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
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 "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 "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
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
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 lovReviewed 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
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
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
"4.5 stars" In my opinion, many erotic romances have a tendency to suffer from an overabundance of sex and underdevelopReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars" In my opinion, many erotic romances have a tendency to suffer from an overabundance of sex and underdevelopment of plot. Fortunately, Caine's Reckoning has no such issues. It has an interesting and engrossing storyline while still maintaining the steamy sexuality that tends to mark erotic romances. The overarching plot of the series, that of eight mostly unrelated but sexy alpha men who have banded together as a “family” to fight evil and injustice, reminds me in some ways of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Although I have to say that since one features sexy cowboys in the old west and the other sexy vampires in a contemporary urban setting, the similarities for the most part, end there. The individual premise of Caine's Reckoning was interesting as well. Between the heart-stopping romance, Desi's struggles to overcome her past, some wild west action, and a light mystery surrounding one of Desi's abusers and his motives, I had a hard time putting the book down. After reading several reviews for this book, I was expecting it to be very violent. While there were a couple of shoot-outs and one short 2 ½- page nightmare sequence that contained an explicit sexual assault, I found that most of the violence was left to the reader's imagination, and wasn't much worse than many other books I've read. That's not to say that it would be easy for everyone to read, and for this reason, I would caution sensitive readers about the content. I think that it simply didn't bother me as much, because in my opinion, the author didn't delve quite as deep into the emotional fall-out to Desi's psyche as some other authors with similar characters have done, and Desi was a very strong heroine as well.
I thought that Desi was an admirable heroine, a young woman who had suffered unthinkable abuse, and yet had never truly allowed herself to become a victim. When the story opens with her courageously fighting her captors like a hellcat while the other women sat passively by, I immediately liked her. Later when she showed tremendous vulnerability, it only endeared her to me further, as did her ability to frequently blush in spite of her “experience.” I also found her to be relatable as a young woman who had been raised as a prim, proper lady, but who always felt a burning passion inside trying to surface. It wasn't until she started stubbornly holding herself at arms length from Caine's gentle, loving overtures, that I had a bit harder time with her character, but ultimately, her actions were understandable in light of her past. Some stubborn heroines can tend to annoy me, but that wasn't really the case with Desi. I think I just spent most of that part of the story worried that her willfulness would cause her to do something really stupid, but when she exhibited intelligence and ingenuity in the end, she truly earned my respect. I also thought that when Desi was finally able to fully let herself go and surrender to Caine, trusting him completely, their resulting lovemaking was both darkly passionate and thoroughly beautiful and romantic, a heady combination indeed.
Caine was an incredibly appealing hero. Having lost his family at a young age, like all of the Hell's Eight men, he has a dark tortured past too, but it wasn't explored in as much detail as I would have liked. I suppose that is understandable though, as there shouldn't be too much darkness in one novel, or it would become depressing. Actually, I thought that Caine had a wry and sometime self-deprecating sense of humor which I enjoyed, and which also helped to lighten things up a bit here and there. He is a very dominating alpha male, but he has a heart of gold and isn't afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve when it comes to Desi. He also pampers her in the most thoroughly romantic ways, and has some of the most swoon-worthy lines I think I have ever read in a romance novel. I absolutely loved the way that he is completely committed to their marriage and being faithful to Desi right from the start, even though he had no intentions of getting married anytime soon and basically only agreed to it out of a sense of honor and duty. Even though Caine's every instinct is to dominate, he puts his own needs on hold and shows Desi an unbelievable amount of patience. I liked that Caine was very intelligent and intuitive when it came to Desi's needs. Time and time again, Caine proves that he is an honorable man who can be trusted with anything and who is the epitome of a true gentleman, a diamond in the rough. Even though I'm raving about him, Caine did have a few impatient moments when he allowed his desires to get the best of him, but I was still able to admire him because he immediately recognized his mistakes and admitted he was wrong. All in all, I thought he did pretty well for a guy in the old west who didn't have access to a psychotherapist for his wife.;-) Caine is definitely a hero I'll remember for a long time to come.
Though Caine's Reckoning was good enough to earn a place on my keeper shelf, it wasn't quite perfect. There were several scenes, a few of the love scenes in particular, that I thought were a little too verbose. I'm all for whispering sweet nothings during lovemaking, but sometimes it seemed like they were carrying on an entire conversation. In my opinion, it made these scenes feel rather forced, like the author was trying too hard to convince me of the character's passion and feelings instead of showing me. I think a few more descriptive details and a little less chattiness in these scenes would have made them flow a bit more naturally. There were also several scenes involving dialog, especially among multiple characters, where I had a difficult time determining who was speaking. Going back and reading the passages a second time usually cleared things up, but having to do this multiple times throughout the book was rather distracting. I would have to say that Desi's ability to overcome her past, not only the abuse but the sexually repressive atmosphere in which she was raised, was a little too quick, taking mere weeks instead of the months or even years that any real woman would have likely needed. However, since this is fiction and it was good otherwise, I can allow for a little creative license. I was also a little disappointed that the mystery surrounding the ringleader of Desi's captors was not fully resolved nor justice fully exacted, but I think this was meant to be something of a cliffhanger ending that is going to carry over into a future book or books. Overall, though this was a very good novel that I would definitely recommend.
Caine's Reckoning is the first book in the Hell's Eight series. It introduces the eight members of the group, some with brief background information and some only by name, but one, Sam, is given a slightly more detailed background and more scenes. He becomes the hero of the next book in the series, Sam's Creed. The third book, Tucker's Claim, is due out next spring with another, currently untitled, volume to follow by the end of 2009. Though she is not directly on the canvas in Caine's Reckoning, Desi's twin sister, Ari, is mentioned and does play a part in the mystery that was left unresolved. I suspect that she may become the heroine of a future book, possibly paired with Tracker, since he was the first to volunteer to search for her. Unfortunately, if my assumption is correct, it could be a while before readers get to experience their story. Caine's Reckoning was my first read by Sarah McCarty, but I am really looking forward to continuing the Hell's Eight series and checking out the other books that she has written too.
Note: This book contains explicit language, violence (as mentioned in my review), and sexual situations, including mild domination/submission, spanking and anal sex, which some readers may find offensive. However, considering the subject matter, everything was handled very tastefully in my opinion....more
Once again, Stephenie Meyer has created another entertaining and engrossing volume in the Twilight Saga. I had heard thReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
Once again, Stephenie Meyer has created another entertaining and engrossing volume in the Twilight Saga. I had heard that this was the “love triangle” portion of the story arc, and even though this is usually not something I care for in romances, it somehow just all came together and worked for me in this one. During the early parts of the book, I found myself feeling a little disappointed that the actual romance between Edward and Bella seemed to be fairly low-key, instead of the intense experience it had been in Twilight or even the reunion portion of New Moon. I came to realize by the last fourth of the book that this was all part of the genius of Ms. Meyer's writing, and all played into the love triangle aspect of the story. I've adored Edward since the beginning of the series, but I have always liked Jacob too and gained a new appreciation for him in New Moon. After reading Eclipse, I discovered how much I truly cared for both characters, but Edward was still “the one” for me. Still, Edward and Jacob are two very different characters with very different personalities, so I can see how some fans may be bothered by the direction that the story took. I just very naturally followed Bella's line of thinking and what appeared to be the natural course of the story, so it never bugged me in that way. I will admit though, that especially toward the end this became a very emotion-laden plot which understandably caused a lot of pain and heartache for all three characters involved. While Eclipse still has plenty of tense scenes including a wonderful suspense subplot, it does take on a decidedly lighter and less angst-ridden tone than it's two predecessors. There were many moments where I found myself smiling or even laughing at some character's teasing or other antics. Overall, I think that Eclipse had more of an equal balance among all of it's elements, and was an excellent set-up for the finale.
It was wonderful having Edward, Bella, and Jacob all together on the canvas throughout the entire book. Edward, as always, is still the perfect gentleman. He is kind, sensitive, forgiving and understanding, and while he constantly reminds Bella that he is not the perfect creature she thinks him to be, his self-control and selflessness are near-perfect things of rare beauty. Bella has been a character whose actions and choices I don't always agree with, but somehow I am still able to understand her. For instance, I am a hopeless romantic, so the prospect of marriage to someone like Edward would not be a difficult choice for me to make. Bella, however, fights not only the idea of a beautiful wedding, but also the marriage itself as though it were the most distasteful thing in the world. Again, I think this is part of the genius behind the storytelling, as the author allows me to live my own perspective vicariously through other characters. Bella also seems to always be thinking of everyone else before herself, so I was pleased to see her grow enough by the end to realize that it's OK to do something because it was right for her instead of just right for her loved ones. I did find myself wishing throughout much of the book though that Bella would ease up on the self-flagellation. She constantly seems to think that every bad thing that happens is somehow her fault and that she is a bad person because of it, when that clearly isn't the case. I think out of all three of these characters, Jacob changed the most, not just physically but emotionally as well. He is still the best friend who seems to know Bella better than she knows herself, but he is also now a young man in love, who is not above manipulating to get what he wants. Sometimes he flat-out acts like a jerk and is never really the noble hero that Edward is, but again, I somehow managed to understand him even though I didn't always agree with his actions. I found the dynamics of these three character's interactions to be utterly fascinating to read.
As with the two previous books in the series, the secondary character palette was extensive and diverse. A great deal of character and plot development takes place surrounding certain supporting players. Readers get to learn about Rosalie's heartbreaking backstory, how she became a vampire, and why she doesn't want to be one and thinks Bella shouldn't be one either. We also get to learn of Jasper's background as he takes up a leadership role in the climactic battle to keep Bella alive. In addition, readers will discover the distinct differences between the Northern vampires and the Southern vampires of which Jasper used to be one. Alice shows her sweet but shamelessly manipulative side as she continues to be Bella's best female friend, and one of my favorite characters. Even after three books, I still find myself completely enthralled by her and Jasper's special psychic and empathic abilities respectively. Some surprising new werewolves are added to the pack, and the riveting legends of the werewolf origins are related at a Quileute council meeting. (I have been thoroughly enjoying the Native American element of these stories.) Eclipse also sees the return of Victoria, the dangerous female vampire from Twilight, as well as the menacing and powerful Volturi from New Moon. Basically, almost all of the characters from the first two stories can be found in Eclipse, vampire, werewolf, and human alike, with the addition of a few new players and the deepening of a few characters who were barely seen before.
I felt that the mature content of Eclipse increased a fair bit over its predecessors. Even though there are still no actual sex scenes, there is a good deal more passion and sexual tension present, as well as the added complication of the love triangle. There are several discussions involving the topic of sex, but as with the first two books, they are all couched in subtle terms. There is also a brief mention of a new character being the illegitimate half-brother of an existing character whose father apparently had an extra-marital affair. Eclipse also sees a rise in the violence level. Due to the books being written in first-person perspective, Bella never personally saw any of the violent episodes in the past books, but in Eclipse, she bears witness first-hand to the destruction of vampires which is not a pretty sight. There are also some brutal events related through storytelling, including a gang rape and revenge for that act, but the character relating the events stops before any graphic details are revealed. In addition, there is continued racial tensions between the vampires and werewolves, including derogatory name-calling, but they are at least able to be reasonably civil. In my opinion, none of these things are worse than a PG-13 movie, so whether they would bother a reader would probably depend solely on the individual's sensitivity and imagination level. I also feel that there is a very good balance of positive messages for young people, such as self-sacrifice, self-control in all areas of life, abstinence from sex until marriage, respect for others, and simply trying to be the best person you possibly can be despite your circumstances. I have felt since beginning the series that there is a very strong morality tale embedded with all the other elements in these books. Keeping all this in mind, I would have to say that Eclipse along with it's companions are still fully appropriate for the teenagers for which they were originally intended, while still containing enough depth and nuance to stimulate some very thought-provoking discussion starters for both parents and educators.
In conclusion, I have to say that Stephenie Meyer is a huge asset to the writing community, and neither her talents nor the Twilight series have, in my opinion, been over-hyped by those who have favorably reviewed these books before me. Any author who can take characters that are very different from myself and make me like them anyway, or can address subject matter that would typically be uncomfortable enough to make me not want to read any book I knew contained it but make me like it anyway, has a true gift for the written word. In addition, any author who can write what was intended to be a novel for teenagers and have this adult and many others begging for more definitely has talent, because in my experience, it takes a very special knack for any writer to create a work that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. Eclipse has officially earned a place on my keeper shelf right next to Twilight and New Moon. I am very glad that I didn't discover the Twilight series until the final book was about to be released, otherwise the wait would have been excruciating. I am very anxious to read the final installment, Breaking Dawn, to find out how this romantic saga ends, although I have a feeling that I will have a difficult time letting these beloved characters go once I do. As with many other fans, I am eagerly awaiting the release of the Twilight movie in theaters later this month, so if it is done well, perhaps the films will become the vehicle for my newfound obsession.;-)...more
Night Pleasures is the first story in the Dark-Hunters series to actually get into the real meat of who the Dark-HunterReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
Night Pleasures is the first story in the Dark-Hunters series to actually get into the real meat of who the Dark-Hunters are and what they do. As such, it was a pretty good beginning to the overall story arc, but in my opinion, as an individual romance it suffered from a few of the same issues as it's predecessor, Dragonswan. There was plenty of material in this book, in particular Kyrian's tormented past, which should have lent itself to rip-your-heart-out moments, yet I found myself having a difficult time fully engaging my emotions while reading it. I think there were several reasons for this, the first of which was the instant “meeting and mating,” of which I am not very fond. While the first love scene did not take place until halfway through the book, only a few days had passed. In fact, the entire book takes place over the course of less than a week. Because of this, I had a very hard time suspending disbelief to accept Kyrian and Amanda's relationship and love for each other. I realize that an instant attraction between supernatural creatures and their mates is a staple of paranormal romance, and most of the time I have no problem with that, but in this case it didn't really work for me. While Ms. Kenyon certainly played up their physical attraction for one another right from the start (in fact almost too much), there was not really any supernatural bonding element to it, which is what has helped me to accept the “love at first sight” angle in other paranormal stories. Without that, there wasn't much else for me to grasp onto that would make their bond believable to me. Kyrian, very understandably, had serious trust issues, and I just couldn't seem to accept that someone would be able to overcome such deep-seated issues that had plagued him for two millennia in a just a few days. I suppose this is really more a matter of personal preference, but it did somewhat diminish my enjoyment of the novel.
A couple of other elements which may have affected my ability to emotionally connect with the story was the humor to drama ratio and having both of the characters possess supernatural abilities. I normally have enjoyed Sherrilyn Kenyon's mixture of humorous and dramatic elements, but in this book I didn't feel like it was quite perfect. Dramatic stories certainly need a little humor from time to time to lighten things up, and of course, without a little drama, a humorous story wouldn't really have a plot. In Night Pleasures though, I felt like there was too much drama to really consider it to be a romantic comedy, but there was too much humor for me to really take the dark, dramatic parts seriously. It seemed that every time I was starting to feel that emotional connection to the characters, they started joking around about something which jolted me out of what I thought should have been a very earnest scene. I think perhaps it would have been better if the comic relief had been left to just a couple of characters instead of all the characters occasionally tossing out the one-liners. As written, it just read a little too much like a funny action movie. Finally, both characters having otherworldly skills was an interesting twist from most other paranormal romances I've read to date, but here I felt like it diluted both characters to some extent. It made the solutions to some of their dangerous and difficult circumstances a little too easy and pat for my taste, when a lot more drama could have been wrung out of those situations. Also, I really like for tormented characters who are coming to terms with their past to do so by relating those events to their mate. I think it can go a long way toward building a poignant and trusting bond between them. In Night Pleasures though, Amanda accidentally finds out about Kyrian's past through her psychic talents, which in my opinion, closed a lot of doors for communication.
Kyrian and Amanda were both very nice, likable characters, but because of the previously cited issues I had with the story, I don't think I ever fully related to them. I love tortured heroes, and Kyrian is without a doubt one of those. I did sympathize with all his torment, both past and present, but I thought the author could have gone a little deeper with the feelings surrounding that. Kyrian was a very alpha male, so readers who enjoy those, should really like his character. While I didn't find him to be excessively alpha, perhaps it was still a little too much for me. I think this may have been why he didn't exhibit very much of the more tender feelings that I like to see from romance heroes. Amanda was an interesting heroine, feisty and spirited, in spite of her claims of being boring, yet even with her special gifts, she didn't really stand out to me that much. I think she would have benefited from a bit more character development. All the reader is really told about her is that she comes from a large family in which all the women have mystical powers, and that she has suppressed those powers because of a tragic incident in her teens. Again, I didn't really feel like this event packed the emotional punch that it should have. There were just many places in the story where I felt like the author was telling me things narratively rather than showing me, which I thought would have given the story a lot more depth. In spite of the lack of connection, I will admit that I enjoyed some of the character interactions between these two, particularly the last major love scene where Amanda helps Kyrian to overcome his deepest fears. I found it to be very sensual and creative.
While it may seem that I have a long list of criticisms of this book, I still thought Night Pleasures was a worthwhile read, and a definite must for Dark-Hunter fans, since it is really the first book in the series to delve into the actual Dark-Hunter world. Although there are a lot of names of species and sub-species bandied about, and I'm still not quite sure that I understand all the differences, I liked the world building that Ms. Kenyon has done, and expect that these things should work themselves out in future installments. Several characters are introduced in Night Pleasures who play important roles in upcoming books. There is Talon, a Celtic Dark-Hunter who becomes the hero of the next book, Night Embrace, and D'Alerian, a Dream-Hunter, who only played a small part, but who I found to be rather fascinating, though I'm not sure if he will be in any of the books yet to come or not. Readers are also given a good introduction to Amanda's identical twin sister, Tabitha, who is a human vampire hunter, and the villainous Valerius, who are paired together as the hero and heroine of book #12, Seize the Night. Valerius is so evil in this story, it will be very interesting to see how Ms. Kenyon manages to redeem him. The real villain of the story though, is Desiderius who creates a very sinister and menacing figure. I also liked Kyrian's squire, Nick, who was probably the most well-rendered secondary character, and the retired squire, Liz. I thought they were a hoot, and could have easily carried the comic relief all on their own. Fans of book #1, Fantasy Lover, also get a visit with Julian and Grace and their growing family, and Grace's best friend, Selena from that book also happens to be Amanda's sister. However, my favorite character at this point is still Acheron, the leader of the Dark-Hunters. I am completely enthralled by his mysterious relationship with Artemis and most of all the selfless sacrifices he makes for the Dark-Hunters. Sadly, it will be a very long time before I get to his story, but I sense a slow building of his character over time that hopefully will make for engaging reading. All in all, the Dark-Hunters series is a fascinating one that I really look forward to continuing. There are currently a total of 19 full-length novels in the Dark-Hunter series and quite a number of related novellas and graphic novels as well, with more still to come. A complete list of all the books and their recommended reading order can be found on Sherrilyn Kenyon's website.
Note: I thought it worth mentioning that since writing this review, I have discovered that the Valerius who I mentioned being a villain in this story is actually an ancestor of the Valerius who becomes a hero later in the series and not the same character.
"4.5 stars" After reading The Man Within, I am finally starting to see why so many romance readers love Lora Leigh's boReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars" After reading The Man Within, I am finally starting to see why so many romance readers love Lora Leigh's books. While I had liked the idea behind the Breeds series, Tempting the Beast, the first book, had failed to fully resonate with me. The Man Within now has me hooked on the series and wanting to know more. It continues the fascinating story of a group of humans who were cruelly treated as science experiments when their DNA was mixed with that of various predatory animals in an attempt to create the perfect soldier. No longer in hiding, the Breeds are now known to the public and living in their own compound, but are still in grave danger from their creators and extremist groups. This whole overarching sci-fi/suspense plot and continuing storyline has really drawn me into the Breeds world. I think the main reason I liked The Man Within better than Tempting the Beast was the relationship of the hero and heroine. Unlike it's predecessor, which had an immediate “meeting and mating,” Taber and Roni had known and been in love with each other for years, ever since she was a little girl. Taber was very protective of Roni throughout those years too which I thought added a nice touch. Another thing I enjoyed more was the love scenes, which for the most part exhibited the tenderness and loving feelings which I had felt were missing from Tempting the Beast. I also appreciated that the misunderstanding that had kept Taber and Roni apart for three years did not drag out for the entire book, but was resolved about halfway through.
Taber and Roni themselves also made the story more enjoyable for me, as I found them to be more relatable characters. I remember liking Taber as a secondary character in Tempting the Beast, and he definitely did not disappoint me in his own story. Because of his animal DNA, Taber still had dominating alpha tendencies, but I thought he had a very gentle, loving and even vulnerable side as well. I love that Taber was so protective of Roni even before he marked her as his mate, and wish that those years had been explored in a bit more depth. Overall, he was just a very yummy hero, in my opinion. I thought Roni was pretty likable too, as a young woman whose childhood had been extremely difficult, having lost her mother at a young age, and grown up with a father who was more interested in where his next con and his next bottle were coming from than his little girl. It was nice to know that Roni had found someone like Taber to watch over her during those years. Roni did annoy me a bit with her stubbornness, especially when it led to arguments or she was having trouble trusting Taber's judgment. She liked to say that it was Taber who was the stubborn one, but in my opinion, her's outweighed his by quite a bit. Roni did have a softer side though, and it was when she was letting it show through that I liked her the most. I thought she was at her best when she was being loving, giving and nurturing toward Taber. I also liked that in spite of her instinct to fight any male dominance in her life, that most of the time she was fairly willing to surrender herself to him. All in all I thought they were well-matched and had good chemistry in their relationship.
Even though I really liked The Man Within, and it has definitely earned a place on my keeper shelf, there were a few things I thought could have been better. I thought the editing in this book was better than in Tempting the Beast, but I found that it still had several typos and one glaring age discrepancy. There wasn't a lot of background information given on Taber other than the standard stuff that all the Breeds seem to have gone through in the lab. At one point Dawn said that Taber deserved happiness more than any of them, which led me to believe that there might be some big reveal about his past, but that never materialized. I also would have liked it if Dayan had been given more solid motives for his actions, which readers are still learning about even from beyond the grave. Right now, I just feel like that part of the story is a bit fuzzy and hope that it will be explored in more depth in future installments. I admit that I enjoy alpha males who occasionally use statements like, “You're mine” toward the heroine, but once or twice in one story is sufficient. I thought having Taber say it nearly every time they made love, and then some, was a little too overwhelming. I did enjoy that Roni returned the sentiment in one love scene, and found it to be a really fun reversal. As I mentioned earlier a bit less arguing would have been nice too, but at least Taber seemed to be more amused and aroused by Roni's obstinacy than anything else. Also, Taber and Roni's first love scene was a bit rough for my taste, leaving me with concerns that it was going to be that way throughout the entire story, but I was impressed when Taber immediately showed regrets for initially loosing control and made up for it by being generally more patient and restrained.
The Man Within is book #2 in the Breeds series and has a strong and varied secondary character palette. Several characters who were first introduced in book #1, Tempting the Beast, once again made appearances. Readers get to see Callan and Merinus again, not long after the ending of their own story. There are also quick visits from Tanner, a Bengal Breed, who becomes the hero of book #9, Tanner's Scheme, and Dawn, a cougar Breed, who becomes the heroine of book #14, Dawn's Awakening. Kane, Merinus's brother, and Sherra, a snow leopard Breed, who have a previous history together are also seen, and by the epilogue of this book, more of Sherra's secrets are revealed, leaving me very anxious to read their story, which is book #4, Kiss of Heat. Readers are also introduced to Mercury, a lion Breed, who becomes the hero of book #16, Mercury's War, which is due to be released in October, as well as a brief introduction to Seth who will become Dawn's mate in her story. There are currently a total of 15 novels and short stories in the Breeds series with more to come. According to Lora Leigh's website, she wrote the Breeds series out of order chronologically and it has been printed by two different publishers, making the ordering of the books confusing to some readers. For the proper order in which the books should be read, check out Ms. Leigh's website. The Man Within left a few rather open-ended threads with some mystery still shrouding a couple of Roni's long-lost relatives and who was trying to infiltrate the Breed compound, as well as the reveal of Sherra's past, which really make me look forward to continuing this engaging and creative series soon.
Note: This book contains extremely explicit language which may offend some readers and a couple of scenes of strong violence. The sexual content is frequent and sometimes intense, containing some erotic elements, but did not, in my opinion, contain anything particularly kinky....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Twilight was a grand romance which frequently left me smiling, but New Moon takes on a bittersweet, angst-filled and edgy toneReviewed for THC Reviews Twilight was a grand romance which frequently left me smiling, but New Moon takes on a bittersweet, angst-filled and edgy tone in this continuing dramatic saga of teen love between a vampire and a human. The book gets off to a rather explosive start, but rapidly turns to heavy sorrow when Edward make a fateful decision concerning Bella's safety. Following his decision, Edward is off the canvas for about the next two-thirds of the book, as is the entire Cullen family. During this time, the story is very reminiscent of Twilight in that it moves at a languid but steady pace while extensive character and relationship development occurs. The fall-out to Bella's psyche from Edward's choice is heart-wrenching to read. Stephenie Meyer is so good at writing Bella's agony, that I felt like my own heart had been ripped to shreds. Then a newfound depth in her friendship with Jacob Black, seems to be Bella's saving grace, bringing some sense of peace to her otherwise chaotic life. Still, danger lurks everywhere, bringing a certain level of suspense to the story, which then escalates into a taut thriller when an unfortunate misunderstanding places Alice and Bella in a race against time to save Edward from certain death. With so much going on, New Moon was yet another installment in the Twilight series that was extremely difficult to put down.
I can't help but continue to enjoy the characters in this series. I still like Bella very much, but I found myself wishing that she would have a little more confidence in Edward's love for her. After the beauty of their romance in Twilight, it was hard for me to understand how she couldn't, but ultimately, it seemed that her feelings of inadequacy – of not measuring up to a spectacular creature like Edward – simply got the best of her. Thankfully she did have an epiphany before the end, so hopefully will be beyond that stage by the next book. Bella also has a tendency to think of everyone else first (except when she's being reckless), which can be a very good trait, but also left me thinking that it might be nice if she took care of herself once in a while too. While Bella is still an accident-prone magnet for danger, I missed her endearing awkward clumsiness. Instead she is now living on the edge and seeking out the danger. It was also very difficult to read about her severe depression without being dragged down a bit myself. Edward is still the same thoughtful and loving hero I adored in Twilight though his absence for much of the story, left a huge hole, which was a major point of the story that I though the author conveyed magnificently. One of my favorite things about Edward is his wry, teasing sense of humor, but the tone of New Moon is so serious, it didn't allow for many of these moments to shine through. In Edward's absence, Bella develops a deep friendship with Jacob Black, who ends up being much more than she at first thought he was. Jacob also essentially becomes a second hero and the third point in a love triangle. While Bella never really feels more for Jacob than friendship or brotherly love, Jacob does fall for Bella. Jacob and Edward have very different personalities, but Jacob is such a wonderful character, I couldn't help but adore him too. While I don't think that his happily-ever-after does or should lie with Bella, I do hope he gets one eventually. These three characters have completely engrossed my attention, and I can't wait to see what develops next for them.
The secondary characters were wonderful as well. It was nice to see Charlie finally taking charge and acting more like a father. Most of the Cullens didn't play very big roles in this story, with the one exception being Alice. Because of her visions, she is an intriguing character who I hope will be front and center throughout the series, as I really like her breezy manner and no-nonsense attitude. New Moon also fills in a couple of the missing pieces of her human past. Although Carlisle only appears in a couple of scenes, he also fills in some missing pieces about himself and Edward. New Moon introduces Sam Uley and a “gang” of Native American teens who are far more than they seem to be on the surface and who play key roles in Jacob's life. Billy, Jacob's father, is also present, but doesn't take on a particularly strong role. Readers are also introduced to the Volturi, a group of vampires who live in Italy and are basically vampire royalty. They are at once both fascinating and monstrous creatures, and unlike the Cullens are extremely dangerous, posing yet another threat to Bella's existence. Overall, I thought the story had a varied and colorful character palette.
As with Twilight, New Moon did not contain any explicit elements – no sex, only a dozen or so mild profanities, and minimal violence. There is a scene though, in which a group of humans become unwitting prey for a group of blood-thirsty vampires. It does takes place in the background and is not played out explicitly, so whether or not it is disturbing for readers, would depend more on the individual's imagination and sensitivity level. I happen to have a very vivid imagination, so it did make me a tad squeamish. The story also contains several mature thematic elements, such as severe depression, discussion of and a near attempt of suicide, deliberately reckless behavior, and stealing cars (though for a good reason). There are also racial tensions between two classes of supernatural beings, which includes some derogatory name-calling. In addition, depending on the reader's point of view, it may seem that Edward and Bella's love for one another borders on obsession. Even I admit, that if these characters were real and normal, I would have been telling them to go get therapy and quick.;-) I've read enough paranormal romances though, to know that the bond that is shared by supernatural creatures and their mates is stronger, deeper and more permanent than most human bonds. It's just that in this particular story that bond gets a rather heavy treatment owing, in my opinion, to it's highly character-driven nature and emotional intensity. I still think that most mature teens should be able to handle all the complex subject matter, but all these elements would make great points of discussion for parents and educators.
In spite of the serious and sometimes even depressing overtones of the narrative, I found New Moon to be yet another fascinating read. I really enjoy stories that include some sort of spiritual element, and New Moon has one in the form of an ongoing debate over whether there is an afterlife for vampires or whether they truly are the eternal damned. I love stories that make me think and there is so much more going on beneath the surface in this one (even outside the spiritual thread), that I can't seem to help pondering it even after turning the final page. New Moon has earned a place on my keeper shelf right next to it's predecessor, Twilight, and I'll be eagerly looking forward to reading Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, the final two installments in the Twilight series, as well. Ms. Meyer is also planning a re-write of Twilight from Edward's perspective titled Midnight Sun. With two-for-two, Stephenie Meyer definitely deserves a place among my favorite authors. I will be very interested in reading The Host and seeing what other tales might be created from her fertile imagination....more
I had very mixed feelings about this story. There were things that I liked about it, but there were other things that really frustrated me and came peI had very mixed feelings about this story. There were things that I liked about it, but there were other things that really frustrated me and came perilously close to giving it wall-banger status, something that is highly unusual for me. It was a primarily character-driven story with nearly all the conflict being of an internal nature. I found the plot to be interesting but very predictable. While there were some emotional romantic moments, they were just too few and inconsistent. The love scenes were very hot and steamy, but just lacked a certain emotional depth. I think this was partly due to the back-and-forth, will-they-or-won't-they nature of the story which became rather tiresome.
I liked Edward and Florence, but didn't really feel that their characterizations were consistent and sometimes they just weren't relatable to me. Florence was a sweet simple vicar's daughter who was extremely naive particularly when it came to things of a sexual nature, but yet was very willing and even eager to participate in sexual intimacies that were out of the ordinary. She almost instantly went from innocent girl to hot sex kitten, something which I thought stretched the bounds of credibility. I felt like I generally understood Edward as the brooding, aloof hero, but what I never could really grasp was his compelling need to protect Freddie. What under other circumstances would have been an endearing bond between two brothers, ultimately felt like obsessive behavior on Edward's part. Also his assertion that Florence was Freddie's last hope of regaining some respectability in society just didn't ring true. It seemed to me that any young woman could have filled the position as Freddie's wife, considering that he never lacked female admirers. In the end I just found Edward too passive for me to be able to fully respect him. I actually liked Freddie more, because I never felt like he was trying to hide behind false pretenses, and admittedly he was a rather charming scene-stealer. This was my first read by Emma Holly and although I can tell she has talent as a writer, it is possible that her writing style simply may not be for me. However, I'll wait until I've read the sequel, Beyond Seduction before making further comment.
Note:Beyond Innocence reads much like a traditional historical romance, but in my opinion the sexual content and explicit language (both of which some may find offensive) rather pushed the boundaries of what most readers would consider traditional, giving it a mild erotic feel. There is also one passionate M/M kiss which, again, may offend some....more
"4 1/2 stars" After being less than impressed with Beyond Innocence it took me a while to talk myself into reading Beyond Seduction, but in my opinion"4 1/2 stars" After being less than impressed with Beyond Innocence it took me a while to talk myself into reading Beyond Seduction, but in my opinion, Emma Holly definitely redeemed herself with this one. It had the depth of emotion that I tend to prefer in my romance novels, but don't always find. It was amazing how the author could convey so much emotion with a mere touch or glance, or some other simple but meaningful gesture. This just left me with very warm feelings throughout the entire story. Many part of it were rather predictable, but Ms. Holly managed to throw out a couple of surprises that I didn't see coming. Overall it was a really satisfying read.
I really liked both Nic and Merry. In Beyond Innocence Merry was a rather independent, tom-boyish girl who rather shamelessly pursued the hero of that story, so I wasn't sure if I would like her as a heroine. My opinion of her changed very quickly though, as I came to understand her as a kind-hearted young woman who was outwardly brash, but inwardly insecure about her plain appearance. Nic was a wonderfully gentle beta hero with the sensitive heart of an artist and an eye for true beauty, who helped Merry realize what a desirable woman she really was. I just couldn't help but like him in spite of his flaws. I thought that the interactions between these two were incredibly romantic mostly because they both generously gave of themselves to each other. The story was rounded out by a large colorful cast of secondary characters consisting mainly of family and friends who ran a gamut of varying personalities.
Beyond Seduction was almost as much about flawed family ties and friendships and forgiving those we love, as it was about love and romance, which I thought gave it a much deeper meaning. This really helped to draw me into the story and overlook some of the more cliched elements which otherwise might have annoyed me. I really enjoyed reading Beyond Seduction. Sometimes it was difficult to put down, and it was always a pleasure to pick up again. Even though these two novels are a series, they can easily be read independently without loosing any storyline. Since I borrowed this from the library, I look forward to getting my own copy of Beyond Seduction for my keeper shelf.
Note:Beyond Seduction, reads very much like a traditional historical romance, but in my opinion, certain elements of the sexual content and a bit more explicit language (both of which some may find offensive) push the boundaries of what some readers may consider traditional, giving it a mild erotic feel....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 Amazing Gracie is an incredibly heartwarming story that made me laugh at Gracie's puppy antics, cheer at her and her humans' sReviewed for THC Reviews Amazing Gracie is an incredibly heartwarming story that made me laugh at Gracie's puppy antics, cheer at her and her humans' success in business, and cry buckets as Gracie's life on this mortal plane drew to a close. I can see why Gracie was such an inspiration to the authors of this story. She overcame the disabilities with which she was born and which nearly had her euthanized as a pup, to live a long and happy life. I truly commend Dan Dye for being up to the challenge, and for having the care and compassion to accept a dog like Gracie into his heart and his life. It is truly amazing how one person or creature can change the course of our lives, and Dan and Gracie did just that for each other. It was Gracie's health problems that started Dan and his best friend, Mark down the road of creating healthy, fresh food for dogs and founding Three Dog Bakery. This in turn has led to their phenomenal success in business and the culmination of a life-long dream of getting out of the rat race and working for themselves. It is likely that without Gracie, none of that would have been possible, which is truly “amazing”.
As I read Amazing Gracie, I got the feeling that Gracie must have been one of the greatest dogs in the world, and her “sisters” Sarah and Dottie weren't so bad themselves.:-) The authors' love for all the dogs, but particularly Gracie, really shines through in the narrative. I loved the humor of the story, especially when they assign human interpretations to doggie behavior. It simply made me laugh out loud. Their writing style is light, breezy and easily accessible to readers of all ages. I would even recommend the book for kids as young as middle school. I also thoroughly enjoyed the whimsical illustrations that can be found every few pages throughout the book. I thought they gave it the warm feeling of a Hallmark card. Most of the story was full of fun and games and delightful smiles, but I will warn readers to have a box of tissues handy for the ending. Having been through almost exactly the same thing with my own dog, I felt like I completely understood Dan Dye's thoughts and feelings at that time and what Gracie was going through too. That final chapter was heartbreaking, but in a good way, as I feel that Gracie's spirit lives on in the daily lives of the two men she inspired to start Three Dog Bakery and the bakery itself, as well as the Gracie Foundation. I imagine that Gracie must have touched the lives of nearly everyone she met in much the same way that she touched mine through her story. I borrowed Amazing Gracie from the library, but will definitely be acquiring a copy of my own for my keeper shelf. In my opinion, this book is a must read for all dog and general animal lovers. My dog and I just might have to pay a visit to our local Three Dog Bakery soon....more
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
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 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
"3.5 stars" I found Dragonswan to be an interesting departure from Sherrilyn Kenyon's usual writing style. I admit that I have only read a handful of"3.5 stars" I found Dragonswan to be an interesting departure from Sherrilyn Kenyon's usual writing style. I admit that I have only read a handful of her stories, but of the ones I have read to date, her style seems to be a combination of humorous and touching. Dragonswan had a little of both of these characteristics, but seemed much more serious in it's presentation of the mythological angle. It is related to the Dark-Hunters series, and I think that perhaps it is meant to present some extra history of that fantasy world. I'm a very detail-oriented person and consider myself to be pretty good at following complex story lines, but there were many names of characters and species that seemed to come out of left field when they were first mentioned, leaving me dazed and confused. Admittedly, a second read-through of certain passages cleared up some of my befuddlement, but I still finished the story feeling like there were gaps in the narrative and more questions yet to be answered. Perhaps some of these issues will be addressed in future Dark-Hunter installments, but I came away from this story with the feeling that they probably won't.
I liked both Sebastian and Channon, but felt like their characters were not fully developed. I am usually quite accepting of the concept of paranormal creatures falling instantly in love with their soulmate, but it didn't really work for me here. I think there were several reasons for this. One is that I am simply not a big fan of the hero and heroine falling into bed with one another at the first available opportunity, unless they have some prior relationship (e.g. friends, co-workers, etc.). Another reason is the previously cited lack of character development, which made it difficult for me to grasp their love connection, especially for Channon who was human and as such still had the free will to choose. That's not to say that Sebastian wasn't appealing. He certainly was, at least on a physical level, but I just didn't feel like I had enough background on him to form a deep emotional bond with his character. Lastly, Sebastian was initially not happy when the mating mark appeared, even though he had experienced more peace and pleasure with Channon than any other woman in his very long life. I also don't recall him ever telling Channon that he loved her, which is usually a must for me. On the plus side, Sebastian and Channon's scenes together were fairly romantic and the love scenes were spicy, but just seemed to lack Ms. Kenyon's usual flair for combining steamy passion with heart-stopping tenderness. Overall, I thought that Dragonswan was a good story that I mostly enjoyed reading, but I thought that it would have been much better as a longer novella or perhaps even a full-length novel, where more details could have been added to fill in some of the blanks.
Dragonswan used to be considered the third book in the Dark-Hunter series, and I read it in that order. It has since been reclassified as a related novella. Dragonswan was previously published in the anthology, Tapestry, was reprinted in a single-volume format, and republished again in the Other Worlds anthology. As such it is a very short book at only 86 pages. No characters from the first two Dark-Hunter stories appear in Dragonswan, and at this point, I am not certain whether any Dragonswan characters appear in future Dark-Hunter installments. I have the feeling though, that there are no carry-over characters in either direction, and Dragonswan is really more of a stand-alone story that is simply part of the Dark-Hunter world. There are currently a total of 17 full-length novels in the Dark-Hunter series and quite a number of related novellas and graphic novels as well, with more still to come. For a complete listing of all the books and the order in which they should be read, check out Sherrilyn Kenyon's website. Even though Dragonswan didn't quite capture my attention like the first two stories I read in the Dark-Hunter series, I still look forward to continuing it soon. Sherrilyn Kenyon also writes historical romance under the name Kinley MacGregor.
"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
Reviewed for THC Reviews Born to Be BAD is an anthology of three contemporary novellas that include some light suspense elements. They comprise the firReviewed for THC Reviews Born to Be BAD is an anthology of three contemporary novellas that include some light suspense elements. They comprise the first three stories (a prequel of sorts) in Sherrilyn Kenyon's B.A.D. Agency series.
One BAD Night "4 stars" In my opinion, One BAD Night was the most well-written of the original trio of B.A.D. stories with respect to the plot. It has a little something for everyone, action, adventure, suspense, romance and passion. It may not have been entirely believable, but it was highly entertaining. One BAD Night was somewhat reminiscent of watching an episode of the television show, Alias. Reading about Jason and Sam and the intrigue of them trying to elude the bad guys was great fun. I didn't think the characterizations were quite as well fleshed out as they were in the first two novellas, but the fast pace of the narrative helped to make up for this deficiency. In the short story format, there usually isn't a lot of space for both plot and characters to be thoroughly developed anyway.
Sam was a rather feisty, spitfire heroine, who was initially ready to kill Jason, but quickly warmed up to his charming personality. I really enjoyed their bantering. It was not only humorous, but usually charged with sexual innuendos, which made it all the more fun. I thought that Jason and Sam were a very well-matched couple who had great chemistry. Their love scenes were quite steamy, while still being sweet and tender, which seems to be a Sherrilyn Kenyon trademark.
The main secondary character, Renate, an unassuming, middle-aged woman who can fight like a commando, was a hoot. Readers are treated to brief appearances by Agent Retter and B.A.D. co-directors, Joe and Tee, who also appeared in the first two novellas. I sense a story for Joe and Tee sometime in the future, and greatly look forward to Ms. Kenyon eventually writing it. One BAD Night is the third story in the B.A.D. Agency series. I found it to be yet another enjoyable tale, and a great wrap-up to this anthology.
BAD to the Bone "4 stars" 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 Born to Be BAD are something of a prequel to the main B.A.D. Agency series. It was first published in the Big Guns Out of Uniform anthology, and was later reprinted in this single-volume anthology. BAD to the Bone 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.
"Captivated" by You "4 stars" "Captivated" by You was another fun-filled offering in the B.A.D. Agency series that I found very enjoyable to read. The hero and heroine, Ace and Rhea are both very likable and relatable characters. They begin the story with lots of humorous sharp-witted banter that is laced with sexual innuendo, but quickly evolves into passion when they are thrown together on a mission that involves some sizzling hot situations. Their love scenes involved some light bondage and domination which may not be some readers cup of tea, but in my opinion they were very mild and written very tastefully. In fact, I thought these scenes were quite nice, with Ace and Rhea showing a beautiful level of trust in each other and lots of playful sensuality. I loved that Ace was full of bluster and then seemed almost as out of his element in the B&D atmosphere as Rhea was. There was just enough character development to make their fast-moving relationship at least somewhat believable, and I liked how the author took the time to explain why each of them chose to work for B.A.D. which also added a bit of depth. Ace and Rhea's actual mission ended up being more humorous than suspenseful, but overall I found this novella to be another delightful, escapist read. My only complaint would be that it simply wasn't long enough.
"Captivated" by You is the second story in the B.A.D. Agency series. It was first published in the Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down anthology, and was later reprinted in this single-volume anthology. Secondary characters Joe and Tee, the leaders of B.A.D., as well as agents Dieter and Retter from BAD to the Bone, make another appearance, with a few more details being added to their characters. I really look forward to continuing this entertaining series.
First Comes Baby is a sweet, tender love story about two best friends who decide to have a baby together, but not in the usual way. Laurel was brutallFirst Comes Baby is a sweet, tender love story about two best friends who decide to have a baby together, but not in the usual way. Laurel was brutally raped about five years earlier and is not sure that she ever wants to have a physical relationship with any man again, but she longs for a child and decides that she would like to have one via IVF. Enter her best friend Caleb who willingly volunteers for the job of fathering her baby. Of course, babies always change things and their case is no exception. In addition to realizing how deep their feeling truly run for each other, both characters begin to make life changes, but Laurel especially. The romance and the baby are the main focus, but the story also explores Laurel's rebuilding of old friendships that she had allowed to stagnate during the time following the attack, as well as her continuing emotional recovery.
I really liked both Caleb and Laurel. Laurel was a sweet heroine who had been through a lot, and while I might not have made the same choices she did, I usually felt like I could understand where she was coming from. Caleb was a wonderful beta hero who was a very kind and sensitive man. I loved the idealistic humanitarian in him and how he had basically devoted his life to helping needy people in third-world countries to become more self-sufficient. What I appreciated most about him though was his unwavering commitment to Laurel and their friendship no matter what. A man who takes his promises as seriously as Caleb did is a real keeper in my book. I found First Comes Baby to be a light, easy read that managed to evoke a lot of heart-felt emotions in spite of it's simplicity. Even though I have read books with stronger writing, it was still a pleasurable read. This was my first book by Janice Kay Johnson, but it left me with such a cozy, content feeling, I would definitely be open to reading more of her works in the future.
This book is part of the Harlequin theme series 9 Months Later....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
"4.5 stars" Lord of Ice is another winning story from Gaelen Foley. In my opinion, it was a little light on the romance,Reviewed for www.thcreview.com
"4.5 stars" Lord of Ice is another winning story from Gaelen Foley. In my opinion, it was a little light on the romance, with the historical and suspense elements being given almost equal weight, but it was still a wonderful and engaging book. I did not find this to be a predictable read at all. There were several times that the direction of the story surprised me, but none more so than the ending or perhaps I should say endings. The main plot of the story climaxed about forty pages or so from the end of the book and then turned in a completely unexpected direction, actually giving it a second ending of sorts plus an epilogue. I'm not really sure this second ending was necessary, but it did give another slice of life scenario to this appealing couple. I loved the warm family atmosphere surrounding the Knight clan. Even though they are of mixed parentage and each of the siblings has a distinct personality, they are a very close-knit and welcoming family. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Miranda spies the Knight brothers having a late-night snowball fight like a bunch of unruly schoolboys. It was an extremely heartwarming scene that left a huge smile on my face. I also really appreciate Ms. Foley's use of details to enrich the narrative. In some books I have read, such descriptions can be dry and slow the pace, but in Lord of Ice, everything from the account of the Knight family's Christmas celebration to the political climate of the era was woven together seamlessly and in an engaging way that made it seem like I was actually there.
Damien and Miranda were a memorable hero and heroine. Damien is an intense, tortured alpha with the call of the warrior in his blood and an extreme case of PTSD from the time he spent in the Peninsular War fighting on the front lines. After an incident in Lord of Fire, where he lost track of where he was and came back to himself with weapons in his hands, he decided to live a solitary life for the safety of his loved ones. The psychological pain Damien experiences is so intense that he has thought of killing himself more than once, and he has a few flashbacks that were violent enough to make me a tad squeamish, one involving a horse, which as an animal lover, was particularly disturbing. Miranda is a strong, independent-minded young lady, who is a spitfire without being shrewish and is gentle and sensitive without being a push-over, which is an amazing balance for an author to be able to strike. At first, I found myself thinking of Miranda in a childish way, but perhaps that was a stroke of genius on Ms. Foley's part, since that is what Damien had initially thought as well. It didn't take long for Miranda to “grow up”, and although she did lie to Damien a few times, I am happy to say that she never had any TSTL moments. She was a very smart girl, who always seemed to know when to cut her losses and simply tell the truth. Miranda had been through tremendous pain in her own life. She was a bastard child, lost her parents at a young age, was sent to live in a terrible boarding school where she was abused, and now her own uncle is trying to kill her, yet she somehow still maintains a spirited, “glass half-full” approach to life. My other favorite scene is when Miranda tried to get a rise out of the buttoned-up Damien by saying some rather scandalous things, which made me laugh. Miranda is not afraid to go after what she wants, and that, she discovers pretty quickly, is Damien. She is almost the exact opposite of Damien, but is deftly able to handle him, even in his darkest moments. I loved her fearlessness, determination and loyalty to her man, and how she never gave up on him, even when he tried his best to drive her away. The personalities of this couple reminded me a great deal of the hero and heroine from Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels, so anyone who has enjoyed that book, should like this one and vice versa.
The cast of secondary characters was superb with all the Knight siblings playing fairly significant roles except for black sheep, Jack, who has yet to make an appearance. It was so nice to catch up with Robert and Bel from The Duke, as well as Lucien and Alice from Lord of Fire, and see the changes in their lives. I like that these books seem to take place almost consecutively, with no time lost in between stories. Also present were Jacinda, Lizzie and Alec who get their own books later in the series. There were also brief appearances by Bel's father from The Duke and two of Lucien's young secret agents from Lord of Fire. Readers are given an introduction to the scandalous but charming thief, Billy Blade, who becomes the hero and object of Jacinda's affection in the next book, Lady of Desire, as well as, the dashing Ian “Griff” Prescott, who becomes the hero of Her Only Desire, the first book in the Spice Trilogy spin-off series. I have to say that both of these men have definitely peaked my interest. With Mr. Reed and Miss Brocklehurst, the headmaster and headmistress of the girl's school; the evil Algernon Sherbrooke, Miranda's murderous uncle; and all of his cronies from the Raptors street gang, there were bad guys aplenty. There was also Algernon's son, Crispin, who is a dissolute rake with a gambling problem, but who doesn't quite seem to have his father's penchant for villainy. All in all this was a very full and well-rounded cast that made the narrative even more robust.
There was very little I didn't like about the book, but if there was one thing I could change it would be that Damien and Miranda would have had more scenes together. When Damien let his guard down, and they were in each other's presence, they lit up the pages, but most of the time Damien kept Miranda at arms length, thinking it best for her safety. I sometimes wished that he would lighten up a little and not be so stubborn, as I sometimes felt like there was an arctic chill emanating from the pages. Then again, he was very alpha, making those characteristics consistent with his personality. Also, it was pretty overtly implied that Miranda was molested by the headmaster of her school, but other than the mere acknowledgment of the abuse and justice being served, this aspect of her life was never really explored. I found this to be a little disappointing, but I suppose understandable considering the sheer volume of events that were already on the canvas, as well as the darkness of Damien's PTSD. The inclusion of too many unhappy incidents would have made the story depressing, when a large part of it was pretty intense already. Overall though, these were fairly minor detractors from an otherwise extremely well-written novel. I don't think that any author to date has given me three keepers right in a row, but Gaelen Foley did just that with the first three books of her Knight Miscellany series which I greatly look forward to continuing soon. Lord of Ice is preceded by The Duke and Lord of Fire and is followed by Lady of Desire, Devil Takes a Bride, One Night of Sin and His Wicked Kiss. While Lord of Ice was not to my knowledge ever billed as a Christmas story, the bulk of it does take place around that time of year, making it a timely read for the upcoming holiday season....more
Lord of Fire was a fabulous book that has a little bit of everything: heart-pounding action and suspense, spy intrigue, history, and best of all, swooLord of Fire was a fabulous book that has a little bit of everything: heart-pounding action and suspense, spy intrigue, history, and best of all, swoon-worthy romance. Galen Foley's writing style contains a richness of detail that vividly brings to life the world she has created, making me feel like I had actually been transported to another time and place. It is apparent to me through reading her books and looking at her website that Ms. Foley is meticulous with her historical research, and it definitely shows in her writing. I also loved that the author kept me on my toes throughout the story. Every time I thought that she was going to resort to some well-worn plot device, she surprised me. There were many times I thought that Lucien and Alice were going to have the “big misunderstanding,” but then not long after a confession would be forthcoming. They did have a few quarrels, which can often be irritating to me, but in this case, I found them to be genuine issues that a couple in their circumstances might actually have to face, rather than just petty bickering. Even though there were a couple of things that I predicted would happen early on, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the novel, because there were plenty of things that didn't go as I expected. I normally am not a fan of love at first sight stories, but Ms. Foley managed to make me believe in this couple's love for one another and a lasting happily-ever-after, even though they had only know each other for a short time. She accomplished this by creating a deep emotional connection between Lucien and Alice, as well as between the characters and the reader, by having them get to know each other fairly intimately before sharing physical intimacies. Admittedly, the love scenes are few, but I found the sexual tension to be exquisite and laden with tender emotions. All in all, Lord of Fire was a very well-rounded story that kept me excited about reading it.
Lucien and Alice were a wonderful and perfectly matched couple. In spite of his charming personality, Lucien is a tortured soul. Working deep undercover as a spy for the Crown, he lives a dark, rather solitary existence. Personally knowing someone who has done deep cover law enforcement work and having heard some of his stories, I felt that the aloneness and soul-searing intensity of Lucien's work was very realistically rendered. It was a fabulous contrast of dark and light, and doing things you really don't want to for the greater good. Lucien loved his twin, Damien, deeply, and their recent estrangement over Lucien's choice of professions has left him feeling more alone then ever. Yet, Lucien has always felt like he was living in his brother's shadow and never quite measuring up. When Alice unexpectedly shows up in Lucien's life she brings the light of her innocence and goodness into his darkened world, making his heart long for things he thought lost to him forever. When Lucien used trickery and manipulation to keep Alice at his country estate, I wasn't sure I would like him, but aside from that one lapse, he behaved in a gentlemanly way for the remainder of the book, which endeared him to both me and Alice. I thought Alice was a very well-balanced heroine. She was kind, caring and intuitive, understanding Lucien in a way that most people didn't, and he reciprocated in kind. She also had spunk and spirit, speaking her mind to both Lucien and her sister-in-law, Caro, when the circumstances warranted. There were a few time when Alice's spunk led her into potentially dangerous situations, but I felt like I generally understood her reasoning and that she was usually just trying to protect those she loved. Overall, I found Lucien and Alice to be a delightful couple who were a pleasure to read.
The palette of secondary characters was varied and interesting. Lucien's rogues were charming and entertaining. The main villain, Claude Bardou, was irredeemably evil, bringing a dangerous menace to the story. There are a couple of other foreign spies, an American double-agent and a Russian woman, who added a bit of extra intrigue. Alice's sister-in-law, Caro, is very well-rendered as a flamboyant, self-centered woman who rarely thinks of anything but her own pleasures, and has little interest in even trying to be a good mother to her three-year-old son, Harry. Harry is a sweet, endearing child who charms nearly everyone with whom he comes in contact. In addition to these, there are a whole host of other supporting characters who for the most part play small roles, but manage to add a great deal of depth to the other characters and the narrative. The most realistic and intriguing of the secondary characters though, is Lucien's identical twin brother, Damien. These two rogues may look alike, but their personalities are opposites, with Lucien being a charming, smooth-tongued devil and Damien being more staid, reserved and uncomfortable in social settings. Most interesting of all is the sympathetic portrayal of Damien as an honorable man and wounded war hero suffering from severe PTSD. I was so fascinated by Damien that I can hardly wait to read the next book in the series, Lord of Ice, in which he becomes the hero.
Lord of Fire is the second book in the Knight Miscellany series. It is preceded by The Duke, which was another wonderful book. I wasn't sure that Ms. Foley would be able to equal it, but I was mistaken. As much as I enjoyed The Duke, I actually liked Lord of Fire slightly better. The remaining books in the series are Lord of Ice, Lady of Desire, Devil Takes a Bride, One Night of Sin and His Wicked Kiss. I love Ms. Foley's writing style, and think that she has found a great balance between descriptive prose and beautiful dialog. With two keepers in a row, she has definitely earned a place on my favorite authors list. In fact, I have already ordered a copy of Lord of Ice and will be anxiously watching for it to arrive in my mailbox, so that I can read sexy, tortured twin, Damien's story and continue this enchanting and thoroughly romantic series....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
Reviewed for THC Reviews I have to admit that I haven't read a great deal of young adult literature during my adult life, so I wasn't quite sure what tReviewed for THC Reviews I have to admit that I haven't read a great deal of young adult literature during my adult life, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Twilight. There was also a great deal of hype surrounding this book, which can sometimes mean a really great book and other times can be a big letdown. Now that I have finally read Twilight, I have to say that it definitely lived up to the hype for me. I absolutely loved this tale of teen love between a human and a vampire. With this type of subject matter the story could have been completely campy, but instead was very beautiful, in my opinion, with enough romance and substance to rival the best adult romance novels. In fact, I thought that Twilight exhibited a surprising depth of emotion, intimacy and even sensuality without ever resorting to anything explicit. I think the intimacy was owing in large part to the amazing level of communication between Bella and Edward. These two teen protagonists affected more stark honesty in their communication than many adult characters in romance novels, rarely holding anything back from each other. Edward was even forthcoming about who and what he was far sooner than I ever expected him to be. The sensuality was conveyed through simple things like smiles, kisses and touches and most importantly their beautiful dialog. Of course much of this was possible because, neither Edward nor Bella, were really “normal” teenagers. I'm sure I wouldn't have enjoyed the book nearly as much as I did if the main teen characters had behaved in what has seemed to become the “typical” teen manner of extreme cattiness, rebellion, and out-of-control hormones. Instead, the story became a refreshing take on teen behavior, and a gentle reminder that not all teens do behave in the “typical” way.
I honestly can't think of a single thing that's not to like about the two main characters, Edward and Bella. Edward is a kind, sensitive and loving beta hero with a dash of alpha protectiveness (he probably wouldn't be a very good vampire without that). He wages a constant battle in his own mind between the knowledge that Bella is perfect for him and the knowledge that being near him will only increase the risks for his adorable but accident-prone danger-magnet. Edward is frequently reminding Bella of the risk he himself poses to her very life, and yet he always behaves as a perfect gentleman, even in the most difficult circumstances. I also love the gentle way that Edward teases Bella, and sometimes she gives back in kind. I enjoyed this banter and thought that it gave a lightly humorous dimension to the story. In addition to having a good sense of humor, Bella was also very intelligent, shy and a bit socially awkward, and endearingly clumsy, making her entirely relatable to me. Bella considered herself to be a very plain, ordinary girl, but Edward thought her to be completely beautiful. Having played the role of parent in her relationship with both of her parents, one could say that Bella had not had the most ideal upbringing, but it did not stop her from being the best person she could be or loving her parents dearly. I think Bella's best trait though, was her intuitive nature about Edward and things in general. I love it when the heroine in romance novels can simply sense things about the hero and read into that accordingly. Bella did have one moment where I would predict that many adult readers would consider her TSTL (too-stupid-to-live), but I was able to forgive that lapse because of her youth and inexperience with such dangerous situations. Overall, both Edward and Bella were two engaging characters who sparkled (no pun intended, but you'll get it when you read the book) in nearly every scene that they shared. I greatly enjoyed reading them and thought that they complimented each other perfectly.
The secondary cast of characters was a wonderful dichotomous mix of both the human and the supernatural. There were Bella's high school friends, who were generally a mix of pretty good kids, the type I wouldn't mind my own kids being friends with or would have liked being friends with myself in my teen years. Edward's family was an eclectic mix of personalities. There was Emmet, the big, lovable lug of a teddy bear, mysterious and aloof Rosalie, Alice and Jasper with their amazing psychic and empathic gifts, and their “parents,” Carlisle (aka Dr. Cullen) and Esme who have their own fascinating back-stories. I also found the Native American father and son characters, Billy and Jacob Black to be intriguing. They seem to share some contentious history with the Cullens which isn't fully explored in this volume. It will be very interesting to see where this part of the story leads in future installments.
Twilight is a very sweet and innocent romance, which I mentioned earlier has no explicit elements. There is no sex, only a couple of mild profanities, and considering that the subject matter deals with vampires, the violence is kept to a minimum. In my opinion, this book is quite appropriate for the age group for which it is intended. I would have no problem at all with my children reading it when they are a bit older. In fact, I felt as I read the book that it sends some positive family and relationship messages to teens. Even though Bella's relationship with her parents is less than ideal, there is still love and respect between them, and Edward seems to have very loving “family” connections as well. What I liked most though, is the development of Edward and Bella's romance. Their physiological attraction to each other is immediate and powerful, yet they take the time to build a friendship that is based on mutual trust, respect and love, which is more than can be said for many adults. Edward and Bella only discuss sex one time over the course of the novel and in very subtle terms, but in my opinion, Edward's blood lust could be taken as something of a metaphor for sexual desire. Whether taken in the metaphorical or mythological context, I thought that Edward's self-control contained a beautiful message of his pure love for Bella superseding all other desires.
I found Twilight to be a thoroughly enjoyable read which has earned a place on my keeper shelf. The first two-thirds of the book moves at a rather languid but steady pace owing to the extensive character and relationship development. After that, it almost instantly turns into a taut suspense/thriller when Bella's life is threatened. This is one of those books that was very difficult to put down. I just couldn't wait to see what might happen next or what new piece of the puzzle might be revealed, and Ms. Meyer also did not disappoint with her own unique take on vampire mythology. Even though the book is written entirely in first-person from Bella's perspective, I thought the author did a good job of conveying Edward's thoughts and feelings too, through extensive use of dialog. As an aside, I really liked the small-town atmosphere of Forks, but as a Phoenician, I couldn't help but have a soft spot for the scenes in Phoenix. As such, I can attest to all the place names being real and the descriptions of the city to be spot on, which isn't surprising since Ms. Meyer is a Phoenician as well. It was rather surreal but also pretty cool to read scenes that are set in places that I have actually been. Twilight is the first volume in the Twilight Saga followed by New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. Ms. Meyer is also planning a re-write of Twilight from Edward's perspective titled Midnight Sun. I am really looking forward to continuing this fascinating series, and even though I am often disappointed with movie versions of my favorite novels, I am truly looking forward to the the Twilight movie which is due to be released in theaters this December....more