Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Like it's predecessor in the Effington Family & Friends series, The Husband List is a light-hearted Regency roReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Like it's predecessor in the Effington Family & Friends series, The Husband List is a light-hearted Regency romance. It didn't tickle my funny bone quite as well, but it did have it's moments. It basically takes place concurrently with the first book of the series, with the same family gathering for the Roxborough Ride coming into play. In this one, we have Gillian, cousin to Pandora from the previous book, who is a widow. She loved her husband dearly and hasn't been with any man since his death. She finds herself named heiress to a large fortune, but it comes with the condition that she must marry before her thirtieth birthday. In order to claim it, she enlists the help of her two best guy friends to make a list of potential husbands. The only one who appeals and seems suitable is Richard, Earl of Shelbrooke. His father frittered away all their money at the gaming tables, so ever since the man died, Richard has been struggling to get by. His family estate is in disrepair and he has four younger sisters to clothe, feed, and come up with dowries for. Gillian wants a marriage in name only, planning to split the inheritance with her groom to be, but when Gillian proposes to Richard, he surprises her by saying that he'll only go along with it if she agrees to share his bed. From there much back and forth ensues as she tries to figure out whether she can comply with his terms. Also unbeknownst to her, he's living a double life as a reclusive French artist to pay the bills and fears what she might think if she discovers the truth.
I would say that for the most part I liked Richard, although he did a couple of things that kind of irritated me. I admired him for wanting more from Gillian than a marriage in name only. Even though he was pretty desperate for money, I felt like that showed from the start that he was genuinely interested in her and not just the inheritance. I also like that he was willing to seduce Gillian to convince her it would work between them. However, using his French artist alter ego in an attempt to accomplish that seemed like a poorly thought out plan right from the beginning. It simply didn't make much sense from a logical standpoint and my assessment was born out in spades as the ruse continued. The other thing that I greatly admired about Richard is that he could have taken the easy road by selling his sisters out, when his father died. After all, he already had a reputation close to matching his father's and his father had already arranged a betrothal of the oldest sister to a man old enough to be her grandfather. Instead though, Richard was willing to do whatever it took, including manual labor, to take care of his sisters and keep the manor house from falling down around their ears, as well as to see them married to suitable matches. However, on the downside, I didn't really care much for Richard's high-handed, chauvinistic manner toward female artists. In this way, he did follow in his father's footsteps by refusing to even entertain the notion of his oldest sister becoming a serious artist, simply because she was a woman. Now granted that may have been how things were back then and he could simply be said to be a product of the times, but as someone who also wouldn't have been taken seriously if his true identity was known, I felt like he should have had more empathy. So, overall, I'd say that Richard definitely had his good points, but he also had a few not so good points too.
IMHO, Gillian's characterization was somewhat underdeveloped. We know that she's a widow who loved her husband and hasn't really been interested in any other men since is death. We also know that her two best friends are male, but they're only friends, childhood acquaintances of both Gillian and her husband. She's a lover of the arts, who enjoys throwing salon parties to promote art and artists. The one thing I really liked about Gillian is that she prefers deep conversation to inane chit-chat, and for that reason, she engineers her salons to encourage this type of discussion. However, it's little more than a mention, and we don't really get to see this side of her in action much. I can't recall any particularly deep discussions she had with anyone, except maybe one with Richard's sister, Emma, about how the work of a certain painter really called out to her when she was in the depths of despair, following the death of her husband. Other than that, her conversation pretty much seemed the opposite of what she purportedly preferred, just light-hearted banalities. Gillian was also a creature who didn't seem to know her own mind to a near frustrating degree, although I suppose the same could be said of Richard. I did like her innovative idea of helping female artists by giving them a place to practice their craft and helping them make a name for themselves. I also liked that she was smart enough to figure out Richard's secret identity and the way she got back at him was pretty cute, although I felt maybe she took the ruse a bit too far. In general, Gillian was sweet and likable, but I felt like there were opportunities to build her character a little more fully that weren't realized.
One of the main reasons I marked this book down one and a half stars is that I felt the connection between Richard and Gillian was rather shaky most of the time. His masquerade as the French painter muddied the waters quite a bit, because it only served to confuse Gillian when she experienced feelings for both men. What really bothered me though, is that neither character even knows their own mind. Them constantly questioning their own feelings or how the other person feels or what their actions might mean diluted their connection. It made me feel like their emotions weren't strong enough to know anything for certain until very late in the story. Not to mention, the roundabout reasoning which passes for most of the conflict in the story seemed rather forced and overblown. It was just flat-out confusing to me most of the time and made my head hurt. The secrets, game playing, uncertainties, and inability to face or admit their feelings for one another drug on a little too long, also dampening that all-important emotional connection.
From a technical standpoint, I found a few additional issues. First of all, Gillian's proposed inheritance of 600,000 pounds, plus land in America, plus a fleet of eight ships (more or less – ugh! I could have played a drinking game with that phrase.;-)) seemed like overkill for the Regency era. The money alone would be worth more than 20 million dollars in today's economy, and while it's not outside the realm of possibility for someone to be that wealthy back then, it did seem a bit unbelievable, especially for a male relative to leave that much to a woman, particularly one he barely knew. The author does give a brief explanation for this, but I felt like it was a rather weak one. If the author had left out the land and ships and made the amount more reasonable, perhaps $50,000 pounds, which still would have been a veritable fortune and more than enough for them to live on comfortably and still have plenty left over for charitable causes, especially if invested wisely, then this part of the story would have been more palatable for me. Outside of that, the story seemed a little dialogue heavy at times. As I demonstrated above, the author uses some repetition and some rather meandering discussions that I think were meant to be funny and/or cute, but mostly just annoyed me. However, nothing grated more than the plethora of questions these two constantly ask themselves in their introspections regarding their doubts, fears, insecurities, and simply what's going on in the other person's head. For the most part, it boiled down to passive narration (telling), when it would have been much more effective to “show” their emotions in a more active way.
Overall, The Husband List was a readable enough book that wasn't a chore to finish. I mostly liked the characters, and it had some cute and sweet moments. However, I felt the narrative and the emotional connection were both sufficiently bogged down by all the questioning of feelings, as to take something away from the story, while also making me do a lot of eye-rolling. Therefore, it didn't quite make it over the hump to reach that four-star mark for me. I still plan to continue on with the series though. Richard's sisters were pretty adorable, and two of them, Marianne and Jocelyn, become the heroines of the next two books in the series. Marianne is a bookish sort and Jocelyn dreams of a Cinderella-style romance, both things that I can relate to, so that appeals. Also Gillian's brother and Richard's best friend, Thomas, who was a fairly likable guy as well, is paired with Marianne in the next book, The Marriage Lesson. I think these two could make an interesting pairing, so I look forward to giving their book a try....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Wedding Bargain is a fun, light-hearted, Regency romp that turned out to be a pretty entertaining read. The hero has a repReviewed for THC Reviews The Wedding Bargain is a fun, light-hearted, Regency romp that turned out to be a pretty entertaining read. The hero has a reputation as “a rake, a rogue, a scoundrel, and a beast.” The heroine has caught his eye, and knowing that he must marry soon to produce an heir, he's determined to do whatever it takes to have her. She has been dubbed the Hellion of Grosvenor Square, and while it's not a title she's entirely earned, she is a very spirited young lady who refuses to marry without love. The two strike up an amusing bargain in which she puts him to the test to determine whether or not he can truly be the hero she craves. She thinks the test she devises based on the Twelve Labors of Hercules will be virtually impossible for him to pass, but she didn't count on his ingenuity or her family and friends meddling to bring them together. It all made for a very amusing story. Prior to this I'd only read one novella by Victoria Alexander that was just OK for me, so I was very pleasantly surprised to enjoy this book.
Pandora's family is a bit eccentric, particularly her father and mother who are experts in Greek antiquities. As their only child, her father has bestowed a sizable income on her and she is also their heir, so she has really felt no pressing need to marry. Her parents have given her a great deal of latitude, and she sometimes pushes the envelope when it comes to flouting society's rules. Because of her slightly scandalous exploits, most of her peers call her the Hellion of Grosvenor Square. Pandora is in her seventh season, when most young ladies would be considered firmly on the shelf spinsters, but she simply thinks of herself as independent. If she ever marries at all, it will only be for love. When she believes Max may be pursuing her best friend with dishonorable intentions, she confronts him, and it leads to a verbal sparring match that she is surprised to find herself enjoying. From there, they share their vision of the ideal mate, but when Max declares that he meets her every desire, she's skeptical, so he dares her to put him to the test. Given Pandora's circumstances and her attitude toward marriage, I think it would have been easy for her to come off as either too cold or too cocky and vain, but thankfully, neither is the case. I thought that she was a pretty well-balanced heroine who was intelligent and competitive without being conceited. I was also pleased to see that she could be empathetic when the situation called for it. I think she really enjoyed matching wits with Max and was sometimes contrary simply because she loved playing the game. Pandora can also be a very stubborn young lady, who has a hard time admitting what's right in front of her face, namely that first, she's attracted to Max, and later, she's fallen in love with him. While perhaps, she skated a bit too close to the edge of annoying me with this trait, I really found it more funny than anything.
Max knows he must marry, but really wants nothing to do with the simpering misses who typically pursue him. He is certain life would be a complete bore with such a biddable wife, so he's looking for someone with more backbone and spirit. He's taken notice of Pandora before, but never quite so much as when she confronts him. He knows in an instant that life with her would never be dull, so he determines then and there to do whatever it takes to win her hand in marriage. After hearing her list of requirements for a husband, he points out that he meets every one. When it becomes apparent that what she's really looking for is a hero, he wants to prove to her that he can be that man. I love how dogged Max is in his pursuit of Pandora. He truly is willing to do just about anything, up to and including making a fool out of himself, to show her that he's the man for her. I found that quite romantic, as actions often speak louder than words. Max is determined to win the game, not just because he's competitive, but because he truly loves Pandora and wants to prove that he can be her hero. In reality, Max was already a war hero, having fought against Napoleon. I was glad to see the author take a step back from all the fun and games and allow the reader to see a bit of this side of him when he tells Pandora a little about his time in the war. I think it helped to build his characterization more, and overall, Max was a very admirable hero. I just wish he'd been a little more forthcoming with his declarations of love.
With The Wedding Bargain being the first in the fairly long Effington Family & Friends series, I was a bit surprised that there weren't many secondary characters with potential for their own books being introduced. There are Effingtons aplenty in the background, but most are a bit older and already attached, like Pandora's parents and aunts. The only Effington we get to meet who doesn't fall into those categories is Pandora's cousin, Gillian, who is a young widow. She becomes the heroine of the next book, The Husband List. Gillian is only in one scene, so I can't say that I got a really good feel for her character, but I do look forward to giving her book a try. The two characters who do play significant supporting roles are Max's best friend, Laurie, and Pandora's best friend, Cynthia. They share a rather sweet, secondary romance that was almost as much fun as Max and Pandora's.
The main thing that bothered me about The Wedding Bargain and that took away the star is that Max and Pandora are both quite stubborn about not revealing their feeling for one another. Even though Pandora comes to realize she wants to marry Max, she refuses to do so without love. Max is doing everything he can to show Pandora how much he loves her, but she still doesn't trust that he does, because he hasn't said the words. Because of this, she holds back from saying them too and keeps trying to sabotage his efforts to win the game. For Max's part, he's afraid to say the words for fear that Pandora doesn't return his affections. It's readily apparent that they both do love each other to distraction, so I didn't find their refusal to say the words until the final pages as gratingly annoying as I might have otherwise. However, their reasoning does get pretty convoluted at times, and occasionally, I found myself rolling my eyes, thinking “Would somebody just say it already?”
Otherwise, The Wedding Bargain was a pretty enjoyable read. It could perhaps be a bit dialog heavy at times, and I picked up on some repetitious words, phrases, and character actions. But these things didn't detract much from my overall satisfaction with the story. Another thing that kept Max and Pandora's refusal to say those three little words from becoming too irritating is that the sexual tension is done quite well. I could really feel their burgeoning attraction for one another, and I also loved their witty bantering. The game itself is quite amusing, adventurous, and creative too, so it kept me reading, wanting to know just how Max pulled off all these seemingly impossible tasks. All in all, it was an entertaining romp that I would recommend to readers who are looking for a historical romance that's lighter and more humorous....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I'm beginning to wonder what's going on with the seemingly recent trend in which novels that are marketed as romance contain vReviewed for THC Reviews I'm beginning to wonder what's going on with the seemingly recent trend in which novels that are marketed as romance contain very little actual romance to speak of. I've read three books in the last month that were like this with Accidentally in Love with… a God? being the latest. I find this very frustrating, since I read romance for the romance not the action, adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, humor or other elements that seem to jam pack these books of late. In my opinion, if it's a romance, that should take the front seat with any other elements being seamlessly melded to it and the icing on the proverbial cake. As an author myself, I'm aware of other writers out there who are getting into romance, because they know that's where the money is. I'm not specifically accusing Mimi Jean Pamfiloff of this, but it does make me wonder if some of these authors are writing romance, because they know it will sell well without really knowing how to put one together and most especially how to properly convey the emotion that, in my opinion, is integral to the genre. Sorry, just had to get that little rant off my chest. Now on to our regularly scheduled programming.:-)
Accidentally in Love with… a God? definitely contains an out of the ordinary story premise. It begins with the hero only talking to the heroine in her head. We find out he's been a presence in her life for twenty-two years, since she was just a little girl. He left her for a while when she was younger, but came back as she grew older and won't leave her alone. In fact, he annoys the heck out of her and won't allow her to have any kind of meaningful relationship with a man. Then we find out he's a god (specifically the god of War and Death) who's been trapped in a cenote (a watery sink hole) in the ancient Mayan territory of Mexico for seventy years, and it seems the heroine is the only person who can save him. He convinces her to come to Mexico to release him from his prison by telling her he'll leave her alone if she does. That's only the beginning of a crazy adventure that involves more gods and goddesses, a secret society of humans pledged to protect them and their secrets, and bloodthirsty Mayan priests who are equally determined to rid the world of them by sacrificing humans. Pretty exciting stuff, huh? I thought so too, and the world building is the area in which Mimi Jean Pamfiloff seems to excel. She obviously has a wild imagination that she puts to good use here, and for that, I give her kudos. However, this is one of only a couple of things I was able to get excited about. I'm afraid I found most of the rest of the story elements rather mediocre.
For starters, I felt the character development was weak. Even after reading the entire book, and even with part of it being in first-person POV, I still know very little about either of the main characters, particularly what makes them tick. Another unusual element in this book are the alternating first and third person POVs. I've read a few other books like this but no romance that comes to mind, and it didn't work very well for me here. In all honesty, I'm not even sure why the author chose to write it this way, because it didn't seem to add anything to the story by doing it.
Emma is the first-person narrator and she gets the lion's share of the POV scenes, yet I didn't feel like I got to know her very well at all. She's a flighty, high-strung, mouthy, snarky spitfire who can sometimes be rather childish (not really my favorite type of heroine). She reminds me of one of those stereotypical, wild, wacky New Yorkers with a healthy dose of attitude to go along with all the craziness. Emma seems to alternate between being in near-constant outrage at Guy and lusting after him. Even before she actually sees him in the flesh (and what a picture that is), she lusts after his voice. I guess I can't blame her too much on either count though. Guy's reticence frustrated me too, and the way he's described, he sounds like sex on a stick. Yum!;-) That said though, I prefer my romance characters to exhibit a bit more vulnerability and the only Achilles heel Emma seems to have is her grandmother who mysteriously disappeared. However, this part of the story doesn't seem to fuel any emotions in her except anger, and the only purpose it seemed to serve was that Guy persuaded Emma to come rescue him with the promise of her possibly finding out what happened to her grandmother. Otherwise, what little emotion she shows where Guy and other characters are concerned is a confusing mix that flip-flops around from one feeling to the next. I just couldn't get a read on her emotions at all, because they're as changeable as the weather and were giving me whiplash. Emma also seems to have a habit of reacting to the things that happened to and around her rather than carefully thinking things through. I was also bothered by the game she played with Guy the first time they nearly became intimate. I thought it was a cruel and childish way of getting back at him when she knew he couldn't actually have sex at that point, not to mention foolhardy considering that she already knew she'd get a jolt of intense pain if things got too heated. Another reactionary thing she did was breaking her bond with Guy, not once, but twice, which just didn't really make any sense to me. Thinking her "cunning plan" through is definitely not one of Emma's strong suits.
Guy is the third person narrator, and his scenes are definitely fewer and shorter them Emma's. As a consequence, I didn't get to know him any better, so despite him being yummy to imagine from a physical standpoint, I felt rather apathetic about him otherwise. To begin with, he's entirely too mysterious. For probably more than half the book, he won't tell Emma a bloomin' thing about what's going on, yet expects her to blindly follow his orders. Because of his POV scenes, the reader knows marginally more than she does, but even still, what's happening is pretty murky. Eventually, we learn that Guy has apparently been in love with Emma for a while, which is why he acted like a jealous boyfriend anytime she tried to go out with another man. That said though, I felt like his love was being told to me more than shown. I honestly didn't know why he fell in love with her other than the fact that she was the only person he had contact with for seventy years. Guy has a bit of a caveman streak in him and is a little too arrogant for my taste too. Basically, he's gorgeous and he knows it. I didn't really care for him calling Emma "little girl" or "woman," but I did enjoy the "my sweet" endearments. Guy's seeming obsession with cookies, both baking and eating them, was rather amusing, but it was only a brief, occasional thing in the background. I would have liked to see this brought out more, because I think it could have added interest to his character. Much like with Emma, the other thing I thought could have been fuller and richer in his character was his vulnerabilities. The only thing that was even hinted at was the fact that he gave up his rotation in the god pool and agreed to become the full-time God of War and Death in order to organize the Uchben (their human support system), but this was nothing more than a blip on the radar. Of course, Emma herself was something of a weakness for him, but since I didn't really understand his love for her in the first place, this didn't exactly seem like a big deal either.
As with their individual characters, Guy and Emma's romance never really sparked off the pages for me. There is very little body language, and an equal lack of emotion (other than bad ones) being expressed. I simply didn't feel much of a connection between these two characters, especially considering that Guy has been an almost constant presence in Emma's head for years. It didn't help either that Emma was attracted to another man for part of the story. In my opinion, that only served to further water down the already virtually non-existent connection with Guy. I'm also not really a fan of love/hate relationships, which is essentially what theirs is. It frankly doesn't make much sense to me how two people can simultaneously love and hate one another. Emma constantly goes back and forth between lusting after Guy and very vocally hating on him. Another thing I don't care for are couples who spend most of the story bickering like Guy and Emma did. I just don't find that romantic, because again, I can't fathom how two people who fight all the time can have a happy future together. It took until the halfway point in the story for even the slightest bit of emotion or vulnerability to surface between these two, but it still wasn't nearly enough. I felt an overabundance of anger, annoyance, irritation, and lust, but can't say that I ever once truly felt the love connection.
Perhaps part of the reason I never felt any love between them is because Guy and Emma have terrible communication. You'd think that after him living inside her head for twenty-two years, she might know the man a little bit better and have developed some trust in him, but nothing could be further from the truth. Part of their trust issues are Guy's fault for holding back nearly all the pertinent information about himself, for which I quite frankly didn't see a compelling reason. As a result, and not surprisingly, Emma doesn't trust him one iota. Trust is something that, in my opinion, is crucial for a relationship to work, possibly equal to if not greater than love. Even after meeting face-to-face, Emma and Guy still don't communicate any better. Some of their exchanges and circular, internal reasonings were so wacky and complicated they made my head spin. When they're not trying to be cute, they're both holding back all sorts of important stuff, most especially their feelings. When Guy started spouting off a bunch of lies late in the story, ostensibly to "protect" Emma, I rolled my eyes in utter frustration and disbelief. I don't know how these two can possibly spend an eternity together and genuinely be happy when they can't trust each other and never know when the other is telling the truth. When Guy finally did come clean about his feelings, it was too little too late, and I wasn't able to muster much enthusiasm for the moment.
One other thing I applaud the author for is making both characters virgins. I think this is only the second romance I've read in which this was the case. However, it wasn't quite the momentous occasion I would have hoped for. Despite their inexperience, both are certainly quite knowledgeable about sex and have no qualms about it whatsoever. In fact, they both seem quite eager to “get it on” and even have a rather flippant attitude about doing so. A few different times they (especially Emma) treat her virginity as a nuisance that she needs to be rid of, which I didn't care for at all. I admit it's a personal opinion, but since you can only lose your virginity once, I consider it to be something special that should be shared with someone special, not just a “let's get it over with” event. If the deflowering alone had been treated throughout as a cherished moment that should be relished, it would have gone a long way toward improving the emotional connection, because it would have allowed for a more tender expression of love between them. I admit that when they finally got there (which didn't happen until the very end of the book), they did take their time. In spite of that though, it was more told than shown, so the love scene was nothing particularly special for me. I've read far better.
Besides the relationship stuff, there were a few other bothersome things too. First off is the height difference between Guy and Emma. He is a full foot and half taller than her. Even on her tip toes, she wouldn't be able to reach his lips, but yet she does regularly without difficulty. In reality, he would either have to do some serious bending down or lifting her up, but that never happens. Another thing that lacked credibility for me was the ease with which Guy's right hand man acquiesced to Emma going on the rescue mission to Mexico with them. It really made no sense to me at all, except as a weak excuse to get Emma to the jungle and into harms way for the climax, which, by the way, was rather disappointing too. Considering how evil and powerful the villain had become, I felt he was dispatched far too easily. And what was with the weird ending? Everything was going along smoothly with all the plot points wrapping up nicely, and then in the final moments of the book, the author drops a bombshell which she proceeded to leave hanging. Opening excerpts for the next three books of the series are included at the end of this one, yet after skimming them it seems there may not be much, if any, resolution to that final revelation.
There were a couple of secondary characters introduced in Accidentally in Love with… a God? who go on to have their own novellas later in the Accidentally Yours series. Cimil, the Goddess of the Underworld, reminds me of a slightly nicer version of Artemis from Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series. She become the heroine of Accidentally...Cimil?. The other one is Chaam. While he was certainly physically attractive, he was so evil, I don't know that I could buy into him as a hero, but that's apparently exactly what he becomes in Accidentally...Evil?. Otherwise, I can't tell that there are any other carry-over characters from this book.
Overall, I'm giving Accidentally in Love with… a God? three stars for the intriguing world building and the mechanics of the writing being sound, but the romance just didn't do it for me. Fans of light, fluffy paranormal romance, love/hate relationships, romantic comedy full of silliness and featuring a snarky heroine, or readers who just want a little man candy to parade in front of their mind's eye will probably enjoy this one a lot more than I did. As is though, it was simply an OK read for me. It didn't tickle my funny bone the way I think it was supposed to, and I'm not sure whether I'll continue with the series or not. Maybe if I see a review that gives me some hope that the romance and character development is stronger in the next book, I might consider it, or if I come upon a rainy day and have nothing else to read (yeah, right like that's going to happen :-)). It definitely won't be at the top of my TBR list though, so all I can say is we'll see.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via GoodReads FirstReads in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Zombies for Breakfast was a light, entertaining read that was part paranormal romance and part romantic suspense with a liberaReviewed for THC Reviews Zombies for Breakfast was a light, entertaining read that was part paranormal romance and part romantic suspense with a liberal splash of comedy thrown in for fun. It even has some slight chick lit leanings as well, so it should appeal to a fairly broad audience. It took me a little while to get into it. I think this is mainly because it is written in first-person perspective in the present tense. I believe this marks the first time I've ever read a book written in this style, so it took some getting used to. I still don't think it will become a favorite style of mine, but once I got to the know the characters a little more and got into the meat of the story, I enjoyed it. It was also the first time I had read a paranormal romance centering around zombies, so I thought the premise was very unique and interesting. Much like the glut of vampires, werewolves, demons and other creatures of the night who inhabit paranormal romance, the zombies here are not the inherently evil, flesh-eating creatures of legend. Although their eating habits are a bit strange at times, their craving for human flesh is more of the sexual variety. They also don't appear grotesque, with rotting flesh falling from their bones, until they've reached a certain age or unless they don't get their “beauty sleep.” Then they can start to literally fall apart. There are also some older and less well cared for zombies who develop troublesome medical conditions which can make them rather hideous, but it's mostly played for laughs rather than being gross or disturbing. The zombies were created through the use of a special embalming fluid used only by one funeral home. Once resurrected, they are still similar to humans with a few caveats. Although they have a long life-span, it isn't infinite like with most paranormal creatures. Overall, Zombies for Breakfast was an intriguing and different kind of paranormal romance.
Payson is a pharmacist who got into her field of work to help people. Her job isn't all she thought it would be though, and she's tired of essentially being nothing but a pill pusher. She has a strong interest in natural remedies and tries to recommend them to her customers whenever she can. Payson has a zombie roommate and is one of the few humans who know of their existence. Despite this, she leads a rather bland, boring life, just trying to pay the bills, but everything changes for her when the pharmacy gets robbed twice in one night while she's closing, her roommate gets tasked with babysitting a hot newborn zombie who is having trouble adjusting to life after death, and one of Payson's co-workers turns up dead in a basement storage room of her apartment building. Suddenly, Payson finds herself as the focus of a murder investigation that's sure to make her look guilty and the target of a zombie drug cartel run by the oldest known zombie. She instantly goes from dulls-ville to more excitement than she ever wanted, but Sean helps to make all the trouble and life-threatening situations worthwhile.
Sean is a good man... err... zombie, who was a member of the military before dying way too young. Now that he's been reanimated, he has a serious case of claustrophobia, which is a big problem since zombies need to regenerate in a small, dark place for at least eight hours a day. I liked Sean's kind nature and that he didn't hesitate to step up and protect Payson from the dangers lurking in the shadows. In his human life, Sean was a very caring man and that nature carried over to his zombie life too. My only small complaint about Sean is that I don't feel like I got to know him very well. There isn't a whole lot of depth to his character until toward the end when he begins to tell Payson a little more about his human life and remember how he died. However, I recognize that this is sometimes a weakness inherent in stories written in first-person narrative, and otherwise Sean was a very likable hero.
The murder mystery was an intriguing element which kept me guessing as to exactly what was going on, and I was surprised by how it turned out. Payson's roommate, Eileen, is a hoot, as are some of the human pharmacy patrons and a few of the nicer zombies. I enjoyed the Arizona setting, although I have to admit that it felt a little more like small-town Arizona than Phoenix, so I had to imagine it being more on the outskirts of the city. With a familiar setting, likable characters, an unusual premise, a little suspense and lots of light-hearted fun, Zombies for Breakfast was an entertaining read that definitely left a memorable impression.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews A Very Vampy Christmas is a cute, holiday-themed addition to the Love at Stake series. I honestly didn't care much for Don OrlReviewed for THC Reviews A Very Vampy Christmas is a cute, holiday-themed addition to the Love at Stake series. I honestly didn't care much for Don Orlando, the infamous Latin vampire lover and soap opera star. In the previous book of the series, he came off as a comically melodramatic playboy who sleeps with nearly every woman he meets, but this short story shows a whole new side to him that I didn't expect. Readers get to find out that he's not the man we thought he was, and in fact, he has a very sympathetic and mysterious past. He turns out to be a really stand-up guy who truly is worthy of Maggie's love.
I really liked Maggie when she was introduced as Darcy's friend in Vamps and the City. She struck me as a kind, caring woman whose story of being turned vampire tugs at the heartstrings. She had a mad crush on Don Orlando, and wanted nothing more than to become his leading lady. Well, she got her wish, but he didn't end up being all she thought he would be, which broke her heart. Once he starts opening up to her though about his past, she wants nothing more than to help him find his family in hopes of reconciling with them in time for Christmas.
A Very Vampy Christmas has a delightful cast of secondary characters. Ian, one of the Scottish guards, helps Maggie and Don Orlando with their investigation. Between his Scottish accent and kilt and him not being able to get people to believe he's not a kid but a centuries-old vampire, this guy is adorable. I can't wait for his book, All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire. We get to meet the New Orleans coven master, and two transvestite vampires who are a total hoot. Don Orlando's family ends up being a mixed bag of personalities who were a lot of fun too.
This novella had a few weaknesses. The romance was sweet, but it would have been nice to have a little more build up. The one brief love scene felt kind of rushed too. The Christmas theme only orbits the periphery of the story with very little actual celebration of the holiday present. The supposed family curse wasn't very well explained either, but overall, A Very Vampy Christmas was an entertaining diversion that I enjoyed reading. A Very Vampy Christmas can be purchased as a stand-alone novella in e-book format and can also be found in the print anthology, Sugarplums and Scandal....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I've read enough of Kerrelyn Sparks' books now that I know when I pick one up, I'll get a fun, entertaining, and romantic readReviewed for THC Reviews I've read enough of Kerrelyn Sparks' books now that I know when I pick one up, I'll get a fun, entertaining, and romantic read. Ms. Sparks has a great sense of humor that resonates with me and a real talent for writing funny scenes and dialog. I often don't see the punch line coming, which makes these parts that much more hilarious. I haven't had a book crack me up as much as this one did in quite a while. Most rom coms come off as rather inane to me, like the author was trying too hard to be funny. Not so, with Ms. Sparks. Her humor is an organic part of the story, but her books are not just fun and games. She also has an equal talent for creating emotional moments and swoon-worthy scenes that are exactly what I read romance for. She definitely knows how to maintain the delicate balance between these two elements to create a wonderful story, and All I Want for Christmas Is a Vampire was certainly no exception.
I've adored Ian since the Love at Stake series began, so I was eagerly looking forward to reading his story. He's a total sweetheart, who up until the last book, perpetually looked like a fifteen year old boy, because that's the age at which he was turned into a vampire. Even though he was nearly 500 years old, he couldn't get women (at least not without using a bit of mind control), and he couldn't get any respect, even from his fellow vampires who knew how old he was. They just couldn't seem to get past him looking like a kid to treat him like the mature man he was inside. In The Undead Next Door, he used Roman's Stay-Awake drug, which finally aged him into a twenty-seven year old man, and now he wants more than anything to find true love. Even now that Ian looks like a full-grown man, he's still having issues with fulfilling that dream. There are plenty of loose women at the Horny Devils, the vampire club started by Roman's ex-harem, but Ian isn't turned on by them in the least. He wants true love, not a one-night stand. He's also an old-fashioned, chivalrous gentleman, which not all the ladies seem to appreciate, but which I loved. He's looking for a woman who is honest, loyal, intelligent and pretty (all good attributes in my book), who loves him for who he is, but since it was nearly impossible for him to court or date women through the centuries, he has virtually no idea how to go about it. His awkwardness because of his rapid growth spurt and his uncertainties where women are concerned are utterly endearing. When he first meets Toni, he ends up flirting with her and doesn't even realize he's doing it. Ian is every bit as sweet as he was before he aged twelve years. I was thrilled to see that only his body changed, not his personality, but at the same time, he definitely proves how manly he is by uttering some of the steamiest lines I've ever read in a romance. Ian is so scrumptiously sexy, he finds himself up to his eyeballs in women who want him in very short order, but there's only one woman he truly wants.
Toni begins the story with a bit of a chip on her shoulder where vampires are concerned but with good reason. Her best friend, Sabrina, was attacked by vampires in the park and then committed to the psych ward when she told the police and medical personnel the truth of what happened. She begged Toni to prove that vampires really exist, so she could be released. Not entirely believing Sabrina herself, Toni goes to the park the next night, only to be attacked as well. The only reason the Malcontents didn't end up killing her is that Connor came to her rescue and teleported her away. Since she had fought bravely and already knew of the vampires' existence, he offered her a job as a day-time security guard, which Toni eagerly accepted, hoping to find evidence that would free Sabrina. She and Ian don't exactly get off on the right foot. He immediately suspects her of being up to something, and she thinks he's arrogant, in part because of all the women who are clamoring for his attention. Toni is quick-witted with a sarcastic, sharp-edged tongue that sometime makes her say hurtful things at first, but she harbors some obvious vulnerabilities that make her very relatable. Her family never loved or supported her, except her grandmother, and Toni has some deep-seated guilt about her grandmother's death. After Sabrina is committed, this guilt surfaces as Toni starts to believe that she always lets down the people she cares about the most. I could relate to the four affirmations she repeats to herself every morning in an attempt to actually believe them. These also showed just how vulnerable she was, but at the same time, I admired her scrappy, independent spirit and her unwavering loyalty to her friends. That devotion eventually extends to Ian as well, and I loved how she courageously wanted to fight the Malcontents by his side.
All I Want for Christmas Is a Vampire boasts a very full and diverse cast of secondary characters. Most of the previous heroes and heroines return in supporting roles or at the very least, pop in for a quick visit. Roman and Shanna (How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire) play fairly strong roles along with their adorable little son, Constantine, who has some pretty amazing gifts. Angus and Emma (Be Still My Vampire Heart) are seen briefly, and Jean-Luc and Heather (The Undead Next Door), a little more. There are also plenty of future heroes and heroines as well, including Vanda (Forbidden Nights with a Vampire), Phineas (Wanted: Undead or Alive), Connor (Vampire Mine), Howard (Wild about You) who we learn a little new information about, Gregori (Sexiest Vampire Alive), Dougal (The Vampire With the Dragon Tattoo), Zoltan (How to Seduce a Vampire (Without Really Trying)), Robby (The Vampire and the Virgin), and last but certainly not least, Giacomo aka Jack who will become the hero of the next book in the series, Secret Life of a Vampire. We are also introduced to Toni's other best friend, Carlos, who has some secrets of his own and plays a pivotal role in helping Toni spring her friend from the loony bin. He will become the hero of Eat, Prey, Love. I also don't think we've seen the last of Sabrina or Teddy, a geeky psych ward patient who looks out for her well-being. I thought Teddy was particularly cute and was so glad they didn't leave him behind during the escape. It seems Roman might have a very special place in his organization for these two mortals.
Admittedly, the Christmas theme in All I Want for Christmas Is a Vampire wasn't quite as strong as I would have hoped, but there was a fun Christmas costume ball, and I positively loved the vampires' Secret Santa program. If I were a vampire with all the special powers that go along with it, that's what I would do at Christmas too.:-) Overall, All I Want for Christmas Is a Vampire was a highly entertaining read that in turn made me laugh, say “Awww, how sweet and romantic,” and fan myself. It was a great book for Christmastime or anytime of the year. I can't wait to read Jack's book next....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Vamps and the City was another great installment in the Love at Stake series. It was a really fun read that was esReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Vamps and the City was another great installment in the Love at Stake series. It was a really fun read that was essentially a paranormal spoof of The Bachelorette, except in this case, rather than having only one bachelorette, there are five, the cast-off harem of Roman Dragenesti from the first book. I'm normally not a big fan of reality TV and have never actually watched The Bachelor/Bachelorette. I wasn't quite sure how I would like the premise when I started the book, but it didn't take long for me to really get into it. The story was pretty amusing and light-hearted with several LOL moments, and yet, Kerrelyn Sparks still managed to infuse the narrative with plenty of emotion and even some angst. Overall, it was a very enjoyable read.
I couldn't help but feel for Darcy in her situation. She has been living among the vampires for four years, but is having trouble being accepted as an intelligent and capable person in the chauvinistic, male-dominated vampire world. Her nervousness about applying for the job at the TV station made her sympathetic. It can be hard for an author to make a drop-dead gorgeous woman who doesn't seem to have any outer flaws vulnerable, but I think Ms. Sparks did a beautiful job of it with Darcy's character. I really liked that her first inclination when asked about her dream man was to describe his personality. Since I tend to pay more attention to a man's personality too, I could relate. It was really cute that she fell as head over heels at first sight for Austin as he did for her. She thinks that Austin's handsome co-worker is just OK, but is super attracted to Austin, even though her friends thought he was just meh. I've often had a tendency to go for guys that other women don't, so this was another way in which Darcy was relatable to me. I also think it showed that Darcy wasn't a shallow woman. Then there is her angst and turmoil over how she came to be a part of the vampire world, and how she can ever make a life with Austin with all that baggage. Everything came together to make Darcy a very likable and admirable heroine.
Austin was an equally likable hero. He does, of course, lie to Darcy about his identity at first, because he was working undercover for the Stake-Out team. He has also been taught to believe that all vampires are evil and must be killed, but underneath he has a pretty open mind. Once he starts to see the truth of things, he comes around pretty quickly and even becomes protective of the good vampires. It was really cool that Austin had psychic and telekinetic powers. This is a little different for paranormal romance, but it fit the story quite well. I loved that Austin is seriously attracted to the whole package that is Darcy and not just her beauty. It was really sweet that Austin doggedly pursued Darcy while she was a bit more reluctant because of her situation. Overall, Austin was an incredibly nice guy with a sensitive side who usually always said just the right thing in romantic situations.
Vamps and the City has a strong supporting cast. Roman and Shanna (How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire) put in a couple of brief appearances. The women of the harem were a hoot, although the only one who wasn't exceptionally shallow was Darcy's friend, Vanda. She gets to become the heroine of book #8, Forbidden Nights with a Vampire. We are also introduced to Emma, a new co-worker of Austin's on loan from MI6. She will be the heroine of the next full-length novel in the series, Be Still My Vampire Heart. The vampire men, Connor (Vampire Mine), Ian (All I Want for Christmas Is a Vampire), and Gregori (Sexiest Vampire Alive) also have roles in the story. I thought that Darcy's other friend, Maggie would make a good heroine too, but it doesn't look like she has her own book yet.
I enjoyed the initial mystery of whether Darcy was a vampire. There is a constant is she or isn't she vibe throughout the first third or so of the story. The reveal of both character's true identities came a little sooner than I expected, which led to a temporary separation in the middle of the book. Although Austin and Darcy's break-up made perfect sense for the story, this part lagged a little for me, because I really missed their sparkling chemistry. The ending had a great twist to it that I wasn't expecting, and I have to say that I'm really liking the development of the series story arc. Some things happened in this book that advanced the overall plot, and I'll be looking forward to seeing where things go next. Overall, Vamps and the City was a great read that has me eager to continue the series as soon as possible, and with two winners in a row, Kerrelyn Sparks has earned a spot on my favorite authors list....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Nina Benneton's debut novel, Compulsively Mr. Darcy, is a delightfully fun, lighthearted, contemporary spoof of JaReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Nina Benneton's debut novel, Compulsively Mr. Darcy, is a delightfully fun, lighthearted, contemporary spoof of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Much to my shame I have not yet read P&P (never fear, it is on my TBR list;-)), so I can't offer any kind of comparative analysis. However, the book stands very well on its own merits. It would have been equally as enjoyable even if the plot of the book was not in some fashion following the plot of P&P and the characters had been given different names. I have to admit that initially, the sheer volume of characters could be a little confusing, and this is where some previous knowledge of P&P might have been helpful, but eventually, I got everyone straight and had a lot of fun spending time with them.
Compulsively Mr. Darcy begins in Da Nang, Vietnam of all places. What a unique setting for a romance novel! I enjoyed learning a little about the country and the culture, as well as reading about Elizabeth's colorful Vietnamese relatives. The story then moves to New York City and on to California as we follow the hero and heroine through their adventures.
In this retelling, Fitzwilliam Darcy is the OCD billionaire of a very successful company specializing in acquisitions and mergers. He begins the book quite stuffy and uptight, but I immediately discerned a very appealing man underneath the control freak veneer. I actually loved how he took such good care of everyone around him, both family and friends. I think he was a naturally kind, caring, loving person, whose anxieties and OCD just make him go a little overboard. Ultimately though, I thought it was rather sweet. Elizabeth must have agreed with me, because she was never off-put by his neurotic behavior either. William never stops worrying about everyone, most especially Elizabeth and his sister, Georgianna. He does manage to live a fairly normal life in spite of being a worry-wort, but I really loved the moments when he was able to loosen up a little bit. He was actually surprisingly good with babies (dirty diapers not withstanding;-)) which leads me to believe that he would be a great father. He was already a wonderful husband, lover, friend and brother, so he can just add another check-mark to his repertoire.
Elizabeth has a rather inauspicious beginning, first snapping at William when he comes to check on his friend, Bingley, who is under her care at the hospital and later thinking that they are a gay couple which led to all sorts of hilarity. In spite of her initial grumpiness, Elizabeth turns out to be a very sweet, loving woman. She and her sister Jane are women after my own heart, the way they are giving selflessly of themselves to work in a third-world country helping others. I also love how completely accepting she is of Darcy, faults, neuroses and all. I think her only shortcoming is that she has a bit of a jealous streak which led to the dreaded misunderstanding and a temporary breakup. Even though it could have been cleared up with a candid conversation, in terms of page-time, it didn't last too long, led to a very sweet make-up, and was played a little lighter, more like a comedy of errors, so I guess I can mostly forgive the lapse. Elizabeth was very funny too with her frugal ways. Even after she found out that Darcy was a billionaire, she couldn't help herself. She was still trying to pinch pennies and couldn't stand the thought of being wasteful, which is something I can totally relate to. I'd probably be the same way even if I suddenly came into a lot of money.
Overall, I had a really good time reading Compulsively Mr. Darcy. William and Elizabeth are just the sweetest couple who practically dote on each other nearly all the time. They can't stand to be without one another and always seem to have fun when they're together. I absolutely loved all the gentle teasing and bantering. The secondary characters were great too. Bingley is a hoot with his lighthearted, boyish manner, and Darcy's cousin, Richard, is always trying to look out for him while he looks out for everyone else. All of Elizabeth's sisters have their own unique personalities too. Everything just came together to make this an extremely enjoyable read. Nina Benneton is a talented new author, and I'll definitely be looking forward to seeing what else she comes up with. In the meantime, if the original Mr. Darcy is half as charming as William, and Pride and Prejudice is half as delightful as Compulsively Mr. Darcy, I know I'm going to have a blast when I finally read it.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews George & the Virgin is a book that rather deftly crosses many of the sub-genres of romance. I suppose it is primarily a hiReviewed for THC Reviews George & the Virgin is a book that rather deftly crosses many of the sub-genres of romance. I suppose it is primarily a historical time travel with the hero going back in time to a medieval castle, but having a dragon terrorizing the nearby villagers also places the story squarely in the fantasy realm. The humor had me grinning like an idiot until my husband asked what was so funny, and that alone gives it a firm standing as a romantic comedy too. Additionally, it had a light paranormal element in the way in which the time travel took place, and tons of action and adventure as our intrepid hero sets out to slay the dragon. All of this made for a pretty fun read, but I still couldn't help feeling like there was something missing. Since I was enjoying most of the story, it took me a while to figure it out, but when I did, I sadly realized it was the romance itself that was rather lacking.
Alizon was a complicated young woman who was somewhat difficult for me to relate to. She begins the story as a fourteen year-old orphan girl who is trying to loose her virginity so she won't have to go to the annual virgin lottery and possibly be sent as a sacrifice to the dragon. She has reluctantly chosen an unkempt, callow youth who had been pursuing her, but he has no idea what he's doing. It was a pretty funny scene, but at the same time kind of sad because of her reasons for doing it. In the end she bravely goes to the lottery and eventually the dragon. Once we find out how she avoided falling prey to the dragon and had saved many other virgins lives over the years, she seemed even more courageous, but at the same time, she had been pretty selfish. Alizon is also way too stubborn and independent for her own good. In her mind, she laments her lot in life, how she is stuck in the castle with no conceivable means of escape, and seems to want someone to free her, but when George comes along to save her, she allows her fear to take over to the point that she literally tries to sabotage her own potential HEA. It was amusing that during Alizon's twelve years as the dragon's keeper she had become a pretty horny virgin, fantasizing about finally being deflowered the right way, but again, when George begins to show sexual interest in her, she wants to be in control of everything which only leads to further disappointment for her. I also felt that her lack of trust in George suppressed any intimacy between them. I really wanted to like Alizon and can't necessarily say that I disliked her. I did feel bad for all she had been through in her life and understood her actions on some level, but wish she would have lightened up a little sooner. Unfortunately, her quick turn around at the end wasn't entirely believable to me.
George ended up being a pleasant surprise for me. Not being a fan of professional wrestling, I wasn't sure if I would like him and thought he might end up being a cheesy character. I couldn't have been more wrong about him though. In spite of his profession, George was a real softie, much more of a beta hero than the chest-beating alpha I was expecting. He truly cares about people and has used the wealth he has earned to take care of his family. His opening scene where he is playing with his little niece was positively adorable. I liked how after traveling to the past George was able to manage cooking, cleaning, laundry and basically shocked Alizon with his ability and willingness to do “women's work.” George was also a very intelligent man whose hobby was studying medieval history. He had a love of all things from that era, so much so that he had built his own castle in the present day. I thought it very clever of him that he was able to decipher middle English to communicate with the people when he went back in time, and it was refreshing that he wasn't fooled by Alizon's crone disguise and recognized it for what it was right away. I did start to wonder when he was going to figure out that he had really time traveled and was no longer just in a guided vision, but I have to admit that his use of Jungian psychology to self-analyze this crazy “dream” he was having could be pretty hilarious. George was an extremely patient and forgiving man when it came to Alizon's shortcomings, more so than I could have been, brave to go up against the dragon, especially once he realized it was real, and just a fun, all-around great guy.
For a large part of the book, I felt like there was something missing. As I mentioned earlier, I came to realize it was the actual romance, but more so than that it was a lack of sexual tension, relationship development, and emotion in general. I understood on an intellectual level why Alizon was so stubbornly independent and even a little prickly. I do think that her situation warranted sympathy, but in spite of that, I never really felt much for her even when she was telling George the whole sad story of how she came to be mistress of Devil's Mount. What passed for sexual tension felt more like mere lust. Alizon had been feeling the stirring of desire for quite a while, so it wasn't too surprising that she was very attracted to George's masculinity. However, at first she only wanted to use him to finally rid herself of her virginity. George for his part, knew that Alizon was much younger than she pretended to be, but he doesn't even get to see her face until over a third of the way into the book and even then he still thinks she's just part of his dream world. Granted he did several kind and thoughtful things for her and was brave enough to attempt to slay a dragon for her with few weapons to hand, but I just didn't feel a deep emotional connection between them like I would have preferred. Even when they finally consummated their relationship, I was disappointed, as the setting just wasn't very romantic to me. In fact, it seemed downright uncomfortable. Not to mention, there had been so much teasing and build-up to it that I was expecting something explosive, but it was all over in a matter of a couple of pages with minimal details.
I may have been dissatisfied with the romance element, but I do have to give Lisa Cach a few extra points for basing her story on the actual legends surrounding a real place, St. Michael's Mount, a tiny island off the southern coast of England which really is connected to the mainland by a causeway at low tide. The village to which it leads is also the village in the book. Additionally, Ms. Cach took the time to thrown in a bit of Middle English, much like an author would do if they were showing that a character speaks another language. In essence they did speak another language in the middle ages, so I thought that little touch added a bit of authenticity to the novel as well. Overall, George & the Virgin was a cute, playful, lighthearted concoction that was a fairly enjoyable read in spite of its weaknesses. The action, adventure and humor helped to make up for some of the other deficiencies. After reading two books by Lisa Cach, I'm starting to see that she is a little better at creating swashbuckling daring-do than tender romantic relationships, so she'll probably be an author to look to whenever I'm in the mood for a breezy escapade rather than my usual more serious-minded fare. ...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews A Snowball's Chance by Nikki Rivers - Normally, I'm a big fan of romance heroes and heroines being stranded together, but inReviewed for THC Reviews A Snowball's Chance by Nikki Rivers - Normally, I'm a big fan of romance heroes and heroines being stranded together, but in A Snowball's Chance, this theme just didn't work well for me. Unfortunately, the story became a prime example of why I'm becoming more and more disillusioned with the contemporary romance genre. It had at its center one of those insta-lust/love plots that I rarely find believable, and in this case, it was even more implausible than most. The hero and heroine fall immediately in lust with one another right from the moment she accidentally falls into his lap on the airplane during heavy turbulence. Then they both begin thinking how they've fallen in love after having sex one time approximately twelve hours later, and declaring that love within the day. I just found this scenario too far-fetched to buy into, and can't help wondering whatever happened to good old-fashioned relationship building. It also bugged me that they did not engage in any sort of safe sex or even mention birth control which is a huge pet peeve of mine, especially in contemporary romance where the protagonists are virtual strangers.
As to Rory and Sunshine themselves, I never really related very well to either one of them. Rory is a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners, high-powered real estate developer who is trying to get back to Chicago to close a deal on a building that will allow him to keep a promise he made to the grandmother who raised him before she died. The fact that Rory was attempting to fulfill that oath was one thing I liked about him, but of course he's going about it all wrong until Sunny comes into the picture and sets him straight. Rory was also an arrogant alpha who acts like a bit of a caveman when he insists that Sunny call off her non-existent nuptials after their sexcapades. I also had a hard time respecting Rory, because even though Sunny wasn't actually going to marry another man, he didn't know that at that time and essentially, in my mind, became a "cheater" when he made love to her. I guess he mostly redeemed himself though, when he risked his business deal to make sure that Sunny made it to the wedding.
Sunshine is an interior designer who is every bit as exuberant as her name might suggest. I liked her positive attitude but sometimes she didn't entirely seem to be living in reality and was a bit too perky for my taste. She is rather tall for a woman and somewhat Rubenesque in her figure with a healthy appetite to match, which I'm sure some readers will find relatable. Sunny is trying to get back to Chicago in time for her parent's wedding, and a misunderstanding between her and Rory leads him to believe she's going to miss her own wedding. I thought that Sunny's reasons for continuing to allow Rory to believe that fallacy were rather weak, and of course, when the truth came out, it led to some silly bickering. Sunny is also one of those girls who can wrap almost any man around her little finger and get him to do anything she wants without hardly even trying, which made me wonder if Rory wasn't just one of those men who happened to fall for her charms. Overall, Rory and Sunny weren't exactly dislikable, but neither did they stand out to me, and I just wasn't able to buy into them having any sort of genuine, lasting feelings for one another in such a short time.
The entire narrative of A Snowball's Chance takes place in a mere 24 hours. One might think that this would make the pace pretty snappy, but I thought it was rather slow and plodding at times. I think this was owing to Rory and Sunny constantly being delayed, which made it seem like they would never reach their destination or that I would ever reach the end of the story. Admittedly, a string of ridiculous scenarios kept happening to them which I believe were meant to add humor and interest to the story, but once again, I had a hard time buying the idea that the same two people could have that much bad luck in just one day. I'm sure that some readers would find it quite funny, but absurdist humor isn't one of my favorite types. There were a few mildly amusing moments that made me smile, but nothing funny enough to really make me laugh out loud. In fact, having everything be so silly, made me feel like I was watching a B-comedy movie.
In my opinion, the overall plotline was a bit lacking too. I could see how Rory might have a deadline on a business deal, but Sunny's parent's wedding seemed like a rather small affair that they might have been able to postpone until she arrived. After all, one would think that they would want to keep their promise to her, not to mention it was a little odd to still be having the wedding outdoors the day after a huge blizzard. I also felt that there was perhaps too much dialog and too little description. It was sufficient enough for me to generally imagine things, but the settings and the hero and heroine's feelings, among other things, were sometimes rendered in a very simplistic way, when I think richer prose would have enhanced the story. As a side note, and contrary to what the book cover might suggest, A Snowball's Chance is not a Christmas-themed tale, just a cold-weather story that takes place in April during a freak snowstorm. A Snowball's Chance was my first read by Nikki Rivers, and overall, it wasn't terrible, but it didn't exactly float my boat either, which makes me undecided as to whether I will try anything else by her in the future. Star Rating: **1/2
A Christmas Carol by Kathleen O'Reilly - A Christmas Carol was a sweet, sexy, friends-to-lovers romance that really tickled my funny bone and warmed my heart all at the same time. I had previously read just one other book by Kathleen O'Reilly, her only historical, Touched by Fire. Although that book had some humor in it, I never would have guessed that she could be so LOL funny. One of my favorite scenes is when Carol is trying to seduce Mike by reciting some of the worst purple prose ever to be penned, from crib notes scribbled on her hands no less. It made me nearly die laughing. Carol is also a list-making fiend, and when she invited Mike over with the intention of having a night of "scheduled seduction," it turns into a riotous disaster with Mike repeatedly asking her if she's drunk. I loved the double-date that had Carol with her high society airhead boyfriend, and Mike with one of Carol's equally ditzy co-workers which ended with each of them secretly setting up their dim-bulb companions with each other. I could completely relate to Mike and Carol tiring of the lack of brains between their date's ears and deep down wanting to be with each other. Carol's elderly Aunt Eleanor is an absolute hoot with her not-so-subtle matchmaking and her Viagra-laced nursing home boyfriend. I haven't yet had the opportunity to read Sandra Hill's Cajun series, but from what I've heard about Tante Lulu, she and Aunt Eleanor would probably get along quite well. I also enjoyed the spoofy rewrite of The Twelve Days of Christmas that began each chapter. There were just so many funny moments in this story, I probably had a goofy grin on my face nearly the whole time I was reading it.
That's not to say that it was completely lacking in seriousness, because Carol does have some issues to overcome. Part of why I think I liked the book so much is because it deftly blends the humor with touching emotion. Carol is a smart career woman who has made a niche for herself in the marketing world, but lacks the self-confidence to break free from her controlling, meddlesome mother. Carol's mom is one of those perfect June Cleaver types who actually cooks and goes shopping in her high heels and pearls, and has a schedule constantly filled with society functions and token charitable endeavors. She wants Carol to be just like her, the perfect Texas society belle, and is always trying to fix Carol up with her rich friends' sons. Carol consciously thinks this is the life she wants, but somehow deep down, knows that she doesn't fit into that world. It takes her a while to realize that these things aren't her and the best thing for her is Mike, even if her mother hates him. Although there were times I wished Carol would have stood up to her mother sooner, I could still sympathize and relate to her feelings and fears. It was all about her growth process and her coming to terms with not needing to please anyone else but herself and the idea that she and Mike could have a romantic relationship without loosing their treasured friendship. By the end, she had made a dramatic turnaround as well as a bold statement that had me cheering for her.
Mike is pretty much my idea of the perfect hero with just the right combination of good looks and intelligence. He is a computer geek with a great butt that looks hot in jeans. (Um um good! In my book) Rather than being the shy, socially inept type of geek, he is more the goofball prankster, who gets along well with just about everyone except Carol's mom, who doesn't think he's good enough to run in their hoity-toity circles. Mike is just a really laid back, easy going guy, who wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth and is far more comfortable in Levi's and t-shirts than expensive suits. He and Carol have been best friends since the second grade, 18 years in all. They have always been there for each other, but their long-term attraction has been more of an unrealized, sub-conscious one until Aunt Eleanor's matchmaking awakens their dormant feelings and scares them both to death. I love that Mike put his fears to rest pretty quickly, and just decided to go for it. When Carol naively thinks that she can get Mike out of her system with a quick roll in the hay, Mike shows that he is a real relationship kind of guy by pursuing her and not letting her take the easy way out. He's always been supportive of Carol no matter what, but now the stakes are much higher, so he let's his alpha possessiveness out to play for a little while, by giving Carol an ultimatum that's for her own good.
I absolutely loved Mike and Carol as a couple. Theirs reminds me in many little ways of my relationship with my own husband. I enjoyed their playfulness even in the heat of passion, their appreciation for each other's sense of humor, and most of all their comfortable trust in one another. They also make the pages sizzle with their steamy looks and tender touches. Kathleen O'Reilly is masterful at creating exquisite sexual tension that builds beautifully throughout the story, making the consummation very sweet and heartfelt. The other story in this Harlequin Duet may have left me feeling rather cold, but this one warmed me up in all the right places and really put me in the holiday spirit. Ms. O'Reilly has restored my confidence that some authors do know how to write a convincing and emotionally satisfying contemporary romance. This was her first published romance, and in my opinion it is an excellent debut. With two winners in a row, she has definitely earned a spot on my favorite authors list, and I can't wait to dive into the rest of her backlist. Star Rating: *****...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Based on all glowing reviews and recommendations I've see for Lynsay Sands' books, I'd really been looking forward to trying oReviewed for THC Reviews Based on all glowing reviews and recommendations I've see for Lynsay Sands' books, I'd really been looking forward to trying one for quite some time. I picked up A Quick Bite, the first in her Argeneau Vampires series, thinking it was going to be a great read, but in the end, it was lackluster and just OK for me. The story premise showed a great deal of promise, but ultimately proved to not be very compelling. The characters were likable enough, but rather flat and one-dimensional. They just didn't stand out to me in any way. This is a romance novel, and yet, in my opinion, there was precious little romance to speak of. For the first 2/3 of the book, I simply didn't feel any emotional connection at all between the hero and heroine. There were a few kisses, a couple of which were meant to be sensual, but that still wasn't enough to ignite that spark of passion for me. It just felt like mere lust or worse yet, kisses without any emotion or intensity behind them. Up to this point, there was an appalling lack of feeling words and body language. It seemed like any feelings these two might be experiencing for one another were being told to me rather than shown. The three love scenes during the final 1/3 of the book were a significant improvement over the rest of the story up to that point. There was definitely more feeling in those which is probably why I didn't end up giving the book a lower rating. I just wish the author would have brought that out sooner, so I could have sensed it building more slowly over time, instead of happening all at once. As is, it was still very difficult to buy into this couple being meant for each other and making the kinds of life-altering commitments they did in such a short amount of time. I believe the entire story played out within a mere week's time, and within that short span they were essentially ready to spend eternity with one another which was a bit much to swallow.
As I said before, Greg and Lissianna were likable enough, but in my opinion, their characterizations were seriously lacking depth. Most of what I learned about them barely scratched the surface, and didn't really give me many clues as to what made them tick. Greg is a psychologist specializing in phobias. He's something of a workaholic, whose family is always trying to set him up with women. Greg talks briefly about having broken up with his ex-fiancée (while they were in the midst of planning their wedding, no less), because he thought she was too needy. He also mentions that his dad was a womanizing jerk. I thought both of these things could have been explored more fully to make his character more interesting. I also thought he was far too easily accepting of first, being kidnapped, and then finding out his kidnappers are vampires. He just kind of takes it all in stride with little or no fear of the situation which simply didn't ring true to me. One thing I did like about Greg though, is that he's pretty humble about his looks. He doesn't consider himself to be a gorgeous stud, but more on the average side.
Lissianna could have been an extremely intriguing character. She's a vampire with hemophobia (fear of blood) who faints at the mere sight of it. Lissi's mother brought Greg in to treat her for this condition, but then he didn't end up doing anything for her before the story ended, which was disappointing to say the least. The author makes it very clear that Lissi has led a pretty sheltered life for all of her 200 years, and only recently moved out on her own. I thought she was hinting at the possibility that Lissi was still a virgin, but if that was the case, she certainly never said it in so many words even though she also never mentioned Lissi having any other relationships in her lifetime. I initially thought that having Lissi working in a homeless shelter was a new and interesting occupation for a vampire heroine, but then I came to realize her reasons weren't entirely altruistic. She did say that she thought she could help the homeless people while they helped her by giving her easy access to donors to feed from, but this seemed ethically questionable to me. On top of that, I never really did understand exactly what kind of work Lissi did at the shelter. Much like Greg, she has some serious daddy issues too. It was something her father did when she was young that started her phobia, but this was nothing more than a mere admission that it happened. Last but not least, Lissi took her good sweet time accepting Greg as her life mate, ostensibly because she was afraid of love and commitment, but no good reason ever surfaced to explain this fear. There were so many good ingredients here that could have made Lissi a wonderful heroine, but I felt the author dropped the ball on each and every one of them. If she'd taken the time and care to explore and develop a few of them more fully, Lissi would have been a much richer character.
There are a number of secondary characters in the story, some of whom get their own books later in the series. Normally, I wouldn't mind a large cast, but in this case, I felt like I was being inundated with them all at once. They all have very strong, almost overwhelming, personalities as well, which when put together was a bit too much. In one fell swoop, we're introduced to Lissi's mother, Marguerite (Vampire, Interrupted), her aunt, Martine, her friend, Mirabeau (“Vampire Valentine” from Bitten by Cupid), and her five cousins: Thomas (Vampires Are Forever), Jeanne Louise (The Lady is a Vamp), Elspeth, Juli, and Vicki. Out of these, the only ones who stood out to me in any way were Thomas and Mirabeau. Thomas seemed like a pretty nice guy who was really fun and laid back, and for some reason, Mirabeau reminded a bit of Alice from the Twilight series. Later on, Lissi's uncle, Lucian (Bite Me if You Can) shows up, and all three of her brothers, Bastian (Tall, Dark, and Hungry), Etienne (Love Bites), and Lucerne (Single White Vampire) are mentioned, although they're essentially in the background. It's clear that Lissi's family love her very much, and usually, I'm all for a big, loving family, but most of these people hover like nobody's business. The cousins and friend (yes, all six of them) have an annoying habit of spying on and/or interrupting Lissi and Greg when they're kissing. They constantly walk into Greg and Lissi's bedrooms without knocking too, even when they're in bed naked, and Thomas even walked in on them once as they'd just finished having sex and didn't even have the decency to look away. Instead he just started chatting with them like it was perfectly normal. It made me keep wondering: Do these people have serious privacy issues or are they closet voyeurs?
The last but probably most important thing that bugged me about this book was the author's writing style. Typically, I love the introspective passages of a novel, because they give me a chance to get to know the characters better. Here though, the characters (and I suspect the author herself) have a tendency to way over-think things. The introspective narration was generally little more than a stream of consciousness analysis of nearly every little thing that was happening, rather than giving any true insights into the characters' feelings and motivations. When it comes to scene-setting, the author overdoes it with the explanations too. These things make the narrative too wordy and repetitious, which bogs things down while sometimes being confusing as well. I can't begin to count the number of times I felt like getting out my red editor's pen to cross out phrases, sentences or even entire paragraphs that were simply unnecessary, which is never a good sign. During these times, I was often saying in my head, “Yes, we already know this” or “Do we really need to know this?” All this explaining of every little detail doesn't leave any room for subtly either. I think Ms. Sands needs to dispense with the hand-holding and trust her readers to read between the lines, which would make for a much more concise and interesting book. As is, it made me feel like the story was being spoon-fed to me which was pretty frustrating.
One of the few positive things I can say about A Quick Bite was that the world-building was rather interesting. As with most authors in the paranormal genre, Ms. Sands has her own take on the vampire mythology. The only thing that gave me pause was having the vampires originate in Atlantis. Being a long-time reader of the Dark-Hunter series, I couldn't help thinking, “Been there, done that,” but otherwise, most of it was fairly unique, as was the Canadian setting. As I mentioned before, the premise was also unusual and could have been so much more if it was only developed a bit better. Overall, I'd say that A Quick Bite was somewhat of a let-down for me, but it did have a few good points. Since so many people do seem to love Ms. Sands' books and since it is my understanding that the next three books in the series were put out by a different publisher, I'll probably give her another try at some point. Hopefully, some of her other works are better written and more importantly, better edited....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I had read the first book in Vicki Lewis Thompson's Nerd series about a year ago and can't say that it tickled my funny bone iReviewed for THC Reviews I had read the first book in Vicki Lewis Thompson's Nerd series about a year ago and can't say that it tickled my funny bone in quite the way I had hoped, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I picked up the next book in the series. Fortunately, I liked The Nerd Who Loved Me quite a bit better than Nerd in Shining Armor. The characters, in general, had a bit more depth, and the heroine, in particular, was much more likable in my opinion. The plot was still pretty light and frothy and required the suspension of disbelief a few times, but in general, I felt it had more credibility. I also appreciated that the story wasn't overburdened with extreme cliches and absurdities. Even though there were some things that I thought could have been better, overall, The Nerd Who Loved Me ended up being a pretty enjoyable read.
I absolutely adore nerdy heroes, so Harry was the cat's meow for me. He's an extremely smart accountant for a Las Vegas casino where he secretly (or so he thinks) watches Lainie's shows every night from a private back table. They also live in the same apartment complex, and when he finds out that Lainie is having baby-sitter issues, he volunteers to watch her son. Harry is wonderful with Dexter, completely connecting with this little whiz-kid on an intellectual level, yet being good with him in a more general way too, which made me believe that he'd make a fabulous father someday. Of course, this gets him up close and personal with Lainie who he has a major crush on, but doesn't think she'd ever consider going out with a nerd like him. Harry is tall and reasonably attractive (what I imagined as cute), but I liked that physically he was more on the average side, nearly blind as a bat without his glasses and no longer buff since he gave up working out. He's also fairly reserved and not given to taking risks or living spontaneously until he gets mixed up in Lainie's life. Harry's just a really sweet guy who is very sympathetic of Lainie's predicament and would do anything to help her out. Once he really starts falling for Lainie, he does have a couple of alpha protective moments when he thinks her life is in danger, but overall Harry is a gentle beta. How could I possibly resist a nerd with a great butt who's an amazing lover? Come to think of it, I can't, since I married one.;-) Hubba, hubba!
In spite of being a showgirl, Lainie didn't come off as being an air-headed bimbo. She actually had some depth of character. She's obviously a wonderful loving mother to Dexter, and has tried to do everything she could to keep him safe and happy. She also recognizes his intelligence and tries to mentally stimulate him as much as possible. I loved that Harry had been starring in Lainie's sexual fantasies for quite a while which I thought showed that attraction, for her, was more than skin deep. Granted she had fallen for a looser like Joey five years before, but she was young and naive and her parents weren't very supportive of her. To me, she was a woman who had made some bad choices in her youth, but now was trying her best to grow up and be a mature adult. The only thing about Lainie that gave me pause was that she seemed a little too quick to give up on a possible life with Harry and give in to Joey's suggestion even though she knew she'd be absolutely miserable and Dexter probably would too, all for the sake of Dexter possibly inheriting a fortune someday from Joey's parents. Part of me understood that she was trying to be a selfless mother, but another part of me knows that there were other options for her. In this respect, I thought she reverted back to her old naiveté, because she obviously had lots of people on her side ready to help in any way they could. Otherwise, Lainie was a very likable heroine.
I liked Harry and Lainie as a couple too. Harry had been having difficulty finding a woman who could satisfy him both intellectually and sexually, and Lainie seemed to fit the bill. She knows how to deal with intelligent people, since she has a child prodigy for a son. She has a photographic memory herself, and physically is the type of beautiful girl that usually floats Harry's boat. I do wish that the intellectual connection between Harry and Lainie had been explored a bit more though, because I think it was present but took a back seat to the physical. However, I really liked their love scenes anyway, because they always gave so freely of themselves to each other. I thought this showed what great chemistry they had as well as how much they cared for each other even if they weren't ready to admit it. In my opinion, the sexual tension in the early part of the story could have used a little more subtlety. Based on the two books I've read by her, Vicki Lewis Thompson seems to have a tendency to hit the reader over the head with it rather than giving it more nuance. Also, during the early part of the story, Harry and Lainie repeatedly went back and forth in their minds over whether they could, should or would have sex which became a bit grating. I definitely commend the author for taking the time to write safe sex scenes (a big pet peeve of mine), but the condom countdown (which also happened in Nerd in Shining Armor) was perhaps a bit much. In spite of these last couple of issues though, I thought that Harry and Lainie were a very well-matched and appealing couple.
The Nerd Who Loved Me had a broad and fun palette of supporting characters. Harry's mom, Rona, is an ex-showgirl with a penchant for matchmaking and a burning desire to be a grandma. Her long-time boyfriend, Leo, has a bad-boy persona (everyone thinks he may be a mafia boss), but Rona has him totally wrapped around her little finger. Rona's friends, all of whom are ex-showgirls who've dubbed themselves the TITS (you'll have to read it to understand), are a hoot. Even Rona's little dog, Fred, gets into the act. Dudley, a kind-of jack-of-all-trades at the resort, was an interesting mix of annoying when in salesman mode, and somewhat endearing when he's helping to save the day. Lainie's little boy, Dexter, is as cute as a button and pretty much how I would expect a precocious four-year-old to be. Lainie's ex, Joey, is a total jerk of a villain, who much to my amusement, got taken down a couple of pegs in a rather mad-cap finale.
The Nerd Who Loved Me started out at a pretty snappy pace, but got a bit sluggish through the middle sections. I think there was a little too much padding in both the dialog and narrative, but it did ramp back up somewhat for a fun and satisfying ending. Overall, it was an enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone who is looking for a light, easy romance with entertaining, likable characters. The Nerd Who Loved Me is book #2 in the Nerd series, but it is my understanding that there are no interconnected plots or characters within the books, only the nerd theme, so they could easily be read in any order or as stand-alones....more
I went into reading Nerd In Shining Armor knowing that it was a romantic comedy. Even if I didn't, it wouldn't have been difficult to figure that outI went into reading Nerd In Shining Armor knowing that it was a romantic comedy. Even if I didn't, it wouldn't have been difficult to figure that out with the cartoon cover. Still, I guess I was expecting it to have at least a little bit of depth. Instead, what I got was a frothy concoction that reminded me of a B-movie. Admittedly, I have a tendency to constantly analyze both the content of a book, as well as my emotions and reactions to it as I'm reading, which in this case, was leading to a laundry list of problems as long as my arm. Once I came to the realization that I was supposed to check my brain at the door and just go along for the ride, I enjoyed the rest of the story better. In some ways, I think the humor might be well-suited for readers with an appreciation for a much wider variety of comedy styles than I have. It should also most definitely appeal to anyone who prefers, or occasionally likes to take a break with, a goofy story that doesn't make you think about anything heavy at all. I suppose I don't really fall neatly into either category, and while I consider myself to have a fairly good sense of humor, this story contained a plethora of absurdities and extreme cliches, which didn't quite tickle my funny bone in the way I think it was intended.
Even though I figured out the angle on the comedy and to not take things too seriously, I still couldn't quite get past the lack of what I consider to be real romance. I freely admit that I'm perhaps a bit old-fashioned in my preference that the characters in my romance novels be in love or well on their way before they make love, but I can, on occasion, overlook that if the author really makes me believe in the relationship. Unfortunately, what Jackson and Genevieve shared just felt so shallow, I couldn't really bring myself to even imagine basing love on it, much less a marriage. Even though they had been co-workers before being stranded on the island together, there was no indication of any close friendship between them, only that Jack had lusted after Gen from afar. Gen had no particular attraction to Jack until he took his shirt off on the island. Then she noticed he had a pretty hot body, and started lusting after him too. Of course, one thing led to another and before you know it, they're having sex like rabbits. Jack, being the loyal puppy dog that he is, started thinking immediately about continuing their relationship after being rescued, but Gen fought the idea right up until the end. There just wasn't enough of an emotional connection for me to become fully invested in the outcome, and they didn't even mention love until the last few pages. I also found myself doing a lot of eye-rolling over how these two, as well as the two secondary characters, Matt and Annabelle, had a totally one-track mind about sex, thinking about it even in the midst of dire and distressing circumstances, not to mention the ease with which they discussed the topic with one another as virtual strangers. One would think with all the frank sex talk, the love scenes would be smokin' hot, and while I'll allow that there was a variety of steamy forms of sexual stimulation and plenty of creativity in the foreplay (loved when Jack pretended to be a pirate to fulfill Gen's fantasy), it always ended in a cut scene before the “big event.” I don't mind less explicit love scenes, but in this case, I felt like candy was being dangled in front my nose and then cruelly snatched away. I was also left wondering what happened to that last condom that was supposedly being saved for something really special which never materialized.:-(
I will give Vicki Lewis Thompson kudos for writing a hero who is about as close to a genuine nerd as I've read in a romance novel. I enjoy my alpha heroes, but they're a dime a dozen, whereas geeks are pretty rare. I love these kind of guys which isn't too surprising since I'm married to one, but the few genius heroes I've read in romance usually still tend to be super-hot, rich or have something else going for them that gives them a natural sex appeal. Jackson, on the other hand, was pretty much what most people would expect a nerd to be right down to his horrible fashion sense (although it was mostly caused by color blindness) and extreme focus which made him very forgetful. He did have a buff body due to the use of his home gym whenever he was working on particularly perplexing problems in his head, as well as a fairly impressive male attribute. Since he was single and always working, Jack had been able to save up quite a bit of money, but I still didn't get the impression that he was remotely wealthy. He also had some sexual prowess, but it was treated as a product of him being a smart, sensitive individual and not full of himself like a more good-looking guy might be, which I really appreciated. Overall, Jackson was a pretty cool hero, who reminded me in many ways of the geeks I know.
I think Genevieve was supposed to be a little smarter than she seemed, but at times, she came off as a bit of an airhead. She really reminded me of the beauties on the television show, Beauty & the Geek, just as much as Jack reminded me of the geeks. I think a large part of that impression of her was formed when she agreed to go on the overnight business trip with her boss (and eventual bad guy) Nick. She knew full well that he had seduced nearly every secretary in the office the same way, yet naively thought that she would be the one to “fix” him and marry him. The rest of it came about when she revealed the extremely young age at which she had lost her virginity, all for the promise of going to the movies. I also don't think she and her family back home could have been packed with any more cliches if you tried. After she gave up her “proper” facade, all sorts of folksy colloquialisms came streaming from her along with numerous backwoods tales that embodied every hillbilly stereotype known to man. I have an uncle who was raised backwoods hillbilly who is less cliched than Gen. She was just so much of a caricature, I generally didn't have any strong feelings toward her one way or the other. I did get fairly annoyed with her though when she, in my opinion, became patronizing toward Jack, first about his lack of outdoors skills, and then later about his presumed lack of sexual experience. This was all after he had crash landed a plane in the ocean and gotten them both to shore safely, which made her seem a little ungrateful to me. Luckily Jack briefly stood up for himself verbally and later showed just how good he was in bed. After than she wasn't quite as condescending, and they worked together as more of a team.
Readers get something of a two-for-one deal in the romance department with Gen and Jack's boss, Matt and Gen's mom, Annnabelle, who have a little secondary relationship going, although I can't say that it had much more depth than Jack and Gen's. Matt seemed like a pretty nice guy who deserved far better than what he'd had with his ex-wife. All things considered, Annabelle had done a good job of raising Genevieve and her little brother, Lincoln, as a single mom, and she had a lot of guts to leave her entire family behind in Tennessee to try to better herself in Hawaii. Aside from embodying a touch of the paranormal in his psychic ability, Lincoln was a fairly normal teenage boy. I liked him because he showed respect for his mom and sister, but at the same time was going through a typical rebellious stage that included multi-colored hair. The bad guy, Nick, was something of a contradiction, because he was supposedly smart enough to embezzle millions of dollars and skilled enough to be an expert pilot, yet in the end was nothing but a bumbling idiot. I also never quite figured out why he took Gen and Jack with him and wanted to kill them, but this was one of the things I decided to quit thinking about and just go with it.
Overall, I found Nerd in Shining Armor to be a bit 'o' fluff that somehow kept me reading in spite of itself. Maybe it's because I love the stranded on a deserted island theme or maybe I was waiting to see what crazy thing would happen next, but the book certainly had some entertainment value even though I didn't entirely “get it.” As I mentioned earlier, readers who have a wide-ranging sense of humor, those who love the wacky and absurd, or anyone looking for some really light reading might like this story. Just be sure to disengage your brain before opening the cover. Nerd in Shining Armor is the first book in Vicki Lewis Thompson's Nerd series, although from everything I've heard, there don't seem to be any inter-connecting characters or plot from one book to the next, only the nerd theme. This was also my first read by Ms. Thompson, but I have several more on my TBR pile. Even though it wasn't quite what I was expecting, I'm sure I'll be giving her books another try soon. I'll hopefully just be more prepared the next time around....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Bride Thief was a delightful read in so many ways. It was utterly romantic, as sweet as the honey Samantha used in her hanReviewed for THC Reviews The Bride Thief was a delightful read in so many ways. It was utterly romantic, as sweet as the honey Samantha used in her hand creams, and frequently made me laugh out loud. This story was a fun, fairy-tale fantasy with an eccentric, plain-Jane spinster heroine who finds her hero in the form of a man who carries off would-be brides from unwanted arranged marriages. The Bride Thief was a charming tale that had a refreshing lightness and certain aura of innocence about it, with even the darker, more dangerous parts managing to carry some weight without being too heavy. With only one actual love scene, there isn't a lot of heat in this one, but I found that one scene to be just a little bit daring while also being sweetly sensuous. Jacquie D'Alessandro is masterful at creating a strong emotional connection and sexual tension with mere looks and gentle touches, and I've yet to find another author who does this quite as well. In addition, I absolutely love Ms. D'Alessandro's sense of humor. I found myself laughing every few scenes for the entire first half of the book. Eric being jealous of himself every time Sammie waxed romantic about the Bride Thief was hilarious, and Sammie's creative way of getting out of her arranged marriage, as well as a conversation with her three married sisters about birth control nearly had me rolling on the floor. Ms. D'Alessandro definitely has a knack for spinning tales that find a great balance between entertainment and emotion.
Eric and Samantha were two of the most wonderful characters I've read in a while. Eric perhaps carries a bit too much guilt over not being able to stop his beloved sister's miserable arranged marriage, but it's also what drives him to be the Bride Thief and makes him a compassionate and progressive-thinking hero. He has a heart of gold and treats all the women in the story with kindness and respect, even the ones who aren't as deserving of it. He is also a very understanding man who sees beyond the outward eccentricities (read: geekiness) of both Samantha and her brother, Hubert, and in fact, finds both them and their scientific pursuits to be genuinely fascinating. Overall, Eric was very kind, caring, loving and a whole host of other adjectives. I don't think there was really anything not to like about him. To say that Samantha is an unconventional heroine would probably be an understatement. She is physically plain, right down to dressing in a very ordinary way and having poor eyesight that requires spectacles. She'd much rather be observing nature, inventing things with her brother in their lab, or studying the stars through their telescope than attending balls and soirées, not to mention, she's a firmly on-the-shelf spinster. While she's OK with the idea of not marrying and doesn't believe anyone would ever want an oddball like her anyway, Sammie does keep a diary in which she writes romantic stories about the true love of her fantasies. She is also very honest and plain-spoken, and I admired her boldness in just telling Eric that she wanted to be lovers and continuing to pursue him even after he'd turned her down once out of a sense of honor. All in all, I related to Sammie very well, and can't think of anything that I didn't like about her.
The secondary characters were very entertaining and likable as well. I found Sammie's close family connections with her parents and siblings to be very endearing. Sammie is always patient with everyone including her melodramatic mother with her amusing planned fainting spells. It also went the other way with Sammie's three sisters adoring and protecting her in spite of the fact that she is their complete opposite. I also loved Sammie's interactions with her teenage brother, Hubert. They were certainly two peas in a pod, who probably understood each other better than anyone else ever could. At first it seems that Sammie is a protective, motherly figure to Hubert, but eventually the reader discovers that Hubert is equally protective of Sammie, which I thought made for a beautiful reciprocal relationship. Eric's connection with his own sister, Margaret, runs just as deep, and when she returns home after the death of her evil husband, their scenes are laden with emotion. There is also Eric's loyal stable master who is more like a father to him and is initially the only person who knows about his masquerade as the Bride Thief, as well as the magistrate, Adam Straton, who is determined to apprehend the Bride Thief but is also an honorable man who has harbored a deep love for Margaret for years. Overall, it was a very well-rounded supporting cast with personalities ranging from outrageously funny to deeply touching.
I have to admit that after finishing The Bride Thief, I had a rare moment of indecision on how to rate it. I really loved the story and wanted to rate it a bit higher, but there were a few things that I thought could have been improved. The pacing was a little slow and uneven in places, and I found a small continuity error in which Hubert's age changed from fourteen to sixteen and then back to fourteen again. There was also some repetition in details, some of which could be cute and fun like the running thread of Eric and Samantha coming up with words to describe each other that all began with the same letter, but another of which had the characters almost constantly sighing over one thing or another. Although this was a pretty minor thing and it did always fit with the scene, I just thought that perhaps a little more creativity was in order. In the end, I think the thing that bothered me the most was that Eric and Samantha began the story with a very stark honesty to their characters which I found extremely refreshing, but then the major conflict devolved into the cliched misunderstanding which was a bit disappointing. In spite of the minor detractors that kept it from just missing keeper status, The Bride Thief was definitely a solid 4-star book that was an absolute joy to read. Anyone looking for a lighthearted, escapist fantasy that is a breath of fresh air should look no further, and after two lovely reading experiences in a row from Jacquie D'Alessandro, I'm certainly looking forward to continuing my exploration of her work....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Dara Joy's Tonight or Never is a delightful romp that is equal parts humor, tender emotion, and red hot lovin'. AlReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Dara Joy's Tonight or Never is a delightful romp that is equal parts humor, tender emotion, and red hot lovin'. All the characters are pretty lighthearted, and the whole story embodies a hilarity that frequently had me smiling and laughing. One example is a scene in which Chloe coshes John over the head with a vase (on purpose), followed by the couple running through the halls of the manor house stark naked. It nearly had me rolling on the floor. Many a time I found myself thinking that this book would make a great romantic comedy movie. It isn't just about the ruckus of fun and games though. There is a very sweetly emotional element to the plot as well, in the form of a long-held love between two best friends slowly being realized by one and then admitted by the other. The love scenes are frequent, thoroughly hot, and exquisitely sensual without crossing the line into the erotic. With the exception of Lisa Kleypas, I don't believe I have yet read any other author who can write multiple love scenes in one book so creatively, with each one being as luscious as the last, but still completely different from all the ones before. Anyone who is enchanted by the idea of love-making involving bathtubs, balconies, flower gardens and sensual massage should definitely read this book. Each scene was masterfully crafted and had me sighing with satisfaction. Tonight or Never doesn't have any suspense, danger or real villains. It's just good old-fashioned romance that is all about the relationship. There is a light mystery sub-plot surrounding French nobles, who had supposedly gone to the guillotine, but later show up on John and Chloe's doorstep, and the identity of their savior, The Black Rose. This made for a fun little side plot that I actually didn't figure out until nearly the moment it was revealed, but there was never anything to weigh down the overall lightness of the story.
I absolutely loved John and Chloe, and thought they were just made for each other. John is a dissolute rake, nicknamed “The Lord of Sex” by the ton, but he is actually hiding a sensitive soul behind his shameless womanizing ways. After seeing the pain of his mother's broken heart over his father's destructive gambling and early death, John subconsciously decided that he would never risk putting himself through the same thing and locked his heart up tight. John is mostly a beta hero with just a dash of alpha protectiveness and possessiveness. He tries a few times to play the dominating husband card with endearing results, because he's just too nice of a guy to make it stick. He's also the consummate lover who is more interested in sharing pleasure than conquering his lovely wife. He isn't a swashbuckling hero and isn't even particularly good at business. He's just simply the paramour who flits from one lady's bedroom to the next until Chloe puts a stop to that once and for all, giving him everything he's always wanted and more. Chloe is John's best friend in the whole world, and she is the only person he has ever felt like he could truly be himself with. They met when she was only six and he was sixteen, and for years he has played the big brother-type protector. By the time she was a teenager, Chloe knew exactly who she wanted to marry, and that was John. She bided her time until she was grown up, hoping that John would take notice of her as a woman. When he still didn't seem to, she put into action a cunning scheme to bring this notorious rake to heel. I love Chloe's determination to go after what she wanted, and that even from a young age, she seemed to always understand John better than he understood himself. She knew exactly the right “carrots” to dangle in front of him to gain his cooperation, and all it took was luring him into her web to get him to realize what he had always known, but couldn't acknowledge: Chloe was his soulmate. I thought that John's journey to that realization was rendered in a very natural and gradual way, making it seem more realistic. I also thoroughly enjoyed their witty bantering, and some of their interactions were reminiscent of my own relationship with my husband, making them completely relatable to me.
Tonight or Never had a riotous cast of supporting characters, starting with Chloe's grandmother, Simone and John's uncle, Maurice, who have a sweet long-term romance of their own that mirrors John and Chloe's. Again, I loved the sneakiness that Maurice used to get what he wanted as well. Then there is John's self-declared best friend, Percy, a hilarious fop who seems to think that fashion and what color to wear is cause for a personal emergency. The French guests who keep showing up at the door were equally funny, from the self-involved Zu-zu who thinks the world revolves around her, to Baronne Dufond who decides to wear John's prized model ship in her hair, to the seven Cyns, the Cyndreac brothers, who all look alike, chase every female in sight and cause general mayhem everywhere they go. In spite of their foibles, all were strangely likable. In fact, thinking of all their exploits is still making me laugh as I'm writing this.
After my last read which was quite dark, I was looking for something to lighten my mood, and I couldn't have made a better choice than Tonight or Never. It was a near perfect read for me in every way. The only thing that I thought could have improved it, would have been more explanation of John and Chloe's connection. As written, it was a rather magical thing that simply was. Their relationship was so sweet, tender and passionate, it wasn't at all difficult to see that their unbreakable bond was very real. It just would have been nice if the author had demonstrated it a little more, perhaps by adding more scenes from their youth. This was a fairly small thing though, that didn't really detract much from my overall enjoyment of the novel. Ms. Joy certainly has a talent with words, describing the character's expressions, actions and interactions in a way that drew me into the book and made me feel like I was right there with them. Any romance lover looking for a rollicking good read to lighten the day and lift their spirits, but that still has plenty of touching emotional depth, should look no further. Tonight or Never was a wonderful feel-good story that was a pure pleasure for me to read. It has earned a place on my keeper shelf for those times when I just need a little boost. This was my first read by Dara Joy, but it most definitely will not be my last. Tonight or Never is part of Lovespell's multi-author series, Legendary Lovers, but to my knowledge the books are all stand-alones with no connection to each other besides a running theme of them being based on the stories and legends of famous lovers. This one parodies Don Juan mixed with a sub-plot of The Scarlet Pimpernel....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
Sandra Hill is a mischievous author who has a talent for blending comedic elements with some great romance and sensualiReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
Sandra Hill is a mischievous author who has a talent for blending comedic elements with some great romance and sensuality. She is very good at creating play-on-words that lead to lots of hilarious misunderstandings, and she also has a penchant for funny t-shirt slogans that don't make much sense to a tenth century Viking. Truly, Madly Viking had many humorous moments that had me smiling and even laughing out loud, but it also had very tender moments that had me misting up. The story got off to a bit of a slow start for me, but about 1/3 of the way through, I was pretty well hooked. I think the slow start was because there wasn't quite as much of the “fish out of water” feel to this book as there was in the first book of the series, The Last Viking. I was also somewhat disappointed that Ms. Hill seemed to recycle some jokes and minor plot points and characterizations from the previous novel, as well as repeat some things throughout the book, but in the end there was enough new material to hold my attention.
The characterizations were very well drawn. Jorund at times seemed a bit too perfect for my taste (I have a personal preference for the more imperfect heroes) and a little too chauvinistic, but it wasn't overdone to the point of being annoying. Underneath it all he had a loving, tender heart of gold toward both Maggie and her daughters, and best of all, he really respected Maggie, so it was pretty easy to see why she would fall for him. I also enjoyed Jorund's attitude toward public service, and his realization of how much personal satisfaction he received from helping others. I loved Maggie with all her insecurities and inhibitions (What woman can't relate to that?), but Jorund had a way of making her feel truly beautiful. Maggie's daughters, Beth and Suzy, seemed a little beyond their years at times, and I found them to be most endearing when they were just being little girls. The mental hospital patients were a hoot, yet the reader could really sympathize with them in their individual situations.
Truly, Madly Viking is the second book in a series about a time-traveling trio of brothers. In this book, readers are treated to a reunion with Rolf and Meredith, as well as a few secondary characters from book #1, The Last Viking, and given a look at what their lives are like now. We are also introduced to the third brother, Magnus, who becomes the hero of book #3, The Very Virile Viking. Ms. Hill's Viking II series actually contains a total of six books basically written in two trilogies, with books #4-#6 being Wet & Wild, Hot & Heavy, and Rough & Ready. Truly, Madly Viking had some weaknesses and admittedly isn't the typical romance fare that I tend to like the most, but overall, there was enough originality, humor, and tender, heartfelt moments to make this an enjoyable read for me. If you're looking for a lighthearted romp with lots of laughs then look no further.
Update: Two more book have been added to this series, Down & Dirty and Viking Unchained. (7/13/08)...more