a divorce was the only resolution to their problems, their relationship progressed at a languid but steady pace, but until they figure things out, there is some nice sexual tension in the form of intense memories of the passionate early years of their marriage. In between, the pages of the story are filled with the mystical enchantment of the holiday season and all the events surrounding it that are so much a part of small-town life. Anyone looking for a holiday read to really put you in the Christmas spirit should look no further. Some Enchanted Season left me with the feeling of curling up in a warm blanket on a cold winter's day, and renewed my belief that miracles truly can happen, not only at Christmas, but any time of the year. It can be paired with it's predecessor in the Bethlehem series, Season for Miracles, for a double-dose of heartwarming holiday cheer. Both have earned a spot on my keeper shelf, and with two winners in a row Marilyn Pappano has earned a spot on my favorite authors list. I can't wait to dive into the remaining books in the Bethlehem series, Father To Be, Gabriel's Angel (a novella from the Yours 2 Keep anthology), First Kiss, Getting Lucky, Heaven on Earth, Cabin Fever, and Small Wonders, and explore some of the other books on Ms. Pappano's backlist....more
This third installment in Sandra Hill's Viking Series II is a fun-filled romp through time. I wasn't sure I would like Magnus because the impression IThis third installment in Sandra Hill's Viking Series II is a fun-filled romp through time. I wasn't sure I would like Magnus because the impression I had gotten of him from the previous two books was that of an arrogant womanizer whose numerous conquests had left him with eleven children, not to mention he didn't seem like the sharpest knife in the drawer. Well, Sandra Hill managed to skillfully turn him into an endearing hero whose earthiness gave him a charming simplicity. He was also a loving, patient, and committed father which is always a plus for me. Angela was a strong, determined woman who ended up loving Magnus's kids as much as he did, which is something that no other woman in his life had done for him. I thought her character was a bit underdeveloped though, so she just didn't stand out to me like Magnus and the kids did. I found her to be a likable and pleasant heroine nonetheless. I was also a little disappointed with the development of Magnus and Angela's relationship. Things moved a little too quickly for my taste, and I didn't initially feel an emotional connection between the two characters. However, the ending was very romantic and satisfying in my opinion. I thought the kids were a total hoot, and each one had a unique personality. In fact there was plenty of Sandra Hill's trademark humor that left me in stitches quite frequently. There was a scene where Magnus and his children discover the joys of "Wal-Market" that was absolutely priceless. While the story wouldn't stand up to close scrutiny from logical readers, I found it to be a fun and enjoyable fantasy. If you like your romance with a healthy dose of laughter, then this book and it's companions may just fit the bill....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Throughout my childhood, I read the Little House on the Prairie books several times, and they became some of my all-time favorReviewed for THC Reviews Throughout my childhood, I read the Little House on the Prairie books several times, and they became some of my all-time favorites. I probably hadn't picked one up since my early teens though, and finally rediscovered the series when I decided to share it with my children. I made the pleasant discovery that I still enjoy it every bit as much as an adult, as I did when I was a kid. I've always had a love for history, and the vivid descriptions of pioneer life just draw me into the story. Life in that era was not easy and required a great deal of hard work, but there were also many rewards in return. I simply can't help but love the entire Ingalls family. They are so close-knit and loving, the ideal family that almost any child (or adult) would love to have as their own. Laura is a lively and curious child who is very relatable, and who obviously adores her father very much. I loved reading all the little stories that Laura's pa told her and the songs that he sang for her. In my opinion, they add a lot of warmth and authenticity to the story. The illustrations by Garth Williams are absolutely charming, helping to bring the narrative to life even more. Little House in the Big Woods is the first book in the Little House series, and I greatly look forward to continuing my exploration of the series through adult eyes while sharing them with my children. For a complete list of books in the Little House series plus fun activities and information for both kids and adults visit the Little House Books website....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews One Christmas Knight is a sweet, gentle romance that was analogous to the biblical story of Mary and Joseph. It features an “iReviewed for THC Reviews One Christmas Knight is a sweet, gentle romance that was analogous to the biblical story of Mary and Joseph. It features an “immaculate” conception and a heroine who is stranded by a snowstorm in a town filled with other travelers and “no room at the inn.” Ultimately, she gives birth on Christmas night in the back of a semi-truck named The Blue Starr with no one to help but the hero. This was yet another of the love-at-first-sight stories that seem to be so common in the romances I've read, but at least the author created a credible emotional bond between the characters by having them share a rather extraordinary experience together. Afterward, they separated for a little while, giving them both a chance to make sure that their feeling for each other were real, and not just the result of an emotional high. These things made the story somewhat more believable to me. The book had lots of descriptive passages and introspection on the part of both Mirabella and Jimmy Joe which made the narrative move at a languid but steady pace. I think the pace could have been picked up a bit, perhaps with the inclusion of a little more dialog, and it might have been nice if the couple would have had a little more interaction and “getting-to-know-you” time following the big event before committing to a lifetime together, but overall, I don't really have any major complaints about the storytelling.
The hero, Jimmy Joe was really the best part of One Christmas Knight. He certainly was a “knight in shining armor,” a sweet, sensitive beta hero who was also a perfect Southern gentleman. I liked him so much it made me want to make a trip down south to see what I've been missing.;-) Jimmy Joe was a devoted single father who had know the pain of loss in his life which made him very sympathetic. His career as a long-haul truck driver and all the fun trucker lingo brought back fond memories of a kind truck driver who “rescued” my mother and I many years ago when our car was stranded by the side of the same highway in the story, and I also have an uncle who also used to be in that same line of work. I think having had these experiences in my life made Jimmy Joe seem more real to me, but it was truly just his charming nature, patience, gentleness and intuitiveness with Mirabella that made him irresistible to me.
On the other hand, I wasn't quite as quick to warm up to Mirabella. It wasn't that I actually disliked her, but I can't say that I enthusiastically liked her either. I think it was just that she was a little too stubborn and independent for my taste, often acting like she absolutely didn't need a man in her life at all. I'm fine with career-minded women who wait until later in life for relationships and family. In fact, I thought that Bella wanting to wait for Mr. Right (but never finding him) was admirable, but what bothered me about her was that she seemed to need to be in control too much. It was in the moments when she was able to let go and be a little bit vulnerable, when Jimmy Joe was able to break through her barriers, that I liked her more. Also, for such an obstinate woman she seemed to say, “I can't” a little too often, which is something that Jimmy Joe humorously pointed out to her at one point. In the end, I still thought that Mirabella and Jimmy Joe were as different as oil and water. It was difficult to see how they were going to “mix,” but I guess opposites attract all the time. I just usually like my heroes and heroines to have a bit more in common, though I'll have to say that readers who enjoy May-December romances with an older heroine should like this one.
One Christmas Knight is the first book in The Sisters Waskowitz series. It introduces Mirabella's best friend, Charly, who becomes the heroine of the next book, One More Knight, in which she is paired with Troy Starr, who I think may be one of Jimmy Joe's brothers, though I don't believe he was mentioned by name in this book. Also, Mirabella's two sisters, Sommer and Eve, the heroines of the other two books in the series, One Summer's Knight and Eve's Wedding Knight, receive a brief mention. In addition, One Christmas Knight spawned a spin-off series, The Starrs of the West, which features other members of Jimmy Joe's family as heroes and heroines. One Christmas Knight was a light, easy novel that was a nice way to wrap up my holiday reading. It was my first book by Kathleen Creighton, and I liked it well enough to explore other books from both series in the future. ...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Big Guns Out of Uniform is an anthology of three contemporary borderline erotic novellas featuring heroes in law enforcement.
BReviewed for THC Reviews Big Guns Out of Uniform is an anthology of three contemporary borderline erotic novellas featuring heroes in law enforcement.
BAD to the Bone BAD to the Bone was a pure fantasy that was very fun and enjoyable to read. I thought that the beginning and ending of the story could have benefited from a bit more clarity and tighter plotting, but the rest of the story really helped to make up for these deficiencies. The premise of a woman living out her romance novel fantasies in real life with a hunky hero was very entertaining. I especially liked that Kyle actually read Marianne's favorite book and was trying to make it all come to life for her. It just made him seem so caring and thoughtful.
I found both characters to be likable, relatable, and well-drawn. Marianne, as an average, ordinary woman, just couldn't have been sweeter, yet she was passionate and adventurous enough to step outside her comfort zone. Kyle was a tough guy with a tortured past, yet he accepted Marianne's tenderness toward him as something that was missing from his life instead of being suspicious or shutting down emotionally. In fact, she was able to fulfill his fantasies every bit as much as he fulfilled hers. I loved the way the author built a beautiful relationship between these two characters in such a short time mainly with the use of communication, a seeming rarity in romance novels. This made for some extremely sexy and sensuous love scenes that were still very sweet and romantic. Overall, I found this novella to be a delightful read that even showcased a little humor, a great story for anyone looking for a bit of escapism.
BAD to the Bone along with its two companion novellas in the Born to Be BAD anthology are something of a prequel to the main B.A.D. Agency series. It was first published in Big Guns Out of Uniform, and was later reprinted in Born to Be BAD. This was my first read by Sherrilyn Kenyon, but it certainly won't be my last. I am looking forward to continuing the B.A.D. series as well as exploring her other books. Rating: ****
Let's Talk About Sex I think it can be difficult for an author to write a short story that is still satisfying, but in Let's Talk About Sex, Liz Carlyle has, in my opinion, put together a tale that has both tight plotting and good character development. The narrative flowed smoothly, and I thought it was the perfect length. Rather than being left with that "I-wish-there-were-more-to-the-story" feeling when it ended, I felt like Goldilocks, that it was "just right".
As the title might imply, the main focus was on the sex, but emotions got tangled up in the mix pretty quickly. The love scenes were both creative and scorching hot and there were plenty of them too, but there were also some romantic moments as well. I haven't seen many real proposals in the romances I've read, so I thought the proposal scene was a particularly nice touch. I also thought that the author progressing the narrative through a few months time, made this scenario more believable.
I found both the hero and heroine to be very likable, and neither one was bringing a ton of baggage into the relationship. Sometimes it's just refreshing to read a story about relatively normal people with normal problems. I thought it was sweet that Delia dealt with the topic of sex every day in her work, but in real life was still slightly repressed. Nick was a hot, sexy guy (not to mention an animal lover, which I find hard to resist), who was also a patient and accomplished lover. He knew exactly how to rebuild Delia's self-confidence and release her inner sex kitten to make her purr.
While the story did not contain many of the getting-to-know-you moments that I love and that really help to build a more believable relationship, I found Let's Talk About Sex to be a fun, enjoyable romp. Readers who like lust turned to love or love at first sight stories should appreciate this one, and while those are not my favorite plot lines, Ms. Carlyle's writing was strong enough to make me overlook that. Liz Carlyle has been one of my favorite authors of historical romance for a while, and even though Let's Talk About Sex was her first and only foray into contemporary romance to date, I found it to be equally as good. In my opinion, it was the overall best and most well written novella in this anthology, definitely worthy of keeper status. Rating: ****1/2
The Nekkid Truth In my opinion, this novella had a lot of potential that it just didn't quite live up to. I thought the premise of the story was a fascinating one, that of a woman who had lost the ability to recognize faces due to a head injury. I like it when an author can teach me about something I didn't already know or expand on my previous knowledge of a particular subject, and I find things of a medical nature to be especially interesting. While the author did give an overview of what this condition entailed, she never once called it by it's actual name, Prosopagnosia aka Face Blindness. She also did not fully express in any depth what it was like for the heroine to live with this affliction, which I felt would have created a much more compelling story. Instead the author opted to tell the reader more about the heroine's photography endeavors and sexual conquests than about her life and feelings. The cover blurb also implies that the heroine's special condition somehow plays a pivotal role in the criminal investigation, but I never quite saw how that was the case.
The Nekkid Truth reminded me in some ways of old black & white detective movies. It is written in first person with a rather dry, "just the facts ma'am" type of presentation. I felt like I was being told the story rather than experiencing it. This writing style made it very difficult to get a good grasp on any of the characters, particularly the hero about whom readers are only given tidbits of information, most of which doesn't come out until toward the end. I am not opposed to the first person perspective, but I think it can be very challenging for an author using this writing style to convey the feelings and emotions of other characters in the story unless they are very deft at their craft.
The love scenes showed some creativity and with a little more tenderness and less matter-of-fact attitude, could have been truly romantic and steamy, but without the incorporation of emotions, came off as being little more than a string of sexual encounters that lacked any real spark and to me felt very crude. I'm afraid that certain aspects of the heroine's photography, as well as a rather hedonistic attitude from her and other characters, only lent to this atmosphere. I also found my eyebrows shooting up at a couple of unrealistic descriptions of the size of the male anatomy (not the hero's) which simply added more fuel to the fire.
As far as the heroine's work, I have no issue with nude art and in fact have found many pieces to be quite beautiful, so I had no real problem with her specializing in nude photography. What did bother me however, was her penchant for wallpapering her studio with nude photos and even more so, her seeming obsession with taking photographs of that certain part of the male anatomy and then meticulously filing them away. Apparently, this all had something to do with her face blindness, and at one point she tried to explain this all to the hero, but it still just never made much sense to me. In general, there simply wasn't enough depth of emotion to be found in this story to really draw me into the characters lives and make me truly care about them or believe in their love for each other and a lasting happily-ever-after ending.
Though not incredibly compelling, I thought Ms. Camden did do well with the mystery element. This part of the narrative was fed to the reader bit by bit, so that the solution to the puzzle was not really discernible until the reveal. Although there was room for improvement in this area as well, I did find it to be interesting. In my opinion, she also did a good job with keeping the plot tight and the story moving along at a steady pace.
The Nekkid Truth was the only novella in this anthology which featured a hero and heroine who had know each other for a while before becoming intimately involved which was an aspect of the story I could appreciate, but again, with the lack of emotion, I still found the other two novellas to be much more compelling and believable. Usually anthologies group together stories with similar themes and styles, and while the cop hero theme was there, the writing style of The Nekkid Truth was very different from the other two, making it seem somewhat out of place in this grouping. This appears to be Ms. Camden's first and only published work, so I am willing to allow that with some sharpening of her writing skills and/or perhaps a switch to a mystery or edgy chic-lit genre, she could have potential. Rating: ***
I love reunion romances and "opposite sides of the tracks" stories, and this book had both. These themes made it very appealing to me, but ultimatelyI love reunion romances and "opposite sides of the tracks" stories, and this book had both. These themes made it very appealing to me, but ultimately I felt that it fell short of the mark. I thought it needed more character development, and I just didn't connect with the characters or the story on a deep emotional level like I have with other novels. Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas and Night Fire by Catherine Coulter have very similar plots (almost identical in some respects), but in my opinion had stronger writing and were more enjoyable reads overall. This was my first book by Candace Camp though, so I may try another one in the future....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Midnight Fire is what I would call a cozy romance, the type of book that is nice to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. It wasReviewed for THC Reviews Midnight Fire is what I would call a cozy romance, the type of book that is nice to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. It was a very pleasant read, but the story lacked a certain depth in both characterizations and plot. It sort of just skims along, telling what is happening without digging deep or going into a lot of details. There were certain scenes where I thought that more details would have helped to shore up the plot, and there were also some minor inconsistencies in details peppered throughout the story. One of the main things that kept me reading though was the action. It made the narrative move along at a very fast pace. It seemed that some new event occurred every few chapters usually threatening Morgan and Carolyn's growing relationship. Admittedly, this type of writing style is not my favorite, because at times, it made me feel like they were being tortured, but at least they were together and happy for the better part of the story. It also made their happily-ever-after ending sweeter in some ways, because it was a very hard fought one. Still though, in my opinion, the story would have been stronger if the author had focused on just a few events in more detail instead of populating it with a large number of events that were simplistically rendered and already over before I had a chance to really get involved in what was happening. In spite of my opinion that this novel was overburdened with plot points, I can honestly say that each and every one of them was wrapped up satisfactorily with generally happy endings for all, and for me a happy ending is always a must.
I liked the hero and heroine, Morgan and Carolyn. I really enjoy tortured heroes and for the most part, Morgan falls into that category. He was basically a loner whose very difficult childhood and mother's harsh words on her deathbed, had left him a broken man, an alcoholic with virtually no self-esteem. I thought that the author painted a realistic picture of the struggles of a man who was half white and half Indian within a historical context. I enjoyed watching him grow and progress from a man who thought very little of himself into a man who was confident and self-possessed. It was also nice to see him forgive the hurts of the past to successfully reconcile with long-lost loved ones. Carolyn, for her part, began the story as the pampered heiress that she was, barely knowing how to take care of herself, but still she rarely complained and developed a certain willingness to work and learn. She also gained a lot of self-confidence from her experiences and progressed from a young woman who was somewhat timid and highly emotional at the start to a more mature woman who was able to take charge when the situation called for it. My only complaint about her character would be that she was a bit too melodramatic at times and cried quite a lot especially early on. While I love sensitive characters, both heroes and heroines, who aren't afraid to cry, I just thought that Carolyn turned on the water works a few too many times. Otherwise though, Morgan and Carolyn were two lovely characters who seemed made for each other.
I liked the way that the author built Morgan and Carolyn's relationship slowly over the weeks that they were alone on the trail, so that when they finally gave in to their attraction, it seemed believable. The book also contained a pretty extensive cast of secondary characters, some likable, some not, and some who grew on me, but all added to the story in some way. I particularly liked the time that Morgan and Carolyn spent with the Lakota, and wished that it might have been explored more fully. In fact, that would probably be my primary issue with the book, that I frequently found myself wishing there were more of everything. Overall, I thought that the story itself was good, it just needed a few more ingredients to give it more flavor. In my opinion, this was a truly romantic read that would have been better if there had been more focus on the internal workings of the hero and heroine's relationship and a bit less on external conflicts. Midnight Fire might not have been as compelling as some other romances that I've read, but in spite of it's weaknesses, was a sweet, warm, and gentle story that was a generally enjoyable and satisfying book which leaves me open to reading more of Madeline Baker's works in the future. There are no explicit love scenes or other particularly objectionable material, making it appropriate for any romance reader. Madeline Baker also writes paranormal romance under the name Amanda Ashley....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" I really enjoy emotional stories in which one of the protagonists has a major obstacle to overcome. While Keegan'sReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" I really enjoy emotional stories in which one of the protagonists has a major obstacle to overcome. While Keegan's Lady fit that bill in some ways, I felt that the emotions were not well-balanced and consequently it fell short in other ways. It seemed that the main emotions that permeated a large part of the story were fear, anger and sometimes, hatred, which gave it a rather heavy feel. It seemed to lack the wonderful humor that I've seen in some of Catherine Anderson's other stories. In my opinion, the love feelings between Ace and Caitlin were not as fully developed as they could have been, and the sexual tension was minimal, therefore it was difficult for me to find them fully believable as a couple. It was somewhat easier to sense when Caitlin began falling in love with Ace, though not entirely apparent, but I was hard pressed to say exactly when Ace fell in love with Caitlin. While there were some tender moments in the story, those scenes didn't really dig deep enough into the characters psyches to suit me and also seemed to end far too quickly. Consequently, I felt that the story was a bit lacking in true romance and what I term swoon-worthy moments. I think that there were some opportunities for such moments, but again they were handled with too much brevity and ultimately fell rather flat. The romantic moments that did exist simply did not seem to build on one another in a meaningful way to bring out that heart-stopping love that I have come to expect from romance novels. I think this was a result of the book being too focused on the external conflicts rather than Ace and Caitlin's relationship.
I found the hero and heroine of the story to be pretty likable. Ace was a little more rough around the edges than other Catherine Anderson heroes I have read, but in a rather lovable way. He didn't show quite as much vulnerability as I like to see in my heroes, and I thought that he was a bit too heavy-handed at times, not always allowing Caitlin to make her own choices. It wasn't too bad though, as he always seemed to have her best interests at heart. It's hard not to like a guy who grants a lady her fairy tale dreams, and exercises restraint even when she tries his patience in extreme ways. I also appreciated his intelligent, intuitive nature that helped him to understand things about Caitlin that she may not have even understood herself. Caitlin was an admirable character in that she had the strength to endure the many years of her father's abuse. She had also cared for her brother, Patrick, in many different ways throughout those years, and showed a lot of selflessness toward others. In many ways, I thought that Caitlin's fears and actions were fairly believable for someone who had suffered as she had, but I felt that the story might have been better if she had faced her fears and begun to trust Ace in a more gradual way. Instead she had one explosive moment of seeming insanity, followed by a cathartic confession and gentle lovemaking which seemed to magically set everything to rights. Unfortunately, this approach just didn't work well for me. Overall though, I thought that Ace and Caitlin were good characters, they just weren't explored as fully as I would have liked to see, and I think that the story could have benefited from one or the other lightening up a bit.
There were some interesting secondary characters as well. Ace's brothers were a bunch of sweet, lovable guys. Of course, Joseph, the oldest, was the one who got the most scenes, but even so, I felt that the author only scratched the surface with his character. Most of the time, Joseph had an outward intensity which made him seem almost constantly irritated and grumpy, but his final scenes in the book with Caitlin and Patrick belied something more lying beneath the surface waiting to be explored. It will be interesting to see how Joseph's character develops when he becomes the hero of his own book, Summer Breeze. I actually think that Caitlin's brother, Patrick, may have been the most complex character. The author really kept me on my toes with him, never quiet sure whether to like him or not. It was easy to like the kind and selfless Patrick who took beatings for Caitlin or worked hard to buy her gifts, but it was equally easy to dislike the Patrick who had become a drunken and sometimes abusive hellion like his father. In the end though, I did come away from the story with the sense that Patrick was essentially a good guy who made bad choices when he drank too much, and that he would ultimately be successful in his efforts to overcome his alcoholism. Lastly, I really enjoyed Caitlin's poor, brain-damaged kitty, Lucky. He was a very unique character that brought some much-needed lightness to the story, as well as some insights into his human counterparts, not to mention I can't help being partial to a cat who has the same name as my own kitty.:-)
Keegan's Lady might not be one of my favorite Catherine Anderson books, but I can say that it had an exciting ending. The book tends to have a rather slow pace, and some of the scenes and dialog had been plodding along for me. I had been wondering what was going to happen in the last fifty or so pages that would hold my interest through the end. I needn't have worried, because this is where the author's talent really excelled. With two characters lives on the line and the resolution of a 20-year-old murder mystery imminent, I couldn't put the book back down until I had finished. While Keegan's Lady had both strengths and weaknesses, I thought that it was definitely a worthwhile read. I would probably not recommend it for first-time Catherine Anderson readers, as it is not the best example of her exceptional writing talent, in my opinion. However, established fans should certainly give it a try. Keegan's Lady is the first story in the Keegan/Paxton Family series (aka Coulter Historicals). It is followed by the novella, Beautiful Gifts, from the anthology, The True Love Wedding Dress which features Patrick as the hero and Summer Breeze in which Joseph Paxton becomes the hero. At present, Ms. Anderson is working on the next book in the series which will probably be released sometime late this year or in early 2010, and will feature Eden Paxton as the heroine. I will definitely be interested in reading that, as well as continuing my exploration of Catherine Anderson's other books....more
Though not Catherine Anderson's best novel that I've read to date, I thought that Sweet Nothings was still a good book. The first half of the story moThough not Catherine Anderson's best novel that I've read to date, I thought that Sweet Nothings was still a good book. The first half of the story moves at a very languid pace as Molly goes through the process of recovering from her ex-husband's extreme verbal abuse and rediscovering herself, while building a relationship with Jake. I liked the way that the author mirrors Molly's recovery with that of the abused horse she rescued from her ex-husband's clutches, and how they become kindred spirits. I found myself wishing that Ms. Anderson had written more interactions between them and Jake. The second half of the story turns into a light suspense/thriller as the ex comes back to become a menacing presence in their lives. This part of the story was interesting, but in my opinion, a little too predictable. Unfortunately, I felt that the romance took a back seat to these two elements of the story. While there were some romantic moments, I just didn't feel like it was quite enough, and it didn't have the heart-stopping quality that can be found in some of Catherine Anderson's other works. In fact, readers who prefer books that are light on love scenes would probably enjoy this one. Aside from one brief lustful embrace early on, the hero and heroine don't even kiss again until 3/4 of the way through the story. I normally wouldn't care about the shortage of love scenes if the romance and sexual tension are good, but as I said I found this part to be a little lacking.
I would predict that some readers will probably find Molly's constant self-reproach annoying, and there will be others who will find her less-than-perfect body to be a refreshing change from the typical slender beauty. Neither of these things were really make-or-break for me personally. What I liked was how deeply nuanced the character is, challenging the reader to look well beneath the surface to truly understand her. I love stories that delve into the limitless depths of the human psyche, and if the reader takes the time to look carefully, this one certainly does that. Even though Molly wasn't the most memorable heroine I have ever read, this aspect alone made her fascinating to me. In my opinion though, Jake is the character who really made this book a good read. He is quite possibly the most perfect hero I've ever read. Jake exhibits more of a beta hero persona that always seems to be completely in tune with what Molly is feeling, but he also has a dash of the protectiveness, jealousy and confidence that alphas are usually known for. Even though I usually prefer my heroes to be a little more imperfect, I simply couldn't resist this gorgeous cowboy who not only reads, but willingly read a romance novel. Now that's pretty cool! In spite of it's weaknesses, Sweet Nothings was, in my opinion, a very readable book and a nice addition to the Kendrick/Coulter/Harrigan series which I look forward to continuing soon....more
I am usually a huge fan of best friends romances, so that is what caught my eye and made me want to read When a Man LovReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
I am usually a huge fan of best friends romances, so that is what caught my eye and made me want to read When a Man Loves a Woman. With that theme, I really thought I would enjoy the story, but ultimately it fell extremely flat for me. The book got off to a decent start, but the further I got into the story, the more I kept thinking, “Where was the editor?”. In my opinion, the book had good potential, and might have actually been good, if it had been about half the length that it was. The storyline was entirely character-driven, and the plot was pretty thin with guilt and a huge misunderstanding serving as the main elements keeping it afloat. Something might actually happen about every fifty pages or so, but everything in between seemed like little more than filler. The two protagonists would spend page after page ruminating about their feelings for each other, their guilt over those feelings, what they would like to say to each other but couldn't, etc., etc., etc. I'm all for characters who exhibit some introspection, but page after page of it is just too much. For two people who had been friends for twenty years, their communication skills with one another certainly left something to be desired. On the seemingly rare occasions when they actually had some dialog, one or both of them would sometimes go off into a half-page or longer soliloquy, and then there was one passage near the end where they literally engaged in dialog for nearly an entire chapter with nothing else happening except a few more random internal thoughts. Unfortunately, I found all this to be about as exciting as watching paint dry.
I had very mixed feelings about how Elliot and Deb's relationship began. They became friends during medical school right after Deb had married her husband, Max. Now I have no problem with married people being friends with someone of the opposite sex, but Elliot and Deb were characterized as “best” friends, who spent a great deal of time together and who leaned on each other a lot for emotional support. There were things that Deb discussed with Elliot that she felt she couldn't discuss with her husband, which in my opinion, is treading on shaky ground. It was also rather apparent from the prologue that there was some sort of attraction between them right from the start, and they admitted as much to each other by the end of the book. They also confessed to having loved each other for the whole twenty years that they had been acquainted, even though Deb adamantly stated that she loved Max as well. This all left me with the feeling that Deb was trying to have her cake and eat it too. Now on the positive side, Max was always aware of Elliot and Deb's close relationship. He seemed to have trusted them implicitly even though rumors ran rampant about them, however, I did not find Max's long-suffering under these circumstances to be entirely believable. Elliot and Deb also never in those twenty years, even touched inappropriately, much less had an affair, so in many ways I admire their restraint and their choice not to break up Deb's marriage or hurt Max, who appeared to be a really stand-up guy. However, in the end this all just left me with the uncomfortable feeling that they were walking a thin line between right and wrong. I think the story would have been better or at least more appealing to me if Elliot and Deb had simply been friends in med school and then parted ways with only minimal contact, reuniting after Max's death, instead of having this ongoing ambiguous relationship for twenty years.
I also had mixed feelings about the protagonists themselves. Deb was a genius who had graduated from every stage of her schooling early, and had worked hard to become a world class pediatric neurosurgeon which I liked. In spite of that though she still seemed like a rather bland character to me. She had a limited home life with Max, no children, no other friends besides Elliot it seemed, and not much going for her except that friendship and her work. It's no wonder that she relied on Elliot in what I would characterize as a dysfunctional way, and felt that she couldn't live without him. Although I don't consider myself a true feminist, this dichotomy seems to fly in the face of even marginal feminism and everything Deb had worked so hard to achieve all her life. I was also extremely disappointed in Deb when it came to the “big misunderstanding.” She and Elliot had supposedly been best friends for twenty years and in my opinion, two people who have maintained a close friendship for that long should know each other extremely well. Yet, Deb still believed things about Elliot which no one who truly knows someone ever should have. Elliot was rightfully heartbroken over her belief that he had betrayed her trust, and even though Deb tried to make it up to him when she learned the truth, it just seemed like too little too late. I never was fully satisfied with the way it all ended. Ultimately, Deb was simply not a character who stood out enough for me to truly understand why Elliot fell in love with her in the first place and had maintained that love for so long. Elliot was a little more relatable, but still had some contradictions and problems in my opinion. He was a pediatric trauma surgeon with a really big heart and a great bedside manner, and who was wonderful with kids. All these things made him very appealing to me, but at the same time he was still just a “typical” man, having been something of a womanizer over the years. I suppose this was to help compensate for the one woman he wanted and couldn't have, but it all seemed a little callous to the women he was having the relationships with. As I mentioned earlier, I never quite understood Elliot's love for Deb, and more importantly why he pined over a married woman for twenty years. It just seemed like extremely dysfunctional behavior to me.
On the plus side, I liked that the hero and heroine were slightly older which was a rather unique element. It is rare to find a romantic main character who is above the age of 35, yet both were in their early forties. On the downside though, these two characters virtually carried the entire story by themselves. The secondary characters who did appear, were little more than window dressing, playing very small roles. I was also disappointed in the lack of medical drama. With the principle characters both being doctors, I had high hopes that there would be some good ER-style action, but I was sadly mistaken. There was only one short scene of this type and a couple of other medical crises that played minor roles. Instead the plot contained a heavy dose of hospital politics and budgetary concerns, which quite frankly, was pretty dull by comparison. The book might have at least hit a note with me if there had been some deep emotion, real romance and/or sensuality, but in my opinion, these areas were all lacking as well. The emotions were stunted, because Elliot and Deb spent most of the novel denying their feelings for each other and then feeling guilty about having them in the first place. The romance and sensuality was very minimal with only two fairly non-graphic love scenes (one at the beginning and one at the end), with only a smattering of kisses in between, most of which weren't even that passionate. Elliot and Deb don't even have a “date” until the very end of the book. There were a few moments of tenderness here and there, but nothing that made my heart swell like other romance novels I have read. It was like they were simply too immersed in their respective careers and personal problems to really make that deep connection. While I am sure that there are people who may enjoy this novel, it definitely was not for me. Overall, it was pretty frustrating trying to read it, and I literally had to force myself to finish it. This was my first read by Alina Adams, and even though it appears that she has only written three other romance novels, I doubt that I will be reading them anytime soon....more
I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was in 5th or 6th grade, but for some reason, never chose to finish the series. With The ChroniclesI read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was in 5th or 6th grade, but for some reason, never chose to finish the series. With The Chronicles of Narnia finally being made into movies, I decided it was time to rectify that situation, since I have always had a preference for reading the book before seeing the movie. Though I didn't find it to be quite as compelling a story as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian was still a very good follow-up. It was a little like visiting with old friends. I enjoyed learning a bit more about the history of Narnia, and seeing how it had changed since the Pevensie children had ruled the land. It was also very nice to see them reconnect with Aslan and once again wrest Narnia from the control of evildoers, though I have to say that the "bad guys" in this story just simply weren't as convincing as the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I must admit though that I really loved the scenes where the girls, along with many of the creatures and inhabitants of Narnia have a feast, as well as the celebration everyone took part in following their victory. All the joy and happiness in those parts of the narrative just really drew me into the story. Although I was left with some questions that I hope will be answered in the remaining books in the series, I definitely thought Prince Caspian was a fun and enjoyable read....more
In my opinion, Sam's Creed had a lot of potential, but ended up having enough plot holes to make swiss cheese. First, BReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
In my opinion, Sam's Creed had a lot of potential, but ended up having enough plot holes to make swiss cheese. First, Bella has supposedly been on the run from the evil bad guy, Tejala, for six months by the time she met Sam. Considering that they were being attacked almost immediately and constantly for the short time span of the story, I cannot fathom how she could have survived, seemingly without any friends or allies, for six days much less six months. Also, as soon as Bella meets Sam, she decides that she wants to loose her virginity on her terms, because Tejala is likely on their heels and when he catches them will take her by force. If she had been on the run for six months, I just couldn't understand the sudden urgency for this and why she hadn't thought of it sooner other than it being an excuse for the protagonists to have sex early and often. Finally, I can't for the life of me figure out why Sam left Bella alone with her mother whom they had presumed was supportive of Bella's arranged marriage with Tejala, and how anyone could have gotten past the Montoya ranch hands who were supposedly fiercely protective of Bella, without half of them being killed. Once again, this seemed like little more than a weak plot device to lead into an action-packed climax. These were just a few of the many things that weren't very well explained and didn't quite make sense to me. While this certainly wasn't the worst book I've ever read, I felt that it was plagued with a lack of substantial plot to hold together numerous scenes of sex and violence. In fact Sam and Bella carried the entire first ¾ of the book on their own with no secondary characters to even speak of, and their interactions during this part of the story basically consisted of riding through the desert, having sex and getting into a shoot-out then repeating the process for 300 pages.
Besides the weak plot, there were some other things which either bothered me about the story or I felt simply lacked credibility. First and foremost was the romance which was basically lust at first sight. I have said in numerous other reviews that love at first sight plots are not my favorites, but I can buy into them if the author gives me a strong emotional connection to the characters. Unfortunately, I found that to be lacking in Sam's Creed, as most of their scenes, especially early on, were basically fueled by lust. There were a few tender moments that I enjoyed, such as when Sam gave Bella a sponge-bath on their first night together, but overall I never really felt that all-important emotional connection between them and wasn't really sure when or why they fell in love. Their scenes together just never exhibited that swoon-worthy quality which is a must for me in romance. Another big thing for me was the love scenes. While I give Ms. McCarty kudos for thinking outside the box (not one of the numerous love scenes took place in a bed), all I could think of almost every time they made love was how at the very least that had to be uncomfortable and at worst possibly not even doable, particularly the acrobatic “relations” on horseback. Also, I couldn't help but think of how unpleasant certain said “relations” would be after long days on a hot, dusty trail with nary a bathtub or even a watering hole in sight. When I'm being dragged out of the heat of the moment by thoughts like that it is very distracting to my enjoyment of the overall story. In addition, I was a bit bothered by the violence level, which I felt, for the most part, was rather gratuitous. The body count was very high and some scenes were bloody with Sam being the one who was inflicting most of the damage. Even though it was always in self-defense or in defense of Bella, it just made him seem like a bloodthirsty killer to me, even though I'm sure that wasn't intentional. I just think the violence could have been toned down a little and still packed a good punch.
Sam and Bella were two basically good people with several positive traits, but I was never completely able to relate to either one of them. Sam was an extreme alpha who kept his heart locked up tight and never did fully release it in my opinion. He was just so hard and stubborn, lacking the consistent tenderness and vulnerability that I prefer in my heroes. I had been aware of Sam's heartbreaking boyhood experience surrounding his mother's death from reading Caine's Reckoning, but I never felt like the author added much to that backstory in this book. In fact, Sam didn't even open up enough to tell Bella about the incident and his fears and feelings surrounding it. Bella just intuited on her own that something from the past haunted him, and then the knowledge of it came from Tucker. Even that was done off the canvas, barely getting a passing mention which was disappointing to me. I thought Bella was admirable for her spunk and independence, and I liked that she was so willing to give of herself emotionally and physically to Sam. Still, I can't say that I'm a big fan of heroines, especially historical ones, who are quite so forward in their seductiveness and propositioning. Also, she could be just as hard and stubborn as Sam, which left them butting heads on one thing or another for the entire book. Although this wasn't as grating to my nerves as it has been in other books I've read, I'm also not a fan of the hero and heroine constantly vying for dominance in the relationship either. Overall, I thought that both characters would have needed a little more depth and exhibited a bit more vulnerability for me to truly understand them.
I really thought the book could have used better editing as well. There were many scenes that moved so slowly I found myself beginning to loose interest and just wanting it to get to the point. On the flip side there were other scenes that I found difficult to imagine or just plain confusing because they lacked enough detail. The dialog suffered from this same affliction, as I often found it problematic to discern who was speaking, especially if there were more than two people conversing at a time. This was also a problem I had with Caine's Reckoning, so I'm wondering if this is an issue with all of Ms. McCarty's books or just this series. In addition, there were a myriad of small continuity errors which I found rather irritating, such as someone sitting down but then suddenly they are standing again without any explanation or someone had their shirt off and then suddenly it is back on without explanation. The worst one was a poor dead prostitute whose name kept changing from Betty to Sally four different times over just a couple of pages. This one left me scratching my head in bewilderment as to how such a blatant mistake could have gotten past the proofreaders. Each of these were pretty small things in themselves, but when put together added up to one big distraction which caused the overall narrative to lack a smooth flow.
I realize that I have spent the better part of this review criticizing Sam's Creed, but even though I thought it could have been much better, I didn't exactly dislike it. In spite of the problems I had with the book, I still found Sam's Creed to be a mostly worthwhile read. I will also allow that I can see how it would appeal to some readers. Anyone who enjoys a strong alpha male hero, a spitfire heroine and/or lot's of steamy creative sex scenes should definitely check it out. However, unlike Caine's Reckoning, it's predecessor in the Hell's Eight series, I would not be likely to re-read it. I was rather disappointed that the only other member of Hell's Eight to appear in Sam's Creed was Tucker, but a few extra details being added to his character and the introduction of his presumed lady love have intrigued me enough to definitely continue the series when his book, Tucker's Claim, is released next spring. In the meantime, I will likely explore Sarah McCarty's backlist, as I know that she has the ability to write books that I can greatly enjoy even though I can't count Sam's Creed among them.
Note: This book contains explicit language, violence, and sexual situations, including light bondage, domination/submission, spanking and anal sex, which some readers may find offensive....more
As a lover of all things historical and a casual reader of history books, I thought that Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation was very infoAs a lover of all things historical and a casual reader of history books, I thought that Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation was very informative and educational. I learned many things about America's founding fathers and the revolutionary period of history that I didn't previously know. The book is laid out in six separate vignettes, each following a crucial event in that era of history: the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton; a private deal that was made between Hamilton, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson on the location of the new capitol in exchange for passage of Hamilton's finance plan; the silence of the founding fathers on the issue of slavery; George Washington's farewell to public service; the sometimes contentious collaboration between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in the years following Washington's presidency; and the renewal of Adams and Jefferson's friendship in their waning years. The book is also something of a character sketch of each of these key players in America's history.
The thing I enjoyed most about Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, were all the little facts and anecdotes I was able to glean from the text. Things like the loving, devoted marriage that John and Abigail Adams shared, in which he seemed to view her as his equal and value her political counsel above all others. Joseph Ellis has compiled a volume of John and Abigail's letters to each other which I think might make for interesting follow-up reading. Another fascinating little tidbit I learned was that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1826). Also, as someone who is intrigued by forensic science, I found the forensic-style analysis of the Burr/Hamilton duel to be very engaging. It's all the little things that always help to bring history alive for me, and many small details like these were woven in with lots of scholarly prose to make a strong narrative that would, in my opinion, be useful to anyone looking to learn more about American history. I would warn the casual reader though, that the academic nature of the book does not make for light reading, but neither is it so complex as to be completely inaccessible to the general reader. While I didn't find it to be entirely dull and boring, it did have a slow pace that failed to fully spark my interest and hold my attention. It actually took me quite a while to finish the book, but I'm glad that I did. I was not at all surprised to find that this book was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for history....more
Sensual Secrets was a random buy from the library book sale. I thought that the premise, that of a painfully shy, repressed young woman who kept a jouSensual Secrets was a random buy from the library book sale. I thought that the premise, that of a painfully shy, repressed young woman who kept a journal of her most secret sexual fantasies online that is then found and read by the man of her dreams, to have potential as a hot, steamy and interesting read. Ultimately though, I thought that the story fell rather flat. It seemed that every time Jay tried to set up a scenario from Amelia's diary it never quite worked out, and I started loosing count of all the times she ended up leaving him frustrated. Unfortunately this was making me frustrated too. While I'm not a reader who wants to see the protagonists jump into bed with one another at the first available opportunity, all the aborted attempts just became rather tiresome, and the "main event" didn't end up happening until very near the end of the book. There was some other steamy content in the form of Amelia's diary entries, both of them getting friendly with their own hands, and a couple of other things, but what I really wanted to see was the characters interacting with each other more. I think that if Jay had earned Amelia's trust, she had communicated her fantasies to him, and then they had played them out, instead of him sneaking peeks at her diary, it would have been a much better story with a lot more depth.
Amelia and Jay were both generally likable characters, but I thought they could have been better too. As a shy person myself, I understood Amelia's timidity, but her constant self-reproach in the early chapters became a little too repetitive. Then over the course of just a few weeks, she magically came out of her shell, which I thought stretched the bounds of credibility. Jay was a decent guy with some good traits that I usually like in a hero, but what bothered me about him was that he seemed rather contradictory. On the one hand he supposedly saw Amelia for who she was and found her desirable in spite of her plain appearance, while on the other hand, it all seemed like a game to him, with the ultimate goal being sex. When he started thinking about dumping Amelia after they had sex for the first time and she declared her love, I started loosing respect for him, and in my opinion, he only partially redeemed himself by the end of the story. There was also a sub-plot about Jay being an incredibly intelligent guy who had turned his back on academics and a promising writing career in favor of running a Harley shop, but then he did an abrupt about-face at the end which didn't really make much sense. I think the problem was that the author tried to cram too many cliched romance hero characteristics into Jay, which ultimately diluted the character.
Overall though, Sensual Secrets was a pretty readable book (I've certainly read worse;)), and a reasonably pleasant way to spend a few hours. However, it might be the type of book better left to a boring, rainy afternoon when there's nothing better to do. I'm sure that I have tons of books on my TBR list that would have given me a more satisfaction. This was my first book by Jo Leigh though, and since I have several of her other books on my TBR list that were recommended by a friend, I will try to keep an open mind....more
In Not Another New Year's, Christie Ridgway has created an enjoyable story, that is basically a two-for-one romance, wiReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
In Not Another New Year's, Christie Ridgway has created an enjoyable story, that is basically a two-for-one romance, with a likable cast of flawed characters. Tanner Hart and Hannah Davis, the primary hero and heroine of the story are basically two ordinary people who unfortunately had some unusual things happen to them. They are basically two peas in a pod with a great deal in common. Both have put high expectations on themselves due in part to family dynamics. After Hannah's sister died, she had somehow felt a responsibility to the family to more or less take her place and accomplish the things that she likely would have done if she had lived. Tanner felt that he just didn't quite measure up to his war hero brothers. Of course, both ended up feeling like they had let their families down. What I really liked about their relationship was that they helped each other to discover that the things they had believed about themselves simply weren't true. As individuals, I was pleased to see both Tanner and Hannah grow and change, so that they could move beyond the pain of the past and into a promising future.
I really enjoyed the secondary romance between Tanner's brother, Troy and Desiree. They simply stood out to me more than Tanner and Hannah, not because he was a war hero and she was a princess, but because I felt that they showed more vulnerability. They had to reach further outside their comfort zones in order to allow their relationship to happen, and realize their hearts desires. Also, theirs was not a love-at-first-sight romance like Tanner and Hannah's. While I am not fundamentally opposed to these types of romances, I usually have a harder time finding them to be believable. I think it is a staple in many romance plots that is overused and would lead one to believe that this phenomenon happens in real life far more often than it probably does. I just seem to have a preference for romances that either take time to develop the feelings between the protagonists or in which they have had some previous relationship. Troy and Desiree had know each other for nearly a year, and had obviously been attracted to each other for a long time, even though they had spent the better part of that time at each other's throats. Normally, I don't care for romances in which the characters bicker all the time, but there was something about Troy and Dezi's arguing that was rather endearing. I was just waiting for the fireworks to go off and when they did, I was not disappointed. While I liked these two characters a great deal and found them to be very strong, I did not necessarily think that their scenes overshadowed Tanner and Hannah's. I only found myself wishing to see more of them or that they had gotten their own book instead. The only part of their story that I thought fell short was that they didn't exactly get a solid ending, but I still loved reading about them anyway.
While I was able to appreciate the characters and the overall story, I thought that there were a few plot weaknesses. Once I realized that Hannah's Uncle Geoff actually lived in San Diego, I couldn't quite figure out why he hadn't taken care of her personally while she was on vacation in the area instead of setting her up with Tanner as her “tour guide”. Of course, without this part of the plot, there wouldn't have been a story, but I just think that the overall story would have been a bit stronger if this part had been shored up, perhaps by the author giving more reasons for Uncle Geoff's choice. Also, after reading two of Christie Ridgway's books, I'm beginning to think that she has a penchant for ambiguous endings. I have a preference for strong happily-ever-after endings, and though the ending of this story was happy, I felt that it left too many unanswered questions. One other aspect of the story that bothered me was that the first time Tanner and Hannah nearly had sex they were still strangers and had given each other fake names. I know that this can be an all-to-common occurrence in today's society, but I still prefer that the main characters in my romances be in love before they fall into bed. As the days began to pass, I could sense them beginning to fall in love with each other, yet it wasn't entirely convincing and as mentioned above, I'm not a huge fan of the love-at-first-sight scenario. Even setting aside my own preferences on this, when Tanner and Hannah did finally make love, they had only know each other for a few days and in spite of their growing feelings were still basically considering this to be a vacation fling. Even with this in mind, they did not entirely practice safe sex. While some loves scenes involved condoms, others involved risk-taking and without any mature conversation about said risks. In spite of this flaw though, I thought that the love scenes overall were at least tender, steamy and generally well-written. Finally, one other minor annoyance I found was Ms. Ridgway's use of parenthetical phrases as an exception or aside to a particular character's main line of thinking. While some of them were rather witty, I simply felt that they were a bit overused.
There were a couple of positive things that I didn't already mention that I also thought were noteworthy. I enjoyed the bit of danger and intrigue surrounding Dezi. It helped to make the story more full and interesting as well as drawing all four of the main characters into a mild action plot. I also liked Tanner and Troy's parents. Although they were only in one scene, they made an impression on me, and I would have liked to have seen more of them. While I have not seen an official series designation, Not Another New Year's is a sequel to Must Love Mistletoe. Tanner and Troy Hart and Desiree al-Maddah all made their first appearance in Must Love Mistletoe. Also, Finn and Bailey, the hero and heroine of Must Love Mistletoe, made a brief appearance (Bailey twice) in Not Another New Year's. I must say that I was pleased to see some of the ambiguity surrounding the end of their own story cleared up during their scenes in this book. In spite of the cross-over characters, both stories could be read independently without really getting any major spoilers. In addition, the backstory on the assassination attempt which was introduced in Must Love Mistletoe is recounted in Not Another New Year's only now more from Tanner's point of view rather than Finn's. Overall, I found Not Another New Year's to be a pleasant and generally lighthearted story that was an easy read. I would be open to reading other books by Ms. Ridgway in the future, when I am in the mood for this type of story....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" This short, thirty-page novella used to be considered the second story in the Dark-Hunter series, and that is theReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" This short, thirty-page novella used to be considered the second story in the Dark-Hunter series, and that is the order in which I read it. It gives an introduction to Acheron, and tells how he became the leader of the Dark-Hunters. Despite it's brevity, I found the tale to be very engaging, something of a missing chapter in the saga. In such a short space, Ms. Kenyon managed to create a character who was extremely intriguing, and I am anxious to read more about Acheron in the future. If I had read this novella on it's own without knowledge of it's connecting stories, I probably would have found it to be unsatisfying, but knowing that there is so much more to come, it simply whetted my appetite for future offerings in the Dark-Hunter series. The Beginning is now found in its entirety within the full-length novel, Acheron. It was previously published as a separate novella in the back of early editions of Sins of the Night, and can now also be read on Sherrilyn Kenyon's website for free....more
I found Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady to be a quick, easy and surprisingly enjoyable read. I had never heard of Bronwyn Scott before, and from visitinI found Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady to be a quick, easy and surprisingly enjoyable read. I had never heard of Bronwyn Scott before, and from visiting her website it appears that she is a relatively new author with this being only her second book published by Harlequin and her fifth overall. Nevertheless, in my opinion, she has talent that could definitely take her places in the future. She managed to take a tired romance plot, that of the lecherous, old man pursuing an innocent young woman, who is rescued by the dissolute rake, and breathe new life into it by adding a few unexpected twists. While most of the love scenes end in a cut-away without any explicit details, there were a couple at the beginning which I thought were a little more sensual than what readers will usually find in a Harlequin, owing mostly to the hero's extensive knowledge of the Kama Sutra and a scene involving some fun and lively love play. I also thought that the evil villain and his complex schemes added a bit of Gothic-style flair to the story.
Paine and Julia were both very likable characters. Paine was the rakish third son of a nobleman with a rather sordid past, but underneath it all he was an honorable man who had made something of himself in spite of the bad hand that life had dealt him. Julia was an admirably spirited heroine who wasn't afraid to take matters into her own hands to ensure her future happiness, but neither was she rash in her decision making. In difficult or dangerous circumstances she took the time to consider her options carefully and didn't idly wait for someone else to save the day. The only time that I thought she had made the wrong choice, it turned into a humorous situation in which the hero was already several steps ahead of her. They occasionally shared some good-natured but sharp-witted banter which I really enjoyed. The only thing which could have been better is their relationship development. I didn't feel that the author gave me enough reasons for their falling in love, and so I didn't entirely buy it, though I did find them to be an appealing and well-matched couple.
As it turns out, Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady is the first in a new series. Since Paine has two older and very eligible brothers, I thought this might be the case. Also, after an abrupt and vague ending for Julia's cousin, Gray, I discovered that his story can be read as an exclusive Harlequin Online Read titled Grayson Prentiss's Seduction at: http://www.eharlequin.com/article.htm.... Overall, I liked Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady enough that I am interested in reading the next book in the series when it is released, and would be open to reading Bronwynn Scott's other books including her three non-Harlequin titles written as Nikki Poppen....more
A Love Beyond Time was Judie Aitken's first romance novel, and in my opinion, it was a very worthy debut. I have a stroReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
A Love Beyond Time was Judie Aitken's first romance novel, and in my opinion, it was a very worthy debut. I have a strong interest in Native American history and culture and felt that she really brought these aspects of the story alive. I have read some authors in this romance sub-genre who merely skim the surface, peppering their stories with occasional details that could easily be gleaned from elementary schoolbooks, but never really capture the essence of the Indian people. Instead of the history and culture in A Love Beyond Time being reduced to a dry textbook lesson, it seemed to become a living, breathing part of the narrative, as important as any character. Ms. Aitken seems to have a talent for writing from the heart with a certain thoughtfulness and passion for telling Native American stories, and this was one of the facets of the book that I enjoyed most. I also always like a good time travel yarn, and this one was rather unique in that both the hero and heroine went back in time, and they did not meet until they arrived in the past, nor did they realize that the other was a time traveler. In addition, they each traveled to the past in different ways, which created both positive and negative elements for me. While I appreciate the idea of time travel in general, I tend to favor the straightforward type in which a character physically makes the time jump in the way that Ryan did. On the other hand, I am not a huge fan of only a person's spirit making the slide through time and switching bodies with a person on the other side as Dillon did. I guess this is just a little too mystical for my taste, but as long as I didn't think about this side of the story too much, the time travel aspect was still pretty enjoyable.
I found the hero and heroine to both be likable. Ryan was a strong woman who had made a place for herself in a “man's world”, but didn't seem overly bothered by the idea of being placed into a more submissive role in the past. In fact, she would have been content with giving up her career and everything she had worked for in the present to stay in the past with Wolf. I really liked this balance in her character. She also had refused to give up on the notion of finding her one true love and marrying for love alone, which was a quality I found admirable. Although the story began with Dillon (aka Wolf in the past) being fairly angry and prejudiced against whites, I appreciated his willingness to change and accept that not all whites were bad. In spite of his initial wariness at finding Ryan in the Lakota camp of the past, he was open-minded enough to believe that she really had been sent by Tunkasila (“God”) to help them. Wolf was also very kind, gentle and protective of Ryan, and a strong leader among his people, all things that I liked about him. In the present, I thought Dillon was very respectable as a man who had risen above his circumstances to become a successful attorney and who was giving his talents back to his people. The only thing that I could really find fault with is that Wolf and Ryan's relationship was not fully developed, in my opinion. Since they did not even meet until about one third of the way into the book, the romance aspect relied heavily on a love-at-first-sight scenario which is not exactly my favorite way of bringing a hero and heroine together. Sometimes I simply feel that this plot device is overused in the romance genre, though because of the mystical element surrounding the entire story, I was able to forgive it's use in this particular book to some degree. Though the romantic scenes were quite lovely and written well, I just felt that incorporating more of them would have helped to build the relationship in a more believable and engaging way.
Additionally, there were many other parts of the story which I found appealing. It had many strong secondary characters including Dillon's grandfather, Charley Crying Wolf and brother, Buddy, in the present who I found to be very lovable, as well as, Eagle Deer, and his wife, Pretty Feather, from the past who were the most loyal of friends to Wolf and every bit as accepting of the strange wasicu (“white”) woman who suddenly appeared in their camp. I also liked the use of many Lakota words and phrases scattered throughout the narrative. They always had translations or context meaning, and I really felt that they added to the realism of the culture in which the story takes place. I likewise enjoy mysteries and this book had one surrounding the theft of the Indian artifacts. I must admit though, that it was fairly easy for me to figure out who the perpetrator was, and the only thing that remained a mystery for me until the reveal was the motive. I found the archaeological dig setting of the present and the Little Big Horn setting of the past, as well as Ryan's career as an anthropologist to be unique and interesting elements. One thing that I really respected was Ryan agonizing over the decision of whether to share with the Indians her knowledge of events yet to come, and if she did, how it might affect the fabric of time. I found this to be a very clever and logical position for the author to take, especially in light of Ryan's background as a scientist. Similarly, I found Ryan's anger toward Charley after returning from the past to be a very realistic reaction under the circumstances. Overall, I thought that A Love Beyond Time was a very intelligent and well-researched book that was an impressive first effort from Ms. Aitken's pen. This was also the first of her books that I have read, but I will definitely be open to reading more of her works in the future....more
"4.5 stars" The Real Deal was a sweet, engaging love story that was imbued with a healthy dose of realism, but still maReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars" The Real Deal was a sweet, engaging love story that was imbued with a healthy dose of realism, but still managed to stay within the bounds of romantic fantasy that all readers of the genre seem to love. I really enjoyed how Lucy Monroe took two people with low self-esteem, due in part to failed relationships of the past, and helped them to grow and change by finding the perfect mate in each other. Although I don't believe I have previously read any romance novels that primarily take place in the corporate business world, I have to say that this type of setting along with all of it's attendant politics would not normally be of interest me. However, since my husband works in a similar environment and frequently deals with such things, I found that I knew enough about the topic for it to actually be quite interesting. I loved the peaceful, serene setting of Simon's island home off the coast of Washington. Until recently I had thought Washington to be a unique backdrop for a romance novel, but over the last few months I have read several stories that take place there. Ms. Monroe still managed to make it seem a little out of the ordinary though. I really enjoyed the loves scenes which I thought were hot, sensuous, and tastefully creative, while still being laden with plenty of emotion. In addition to a great hero and heroine, each of the secondary characters were very well rendered. I was particularly taken with Simon's housekeeper cum security expert, Jacob, and Amanda's one true friend, Jillian. Jacob was a crusty retired Secret Service agent with seemingly hundreds of different personas and Jillian was a flamboyant soap opera actress. Both added a lot of wisdom, levity, and humor to the two more serious main characters, and everyone was woven seamlessly into a tale that was a pleasure to read from start to finish.
I absolutely loved Simon. The only complaint I have about him is the author's repeated use of the phrase “gunmetal gray” to describe his eyes. In my opinion, it was a bit overused, but in the grand scheme of things it was merely a minor detractor to an otherwise great character. Having a techno-geek husband (and on occasion having been accused of being a geek myself), I can definitely say that Ms. Monroe's characterization of Simon was quite accurate, from his reclusive nature, to his frequent and lengthy forays into his lab, to his feelings of simply not fitting in with the rest of the world. I also liked Simon's katana collection and his choice of workout methods, both of which are typical geeky interests. The one thing I found a bit odd though, was his lack of electronic equipment (he didn't even have a TV), as in my experience most geeks tend to be rather enamored of almost any technical device, but maybe Simon got all the technical stimulation he needed in his lab. Since brains and beauty rarely come in the same package, I also thought that Simon's drop dead gorgeous looks were highly usual, but certainly not outside the realm of possibility. I did think it was very sweet and endearing that Simon was rather self-conscious about being so well-endowed, due to past lovers telling him he was too big. Since my research seems to indicate that this is a more common phenomena than most romance novelists would lead readers to believe, I really enjoyed Ms. Monroe's very different and more realistic take on Simon's impressive male attribute. I thought that Simon also exhibited a bit more confidence and social skills than the average geek, but again, social ineptness is a stereotype that is not always accurate. All in all, Simon was a wonderful hero who was kind and caring, a true gentleman, and an all-around great guy to anyone who took the time to get to know and understand him.
Fortunately for Simon, Amanda had plenty of time, and in the interests of a successful corporate merger, it was her job to understand how his mind worked. She was instantly attracted to him on a physical level, but she never realized how appealing the man inside would be as well. Amanda had plenty of hang-ups of her own after a failed first marriage to an unfaithful man who was a lousy lover and constantly berated her appearance. It was difficult for her to believe that someone like Simon could even be attracted to her, much less want anything more, but ultimately they both had to have a lot of patience and persistence to rebuild each other's confidence. While some readers may disagree, I actually liked that Amanda was a modern woman who had chosen not to sleep around, and that the only man she had ever been with prior to Simon was her first husband. I imagine that the issues Amanda faced in her work environment were probably not unlike what many women deal with in the corporate business world every day. It was interesting to watch her struggling with the realization that her career might not be the most important thing in her life after all, and that some of the things she had thought lost to her were actually within reach again. In the end, I felt a sense of pride in Amanda for making a difficult but gutsy decision about her job based on her personal ethics and values, and also for her having discovered a new confidence in herself that was not tied to her work.
The process Simon and Amanda went through, growing and changing and learning to love and believe in each other was a lovely and emotional one to read, but there were a few times I found myself wishing they would just tell each other what they were thinking and feeling. They trusted each other on some things right from the start, but other things took a little longer. Each of their stories came out in bits and pieces as they learned to trust a little more each day, which in hindsight was probably more realistic. I'm also grateful that even though Simon could be a little clueless at times and Amanda a bit stubborn due to her past hurts, no serious misunderstandings ever took place. Even though the revealing of their true selves to each other seemed a bit slow at times, without that pace, the final act of faith that Simon shows Amanda wouldn't have been half as sweet. Looking back, I think it might have been nice if these two had connected a little more on an intellectual level, as it didn't seem like they had a great deal in common. However, their emotional and physical relationship was so palpable that I didn't even think about this until the story was finished, so I guess I can't say that it really detracted from my enjoyment of the book. The Real Deal was an extremely well-written novel that hit very close to home for me, and also hit a home-run right onto my keeper shelf. This was my first read by Lucy Monroe, but after such a wonderful experience I am excitedly looking forward to checking out her backlist. While The Real Deal is a stand-alone novel with no apparent storyline connection to any of Ms. Monroe's other books, Amanda's friend, Jillian, does become the heroine of Deal With This, book #2 in The Goddard Project series. Lucy Monroe has also written inspirational romances as L.C. Monroe....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars overall" Loving Sarah by Madeline Baker – Loving Sarah is a sweet, tender story about two lonely people finding loReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars overall" Loving Sarah by Madeline Baker – Loving Sarah is a sweet, tender story about two lonely people finding love and acceptance in a place neither would have expected, each other's arms. Toklanni is a somewhat tortured but sympathetic hero as a half-breed who doesn't quite fit in either the Apache or the white world, and who is very self-conscious about a scar that runs the length of his face and body. He is a very gentle hero though, who protects and provides for Sarah when she is left alone due to an Apache raid on her home. I thought Sarah was realistic as a former city-dweller who isn't fully able to provide for herself when left alone and miles from the nearest civilization, yet she exhibits a quiet strength of character through her faith and persistence after her husband is killed and her son is kidnapped. She also has a very forgiving heart to be able to love and accept Toklanni after the attack by his people in which he played a part. This story is very simple, things happen rather quickly, and it lacks some of the depth I've read in other books, but in my opinion, there was a certain beauty within it's simplicity that some full-length novels can often fail to capture. I found it to be an easy read and a refreshing change of pace from the intensely emotional romances that I usually tend to favor, a sweetly endearing story that had the feel of curling up by the fire on a cold winter's day. This is the first in a two-novella series. The sequel, Loving Devlin, can be found in the anthology, A Wilderness Christmas. Madeline Baker also writes paranormal romance as Amanda Ashley. Rating: ***1/2
A Christmas Angel by Robin Lee Hatcher - A Christmas Angel is another sweet, emotional novella in this anthology that I really enjoyed. Mick was a sympathetic hero, a man who had essentially been forced into marrying a woman he didn't love, and was now struggling to provide for his seriously injured daughter. Jennifer was a sweet, caring soul who was also a strong woman. She had gotten an education, become a nurse during a time when career choices for women were few, and lived on her own, providing for herself. I found it heartwarming that Jennifer had loved Mick since she was just a girl and had never stopped loving him. Mick's daughter, Phoebe, was an adorable child who was wise beyond her years. The only thing that was bothersome about the story was that the conflict relied heavily on the tired cliché of misunderstandings, and two people who were too afraid to just admit what they felt for each other. I suppose it was somewhat believable though, since Mick had been badly hurt by his first wife. However, it didn't all get sorted out until the very end, and the resolution seemed a tad rushed. Overall, I was happy with this novella, because it exhibited a great deal of tender emotion and pretty good sexual tension even though it was never consummated. A Christmas Angel was a quick and easy, but enjoyable tale that was a pleasure to read. It was my first story by Robin Lee Hatcher, but has definitely left me open to reading others by her in the future. Rating: ****
The Homecoming by Nora Hess – The Homecoming was an OK read, but it had quite a few weaknesses in my opinion. It started off with what was essentially a love quadrangle, which isn't something I typically like in a romance, and I initially had a hard time warming up to any of the characters. Kate seemed very naive and far too quick to marry a man who obviously didn't love her; Olive was a loathsome shrew, who in her jealously, gave Kate no end of grief; Jase was even more detestable for marrying an innocent woman simply to spite his lover, Olive, and never giving Kate the least bit of respect; and John had a pretty sordid past which also included having been Olive's lover. Luckily I did later warm up to both Kate and John. Kate finally grew up a little and saw her husband for the worthless weasel he was, and although in my opinion, John's prior relationship with Olive was a weak and unnecessary plot device, I was able to overlook it when his deep and long-standing love for Kate was revealed along with his tiring of the playboy bachelor lifestyle. Ultimately, there was enough of an emotional connection between the two characters to make me like them, but at times the plot seemed rather forced and contrived. It didn't make sense that Kate's grandmother had ever let Jase court her when she never allowed other young men to socialize with Kate, and she herself said that Jase was just trying to make Olive jealous. Also, everyone in the settlement seemed to know that Olive had slept with half the men in town, but she was never ostracized from social events as one might have expected in a tiny community of that era. In fact, some people seemed to buy into her vicious gossip. In addition, Jase made a laughable comment about not wanting John's leftovers (ie Kate), when even if Kate had slept with John (which she hadn't), she would still be far more pure than Olive could ever hope to be. There were also a couple of distracting continuity errors which a good editor should have caught. In one scene, Kate is studying John's features while he sleeps and thinking of how his lips had kissed her tenderly, but they hadn't kissed yet. The other is that the back cover blurb has little to do with the actual story and mentions a homestead in Kentucky when the settlement is actually in New York. The Homecoming did not really have as sweet a quality or tone as the first two novellas in this book either. In the end, there was just enough in this story to hold my interest, but I thought it could have been done much better. This was my first story by Norah Hess, but the jury will remain out on whether I like her writing style until I have the opportunity to read more of her works. Rating: ***
The Greatest Gift of All by Connie Mason - The Greatest Gift of All was a light, easy read that I found to be generally pleasant, but I thought it could have benefited from more depth in both plot and characterizations. Everything happened very quickly, and I had a hard time buying into the idea of Nick falling in love with Jenny based solely on his friend's descriptions of her, and Jenny in turn falling in love with Nick in only a couple of days, mainly I surmised, because he brought some Christmas spirit back into her and her children's lives. Nick was still a very nice guy though. I thought him keeping his promise to his friend, Lucas, Jenny's first husband who had been killed, was admirable, and he was also wonderful with the kids. Jenny, on the other hand, was very cold and cynical, snapping at Nick and the children almost constantly. I wanted to understand her resentfulness toward Lucas for his job choice which ultimately had led to his death, but as hard as I tried, I still kept feeling like it was a bit overblown. She had never even cried for Lucas in the year since his death even though she supposedly had been very much in love with him. Then she very suddenly was able to throw off all her anger and thaw out in the final chapter which just wasn't very believable to me. I think all my difficulties understanding her go back to the lack of character depth. I did enjoy the children, Annie and Luke. Their resilience after all that had happened and absolute conviction that Nick was really St. Nicholas was very heartwarming. If there had been a little more substance to the story and Jenny hadn't been quite so icy, I probably would have enjoyed this novella more. As written though, it just left a little something to be desired. This one also had a continuity error between the cover blurb which mentions Colorado and the actual setting of the story which was Montana. This was my first read by Connie Mason, and as with Norah Hess, I'll have to check out more of her works before I'll be able to decide if her writing style is for me or not. Rating: ***
Note: All of the novellas in this anthology are non-explicit which should make it appropriate for romance readers of all ages. Each novella has been summarized and reviewed separately. The overall rating for the book is the average of the ratings for each individual story....more
In my opinion, Breaking Dawn was a wonderful finale to an already great book series. I laughed out loud at the humor, I criedReviewed for THC Reviews
In my opinion, Breaking Dawn was a wonderful finale to an already great book series. I laughed out loud at the humor, I cried for Edward's and Jacob's pain, I felt joy and sadness, contentment and fear, as this book took me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Breaking Dawn answered all of the burning questions that had been left from the previous books: Would Edward and Bella finally marry and have their happily-ever-after ending? Would Bella be turned into a vampire? Would Jacob find a happy ending even though he couldn't seem to let Bella go? Would the Volturi, who covet Edward's and Alice's powers find a reason to come after them? The answers to all these questions and more I hadn't even thought of came together to create a romantic, tense and action-packed final volume in the Twilight Saga. I was very pleased with the tight plotting, and am happy to say that I found no holes of any kind. Every loose thread that I thought needed to be addressed, found a resolution before the end of the book. Admittedly, there were several events that I correctly predicted would happen, but it did not detract from my enjoyment of the story in the least. There was enough variety in the details to keep me on my toes, and there was one particular event involving Jacob which completely but pleasantly caught me by surprise. In addition, the author effectively kept me guessing between two potential scenarios for the climactic ending. While a part of me was itching for the one possibility to occur, I realized that it probably would not lead to a truly happy ending, so the way that it did wrap up was very satisfying to me. I also don't think I could have asked for a better final scene between Edward and Bella. It was something I had been wishing for all along.
Breaking Dawn had an interesting twist, in that it is written in three different sections. “Book One” is all about the romance, “Book Two,” at times, harbors enough pain and angst to rival New Moon, and “Book Three” takes a brief breather to allow everyone, including the reader, to experience some joy and happiness, before turning into a taut suspense thriller. “Books One & Three” are written from Bella's point of view just like all the other books in the series, but “Book Two” is written from Jacob's perspective like the epilogue of Eclipse. Not only was this a necessary device to propel the plot along, but I also found it to be quite appealing to get inside another lead character's head. Jacob certainly has a different way of looking at things, and it gives the reader a chance to get to know him a little better. Also, the titles of Jacob's chapters stand out in stark contrast to those in Bella's voice. Sometimes they were on the serious side, but the vast majority of them had me laughing out loud. In the end, it almost felt like three separate stories were being told.
Just as with Eclipse, the three main characters, Edward, Bella and Jacob are once again on the canvas together engaging in some very fascinating relationship dynamics. Edward continues to be the same caring, gentle soul that he's been throughout the series, and the one I tend to relate to the most. He did, however, make a couple of surprising decisions, which at the time made his perfection start to tarnish for me just a little, but ultimately I understood that they were born out of utter desperation. Up to this point, Ms. Meyer has done a wonderful job with making Edward's thoughts and feelings known through dialog and other means, but there were a few moments in this book where I really craved more insights. Even though I still felt that I understood him, at times, I found myself wishing to be a mind-reader myself. Bella is the character who I felt changed the most. Many times in the previous volumes, I had a little difficulty relating to her, but in this book, I found myself understanding her in a much deeper way. She matured very quickly and her choices in Breaking Dawn made a lot more sense to me than they had before. She also eased up a bit on the self-blame. On the downside though, I think her level of pessimism reached new highs, and she still has a very hard time seeing herself as the special person that Edward and everyone else sees. The trio is rounded out by Jacob, who in many ways is merely a normal, jealous teenager, of course with the caveat of his supernatural ability. After his sometimes inappropriate behavior in Eclipse, I was able to find a new respect for and understanding of his character in Breaking Dawn. He really came through as a friend to the end. I truly enjoyed reading all three characters and seeing how their lives and destinies are intertwined.
The secondary character palette in Breaking Dawn is teeming with new characters, including a wonderful addition to the Cullen family who has some very special abilities. All of the characters from the previous books are present with some new insights being added to a few of them, particularly Seth and Leah. Rosalie also plays a bigger role in this book. Even though she has never been a big fan of Bella in the past, she really steps up to the plate to defend Bella in her own brusque but rather heartwarming way, while her biting banter with Jacob was absolutely hilarious. Readers also get to meet some characters like the Denali coven who were mentioned before, but never actually played an active role. The Volturi return with some new members in their ranks, and a host of Carlisle's vampire friends surface, some of whom possess amazing powers. In fact, there are so many, that a brief index is provided at the end of the book to keep them all straight. All in all, Breaking Dawn was a very richly populated story with many widely varying personages.
I really felt that the maturity level of the series increased quite a bit in Breaking Dawn, with the characters finding themselves in much more “grown-up” situations. There are some love scenes in the book, and while they all end in cut scenes and nothing is played out explicitly, the before and after dialog implies very clearly what was happening in between, just in a very tastefully sensuous way. As with the previous books, there are only a handful of mild profanities, but there is the addition of a few lightly crude sexual innuendos. I also felt there was a significant increase in the blood and gore, although I didn't think anything was particularly gratuitous or out of context for the circumstances. In my opinion, the book is still suitable for older teens, but I would caution parental guidance of younger readers for whom some material may be disturbing and/or inappropriate.
As I predicted, finally finishing the Twilight Saga has been a rather bittersweet experience for me. I'm thrilled to finally know how it ends, but at the same time, I find myself longing for more. I was very saddened to hear that Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer's planned rewrite of Twilight from Edward's perspective has been put on hold indefinitely due to the unfinished manuscript being illegally leaked onto the Internet. Even though she has provided that copy to fans on her website, I have not yet been able to compel myself to read it for personal and ethical reasons, and I do hope that someday she will pick it up again. I have seen comments from her about possible future stories for these characters, and I also hope that will happen as well. Breaking Dawn definitely left plenty of room for more storytelling, especially for Jacob. Although readers are given the basic information about how each of the couples in the Cullen family met, I've often thought that it would be nice to go back and relive each of their romances individually. I personally think it would make for a great anthology of novellas, but of course that may just be wishful thinking on my part. Also, the one and only thing that I felt was left hanging was Alice's past. I had hoped they would find more clues about who she was in her human life, which again would make another great story, in my opinion. Even though I may be wishing for more tales about the Cullen family and friends, I will be interested in reading anything that Ms. Meyer's fertile imagination creates and all will immediately go on my auto-buy list. I am also eagerly awaiting The Twilight Saga: The Official Guide that appears to have been delayed for release until September 2009, which is going to be an excruciatingly long wait.;-) For now though, Breaking Dawn has taken it's place on my keeper shelf right next to it's three predecessors Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse, and in the meantime, I will simply have to console myself with the Twilight movie (which I haven't yet had the opportunity to see), and hope that it lives up to the books....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews A Woman Scorned is yet another worthy effort from Liz Carlyle, but in my opinion, not the strongest of her novels that I haveReviewed for THC Reviews A Woman Scorned is yet another worthy effort from Liz Carlyle, but in my opinion, not the strongest of her novels that I have read to date. As with her other books, A Woman Scorned also contained an intriguing mystery element, this one involving the murder of the heroine's husband. The mystery was a bit more prominent in this story though, and consequently, I felt that it overshadowed the actual romance, in some ways. Aside from a strong physical attraction and mutual loneliness, I found few reasons for Cole and Jonet to fall in love. The author simply did not build the lovely friendship element or include the more swoon-worthy scenes that are often found in her other works. While their love became more evident toward the end of the story, I just did not find their feelings for one another earlier in the book to be entirely convincing. I believe that the time devoted to the mystery simply left limited space for good relationship development which was a bit disappointing, since these two characters had absolutely sparkled as secondary characters in other books. While I like a good mystery, this one did not hold my interest as much as it perhaps could have, due to the fact that I discerned the culprit very early on, though at least I was way off base on the character's motive and did not really figure that part out until the reveal. In all fairness though, I went into this book having read a later book that ties in with it, and therefore already knew that a couple of the characters who had been set up as suspects could be eliminated. Without that information, I doubt that I would have solved this part of the mystery so easily. All in all, for this only being Ms. Carlyle's second book, it was a still a good read.
I thought that the characterizations of the hero and heroine were well-done and full of interesting complexities. Cole had held a variety of positions including that of scholar, tutor and military captain, in addition to being an ordained minister. He is filled with guilt and regret over the death of his first wife with which he must come to terms. On the surface, he seems very controlled and reserved, but inside he is seething with unfulfilled passion that just the right woman can unlock. Cole is highly intelligent, regularly engaging in battles of wit with Jonet. Although she could be very willful, he never let her get the best of him and always gave back as good as he got. This made for some highly charged and amusing banter between these two characters. Jonet was not a woman who was afraid to let her passions be know, but also carried a certain reserve due to fear over her sons' safety in the wake of their father's murder. I thought her devotion to her two sons as well as other characters in the story was highly commendable, and I also liked that she lived her life according to what she thought was right instead of what society dictated. Once she began to trust Cole, she was very bold in her pursuit of him, even though he was below her in social status. I found her boldness and directness to be admirable, as well as fun and sensuous, leading to a delightful, burning hot love scene near the end of the book that one might playfully characterize as Cole's “taming of the shrew”. Also, both characters were very intuitive of the other's needs and feelings which I found quite endearing. Even though the actual romance between these two could have had a stronger foundation and they were near polar opposites, it became obvious by the end of the story that Cole and Jonet were made for each other. It was not difficult to imagine them living a long and happy life together with nary a dull moment, which is probably why they were such stand-out characters in future novels.
While I do enjoy introspection, I felt that a bit too much of it became a partial contributor to some pacing issues in the narrative of A Woman Scorned. The other part I attributed to the lack of the spirited secondary characters that I so enjoyed in Ms. Carlyle's other books. There were no scene-stealers like Kem or Bentley, and the supporting characters who were present just didn't quite have the same lively quality as some that had appeared in other stories. Even if they were a bit more reserved, there were a few notables. David, Lord Delacourt was an enigma and I'm sure I would have enjoyed his presence in this story much more if I hadn't already known his secret from reading A Woman of Virtue in which he is the hero. He also put in an appearance in No True Gentleman. I found Stuart and Robert to be very charming children with opposite personalities, Stuart being rather shy and Robert being more outgoing. I thought that they were realistically rendered in that they often argued and misbehaved like young boys do, but yet they were never obnoxious. Stuart and Robert (though much more grown up) also appear in A Woman of Virtue and The Devil You Know. Edmund Rowland was a rather distasteful character who also pops up in A Woman of Virtue, as does Lady Delacourt, and Charlotte Branthwaite, David's mother and sister respectively. Just as she does in most of her books, Ms. Carlyle also uses a few animal characters to good effect, helping to set the tone for the human characters and overall story.
As one might guess from the overlapping characters, A Woman of Virtue is the book most closely related to A Woman Scorned actually picking up the story precisely where this one left off. I personally, however, still recommend reading the books in chronological order to receive the full effect of all characters on the canvass, as I have come to the conclusion that Ms. Carlyle used her first three books, My False Heart, A Woman Scorned, and Beauty Like the Night to create three separate family groups who are then intermingled freely in subsequent books. Even though I didn't think it to be the author's best effort, I found A Woman Scorned to be a pleasant and enjoyable read. Ms. Carlyle remains one of my favorite authors and I look forward to continuing my exploration of her backlist.
Note: While none of Ms. Carlyle's earlier books seem to be officially considered a series and each seems to stand well on it's own story-wise, I would caution that reading her later books first may give away spoilers to her earlier books. Such was the case when I skipped A Woman Scorned and was left wishing that I had read it first. My suggestion for readers like myself who don't like any spoilers would be to begin with Ms. Carlyle's first book, My False Heart, and continue reading them in the chronological order in which she wrote them. It is also my opinion that the reading experience would be greatly enhanced by doing this, because Ms. Carlyle's character web is so complex. The entire backlist, in order, can be found on her website....more
"2.5 stars" I first read Loretta Chase's fabulous book, Lord of Scoundrels, over a year ago, and the book, as well as iReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"2.5 stars" I first read Loretta Chase's fabulous book, Lord of Scoundrels, over a year ago, and the book, as well as it's hero and heroine, still remain among my top 10 favorites today. I discovered, after reading Lord of Scoundrels, that it was part of a series, and there were two books which came before it. Having loved it so much, I was quite anxious to check out those other books, but I have to say that by comparison both have greatly disappointed me. While I did see a few faint glimmers of the writing style from Lord of Scoundrels, neither book, and Captives of the Night in particular, lived up to it's superior standard in my opinion. In fact there were times that I found it difficult to believe that the same author had written both books. I found Captives of the Night to be very heavy on the mystery element of the story to the point of overshadowing the romance, and in the end, neither aspect ever really grabbed my attention. To me, the book was very dry and lackluster, with no action to speak of at all. From my perspective, it mainly consisted of rather dull conversations, social interactions, and some character introspection. The first 2/3 of the book seemed to move at a snail's pace, and although the last 1/3 picked up a little, it was not enough to be really compelling. Overall, I'm afraid it was very much a let down for me.
As I already mentioned, neither the mystery nor the romance really struck a chord with me. In most of the mystery stories I have read, the author usually creates a line-up of potential suspects right from the start, dropping clues and hints of possible motives along the way, and making the reader think that each one may be the culprit. In Captives of the Night, the heroine is the first one to be suspected of her husband's murder, but of course we know that she cannot be the guilty party. As for who might be, the implication is made that nearly everyone in London hated him and may have had a motive. From there, each of the suspects were basically introduced individually, and thoroughly vetted by the hero and heroine's investigative skills to the point that I no longer took any of them seriously as the potential killer. This gave the feel of a very tedious 19th century procedural examination of a murder case that held little interest for me. It was probably very close to the reality of criminal investigation, even in the present day, but in my opinion, did not make for very compelling storytelling. I really prefer when the author of a mystery leaves a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow, so that I can attempt to figure out the bad guy for myself. In Captives of the Night, each little piece of the puzzle is laid out far too neatly, giving me virtually nothing about which to speculate. Admittedly, the real murderer was the person I least expected, so in that way I suppose it was somewhat well done. However, the reveal ended up being pretty anti-climactic. In addition, the romance aspect of the story fell completely flat for me. Except for one or two extremely brief moments, I felt no real emotion or true spark of passion between Ismal and Leila, not even any palpable sexual tension. I was simply never able to fully grasp what each of them was attracted to in the other, except that they seemed like two peas in a pod with rather similar personalities, perhaps too similar. They ended up arguing and vying for superiority almost constantly, which made their supposedly loving relationship very unbelievable to me.
I'm sure it didn't help matters, that I was not able to truly like either Ismal or Leila. Ismal had been the villain of the previous book, The Lion's Daughter, in which he had done some very bad things, including trying to overthrow his cousin, the leader of Albania (although he was a very distasteful character himself) and completely obsessing over the heroine of that story to the point of kidnapping and threatening to rape her. I knew that Ms. Chase was going to have to do something pretty spectacular to believably redeem Ismal in my eyes, and unfortunately, I didn't feel that she fully succeeded. She went more for the karma approach, with Ismal having repaid his “debt” both monetarily and in service to the British crown for the past ten years, but I would have preferred some good old-fashioned remorse and groveling. As it was written, it seemed like all the characters from The Lion's Daughter who appeared in Captives of the Night, had casually forgiven him and gone their merry way almost as though nothing had ever happened. Because of my knowledge of his misdeeds in the previous book, I personally was never able to fully buy into the notion of Ismal as the hero. Regrettably, Leila wasn't much easier for me to understand. I did have a little sympathy for her over her first husband's horrendous behavior, as well as his making fun of her passionate nature. I also enjoyed the couple of brief moments when she was playing the consummate seductress, and it was nice that she had cunning sleuthing skills equal to Ismal's. Otherwise though, Leila just wasn't very relatable to me. She frequently acted like a spoiled, temperamental, and generally unpleasant woman who was given to throwing tantrums. I can certainly enjoy a good spitfire heroine, but when they behave like Leila sometimes did, they just become gratingly annoying to me. Neither Ismal nor Leila ever showed any emotional vulnerability, which in my opinion, only served to make them seem like two very cold and unfeeling individuals.
Even the secondary characters were pretty one-dimensional. The only one I was able to connect with was Avory, a young man who was acquainted with Leila's husband and had been vulnerable to his manipulations. All he really wanted was to seek the hand of his one true love, but unfortunately, that unsavory association had caused nearly everyone to mistrust him. Ultimately though, Avory played such a small role in the story, he was never able to add much depth to it. As for the other characters, I didn't really have much respect for any of them. Everyone in the book, including Ismal and Leila, appeared to be moral relativists. No one was truly good or bad, not even the wretched deceased husband. All immoral behavior was brushed off in a far too casual and accepting way, with nearly everyone making excuses for everyone else. I believe that there are often shades of gray in life, but that there are also things which are simply black and white, right and wrong. Having the entire story be nothing but shades of gray absolutely drove me to distraction. While I didn't have to completely force myself to read the entire book like I have with a few others in the past, I did have to take a few breaks to read something else for a while. I'm sure that there are other readers who would enjoy this novel far more than I did, but I personally would not recommend it for anyone except perhaps, hard-core fans of Loretta Chase.
Captives of the Night is the second book in what I have sometimes seen called the Scoundrels series. The first book is The Lion's Daughter, and the ties between it and Captives of the Night are pretty significant. As I mentioned earlier, Ismal was the villain of that book and played a major role in the story. There is also a secondary character, Lady Brentmor, who has a fairly important part in both books. The third book in the series is Lord of Scoundrels, but the ties between it and Captives of the Night are extremely minimal, which would explain why I was able to read Lord of Scoundrels without really feeling like anything was missing. Ismal aka Comte d'Esmond made a very brief appearance in Lord of Scoundrels at the Vingt-Huit pleasure palace in Paris where Dain, the hero of that book, was engaging in debauchery with his friends. These two stories essentially take place simultaneously. Although I have some serious reservations at this point, I will in all likelihood read the final book, The Last Hellion, at some point just for the sake of completeness....more