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
So many people have raved about the Breeds series and Lora Leigh's writing in general that I finally had to try it out. In many ways, I can certainlySo many people have raved about the Breeds series and Lora Leigh's writing in general that I finally had to try it out. In many ways, I can certainly see why fans enjoy these so much. I thought the premise was very creative and unique, something I've never seen in a romance novel before. I kept thinking as I read it that this is the stuff that great sci-fi movies are made of. It definitely held my attention, but I found myself wishing the author would tell me more about the Breeds and their back-stories. I guess maybe that will be covered more in the sequels. Even though I really liked the ideas that the plot was built upon, I had mixed feelings about some other aspects. This was only my second read of an erotic novel, the first having been fairly tame by comparison, and although I went into it with my eyes wide open as to the content and wasn't shocked by anything I read, I think I was still caught off guard a bit by the raw, edgy intensity in the sex scenes. There didn't seem to be much tenderness or what I would call heart-stopping romance to be found, and when some of these types of emotions started to surface, it seemed all too brief. That said though, I wasn't offended by anything I read and did not find anything out of context for the storyline. It was really just more a matter of personal preference.
I thought that Callan and Merinus were interesting characters, but I can't say that I really related to either one. I think they were both just a little too alpha for my taste. I felt like these two spent way to much time trying to dominate each other and not enough time just trying to work together to find solutions to the dangerous situation they were in. I like my alpha males, but they also have to have a gentler side (like the brothers of the BDB). Callan just seemed to be on testosterone overload almost all the time. Merinus was also too stubborn and dominant for me. In my opinion her character just wasn't fully fleshed out. I felt like I knew and understood Callan pretty well, but I realized after finishing the book that I never knew much anything of a personal nature about Merinus. I also had a hard time buying into their falling in love. One minute they were lusting after each other like two animals in heat (which they basically were) and the next she was declaring her love out of the blue with him following not long after. This just didn't work well for me. In spite of my criticisms though, I honestly think that Lora Leigh is a good writer, although the editing on the book could have used a little more work. The intriguing cast of secondary characters and the open-ended epilogue have peaked my interest suffieciently to make me want to continue the series to see where this riveting story leads.
Note: This book contains extremely explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Big Guns Out of Uniform is an anthology of three contemporary borderline erotic novellas featuring heroes in law enforcement.
BReviewed for THC Reviews Big Guns Out of Uniform is an anthology of three contemporary borderline erotic novellas featuring heroes in law enforcement.
BAD to the Bone BAD to the Bone was a pure fantasy that was very fun and enjoyable to read. I thought that the beginning and ending of the story could have benefited from a bit more clarity and tighter plotting, but the rest of the story really helped to make up for these deficiencies. The premise of a woman living out her romance novel fantasies in real life with a hunky hero was very entertaining. I especially liked that Kyle actually read Marianne's favorite book and was trying to make it all come to life for her. It just made him seem so caring and thoughtful.
I found both characters to be likable, relatable, and well-drawn. Marianne, as an average, ordinary woman, just couldn't have been sweeter, yet she was passionate and adventurous enough to step outside her comfort zone. Kyle was a tough guy with a tortured past, yet he accepted Marianne's tenderness toward him as something that was missing from his life instead of being suspicious or shutting down emotionally. In fact, she was able to fulfill his fantasies every bit as much as he fulfilled hers. I loved the way the author built a beautiful relationship between these two characters in such a short time mainly with the use of communication, a seeming rarity in romance novels. This made for some extremely sexy and sensuous love scenes that were still very sweet and romantic. Overall, I found this novella to be a delightful read that even showcased a little humor, a great story for anyone looking for a bit of escapism.
BAD to the Bone along with its two companion novellas in the Born to Be BAD anthology are something of a prequel to the main B.A.D. Agency series. It was first published in Big Guns Out of Uniform, and was later reprinted in Born to Be BAD. This was my first read by Sherrilyn Kenyon, but it certainly won't be my last. I am looking forward to continuing the B.A.D. series as well as exploring her other books. Rating: ****
Let's Talk About Sex I think it can be difficult for an author to write a short story that is still satisfying, but in Let's Talk About Sex, Liz Carlyle has, in my opinion, put together a tale that has both tight plotting and good character development. The narrative flowed smoothly, and I thought it was the perfect length. Rather than being left with that "I-wish-there-were-more-to-the-story" feeling when it ended, I felt like Goldilocks, that it was "just right".
As the title might imply, the main focus was on the sex, but emotions got tangled up in the mix pretty quickly. The love scenes were both creative and scorching hot and there were plenty of them too, but there were also some romantic moments as well. I haven't seen many real proposals in the romances I've read, so I thought the proposal scene was a particularly nice touch. I also thought that the author progressing the narrative through a few months time, made this scenario more believable.
I found both the hero and heroine to be very likable, and neither one was bringing a ton of baggage into the relationship. Sometimes it's just refreshing to read a story about relatively normal people with normal problems. I thought it was sweet that Delia dealt with the topic of sex every day in her work, but in real life was still slightly repressed. Nick was a hot, sexy guy (not to mention an animal lover, which I find hard to resist), who was also a patient and accomplished lover. He knew exactly how to rebuild Delia's self-confidence and release her inner sex kitten to make her purr.
While the story did not contain many of the getting-to-know-you moments that I love and that really help to build a more believable relationship, I found Let's Talk About Sex to be a fun, enjoyable romp. Readers who like lust turned to love or love at first sight stories should appreciate this one, and while those are not my favorite plot lines, Ms. Carlyle's writing was strong enough to make me overlook that. Liz Carlyle has been one of my favorite authors of historical romance for a while, and even though Let's Talk About Sex was her first and only foray into contemporary romance to date, I found it to be equally as good. In my opinion, it was the overall best and most well written novella in this anthology, definitely worthy of keeper status. Rating: ****1/2
The Nekkid Truth In my opinion, this novella had a lot of potential that it just didn't quite live up to. I thought the premise of the story was a fascinating one, that of a woman who had lost the ability to recognize faces due to a head injury. I like it when an author can teach me about something I didn't already know or expand on my previous knowledge of a particular subject, and I find things of a medical nature to be especially interesting. While the author did give an overview of what this condition entailed, she never once called it by it's actual name, Prosopagnosia aka Face Blindness. She also did not fully express in any depth what it was like for the heroine to live with this affliction, which I felt would have created a much more compelling story. Instead the author opted to tell the reader more about the heroine's photography endeavors and sexual conquests than about her life and feelings. The cover blurb also implies that the heroine's special condition somehow plays a pivotal role in the criminal investigation, but I never quite saw how that was the case.
The Nekkid Truth reminded me in some ways of old black & white detective movies. It is written in first person with a rather dry, "just the facts ma'am" type of presentation. I felt like I was being told the story rather than experiencing it. This writing style made it very difficult to get a good grasp on any of the characters, particularly the hero about whom readers are only given tidbits of information, most of which doesn't come out until toward the end. I am not opposed to the first person perspective, but I think it can be very challenging for an author using this writing style to convey the feelings and emotions of other characters in the story unless they are very deft at their craft.
The love scenes showed some creativity and with a little more tenderness and less matter-of-fact attitude, could have been truly romantic and steamy, but without the incorporation of emotions, came off as being little more than a string of sexual encounters that lacked any real spark and to me felt very crude. I'm afraid that certain aspects of the heroine's photography, as well as a rather hedonistic attitude from her and other characters, only lent to this atmosphere. I also found my eyebrows shooting up at a couple of unrealistic descriptions of the size of the male anatomy (not the hero's) which simply added more fuel to the fire.
As far as the heroine's work, I have no issue with nude art and in fact have found many pieces to be quite beautiful, so I had no real problem with her specializing in nude photography. What did bother me however, was her penchant for wallpapering her studio with nude photos and even more so, her seeming obsession with taking photographs of that certain part of the male anatomy and then meticulously filing them away. Apparently, this all had something to do with her face blindness, and at one point she tried to explain this all to the hero, but it still just never made much sense to me. In general, there simply wasn't enough depth of emotion to be found in this story to really draw me into the characters lives and make me truly care about them or believe in their love for each other and a lasting happily-ever-after ending.
Though not incredibly compelling, I thought Ms. Camden did do well with the mystery element. This part of the narrative was fed to the reader bit by bit, so that the solution to the puzzle was not really discernible until the reveal. Although there was room for improvement in this area as well, I did find it to be interesting. In my opinion, she also did a good job with keeping the plot tight and the story moving along at a steady pace.
The Nekkid Truth was the only novella in this anthology which featured a hero and heroine who had know each other for a while before becoming intimately involved which was an aspect of the story I could appreciate, but again, with the lack of emotion, I still found the other two novellas to be much more compelling and believable. Usually anthologies group together stories with similar themes and styles, and while the cop hero theme was there, the writing style of The Nekkid Truth was very different from the other two, making it seem somewhat out of place in this grouping. This appears to be Ms. Camden's first and only published work, so I am willing to allow that with some sharpening of her writing skills and/or perhaps a switch to a mystery or edgy chic-lit genre, she could have potential. Rating: ***
I really like the premise of this quartet of romantic novellas. The book's prologue written by Catherine Anderson was aReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
I really like the premise of this quartet of romantic novellas. The book's prologue written by Catherine Anderson was an intriguing beginning to the story, but it left me with many questions about the gown's creator and her one true love. I had hoped that those questions would be answered as the stories progressed, but that was not to be the case.
A Perfect Fit by Barbara Metzger – A Perfect Fit was very much a traditional Regency romance, probably in a similar vein as Georgette Heyer (though I admit that I have yet to read any of her books). The story had classic Regency plotting and lots of authentic words and phrases which gives the reader the feel of actually being in the Regency period. In addition, although it had some mild sexual tension, it was completely non-explicit, making it suitable for both younger and more sensitive romance readers. For a short story, I thought the characters were nicely developed. My only complaint would be that there were a few too many of them, and I found myself occasionally loosing track of who was who. Forde and Katie were both very likable, as were nearly all of the characters in the story, although I can't say that I found myself connecting on a deep emotional level with anyone. In my opinion, there were only a couple of exceptions in this otherwise “nice” cast, with one being Katie's daughter, Susannah, who I thought acted rather spoiled and ungracious, but she did mature a bit by the end. The other was Susannah's future mother-in-law who was a rather prim and snobbish member of the ton, but I believe was meant to be an extreme caricature, who added some mild comic relief. The romance was very sweet, but I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. Throughout most of the story, Forde and Katie were sizing each other up and dealing with wedding woes and eccentric relatives. I didn't really feel that it left enough time for them to believably fall in love. All of that happened in a few paragraphs at the end. Overall though, I found A Perfect Fit to be a pleasant, if predictable, read that was not a bad way to spend a few hours of my time. This novella was my first story by Barbara Metzger, but I found it enjoyable enough to leave me open to trying more of her works in the future. Rating: ***1/2
Glad Rags by Connie Brockway – Glad Rags was a combination romantic comedy and reunion romance, both of which I usually enjoy, but this tale fell flat for me on both counts. I consider myself to have a pretty good sense of humor, but I thought this story was just rather silly. The author tries to build a case that Alex is a very attractive man and an honorable war hero, but I just couldn't get past the ridiculous notion of him being dressed in drag for more than half the narrative. Granted he had a decent reason, that of a lost bet, but it still came off as rather juvenile humor to me. I smiled in amusement maybe a couple of times, but the rest of the time, I was, for the most part, doing a lot of eye rolling. Since Alex and Lucy had been separated for two years, in part due to Alex's service in the Crimean War, I thought there might at least be something for me grasp with their reunion, but I was sadly mistaken. I found the reasons for their separation to be mainly selfish and prideful and brought about by rather absurd miscommunications that could have been easily resolved with a simple heart-to-heart conversation. Once they do reunite, things move far too quickly, for the most part fueled by physical desire. In spite of their declaration of undying love, I never really felt any emotional connection between the two characters. I ended the story never feeling like their old issues were ever truly resolved. They just continued to argue and vie for control in the relationship for the whole novella, which did not leave me with the feeling that these two could have a lasting happily-ever-after. Considering that the anthology is about a wedding dress, I have to admit that I was also disappointed that this story did not even contain a wedding. Admittedly, having the guy wear the wedding dress was an interesting twist, but it just didn't work for me. In the end, I simply felt that the beautiful wedding gown that is supposed to be the centerpiece of these novellas deserved a much better story. This was my first read by Connie Brockway, and as I've heard some positive things about her writing, I will try to reserve judgment on her talents until I've read something else that will hopefully be better than this, in my opinion, woefully underdeveloped farce. Rating: **1/2
Something Special by Casey Claybourne – I do hope readers will forgive my triteness, but I have to say that I found Something Special to truly be “something special.” It was a sweet romance that was very enjoyable to read. Unlike the first two novellas in this anthology, I actually found myself looking forward to picking it up again each time I had to put it down. I thought that the plot was very tight and the characters were very likable. I am not usually drawn to not-so-bright heroines, but Penny was a real sweetheart. It didn't take me long to realize that she was really a product of a lack of education rather than a lack of intelligence. Penny was very street-smart, and when anyone took the time to help her out, she was actually a quick study academically. I initially had a few misgivings about Josh leaving his daughter, Eliza, for such long stretches of time without parental involvement and with minimal female guidance, but he proved to be a very loving and caring father who had just been trying to build a successful business. Eliza was an adorable and precocious child who was simply too smart for her own good, and Seamus Macgorrie, their reluctant nanny, cook and housekeeper was good for some amusement with his dry wit and wisdom. I also liked the rather unique setting of historical Seattle, Washington. As I have said in some of my other reviews, love at first sight romances are not really my favorites, but lately I have a found a few authors who have made me rethink my position. Casey Claybourne has become one of them. She infused the narrative with just enough tender emotions to make the short time frame of the relationship development actually seem believable to me. It is a very rare novella on which I am able to bestow keeper status, but I am going to do exactly that with Something Special. This was my first read by Ms. Claybourne, and in fact, I had not even heard of her until reading this story. After such an enjoyable reading experience though, I will definitely be checking out her other works. Rating: ****1/2
Beautiful Gifts by Catherine Anderson – Beautiful Gifts is yet another winning story from Catherine Anderson. It is the first novella I have read by her, but I thought it had enough substance to rival her full-length novels. I loved this story of two wounded people finding the healing and love they so richly deserved in each other's arms. Faith was a very admirable heroine. She was a city girl, born and bred, who I thought exhibited strength of character to leave her cold, cruel father in an attempt to make a new life for herself and her young daughter away from his influence. She was also a loving, caring mother who was willing to do anything to keep her daughter fed and protected. Patrick had not always been a very nice character in Keegan's Lady, the previous book in this series, where he first appeared, but his part in that story had ended on a high note, giving me the feeling that a happy ending was in the works for him. I thought that Ms. Anderson redeemed him very nicely by having him show a great deal of remorse for his past actions and in the process, demonstrated the true power of forgiveness. By the time this novella commences, he has returned to being the kind, caring person that he was in his youth, and that I suspected still lurked beneath the surface even in his darker moments. The one and only thing that I thought might have made the story better would have been a slightly more detailed love scene for them. Normally, the subtle nature of the love scene would have been just fine with me, and it certainly was mild enough to be appropriate for younger and more sensitive readers. However, much had been made of Faith's first husband having insulted her skills as a lover, and she was greatly lacking confidence in that area. I think that a little more details in that scene, not just physically but emotionally as well, would have made it more believable to me that her confidence was being restored. Otherwise, this was a near-perfect sweet romance that definitely left me with a very satisfied feeling, another surprising short-story keeper. Beautiful Gifts is the second story in Catherine Anderson's Keegan/Paxton Families series (or Coulter Historical series as it is sometimes called). The first book is Keegan's Lady and all of the main characters in that story make an appearance in Beautiful Gifts, including Ace and Caitlin, the hero and heroine, as well as Joseph, Esa, and David Paxton. Joseph Paxton becomes the hero of book #3, Summer Breeze, and Ms. Anderson is hard at work on another book in the series which will possibly be released sometime next year. I am very much looking forward to continuing this heart-warming family western series. Rating: ****1/2
Catherine Anderson wrapped up this quartet of novellas with a very tender epilogue of a modern lady who finds the magical wedding gown and in the process finds what one assumes will become the man of her dreams. It was such a lovely little mini-tale that I found myself wishing that there was more to their story, but it was still a nice ending to this anthology....more
"4.5 stars" The Duke is the best book I have read in while. I really enjoyed this Cinderella-type story of a young woman who was reduced to a penniles"4.5 stars" The Duke is the best book I have read in while. I really enjoyed this Cinderella-type story of a young woman who was reduced to a penniless state by a greedy, obsessed suitor and the gallant duke who became her rescuer. Even though I liked this book very much it was not quite the perfect, grand romance I expected. Instead it bore a bit more resemblance to the historical reality of that era. That's not to say I didn't like it. It simply was different than what one might expect from a romance with this theme. I really admired Belinda. She had so many wonderful qualities, it wasn't difficult to see why Robert would fall in love with her. What I liked most about her was that in spite of being the victim of rape (and several unethical schemes) she never allowed herself to be victimized. Instead she took control of her life and courageously stood up to those who had done her harm. I also greatly respected her choice to maintain some shred of morality even though she had chosen to become a courtesan. Robert was a gentle and patient man who tried to live a virtuous life in an attempt to overcome the black mark his mother had left on the family name by having multiple lovers. In the beginning of the story, he seemed more beta than alpha, but when his protective nature came out, he could be frighteningly vicious. He was a little hard-headed at times though, which could be a bit frustrating to read, but in the end he fully realized Bel's true worth and put his heart on the line in the most romantic of ways. It was great to see him break out of the box he had been put into and truly feel free.
I really liked Gaelen Foley's writing style. Some of the situations she presents are very complex and nuanced making me think about them long after I finished the book (in fact I still am), such as what type of life circumstances might have caused a woman to choose the life of courtesan or how difficult it would have been for two people of highly differing social stations to marry. The author also had a way of holding back emotions at times, which I think may have been intentional, as it gave me a sense of the insecurity that Bel was feeling in her relationship with Robert. While the love scenes were not plentiful, they were very sensuous, beautifully expressing the building emotions between the two characters. I liked the way that the author was able to weave in several real-life historical figures as secondary characters, and there was a political element that for once was actually interesting instead of being dry. The story kept a steady pace, more than holding my interest. In fact, every time I had to put it down, I could hardly wait for the next opportunity to read. This was my first book by Gaelen Foley, but it was impressive enough that I could see her becoming a new favorite author in the future. I've already picked up Book #2 in this series, Lord of Fire and am definitely looking forward to reading it....more
I really thought I was going to thoroughly enjoy Too Much Temptation, but in the end it just didn't grab my attention and engage my emotions the way II really thought I was going to thoroughly enjoy Too Much Temptation, but in the end it just didn't grab my attention and engage my emotions the way I had hoped. In my opinion, the story was pretty light on the plot and the characters were underdeveloped and inconsistent. All of the characters seemed to have thoughts, feelings and actions that were as changeable as the weather, making it very difficult for me to fully grasp anyone's motives. There were quite a few scenes that were written from the point-of-view of secondary characters which I could have done without, in favor of better development of the hero and heroine. This was a pretty light story that I think was supposed to be humorous at times, but even though I consider myself to have a good sense of humor, I rarely found anything to be truly funny. I also thought that some of the author's word choices could have been better, as I was often jolted out of the story by words and phrases that just didn't seem to fit. This is really more of a personal thing, but overall I simply didn't feel that the narrative had the polished flow of many others I have read.
Grace and Noah were nice people, and although I didn't have any real problems with them, I couldn't honestly say that they stood out to me either. I do commend the author for writing a heroine who is fuller-figured and a hero who loves her unconditionally. I also thought that Grace's loyalty and protectiveness of Noah was very sweet and charming. I liked that Noah had an angst-ridden background, but it just never seemed to go anywhere and didn't have nearly the emotional bite as many other stories with the same theme. I really felt like the author was just rattling off a list of facts about his past, but gave me few clues about his feelings. Most of the time I found Noah's grandmother to be thoroughly manipulative and his ex-fiancee to be weak and whiny, and both of them seemed fairly shallow. I don't think I was supposed to dislike them all the time, but I couldn't seem to muster much liking for them even when they were being a little more decent. The only supporting player I really liked was Noah's brother, Ben. He was a nice, down-to-earth guy, who made me feel like cheering when he put his grandmother in her place. I'm happy to say that he gets to be the hero of the next book in the series.
Overall, Too Much Temptation didn't completely wow me, but one thing I can say is that the love scenes were fairly frequent, hot and creative, pushing the envelope a bit without crossing into the erotic. For readers who enjoy lots of steam, but don't mind a story that is a little light on plot, this would definitely be a worthwhile read. This was my first book by Lori Foster, and even though I thought it could have been better, I will likely read the rest of the series at some point and keep an open mind about reading her other works in the future....more
"4.5 stars" The Real Deal was a sweet, engaging love story that was imbued with a healthy dose of realism, but still maReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars" The Real Deal was a sweet, engaging love story that was imbued with a healthy dose of realism, but still managed to stay within the bounds of romantic fantasy that all readers of the genre seem to love. I really enjoyed how Lucy Monroe took two people with low self-esteem, due in part to failed relationships of the past, and helped them to grow and change by finding the perfect mate in each other. Although I don't believe I have previously read any romance novels that primarily take place in the corporate business world, I have to say that this type of setting along with all of it's attendant politics would not normally be of interest me. However, since my husband works in a similar environment and frequently deals with such things, I found that I knew enough about the topic for it to actually be quite interesting. I loved the peaceful, serene setting of Simon's island home off the coast of Washington. Until recently I had thought Washington to be a unique backdrop for a romance novel, but over the last few months I have read several stories that take place there. Ms. Monroe still managed to make it seem a little out of the ordinary though. I really enjoyed the loves scenes which I thought were hot, sensuous, and tastefully creative, while still being laden with plenty of emotion. In addition to a great hero and heroine, each of the secondary characters were very well rendered. I was particularly taken with Simon's housekeeper cum security expert, Jacob, and Amanda's one true friend, Jillian. Jacob was a crusty retired Secret Service agent with seemingly hundreds of different personas and Jillian was a flamboyant soap opera actress. Both added a lot of wisdom, levity, and humor to the two more serious main characters, and everyone was woven seamlessly into a tale that was a pleasure to read from start to finish.
I absolutely loved Simon. The only complaint I have about him is the author's repeated use of the phrase “gunmetal gray” to describe his eyes. In my opinion, it was a bit overused, but in the grand scheme of things it was merely a minor detractor to an otherwise great character. Having a techno-geek husband (and on occasion having been accused of being a geek myself), I can definitely say that Ms. Monroe's characterization of Simon was quite accurate, from his reclusive nature, to his frequent and lengthy forays into his lab, to his feelings of simply not fitting in with the rest of the world. I also liked Simon's katana collection and his choice of workout methods, both of which are typical geeky interests. The one thing I found a bit odd though, was his lack of electronic equipment (he didn't even have a TV), as in my experience most geeks tend to be rather enamored of almost any technical device, but maybe Simon got all the technical stimulation he needed in his lab. Since brains and beauty rarely come in the same package, I also thought that Simon's drop dead gorgeous looks were highly usual, but certainly not outside the realm of possibility. I did think it was very sweet and endearing that Simon was rather self-conscious about being so well-endowed, due to past lovers telling him he was too big. Since my research seems to indicate that this is a more common phenomena than most romance novelists would lead readers to believe, I really enjoyed Ms. Monroe's very different and more realistic take on Simon's impressive male attribute. I thought that Simon also exhibited a bit more confidence and social skills than the average geek, but again, social ineptness is a stereotype that is not always accurate. All in all, Simon was a wonderful hero who was kind and caring, a true gentleman, and an all-around great guy to anyone who took the time to get to know and understand him.
Fortunately for Simon, Amanda had plenty of time, and in the interests of a successful corporate merger, it was her job to understand how his mind worked. She was instantly attracted to him on a physical level, but she never realized how appealing the man inside would be as well. Amanda had plenty of hang-ups of her own after a failed first marriage to an unfaithful man who was a lousy lover and constantly berated her appearance. It was difficult for her to believe that someone like Simon could even be attracted to her, much less want anything more, but ultimately they both had to have a lot of patience and persistence to rebuild each other's confidence. While some readers may disagree, I actually liked that Amanda was a modern woman who had chosen not to sleep around, and that the only man she had ever been with prior to Simon was her first husband. I imagine that the issues Amanda faced in her work environment were probably not unlike what many women deal with in the corporate business world every day. It was interesting to watch her struggling with the realization that her career might not be the most important thing in her life after all, and that some of the things she had thought lost to her were actually within reach again. In the end, I felt a sense of pride in Amanda for making a difficult but gutsy decision about her job based on her personal ethics and values, and also for her having discovered a new confidence in herself that was not tied to her work.
The process Simon and Amanda went through, growing and changing and learning to love and believe in each other was a lovely and emotional one to read, but there were a few times I found myself wishing they would just tell each other what they were thinking and feeling. They trusted each other on some things right from the start, but other things took a little longer. Each of their stories came out in bits and pieces as they learned to trust a little more each day, which in hindsight was probably more realistic. I'm also grateful that even though Simon could be a little clueless at times and Amanda a bit stubborn due to her past hurts, no serious misunderstandings ever took place. Even though the revealing of their true selves to each other seemed a bit slow at times, without that pace, the final act of faith that Simon shows Amanda wouldn't have been half as sweet. Looking back, I think it might have been nice if these two had connected a little more on an intellectual level, as it didn't seem like they had a great deal in common. However, their emotional and physical relationship was so palpable that I didn't even think about this until the story was finished, so I guess I can't say that it really detracted from my enjoyment of the book. The Real Deal was an extremely well-written novel that hit very close to home for me, and also hit a home-run right onto my keeper shelf. This was my first read by Lucy Monroe, but after such a wonderful experience I am excitedly looking forward to checking out her backlist. While The Real Deal is a stand-alone novel with no apparent storyline connection to any of Ms. Monroe's other books, Amanda's friend, Jillian, does become the heroine of Deal With This, book #2 in The Goddard Project series. Lucy Monroe has also written inspirational romances as L.C. Monroe....more
I have really loved most of Lisa Kleypas's novels I have read to date, so it truly pains me to not be able to give this book a higher rating. This isI have really loved most of Lisa Kleypas's novels I have read to date, so it truly pains me to not be able to give this book a higher rating. This is one of the first four books that she wrote, and the writing style is so different from her later works that it almost seemed like it had been written by another author. The story is very heavily character-driven with very little plot. The conflict is mainly of an internal nature, driven by secrets and love triangles, with no real villains to speak of. I had a really hard time liking the characters. The heroine is very contradictory, almost to the point of seeming to have multiple personalities, for about the first 2/3 of the book, before finally settling into a steadier persona. The hero is sometimes kind and gentle, but at other times is a bit too stubborn and dominant for my taste. The two of them end up spending a large part of the book arguing about various things, often ending in an anger turned to passion moment, which isn't really my cup of tea either. The story is really heavy on the historical descriptions, especially details of the political climate between the North and South following the Civil War and the newspaper business, which I thought bogged down the pace. I love learning things about history from my novels, but I thought it was a little too scholarly and heavy-handed here. While there were some mildly romantic scenes, in my opinion, it was seriously lacking in the depth of emotion and passion for which Lisa Kleypas has become know. I'm sure there are some people who might enjoy this book, but I literally had to force myself to finish it in small doses. I couldn't really recommend it for anyone other than hard-core fans who are collecting her books, but I definitely will not be one of them. I'm really glad I borrowed this one and didn't pay the going OOP price for it....more
I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was in 5th or 6th grade, but for some reason, never chose to finish the series. With The ChroniclesI read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was in 5th or 6th grade, but for some reason, never chose to finish the series. With The Chronicles of Narnia finally being made into movies, I decided it was time to rectify that situation, since I have always had a preference for reading the book before seeing the movie. Though I didn't find it to be quite as compelling a story as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian was still a very good follow-up. It was a little like visiting with old friends. I enjoyed learning a bit more about the history of Narnia, and seeing how it had changed since the Pevensie children had ruled the land. It was also very nice to see them reconnect with Aslan and once again wrest Narnia from the control of evildoers, though I have to say that the "bad guys" in this story just simply weren't as convincing as the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I must admit though that I really loved the scenes where the girls, along with many of the creatures and inhabitants of Narnia have a feast, as well as the celebration everyone took part in following their victory. All the joy and happiness in those parts of the narrative just really drew me into the story. Although I was left with some questions that I hope will be answered in the remaining books in the series, I definitely thought Prince Caspian was a fun and enjoyable read....more
After finishing Always to Remember, I was left with a sense of almost sheer perfection. This unique book is far more thReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
After finishing Always to Remember, I was left with a sense of almost sheer perfection. This unique book is far more than a mere romance. It is a morality tale of a man making a stand for what he believes, and facing the scorn of an entire town because of it. This story asks and in my opinion, answers quite well the difficult question, “What truly constitutes courage?” It is about love and hate. It is about true friendship. It is about loyalty to one's convictions. It is about redemption and forgiveness of wrongs both perceived and real. Most of all, it is about people finding a way to come together in harmony in spite of their differences. Always to Remember is a story that really delves into the complexities of the human heart and mind with a depth that I don't often see in a romance novel, yet it never feels dark. As I read the book, it evoked so many different emotions and reactions: tears and sadness for all that Clay had suffered and the level of hatred that some human beings are capable of; joy and laughter for the humor that can be found even in the most difficult times; sighs of appreciation for the swoon-worthy romance. This book truly had it all, and I can't think of a single thing I disliked or would have changed.
I thought the characters in the story were incredibly well-rendered. I'm not sure that I have ever read such a kind, gentle beta hero as Clay was. He had suffered tremendously for being a conscientious objector to the Civil War, a genuinely tortured hero in both body and mind. He exhibited a depth of courage that made an entire town rethink what courage really means. His loyalty to both his beliefs and those he loves is a rare gem. If it wasn't for the fact that I know selfless people like Clay actually exist, I would almost be tempted to say that he was too good to be true. I found his virginal status to be both intoxicating and endearing just like Meg did. I also loved his artist side. The descriptions of Clay carving the monument brought it to life in a way that made it seem like a character itself. Meg was a bitter angry woman after her husband and three brothers were killed in the war, and she hated Clay as much as everyone else in town. It was sometimes difficult to read her direct biting words to him that were born out of her hatred, but even though I didn't agree with those sentiments, I never felt like I didn't understand her. I think this was all part of the beauty of the message that the book was trying to convey. Underneath it all, Meg was definitely a kind, caring and compassionate person, and as Clay, slowly and unbeknownst to her, chipped away at the rock surrounding her heart, she was able to show that side to him. The amount of growth that Meg went through from the beginning of the story to the end was phenomenal and believably written. In my opinion, Clay and Meg were two characters who complimented each other perfectly.
Always to Remember also had a great cast of secondary characters. Meg's grandmother-in-law, Mama Warner and Dr. Martin, the kind country physician, were about the only two people who didn't hate Clay, and they were always full of wisdom to impart to those who would listen. Clay's younger brother, Lucian, hated him every bit as much as the other townspeople, but when realization hits him, he too, grows and changes in ways he never would have guessed. Clay's ten-year-old twin brothers, Josh and Joe, are an endearing combination of vivacious wit and wisdom beyond their years. They had me laughing out loud at some of things they said, and on the occasions when they seriously spoke their minds, it never felt out of place or too mature, just that they had been well-brought up to understand and appreciate the finer points of life. Even though Meg's husband and Clay's best friend, Kirk, had been dead for months, his spirit played a pivotal role in the story through his letters and words he had spoken to both of them in the months and years before his death. I really liked that he was a strong part of the story and that Meg had truly loved him. Meg's brother and father, as well as most of the townspeople, hate Clay with a passion and throughout the story do some very despicable things to him, yet even they were important, in that they allowed Clay an opportunity to show his mettle and the power of forgiveness. All in all, this was a wonderful group of characters who really brought to life the warmth and closeness of the typical frontier community.
Always to Remember was my first read by Lorraine Heath, and I don't think I could have chosen a better book with which to begin. I really enjoy Civil War stories but don't often find them, so it is always a pleasure to read one when I do. I thought that Ms. Heath found a great balance, and I appreciated that she never politicized the subject matter in any way. Those who chose to fight were given equal status with those who chose not to, and neither side was ever demonized for the sake of making a point. In my opinion, this was simply an amazing story that has left me thinking about it long after turning the last page, which is something I love in any novel. I had this book on my to-be-read list for quite a while, and I'm now asking myself why I waited so long to read it. I borrowed this from the library, but will certainly be getting my own copy of this wonderful book for my keeper shelf. I can't wait to check out Lorraine Heath's backlist to see what other gems she may have written....more
Though not Catherine Anderson's best novel that I've read to date, I thought that Sweet Nothings was still a good book. The first half of the story moThough not Catherine Anderson's best novel that I've read to date, I thought that Sweet Nothings was still a good book. The first half of the story moves at a very languid pace as Molly goes through the process of recovering from her ex-husband's extreme verbal abuse and rediscovering herself, while building a relationship with Jake. I liked the way that the author mirrors Molly's recovery with that of the abused horse she rescued from her ex-husband's clutches, and how they become kindred spirits. I found myself wishing that Ms. Anderson had written more interactions between them and Jake. The second half of the story turns into a light suspense/thriller as the ex comes back to become a menacing presence in their lives. This part of the story was interesting, but in my opinion, a little too predictable. Unfortunately, I felt that the romance took a back seat to these two elements of the story. While there were some romantic moments, I just didn't feel like it was quite enough, and it didn't have the heart-stopping quality that can be found in some of Catherine Anderson's other works. In fact, readers who prefer books that are light on love scenes would probably enjoy this one. Aside from one brief lustful embrace early on, the hero and heroine don't even kiss again until 3/4 of the way through the story. I normally wouldn't care about the shortage of love scenes if the romance and sexual tension are good, but as I said I found this part to be a little lacking.
I would predict that some readers will probably find Molly's constant self-reproach annoying, and there will be others who will find her less-than-perfect body to be a refreshing change from the typical slender beauty. Neither of these things were really make-or-break for me personally. What I liked was how deeply nuanced the character is, challenging the reader to look well beneath the surface to truly understand her. I love stories that delve into the limitless depths of the human psyche, and if the reader takes the time to look carefully, this one certainly does that. Even though Molly wasn't the most memorable heroine I have ever read, this aspect alone made her fascinating to me. In my opinion though, Jake is the character who really made this book a good read. He is quite possibly the most perfect hero I've ever read. Jake exhibits more of a beta hero persona that always seems to be completely in tune with what Molly is feeling, but he also has a dash of the protectiveness, jealousy and confidence that alphas are usually known for. Even though I usually prefer my heroes to be a little more imperfect, I simply couldn't resist this gorgeous cowboy who not only reads, but willingly read a romance novel. Now that's pretty cool! In spite of it's weaknesses, Sweet Nothings was, in my opinion, a very readable book and a nice addition to the Kendrick/Coulter/Harrigan series which I look forward to continuing soon....more
This third installment in Sandra Hill's Viking Series II is a fun-filled romp through time. I wasn't sure I would like Magnus because the impression IThis third installment in Sandra Hill's Viking Series II is a fun-filled romp through time. I wasn't sure I would like Magnus because the impression I had gotten of him from the previous two books was that of an arrogant womanizer whose numerous conquests had left him with eleven children, not to mention he didn't seem like the sharpest knife in the drawer. Well, Sandra Hill managed to skillfully turn him into an endearing hero whose earthiness gave him a charming simplicity. He was also a loving, patient, and committed father which is always a plus for me. Angela was a strong, determined woman who ended up loving Magnus's kids as much as he did, which is something that no other woman in his life had done for him. I thought her character was a bit underdeveloped though, so she just didn't stand out to me like Magnus and the kids did. I found her to be a likable and pleasant heroine nonetheless. I was also a little disappointed with the development of Magnus and Angela's relationship. Things moved a little too quickly for my taste, and I didn't initially feel an emotional connection between the two characters. However, the ending was very romantic and satisfying in my opinion. I thought the kids were a total hoot, and each one had a unique personality. In fact there was plenty of Sandra Hill's trademark humor that left me in stitches quite frequently. There was a scene where Magnus and his children discover the joys of "Wal-Market" that was absolutely priceless. While the story wouldn't stand up to close scrutiny from logical readers, I found it to be a fun and enjoyable fantasy. If you like your romance with a healthy dose of laughter, then this book and it's companions may just fit the bill....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I had read and greatly enjoyed the first four volumes of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but after seeing many negative rReviewed for THC Reviews I had read and greatly enjoyed the first four volumes of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but after seeing many negative ratings and reviews for Lover Unbound, I procrastinated about reading it. Admittedly, it's predecessor, Lover Revealed, had probably been my least favorite of the series thus far, and somehow I allowed all the low ratings to influence me into thinking that Lover Unbound was the worst book in the series to date. Well, after finally reading it, nothing could be further from the truth in my opinion. Lover Unbound is now in a virtual tie with Lover Awakened for my favorite book in the series. I readily admit that for sheer heart-stopping romance and passion, Lover Awakened and some of the other earlier books are superior, but for it's well-rounded story and advancement of the overall vampire world, Lover Unbound was absolutely spectacular to me. It is true that the romantic scenes and relationship building between the two main characters of this novel was somewhat scaled back when compared with the previous books in the series, and the love scenes are generally shorter and less descriptive as well. In spite of this though, J.R. Ward managed to create a deep bond between Vishous and Jane in a very short time that was both intellectual and emotional, and which I found to be very beautiful. Even with the more abbreviated scenes, they connected with each other and me as the reader in a way that some characters fail to do when the entire novel is all theirs. It is a very rare occurrence for a story to move me in such a deep and compelling way, but I found myself not just tearing up, but actually crying more than once throughout the book. By the same token, the occasional sharp, sarcastic humor make me smile or even laugh, though this definitely is still a dark read. For it to elicit such emotional responses from me, I know that it was very well-written.
I positively loved V and Jane. They are one of the most perfect, made-for-each-other couples I have ever read in a romance novel. It is probably because I am a geek married to a geek, but I felt connected with both characters on a very personal level. Vishous, like all of his brothers, is a wounded and tortured hero, but in a more extreme way than everyone else except Zsadist. Like Z, he has suffered unconscionable abuse, but at the hands of his own father, because of choices that his mother made. Add to that his absolute genius and his powerful gifts that in many ways are far more like a curse, and he is a truly misunderstood soul. Then, Jane came into his life and understood V in a way that no one else ever had except Butch. Jane is a brilliant woman in her own right who possesses many wonderful gifts as well. She is physically plain, but connected to V on the intellectual and emotional level that he so desperately longed for. It was like she intuitively knew exactly what he needed, as well as when and why. I completely adored Jane, because she was an incredibly confident and cerebral woman with a deeply compassionate side, which is pretty amazing considering how her family treated her growing up. Even though her talents had rightfully earned her a position as chief of the trauma department, she maintained a degree of humility by not thinking it beneath her to care for a patient's more personal needs, such as giving V a sponge bath, and she was always ready with a kind word or a gentle touch. In my opinion, these things made for a wonderful combination, giving Jane status as one of the most perfectly rendered heroines I have ever read. I especially enjoyed V and Jane's lighter moments of sharp-witted banter, but in whatever capacity they were interacting, I found them to be a superbly, ideal couple.
While I would have liked even more scenes with V and Jane, the cast of secondary characters was so fabulous, I can hardly complain. It seems that Ms. Ward is moving in the direction of beginning the development of relationships before those characters become the focus of their own book. Such was the case with Phury and Cormia, who are the hero and heroine of the next book, Lover Enshrined. Phury has always been the controlled gentleman of the Brotherhood, but he has slowly been coming unglued. In spite of that though, he not surprisingly still makes a huge sacrifice for V and the Brotherhood in general. Even though Cormia is first introduced in this story, I have already found her to be endearingly innocent, while also being curious and strong-willed. It will be interesting to watch her hopefully come into her own in the next book. I also enjoyed watching John Matthew grow and change in more ways than one. He had some really wonderful scenes in this story. There is a tentative connection developing between him and Xhex, as well as a deepening of his friendships with Zsadist, and with Qhuinn and Blaylock. It was really nice to see John starting to make connections and build a little confidence, even though he still feels like a freak. It was also interesting to learn a bit more about the history of the Scribe Virgin and the Chosen and their world on the Other Side. I have to admit to never having much of a liking for the Scribe Virgin in previous books and throughout most of Lover Unbound, I liked her even less. She has just always seemed rather selfish to me, but she did begin to redeem herself by the end in my opinion. In addition, all the remaining members of the Brotherhood, most of their shellans and some other secondary characters from past novels in the series make an appearance in some capacity giving this story a very extensive and well-rounded cast.
I know from all the low ratings that there are many things which some readers disliked about Lover Unbound, but there was very little that bothered me. Though I am not certain of all the specific complaints, I believe the ending was one of the biggest. I, however, had no real issues with it. While it was certainly not traditional in any way and I admit may take some getting used to even for me, it was definitely a happy one. I imagine that when an author is dealing with vampire/human relationships, there are only so many ways that the issue of a human's much shorter life-span can be addressed, and I thought that the way Ms. Ward approached it in Lover Unbound was a rather creative one. I also thought it was rather ingenious that she dropped subtle clues throughout the story as to where it was leading. The only thing that would have improved the ending for me would have been one more long romantic scene between V and Jane. One other thing that was not quite to my liking was the BDSM element, which simply isn't my cup of tea, but as it did not permeate the entire story and I understood the “why” behind the one scene that was played out more explicitly, I wasn't overly bothered by it. One element that I particularly appreciated was a spiritual/philosophical thread on pre-ordination versus free will, running throughout the story which culminated with some heavier rumination at the end. I really like books that make me think and Lover Unbound, due in part to this thread, certainly accomplished that. I also really enjoyed learning more about the vampire history and the key role that Darius apparently has and will continue to play in it, as well as all the changes that are afoot in the entire vampire world, which seem to be leading to something truly big in the future.
After reading Lover Unbound I find myself in awe of J.R. Ward's writing skills. It has definitely earned a place on my keeper shelf. In my opinion, this book and the Black Dagger Brotherhood series in general is a literary gem. It is apparent to me that Ms. Ward has an incredible imagination and that great thought and care has gone into the creation of each book. Every chapter adds a new piece to the puzzle and the much larger myth that J.R. Ward's fertile mind has created. Each new book seems to be an even greater intellectual feast, which leaves me pondering over this fantasy realm long after the last page has been turned. I can't wait to read the next book, and greatly look forward to seeing where this inventive and riveting story leads.
Note: Sensitive readers should be forewarned that this book contains strong language, as well as explicit violence that includes torture and explicit sexual content that includes some BDSM....more
"4.5 stars" This was a sweet, tender, lighthearted romance that I found to be very emotionally satisfying. It had very good character and relationship"4.5 stars" This was a sweet, tender, lighthearted romance that I found to be very emotionally satisfying. It had very good character and relationship development which is a big plus for me. I loved both Stephen and Hayley, the hero and heroine. Stephen was a little tortured but not particularly dark. His life just lacked warmth and love, and he never realized what he was missing until he met Hayley. Hayley was one of the most well-balanced heroines I think I have ever read, and she embodied so many wonderful qualities. I really like that she could be so kindhearted as to give up her life to care for her family, but was never a push-over. She had enough feistiness to give Stephen a piece of her mind more than once, and was brave enough to ask for what she wanted too which I admired. I also enjoyed that they didn't bicker a lot or have any really BIG misunderstandings. I also liked that when things did go wrong between them, there was lots of room for apologies and forgiveness. The secondary characters were great too, a wonderfully funny and eclectic bunch. Overall, this was a really fun read that was a definite keeper for me. Although this was my first book by Jacquie D'Alessandro, it certainly won't be my last....more
"3.5 stars" I didn't realize until after reading Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels that it was part of a series, and when I discovered this, I decide"3.5 stars" I didn't realize until after reading Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels that it was part of a series, and when I discovered this, I decided to go back and pick up the books that I had missed. Since Lord of Scoundrels is one of my all-time favorite romance novels, I had high hopes for The Lion's Daughter. Unfortunately, it got off to a really slow start for me. Nearly the entire first half of the book is about the hero and heroine's extremely long (or at least it seemed that way) journey through Albania. This part of the story is also heavily laden with historical facts and details about the country and the political climate at that time which in my opinion, only served to bog down the pace even further. I was just about to set the book aside and read something else when the journey came to an end, and that is the point where I felt the real story began. Up until then, I had a hard time becoming invested in Varian and Esme's relationship or believing that they were truly falling in love, but after that, both characters started showing more vulnerability which improved them quite a bit.
Esme was a little difficult for me to like throughout the entire story though. Early on, she was just so stubborn and indifferent that she seemed almost emotionless. She had a major inferiority complex when it came to her looks and made several hot-headed decisions based in part on believing things about herself that simply weren't true. Even though Varian was a libertine who had frittered away his family fortune, I still found him to be more charming and likeable in the early part of the story than Esme was. When his vulnerabilities started to show it only increased his likability, but overall I still found him to be just an average hero, not really a stand-out. The political intrigue in the book could have been really interesting, but I thought that it was overdone to the point of being incredibly complex and confusing. Even though the story got off to a very slow start and could have been much better overall, the last half had enough excitement to hold my interest and make it worth my while. If I had read The Lion's Daughter first, I don't know if I would have continued the series, but already knowing that at least one other book in the series was phenomenally good, makes me interested continuing it....more
I love reunion romances and "opposite sides of the tracks" stories, and this book had both. These themes made it very appealing to me, but ultimatelyI love reunion romances and "opposite sides of the tracks" stories, and this book had both. These themes made it very appealing to me, but ultimately I felt that it fell short of the mark. I thought it needed more character development, and I just didn't connect with the characters or the story on a deep emotional level like I have with other novels. Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas and Night Fire by Catherine Coulter have very similar plots (almost identical in some respects), but in my opinion had stronger writing and were more enjoyable reads overall. This was my first book by Candace Camp though, so I may try another one in the future....more
I found myself having a love/hate relationship with this book. I really wanted to like the story and the characters, but there were many things I dislI found myself having a love/hate relationship with this book. I really wanted to like the story and the characters, but there were many things I disliked about both. I will admit that Laura Kinsale is a talented author who writes with intelligence, but I think perhaps her writing style is a bit too intense for my taste. I love tortured heroes, but in my opinion, Gryf's torment was overdone to the point of being depressing. I prefer to watch troubled souls change and grow throughout the course of the story to overcome their adversity, but Gryf was not like this at all. Instead he became more and more miserable as the story progressed, until magically everything suddenly turned into wine and roses in the last few pages. There was a part of me that truly sympathized with him, but another part that was incredibly annoyed with him. I did mostly like Tess. At least she had some spunk, pursued Gryf when he didn't want to acknowledge his feelings, and fought to save him from his worst enemy, himself.
I thought that the story had some pacing issues. Sometimes it was so interesting I didn't want to put it down, yet other times I found it to be pretty dull. I became exhausted by the on-again/off-again relationship of the hero and heroine. They would get together at the beginning of a chapter and be separated again by the end. I found this to be very frustrating, and it continued throughout the entire book. In spite of all the annoyances though, I seemed compelled to keep reading, but I have a feeling it was more because I was anxiously awaiting anything good that might happen to these two characters than anything else. This is definitely a character-driven story that doesn't have a great deal of plot, yet spans a rather epic 2-3 years from beginning to end. Readers who like dark, intense romances may enjoy this, but for me it was a humorless tale that was no walk in the park....more
As a lover of all things historical and a casual reader of history books, I thought that Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation was very infoAs a lover of all things historical and a casual reader of history books, I thought that Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation was very informative and educational. I learned many things about America's founding fathers and the revolutionary period of history that I didn't previously know. The book is laid out in six separate vignettes, each following a crucial event in that era of history: the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton; a private deal that was made between Hamilton, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson on the location of the new capitol in exchange for passage of Hamilton's finance plan; the silence of the founding fathers on the issue of slavery; George Washington's farewell to public service; the sometimes contentious collaboration between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in the years following Washington's presidency; and the renewal of Adams and Jefferson's friendship in their waning years. The book is also something of a character sketch of each of these key players in America's history.
The thing I enjoyed most about Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, were all the little facts and anecdotes I was able to glean from the text. Things like the loving, devoted marriage that John and Abigail Adams shared, in which he seemed to view her as his equal and value her political counsel above all others. Joseph Ellis has compiled a volume of John and Abigail's letters to each other which I think might make for interesting follow-up reading. Another fascinating little tidbit I learned was that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1826). Also, as someone who is intrigued by forensic science, I found the forensic-style analysis of the Burr/Hamilton duel to be very engaging. It's all the little things that always help to bring history alive for me, and many small details like these were woven in with lots of scholarly prose to make a strong narrative that would, in my opinion, be useful to anyone looking to learn more about American history. I would warn the casual reader though, that the academic nature of the book does not make for light reading, but neither is it so complex as to be completely inaccessible to the general reader. While I didn't find it to be entirely dull and boring, it did have a slow pace that failed to fully spark my interest and hold my attention. It actually took me quite a while to finish the book, but I'm glad that I did. I was not at all surprised to find that this book was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for history....more
The Audacity of Hope was published several months before Barack Obama announced his bid for the U.S. presidency, and as such, I don't think that his iThe Audacity of Hope was published several months before Barack Obama announced his bid for the U.S. presidency, and as such, I don't think that his ideas and policies in the book are quite as fully developed and detailed as they are now. People who have closely followed Senator Obama's historic campaign will likely not find much new material here, but I still thought this was a great read and would highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in getting to know the Senator, and what he would like to do for the United States. He may be idealistic, but his ideals are firmly planted in the hope of the American people, that if we all work together, we can fix many of our problems and make the country great again.
My favorite thing about The Audacity of Hope is that it is not just a dry political treatise, that can only be understood by the most educated people. Instead the book is written in very down-to-earth language that is accessible to anyone, while still showcasing Senator Obama's own intelligence. He definitely has an ingenious and articulate way of communicating, which is a rare find anywhere, but particularly in the political arena. I also enjoyed all the personal stories from his own life, as well as anecdotes of people that Senator Obama has met over the course of his career in public service, not only as a politician, but as a community organizer. These stories really helped to bring vibrancy and urgency to his ideas. The Senator also has a great sense of humor, especially when he is being self-deprecating, which often had me LOL. This is not to say that Senator Obama doesn't take things seriously, but simply that he also knows how to find the lighter side of life too.
Non-fiction of any kind is not usually my first reading choice, but overall I would call this book an enjoyable read. I recommend it along with Dreams From My Father (another great read IMO) for anyone who is still undecided about the upcoming elections. They both should help to shed light on the character, background and policies of the man who may be the next U.S. president....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews A Woman Scorned is yet another worthy effort from Liz Carlyle, but in my opinion, not the strongest of her novels that I haveReviewed for THC Reviews A Woman Scorned is yet another worthy effort from Liz Carlyle, but in my opinion, not the strongest of her novels that I have read to date. As with her other books, A Woman Scorned also contained an intriguing mystery element, this one involving the murder of the heroine's husband. The mystery was a bit more prominent in this story though, and consequently, I felt that it overshadowed the actual romance, in some ways. Aside from a strong physical attraction and mutual loneliness, I found few reasons for Cole and Jonet to fall in love. The author simply did not build the lovely friendship element or include the more swoon-worthy scenes that are often found in her other works. While their love became more evident toward the end of the story, I just did not find their feelings for one another earlier in the book to be entirely convincing. I believe that the time devoted to the mystery simply left limited space for good relationship development which was a bit disappointing, since these two characters had absolutely sparkled as secondary characters in other books. While I like a good mystery, this one did not hold my interest as much as it perhaps could have, due to the fact that I discerned the culprit very early on, though at least I was way off base on the character's motive and did not really figure that part out until the reveal. In all fairness though, I went into this book having read a later book that ties in with it, and therefore already knew that a couple of the characters who had been set up as suspects could be eliminated. Without that information, I doubt that I would have solved this part of the mystery so easily. All in all, for this only being Ms. Carlyle's second book, it was a still a good read.
I thought that the characterizations of the hero and heroine were well-done and full of interesting complexities. Cole had held a variety of positions including that of scholar, tutor and military captain, in addition to being an ordained minister. He is filled with guilt and regret over the death of his first wife with which he must come to terms. On the surface, he seems very controlled and reserved, but inside he is seething with unfulfilled passion that just the right woman can unlock. Cole is highly intelligent, regularly engaging in battles of wit with Jonet. Although she could be very willful, he never let her get the best of him and always gave back as good as he got. This made for some highly charged and amusing banter between these two characters. Jonet was not a woman who was afraid to let her passions be know, but also carried a certain reserve due to fear over her sons' safety in the wake of their father's murder. I thought her devotion to her two sons as well as other characters in the story was highly commendable, and I also liked that she lived her life according to what she thought was right instead of what society dictated. Once she began to trust Cole, she was very bold in her pursuit of him, even though he was below her in social status. I found her boldness and directness to be admirable, as well as fun and sensuous, leading to a delightful, burning hot love scene near the end of the book that one might playfully characterize as Cole's “taming of the shrew”. Also, both characters were very intuitive of the other's needs and feelings which I found quite endearing. Even though the actual romance between these two could have had a stronger foundation and they were near polar opposites, it became obvious by the end of the story that Cole and Jonet were made for each other. It was not difficult to imagine them living a long and happy life together with nary a dull moment, which is probably why they were such stand-out characters in future novels.
While I do enjoy introspection, I felt that a bit too much of it became a partial contributor to some pacing issues in the narrative of A Woman Scorned. The other part I attributed to the lack of the spirited secondary characters that I so enjoyed in Ms. Carlyle's other books. There were no scene-stealers like Kem or Bentley, and the supporting characters who were present just didn't quite have the same lively quality as some that had appeared in other stories. Even if they were a bit more reserved, there were a few notables. David, Lord Delacourt was an enigma and I'm sure I would have enjoyed his presence in this story much more if I hadn't already known his secret from reading A Woman of Virtue in which he is the hero. He also put in an appearance in No True Gentleman. I found Stuart and Robert to be very charming children with opposite personalities, Stuart being rather shy and Robert being more outgoing. I thought that they were realistically rendered in that they often argued and misbehaved like young boys do, but yet they were never obnoxious. Stuart and Robert (though much more grown up) also appear in A Woman of Virtue and The Devil You Know. Edmund Rowland was a rather distasteful character who also pops up in A Woman of Virtue, as does Lady Delacourt, and Charlotte Branthwaite, David's mother and sister respectively. Just as she does in most of her books, Ms. Carlyle also uses a few animal characters to good effect, helping to set the tone for the human characters and overall story.
As one might guess from the overlapping characters, A Woman of Virtue is the book most closely related to A Woman Scorned actually picking up the story precisely where this one left off. I personally, however, still recommend reading the books in chronological order to receive the full effect of all characters on the canvass, as I have come to the conclusion that Ms. Carlyle used her first three books, My False Heart, A Woman Scorned, and Beauty Like the Night to create three separate family groups who are then intermingled freely in subsequent books. Even though I didn't think it to be the author's best effort, I found A Woman Scorned to be a pleasant and enjoyable read. Ms. Carlyle remains one of my favorite authors and I look forward to continuing my exploration of her backlist.
Note: While none of Ms. Carlyle's earlier books seem to be officially considered a series and each seems to stand well on it's own story-wise, I would caution that reading her later books first may give away spoilers to her earlier books. Such was the case when I skipped A Woman Scorned and was left wishing that I had read it first. My suggestion for readers like myself who don't like any spoilers would be to begin with Ms. Carlyle's first book, My False Heart, and continue reading them in the chronological order in which she wrote them. It is also my opinion that the reading experience would be greatly enhanced by doing this, because Ms. Carlyle's character web is so complex. The entire backlist, in order, can be found on her website....more
After meeting Butch and Marissa in Dark Lover, the first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I was intrigued bReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
After meeting Butch and Marissa in Dark Lover, the first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I was intrigued by the characters and looking forward to reading their story. Unfortunately, I found it a bit difficult to become emotionally invested in the ups and downs of their relationship as presented in Lover Revealed. I think this may have been the result of a few different things. First, Butch and Marissa spent very little time together during those initial scenes in Dark Lover and it was all very sweet and innocent. They were then separated for a 6-9 month period over the course of two more books, during which their relationship was still in play, but on the sidelines, with both of them pining desperately for each other. While this alone could be cited as an indication of their deep love, I really would have liked to see their relationship reestablished before they started engaging in sexual intimacy. When compared to the previous books in the series, I thought that Lover Revealed was simply lacking in the lovely, heart-stopping romantic scenes that I really love to see. In addition, during the course of the entire book, at least one of these two characters (though sometimes both at once) seemed to be holding the other at arms length, so I found it difficult to really feel their love in the powerful way that I did with the main characters in the prequels. While these were the primary reasons for my feeling a lack of romance in this story, I also think the world shifting that was taking place was a contributing factor as well. In and of itself this was certainly not a bad thing, as a continuing series such as this would not hold up well to critical scrutiny for long if it just kept telling the same narrative of the war between the vampires and the lessers only with a different couple in the lead. In this respect, I understand the author's choice to move the story to another level, but in my opinion, these changes in many ways overshadowed the love and romance that I was expecting. Vishous was also such an important character in this book, and his relationship with Butch ran so deep that it seemed like Marissa had a difficult time getting a strong foothold in the story.
As I mentioned earlier, I went into this book liking Butch and Marissa very much, and while I did not find them to be particularly unlikable at any time during this story, I did have a hard time fully relating to them. I think this was owing to the author not digging quite deep enough with the characters emotions, particularly Marissa's, as well as the rapid and drastic changes that took place in both of their lives, which completely caught me off guard. This was definitely a good thing, as I wouldn't want the plot to be too predictable, but so many things were happening so quickly that I had a hard time adjusting to all the shifts. Marissa went from a meek and docile female to an independent, outspoken, and basically liberated female almost overnight. While there is much to be said for those qualities, I think that perhaps finding some middle ground or building these changes more slowly would have been more believable. Butch's transformation was somewhat slower, yet incredibly dramatic. Even by the end of the book, I had been so blown away by everything that happened, I was still having a hard time thinking of him as anything but the human ex-cop who had been befriended by the Brotherhood. Still it was all an intriguing turn of events that did help to propel the story and the series forward. In spite of these perceived deficiencies, there were still things to like about these two characters. Butch, like the vampire brothers, was a tortured hero, one of my favorite kinds. He had never felt the love of a family until the Brotherhood took him into their confidence and their home, and he had also never felt like he belonged anywhere until then. In this book, he was finally able to find the missing pieces of himself. Butch was also very kind and considerate toward Marissa and a true friend to Vishous, as well as completely loyal to the Brotherhood. While Marissa for her part, made some rather selfish choices out of her sense of fear for Butch's safety, she at least recognized her mistakes and corrected them in the end. At the heart of her character, she was a gentle soul which was evidenced in her work at the hospital early on, but I found myself wishing that this part of her had been explored more fully. It just ultimately seemed like her newfound independence, rather overshadowed her kind heart. I did however, enjoy the scenes of her starting the Safe House for abused and displaced females, and hope to see more of her work with the shelter in the future.
In my opinion, what Lover Revealed was lacking in it's main characters, was made up for in it's secondary characters. These were some of the parts that I enjoyed reading the most. Wrath and Beth played significant roles for the first time since Dark Lover, and it was nice to see them front and center again. Zadist and Bella shared a playfully sensuous interaction, which even though it was only one scene, really stuck with me as being very beautiful and romantic, and Zsadist was able to put in some additional time as an instructor to their new trainees. As with the past two books, I greatly enjoyed John Matthew and his continuing story. I also sensed a friendship growing between him and Zsadist which I hope to see more fully explored in future books. There were a couple of the young vampire trainees who played larger roles in this book. I liked the awkwardness of Blaylock going through his transformation, and it was great to see Lash finally get his comeuppance. Bella's brother and club owner, Rehvenge, put in another appearance, adding more details and intrigue to his character as well. There was also an interesting sub-plot involving the fore-lesser, Mr. X, and his surprising desire to be freed from the Omega, and I also enjoyed the shellans creating a sisterhood of sorts, which I felt rather mirrored the relationship that their mates share.
The strongest of the secondary characters, who was fleshed out the most though, was Vishous. In previous books, he has been pretty much an enigma. For the most part, he was merely the techo-genius who held everything together, but who obviously harbored some very special gifts. Those gifts as well as glimpses of his backstory and personality are finally explored in Lover Revealed. Vishous's deep friendship with Butch seemed to develop into something more, at least from V's perspective, but nothing of a romantic nature ever happened as a result of it. In some ways they reminded me of Zsadist and Phury with their twins connection, and it became obvious by the end of the story that Butch and V are twins of a sort, two halves of a whole, who will likely share a special connection for life. Ultimately, there was a lot of complexity surrounding their relationship, which I believe could be interpreted as symbolic of this greater connection. From what I perceived, Vishous was a male who, not unlike his fellow members of the brotherhood, has many soul-deep wounds that torment him. It seems that he had never experienced real love and acceptance in his life (either giving or receiving) until meeting Butch and his feelings concerning this are confusing to him. He also doesn't seem to fully understand the bonding of his fellow brothers to their females, but does question in his own mind what this might be like. Vishous seems to have a penchant for hard core BDSM (though it isn't played out in particularly explicit details) which normally would not be my cup of tea, but Ms. Ward has painted an otherwise sympathetic picture of V which leaves the appealing potential for a Zsadist type of story for him. I can say that the author's portrayal of V has intrigued me sufficiently to whet my appetite for the next book, Lover Unbound, in which he becomes the hero.
Although I thought that Lover Revealed could have been a little better, especially romantically, the continuing story of the Brotherhood is one that I find to be very intriguing and still difficult to put down in spite of any weaknesses that might be present. I came to the conclusion that these weaknesses are due to Lover Revealed being a bridge of sorts between the first three books and those yet to come, a book where there are major shifts in the overarching story. Ms. Ward writes with an intelligence that I greatly appreciate, often making me really think about what is happening. In fact I found myself thinking about Lover Revealed and trying to figure certain things out days after turning the last page. When an author can engage both my emotions and my intellect in such a way, they have in my opinion, done their job well. I will be looking forward to continuing with the series to see where her fertile imagination leads these wonderful characters. Lover Revealed is the fourth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It is preceded by Dark Lover, Lover Eternal, and Lover Awakened and is followed by Lover Unbound, and Lover Enshrined, with Lover Avenged due to be released next year. There is also a companion book to the series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide. J. R. Ward also writes contemporary romances under the name Jessica Bird.
Note: Sensitive readers should be forewarned that as in the past books, there is quite a bit of strong language and violence, and the sex, due to the BDSM element is a bit more explicit than what one would typically find in an average romance novel....more
A Love Beyond Time was Judie Aitken's first romance novel, and in my opinion, it was a very worthy debut. I have a stroReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
A Love Beyond Time was Judie Aitken's first romance novel, and in my opinion, it was a very worthy debut. I have a strong interest in Native American history and culture and felt that she really brought these aspects of the story alive. I have read some authors in this romance sub-genre who merely skim the surface, peppering their stories with occasional details that could easily be gleaned from elementary schoolbooks, but never really capture the essence of the Indian people. Instead of the history and culture in A Love Beyond Time being reduced to a dry textbook lesson, it seemed to become a living, breathing part of the narrative, as important as any character. Ms. Aitken seems to have a talent for writing from the heart with a certain thoughtfulness and passion for telling Native American stories, and this was one of the facets of the book that I enjoyed most. I also always like a good time travel yarn, and this one was rather unique in that both the hero and heroine went back in time, and they did not meet until they arrived in the past, nor did they realize that the other was a time traveler. In addition, they each traveled to the past in different ways, which created both positive and negative elements for me. While I appreciate the idea of time travel in general, I tend to favor the straightforward type in which a character physically makes the time jump in the way that Ryan did. On the other hand, I am not a huge fan of only a person's spirit making the slide through time and switching bodies with a person on the other side as Dillon did. I guess this is just a little too mystical for my taste, but as long as I didn't think about this side of the story too much, the time travel aspect was still pretty enjoyable.
I found the hero and heroine to both be likable. Ryan was a strong woman who had made a place for herself in a “man's world”, but didn't seem overly bothered by the idea of being placed into a more submissive role in the past. In fact, she would have been content with giving up her career and everything she had worked for in the present to stay in the past with Wolf. I really liked this balance in her character. She also had refused to give up on the notion of finding her one true love and marrying for love alone, which was a quality I found admirable. Although the story began with Dillon (aka Wolf in the past) being fairly angry and prejudiced against whites, I appreciated his willingness to change and accept that not all whites were bad. In spite of his initial wariness at finding Ryan in the Lakota camp of the past, he was open-minded enough to believe that she really had been sent by Tunkasila (“God”) to help them. Wolf was also very kind, gentle and protective of Ryan, and a strong leader among his people, all things that I liked about him. In the present, I thought Dillon was very respectable as a man who had risen above his circumstances to become a successful attorney and who was giving his talents back to his people. The only thing that I could really find fault with is that Wolf and Ryan's relationship was not fully developed, in my opinion. Since they did not even meet until about one third of the way into the book, the romance aspect relied heavily on a love-at-first-sight scenario which is not exactly my favorite way of bringing a hero and heroine together. Sometimes I simply feel that this plot device is overused in the romance genre, though because of the mystical element surrounding the entire story, I was able to forgive it's use in this particular book to some degree. Though the romantic scenes were quite lovely and written well, I just felt that incorporating more of them would have helped to build the relationship in a more believable and engaging way.
Additionally, there were many other parts of the story which I found appealing. It had many strong secondary characters including Dillon's grandfather, Charley Crying Wolf and brother, Buddy, in the present who I found to be very lovable, as well as, Eagle Deer, and his wife, Pretty Feather, from the past who were the most loyal of friends to Wolf and every bit as accepting of the strange wasicu (“white”) woman who suddenly appeared in their camp. I also liked the use of many Lakota words and phrases scattered throughout the narrative. They always had translations or context meaning, and I really felt that they added to the realism of the culture in which the story takes place. I likewise enjoy mysteries and this book had one surrounding the theft of the Indian artifacts. I must admit though, that it was fairly easy for me to figure out who the perpetrator was, and the only thing that remained a mystery for me until the reveal was the motive. I found the archaeological dig setting of the present and the Little Big Horn setting of the past, as well as Ryan's career as an anthropologist to be unique and interesting elements. One thing that I really respected was Ryan agonizing over the decision of whether to share with the Indians her knowledge of events yet to come, and if she did, how it might affect the fabric of time. I found this to be a very clever and logical position for the author to take, especially in light of Ryan's background as a scientist. Similarly, I found Ryan's anger toward Charley after returning from the past to be a very realistic reaction under the circumstances. Overall, I thought that A Love Beyond Time was a very intelligent and well-researched book that was an impressive first effort from Ms. Aitken's pen. This was also the first of her books that I have read, but I will definitely be open to reading more of her works in the future....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Midnight Fire is what I would call a cozy romance, the type of book that is nice to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. It wasReviewed for THC Reviews Midnight Fire is what I would call a cozy romance, the type of book that is nice to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. It was a very pleasant read, but the story lacked a certain depth in both characterizations and plot. It sort of just skims along, telling what is happening without digging deep or going into a lot of details. There were certain scenes where I thought that more details would have helped to shore up the plot, and there were also some minor inconsistencies in details peppered throughout the story. One of the main things that kept me reading though was the action. It made the narrative move along at a very fast pace. It seemed that some new event occurred every few chapters usually threatening Morgan and Carolyn's growing relationship. Admittedly, this type of writing style is not my favorite, because at times, it made me feel like they were being tortured, but at least they were together and happy for the better part of the story. It also made their happily-ever-after ending sweeter in some ways, because it was a very hard fought one. Still though, in my opinion, the story would have been stronger if the author had focused on just a few events in more detail instead of populating it with a large number of events that were simplistically rendered and already over before I had a chance to really get involved in what was happening. In spite of my opinion that this novel was overburdened with plot points, I can honestly say that each and every one of them was wrapped up satisfactorily with generally happy endings for all, and for me a happy ending is always a must.
I liked the hero and heroine, Morgan and Carolyn. I really enjoy tortured heroes and for the most part, Morgan falls into that category. He was basically a loner whose very difficult childhood and mother's harsh words on her deathbed, had left him a broken man, an alcoholic with virtually no self-esteem. I thought that the author painted a realistic picture of the struggles of a man who was half white and half Indian within a historical context. I enjoyed watching him grow and progress from a man who thought very little of himself into a man who was confident and self-possessed. It was also nice to see him forgive the hurts of the past to successfully reconcile with long-lost loved ones. Carolyn, for her part, began the story as the pampered heiress that she was, barely knowing how to take care of herself, but still she rarely complained and developed a certain willingness to work and learn. She also gained a lot of self-confidence from her experiences and progressed from a young woman who was somewhat timid and highly emotional at the start to a more mature woman who was able to take charge when the situation called for it. My only complaint about her character would be that she was a bit too melodramatic at times and cried quite a lot especially early on. While I love sensitive characters, both heroes and heroines, who aren't afraid to cry, I just thought that Carolyn turned on the water works a few too many times. Otherwise though, Morgan and Carolyn were two lovely characters who seemed made for each other.
I liked the way that the author built Morgan and Carolyn's relationship slowly over the weeks that they were alone on the trail, so that when they finally gave in to their attraction, it seemed believable. The book also contained a pretty extensive cast of secondary characters, some likable, some not, and some who grew on me, but all added to the story in some way. I particularly liked the time that Morgan and Carolyn spent with the Lakota, and wished that it might have been explored more fully. In fact, that would probably be my primary issue with the book, that I frequently found myself wishing there were more of everything. Overall, I thought that the story itself was good, it just needed a few more ingredients to give it more flavor. In my opinion, this was a truly romantic read that would have been better if there had been more focus on the internal workings of the hero and heroine's relationship and a bit less on external conflicts. Midnight Fire might not have been as compelling as some other romances that I've read, but in spite of it's weaknesses, was a sweet, warm, and gentle story that was a generally enjoyable and satisfying book which leaves me open to reading more of Madeline Baker's works in the future. There are no explicit love scenes or other particularly objectionable material, making it appropriate for any romance reader. Madeline Baker also writes paranormal romance under the name Amanda Ashley....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" I really enjoy emotional stories in which one of the protagonists has a major obstacle to overcome. While Keegan'sReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" I really enjoy emotional stories in which one of the protagonists has a major obstacle to overcome. While Keegan's Lady fit that bill in some ways, I felt that the emotions were not well-balanced and consequently it fell short in other ways. It seemed that the main emotions that permeated a large part of the story were fear, anger and sometimes, hatred, which gave it a rather heavy feel. It seemed to lack the wonderful humor that I've seen in some of Catherine Anderson's other stories. In my opinion, the love feelings between Ace and Caitlin were not as fully developed as they could have been, and the sexual tension was minimal, therefore it was difficult for me to find them fully believable as a couple. It was somewhat easier to sense when Caitlin began falling in love with Ace, though not entirely apparent, but I was hard pressed to say exactly when Ace fell in love with Caitlin. While there were some tender moments in the story, those scenes didn't really dig deep enough into the characters psyches to suit me and also seemed to end far too quickly. Consequently, I felt that the story was a bit lacking in true romance and what I term swoon-worthy moments. I think that there were some opportunities for such moments, but again they were handled with too much brevity and ultimately fell rather flat. The romantic moments that did exist simply did not seem to build on one another in a meaningful way to bring out that heart-stopping love that I have come to expect from romance novels. I think this was a result of the book being too focused on the external conflicts rather than Ace and Caitlin's relationship.
I found the hero and heroine of the story to be pretty likable. Ace was a little more rough around the edges than other Catherine Anderson heroes I have read, but in a rather lovable way. He didn't show quite as much vulnerability as I like to see in my heroes, and I thought that he was a bit too heavy-handed at times, not always allowing Caitlin to make her own choices. It wasn't too bad though, as he always seemed to have her best interests at heart. It's hard not to like a guy who grants a lady her fairy tale dreams, and exercises restraint even when she tries his patience in extreme ways. I also appreciated his intelligent, intuitive nature that helped him to understand things about Caitlin that she may not have even understood herself. Caitlin was an admirable character in that she had the strength to endure the many years of her father's abuse. She had also cared for her brother, Patrick, in many different ways throughout those years, and showed a lot of selflessness toward others. In many ways, I thought that Caitlin's fears and actions were fairly believable for someone who had suffered as she had, but I felt that the story might have been better if she had faced her fears and begun to trust Ace in a more gradual way. Instead she had one explosive moment of seeming insanity, followed by a cathartic confession and gentle lovemaking which seemed to magically set everything to rights. Unfortunately, this approach just didn't work well for me. Overall though, I thought that Ace and Caitlin were good characters, they just weren't explored as fully as I would have liked to see, and I think that the story could have benefited from one or the other lightening up a bit.
There were some interesting secondary characters as well. Ace's brothers were a bunch of sweet, lovable guys. Of course, Joseph, the oldest, was the one who got the most scenes, but even so, I felt that the author only scratched the surface with his character. Most of the time, Joseph had an outward intensity which made him seem almost constantly irritated and grumpy, but his final scenes in the book with Caitlin and Patrick belied something more lying beneath the surface waiting to be explored. It will be interesting to see how Joseph's character develops when he becomes the hero of his own book, Summer Breeze. I actually think that Caitlin's brother, Patrick, may have been the most complex character. The author really kept me on my toes with him, never quiet sure whether to like him or not. It was easy to like the kind and selfless Patrick who took beatings for Caitlin or worked hard to buy her gifts, but it was equally easy to dislike the Patrick who had become a drunken and sometimes abusive hellion like his father. In the end though, I did come away from the story with the sense that Patrick was essentially a good guy who made bad choices when he drank too much, and that he would ultimately be successful in his efforts to overcome his alcoholism. Lastly, I really enjoyed Caitlin's poor, brain-damaged kitty, Lucky. He was a very unique character that brought some much-needed lightness to the story, as well as some insights into his human counterparts, not to mention I can't help being partial to a cat who has the same name as my own kitty.:-)
Keegan's Lady might not be one of my favorite Catherine Anderson books, but I can say that it had an exciting ending. The book tends to have a rather slow pace, and some of the scenes and dialog had been plodding along for me. I had been wondering what was going to happen in the last fifty or so pages that would hold my interest through the end. I needn't have worried, because this is where the author's talent really excelled. With two characters lives on the line and the resolution of a 20-year-old murder mystery imminent, I couldn't put the book back down until I had finished. While Keegan's Lady had both strengths and weaknesses, I thought that it was definitely a worthwhile read. I would probably not recommend it for first-time Catherine Anderson readers, as it is not the best example of her exceptional writing talent, in my opinion. However, established fans should certainly give it a try. Keegan's Lady is the first story in the Keegan/Paxton Family series (aka Coulter Historicals). It is followed by the novella, Beautiful Gifts, from the anthology, The True Love Wedding Dress which features Patrick as the hero and Summer Breeze in which Joseph Paxton becomes the hero. At present, Ms. Anderson is working on the next book in the series which will probably be released sometime late this year or in early 2010, and will feature Eden Paxton as the heroine. I will definitely be interested in reading that, as well as continuing my exploration of Catherine Anderson's other books....more
Lover Awakened is an amazing story that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride from start to finish. It iReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
Lover Awakened is an amazing story that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride from start to finish. It is, in my opinion, the best of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series so far. I loved the way that the author took a character who was described by his own twin brother as not merely broken, but ruined, and carefully put him back together piece by piece. This was a powerful story of redemption and unselfish love at it's finest. While I often get emotionally invested in the stories I read, it is rare that a story makes me cry, but Lover Awakened had me tearing up several times. I simply found it to be incredibly moving. The plot was tight and the characterizations were multi-layered and complex. The last hundred pages or so of the book had me reeling from all the plot twists and turns, but greatly appreciative of J. R. Ward's intelligent use of them. Just as I was beginning to be unsure whether I liked the path the story was taking, she would change something and make me smile or sigh at the sheer perfection of it. One of the reasons I appreciate the romance genre so much is the happily-ever-after endings. I don't think I could have asked for a happier ending for Zsadist and Bella, and I felt that no one could have been more deserving of that happy ending than they were, especially Zsadist.
I absolutely love a good tortured hero, and I can't think of very many romantic heroes who could be characterized as more tortured than Zsadist. I found him to be a very sympathetic character who exhibited a touching vulnerability even when he was just a secondary character in the earlier novels. He showed a tremendous strength of will to have survived all that he did, and yet the abuse had left him as little more than a shell, emotionally dead and harboring many fears and dysfunctions. I felt that all of his reactions to Bella and his feelings for her were very believably written. I loved the way that Ms. Ward took Zsadist through a recovery process step by step, building on each breakthrough one at a time. It was much like watching a butterfly emerge from it's cocoon. After going through a tremendous struggle, there is nothing left but sheer beauty. One thing that has always impressed me about the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is it's heroes. They are hardened, lethal warriors on the outside, but when they are bonded with their females, they become tender and passionate on the inside. They also always honor, cherish and respect their females. In spite of his hang-ups, Zsadist was no different. I adored his protective nature towards Bella, and most of all his selfless love that caused him to set aside his own fears and insecurities to place her needs above his own. I found this to be a heady brew of swoon-worthy story-telling at it's best.
I thought Bella was a wonderful heroine. She, like Zsadist, also showed great strength and intelligence in surviving her captivity at the hands of the lesser. She later displayed tremendous courage, as well as how a female can be as protective of her mate as a male can be. I thought that Bella proved that she could be nearly as tough as the Brotherhood, while still being kind and caring. She was gentle with Zsadist, helping him to overcome the pain of the past while freely giving him her love and passion. I also found her boldness to be admirable. She never seemed to be afraid to say the things that needed to be said or do the things that needed to be done, yet this boldness carried a stark honesty and humility about it. She didn't come through as being ill-tempered or superior, but simply as one who was telling the truth in a straightforward way, often saying things that Zsadist really needed to hear even though he didn't initially believe them. That's not to say that Bella was perfect. At times she became angry and frustrated, and I have to say that I was a bit surprised by a plot twist decision that she made near the end of the book. However, that decision opened the door for Zsadist to make even more positive changes in his life.
As with the previous novels in the series, Ms. Ward has done a wonderful job of creating an intriguing world full of secondary characters that make the reader want to continue the series to find out what happens next. I was particularly impressed with Zsadist's twin brother Phury. His unwavering devotion to Zsadist, while perhaps emotionally unhealthy at times, was incredibly touching nonetheless. Phury would literally do anything for Zsadist, and over the years, despite episodes of doubt, was really the only one who believed that there was still something good left inside of him. I think that because of their special twins connection, Phury has also been living half a life for a great many years. I will be anxiously waiting to read his story and hope that he gets as happy an ending as Zsadist did. I was pleased with the continued development of John's character and will be looking forward to seeing more of him in the future. I found the tentative friendship between Zsadist and John to be endearing, and hope that there will be a continued building of that friendship as well. There were also a couple of surprising cliffhangers that I will be eagerly anticipating a resolution for, one involving Tohr and the other involving a totally unexpected plot twist surrounding Butch and Vishous.
I have to give Ms. Ward kudos for really bringing her characters to life in a truly believable way. Even though this is a mythical, fantasy story, it is so vividly rendered as to make me feel that these vampires could actually exist in our world. I found the story to be incredibly compelling and difficult to put down. I do wish though that the trauma that Bella experienced at the hands of the lesser had been explored more fully, but since Zsadist was such an incredibly complex character, I can understand that there probably just wasn't enough space to go into detail with this. I was also bothered by the author's use of the word “love” to describe The Mistress's “feelings” toward Zsadist and Mr. O's “feelings” toward Bella. Their actions were just so evil, sadistic and obsessive that I had a hard time stomaching “love” in the same sentence. A last minor annoyance was Ms. Ward's altering of common English words, usually using the letter “h”, to create new words that describe the vampire rituals and traditions. Unlike some readers, I am not bothered by this alteration in the vampire names, as I've always felt that exotic creatures are deserving of exotic names. I just felt that in the other context, the usual English words would have sufficed, or perhaps she could have been a bit more creative with those words. I would also warn sensitive readers that this book contains strong language and violence, including sexual abuse and it's intense psychological aftermath. Overall though, I found this book to be a truly exciting, action-packed, and very romantic read that has earned a place on my keeper shelf, which is surprising even to me, who up until a month or so ago had never even read a paranormal romance. Lover Awakened is the third book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It is preceded by Dark Lover and Lover Eternal, and is followed by Lover Revealed, Lover Unbound, and Lover Enshrined with Lover Avenged due to be released next year. There is also a companion book to the series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide, which contains a new novella featuring Zsadist and Bella. J. R. Ward also writes contemporary romances under the name Jessica Bird....more
In Not Another New Year's, Christie Ridgway has created an enjoyable story, that is basically a two-for-one romance, wiReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
In Not Another New Year's, Christie Ridgway has created an enjoyable story, that is basically a two-for-one romance, with a likable cast of flawed characters. Tanner Hart and Hannah Davis, the primary hero and heroine of the story are basically two ordinary people who unfortunately had some unusual things happen to them. They are basically two peas in a pod with a great deal in common. Both have put high expectations on themselves due in part to family dynamics. After Hannah's sister died, she had somehow felt a responsibility to the family to more or less take her place and accomplish the things that she likely would have done if she had lived. Tanner felt that he just didn't quite measure up to his war hero brothers. Of course, both ended up feeling like they had let their families down. What I really liked about their relationship was that they helped each other to discover that the things they had believed about themselves simply weren't true. As individuals, I was pleased to see both Tanner and Hannah grow and change, so that they could move beyond the pain of the past and into a promising future.
I really enjoyed the secondary romance between Tanner's brother, Troy and Desiree. They simply stood out to me more than Tanner and Hannah, not because he was a war hero and she was a princess, but because I felt that they showed more vulnerability. They had to reach further outside their comfort zones in order to allow their relationship to happen, and realize their hearts desires. Also, theirs was not a love-at-first-sight romance like Tanner and Hannah's. While I am not fundamentally opposed to these types of romances, I usually have a harder time finding them to be believable. I think it is a staple in many romance plots that is overused and would lead one to believe that this phenomenon happens in real life far more often than it probably does. I just seem to have a preference for romances that either take time to develop the feelings between the protagonists or in which they have had some previous relationship. Troy and Desiree had know each other for nearly a year, and had obviously been attracted to each other for a long time, even though they had spent the better part of that time at each other's throats. Normally, I don't care for romances in which the characters bicker all the time, but there was something about Troy and Dezi's arguing that was rather endearing. I was just waiting for the fireworks to go off and when they did, I was not disappointed. While I liked these two characters a great deal and found them to be very strong, I did not necessarily think that their scenes overshadowed Tanner and Hannah's. I only found myself wishing to see more of them or that they had gotten their own book instead. The only part of their story that I thought fell short was that they didn't exactly get a solid ending, but I still loved reading about them anyway.
While I was able to appreciate the characters and the overall story, I thought that there were a few plot weaknesses. Once I realized that Hannah's Uncle Geoff actually lived in San Diego, I couldn't quite figure out why he hadn't taken care of her personally while she was on vacation in the area instead of setting her up with Tanner as her “tour guide”. Of course, without this part of the plot, there wouldn't have been a story, but I just think that the overall story would have been a bit stronger if this part had been shored up, perhaps by the author giving more reasons for Uncle Geoff's choice. Also, after reading two of Christie Ridgway's books, I'm beginning to think that she has a penchant for ambiguous endings. I have a preference for strong happily-ever-after endings, and though the ending of this story was happy, I felt that it left too many unanswered questions. One other aspect of the story that bothered me was that the first time Tanner and Hannah nearly had sex they were still strangers and had given each other fake names. I know that this can be an all-to-common occurrence in today's society, but I still prefer that the main characters in my romances be in love before they fall into bed. As the days began to pass, I could sense them beginning to fall in love with each other, yet it wasn't entirely convincing and as mentioned above, I'm not a huge fan of the love-at-first-sight scenario. Even setting aside my own preferences on this, when Tanner and Hannah did finally make love, they had only know each other for a few days and in spite of their growing feelings were still basically considering this to be a vacation fling. Even with this in mind, they did not entirely practice safe sex. While some loves scenes involved condoms, others involved risk-taking and without any mature conversation about said risks. In spite of this flaw though, I thought that the love scenes overall were at least tender, steamy and generally well-written. Finally, one other minor annoyance I found was Ms. Ridgway's use of parenthetical phrases as an exception or aside to a particular character's main line of thinking. While some of them were rather witty, I simply felt that they were a bit overused.
There were a couple of positive things that I didn't already mention that I also thought were noteworthy. I enjoyed the bit of danger and intrigue surrounding Dezi. It helped to make the story more full and interesting as well as drawing all four of the main characters into a mild action plot. I also liked Tanner and Troy's parents. Although they were only in one scene, they made an impression on me, and I would have liked to have seen more of them. While I have not seen an official series designation, Not Another New Year's is a sequel to Must Love Mistletoe. Tanner and Troy Hart and Desiree al-Maddah all made their first appearance in Must Love Mistletoe. Also, Finn and Bailey, the hero and heroine of Must Love Mistletoe, made a brief appearance (Bailey twice) in Not Another New Year's. I must say that I was pleased to see some of the ambiguity surrounding the end of their own story cleared up during their scenes in this book. In spite of the cross-over characters, both stories could be read independently without really getting any major spoilers. In addition, the backstory on the assassination attempt which was introduced in Must Love Mistletoe is recounted in Not Another New Year's only now more from Tanner's point of view rather than Finn's. Overall, I found Not Another New Year's to be a pleasant and generally lighthearted story that was an easy read. I would be open to reading other books by Ms. Ridgway in the future, when I am in the mood for this type of story....more