Fantasy Lover is the first full-length novel by Sherrilyn Kenyon that I have read, and I absolutely loved it. It was packed with thoroughly romantic mFantasy Lover is the first full-length novel by Sherrilyn Kenyon that I have read, and I absolutely loved it. It was packed with thoroughly romantic moments and beautiful sensuality that was sheer perfection for me, and that was even without the hero and heroine actually having sex until the very end of the book. I consider myself to be a very girly girl, and I find that Ms. Kenyon's writing style has a very feminine quality that is very appealing to me. I like the balance that she finds between the serious side of life and finding humor even in dark circumstances. I thought that the use of Greek gods and goddesses as secondary characters was a very unique element that made me want to go brush up on my knowledge of Greek mythology. Some people seemed to think that the ending was too rushed, and while I could in some ways see where they're coming from, I really didn't mind. For me it was full of unexpected twists and turns that engaged my attention so much that I completely lost track of time.
I loved both Grace and Julian. They were just as perfect for me as the story was as a whole. Julian is the classic tortured hero, completely gorgeous on the outside but feeling unworthy of true love because of his past. Grace was just as sweet as could be and very relatable for me. While some readers thought her to be weak because of her tender-heartedness, I thought that she had a quiet inner strength and determination that was endearing. What I liked most about Grace and Julian's relationship is how they gave so freely and unselfishly to each other. When Julian sold his most precious possession to replace Grace's most precious possessions that were destroyed, my heart just did flip-flops. Also, being the book lover that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes where Julian derives so much pleasure from Grace reading to him. Sometimes it's just the little things that make a character or a story special for me. I know I probably sound like a gushing fan-girl, but I really did love this book, and can't wait to read more of the Dark-Hunter series. I borrowed this book from the library, but I will definitely be getting my own copy to place on my keeper shelf. It is very rare for me to place an author among my favorites when I have read so few of their works (I've only read one other novella by her), but I relate to Sherrilyn Kenyon's writing style so much, I couldn't imagine that I wouldn't enjoy almost anything she's written....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Viscount Who Loved Me was a reasonably entertaining read that contained moments which were both amusing and touching. TherReviewed for THC Reviews The Viscount Who Loved Me was a reasonably entertaining read that contained moments which were both amusing and touching. There was lots of Julia Quinn's trademark witty bantering, although I have to admit that in a few places the story seemed a bit dialog heavy. In my opinion, this gave it a rather frenetic feel, which was sometimes tiring to read. Some of the situations were quite amusing and good for a few laughs. Kate's overweight corgi leading them on a merry chase through the park and the Bridgerton siblings' ultra-competitive game of Pall Mall are two that come to mind. While the hero and heroine here aren't quite a tortured as other romance characters I've read, they do both have some demons to overcome, which led to some brief angsty moments. I also liked how Anthony and Kate supported each other through those difficulties, because it showed just how much they really cared for one another.
Anthony was only eighteen when he had to grow up far too quickly, take up his title, and become the man of the family upon his father's death at a young age. As a consequence, Anthony has an overinflated sense of his own mortality. However irrational it may seem, he fully believes that he too, without question, is going to die young. To some extent he lives his life in the moment, taking his pleasure where he can, and as a result has earned a reputation as an unrepentant rake. However, Anthony has decided that it's time to settle down with a wife and carry on the family legacy by producing an heir. He chooses to look for a woman who meets certain qualifications, but with whom he believes there is no chance of him falling in love. Since his parents had a happy marriage, he knows that love is real, but he thinks it will only complicate his impending demise. In his quest for a loveless union, he stubbornly pursues the current toast of the ton, while finding his heart inexplicably drawn to her Plain Jane sister. Anthony did have one scene where he acts like a bit of a jerk toward Kate, but at least he had the decency to feel guilty about it and apologize later. Otherwise, as Kate gradually learned, he was a pretty good guy who adores his family and tries to do the right thing. I especially enjoyed the scenes where he helps Kate through her panic during storms.
Kate has strong family ties of her own. Although her parents are gone, she still has her stepmother who has been a mother to her in every way that counts, and a half-sister who she loves very much. I enjoyed Kate and Edwina's sisterly bantering. When Kate discovers that the disreputable Anthony has designs on Edwina, she vows to do everything in her power to prevent him from getting anywhere near her, much less marrying her. This led to lots of arguments with Anthony for about the first half of the book. I thought this kind of negated their moments of attraction and passion, making it feel like they were constantly taking two steps forward and one step back. Even though Kate loves her sister dearly, she can't help harboring some insecurities when she's around. Kate is a shrinking violet next to Edwina's incomparable beauty, which has led to some self-esteem issues for her. As she begins to see Anthony for the man he really is, she wishes that he would take notice of her, of course, not realizing he already has. Then she has to deal with her paralyzing fear of thunderstorms, but I think having to face some issues herself made her more accepting of, and sympathetic toward, Anthony's fears when he finally fesses up.
You can't have a Bridgerton book without a bevy of Bridgerton siblings. I believe all seven of them put in an appearance in one way or another, even if they didn't have any dialog. I love Colin's (Romancing Mr. Bridgerton) devil-may-care attitude. He always seems to keep me smiling. Benedict, who becomes the hero of An Offer from a Gentleman, the next book in the series, put in a couples of appearances too, and Eloise (To Sir Phillip, With Love) gets to play the caring and mildly meddlesome younger sister. I enjoyed seeing Simon and Daphne (The Duke and I) again, and knowing that they will soon be having a baby. I particularly liked Kate's sister, Edwina. With her bookish nature and desire for a scholarly husband, I think she would have made an interesting heroine of her own story, but since she finds her special someone in this book, I doubt we'll ever see that happen.
I can't deny that Julia Quinn is a good writer from a technical perspective, but even though I've enjoyed certain aspects of her stories, I can't say that the two I've read so far have drawn me in and impressed me in quite the same way they have other romance readers. With The Viscount Who Loved Me, maybe it was because it started with a love/hate relationship (not my favorite) which left some distance between the hero and heroine in my mind. Maybe it was because the story was more on the lighter side, so that when the angst did come into play, it didn't have quite the same gravity as it would have were the book more serious in tone. Or maybe it was because Anthony and Kate seemed to overcome their problems that had plagued them for years a little too easily. This is one of those rare instances where I couldn't quite put my finger on exactly what was wrong, but whatever the reason, The Viscount Who Loved Me seemed to be missing that little extra something for me that would have pushed it into greatness. However, in spite of seeming a tad bland at times, it was, overall, an enjoyable enough read to make me want to continue with the series, and check out the second epilogue....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews As a woman, I know that I am not exactly the target audience for this book, but I decided to read it along with my husband. IReviewed for THC Reviews As a woman, I know that I am not exactly the target audience for this book, but I decided to read it along with my husband. I thought this would be much better than guessing what the book was teaching men, and also open an effective line of communication on the subject. Even though I had read several positive reviews for the book prior to buying it, I was still very surprised by just how good it actually is. She Comes First is without question, the best non-fiction sex guide that I have read to date. It really hits the nail on the head when it comes to helping men understand a woman's body and what makes her tick, and the most amazing thing about that is it was written by a man.
In my opinion, one of the things that make this book work so well is the author's holistic approach to the female mind and body. Mr. Kerner has such a good grasp, not only on a woman's anatomy, but also on how a woman thinks, that I almost felt like he was inside my head while reading the book. The author's genuine care and concern for women resonates loud and clear throughout the book, and he makes a great case for why the woman's pleasure should come first. Any man who can read Mr. Kerner's words and truly take them heart will, in my opinion, have no trouble creating a healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship for both partners. The other thing that sets She Comes First above some other books is that it is a well-thought-out work, which never seems like a cheesy sex manual. I've seen a number of sex books which seem more like porn than realistically helpful instruction books. She Comes First keeps everything very simple and real. Mr. Kerner writes in a very down-to-earth style that is easy to relate to and understand. He does use a lot of literary analogies, which may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the information contained in them is still quite comprehensible even if the reader is not an English major. Also, while many sex books incorporate full-color photos (which is fine sometimes), She Comes First sticks with ordinary line drawings which keep the reader's focus on the substance of the text while enhancing the words with helpful illustrations. In addition, the chapters are very brief (generally only a few pages long), and several of the ones on technique include repetition in the form of quick reviews at the end of the chapter, making it perfect for the ofttimes shorter male attention span.
My husband was certainly willing to read She Comes First, but since he already reads quite a bit about sex and relationships on the internet, I think that he was perhaps a little skeptical that he would learn anything new and more importantly, that it would actually work. Well, I can honestly say that both of us were pleasantly surprised by just how effective the techniques can be. If this book could teach my husband, a normally attentive lover, a few new tricks, I can only imagine what it might do for other men who aren't quite as skilled or considerate. Of course, that's with the caveat that they are open-minded enough to not think they already know it all. In fact, I even learned a few things about my own body of which I wasn't previously aware: Who knew that the clitoris wasn't just the “love button,” but an entire network of eighteen different parts, all of which contribute to experiencing sexual pleasure? I sure didn't.
She Comes First is first and foremost an instruction manual for cunnilingus, as well as an argument for why this is the most effective way to pleasure a woman. Still, there are also chapters on incorporating manual stimulation (a very important complement to cunnilingus), transitioning to intercourse and practical information on safe sex, in addition to parts that touch very briefly on things such as toys, light bondage, and sexual concerns such as premature ejaculation. The first half of the book is primarily about female anatomy, while the second covers step-by-step techniques. I would warn any man who might be tempted to skip the first section to get to the “good stuff”, thinking that they already know these things, to think again. A woman's body is much more complex than it may seem at first glance, as I demonstrated with my earlier comment about the clitoris. If there are things that I didn't even know before reading this book, then it's pretty unlikely that men would either, and truly understanding the female body and all of its inner workings is key to being able to effectively pleasure it.
Overall, She Comes First is a book that I would highly recommend to both men and women. Any man who wants to have a happy, healthy sex life and truly know what a woman wants should definitely be reading this book. Women should also do themselves a favor by encouraging their lover to read it, or at the very least, leave it lying around where it can be easily found. She Comes First has definitely earned a permanent spot on my bedroom shelf, and I am eagerly looking forward to reading the companion book, Passionista (the retitled release of He Comes Next). Ian Kerner is also a regular contributor to several magazines and newspapers as well as making appearances on various television programs such as The Today Show. Now that I know his philosophies definitely match my own, I'll certainly be looking up his articles and interviews as well. All I can say it that if Mr. Kerner makes a habit of practicing what he preaches at home, his wife is one lucky lady.;-)...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Raven Prince was an enjoyable read which I thought had some rather unusual elements. As I read the first chaptReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Raven Prince was an enjoyable read which I thought had some rather unusual elements. As I read the first chapter or so of the book, I was reminded of one of my all-time favorite romances, Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels. While The Raven Prince does bear some resemblance to Lord of Scoundrels, it is still very much it's own distinctive story. Much like their counterparts in Lord of Scoundrels, Edward can be rather temperamental and boorish, while Anna is very plucky and unconventional. They share a few moments of sharp, witty bantering, but I wouldn't have minded seeing them go toe-to-toe a few more times than they did. I can certainly appreciate attractive people, but the ratio of impossibly beautiful characters in romance novels to those found in the real world, is so disproportionately inflated, I can't help getting bored with them sometimes. I actually found it refreshing that Anna's very first impression of Edward was “ugly,” and Edward's first impression of Anna was “frumpy.” I think this allowed the author to send a subtle message that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “love truly is blind,” because once these two started falling for one another, they were each thoroughly beautiful to the other, something to which I can really relate. I have only come across a couple of authors I can think of who have a tendency to write more mature characters, so having Edward and Anna be a little older was a very pleasant change as well. She was 31, and I initially had the impression that he was nearer 40 until it was revealed late in the story that he was 34, although I had to do the math to figure out his age.
Elizabeth Hoyt has a slightly different writing style in that she doesn't seem to reveal all of her character's insecurities, vulnerabilities and motivations right away. Most authors have a tendency to let the reader in on these things up front, and then the story centers around them making peace with those things and finding healing if the pain is deep. With Edward and Anna, Ms. Hoyt leaves the reader with the sense that there are mysterious things lurking beneath the surface that can't be seen, but she takes her time, revealing them one-by-one when the situation seems ripe for it. This does give the story a more languid feel which may not work well for readers who prefer a faster pace, but I thought that it was an interesting approach. The story also has a very angsty quality to it, I think, in large part, because of Edward's intensity. I found a certain beauty to it though, an emotional depth that was somehow different from other stories I've read. Edward and Anna have both suffered emotional pain in their lives, yet both seem to be fairly comfortable in their own skin and not harboring major neuroses. Once again, I thought this was a unique blend which made the characters very complex and multi-dimensional.
Edward had his moments of intensity, but I don't think that I would quite classify him as tortured. He had times of what I would characterize as personal reflection that would sometimes reach an emotional high, but he always came back down rather quickly. Edward was quite temperamental though, having scared away several male secretaries, before hiring Anna. He could occasionally be prone to throwing things in a fit of anger, but was probably equally likely to express himself with sarcasm. Some people don't want to be around him, not just because of his temper, but also because he is badly scarred from the smallpox, so he always respects anyone who doesn't mind his scars and can hold their own against his boorish behavior. It becomes readily apparent as the story progresses that Edward's bark is really worse that his bite. I really liked Edward's complexity of thinking, how he fell hard for Anna, but was conflicted both in his feelings for her, especially after he discovered her deception, and his sense of duty to his family line. Watching him try to figure things out and understanding what he was feeling and thinking made him a very interesting character to read. Another thing that made him quite appealing to me was his combination of erudition and earthiness. He was obviously a very intelligent man, but one who wasn't afraid to go out in his fields and come back covered in muck. Edward also made my geek list because he seemed more comfortable alone or out on the land with his tenants than in social settings, and he was extremely knowledgeable about agriculture, having written a number of scholarly papers on the topic, as well as lecturing at the Agrarian Society. In fact, he could sometimes get so wrapped up in his work that he would become oblivious to the time and what was happening around him. I've always loved smart men, but that, in addition to all of his other qualities made him positively irresistible.
Anna was a very spirited heroine that I liked very much too. I loved how she was never afraid of Edward's temper, and always handled him quite deftly. She was strong and fairly confident, but the few times she allowed her insecurities to get the best of her, she realized her mistake pretty quickly and came back fighting. She is also very kind and caring, doing what she must to make sure her elderly mother-in-law and their orphan maid are provided for, and she even takes in an injured prostitute when no one else would have, even though her actions set tongues to wagging. What I think I liked most about Anna and the whole story though, is how she discovers her attraction for Edward, and boldly decides to be naughty just once in her life to get what she think she wants. She seduces him in disguise at the brothel he frequents, because she simply can't bear the thought of him bedding anyone else. Yet even though she thoroughly enjoys the experience, she is terribly conflicted afterward. She feels a bit of guilt for having deceived Edward, but most of all she realizes that the physical pleasure wasn't all that she truly desired. I loved that the author brought out these feelings in Anna. It was exactly what I was thinking and feeling at that moment in the story, and I would have been quite disappointed if Anna hadn't felt that way too. Everything worked together to make her a very relatable character for me.
There were a number of great secondary characters in The Raven Prince as well. Edward's estate manager, Felix Hopple, was a hoot with his flamboyant clothes, but we find out later that he is also a rather shy, sweet man. Edward's valet, Davis, is another fun character. He's a feisty old man who rarely works and constantly goads Edward into threatening to fire him. Their interactions were quite amusing. I also enjoyed Edward's initially nameless dog, and the little rabbit trail of Anna trying to help him think of a suitable name. Anna's mother-in-law is a sweet old lady who is always very supportive of her. I also liked Pearl, the prostitute Anna rescued, and her sister Coral. They became the catalyst for and the confidantes of her naughty exploits. There are a couple of ne'er-do-well characters who try to stir up a bit of trouble for Edward and Anna after they discover what Anna did. Last but not least there were Edward's two friends, Harry and Simon, who become the heroes of the next two books in the series, The Leopard Prince and The Serpent Prince respectively.
There were a couple of other elements of The Raven Prince that I particularly savored. Each chapter begins with a snippet of a fairy tale with the same title, which Anna had found in Edward's library. I'm sorry to say that I'm not up on my Greek mythology, but I discovered through other reviewers that this is apparently a re-telling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. I liked it every bit as much as the main novel and found myself eagerly waiting to get to the next chapter to discover what would happen next in that story too. Ms. Hoyt also has a talent for writing deeply sensuous love scenes that are like a sweet treat for the imagination. I thought that everything was very tastefully done, but sensitive readers should know that these scenes do get rather spicy and the use of a handful of explicit words that I've rarely seen outside the erotic sub-genre (and which some may find offensive) do push the traditional historical envelope a bit. Ultimately, my only complaint about the book which kept it from a perfect five stars was that the first ¼ or so of the book moved a little too slow and I felt that the initial attraction between Edward and Anna in those pages was a bit too subtle and not quite palpable enough to suit me. Once I got past that section though, it became a very engrossing read. Overall, The Raven Prince was an excellent debut novel from Elizabeth Hoyt, and one I very much enjoyed reading. It was my first book by Ms. Hoyt, but it has earned a spot on my keeper shelf and has left me quite eager to continue The Princes Trilogy. ...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Witness was my first read by Sandra Brown, and overall, it did not disappoint. The suspense/thriller aspect ofReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Witness was my first read by Sandra Brown, and overall, it did not disappoint. The suspense/thriller aspect of the story was excellent. It did take a little while to get going for me, and during the first half or so, I didn't necessarily find it to be un-put-downable. I think this was mainly owing to the scenes in the present not being as compelling, due to the reader not really knowing what's going on. The scenes from the heroine's past, however, were very intriguing as the story built up to explain how she got to where she is in the present. The first half piqued my curiosity, but the second half had me on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. The author also threw in a few surprise twists that I didn't really see coming. All in all, The Witness was a very satisfying read.
Kendall is a very strong heroine. She lost her parents when she was quite young, but was raised by a loving grandmother who taught her to be independent and to think for herself. She's an attorney who realized pretty quickly that the corporate life wasn't for her, so she took a job as the public defender in a small community in South Carolina. The author alludes early on to Kendall having lied to get the job, but exactly what she lied about is one of those twists I mentioned that the reader isn't made privy to until the end. Kendall sometimes lies about other things too. She's a consummate storyteller, who is good at making things up on the fly. I had mixed feelings about this part of her personality. I understood why she did what she did, and oftentimes, it was for the greater good. I also have to admit that her ability to lie served her well in managing to get away from the villains, but her dishonesty in general took a little of the polish off of an otherwise admirable character. I liked that Kendall was committed to seeking justice for her clients and providing them with the best defense possible. She hated to see miscarriages of justice and worked hard to prevent that from happening. I also like that she stood up for herself and didn't allow her husband and father-in-law to run roughshod over her. Kendall never lost her independent spirit which helped her to fight back when the time came for that. She also could have allowed the hero to die in the car wreck, which would have left her free and clear to make a run for it, but her conscience wouldn't allow her to let an innocent man pay with his life. Best of all, she was a excellent mother to her baby boy and would have literally done anything to protect him even if it meant making herself a fugitive for the rest of her life. Kendall may not have made it onto my all-time favorite heroines list, but she was a good one whose actions always made sense.
I can't really say who the hero of this story is without giving away a huge spoiler. His identity remains a secret for more than half the book, which is another reason why that first half was a little slow for me. I was eagerly wanting to know who he was and whether I could root for him. I suspected he was a good guy, but Kendall isn't all that enamored of him at first, which makes the reader wonder if he did something bad to her. The hero has temporary amnesia from a bonk to the head during the car crash, so he doesn't know who he is. Although Kendall does knows, she doesn't let us in on that bit of information through her introspections. The only information the reader is privy to is that Kendall alternates between being attracted to him and trying to ditch him. I had rather mixed feeling about all this. I guess it was a good ploy on the author's part to keep the reader reading, but at the same time, it made it difficult to have meaningful character development when the identity of the hero is kept shrouded in mystery for so long. Once we know who he is, I was able to become more invested in his parts of the story. While he was perhaps a bit too alpha for my taste, I admired his sense of duty and his commitment to protecting Kendall and her baby. Events from his past make him sympathetic as well, so overall, he was a pretty good character once I started to get to know him. I just couldn't help wishing it had been a little sooner.
The main thing that knocked off the half star was the romance. I felt it was on the weak side. Because the identity of the man who the reader assumes will be the hero remains a mystery for so long, it was also a little difficult to have meaningful relationship development between him and Kendall. During that time, she claims him as her husband, so there is some sexual tension between them. However, I thought it was kind of on the mild side, as were their love scenes, which were relatively short and not overly descriptive. They both come to the point of knowing they're in love with the other with little fanfare leading up to it. They share some nice, but not particularly emotional or deeply romantic moments before getting to that point. They also both lie to the other to some extent and neither fully trusts the other, which is usually a must for me in romance, but I guess there's something to be said for them still being together when everything finally comes out in the end.
One thing Ms. Brown excelled at was creating some truly evil and frightening villains. I don't think I've read a romantic suspense with villains this scary outside of Karen Rose's novels. On the outside, Kendall's husband, Matt, is a perfect Southern gentleman, but I could tell almost right away that he wasn't quite the catch he seems to be at first glance. Matt's father, Gibb, also possesses that gentlemanly veneer, but at the same time, is pretty creepy in the way that he's always hovering around Matt and Kendall and seems to have Matt wrapped around his little finger. It's also easy to tell that the men of the small town of Prosper are probably corrupt, but we don't know just how utterly evil they are and how widespread that corruption is until Kendall stumbles upon their dark secret and bears witness to something horrific. At that point, it becomes very easy to see why she was so terrified of them that she didn't even trust the FBI.
Overall, The Witness was a very good read despite the weaknesses in the romance. I did have a bit of trouble following things because the author jumps back and forth between events in the present and events in the past as she builds her story. Perhaps some chapter headers to indicate the time frame might have been helpful. As is, I had to read a few lines into the chapter to figure out whether it was past or present. Otherwise, I enjoyed The Witness and think it was a very well-put-together story. This may have been my first book by Sandra Brown, but it certainly won't be my last....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" I'm pretty certain I read Love's Enduring Promise years ago in my teens, but prior to picking it up again, I couldReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" I'm pretty certain I read Love's Enduring Promise years ago in my teens, but prior to picking it up again, I couldn't really remember a thing about the story. As a consequence and knowing that this was a continuation of Clark and Marty's relationship, I was kind of expecting an epic love story which isn't quite what this novel is all about. The book opens about two years after the ending of Love Comes Softly. It is still primarily about Clark, Marty, and their growing family, but more like a series of snapshots of their lives together over a span of approximately twelve years. It is also about how the community in which they live and the people within it grow and change as time goes by as well. I didn't find this one to be quite as romantic as the first book of the Love Comes Softly series, probably because it doesn't focus in on the building of one couple's relationship, but I suppose there was enough romance present in the multiple courtships and marriages among secondary characters and the next generation of the Davis family to loosely characterize the story as a historical romance.
Once again, I loved reading about life on the frontier, the sense of warmth and love that comes from family, friends, and community, and how they all share in the joy and sorrow, laughter and tears that life can bring. Most of the story is still told from Marty's point-of-view, but occasionally snippets of other character's perspectives pop up. Then Missie takes over some of the bits near the end, probably as something of a transition to the next book, Love's Long Journey, which will be her story. There are numerous mini sub-plots that highlight all the changes in the community. As more people come to the area, the residents welcome a new teacher, new preachers, and new neighbors. I particularly liked the part about the new preachers, because it highlighted a spiritual position with which I agree, that true spiritual sustenance doesn't come from big words or fancy sermons, but from an ability to sense an earthy oneness with God on a much simpler level. The people also say good-bye as some of their fellow residents move on and others pass on. I was very taken with a sweet side story about a young couple's much longed-for child not being exactly what they were expecting, but he ended up being a remarkable boy who was their pride and joy. There was also one of the many romances that ended in heartbreak, which also tore my heart open a little too, not just because of what the couple experienced but because of other issues which I'll address in a moment. Overall, every little piece of the narrative came together to make me feel like I was a part of this little frontier neighborhood.
I would have to say that Marty is still the main character in this book. She strikes me as a no-nonsense kind of woman who works hard, and would do just about anything for anyone. She can be pretty stubborn and independent at times. She can also be fairly exuberant in her faith, and is eager to share it with others, but I wouldn't characterize it as being particularly overbearing or preachy. Underlying everything is a loving woman who is a great wife and mother. I was rather disappointed that Clark didn't play as much of a role in this book, but what we get to see of him through his interactions with Marty and their family, I could tell that he is the same kind, gentle man with a heart of gold. He is a loving, attentive and protective husband and father, always thinking of others before himself. Clark is just an all-around great guy. Clark and Marty's family grows by leaps and bounds until their little frontier home is just about bursting at the seams, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about their interactions with each of the children and watching some of them grow up and move on to lives of their own.
Overall, Love's Enduring Promise was a gentle book that was a joy to read, but there was one little part involving the secondary romance I mentioned earlier which left me rather troubled. It involved a white young man (a character I had come to care about a great deal) and an Indian girl (who was very sweet in her own right), which raised the issues of racism and prejudice. The couple was obviously very deeply in love and wanted nothing more than to be married, but not a single person in the story supported that desire (except for one short line from his sister who was immediately chastised by their mother for being naïve and having her vision clouded by her own upcoming nuptials). Marty came the closest by agreeing to meet the girl and talk to the boy's mother, but even she wasn't entirely on board with the relationship. What bothered me the most though was when the boy's mother essentially stated that it wasn't God's will for people of different races to be married and have mixed-race babies. I realize that prejudice of this nature was quite common back then, and that no matter what happened the couple would have faced a difficult road. However, they certainly wouldn't have been the first white/Indian pairing of the era, and since the only way to combat prejudice is for someone to stand up and say it's wrong, I couldn't help wondering if things might not have been different for them if well-respected members of the community like the Grahams and Davises had taken that stand instead of being wishy-washy about it. After all, they are supposed to be good Christian people and to me, that seems like the Christian thing to do. Admittedly, the girl's Indian grandfather wasn't any better, but since he had lost many family members in white attacks, I felt like he at least had a good reason for hating them. The main point I'm trying to make with my mini-rant, is that I felt the author opened a can of worms that ultimately went nowhere and then copped out on a very sensitive issue. However, I'm willing to admit that perhaps, I'm applying too much of my modern sensibilities to a historical fiction story that was written over thirty years ago. This was the one and only thing that kept me from giving this book the full five stars. Thankfully, it was a very small part of the overall narrative and otherwise, Love's Enduring Promise was an enjoyable, feel-good story that left me with warm fuzzies all over, and very much looking forward to revisiting Missie's book soon....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Until Death We Do Part by Sherrilyn Kenyon – Considering that the heroine of Until Death We Do Part is supposed to be the dauReviewed for THC Reviews Until Death We Do Part by Sherrilyn Kenyon – Considering that the heroine of Until Death We Do Part is supposed to be the daughter of Vlad the Impaler aka Dracula, I thought this novella had some promise, but sadly, it didn't end up drawing me in as much as I believe it could have if there had been more depth in the plot and characters. I felt like the story was overburdened with mysticism and mythology. In addition to all the usual Dark-Hunter/Were-Hunter/Dream-Hunter mythology, the hero is also a sorcerer and shape-shifter (not a Were-Hunter). While it might seem that this would add a new and interesting dimension to the mythos, I found that it tended to muddy the waters more than anything by making it possible for the characters to do pretty much whatever they wanted. I think that if this had been a stand-alone novella without the Dark-Hunter elements or a Dark-Hunter novella without the other stuff, it would have been a tighter and clearer story. I also felt like the author waited a little too long to explain what precisely had separated Velkan and Esperetta all those years ago. Right up until the end, I was only able to speculate through inference as to why they even considered taking the sleeping potion. Unfortunately, this only added to my confusion. Additionally, the author just about drove me batty with her overuse of the word “it'd” which in my opinion is a clunky contraction, and the editing in general left something to be desired with lots of clumsily worded sentences and confusing passages that even after re-reading, still felt like something was missing.
As for the characters, I liked Velkan, but there weren't enough details about him to make him a true stand-out hero. He was kind of the typical Dark-Hunter who'd been wronged, tortured and killed in his human life and then sold his soul to Artemis for his act of vengeance. I felt sorry for everything he'd been through, especially since he'd done it all for Esperetta only to have her completely turn her back on him for 500 years. I could understand how she might have gotten the wrong idea about Velkan's actions, considering all that she had been through herself and with her having been raised in a very sheltered environment, she was probably rather naïve. However, by all accounts Velkan had been an amazing husband, treating her with the utmost kindness and respect in spite of being a hardened medieval warrior, and she supposedly had loved him as deeply as he had loved her. With that in mind, I found it hard to believe that she would run away without at least giving him a chance to explain. Also, since stories abounded about the cruelty of her father, it was even more difficult to fathom that in all those centuries, she hadn't even considered that she might have been wrong about Velkan. In my opinion, 500 years was taking the dreaded “big misunderstanding” a little too far. Not to mention, when Retta's current venomous sarcasm was added to the mix, it all made her seem very childish and shrewish to me. Even when she finally realized she had terribly misjudged Velkan, it was just too little too late. I could completely understand why he was so angry with Retta and felt that he forgave her far too easily. I think she needed to do a lot more groveling for what she put the poor man through, especially since he had done nothing but look out for her well-being all those years too. I just didn't end up sensing a deep emotional connection between Velkan and Retta as a couple. About the only good thing I can say about them is that it was a unique element to have a hero and heroine who were already married before he was turned into a Dark-Hunter, and that as a result of having their life-forces tied together, she came back to life too. The other troublesome thing is that much like the previous full-length novel of the series, Dark Side of the Moon, there was no resolution to Velkan's Dark-Hunter status at the end of the story.
Although Until Death We Do Part is part of the Dark-Hunter series, there is no specific connecting plot and no carry-over characters that I'm aware of. Readers do get a glimpse of the first Were-Hunter/Dream-Hunter hybrid which might be an important piece of information that I could see possibly popping up again later in the series. It could easily be read as a stand-alone, but for those people who prefer reading series in order like I do, it falls between Dark Side of the Moon and The Dream-Hunter in the Dark-Hunter chronology. Until Death We Do Part had a few unique elements, but it felt like it was rather hurriedly thrown together and didn't entirely live up to its promise, ultimately, becoming a rather ho-hum read for me. Although I'm a bit skeptical of the chances based on other fans reviews, I am hoping that the next few stories improve on the relationship development and overall storytelling, as my interest in the series is sadly beginning to wane. Star Rating: ***
Ride the Night Wind by L. A. Banks - Ride the Night Wind is another short side-story in the Vampire Huntress Legends. It gives the backstory of Guardians Jose and Juanita who are apparently main characters in the series. I don't really know anything more about this couple besides what was imparted in this story, because I haven't read any of the main books in the Vampire Huntress Legends. I almost never read series books out of order, but I can't say that this series stood out to me as one that I knew I would like for certain, and after reading Make It Last Forever, another backstory novella, I just didn't know if I could take such sad endings. As a result, I have yet to try the main part of the series.
Much like with Make It Last Forever, I did enjoy Ride the Night Wind right up until the end. L. A. Banks created two likable characters in Jose and Juanita. I could very much relate to their dreams of becoming an artist and business woman respectively, but having no one who understood or supported those dreams until they met each other. They both were also from single-parent households in poor neighborhoods and had controlling mothers who thought the worst of them, even though they were trying their best. Jose was kind of into the gang-banging scene but had managed to use his art to avoid getting into any real trouble. He had the heart and body of a warrior with a more sensitive side underneath. He had been dreaming of a beautiful woman whose face was hidden in shadows except for her eyes, so when he saved Juanita from an demon attack, he immediately knew she was the one. Juanita was a responsible young woman who took care of her little brother and the household while her mother worked, and all she wanted was to have a “normal” life like other girls her age. Unfortunately, that was not to be. She too had dreams for years of a man who saves her from horrific creatures, but whose face is obscured by a motorcycle helmet, so when Jose rescues her, she knows he's the one.
Normally, I'm not a fan of quick hook-ups like what occurred in this story, but this time I was completely convinced that Jose and Juanita were meant for one another and that they were indeed falling in love even though the story takes place in only about a day. I think having them both dreaming of one another before meeting helped that along, but Ms. Banks also managed to imbue their relationship with tenderness and a deep sense of urgency and longing. They just can't seem to get enough of each other, and the love scenes were really intense and beautiful. That's why just like with Make It Last Forever, the ending of this story was so hard to take. I will admit that it was a little happier than the other novella, because unlike Jake Rider, the hero of that story, and the love of his life, Jose and Juanita are together at the end of Ride the Night Wind with the implication that it is for good this time. However, between the final chapter and the epilogue, Jose and Juanita have been separated for nearly two decades as they each played their roles as Guardians and both have taken other lovers during that time. So, it still broke my heart to have them apart for such an extended period before finally finding each other again.
Ride the Night Wind stood fairly well on its own without me having prior knowledge of the Vampire Huntress Legends, although I have to admit that the epilogue probably would have made more sense if I had known more about the world building and what had taken place thus far in the series. Jake Rider is mentioned throughout the story and shows up as a secondary character in the epilogue. If memory serves, this novella also takes place in the same small Native American community, with one or two of the same characters, from Make It Last Forever. In spite of another unsatisfying ending, I can't deny that the late L. A. Banks' writing is pretty solid and her stories have a certain dark appeal. I'm slowly becoming more interested in the series as a whole and might be persuaded to give it a try. I'm still a little uncertain though, because in spite of knowing that the series is urban fantasy rather than paranormal romance, Ms. Banks definitely has a knack for the romantic side of the story. With that in mind, I'm not sure if I can take more unhappiness if she dishes it up as liberally as she has in these two short stories. Star Rating: ****
The Gift by Susan Squires - The Gift turned out to be a very pleasant surprise for me. I hadn't heard much in paranormal romance circles about Susan Squires' Companion series, so I can't say that it ever really caught my eye as something I'd like to read. That's why I decided to go ahead with this novella without having read the previous books in the series. Now that I've given it a try, I'm very interested in backtracking and learning more about this interesting new vampire world. This is the first time I've read a historical vampire romance and to make it even more unique, the story is primarily set in Morocco, Casablanca to be exact. I don't think I've ever read any story, much less a romance, set in Africa before.
I really liked both the hero and heroine of this novella. Davie is an honorable man who is an officer in the British army. He's been looking forward to finally proposing to the woman he loves, but when duty calls and he doesn't know if he'll come back alive, he does the noble thing and releases Emma even though it breaks his heart to do so. He was also previously held captive, raped and tortured by the queen of the vampires which made him incredibly sympathetic. It just made me want to wrap him up in my arms and love him tenderly like Emma does. Because of his experiences with vampires, Davie would rather die than become one, but fate may have other plans in store for him. Emma is a vivacious and adventurous young lady who would rather risk her life in a dangerous place than to live without the man she loves. I had to admire her spunk in following Davie to Casablanca and her willingness to love him no matter what. She was a very brave woman who fought valiantly by his side in more ways than one. In my opinion, the author did a great job of conveying the deep sense of longing between these two when they couldn't be together, as well as the incredible love and tenderness they shared when they finally did reunite.
From what I can tell, The Gift falls between The Burning and One with the Night, books #3 and #4 of the Companion series. When I first started reading it, I was slightly confused. It took me a chapter or so to sort everything out. In this respect, I think it would have been better to have read the series in order. Also, some characters from previous books appeared, including Ian Rufford, the hero of The Companion, who had a strong secondary role and Beatrix, the heroine of The Hunger, who showed up briefly near the end. I also got the feeling that Davie and Emma were probably introduced in a previous book, because it was mentioned that they stood up for Ian and his wife at their wedding. Once I figured out who everyone was, the story was pretty easy to follow. I feel like I only got a taste of the vampire mythology here, and would love to know more. That, the exotic historical setting, and wanting to read more about Ian, who seems like he would make a great romantic hero, makes me very interested in continuing with this series, only this time I'll start at the beginning.:-) Star Rating: *****
The Forgotten One by Ronda Thompson - After a mediocre showing on the previous book in the Wild Wulfs of London, The Forgotten One really got the series back on track for me. This historical paranormal novella mirrored the deep emotional connection I felt in the first two stories, as well as the exquisite sensuality. It also had the unusual distinction of the hero being a commoner, a mere stable master, who was also a bastard with no last name, while the heroine was a titled lady about to inherit her family's estate upon her twenty-first birthday. I ended up absolutely loving it.
Anne reminds me a lot of myself. She is the perfect blend of a sweet girl trying to be just a little naughty. She doesn't entirely succeed in her plan though, because she's a little too cautious to fully follow through with it. She adores horses and knows as much about them as many men do, but of course, being a lady, is not really allowed to have anything to do with them other than to ride, which she loves. She longs to be free of the strictures of society, and what she feels while riding gives her a taste of that freedom. The sensations Merrick arouses in her and the way he understands her and is willing to accept her eccentricities also makes her feel liberated. Anne is a young woman who has a positive attitude and tries to look on the bright side of things. She is also a very trusting soul who always sees the best in people. When she turns that implicit trust on Merrick, it nearly overwhelms him. The way she loves him with her whole being in spite of him being lowborn, and even after witnessing him turning into a beast, is really beautiful.
Merrick is an incredibly sexy hero. He knows exactly what to say and do to get a lady's motor humming. He has this lazy, devil-may-care attitude that's extremely appealing, yet underneath it all, he harbors some darkness and resentment toward the upper classes because of his father abandoning his mother. It doesn't take him long though to realize that Anne isn't like most aristocrats. I love how Merrick understands Anne in a way that no one else does. He encourages her to pursue her dreams and desires even if they aren't considered “proper.” When Merrick discovers that his “gifts” go far beyond his wildest imaginings, he is understandably concerned for Anne's safety, but I was glad that in the end, he listened to her and trusted her instincts about his beastly side. His willingness to do anything for her was sweetly romantic.
The Forgotten One was another wonderfully sweet, yet deeply sensual romance. With three out of the four Wild Wulfs of London stories I've read so far being winners, the late Ronda Thompson has earned a spot on my favorite authors list. I'm really looking forward to the final book in the series, The Cursed One. Star Rating: *****...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Rosa is a lovely rendering of Rosa Parks' courageous act in a picture book format that is accessible to younger reReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Rosa is a lovely rendering of Rosa Parks' courageous act in a picture book format that is accessible to younger readers. I think most people are familiar with Mrs. Parks refusal to move to the back of the bus which sparked a huge wave in the civil rights movement, but author, Nikki Giovanni, gives the reader a little more information about the before and after. She begins by giving a bit of background on Rosa Parks which even educated me. I didn't realize that she was married, caring for an elderly mother and worked as a seamstress. Ms. Giovanni continues by detailing Mrs. Parks act of civil disobedience which led to her arrest. I was a little disappointed that she didn't tell any more about Mrs. Parks herself following that event. Instead the author finishes up by explaining how Rosa Parks' actions sparked a whole movement which eventually led to the Supreme Court ruling against segregation.
Artist Bryan Collier's illustrations are a lovely compliment to the text. I really felt like he captured Rosa Parks' essence in the pictures of her and the details are amazing. The textures and patterns of the clothing and accessories as well as some other items were very realistic looking, almost more like a photograph than a painting. Each one also has a kind of pieced-together look. I spent quite a while perusing each one, trying to figure out how Mr. Collier accomplished this. It wasn't until I read on his website that he incorporates watercolors and collage that is started to make sense. All in all, some very impressive artistic work.
Rosa was the winner of both the Coretta Scott King award and a Caldecott Honor Book, both of which I think are well-deserved. Overall, it was a lovely book that would be a great tool for teaching younger children about Rosa Parks and this particular chapter in the civil rights movement....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" After thoroughly enjoying the first two stories in the Wild Wulfs of London series, especially The Dark One, I fouReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" After thoroughly enjoying the first two stories in the Wild Wulfs of London series, especially The Dark One, I found The Untamed One to be something of a let-down. It just didn't capture my imagination and emotions in the same way that the other two did. I felt that the characters were somewhat underdeveloped and their motivations were sometimes questionable. The plot itself was rather weak, and some of the situations in which the characters find themselves seemed a little forced, like they were there just for the sake of propelling the plot along. At right around 300 pages, The Untamed One is on the short side for a single-title romance, and I thought a few more pages could have really helped to tell a meatier story.
Jackson was a reasonably likable hero, but there were times, especially early in the story, when I had trouble understanding him. He has a history of drinking too much and being a notorious womanizer. Normally, when a romance hero is like that, he has some emotional turmoil in his past which drives him to this place. Of course, there was the curse, but it wasn't really discussed in any detail. The reader isn't exactly made privy to his thought processes, so that we can understand what it was like for him to live with that imprecation or what precisely might be bothering him otherwise. Jackson also begins the story by haring off to kill a witch in hopes of breaking the family curse which didn't end up making a great deal of sense to me. If Lucinda were a descendant of the witch who cursed the Wulf males, that at least might seem like a decent reason for him wanting to kill her, but just killing some random witch to break the curse is kind of grasping as straws, in my opinion. Granted he didn't go through with it. He ultimately had mercy on Lucinda and helped her to deliver her baby instead, but one has to wonder if the villagers hadn't been upon him and he wasn't about to transition into the wolf if he would have let her go so easily. When Lucinda turns up in London at the family's townhouse, I thought Jackson acquiesced a little too quickly. Him offering to buy her new clothes and more importantly, agreeing to marry her almost instantaneously, even if it was in name only, just lacked credibility for me. However, Jackson did treat Lucinda and her baby with kindness and was thoroughly protective of them both, which is why I can say that I mostly liked him in spite of him having questionable motives at times.
Lucinda did a few debatable things of her own. When she thought Jackson was dead, she tried to pass herself off as his wife. I honestly can't blame her for not wanting to attempt raising a baby on the streets, and admittedly, if she hadn't done what she did, the baby might have died. Still, it seemed a little underhanded to me. Once again, if the reader had been made privy to her thoughts, I probably would have sympathized more with her actions. The other main issue I had with Lucinda was that to me, she didn't really behave like a woman who had been raped. Granted she was knocked out with a sleeping potion when it happened and doesn't consciously remember the incident, but oftentimes the body will remember things that the mind does not. I felt that her sexual attraction for Jackson developed a little too quickly and her actions lacked the caution of someone who has been through a traumatic experience. Lucinda does reject Jackson's advances at first, but because there is little internal rumination on her part, I could only speculate that it was due to the rape. Without fully knowing her thoughts on the matter, it just as easily could have been for some other reason. Much like with Jackson though, she was a caring person who tried to help him with the curse, and was a good mother to her son which made her a likable character even if she was somewhat underdeveloped.
Much of the sexual tension between Jackson and Lucinda came off as more lusty than romantic to me which was quite surprising, considering that I found the first two stories of the series to be very romantic. It did improve somewhat as the story went along, but I think two of the main reasons for this were the need for more introspection and character development. I also caught the author doing the dreaded telling rather than showing several times. Additionally, I think more gestures and body language would have helped a lot in conveying the characters' feelings for one another.
There weren't a lot of secondary characters in The Untamed One, and I really missed the presence of the other Wulf brothers. I realize now that it would have been impossible for Sterling or Armond to be a part of the story, because having already broken their own curses, they would have told Jackson how to go about it, leaving him with no purpose. Still, having few supporting players made the narrative and dialog a little bland. It was nice to see the traveling circus troupe from A Wulf's Curse (from Midnight Pleasures) again, but they played a very small role. While the villain in the The Dark One was a constant, menacing presence, here he was pretty one-dimensional. For the most part he is a vague, distant threat who only shows up in a couple of scenes. Obviously, he wouldn't hesitate to do Lucinda and her baby harm, but his reasons seemed a little extreme to me. He was fairly far down the line of succession to the throne and had two legitimate heirs already, so I couldn't quite imagine why he would feel the need to murder an illegitimate offspring. Even royalty in those days often had bastard children, and as far as I know, due to their illegitimacy, they generally had no rights in the line of succession anyway.
Overall, The Untamed One may have had a lot of weak points, but it was still a reasonably entertaining read with a likable, if not always relatable, hero and heroine. It is one that fans of the Wild Wulfs of London probably would not want to miss. Even with a slight misstep here, I am still looking forward to continuing the series. This book does give the reader another glimpse of Amelia Sinclair, the heroine of the last book of the series, The Cursed One. I've liked her all along, as well as her hero, Gabriel Wulf, so hopefully, their story will be a little stronger than this one and finish the series off with a bang....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I read the first novella in the late Ronda Thompson's Wild Wulfs of London series quite some time ago and really enjoyed it. IReviewed for THC Reviews I read the first novella in the late Ronda Thompson's Wild Wulfs of London series quite some time ago and really enjoyed it. I'm not sure why it took me so long to get back to these books, but I'm so glad that I finally did. I have a feeling The Wild Wulfs of London is going to become a new favorite series in the paranormal romance genre for me. Ronda Thompson's writing style is very emotionally engaging. She really makes me care about and relate to her characters. Her love scenes are sweetly sensual and each one builds on the last to propel the story along. The bathtub scene where Armond and Rosalind first share some real intimacy was quite steamy. I also enjoyed the light mystery/suspense portion of the plot too. Although parts of it were rather predictable, I could still feel the air of tension surrounding Armond's investigation of the murders and Rosalind's stepbrother trying to keep her under his thumb. Everything just came together to make this book a perfect read that will definitely be placed on my keeper shelf.
Armond is a man tormented by his family's curse which makes its male members turn into werewolves if they fall in love, so he has vowed never to do that. Of course, he didn't count on the sweet, beautiful Rosalind capturing his heart and stirring his passion from the moment he meets her. Publicly, the ton believes that the Wulf family curse is madness, and because of it, Armond and his brothers have a dark reputation. When the story opens, he is already a suspect in a murder case. In spite of his perceived bad boy image and the beast inside him, it is clear right from the start that Armond is far more honorable and gentlemanly than most human men. Even though Rosalind was throwing herself at him, desperately wanting him to ruin her, he didn't completely debauch her and even gave her a plausible excuse for her absence from the party. Throughout the entire story, Armond exercises incredible self-control which is a quality I love in a hero. It was very sweet how he simply held and comforted Rosalind through the night the second time he secretly came to her room, and even after they were married, he gave her the choice of whether to consummate their union and when. Now that's not to say that he isn't seductive. He told Rosalind up front that he wouldn't play fair, and it was really cute how he asks her every day, "Have I told you I want you today?" I also loved his protectiveness. From the moment Armond met Rosalind that instinct in him came out and only increased as his love for her grew. On the surface, his declaration to Rosalind that he would never love her seemed cruel, but it was really just his determination to protect her from everything, including himself, that made him say it.
Rosalind was my favorite type of heroine, one who is kind, gentle and sweet on the outside, but inside is strong and intelligent. She had been badly abused by her stepbrother and he was now prepared to “sell” her in marriage to a man she found loathsome. In sheer desperation, she thought that being ruined by the most dangerous and shunned man in the ton would be a better option, but she didn't count on Armond having a heart of gold beneath his dark facade. I thought that act alone was a pretty bold move on her part, but time and time again, throughout the story, she shows her bravery. She stood up for Armond when he was wrongly accused of murder and gave him an alibi even though it did ruin her. She willingly married Armond and always saw him for the decent man he was rather than the madman waiting to happen that the ton thought him to be or the monster he saw in himself. She instinctively sensed that he would never harm her no matter what form he took, and he always lived up to her faith in him. Rosalind didn't really want to consummate their marriage until Armond was able to give her his heart, but in the meantime, she could barely resist him. She is very curious and loves sharing intimacies with her handsome husband. Rosalind is also quite intuitive, understanding that Armond's sometimes hurtful words are meant to protect her, and looking beneath the surface to his actions which speak louder than his words. She was very intelligent too, figuring out her brother's schemes on her own and trying to put a stop to them.
There are a number of exciting and colorful secondary characters in The Dark One. Rosalind's stepbrother, Franklin and his accomplice made dastardly villains. The Dowager Duchess of Brayberry was a lively old lady who was a true friend to both Armond and Rosalind. Armond's two brothers, Jackson and Gabriel are introduced as well. Unlike his two brothers who are responsible and hard-working, Jackson is a rake with a wild reputation, but incredibly charming with the ladies. It appears that he is going off on a quest to break the family curse and prove himself by finding and killing a certain witch. His story becomes the next book in the series, The Untamed One. Gabriel is the strong, silent type, a man who is very much tied to the land of the family's country estate. He catches the eye of Rosalind's new friend, Amelia who on the surface is a good girl, but deep down is a very passionate young woman who longs to be scandalous. Gabriel and Amelia's story is the last in the series, The Cursed One.
The Dark One has more of the feel of a Regency-era historical romance with a somewhat lighter paranormal element. Aside from Armond having heightened senses and physical abilities, the supernatural portion of the plot doesn't really come into play until the last quarter or so of the book. The rest of the novel is about the mystery and suspense surrounding the murder investigation, and the emotional turmoil that Armond and Rosalind deal with because of the curse and their gradual growth into realizing how much they love each other. Overall, The Dark One was a well-written, well-plotted, emotionally satisfying story that has definitely left me quite eager to get to the next book in The Wild Wulfs of London series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Pregnancy Test was a generally entertaining and enjoyable read that was mostly light, sexy fun. The hero does carry a pretReviewed for THC Reviews The Pregnancy Test was a generally entertaining and enjoyable read that was mostly light, sexy fun. The hero does carry a pretty big secret that is revealed in bits and pieces throughout the story and toward the end, it becomes a little weightier as he deals with issues from his past. Otherwise it is a fairly breezy tale that has a hint of a Sex and the City vibe with an underlying plot about four girlfriends who share an apartment in New York, as well as all the details of their lives. In fact, based on reviews, it seems that a number of readers mistakenly thought this book was chick-lit, only to be disappointed and/or scandalized by the racy content. While it does have a certain chick-lit quality to it, in my opinion, The Pregnancy Test is still solidly grounded in the romance genre, and I can't say that I've ever heard of Erin McCarthy's books being categorized as anything else but romance. As an aside, the cover blurb for this book makes it sound like it is written in first-person point-of-view, so I was somewhat surprised to discover that it's not.
At less than 250 pages, The Pregnancy Test was a pretty quick read that I thought could have benefited from being a little longer. I liked that the hero and heroine had know each other for two months before their tryst in the Caribbean, but during that time they rarely saw each other in person with most of their communications taking place via text messaging and e-mail. I thought it was a rather neat way to build a relationship, because it was virtually all based on them being attracted to each other's personalities and intellect rather than just looks, which is something I really appreciate. However, the whole two-months worth of interactions took place during a scant single chapter, that didn't really create enough of an emotional connection between the characters to suit me. The book is very fast-paced, but the first two-thirds or so seemed almost rushed to me. I just found myself wishing that things would slow down a bit, so that I could savor the moment. When Damien and Mandy begin to realize that they have feelings for one another is the point when I thought the story developed a little more depth.
Damien is a very appealing hero, who we are led to believe at the beginning, is an ogre of a boss who scares away all of his executive assistants. It becomes quickly apparent though that he is mostly just a workaholic who uses his job to hide from the pain of the past. I thought that the circumstances of his first marriage and especially what happened to end it were rather unique and not something I've come across yet in my romance reading, but the experience quite understandably left Damien very cold and lonely. I really liked that he had been celibate for three years and hadn't been with anyone since his wife. In my opinion, it showed that he was more of a relationship kind of guy and not just one who was into casual flings, and to me, it made his time with Mandy more special because she was the one with whom he wanted to end both his emotional and sexual drought. I also loved that Damien barely batted an eyelash when Mandy told him she was pregnant, and if anything, it made her all the more attractive to him, even though the baby wasn't biologically his. I really like when romance heroes still find their pregnant wives or girlfriends sexy, because that's a time when many women tend to feel unattractive. I thought it was cute that after reading Mandy's pregnancy book, Damien was trying to be so gentle with her, practically treating her like she was a china doll and thinking he might hurt her. Even though it practically drove Mandy to distraction, his attentiveness to her pregnancy was very sweet too. In my opinion, it showed that he was ready to step up to the plate and be a father to her baby in every way that counts. I also enjoyed that Damien wanted to take their lovemaking slow and savor every bit of Mandy for as long as he could. What woman wouldn't want a guy like that?
I really liked Mandy too. She had grit and determination to throw her ex-boyfriend's offer of money to never bother him with the baby again, back in his face, sell her dream business, and then apply for a job with a guy who had been dubbed “Demon” by everyone in the office, while in the throes of morning sickness. She is also a very intuitive heroine, anticipating Damien's every need as his assistant and recognizing the pain in his eyes almost from the moment she meets him. I loved that when Damien's secret comes out, she stands by him completely, sympathizing and never doubting him even for a moment. Mandy starts out the story with her own secret, trying to hide her pregnancy from Damien, at first so he'll hire her and later so that he won't fire her. Yet the moment Damien started pursuing her on their trip to the Caribbean, she told him the truth immediately, leaving no room for silly misunderstandings which was a big relief. I thought it was also rather amusing and different to have Mandy be the one who was being more sexually aggressive, while Damien was trying to take things slow. Mandy is also a somewhat unique heroine in that she was born and raised in Britain but now living in New York. I'm sure it's probably more common than I think, but I can't say that I've run across a main character yet in my reading of contemporary romances who was a native of another country, residing in the US. I was also really impressed with the author's use of a number of British colloquialisms in both Mandy's dialog and thoughts.
While the author may have added some unusual elements to this story and thankfully avoided any “big misunderstandings,” she did unfortunately still fall into the romance cliche of the hero and heroine fighting their feelings for one another. Mandy doesn't think that she should get seriously involved with anyone because of the baby, and Damien thinks that he can't have a real relationship because of his past. Although each of them had some decent reasons, I still thought they protested a little too much, and this kind of push-and-pull can be a little irritating to me. I think I just have a preference for characters who simply lay their hearts on the line. I'm also not a big fan of relationships that begin with sex-only agreements. It's a plotline that's just too predictable, and I always know where it's going to end up. Not to mention, as I've said many times before in other reviews, I simply prefer for the hero and heroine to be in love or well on their way before making love. That said though, Damien's aforementioned celibacy and their more-than-skin-deep attraction did make it more palatable for me, and I can't deny that the love scenes were very steamy and well-written. The Pregnancy Test may not have been a perfect read for me, but the characters were certainly enjoyable. Overall, it was a pleasant distraction with many things to like about it. The Pregnancy Test is the first book in the NY Girlfriends series. The second book in the series is You Don't Know Jack which features Jamie, one of Mandy's roommates, as the heroine. So far these are the only two books in the series, and Ms. McCarthy's website indicates that the series has been suspended for now. I had previously read one short novella by Erin McCarthy that I greatly enjoyed, but this was the first of her full-length novels I've tried. Since I had an agreeable reading experience with both, I am definitely open to continuing the series and trying more of her works in the future. ...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Mouth to Mouth was a pretty good book, but wasn't as amazing as I was expecting it to be based on other readers' gReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Mouth to Mouth was a pretty good book, but wasn't as amazing as I was expecting it to be based on other readers' glowing reviews. Normally, I'm not overly influenced by reviews, because I have found books that others hated which I loved and vice versa. This time, I must have been influenced more than usual though, because I think I went into reading this one with somewhat high expectations, only to finish it feeling a little disappointed and oddly unsatisfied. Maybe if I hadn't been expecting so much from it, I would have felt differently, but I can certainly see why others did enjoy the book. It has two likeable main characters, lots of steamy love scenes, and other than the teen angst and rebellion of Russ's brother, Sean, which causes some friction between them, it is what I would characterize as an easy, fluff read. And therein may lie the problem. All of Erin McCarthy's stories that I've read so far have been pretty light, and I generally have a preference for ones that contain deeper, more meaningful relationship development.
Like the last book I read by Ms. McCarthy, Mouth to Mouth has the hero and heroine falling into bed very early after only knowing each other for a matter of days, and both only intend for it to be a fling, but of course, it ends up turning into more than they bargained for. In my opinion, this plotline is way overused in contemporary romances, making it rather tiresome to me, and since I've never been into casual sexual encounters, it is one that doesn't really resonate with me on a personal level either. Granted the love scenes had an appealing spiciness to them, including one that involved the fun, creative use of candy buttons and pixy stix, but ultimately, having the wild sex type of beginning tends to diminish the emotional connection that I feel both for, and between, the characters, making it nothing more than merely hot sex for me. The overall premise of the story was pretty good, but the execution just felt very ordinary to me, like I'd read it many times before, only with different characters in a different setting. It simply seemed to lack the uniqueness and originality to suck me in and really engage my attention, which might seem strange for me to say since the heroine is deaf (only the second deaf heroine I can recall ever reading), but I'll address that shortly. I certainly didn't dislike Mouth to Mouth, but neither did I feel like I couldn't put it down or have any particular excitement about picking it back up either.
The hero and heroine, Russ and Laurel, are both likeable characters, but I never felt like I truly understood what made either of them tick. Russ is a tough-guy cop, who lost his parents in an accident a year earlier and is struggling to raise his teenage brother who is acting out rebelliously because of the tragedy. I liked that Russ was caring and committed enough to take on the responsibility for his brother, even though Sean was being a pain in the butt. I also liked Russ's protective nature toward Laurel, but just like her, I thought that his protectiveness could be borderline overbearing at times and often came out like he was speaking to a child. Laurel is a wealthy deaf woman who has become the target of a con-man who is out to bilk rich ladies out of their money. She seems to be caught between the deaf and hearing worlds, and this is why I think she never stood out to me like I expected she would. Even though Laurel is deaf, she functions with virtually no problems at all in the hearing world, which on the one hand, showed that she was very capable and able to live a pretty normal life in spite of her disability, but on the other hand, I thought it took away some of the uniqueness of her character. Laurel was constantly trying to assert her independence with Russ, saying that she was never really allowed to do what she wanted to because of her disability, but to me it seemed like it was more herself that was holding her back than circumstances. Just like Russ and her mother, I too felt like she was a bit naïve and too trusting at times. Overall, Laurel was never a very well-defined character for me. In fact, I felt that both Russ and Laurel's backstories and personalities were ripe with depth that was waiting to be plumbed but sadly never was, which is why I ended up liking but not loving them.
The”suspense” part of the plot was an interesting set-up, but very light and a couple of times I thought that it stretched the bounds of credibility just a bit. At least the revelation of the villain's secret identity was something that I didn't see coming. The surprise side romance of Russ and Laurel's best friends, Jerry and Cat, was rather amusing since they're complete opposites. There were a couple of family moments between Russ and Sean that I thought were pretty realistically rendered. I liked that at the heart of it all Sean seemed like a good kid who'd been dealt a bad hand, but in my opinion, he was a little too worldly for a thirteen year old. Laurel's overweight cat, Ferris, who is initially less than enthusiastic about Russ invading his space, was pretty funny. I also enjoyed the scene when Russ finally declares his love and thought it was quite romantic. Overall, Mouth to Mouth had some fairly entertaining moments that made it a worthwhile read. It just wasn't entirely to my liking from a personal preference standpoint, and I think the character's personalities were a little too different from my own and not explored fully enough for me to truly appreciate them. I think the book had great potential and I really wanted to love it, but in the end it just didn't quite reach that level for me. However, anyone who enjoys light, steamy stories, but isn't bothered by the hook-up-now, ask-questions-later approach to romance will probably enjoy it quite a bit....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Fuzzy Logic by Erin McCarthy – Fuzzy Logic was another cute, sexy, romantic short story from Erin McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy's fuReviewed for THC Reviews Fuzzy Logic by Erin McCarthy – Fuzzy Logic was another cute, sexy, romantic short story from Erin McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy's full-length novels have been hit and miss with me, but her novellas almost never fail to satisfy. Lucas was another of her adorable, geeky, beta heroes. It was so sweet that he'd been in love with Ashley since they were kids but hadn't pursued her because he was afraid of loosing their friendship and because Ashley had never showed any interest in him as anything more than her little brother's best friend. I love how he's so curious, wanting to know how everything works. His scientific mind could go into overdrive, but when it came to exploring Ashley's “romance enhancers” and her body, his analytic nature came in handy by helping him learn how to pleasure her. Lucas was definitely the kind of hero who could get my motor humming.;-)
Ashley is a fun, outgoing shopaholic. She decided to become a Pleasure Party consultant to pay off her mounting credit card debt. Everyone seems to think of Ashley as a dumb blonde until she has decided that she's not all that smart either. No one but Lucas seems to realize that she has a lot to offer, and I appreciated him being insightful as well as her vulnerability in that area. I will admit that Ashely fell for Lucas a little to quickly to be totally believable, but I was willing to buy into it because I could see how she might have been harboring a subconscious attraction for him all along. The fact that she wasn't the type to sleep around and he was able to turn her on so easily might suggest that. I guess the super-fast marriage proposal pushed the bounds of credibility too, but again, I was willing to give them a pass, because they had know each other for so long. I also enjoyed that Ashley was a few years older than Lucas. Overall, I thought that these two were a good fit and that they made a really cute couple.
Fuzzy Logic is the second novella in Erin McCarthy's Bowling Friends series. Kindra (Hard Drive from Bad Boys Online) and Ashley's other two best friends, Violet and Trish attended Ashley's Pleasure Party. Violet is a bit of a geek herself, so I'm really looking forward to reading her story, The Lady of the Lake, which is the next in the series. Overall, Fuzzy Logic was a sweet, fun and very steamy read that I really enjoyed. Star Rating: ****1/2
The Cupid Curse by Jen Nicholas – The Cupid Curse was a cute romance novella about a young woman who has been unlucky in love, so she asks Cupid for help with finding Mr. Right. Unfortunately, the Cupid she gets accidentally shoots himself with his own arrow, leading to an awkward situation but eventual love. Gideon was adorable. He's trying so hard to pass his Cupid exams to become a full-fledged Cupid. He's very eager to take on Val's case, but feels terrible when he botches it up. He then spends the rest of the story trying to convince Val that he loves her and that they would make a great couple. It was very sweet that he was a 132 year old virgin, but with great sensual instincts. Valentine was a nice heroine with strong family ties. She feels the clock ticking away and desperately wants to have a man in her life and to get married.
Valentine and Gideon are a cute couple but they spent a large part of the novella feeling very uncomfortable with each other. They are both quite attracted to one another, but Val goes back and forth between that attraction and being angry with Gideon for messing up her chance with Mr. Right. Of course, Gideon feel terribly guilty about that. By the end, they give into that attraction, and their one love scene was pretty sensuous. Still, I can't quite say that I truly felt the love connection between them, and it seems to me that if Cupid's magic was working on both of them, they should have been unmistakably and passionately in love. The story was a bit narrative heavy too. If it had been any longer than it was, it probably would have gotten bogged down. In spite of my criticisms though, I still have to give the author some extra points for originality and creativity. The Cupid Curse was certainly not like any other romances I've read before which made it pretty entertaining. This was my first read by Jen Nicholas, and although it appears she only has two other published works, I would be open to trying them sometime. Star Rating: ****
Mesmerized by Jordan Summers - Mesmerized was my least favorite of the three novellas in this anthology. This was mainly because I had a hard time buying into the premise and the idea of the hero and heroine falling in love so quickly. However, I also have to admit that I wasn't overly enamored with the main characters themselves. Amanda was a very experienced hypnotist who had put people in trances for her show many times before, so it just seemed odd to me that she wouldn't start to suspect something when she wasn't able to “wake” Derek after several days. Even her assistant suspected he was faking right after the show. I also wasn't thrilled with her making love to Derek when she thought he was still in a trance. Of course, he wasn't, but she didn't know that which from her perspective should have made it a non-consensual act. She at least had the decency to feel badly about it, but I would have preferred that she simply take the high road and not do it at all until she knew he was fully conscious. Derek wasn't much better, because he had attended Amanda's show and agreed to be put in a trance under false pretenses. Then he pretended that he wasn't coming out of the trance just to get her to take him home, so he could get the scoop on her for his magazine story. In the end, he realizes that Amanda means more to him than the story, but his deceptions had already put a bad taste in my mouth.
As a couple, I just didn't feel the love connection between Amanda and Derek. They both had the hots for one another right from the minute they see each other, and they shared a couple of pretty steamy love scenes, but without those loving emotions, it was little more than a casual fling to me. They seemed to fall in love just because they had great sex which is something I simply couldn't buy. It was also hard to believe that Amanda would forgive Derek so easily after finding out that he was only pretending to get his story, especially after her father's life had been ruined by a reporter. Mesmerized wasn't a terrible story, but it was just OK. This was my first read by Jordan Summers, and I can say that the actual writing is fairly strong and quite readable. I just felt like there were some big holes in the plotting and characterizations. If those weaknesses had been shored up or the narrative had been a little longer to flesh out those details, I thought it could have been a very good novella. Star Rating: ***...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Now that I've read four of Lora Leigh's books, I've come to the conclusion that in order to truly enjoy them, oneReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Now that I've read four of Lora Leigh's books, I've come to the conclusion that in order to truly enjoy them, one has to leave their brain at the door and not think about the plots too much. Unfortunately, being the cerebral person that I am, that can be very difficult, and I end up finding annoying discrepancies and worse yet, huge plot holes. The author gave just enough backstory on Kane and Sherra in the two previous Feline Breeds books, Tempting the Beast and The Man Within, to really whet my appetite for more. I desperately wanted to know exactly how it was that Kane and Sherra met while she was in the lab, and why she was able to accept him as her lover (and mate) after the traumatic experience of numerous rapes. I also wanted to know how it was that Kane escaped and why he wasn't able to take Sherra with him when he did, but alas, my questions were not to be answered by reading Kiss of Heat. In fact, I didn't really learn anything new about Kane and Sherra that hadn't already been told in the previous novels. I even wondered if I was forgetting some details and went back to skim those two books to no avail, so I guess I was meant to simply accept their relationship for what it was and leave it at that, which as I've already mentioned, is easier said than done. For some reason, Lora Leigh decided to begin Kiss of Heat with a prologue that was basically a re-written and expanded version of a scene straight out of Tempting the Beast when I thought it would have been more effective to take readers back even further to Kane and Sherra's meeting in the lab.
Even though, I badly wanted more character development for Kane and Sherra, they were still fairly likable characters. I can't say that I had been drawn to Kane very much in the previous books, because he was portrayed as an extreme alpha who was every bit as dominant as some of the Breed men, and he started this book with that same intense personality. At first, he was still a bit too much for me to take, but as the story progressed, he slowly started to lighten up. When he showed some vulnerability over Sherra's inability to open her heart to him again, and then at the end, when he was literally brought to his knees by his love for her, I couldn't help but like him to some extent. I deeply sympathized with Sherra over the torture she experienced in the Breed laboratories years ago (although exactly how many years ago is highly in question as it was seven in Tempting the Beast and eleven in Kiss of Heat). I understood why she initially fought her desire for Kane even though she was in the throes of a painful mating heat. She was simply trying to protect her heart from being broken again and was also trying to protect Kane since no one knew how a man would react to the Breed mating hormone. Still, I felt that Ms. Leigh could have expressed the emotional impact on both of these characters a little more deeply. As written, I felt like she was telling more than showing, so I never fully connected with Kane and Sherra in the way I had hoped.
Although I realize it's a Lora Leigh trademark, the fact that Kane and Sherra spent a lot of time sniping at and arguing with each other didn't help matters for me, and it wasn't just the hero and heroine who were engaging in this type of behavior either. Nearly everyone in the book, even the women, seemed constantly angry, with someone grunting, growling, yelling, snarling or participating in general alpha posturing every couple of paragraphs. I could definitely see how someone could get completely smashed if they played a drinking game while reading this book, and quite frankly it might have been more enjoyable that way.;-) I also couldn't help but roll my eyes at the idea of the hero walking around aroused nearly 24/7. I know it was the mating hormone causing it, but I couldn't stop myself from thinking about how with him being a normal human male, this would constitute a major medical issue. Not to mention, he didn't seem all that concerned about hiding it either. The happy little event at the end was just a bit too easy and convenient for my taste too.
With Kiss of Heat being primarily about Sherra going through the mating heat and trying to come to terms with Kane being back in her life and her permanent mate, lots of steamy love scenes were definitely expected and in that respect, I wasn't disappointed. Lora Leigh certainly knows how to write blistering hot love scenes that are sure to leave the reader in need of a cold shower or ready to “attack” their own mate, and this book was no exception. These parts helped to make the story more enjoyable and were a little sweet treat for my mind. However, with the previous books in the series, the red hot lovin' turned my brain sufficiently mushy enough to almost forget some of the other story weaknesses, but in this case, I think there were a few too many deficiencies for mere steam to overcome. I just found myself thinking about all missing pieces and questions I had that weren't being answered, rather than enjoying the heat.
Time line wise, Kiss of Heat takes place immediately following The Man Within, and simultaneously with the latter part of Elizabeth's Wolf. As such, the Breeds are still fighting against threats and attacks from outsiders at their compound and Cassie, the little Wolf Breed girl from Elizabeth's Wolf, is involved in the story. She is pretty much the same as before, but I have to say that I'm still slightly off-put by her occasionally manipulative nature. Callan and Merinus (Tempting the Beast) and Taber and Roni (The Man Within) also play significant roles, as do some of the characters who will get their own books in the future: Tanner (Tanner's Scheme), Mercury (Mercury's War), Cabal (Bengal's Heart), and Jonas (Lion's Heat). The latter two were introduced in this book, and Dawn and Seth (Dawn's Awakening) had their first scenes together. I'm intrigued by this pairing, but considering that Dawn experienced something similar to, if not worse than Sherra did in the labs, I felt like Seth's overtly sexual overtures toward Dawn were a little bit much. Still, I've heard that their book is one of the best in the series, so I'm looking forward to eventually reading it and hope that it has better character and plot development than Kiss of Heat did.
In spite of my frustrations with it, Kiss of Heat was a worthwhile read, but it left me with a half-full feeling, like the whole story simply wasn't told. Anyone who can shut their brain off long enough to overlook that will probably enjoy it much more than I did. Even though this was probably my least favorite book in the Breed series that I've read to date, I'm sure I'll continue on. The whole Breed concept is an intriguing, albeit rather underdeveloped one at this point, but if nothing else, I'll know that there'll be some “hot sex” to console me in the event of a disappointing plot.
Note: For the most part, the sexual content reads much like a super-steamy mainstream romance, but there is one brief moment of anal play with fingers. There is also a scene in which two characters (not the hero or heroine) are caught in the aftermath of a menage a trois....more