In Not Another New Year's, Christie Ridgway has created an enjoyable story, that is basically a two-for-one romance, wiReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
In Not Another New Year's, Christie Ridgway has created an enjoyable story, that is basically a two-for-one romance, with a likable cast of flawed characters. Tanner Hart and Hannah Davis, the primary hero and heroine of the story are basically two ordinary people who unfortunately had some unusual things happen to them. They are basically two peas in a pod with a great deal in common. Both have put high expectations on themselves due in part to family dynamics. After Hannah's sister died, she had somehow felt a responsibility to the family to more or less take her place and accomplish the things that she likely would have done if she had lived. Tanner felt that he just didn't quite measure up to his war hero brothers. Of course, both ended up feeling like they had let their families down. What I really liked about their relationship was that they helped each other to discover that the things they had believed about themselves simply weren't true. As individuals, I was pleased to see both Tanner and Hannah grow and change, so that they could move beyond the pain of the past and into a promising future.
I really enjoyed the secondary romance between Tanner's brother, Troy and Desiree. They simply stood out to me more than Tanner and Hannah, not because he was a war hero and she was a princess, but because I felt that they showed more vulnerability. They had to reach further outside their comfort zones in order to allow their relationship to happen, and realize their hearts desires. Also, theirs was not a love-at-first-sight romance like Tanner and Hannah's. While I am not fundamentally opposed to these types of romances, I usually have a harder time finding them to be believable. I think it is a staple in many romance plots that is overused and would lead one to believe that this phenomenon happens in real life far more often than it probably does. I just seem to have a preference for romances that either take time to develop the feelings between the protagonists or in which they have had some previous relationship. Troy and Desiree had know each other for nearly a year, and had obviously been attracted to each other for a long time, even though they had spent the better part of that time at each other's throats. Normally, I don't care for romances in which the characters bicker all the time, but there was something about Troy and Dezi's arguing that was rather endearing. I was just waiting for the fireworks to go off and when they did, I was not disappointed. While I liked these two characters a great deal and found them to be very strong, I did not necessarily think that their scenes overshadowed Tanner and Hannah's. I only found myself wishing to see more of them or that they had gotten their own book instead. The only part of their story that I thought fell short was that they didn't exactly get a solid ending, but I still loved reading about them anyway.
While I was able to appreciate the characters and the overall story, I thought that there were a few plot weaknesses. Once I realized that Hannah's Uncle Geoff actually lived in San Diego, I couldn't quite figure out why he hadn't taken care of her personally while she was on vacation in the area instead of setting her up with Tanner as her “tour guide”. Of course, without this part of the plot, there wouldn't have been a story, but I just think that the overall story would have been a bit stronger if this part had been shored up, perhaps by the author giving more reasons for Uncle Geoff's choice. Also, after reading two of Christie Ridgway's books, I'm beginning to think that she has a penchant for ambiguous endings. I have a preference for strong happily-ever-after endings, and though the ending of this story was happy, I felt that it left too many unanswered questions. One other aspect of the story that bothered me was that the first time Tanner and Hannah nearly had sex they were still strangers and had given each other fake names. I know that this can be an all-to-common occurrence in today's society, but I still prefer that the main characters in my romances be in love before they fall into bed. As the days began to pass, I could sense them beginning to fall in love with each other, yet it wasn't entirely convincing and as mentioned above, I'm not a huge fan of the love-at-first-sight scenario. Even setting aside my own preferences on this, when Tanner and Hannah did finally make love, they had only know each other for a few days and in spite of their growing feelings were still basically considering this to be a vacation fling. Even with this in mind, they did not entirely practice safe sex. While some loves scenes involved condoms, others involved risk-taking and without any mature conversation about said risks. In spite of this flaw though, I thought that the love scenes overall were at least tender, steamy and generally well-written. Finally, one other minor annoyance I found was Ms. Ridgway's use of parenthetical phrases as an exception or aside to a particular character's main line of thinking. While some of them were rather witty, I simply felt that they were a bit overused.
There were a couple of positive things that I didn't already mention that I also thought were noteworthy. I enjoyed the bit of danger and intrigue surrounding Dezi. It helped to make the story more full and interesting as well as drawing all four of the main characters into a mild action plot. I also liked Tanner and Troy's parents. Although they were only in one scene, they made an impression on me, and I would have liked to have seen more of them. While I have not seen an official series designation, Not Another New Year's is a sequel to Must Love Mistletoe. Tanner and Troy Hart and Desiree al-Maddah all made their first appearance in Must Love Mistletoe. Also, Finn and Bailey, the hero and heroine of Must Love Mistletoe, made a brief appearance (Bailey twice) in Not Another New Year's. I must say that I was pleased to see some of the ambiguity surrounding the end of their own story cleared up during their scenes in this book. In spite of the cross-over characters, both stories could be read independently without really getting any major spoilers. In addition, the backstory on the assassination attempt which was introduced in Must Love Mistletoe is recounted in Not Another New Year's only now more from Tanner's point of view rather than Finn's. Overall, I found Not Another New Year's to be a pleasant and generally lighthearted story that was an easy read. I would be open to reading other books by Ms. Ridgway in the future, when I am in the mood for this type of story....more
Lover Awakened is an amazing story that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride from start to finish. It iReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
Lover Awakened is an amazing story that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride from start to finish. It is, in my opinion, the best of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series so far. I loved the way that the author took a character who was described by his own twin brother as not merely broken, but ruined, and carefully put him back together piece by piece. This was a powerful story of redemption and unselfish love at it's finest. While I often get emotionally invested in the stories I read, it is rare that a story makes me cry, but Lover Awakened had me tearing up several times. I simply found it to be incredibly moving. The plot was tight and the characterizations were multi-layered and complex. The last hundred pages or so of the book had me reeling from all the plot twists and turns, but greatly appreciative of J. R. Ward's intelligent use of them. Just as I was beginning to be unsure whether I liked the path the story was taking, she would change something and make me smile or sigh at the sheer perfection of it. One of the reasons I appreciate the romance genre so much is the happily-ever-after endings. I don't think I could have asked for a happier ending for Zsadist and Bella, and I felt that no one could have been more deserving of that happy ending than they were, especially Zsadist.
I absolutely love a good tortured hero, and I can't think of very many romantic heroes who could be characterized as more tortured than Zsadist. I found him to be a very sympathetic character who exhibited a touching vulnerability even when he was just a secondary character in the earlier novels. He showed a tremendous strength of will to have survived all that he did, and yet the abuse had left him as little more than a shell, emotionally dead and harboring many fears and dysfunctions. I felt that all of his reactions to Bella and his feelings for her were very believably written. I loved the way that Ms. Ward took Zsadist through a recovery process step by step, building on each breakthrough one at a time. It was much like watching a butterfly emerge from it's cocoon. After going through a tremendous struggle, there is nothing left but sheer beauty. One thing that has always impressed me about the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is it's heroes. They are hardened, lethal warriors on the outside, but when they are bonded with their females, they become tender and passionate on the inside. They also always honor, cherish and respect their females. In spite of his hang-ups, Zsadist was no different. I adored his protective nature towards Bella, and most of all his selfless love that caused him to set aside his own fears and insecurities to place her needs above his own. I found this to be a heady brew of swoon-worthy story-telling at it's best.
I thought Bella was a wonderful heroine. She, like Zsadist, also showed great strength and intelligence in surviving her captivity at the hands of the lesser. She later displayed tremendous courage, as well as how a female can be as protective of her mate as a male can be. I thought that Bella proved that she could be nearly as tough as the Brotherhood, while still being kind and caring. She was gentle with Zsadist, helping him to overcome the pain of the past while freely giving him her love and passion. I also found her boldness to be admirable. She never seemed to be afraid to say the things that needed to be said or do the things that needed to be done, yet this boldness carried a stark honesty and humility about it. She didn't come through as being ill-tempered or superior, but simply as one who was telling the truth in a straightforward way, often saying things that Zsadist really needed to hear even though he didn't initially believe them. That's not to say that Bella was perfect. At times she became angry and frustrated, and I have to say that I was a bit surprised by a plot twist decision that she made near the end of the book. However, that decision opened the door for Zsadist to make even more positive changes in his life.
As with the previous novels in the series, Ms. Ward has done a wonderful job of creating an intriguing world full of secondary characters that make the reader want to continue the series to find out what happens next. I was particularly impressed with Zsadist's twin brother Phury. His unwavering devotion to Zsadist, while perhaps emotionally unhealthy at times, was incredibly touching nonetheless. Phury would literally do anything for Zsadist, and over the years, despite episodes of doubt, was really the only one who believed that there was still something good left inside of him. I think that because of their special twins connection, Phury has also been living half a life for a great many years. I will be anxiously waiting to read his story and hope that he gets as happy an ending as Zsadist did. I was pleased with the continued development of John's character and will be looking forward to seeing more of him in the future. I found the tentative friendship between Zsadist and John to be endearing, and hope that there will be a continued building of that friendship as well. There were also a couple of surprising cliffhangers that I will be eagerly anticipating a resolution for, one involving Tohr and the other involving a totally unexpected plot twist surrounding Butch and Vishous.
I have to give Ms. Ward kudos for really bringing her characters to life in a truly believable way. Even though this is a mythical, fantasy story, it is so vividly rendered as to make me feel that these vampires could actually exist in our world. I found the story to be incredibly compelling and difficult to put down. I do wish though that the trauma that Bella experienced at the hands of the lesser had been explored more fully, but since Zsadist was such an incredibly complex character, I can understand that there probably just wasn't enough space to go into detail with this. I was also bothered by the author's use of the word “love” to describe The Mistress's “feelings” toward Zsadist and Mr. O's “feelings” toward Bella. Their actions were just so evil, sadistic and obsessive that I had a hard time stomaching “love” in the same sentence. A last minor annoyance was Ms. Ward's altering of common English words, usually using the letter “h”, to create new words that describe the vampire rituals and traditions. Unlike some readers, I am not bothered by this alteration in the vampire names, as I've always felt that exotic creatures are deserving of exotic names. I just felt that in the other context, the usual English words would have sufficed, or perhaps she could have been a bit more creative with those words. I would also warn sensitive readers that this book contains strong language and violence, including sexual abuse and it's intense psychological aftermath. Overall though, I found this book to be a truly exciting, action-packed, and very romantic read that has earned a place on my keeper shelf, which is surprising even to me, who up until a month or so ago had never even read a paranormal romance. Lover Awakened is the third book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It is preceded by Dark Lover and Lover Eternal, and is followed by Lover Revealed, Lover Unbound, and Lover Enshrined with Lover Avenged due to be released next year. There is also a companion book to the series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide, which contains a new novella featuring Zsadist and Bella. J. R. Ward also writes contemporary romances under the name Jessica Bird....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" I really enjoy emotional stories in which one of the protagonists has a major obstacle to overcome. While Keegan'sReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" I really enjoy emotional stories in which one of the protagonists has a major obstacle to overcome. While Keegan's Lady fit that bill in some ways, I felt that the emotions were not well-balanced and consequently it fell short in other ways. It seemed that the main emotions that permeated a large part of the story were fear, anger and sometimes, hatred, which gave it a rather heavy feel. It seemed to lack the wonderful humor that I've seen in some of Catherine Anderson's other stories. In my opinion, the love feelings between Ace and Caitlin were not as fully developed as they could have been, and the sexual tension was minimal, therefore it was difficult for me to find them fully believable as a couple. It was somewhat easier to sense when Caitlin began falling in love with Ace, though not entirely apparent, but I was hard pressed to say exactly when Ace fell in love with Caitlin. While there were some tender moments in the story, those scenes didn't really dig deep enough into the characters psyches to suit me and also seemed to end far too quickly. Consequently, I felt that the story was a bit lacking in true romance and what I term swoon-worthy moments. I think that there were some opportunities for such moments, but again they were handled with too much brevity and ultimately fell rather flat. The romantic moments that did exist simply did not seem to build on one another in a meaningful way to bring out that heart-stopping love that I have come to expect from romance novels. I think this was a result of the book being too focused on the external conflicts rather than Ace and Caitlin's relationship.
I found the hero and heroine of the story to be pretty likable. Ace was a little more rough around the edges than other Catherine Anderson heroes I have read, but in a rather lovable way. He didn't show quite as much vulnerability as I like to see in my heroes, and I thought that he was a bit too heavy-handed at times, not always allowing Caitlin to make her own choices. It wasn't too bad though, as he always seemed to have her best interests at heart. It's hard not to like a guy who grants a lady her fairy tale dreams, and exercises restraint even when she tries his patience in extreme ways. I also appreciated his intelligent, intuitive nature that helped him to understand things about Caitlin that she may not have even understood herself. Caitlin was an admirable character in that she had the strength to endure the many years of her father's abuse. She had also cared for her brother, Patrick, in many different ways throughout those years, and showed a lot of selflessness toward others. In many ways, I thought that Caitlin's fears and actions were fairly believable for someone who had suffered as she had, but I felt that the story might have been better if she had faced her fears and begun to trust Ace in a more gradual way. Instead she had one explosive moment of seeming insanity, followed by a cathartic confession and gentle lovemaking which seemed to magically set everything to rights. Unfortunately, this approach just didn't work well for me. Overall though, I thought that Ace and Caitlin were good characters, they just weren't explored as fully as I would have liked to see, and I think that the story could have benefited from one or the other lightening up a bit.
There were some interesting secondary characters as well. Ace's brothers were a bunch of sweet, lovable guys. Of course, Joseph, the oldest, was the one who got the most scenes, but even so, I felt that the author only scratched the surface with his character. Most of the time, Joseph had an outward intensity which made him seem almost constantly irritated and grumpy, but his final scenes in the book with Caitlin and Patrick belied something more lying beneath the surface waiting to be explored. It will be interesting to see how Joseph's character develops when he becomes the hero of his own book, Summer Breeze. I actually think that Caitlin's brother, Patrick, may have been the most complex character. The author really kept me on my toes with him, never quiet sure whether to like him or not. It was easy to like the kind and selfless Patrick who took beatings for Caitlin or worked hard to buy her gifts, but it was equally easy to dislike the Patrick who had become a drunken and sometimes abusive hellion like his father. In the end though, I did come away from the story with the sense that Patrick was essentially a good guy who made bad choices when he drank too much, and that he would ultimately be successful in his efforts to overcome his alcoholism. Lastly, I really enjoyed Caitlin's poor, brain-damaged kitty, Lucky. He was a very unique character that brought some much-needed lightness to the story, as well as some insights into his human counterparts, not to mention I can't help being partial to a cat who has the same name as my own kitty.:-)
Keegan's Lady might not be one of my favorite Catherine Anderson books, but I can say that it had an exciting ending. The book tends to have a rather slow pace, and some of the scenes and dialog had been plodding along for me. I had been wondering what was going to happen in the last fifty or so pages that would hold my interest through the end. I needn't have worried, because this is where the author's talent really excelled. With two characters lives on the line and the resolution of a 20-year-old murder mystery imminent, I couldn't put the book back down until I had finished. While Keegan's Lady had both strengths and weaknesses, I thought that it was definitely a worthwhile read. I would probably not recommend it for first-time Catherine Anderson readers, as it is not the best example of her exceptional writing talent, in my opinion. However, established fans should certainly give it a try. Keegan's Lady is the first story in the Keegan/Paxton Family series (aka Coulter Historicals). It is followed by the novella, Beautiful Gifts, from the anthology, The True Love Wedding Dress which features Patrick as the hero and Summer Breeze in which Joseph Paxton becomes the hero. At present, Ms. Anderson is working on the next book in the series which will probably be released sometime late this year or in early 2010, and will feature Eden Paxton as the heroine. I will definitely be interested in reading that, as well as continuing my exploration of Catherine Anderson's other books....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Midnight Fire is what I would call a cozy romance, the type of book that is nice to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. It wasReviewed for THC Reviews Midnight Fire is what I would call a cozy romance, the type of book that is nice to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. It was a very pleasant read, but the story lacked a certain depth in both characterizations and plot. It sort of just skims along, telling what is happening without digging deep or going into a lot of details. There were certain scenes where I thought that more details would have helped to shore up the plot, and there were also some minor inconsistencies in details peppered throughout the story. One of the main things that kept me reading though was the action. It made the narrative move along at a very fast pace. It seemed that some new event occurred every few chapters usually threatening Morgan and Carolyn's growing relationship. Admittedly, this type of writing style is not my favorite, because at times, it made me feel like they were being tortured, but at least they were together and happy for the better part of the story. It also made their happily-ever-after ending sweeter in some ways, because it was a very hard fought one. Still though, in my opinion, the story would have been stronger if the author had focused on just a few events in more detail instead of populating it with a large number of events that were simplistically rendered and already over before I had a chance to really get involved in what was happening. In spite of my opinion that this novel was overburdened with plot points, I can honestly say that each and every one of them was wrapped up satisfactorily with generally happy endings for all, and for me a happy ending is always a must.
I liked the hero and heroine, Morgan and Carolyn. I really enjoy tortured heroes and for the most part, Morgan falls into that category. He was basically a loner whose very difficult childhood and mother's harsh words on her deathbed, had left him a broken man, an alcoholic with virtually no self-esteem. I thought that the author painted a realistic picture of the struggles of a man who was half white and half Indian within a historical context. I enjoyed watching him grow and progress from a man who thought very little of himself into a man who was confident and self-possessed. It was also nice to see him forgive the hurts of the past to successfully reconcile with long-lost loved ones. Carolyn, for her part, began the story as the pampered heiress that she was, barely knowing how to take care of herself, but still she rarely complained and developed a certain willingness to work and learn. She also gained a lot of self-confidence from her experiences and progressed from a young woman who was somewhat timid and highly emotional at the start to a more mature woman who was able to take charge when the situation called for it. My only complaint about her character would be that she was a bit too melodramatic at times and cried quite a lot especially early on. While I love sensitive characters, both heroes and heroines, who aren't afraid to cry, I just thought that Carolyn turned on the water works a few too many times. Otherwise though, Morgan and Carolyn were two lovely characters who seemed made for each other.
I liked the way that the author built Morgan and Carolyn's relationship slowly over the weeks that they were alone on the trail, so that when they finally gave in to their attraction, it seemed believable. The book also contained a pretty extensive cast of secondary characters, some likable, some not, and some who grew on me, but all added to the story in some way. I particularly liked the time that Morgan and Carolyn spent with the Lakota, and wished that it might have been explored more fully. In fact, that would probably be my primary issue with the book, that I frequently found myself wishing there were more of everything. Overall, I thought that the story itself was good, it just needed a few more ingredients to give it more flavor. In my opinion, this was a truly romantic read that would have been better if there had been more focus on the internal workings of the hero and heroine's relationship and a bit less on external conflicts. Midnight Fire might not have been as compelling as some other romances that I've read, but in spite of it's weaknesses, was a sweet, warm, and gentle story that was a generally enjoyable and satisfying book which leaves me open to reading more of Madeline Baker's works in the future. There are no explicit love scenes or other particularly objectionable material, making it appropriate for any romance reader. Madeline Baker also writes paranormal romance under the name Amanda Ashley....more
A Love Beyond Time was Judie Aitken's first romance novel, and in my opinion, it was a very worthy debut. I have a stroReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
A Love Beyond Time was Judie Aitken's first romance novel, and in my opinion, it was a very worthy debut. I have a strong interest in Native American history and culture and felt that she really brought these aspects of the story alive. I have read some authors in this romance sub-genre who merely skim the surface, peppering their stories with occasional details that could easily be gleaned from elementary schoolbooks, but never really capture the essence of the Indian people. Instead of the history and culture in A Love Beyond Time being reduced to a dry textbook lesson, it seemed to become a living, breathing part of the narrative, as important as any character. Ms. Aitken seems to have a talent for writing from the heart with a certain thoughtfulness and passion for telling Native American stories, and this was one of the facets of the book that I enjoyed most. I also always like a good time travel yarn, and this one was rather unique in that both the hero and heroine went back in time, and they did not meet until they arrived in the past, nor did they realize that the other was a time traveler. In addition, they each traveled to the past in different ways, which created both positive and negative elements for me. While I appreciate the idea of time travel in general, I tend to favor the straightforward type in which a character physically makes the time jump in the way that Ryan did. On the other hand, I am not a huge fan of only a person's spirit making the slide through time and switching bodies with a person on the other side as Dillon did. I guess this is just a little too mystical for my taste, but as long as I didn't think about this side of the story too much, the time travel aspect was still pretty enjoyable.
I found the hero and heroine to both be likable. Ryan was a strong woman who had made a place for herself in a “man's world”, but didn't seem overly bothered by the idea of being placed into a more submissive role in the past. In fact, she would have been content with giving up her career and everything she had worked for in the present to stay in the past with Wolf. I really liked this balance in her character. She also had refused to give up on the notion of finding her one true love and marrying for love alone, which was a quality I found admirable. Although the story began with Dillon (aka Wolf in the past) being fairly angry and prejudiced against whites, I appreciated his willingness to change and accept that not all whites were bad. In spite of his initial wariness at finding Ryan in the Lakota camp of the past, he was open-minded enough to believe that she really had been sent by Tunkasila (“God”) to help them. Wolf was also very kind, gentle and protective of Ryan, and a strong leader among his people, all things that I liked about him. In the present, I thought Dillon was very respectable as a man who had risen above his circumstances to become a successful attorney and who was giving his talents back to his people. The only thing that I could really find fault with is that Wolf and Ryan's relationship was not fully developed, in my opinion. Since they did not even meet until about one third of the way into the book, the romance aspect relied heavily on a love-at-first-sight scenario which is not exactly my favorite way of bringing a hero and heroine together. Sometimes I simply feel that this plot device is overused in the romance genre, though because of the mystical element surrounding the entire story, I was able to forgive it's use in this particular book to some degree. Though the romantic scenes were quite lovely and written well, I just felt that incorporating more of them would have helped to build the relationship in a more believable and engaging way.
Additionally, there were many other parts of the story which I found appealing. It had many strong secondary characters including Dillon's grandfather, Charley Crying Wolf and brother, Buddy, in the present who I found to be very lovable, as well as, Eagle Deer, and his wife, Pretty Feather, from the past who were the most loyal of friends to Wolf and every bit as accepting of the strange wasicu (“white”) woman who suddenly appeared in their camp. I also liked the use of many Lakota words and phrases scattered throughout the narrative. They always had translations or context meaning, and I really felt that they added to the realism of the culture in which the story takes place. I likewise enjoy mysteries and this book had one surrounding the theft of the Indian artifacts. I must admit though, that it was fairly easy for me to figure out who the perpetrator was, and the only thing that remained a mystery for me until the reveal was the motive. I found the archaeological dig setting of the present and the Little Big Horn setting of the past, as well as Ryan's career as an anthropologist to be unique and interesting elements. One thing that I really respected was Ryan agonizing over the decision of whether to share with the Indians her knowledge of events yet to come, and if she did, how it might affect the fabric of time. I found this to be a very clever and logical position for the author to take, especially in light of Ryan's background as a scientist. Similarly, I found Ryan's anger toward Charley after returning from the past to be a very realistic reaction under the circumstances. Overall, I thought that A Love Beyond Time was a very intelligent and well-researched book that was an impressive first effort from Ms. Aitken's pen. This was also the first of her books that I have read, but I will definitely be open to reading more of her works in the future....more
After meeting Butch and Marissa in Dark Lover, the first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I was intrigued bReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
After meeting Butch and Marissa in Dark Lover, the first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I was intrigued by the characters and looking forward to reading their story. Unfortunately, I found it a bit difficult to become emotionally invested in the ups and downs of their relationship as presented in Lover Revealed. I think this may have been the result of a few different things. First, Butch and Marissa spent very little time together during those initial scenes in Dark Lover and it was all very sweet and innocent. They were then separated for a 6-9 month period over the course of two more books, during which their relationship was still in play, but on the sidelines, with both of them pining desperately for each other. While this alone could be cited as an indication of their deep love, I really would have liked to see their relationship reestablished before they started engaging in sexual intimacy. When compared to the previous books in the series, I thought that Lover Revealed was simply lacking in the lovely, heart-stopping romantic scenes that I really love to see. In addition, during the course of the entire book, at least one of these two characters (though sometimes both at once) seemed to be holding the other at arms length, so I found it difficult to really feel their love in the powerful way that I did with the main characters in the prequels. While these were the primary reasons for my feeling a lack of romance in this story, I also think the world shifting that was taking place was a contributing factor as well. In and of itself this was certainly not a bad thing, as a continuing series such as this would not hold up well to critical scrutiny for long if it just kept telling the same narrative of the war between the vampires and the lessers only with a different couple in the lead. In this respect, I understand the author's choice to move the story to another level, but in my opinion, these changes in many ways overshadowed the love and romance that I was expecting. Vishous was also such an important character in this book, and his relationship with Butch ran so deep that it seemed like Marissa had a difficult time getting a strong foothold in the story.
As I mentioned earlier, I went into this book liking Butch and Marissa very much, and while I did not find them to be particularly unlikable at any time during this story, I did have a hard time fully relating to them. I think this was owing to the author not digging quite deep enough with the characters emotions, particularly Marissa's, as well as the rapid and drastic changes that took place in both of their lives, which completely caught me off guard. This was definitely a good thing, as I wouldn't want the plot to be too predictable, but so many things were happening so quickly that I had a hard time adjusting to all the shifts. Marissa went from a meek and docile female to an independent, outspoken, and basically liberated female almost overnight. While there is much to be said for those qualities, I think that perhaps finding some middle ground or building these changes more slowly would have been more believable. Butch's transformation was somewhat slower, yet incredibly dramatic. Even by the end of the book, I had been so blown away by everything that happened, I was still having a hard time thinking of him as anything but the human ex-cop who had been befriended by the Brotherhood. Still it was all an intriguing turn of events that did help to propel the story and the series forward. In spite of these perceived deficiencies, there were still things to like about these two characters. Butch, like the vampire brothers, was a tortured hero, one of my favorite kinds. He had never felt the love of a family until the Brotherhood took him into their confidence and their home, and he had also never felt like he belonged anywhere until then. In this book, he was finally able to find the missing pieces of himself. Butch was also very kind and considerate toward Marissa and a true friend to Vishous, as well as completely loyal to the Brotherhood. While Marissa for her part, made some rather selfish choices out of her sense of fear for Butch's safety, she at least recognized her mistakes and corrected them in the end. At the heart of her character, she was a gentle soul which was evidenced in her work at the hospital early on, but I found myself wishing that this part of her had been explored more fully. It just ultimately seemed like her newfound independence, rather overshadowed her kind heart. I did however, enjoy the scenes of her starting the Safe House for abused and displaced females, and hope to see more of her work with the shelter in the future.
In my opinion, what Lover Revealed was lacking in it's main characters, was made up for in it's secondary characters. These were some of the parts that I enjoyed reading the most. Wrath and Beth played significant roles for the first time since Dark Lover, and it was nice to see them front and center again. Zadist and Bella shared a playfully sensuous interaction, which even though it was only one scene, really stuck with me as being very beautiful and romantic, and Zsadist was able to put in some additional time as an instructor to their new trainees. As with the past two books, I greatly enjoyed John Matthew and his continuing story. I also sensed a friendship growing between him and Zsadist which I hope to see more fully explored in future books. There were a couple of the young vampire trainees who played larger roles in this book. I liked the awkwardness of Blaylock going through his transformation, and it was great to see Lash finally get his comeuppance. Bella's brother and club owner, Rehvenge, put in another appearance, adding more details and intrigue to his character as well. There was also an interesting sub-plot involving the fore-lesser, Mr. X, and his surprising desire to be freed from the Omega, and I also enjoyed the shellans creating a sisterhood of sorts, which I felt rather mirrored the relationship that their mates share.
The strongest of the secondary characters, who was fleshed out the most though, was Vishous. In previous books, he has been pretty much an enigma. For the most part, he was merely the techo-genius who held everything together, but who obviously harbored some very special gifts. Those gifts as well as glimpses of his backstory and personality are finally explored in Lover Revealed. Vishous's deep friendship with Butch seemed to develop into something more, at least from V's perspective, but nothing of a romantic nature ever happened as a result of it. In some ways they reminded me of Zsadist and Phury with their twins connection, and it became obvious by the end of the story that Butch and V are twins of a sort, two halves of a whole, who will likely share a special connection for life. Ultimately, there was a lot of complexity surrounding their relationship, which I believe could be interpreted as symbolic of this greater connection. From what I perceived, Vishous was a male who, not unlike his fellow members of the brotherhood, has many soul-deep wounds that torment him. It seems that he had never experienced real love and acceptance in his life (either giving or receiving) until meeting Butch and his feelings concerning this are confusing to him. He also doesn't seem to fully understand the bonding of his fellow brothers to their females, but does question in his own mind what this might be like. Vishous seems to have a penchant for hard core BDSM (though it isn't played out in particularly explicit details) which normally would not be my cup of tea, but Ms. Ward has painted an otherwise sympathetic picture of V which leaves the appealing potential for a Zsadist type of story for him. I can say that the author's portrayal of V has intrigued me sufficiently to whet my appetite for the next book, Lover Unbound, in which he becomes the hero.
Although I thought that Lover Revealed could have been a little better, especially romantically, the continuing story of the Brotherhood is one that I find to be very intriguing and still difficult to put down in spite of any weaknesses that might be present. I came to the conclusion that these weaknesses are due to Lover Revealed being a bridge of sorts between the first three books and those yet to come, a book where there are major shifts in the overarching story. Ms. Ward writes with an intelligence that I greatly appreciate, often making me really think about what is happening. In fact I found myself thinking about Lover Revealed and trying to figure certain things out days after turning the last page. When an author can engage both my emotions and my intellect in such a way, they have in my opinion, done their job well. I will be looking forward to continuing with the series to see where her fertile imagination leads these wonderful characters. Lover Revealed is the fourth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It is preceded by Dark Lover, Lover Eternal, and Lover Awakened and is followed by Lover Unbound, and Lover Enshrined, with Lover Avenged due to be released next year. There is also a companion book to the series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide. J. R. Ward also writes contemporary romances under the name Jessica Bird.
Note: Sensitive readers should be forewarned that as in the past books, there is quite a bit of strong language and violence, and the sex, due to the BDSM element is a bit more explicit than what one would typically find in an average romance novel....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews A Woman Scorned is yet another worthy effort from Liz Carlyle, but in my opinion, not the strongest of her novels that I haveReviewed for THC Reviews A Woman Scorned is yet another worthy effort from Liz Carlyle, but in my opinion, not the strongest of her novels that I have read to date. As with her other books, A Woman Scorned also contained an intriguing mystery element, this one involving the murder of the heroine's husband. The mystery was a bit more prominent in this story though, and consequently, I felt that it overshadowed the actual romance, in some ways. Aside from a strong physical attraction and mutual loneliness, I found few reasons for Cole and Jonet to fall in love. The author simply did not build the lovely friendship element or include the more swoon-worthy scenes that are often found in her other works. While their love became more evident toward the end of the story, I just did not find their feelings for one another earlier in the book to be entirely convincing. I believe that the time devoted to the mystery simply left limited space for good relationship development which was a bit disappointing, since these two characters had absolutely sparkled as secondary characters in other books. While I like a good mystery, this one did not hold my interest as much as it perhaps could have, due to the fact that I discerned the culprit very early on, though at least I was way off base on the character's motive and did not really figure that part out until the reveal. In all fairness though, I went into this book having read a later book that ties in with it, and therefore already knew that a couple of the characters who had been set up as suspects could be eliminated. Without that information, I doubt that I would have solved this part of the mystery so easily. All in all, for this only being Ms. Carlyle's second book, it was a still a good read.
I thought that the characterizations of the hero and heroine were well-done and full of interesting complexities. Cole had held a variety of positions including that of scholar, tutor and military captain, in addition to being an ordained minister. He is filled with guilt and regret over the death of his first wife with which he must come to terms. On the surface, he seems very controlled and reserved, but inside he is seething with unfulfilled passion that just the right woman can unlock. Cole is highly intelligent, regularly engaging in battles of wit with Jonet. Although she could be very willful, he never let her get the best of him and always gave back as good as he got. This made for some highly charged and amusing banter between these two characters. Jonet was not a woman who was afraid to let her passions be know, but also carried a certain reserve due to fear over her sons' safety in the wake of their father's murder. I thought her devotion to her two sons as well as other characters in the story was highly commendable, and I also liked that she lived her life according to what she thought was right instead of what society dictated. Once she began to trust Cole, she was very bold in her pursuit of him, even though he was below her in social status. I found her boldness and directness to be admirable, as well as fun and sensuous, leading to a delightful, burning hot love scene near the end of the book that one might playfully characterize as Cole's “taming of the shrew”. Also, both characters were very intuitive of the other's needs and feelings which I found quite endearing. Even though the actual romance between these two could have had a stronger foundation and they were near polar opposites, it became obvious by the end of the story that Cole and Jonet were made for each other. It was not difficult to imagine them living a long and happy life together with nary a dull moment, which is probably why they were such stand-out characters in future novels.
While I do enjoy introspection, I felt that a bit too much of it became a partial contributor to some pacing issues in the narrative of A Woman Scorned. The other part I attributed to the lack of the spirited secondary characters that I so enjoyed in Ms. Carlyle's other books. There were no scene-stealers like Kem or Bentley, and the supporting characters who were present just didn't quite have the same lively quality as some that had appeared in other stories. Even if they were a bit more reserved, there were a few notables. David, Lord Delacourt was an enigma and I'm sure I would have enjoyed his presence in this story much more if I hadn't already known his secret from reading A Woman of Virtue in which he is the hero. He also put in an appearance in No True Gentleman. I found Stuart and Robert to be very charming children with opposite personalities, Stuart being rather shy and Robert being more outgoing. I thought that they were realistically rendered in that they often argued and misbehaved like young boys do, but yet they were never obnoxious. Stuart and Robert (though much more grown up) also appear in A Woman of Virtue and The Devil You Know. Edmund Rowland was a rather distasteful character who also pops up in A Woman of Virtue, as does Lady Delacourt, and Charlotte Branthwaite, David's mother and sister respectively. Just as she does in most of her books, Ms. Carlyle also uses a few animal characters to good effect, helping to set the tone for the human characters and overall story.
As one might guess from the overlapping characters, A Woman of Virtue is the book most closely related to A Woman Scorned actually picking up the story precisely where this one left off. I personally, however, still recommend reading the books in chronological order to receive the full effect of all characters on the canvass, as I have come to the conclusion that Ms. Carlyle used her first three books, My False Heart, A Woman Scorned, and Beauty Like the Night to create three separate family groups who are then intermingled freely in subsequent books. Even though I didn't think it to be the author's best effort, I found A Woman Scorned to be a pleasant and enjoyable read. Ms. Carlyle remains one of my favorite authors and I look forward to continuing my exploration of her backlist.
Note: While none of Ms. Carlyle's earlier books seem to be officially considered a series and each seems to stand well on it's own story-wise, I would caution that reading her later books first may give away spoilers to her earlier books. Such was the case when I skipped A Woman Scorned and was left wishing that I had read it first. My suggestion for readers like myself who don't like any spoilers would be to begin with Ms. Carlyle's first book, My False Heart, and continue reading them in the chronological order in which she wrote them. It is also my opinion that the reading experience would be greatly enhanced by doing this, because Ms. Carlyle's character web is so complex. The entire backlist, in order, can be found on her website....more
The Audacity of Hope was published several months before Barack Obama announced his bid for the U.S. presidency, and as such, I don't think that his iThe Audacity of Hope was published several months before Barack Obama announced his bid for the U.S. presidency, and as such, I don't think that his ideas and policies in the book are quite as fully developed and detailed as they are now. People who have closely followed Senator Obama's historic campaign will likely not find much new material here, but I still thought this was a great read and would highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in getting to know the Senator, and what he would like to do for the United States. He may be idealistic, but his ideals are firmly planted in the hope of the American people, that if we all work together, we can fix many of our problems and make the country great again.
My favorite thing about The Audacity of Hope is that it is not just a dry political treatise, that can only be understood by the most educated people. Instead the book is written in very down-to-earth language that is accessible to anyone, while still showcasing Senator Obama's own intelligence. He definitely has an ingenious and articulate way of communicating, which is a rare find anywhere, but particularly in the political arena. I also enjoyed all the personal stories from his own life, as well as anecdotes of people that Senator Obama has met over the course of his career in public service, not only as a politician, but as a community organizer. These stories really helped to bring vibrancy and urgency to his ideas. The Senator also has a great sense of humor, especially when he is being self-deprecating, which often had me LOL. This is not to say that Senator Obama doesn't take things seriously, but simply that he also knows how to find the lighter side of life too.
Non-fiction of any kind is not usually my first reading choice, but overall I would call this book an enjoyable read. I recommend it along with Dreams From My Father (another great read IMO) for anyone who is still undecided about the upcoming elections. They both should help to shed light on the character, background and policies of the man who may be the next U.S. president....more
As a lover of all things historical and a casual reader of history books, I thought that Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation was very infoAs a lover of all things historical and a casual reader of history books, I thought that Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation was very informative and educational. I learned many things about America's founding fathers and the revolutionary period of history that I didn't previously know. The book is laid out in six separate vignettes, each following a crucial event in that era of history: the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton; a private deal that was made between Hamilton, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson on the location of the new capitol in exchange for passage of Hamilton's finance plan; the silence of the founding fathers on the issue of slavery; George Washington's farewell to public service; the sometimes contentious collaboration between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in the years following Washington's presidency; and the renewal of Adams and Jefferson's friendship in their waning years. The book is also something of a character sketch of each of these key players in America's history.
The thing I enjoyed most about Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, were all the little facts and anecdotes I was able to glean from the text. Things like the loving, devoted marriage that John and Abigail Adams shared, in which he seemed to view her as his equal and value her political counsel above all others. Joseph Ellis has compiled a volume of John and Abigail's letters to each other which I think might make for interesting follow-up reading. Another fascinating little tidbit I learned was that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1826). Also, as someone who is intrigued by forensic science, I found the forensic-style analysis of the Burr/Hamilton duel to be very engaging. It's all the little things that always help to bring history alive for me, and many small details like these were woven in with lots of scholarly prose to make a strong narrative that would, in my opinion, be useful to anyone looking to learn more about American history. I would warn the casual reader though, that the academic nature of the book does not make for light reading, but neither is it so complex as to be completely inaccessible to the general reader. While I didn't find it to be entirely dull and boring, it did have a slow pace that failed to fully spark my interest and hold my attention. It actually took me quite a while to finish the book, but I'm glad that I did. I was not at all surprised to find that this book was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for history....more
I've read that Outlander was originally marketed as a romance novel because the publisher didn't know what else to do wReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
I've read that Outlander was originally marketed as a romance novel because the publisher didn't know what else to do with it, but this book is no ordinary romance novel. It doesn't follow any typical romance formula and is a real genre bender that doesn't fit neatly into any one category. Outlander has a swoon-worthy hero and dozens of truly romantic scenes that should be sufficient to satisfy even the most discriminating romance reader, while it's time travel aspect and a few references to witches and fairies should be of interest to readers of fantasy and paranormal stories. At it's heart though Outlander is a historical novel rife with details of 18th century life in the Scottish Highlands both inside and outside a castle or large estate. It also recounts some of the events leading up to the Jacobite Pretender's Uprising of 1745. Diana Gabaldon is an amazing writer who delves deep into her character's lives and the history surrounding them, painting an extraordinary picture that truly transports the reader to another time and place.
Claire is an incredibly strong heroine, who can sometimes be a bit brash and sassy, but deep down she is a kind and caring person at heart. She adapts amazingly well to a new time and place, much better than most people ever would if faced with the dilemma she was. Claire is a very intelligent woman who uses every ounce of knowledge at her disposal to reverse her predicament, while helping others, especially with their medical needs, and bringing a much needed modern perspective to ancient methods. She somehow finds the courage to made difficult choices in an era when choices were sometimes few or non-existent, especially for women, and to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. Claire is stubborn and persistent even in the face of nearly impossible odds. Best of all she is a pillar of strength to her beloved Jamie as much as he is to her, and she has a powerful underlying passion that matches his own for her.
Jamie, in my opinion, is the best romantic hero ever to be penned by an author. He exhibits both physical and mental strength, as well as a strength of character, that go above and beyond any ordinary romantic hero. His word is his honor, and his commitment to that honor is moving beyond words. If only there were more men in reality who could be so easily trusted and taken at their word. Jamie shows a deep respect, not just for Claire, but for all the women with whom he comes in contact, a true gentleman in every sense of the word. On the outside, Jamie is tough as nails, enduring more physical pain than any one person should ever be expected to, while on the inside, he is kind, gentle and sensitive, often instinctively knowing things that others don't. He is thoroughly intelligent and well-educated and often beautifully poetic in his speech. He is lighthearted and self-deprecating, never taking himself too seriously. I loved the way he was always teasing Claire. Jamie is simply a wonderful character, a man who loves selflessly and with his whole being.
There is much to enjoy about this book. Together, Jamie and Claire make a formidable couple, and it is obvious from the outset that they are soulmates. Their absolute trust in each other, basically from the moment they meet, is in and of itself, romance at it's finest. There are no contrived misunderstandings between them, only naked honesty, which brings an openness and vulnerability to both characters that is breathtaking. I love the way the author creates a beautiful friendship between these two characters before they end up at the altar and of course then become lovers. What's even better though is how that friendship continues to blossom and grow deeper and deeper even after they are married. The intimacy level of these two characters is something I rarely see in a novel, and most of it has little or nothing to do with sexual interludes. During the times when Jamie and Claire were apart even for short periods of time, I simply couldn't wait for them to be reunited, as the two of them together absolutely electrify the pages. All the secondary characters are extremely well-crafted and surprisingly well fleshed out, even those who play only minor parts. The setting is beautifully rendered as well, almost becoming a character unto itself. The time travel aspect adds an extended element of intrigue, and Ms. Gabaldon has certainly taken the time to think through the ramifications of such a feat if it were indeed possible. Every scene simply adds to the richness of detail in the book, and there is nothing that I felt was excess. The author's care in seamlessly weaving all of the elements together is evident all throughout the book.
While there are many things to love about this story, there were a few events that bothered me just a bit. There was a scene in which Jamie beats Claire with his sword belt for disobedience. The scene in and of itself actually did not bother me much, because I fully understood his reasons for doing so and he later took a vow never to do it again. What did bother me was his admission that he enjoyed it. The admission was made in a fairly lighthearted manner. In light of that, I suppose it might have been meant as humorous, but perhaps it was too subtle for me to fully appreciate. Even so, I might not have thought much of it except for the fact that the villain in this story is a brutal sadist. For that reason, I found myself a bit annoyed at having the hero of the story exhibit even a hint of such a tendency. There were also a couple of scenes of what I would term rather intense and rough lovemaking, one of which began with Jamie behaving in a dominant manner, and neither of which were quite to my taste. They just seemed a bit out of character for Jamie, who up to this point, and following, was always a gentle and considerate though passionate lover. I will allow though for the fact that Jamie apologized for the first incident and admitted equality after the second. Finally, there was a scene in which Jamie related a prior incident with a secondary character in his youth, which by today's standards would have been nothing short of an act of child molestation against him, but which was treated rather casually by all involved. I wanted to reconcile this in a historical perspective, but as hard as I tried, I simply couldn't. I also feel compelled to warn sensitive readers that there is an incidence of brutal sexual violence near the end of the book. It is not played out in real-time, but instead is related a bit at a time through dialog and implication, but still is immensely palpable in the intensity of it's aftereffects on the psyche of the character who was the victim. I'm not usually overly squeamish about such things, but I have to admit to having some difficulty reading these passages. More than once, they brought tears to my eyes.
In spite of the things I have mentioned though, Outlander is still by far one of the best books I have ever read. I have to give Ms. Gabaldon extra points for all of her attention to details. It is a joy to read such an intelligently-written and meticulously-researched novel that is so rich in detail. It went far beyond my expectations for a debut novel for any author. It even sparked my interest in learning more about the time and place that is depicted in it. Outlander is the type of book that is so engrossing and compelling that it makes one want to read straight through without ever putting it down, though it's epic length makes that somewhat unfeasible. This was my second reading of the book, and it certainly won't be my last. It has a earned a permanent place on my keeper shelf along with it's sequels Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, and A Breath of Snow and Ashes all of which continue Jamie and Claire's story....more
The Devil You Know is quite possibly the most truly romantic book I have ever read. It is a poignant story of love in tReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
The Devil You Know is quite possibly the most truly romantic book I have ever read. It is a poignant story of love in the face of seemingly impossible odds, redemption, and facing the pain of the past so that recovery can begin. There is so much to love about this book, I hardly know where to start. The beautiful romance of the hero and heroine began as a beautiful friendship, yet it was a somewhat different friendship than what has been present in some of Liz Carlyle's other books, as the initial development of it was off-canvas. I also found it wonderful that yet another of Ms. Carlyle's heroes found peace and a sense of belonging in the warmth of Chatham Lodge, the lovely country home full of an eclectic mix of characters that played such a big part in My False Heart. The story contains one heart-stopping romantic scene after another that fairly made me swoon: Bentley (with Kem's help of course) pulling together a beautiful wedding in only a day; Bentley laying his head on Freddie's tummy and talking to their unborn child; Bentley holding and worriedly watching over Freddie while she is in the throes of morning sickness; Bentley and Freddie picnicking in his favorite spot in the whole world while discussing their future, just to name a few. The story is packed cover to cover with non-sexual scenes just like these which express the main character's love for and devotion to each other in wonderfully creative ways, as well as beautifully sensual and passionate love scenes. There are also some really adorable and heartwarming scenes such as the ones between Bentley and his nieces and nephews (he's wonderful with kids), and Bentley's brother, Cam laying on the floor of his library talking with his wife while kittens are crawling all over him. Everything simply comes together to create a beautifully crafted story.
I think Bentley Rutledge is now my all-time favorite romance hero, and the Rutledge brothers together top my list even though they are two very different characters. As Frederica tells him near the end of the story, he is “the sweetest, kindest, most perfect man” ever. Even as a mere secondary character in three previous books (Beauty Like the Night, A Woman of Virtue, & No True Gentleman), he could easily steal every scene he was in. I have to admit that I liked Bentley so much in the other stories that I had a little trepidation about whether the author would get it right when she wrote Bentley's own story. With it being in Ms. Carlyle's capable and talented hands, I should never have worried. She wrote the perfect story for him. The image Bentley projects in public is that of the jaded blackguard, a dissolute rake, but even in the earlier books, I knew there was much more to him than meets the eye. There are just so many layers to his character, that I don't think any other author I've read has created a character with so much depth. I have read that Bentley is Ms. Carlyle's favorite hero, and it most certainly shows in the care she used in crafting him. He is an incredibly genuine character that came to life so vividly, it almost seems that he truly exists somewhere. Most of the people around Bentley think that he is something of a failure and a screw-up who never thinks about his future, because that is the only side of himself that he usually allows others to see. He frequently sabotages himself, because he subconsciously doesn't think himself worthy of happiness and success. He has heaped guilt upon himself for a horrible incident from the past for which he clearly bears no responsibility, a tortured hero in the truest sense of the word. Yet, when he is thinking clearly, he is an incredibly intelligent man with a tender, sensitive heart who has so much to offer to anyone who takes the time and effort to recognize his true worth.
Frederica is just such a woman. Even though she didn't want to marry Bentley at first because of his reputation, she had to admit that he was the sweetest man she had ever known. To convince her, Bentley had offered a six-month trial marriage, but it didn't take long for Freddie to realize that she wanted nothing more than a lifetime with this wicked charmer. When Bentley's moods turn black and he starts disappearing for long stretches of time, Freddie is patient and understanding, gently encouraging him to open up to her about what troubles him. Although Bentley is not very forthcoming at first, Freddie is a highly intelligent and intuitive woman. She slowly begins to gather bits and pieces of information and eventually puts together the puzzle that is Bentley's past. When all is finally revealed, she shows an incredible sensitivity toward him, and yet also exhibits unflinching strength and courage in the face of unspeakable evil. I also like the strong yet gentle hand Freddie takes with her occasionally errant husband, making it clear that she won't put up with any disrespectful or irresponsible behavior on his part. As an illegitimate orphan, Freddie has had some difficulties of her own to overcome, but she was raised in a household brimming to the rafters with love and is able to bring the light of that love into Bentley's dark and tortured world, giving him a much-deserved new beginning.
The Devil You Know was a veritable reunion of characters from Ms. Carlyle's past books, which gives her fans insight into where these characters are anywhere from a few to several years down the road. Freddie first appeared in My False Heart and from that book readers can also become reacquainted with Elliot and Evie, as well as secondary characters Winnie, Gus, Theo, Michael, Zoe and the servants of Chatham Lodge and Strath House. Elliot's former valet George Kemble, who also was first seen in My False Heart, makes a couple of appearances in The Devil You Know lending much-needed assistance to Bentley in acquiring appropriate formal attire for a ball and making wedding plans on extremely short notice. Kem also appears in A Woman of Virtue, No True Gentleman, A Deal with the Devil, and The Devil to Pay. From Beauty Like the Night there is Cam, Helene and Catherine as well as the secondary characters of Ariane, Basil, Joan, Queenie, and the servants of Chalcote Manor. Catherine also appeared in No True Gentleman along with the eccentric, fortune-telling Signora Castelli who put in another appearance in The Devil You Know. Also from No True Gentleman, as well as A Woman of Virtue, there are Cole, Robert, and Stuart. Other characters from the aforementioned books are also present in the background and mentioned by name, but have no dialog.
It is rare that a book touches me so deeply that I laugh out loud or cry. The Devil You Know was just such a book. There was a scene in the book which showcased the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus concept that was straight out of a romantic comedy. I was so amused by it that I had to tell my husband about it and was still laughing about it in my mind hours later. Then, the last couple of chapters of the book brought tears to my eyes, because they were just so incredibly moving and unforgettable. I truly felt that Bentley's self-destructive behavior as a reaction to his past was very realistically rendered. When I am in the midst of reading a book, I often think ahead to how I would like the story to progress. When the story actually goes the way I envisioned, I know I have just read a truly good one. It isn't a matter of the book being simple or predictable. It's a connection of the reader to the author and her characters, which is something I rarely feel as strongly as I did while reading this book. The Devil You Know is the type of story that stays with the reader long after the last page has been turned. In fact, I found myself heartily wishing there was more. It is a rare piece of literary perfection about which I can honestly find absolutely nothing to criticize. It exceeded all my expectations and has forever earned a place on my keeper shelf to be re-read many times in the future. If you have never read this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Note: While none of Ms. Carlyle's earlier books seem to be officially considered a series and each seems to stand well on it's own story-wise, I would caution that reading her later books first may give away spoilers to her earlier books. Such was the case when I skipped one book and was left wishing that I had read it first. My suggestion for readers like myself who don't like any spoilers would be to begin with Ms. Carlyle's first book, My False Heart, and continue reading them in the chronological order in which she wrote them. It is also my opinion that the reading experience would be greatly enhanced by doing this, because Ms. Carlyle's character web is so complex. The entire backlist, in order, can be found on her website....more
I absolutely loved Lord of Scoundrels. This was my first reading of a Loretta Chase novel, and I will definitely be seeReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
I absolutely loved Lord of Scoundrels. This was my first reading of a Loretta Chase novel, and I will definitely be seeking out other books written by her in the future. Jessica was an extraordinary heroine who had a near perfection that one does not often find in a romance novel. Independent heroines can often become irritating to me, but Jessica was a thorough delight, a wonderful mix of charm, wit, strength, and heartfelt devotion. In spite of his utterly debauched nature early on, I still found Dain to be a completely sympathetic hero. I thought it was really sweet that Dain could be so worldly and yet so insecure as to be reluctant to bed his new bride. I also loved the vulnerability he showed when he really started opening up to Jess. Jessica's grandmother, Genevieve, was a delightful secondary character who was full of wit and charm herself. The settings and characterizations were very well drawn, and the pacing was wonderful. Lord of Scoundrels is the third book in the Scoundrels series, and introduces us to Vere Mallory, the Duke of Ainswood, who becomes the hero of book #4, The Last Hellion. Comte d’Esmond, who is the hero of book #2, Captives of the Night also plays a small secondary role. I believe that Captives of the Night and Lord of Scoundrels basically take place simultaneously, but Captives of the Night was written first. The first book of the series is The Lion's Daughter. I found Lord of Scoundrels to be a thoroughly enjoyable book, that has definitely earned a place on my keeper shelf....more
After reading the synopsis for Annie's Song, I wondered how an author might write a mute character and keep the story iReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
After reading the synopsis for Annie's Song, I wondered how an author might write a mute character and keep the story interesting without the usual use of dialog. In the case of Catherine Anderson, the answer is, quite simply, incredibly well. Annie is probably the sweetest, most guileless heroine I have ever read. She is full of childlike innocence and takes joy in the simple things in life. Ms. Anderson gives readers a lovely picture of how Annie views everything around her through her thoughts and expressions until she eventually learns to communicate. I loved watching Annie grow from a languishing, childlike state to absolutely blossoming into a mature lovely young woman under Alex's tender care. She brings so much joy and life to Alex's previously lonely existence.
Alex is a wonderful beta-type hero who is strong and protective of Annie and the baby, but at the same time is gentle, sensitive, loving and compassionate. He is incredibly intuitive of Annie's needs and always tries to see things from her point of view and think of her first. I also loved the fact that Alex exercises a great deal of self-control over his lustful inclinations toward her, and when the love scenes finally do happen they are very tender yet thoroughly sensual. Alex isn't perfect though. He does make some mistakes every now and then, but the important thing is that he always learns something from them. Alex also harbors conflicting emotions toward his brother in spite of the heinous things he's done. I thought these qualities made Alex all the more real and brought out his humanity in a way that I loved. I've always been a fan of imperfect heroes, and Alex is one, but in a different sort of way than most other imperfect heroes I've read. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that these two characters are completely honest with each other. There are no lies or secrets between them, and when misunderstandings and conflicts arise they actually communicate in spite of the fact that one character is deaf and mute. What a novel idea! ;-)
Annie's Song is by far one of the best books I have ever read. The story is unique and so exquisitely rendered as to be at once both heart wrenching and heartwarming. There were some passages that brought tears to my eyes and others that made me laugh. The characterizations are beautifully drawn giving the reader deep insights into the lives of the hero and heroine as well as everyone around them. The characters' emotions are brought to life so vividly that the reader can feel all their pain and fears as well as their joy and happiness. The plotting of the story is very tight, with the author even presenting plausible and realistic reasons for why Annie's parents never had her medically examined even though they were obviously financially well-off enough to do so.
This is a slow, sweet love story in which most of the conflict is of an emotional nature, but the narrative maintains a steady pace throughout. The author explores the social issues of historical attitudes toward people with disabilities, especially those of a mental nature, as well as physical and emotional abuse of a child and recovery from rape. I felt that these issues were dealt with very sensitively, but readers who are easily bothered by such topics should know that they are really the driving force behind the plot. In my opinion, the story was absolutely wonderful, an expression of true love in it's purest form with two people unselfishly giving of themselves to each other. This is the first book I had read by Catherine Anderson, but I will definitely be seeking out others by her in the future. I cannot recommend Annie's Song highly enough, and it has certainly earned a place on my keeper shelf....more
Beauty Like the Night is a beautifully written love story with the added bonus of a mystery. I believe that most, if not all, of Liz Carlyle's books cBeauty Like the Night is a beautifully written love story with the added bonus of a mystery. I believe that most, if not all, of Liz Carlyle's books combine these two elements, and she does a wonderful job with both. I really enjoy romances in which the hero and heroine either begin as friends or develop a friendship before marrying. In my opinion, Ms. Carlyle is masterful at writing these friendships and bringing to the story a sense of warmth and deep intimacy that goes far beyond the physical realm. She also writes a good mystery. If I spend most of the story trying to solve the mystery and figure out who the villain is, while suspecting characters who end up being innocent, then I know the author did a good job. Such was the case with Beauty Like the Night. The romance was truly romantic, because Cam and Helene had been the best of friends and had experienced the beauty of young love before being cruelly torn apart. They then had a second chance to rekindle both their friendship and their love. The mystery was truly mysterious, because I did suspect other characters besides the real villain. Also, though different scenarios came to mind, I never fully figured out what Ariane had seen that caused her to stop talking until it was revealed in the story. Cam's brother, Bentley's psychological complexities added additional intrigue to the story as I tried to figure out what drives him to do some of the things that he does.
Aside from history, one of my main interests is psychology. I was fascinated to find a historical novel that made use of psychology. Until reading this book, I hadn't even realized that psychological treatments similar to what we use in modern times were even practiced in that era. Ms. Carlyle even made mention of a real historical figure in this fledgling field, Philippe Pinel, along with some factual information on his practice. I was very impressed with her use of such an unusual topic in a historical romance, and the care that she seems to have taken in researching it. Ms. Carlyle has a truly intelligent writing style that is borne out by the fact that I was able to learn something new from reading her work. I have seen a few reviewers who were critical of the psychology element as being anachronistic, but my own research bears out it's accuracy.
The characters in Beauty Like the Night are incredibly well written from the hero and heroine to the secondary characters. Camden Rutledge just made my all-time favorite romantic heroes list. On the outside he may be quiet and serious, but on the inside he has the heart of a poet and burns with passion. He is thoroughly masculine without being arrogant or self-centered. Cam is loyal and faithful even when those around him are not, and he is a hard worker who takes his responsibilities very seriously. His undying devotion to his daughter and his belief that the so-called experts are wrong about her condition only make him more appealing. Even his cat, Boadicea, adores him, and he talks to her often. I think that Ms. Carlyle's use of children and pets always brings great warmth to her characters and stories. Helene was a wonderful heroine, the perfect foil for Cam's reserved nature. As a teenager she was a nearly reckless free-spirit, but even in her more mature adult form she still exhibits that lightheartedness accompanied by a newfound strength of character. I loved that she is strong and worldly enough to so deftly handle men who make unwanted advances, and later showed her spunk and spirit against the villain. She also impressed me as a woman who had made a career for herself in a society where there were few options for women. I really appreciate Ms. Carlyle writing slightly older heroines who have been able to find a niche for themselves outside of marriage or the usual historically limited professions for women.
Some key secondary characters were surprisingly well fleshed out. Among them was Cam's daughter Ariane, who was an incredibly intelligent and brave little girl. The author does a wonderful job of letting the reader inside her thoughts and feelings even when she cannot speak, and keeping her insights and actions on an age-appropriate level. Reader's are given an introduction to Cam's sister, Catherine, who is light, breezy and full of life, while obviously being strong and capable. She also seems to go against the female stereotype of her time, being more comfortable on horseback or handling estate duties than doing interior decorating. In my opinion though, the most intriguing and well written of the secondary characters is Cam's brother, Bentley. Underneath his alternating facades of the seductive charmer and the rebellious, indifferent rakehell is a young man full of fascinating complexities. I was truly impressed that the author was able to write a supporting male character with such depth who didn't overshadow Cam. It is obvious that Bentley's story is far from over, and readers are given a glimpse of the hero he will eventually become.
Liz Carlyle's books contain many interconnected characters, but she considers her stories to be more of a “community of characters” than a series. That said, there are two characters from Beauty Like the Night who continue on to future books. Catherine Rutledge Wodeway becomes the heroine of her own story in No True Gentleman. Likewise, Bentley Rutledge becomes the hero of his own story in The Devil You Know, but prior to that is also seen in A Woman of Virtue and No True Gentleman, both of which will likely add more layers to his already complex character. Beauty Like the Night was a wonderful book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I would highly recommend it, and it has definitely earned a place on my keeper shelf. Ms. Carlyle is a very talented author, and I am looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.
Note: While none of Ms. Carlyle's earlier books seem to be officially considered a series and each seems to stand reasonably well on it's own story-wise, I would caution that reading her later books first may give away spoilers to her earlier books. Such was the case when I skipped one book and was left wishing that I had read it first. My suggestion for readers like myself who don't like any spoilers would be to begin with Ms. Carlyle's first book, My False Heart, and continue reading them in the chronological order in which she wrote them. It is also my opinion that the reading experience would be greatly enhanced by doing this, because Ms. Carlyle's character web is so complex. The entire backlist, in order, can be found on her website. For readers who aren't as particular about spoilers and prefer to read in smaller sets, Ms. Carlyle's books can also be grouped by families. Beauty Like the Night would be the first book in the Rutledge Family group....more
"4.5 stars" Baby Love is a wonderful book that is reminiscent of a grown-up fairy tale, a Cinderella story. As the heroReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars" Baby Love is a wonderful book that is reminiscent of a grown-up fairy tale, a Cinderella story. As the heroine, it has a young woman who has known the meaning of hard work since she was only fourteen, when her father passed away leaving her with the responsibility of caring for an ailing mother and baby sister. Then an incredibly evil stepfather entered her world bringing nothing but heartache and abuse. When she finally is able to make her escape, she meets up with a scruffy, drunken bum. She briefly entertains a fantasy that he will be her frog that will turn into a handsome Prince Charming. Imagine her surprise, when she discovers that he is really a gorgeous, multi-millionaire rancher who wants nothing more than to give her the happy ending she so richly deserves. Actually this description is a charming underlying element in the narrative, but far too simplistic to express the wealth of complexities and underlying emotions in this beautiful story. It is, at it's heart, a story of two souls, each deeply wounded in their own way, who find hope, love, comfort and healing in each others arms. Catherine Anderson is masterful at creating tight plotting, even with somewhat cliched elements, to bring about a heartwarming story.
Rafe Kendrick is a rather dreamy but tortured hero, just the way I like them. I think nearly every woman wants to believe that men like Rafe actually exist (and of course they do, but seem to be a rare breed). I found it to be an incredibly endearing twist to have Rafe fall hopelessly in love with Maggie at first sight, while it took her a little longer. He has a history of being a romantic, as he fell in love at first sight with his first wife as well. It was also a refreshing change to have the hero be the sort of guy who doesn't sleep around with lots of women before finally finding one who captures his heart. Before Maggie, Rafe had only been with one other woman, his first wife, and he loved her very intensely. He was a man of deep emotions who was a kind, gentle, compassionate caregiver to Maggie in every way, both physical and emotional. I love the way that Rafe held himself back from making love to Maggie, giving her time to heal emotionally and learn to trust him. He helped her to do that by indulging in romantic courting rituals even though they were already married. One of my favorite scenes is when Rafe reassures Maggie that her body is still beautiful in spite of the flaws and imperfections that have been brought about by childbirth. Another favorite scene is when he wraps Maggie in his arms while she is nursing the baby, which I thought was a wonderful family bonding moments. I also love it when the hero finds his pregnant or nursing wife beautiful, because so many women are self-conscious about their bodies during that time. I think the thing that endeared me to Rafe the most though was his acceptance, without reservation, of Maggie's past and most especially her son, not hesitating to give Jaimie his name and be a father to him in every way that counts.
Maggie was a wonderful heroine who was not unlike many women who find themselves in abusive situations. The fact that she endured and survived such horrifying abuse and eventually found a way to escape showed a great strength of character in my opinion. She was also never whiny or clingy, always stubbornly insisting on doing for herself as much as possible even to her detriment. She also insisted on paying her own way, nearly driving Rafe to distraction when all he wanted to do was help her, never expecting anything in return. I think that Maggie's devotion to her infant son, Jaimie, who was conceived and born out of incredibly difficult circumstances was nothing short of amazing. Also her love and sense of responsibility for her young sister, Heidi, and her mentally childlike mother was very heartfelt. Yet her conflicted feelings about her own lost childhood because of that responsibility were very realistic and relateable. I love the way that Maggie grew and changed throughout the story, in the end finding strength she never knew she possessed and using her wits to help save herself and her baby from a very dangerous situation.
In Baby Love, Ms. Anderson has woven a wonderful cast of characters from the hero and heroine right down to the supporting characters who are believable and well-written. The Kendricks especially create an amazingly warm and loving family that anyone would be proud to call their own. As heartwarming as the story is though, it is still very heart wrenching as well. As a warning to sensitive readers, I would say that this story is primarily driven by the emotional conflicts of the death of family members, including young children, and the aftermath of horrific abuse. While neither subject, in my opinion, is given a graphic treatment, there is enough descriptive detail to make the reader's heart break for both characters. Sometimes though, heartbreak can make for a wonderfully inspirational story, and Baby Love definitely fits the bill, while also being extremely well-written. One example of this great writing was that early on, Rafe's care and concern began to border on control, leaving Maggie feeling palpably fearful and me a tad uncomfortable as well. True to form though, Ms. Anderson explains his behavior believably, and also gives him a wake-up call and increased self-insight, which was another thing that I loved about his character. There were a couple of minor things that I might have changed though. The description of Rafe's courting of Maggie immediately following their marriage was too brief to suit me, and I thought would have been even more romantic if some of the things they did together had been explored in more detail. There was also one scene in which Rafe lost his temper and said some rather ugly things which were difficult to read, but that I understand were probably necessary to propel the conflict to another level. I have seen other reviewer complaints about having to suspend disbelief in order to read this story, which to some degree is true, but for any reader who is an imaginative and hopeless romantic like I am, this book should be just the thing.
Baby Love is the first book in Ms. Anderson's Kendrick/Coulter/Harrigan series. In it readers are given a strong introduction to Rafe's brother, Ryan, who is just as sweet as Rafe and becomes the hero of the second book, Phantom Waltz. The remaining books in the series up to this point are: Sweet Nothings, Blue Skies, Bright Eyes, My Sunshine, Sun Kissed, and Morning Light, with Star Bright due out in January. Ms. Anderson also has a historical series tied to members of the Coulter family. I have to admit that historical romances are my real reading passion and I don't tend to read a lot of contemporaries, but if they are well-written, I am open minded to trying almost anything. Ms. Anderson is one of those rare authors who is so good at her craft that I can't seem to get enough of her stories no matter which genre they fall into. Baby Love is a story that was simply so good that at times I could barely put it down. I would highly recommend it to all romance readers no matter what their usual genre preference is. It has certainly earned a place on my keeper shelf, and I am eagerly off to read Ryan's story now....more
"4.5 stars" My False Heart was the first book Liz Carlyle wrote and the first book by her that I have read. All I couldReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars" My False Heart was the first book Liz Carlyle wrote and the first book by her that I have read. All I could think of throughout the story and especially after finishing it was that if this is her debut novel, I can't wait to see what else she has to offer in her later works. Ms. Carlyle wrote two absolutely wonderful characters in Elliot and Evangeline, as well as a full complement of secondary characters from friends and relatives to servants. I loved watching Elliot change from a bitter, vengeful, unhappy man to one who had finally found his heart's desire, as well as watching Evie finally learn to rely on someone else instead of feeling like she was all alone in her responsibilities. Elliot was made even more appealing by the inclusion of his daughter, Zoe, and the fact that he loved her deeply, but didn't know how to show it until he met Evie. His interactions with Zoe after that were endearingly awkward, and full of humanity. I adored Evie's eclectic family unit. It was easy to see why Elliot's cold heart was so warmed by all of them. Ms. Carlyle's characterizations made me wish that such a place and family actually existed, so that I might become a member of it too. I found the children to be particularly delightful, and there were even a few adorable pets who played minor roles in helping to set the tone.
All the characters, including the secondary ones, were amazingly well fleshed out. The author makes liberal use of lengthy passages of prose to give readers thorough insights into the characters thoughts and feelings, and to explain their back stories. Ms. Carlyle is masterful at creating truly romantic situations and sexual tension. Even the simplest of kisses became a thoroughly sensual reading experience. The author gives a believable interpretation of two people slowly falling hopelessly and desperately in love. Ms. Carlyle is also masterful at writing completely beautiful and romantic love scenes. She gives the reader the sense that Elliot and Evangeline truly love one another and are not merely lusting after each other in a physical way, as is unfortunately the case with many romance novels. I felt that the characters gave their initial decision great care and consideration and truly gave more of themselves to each other than just their bodies when they made love.
Often, stories that rely on secrets and misunderstandings to create conflict between the hero and heroine can become tedious and annoying, but I found that Ms. Carlyle does such a wonderful job with these elements that they became a believable part of the plot. I like the way that the author slowly feeds the reader bits and pieces of back story as well as the mystery element. It made me keep wanting to come back to the story to find out more about the characters and what happened next. The mystery was done so well that I did not figure it out until shortly before it was revealed in the story and even then, I wasn't sure I had it right until I actually read it. I loved the way that Ms. Carlyle intricately wove many of the secondary characters into the plot, much the way that a spider weaves her web. This made the story much more interesting, as they would often pop up in unexpected places, sometimes adding to the mystery. I really appreciated the author's use of intelligent, as well as historical, words and phrases. I like a story that makes me think, and this one certainly kept me on my toes, with not only it's rich vocabulary, but also it's extensive cast of characters and intricate plot. Ms. Carlyle's use of lush descriptive details transported me to another time and place, making me feel like I was right there watching the events unfold and could feel every emotion that each of the characters felt. Occasionally, I thought that some of the detailed prose could have been pared down just a bit for the sake of conciseness and to pick up the pacing just a little, but overall, I enjoyed the languid nature of the story. I think it really helped to build a believable illusion of the hero and heroine falling in love instead of rushing into it.
While Ms. Carlyle does not seem to officially consider her books to be a series, many of her stories, not surprisingly, have interconnected characters. My False Heart introduces us to Frederica d' Avillez, Evangeline's cousin, who is just a little girl in this story, but who grows up to become the heroine of her own novel, The Devil You Know. It also introduces readers to George Kemble, Elliot's intriguing multi-talented valet, who has such a vast network of acquaintances that he can find out almost any piece of information his employer or anyone else might want to know. Kem currently appears in five more of Ms. Carlyle's novels including A Woman of Virtue, No True Gentleman, The Devil You Know, A Deal with the Devil, and The Devil to Pay. My False Heart was a wonderful book about which I can find little to criticize. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and am anxiously looking forward to reading more of Ms. Carlyle's books as soon as possible. This story was a truly phenomenal first effort from a writer who is clearly incredibly talented, and the book has definitely earned a place on my keeper shelf.
Note: While none of Ms. Carlyle's earlier books seem to be officially considered a series and each seems to stand well on it's own story-wise, I would caution that reading her later books first may give away spoilers to her earlier books. Such is the case when I skipped one book and was left wishing that I had read it first. My suggestion for readers like myself who don't like any spoilers would be to begin with My False Heart and continue reading the books in the chronological order in which she wrote them. It is also my opinion that the reading experience would be greatly enhanced by doing this, because Ms. Carlyle's character web is so complex. The entire backlist, in order, can be found on her website....more
"4.5 stars" Season for Miracles is a tender, heartwarming Christmas love story. Sometimes it is nice to read an uncomplReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars" Season for Miracles is a tender, heartwarming Christmas love story. Sometimes it is nice to read an uncomplicated, character-driven story, and this book definitely fits the bill. It's all about facing the obstacles that life throws in one's path, and making the best decisions you can to overcome them. I thoroughly enjoyed the charming, small-town feel of the Bethlehem, New York setting. I had thought that it was probably a fictional town, and was surprised to discover that such a place actually exists. Marilyn Pappano has created such a warm and inviting atmosphere, it will likely make the reader wish to live there too. The town has a soul-healing quality generated by it's residents and the three guardian angels who watch over and help those in need. I found this story and it's characters to be inspiring and uplifting, giving a true sense of the awe and wonder of the Christmas season and that miracles really do happen. It brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion.
The characters are all absolutely wonderful, with not one evil character in the entire book. Emilie was a very sympathetic heroine who has been through a great deal in her life, and yet never truly has let her difficulties get her down. I loved her commitment to her family, and felt that she was making her decisions the best she could under the circumstances, always with them in mind. Nathan also had a less than ideal upbringing, but in spite of that was a kind, loving and sensitive beta hero. Also, after his first wife and best friend's cruel betrayal, Nathan had little cause to trust anyone, yet he freely opened his heart to Emilie and the children and to the love that the residents of Bethlehem showed him. The children, Alanna, Josie, and Brendan, were beautifully rendered secondary characters with each child having his or her own vivid personality, and each personality being consistent with how children might act in the circumstances in which they had been raised to that point. I liked that the children weren't always perfect angels, sometimes fighting with each other just like all brothers and sisters do. This just made them seem more realistic. The residents of Bethlehem, especially elderly neighbors, Agatha and Corinna, were a joy to read and were the true expression of the town's warmth and charm, really bringing it to life. A reader couldn't ask for a more eclectic and endearing cast of characters.
This story is just so lovely there really isn't anything to truly dislike. It would have been nice if the romance between Nathan and Emilie had been explored a little more deeply. There were times that I felt like the children and the rest of the story overshadowed their relationship a bit, but there were still some lovely scenes between them. There were a few passages of dialog where I felt the author wasn't clear as to which characters were speaking, as well as a few passages where the perspective changes from one character's thoughts to another without full clarity as to which character is thinking which thoughts. It wasn't too bad though, and things became more clear after a second reading of the passage. There were also a few places where Ms. Pappano's general wording could have been a little more clear and concise, but again it wasn't particularly difficult to follow. Overall, this was just a wonderful story in almost every respect.
This was the first book I had read by Marilyn Pappano, but it certainly won't be the last. From very early on, I felt like the story had the feel of a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Hallmark had indeed made the book into a movie also titled, A Season for Miracles, which I am very eager to watch. Season for Miracles is the first book in Ms. Pappano's Bethlehem series, a group of stories which all take place in the tight-knit community for which the series is named. The remaining titles in the series are Some Enchanted Season, Father to Be, Gabriel's Angel (a novella from the Yours 2 Keep anthology), First Kiss, Getting Lucky, Heaven on Earth, Cabin Fever, and Small Wonders. The first two books in the series both center around the holiday season. Season for Miracles was an enchanting keeper of a book which I hope to make a Christmas tradition. I am also looking forward to reading the other books in the Bethlehem series, as well as exploring the non-Bethlehem books that Ms. Pappano has written....more
"4.5 stars overall" Holiday Spirit by Kay Hooper – Although Holiday Spirit had the well-worn romance novel cliché of aReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars overall" Holiday Spirit by Kay Hooper – Although Holiday Spirit had the well-worn romance novel cliché of a misunderstanding coupled with a lack of communication as it's main premise, there was the added uniqueness of some ghostly characters and the intrigue of the ill-fated love affair of Antonia's ancestors to help enliven the plot. Sometimes in a novella, it can be difficult for the author to fully capture the essence of their characters, but Kay Hooper made good use of the short story format to make me care about her characters, both human and ghost. I enjoyed finding out the history of the ghostly lovers right along with the heroine. While their story was both romantic and tragic, they, with a little help from Antonia's grandmother, were able to bring about a reconciliation between Antonia and Richard, which I also enjoyed reading. I tend to like stories about lost love that is found again. The Christmas theme was secondary to the rest of the story, but I think there is no greater gift one can give or receive during the holidays besides love. Overall, I found Holiday Spirit to be a quick and easy read that held my attention well with it's light mystery surrounding the tragic lovers, while at the same time being very romantic and sensuous. This was the first time I had read anything by Kay Hooper, and I will definitely be checking out other works by her in the future. Rating: ****
Surrender by Lisa Kleypas – For a short story, I thought that Surrender was quite well written. It can be difficult in the novella format for an author to fully develop the characters and plot, but Lisa Kleypas has done a masterful job. I found both Jason and Laura to be likable characters. For all his brooding cynicism on the outside, Jason was kind and sensitive on the inside, and for all her tension and fearfulness on the outside, Laura was spirited and passionate on the inside. I enjoyed reading the story of a couple, who even after two months of marriage really don't know each other at all, but were able to discover new levels of intimacy in their relationship. Being part Irish, I also liked reading about the Irish immigrants of that era, including all the prejudices and poverty that they suffered. This element just made the story seem more realistic. The “opposite sides of the tracks” aspect of the story was very appealing, and I found the Victorian Boston setting to be rather unique, as I haven't read any other romance stories in that setting. The story is also infused with plenty of Ms. Kleypas' trademark loving sensuality, which I personally find very beautiful. Overall, I thought that Surrender was a wonderfully romantic novella that is on par with Ms. Kleypas' full-length novels, and one that I highly enjoyed reading. It reminded me in many ways of her book, Again the Magic. Surrender has earned a spot on my keeper shelf alongside several of Ms. Kleypas' other works. Rating: ****1/2
Note: Both of these stories are reissues that were previously seen in other holiday-themed anthologies....more
I found myself having a love/hate relationship with this book. I really wanted to like the story and the characters, but there were many things I dislI found myself having a love/hate relationship with this book. I really wanted to like the story and the characters, but there were many things I disliked about both. I will admit that Laura Kinsale is a talented author who writes with intelligence, but I think perhaps her writing style is a bit too intense for my taste. I love tortured heroes, but in my opinion, Gryf's torment was overdone to the point of being depressing. I prefer to watch troubled souls change and grow throughout the course of the story to overcome their adversity, but Gryf was not like this at all. Instead he became more and more miserable as the story progressed, until magically everything suddenly turned into wine and roses in the last few pages. There was a part of me that truly sympathized with him, but another part that was incredibly annoyed with him. I did mostly like Tess. At least she had some spunk, pursued Gryf when he didn't want to acknowledge his feelings, and fought to save him from his worst enemy, himself.
I thought that the story had some pacing issues. Sometimes it was so interesting I didn't want to put it down, yet other times I found it to be pretty dull. I became exhausted by the on-again/off-again relationship of the hero and heroine. They would get together at the beginning of a chapter and be separated again by the end. I found this to be very frustrating, and it continued throughout the entire book. In spite of all the annoyances though, I seemed compelled to keep reading, but I have a feeling it was more because I was anxiously awaiting anything good that might happen to these two characters than anything else. This is definitely a character-driven story that doesn't have a great deal of plot, yet spans a rather epic 2-3 years from beginning to end. Readers who like dark, intense romances may enjoy this, but for me it was a humorless tale that was no walk in the park....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I've seen a number of Loretta Chase fans say that The Last Hellion is equally as good if not better than her incomparable LordReviewed for THC Reviews I've seen a number of Loretta Chase fans say that The Last Hellion is equally as good if not better than her incomparable Lord of Scoundrels which is part of the same series. Before I had even finished the first chapter, I could see why. It began with a prologue which explored the hero's background, creating a sympathetic character right from the start who had some pretty good reasons for being a hellion and a dissolute rake. Then readers are introduced to a highly unconventional heroine who is his match in both wit and intelligence. From there, it took on its own form and tone which in some ways was similar to Lord of Scoundrels but in other ways quite different, and although it didn't entirely measure up to that perennial favorite for me, it was a very good story in its own right.
Oddly enough, I felt that the narrative focused a little more on the heroine than the hero, which is rather unusual for a romance. Lydia was a bluestocking journalist, an independent, working woman of the middle-class. She spent the early years of her childhood growing up in poverty until an aunt and uncle took her in as a teen. She does have some family ties to Dain the hero of Lord of Scoundrels, and has watched him from afar for years. However, Lydia has never been a part of the Ballister family, because her mother was essentially disowned when she married Lydia's father. Even though she wasn't nurtured in the Ballister family fold, her bloodlines definitely show through in her feisty temper and spirited personality. Much like Dain was nicknamed Beelzebub, Lydia has been dubbed such things as Lady Grendel, the monster, and dragon-lady. It makes her sound pretty terrible, and on the outside she was full of vim and vinegar, but inside, I think she had a bit of a romantic's heart even if she wouldn't admit it. What I loved about her was how she took up the cause of women everywhere, because of the tragedy which befell her own mother and sister. When it came to women and children, she was a real soft-heart. I enjoyed reading about her trying to rescue young girls who were being tricked into prostitution, and how she boldly wrote the ugly truth about living conditions for impoverished women and other social issues, not caring one whit what others thought of her for it. She was a real scrapper too, and I couldn't help but laugh when she managed to knock Vere on his backside at their first meeting. Lydia was just full of brashness and ingenuity. I'm a very different sort of person than Lydia, so I can't say that I related to her on a really deep level. I will admit though that aside from when her feminist ideals started to get in the way of her possibly marrying Vere, I did admire her in many ways.
Vere, of course, is the subject of the book's title. He considers himself to be the last hellion in the Mallory family line, and as such behaves like one quite often. Mostly though it's about him trying to cover up the pain of loosing a large number of family members to accidental death and illness in a very short span of time. In fact, he was far from being the next in line for the title of Duke, but ended up with it, when everyone else passed away. He's almost as unconventional as Lydia, never really behaving much like a high-ranking member of the nobility. The image Vere projects to the public at large is one of a cynical, dissolute rakehell who cares for no one but himself, but buried beneath all that bluster, is an honorable man who tries to do the right thing. It takes a while for Vere to realize that he bears no fault for the sad and unfortunate demises of his relatives, and that it is OK to be a “good” man.
Vere and Lydia together are almost like oil and water. Normally, I'm not a big fan of love/hate relationships or of couples who spend a large part of the story bickering, but I couldn't help but like them especially in the beginning when they're first getting to know one another. The sarcastic wit that they employ in their bantering was pure genius, and it also built some excellent sexual tension between the pair. I was completely expecting a passionate explosion when they finally gave in to their desires, but the love scenes were a little more subdued than that and consequently, a bit disappointing. The thing I really liked about all their fighting is that the author very subtly lets the reader in on the fact that it is mostly just a form of posturing to mask their fears and insecurities. Lydia wears her tough girl mask to hide the frightened little girl inside, and refuses to allow bad things to happen to her or anyone like her again. Vere hides behind his mask of dissolution and indifference to hide the pain and grief of loosing so many loved ones. Bringing out these emotions in Lydia and Vere, albeit from a distance, was an ingenious way to help the reader understand what makes them tick.
The Last Hellion had a sizable cast of secondary characters. Dain and Jessica (Lord of Scoundrels) both appeared, as did Dain's son. Vere has a pair of errant young wards, Elizabeth and Emily, who share their cousin's penchant for getting into trouble. Helena Martin, who first appeared in Captives of the Night, plays one of Lydia's best friends and confidants. Francis Beaumont who was murdered in that same book also appears, so this story apparently comes before Captives of the Night chronologically even though it falls later in the series. He is involved with a madame who becomes Lydia's arch-enemy when she rescues a hapless girl from her clutches. Lydia took that girl, Tamsin, who is a real sweetheart, into her home, where she became Lydia's other best friend and biggest supporter. Then there is the highly amusing Bertie Trent who ended up being a good friend for Vere. Bertie is a little slow on the uptake. In fact, he can be an utter nitwit at times, but he has a good heart that makes him quite endearing. He is so completely different from the type of guys Vere usually hangs out with that it made him the perfect foil. Bertie previously appeared in Lord of Scoundrels and The Mad Earl's Bride. In a weird sort of way, I had liked him in both of those stories and was happy to see him finally get his own HEA.
Overall, The Last Hellion was a very good read. The main thing that kept it from being a keeper for me is that the pacing was a little slow in places, particularly in the middle between the time that Vere proposed and the scenes where they were informed that Vere's cousins were in grave trouble. At that point, I found my mind wandering more than it had at other places in the book, and I felt that the previous wittiness had either lost some it's edge or had started to wear thin on me. Otherwise, The Last Hellion was a good wrap-up for the Scoundrels series that I would definitely recommend to my fellow romance readers particularly those who have previously enjoyed Lord of Scoundrels or Loretta Chase's other works....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I usually enjoy stories that break from the norm of historical romance, and Longing is just such a book, exhibiting a number oReviewed for THC Reviews I usually enjoy stories that break from the norm of historical romance, and Longing is just such a book, exhibiting a number of unique qualities. The typical Victorian romance would probably be set in England amidst the backdrop of ton balls and house parties, but Longing is set in a small industrial village in Wales. Although the hero owns a large, ornate castle, very little of the action takes place there, and except for a couple of brief afternoon teas, none of the usual social trappings occur. The majority of scenes take place in the humble confines of the town of Cwmbran (Coom-bran), and better yet, the beautiful hills surrounding it. The heroine has a stunning voice and competes in a music festival, which surrounded by the loveliness of the hills, kind of reminded me of The Sound of Music. I really felt like Mary Balogh captured the allure of the land and the culture of the proud people of Wales. Longing also has a strong historical element, detailing the Chartist Movement, the first and largest organized labor movement of its kind, which was meant to bring about political and social reform particularly for the workers in mining and industry. I can see how these topics might not be very exciting to some readers, but since I've always had an interest in politics and social issues, it was rather intriguing to me. The author even included a couple of the real-life organizers of the movement as characters. I really liked how the author took a middle-of-the-road stance, showing the good and bad on both sides of the issue. Of course, there were mine owners who didn't want to give the workers basic rights and better pay for fear of loosing profits, but there were also those among the Welsh, known as Scotch Cattle, who attempted to strong-arm anyone who refused to follow their cause by terrorizing them. Overall, Longing was a very different sort of historical romance and in many ways that was a good thing.
I must say that the book was very aptly titled, because nearly everyone in the story, particularly the hero and heroine, experiences a deep longing or Hireath in the Gaelic language. Mary Balogh has a slightly different writing style than what I'm used to, almost what I might call a more literary style. There are certain elements in her prose, such as some repetition, which in other hands would probably annoy me, but Ms. Balogh's writing has a very lyrical quality to it which draws out the feelings of yearning so that the reader can palpably sense them. Admittedly though, this also gave the story a rather languid pace, when at times, I would have preferred for things to move a bit faster. I'm a big fan of love-overcomes-all stories, but this one just took a little too long to get there for me. The hero and heroine pine for each other and for the things they believe they cannot have right up until the last few pages. When taken in the proper historical context, I can't exactly fault them for waiting so long, and in the meantime their interactions were very tender and sweet. One of my favorite scenes was after the music festival when they were crossing back over the mountain and took a moment to revel in the simple, quiet pleasure of each other's company. Ms. Balogh may have a more subdued method for conveying emotion, but I found it to still be pretty powerful nonetheless.
Sian was the illegitimate daughter of an English aristocrat who had been raised in relative luxury compared to how she lives at the beginning of the story. She is cramped into one small house with her grandparents and widowed uncle, and after the death of her husband, has also braved the hardships of working in the coal mines. Sian is a woman who is caught between two worlds, not feeling like she completely belongs in either one, but striving hard to be accepted by her mother's people. Then Alex, the owner of the mine and ironworks, comes to town and shakes up her well-ordered world by offering her a position as governess to his young, vivacious daughter, which she eventually accepts because a part of her misses that easier life. Sian was a pretty stubborn lady which at times served her well by giving her incredible strength to endure extreme difficulties and stand up to those who would bully her. At other times, her obstinacy was somewhat annoying, particularly when she kept insisting to herself that she could never be a part of Alex's world and therefore belonged with another man. Overall though, I understood Sian's actions most of the time and had to admit having respect for her even when she was making choices that I probably wouldn't have.
Alexander inherited the village of Cwmbran and all it's industry from an uncle who had no heirs. Previously, Alex had lived a quiet life on a rural estate in England, and when he comes to Wales for a change of pace, he doesn't really know anything about running a mine and ironworks but is determined to learn. He is an idealist who truly believes in mercy and justice, and is very open-minded to the plight of his workers. He wants to help them better their lives, but on a much smaller, more local scale than most of the Welsh people are hoping for, so he is constantly running up against stubborn opposition to his ideas, both from them and from other mine owners in neighboring valleys. Alex also takes his responsibility to his workers very seriously with the obligation weighing quite heavily on his shoulders. I really admired his commitment to social justice and change and his determination to keep going even though he sometimes felt like it would be easier and everyone would be happier if he just went back to England. Alex was a very sensitive, gentle man especially with Sian and his daughter, Verity. He was much more of a beta hero, in my opinion, although he did have a bit of an alpha protective streak, but was very controlled in meting out punishment. He was also a fabulous hands-on father. The only thing that bothered me slightly about Alex was that he offered more than once to make Sian his mistress, but I thought the author did a good job of showing that he was merely a product of the era and social station into which he was born. It was abundantly clear that he loved Sian to distraction, and I do believe that if it wasn't for the social strictures of the time, he would have had her down the aisle in a heartbeat. Overall, Alex was a very appealing hero, and I'm not sure I could have resisted the way Sian did even when he was only offering for her to be his mistress.
The main thing in this story that wasn't really my cup of tea was the unexpected love triangle between Alex, Sian and Owen, a Welsh ironworker who had been courting Sian for a while before Alex came to town. I'm simply not fond of love triangles in general, but this was something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I felt that the scenes with Sian and Owen at the beginning took away time that she could have been spending with Alex, and I also felt that Sian was perhaps giving up a little too easily by accepting second best. On the other hand though, I grudgingly concede that it did add a lot to the conflict and the sense of “longing.” This whole part of the story was very complex with Owen not being quite what he seems in the beginning, but also never quite being the villain either in spite of him doing some pretty bad things with which I strongly disagreed. This being the case, my feelings surrounding the love triangle element were pretty complex as well. In some ways, Sian's back and forth between Alex and Owen frustrated me even though I knew her feelings for each of them was very different, yet at the same time, I understood it in a way as well.
In spite of a few elements which I normally don't care for, Longing was a fairly pleasant read. It was something of a Cinderella tale, but with much more realism than the average fairy tale type story. Because of it's uniqueness, it managed to feed a different part of my brain than some other romances, while still being equally enjoyable. Longing was my first read by Mary Balogh, and even though I've seen some mediocre ratings for it, this book turned out to be a good choice for me. I've heard many favorable things about Ms. Balogh as an author, so I look forward to checking out more of her books soon....more
Phantom Waltz is a slow, sweet love story that expresses true love in it's purest form, a selfless giving of two peopleReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
Phantom Waltz is a slow, sweet love story that expresses true love in it's purest form, a selfless giving of two people to each other in every way. Except for a couple of incidents, there isn't much action to speak of. Most of the conflict revolves around overcoming the heroine's disability and her emotions surrounding it, just good old-fashioned character driven romance. I must say that Catherine Anderson is masterful at character development, creating both primary and secondary characters that are easy to like and care about. There were lots of incredibly romantic moments, such as Ryan and Bethany's first date and kiss, Ryan arranging for them to dance, and their private exchange of vows in the wilderness to name a few. There were also a few laugh-out-loud funny moments, my favorite of which was their flirtatious exchange at her family's ranch supply store, when Ryan was looking for his “missing parts”. You have to read it to see what I'm talking about, but it had me rolling on the floor. Also Bethany's cat who makes friends with Ryan's bull is a hoot. Although, there were parts in the story where Ryan and Bethany could have communicated better, I was generally impressed with their openness with one another and with their families, often talking freely about subjects that would make many people cringe with embarrassment. I like stories in which the main characters are friends before becoming romantically involved, so it was very enjoyable to read about the building of Ryan and Bethany's friendship. One of Ms. Anderson's trademarks that I really like is that her characters aren't prefect and they make mistakes in their relationships, but they usually seem to learn a valuable lesson and gain self-insight in the process. It makes for a lot of character growth throughout the book which is something I enjoy immensely in story-telling. Other than one incident involving Bethany near the end of the book which I have detailed below, I found the character growth in this story to be satisfying.
I couldn't help but adore all the Kendrick men, Ryan, his brother, Rafe (Baby Love) and their father, Keefe. They all seem to fall hard, love fiercely, and protect their women with a vengeance, just the way I like my heroes. Both Ryan and Rafe were willing to lay down their lives for the women they loved which I find incredibly romantic. I liked the way that Catherine Anderson created love and romance in this story not just for the young, but also the young at heart. I thought it was really sweet that Keefe and Ann Kendrick were still madly in love and enjoying a healthy sex life after some thirty odd years of marriage. It was also adorable that the hardened ranch foreman, Sly, had fallen in love with Maggie's mother, Helen (Baby Love). Even though Bethany's parents played a smaller part in the story, they also had been married for many years and had a committed, loving relationship.
Bethany was a very interesting heroine. I had never read a heroine who was a paraplegic before, and I have to give Ms. Anderson kudos for writing a character who was so unique. I came away from reading this story feeling like I had learned something about paraplegia and had been given at least a small sense of what a person who is confined to a wheelchair must feel like. It was an eye opening experience, and I love any story that is intelligent enough to teach me something new. Bethany had a great personality too, a wonderful mix of shy, sweet innocence and sass gained from being the only girl growing up with five older brothers. Although she at times felt imprisoned by her wheelchair, she still had a certain zest for life which was understandably irresistible to Ryan. Even though I found Bethany to be a likable character, there were a couple of things about her than bothered me a bit. One was that I felt she was a little too tense, and took too long in my opinion, to simply let go and enjoy the attention that Ryan was lavishing on her and to realize that for him, seeing her happy made him happy too. There was also a part where Bethany was talking to virtual strangers about her sex life, in an attempt to figure out how to please Ryan, when I thought that she should have been communicating with him directly. While the whole scenario created both some amusement and some conflict which brought interest to the story, I just felt like a little more openness and honesty between them might have been in order. Eventually it happened, but just not quite soon enough to suit me. In addition, her reaction at the end of the book to a major crisis kind of frustrated me. I had thought by that time she had finally released her fears and reservations about their relationship and had accepted that she was not a burden to Ryan, so when she did an abrupt about face, it really took me by surprise. Even though there was a part of me that understood that Bethany thought she was doing this for selfless reasons, one could definitely make a strong case that there can be a fine line between selfless and selfish, and it seemed to me that her decision was made more out of fear than love. I just really like stories in which love overcomes everything including fear, which eventually it did, but I would have preferred that it had taken a different path to get there. The book still had a happy ending though, and all's well that ends well, I suppose.
Ryan was an incredibly wonderful and dreamy hero who was completely accepting of Bethany's disability, always seeing the person and not just the wheelchair. He surprised her from the first day they met, and the surprises never seemed to end. Even though he wasn't 100% honest about his future intentions toward her, I thought it was very sweet how Ryan backed off on any kind of physical interactions, including kissing, in order to build a loving friendship with Bethany first. From there he completely wowed her into accepting his proposal by creating solutions to any and all arguments she might make against marriage and treating her like a princess. He was incredibly kind and patient with her always, but especially as they explored her fears and concerns over her possible sexual inadequacies due to her disability. Ryan was very creative, using pure ingenuity to come up with all sorts of ideas and inventions to make Bethany's life easier and more fulfilling, and most of all restoring the freedom she had craved since her accident. Best of all he put his life on the line for her, which is something I couldn't imagine any woman being able to resist.
Phantom Waltz is the second book in Catherine Anderson's Kendrick/Coulter/Harrigan series. Readers get to visit with Rafe and Maggie and some of the secondary characters from Baby Love, the first book, and see where they are a couple of years later. We also get a good introduction to Bethany's brother, Jake, who becomes the hero of the third book, Sweet Nothings. Bethany's other four brothers are also mentioned and each of them gets their own book as well. The remaining books in the series in order are Blue Skies, Bright Eyes, My Sunshine, Sun Kissed and Morning Light, with the next installment, Star Bright, due out early next year. While there were a few things about Phantom Waltz that I thought could have been better, I still enjoyed it quite a bit. It was a sweet and gentle story full of truly romantic scenes. At this point, I have read and enjoyed enough of Ms. Anderson's books that she has definitely earned a place on my favorite authors list....more