Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" This short, thirty-page novella used to be considered the second story in the Dark-Hunter series, and that is theReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" This short, thirty-page novella used to be considered the second story in the Dark-Hunter series, and that is the order in which I read it. It gives an introduction to Acheron, and tells how he became the leader of the Dark-Hunters. Despite it's brevity, I found the tale to be very engaging, something of a missing chapter in the saga. In such a short space, Ms. Kenyon managed to create a character who was extremely intriguing, and I am anxious to read more about Acheron in the future. If I had read this novella on it's own without knowledge of it's connecting stories, I probably would have found it to be unsatisfying, but knowing that there is so much more to come, it simply whetted my appetite for future offerings in the Dark-Hunter series. The Beginning is now found in its entirety within the full-length novel, Acheron. It was previously published as a separate novella in the back of early editions of Sins of the Night, and can now also be read on Sherrilyn Kenyon's website for free....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews One Christmas Knight is a sweet, gentle romance that was analogous to the biblical story of Mary and Joseph. It features an “iReviewed for THC Reviews One Christmas Knight is a sweet, gentle romance that was analogous to the biblical story of Mary and Joseph. It features an “immaculate” conception and a heroine who is stranded by a snowstorm in a town filled with other travelers and “no room at the inn.” Ultimately, she gives birth on Christmas night in the back of a semi-truck named The Blue Starr with no one to help but the hero. This was yet another of the love-at-first-sight stories that seem to be so common in the romances I've read, but at least the author created a credible emotional bond between the characters by having them share a rather extraordinary experience together. Afterward, they separated for a little while, giving them both a chance to make sure that their feeling for each other were real, and not just the result of an emotional high. These things made the story somewhat more believable to me. The book had lots of descriptive passages and introspection on the part of both Mirabella and Jimmy Joe which made the narrative move at a languid but steady pace. I think the pace could have been picked up a bit, perhaps with the inclusion of a little more dialog, and it might have been nice if the couple would have had a little more interaction and “getting-to-know-you” time following the big event before committing to a lifetime together, but overall, I don't really have any major complaints about the storytelling.
The hero, Jimmy Joe was really the best part of One Christmas Knight. He certainly was a “knight in shining armor,” a sweet, sensitive beta hero who was also a perfect Southern gentleman. I liked him so much it made me want to make a trip down south to see what I've been missing.;-) Jimmy Joe was a devoted single father who had know the pain of loss in his life which made him very sympathetic. His career as a long-haul truck driver and all the fun trucker lingo brought back fond memories of a kind truck driver who “rescued” my mother and I many years ago when our car was stranded by the side of the same highway in the story, and I also have an uncle who also used to be in that same line of work. I think having had these experiences in my life made Jimmy Joe seem more real to me, but it was truly just his charming nature, patience, gentleness and intuitiveness with Mirabella that made him irresistible to me.
On the other hand, I wasn't quite as quick to warm up to Mirabella. It wasn't that I actually disliked her, but I can't say that I enthusiastically liked her either. I think it was just that she was a little too stubborn and independent for my taste, often acting like she absolutely didn't need a man in her life at all. I'm fine with career-minded women who wait until later in life for relationships and family. In fact, I thought that Bella wanting to wait for Mr. Right (but never finding him) was admirable, but what bothered me about her was that she seemed to need to be in control too much. It was in the moments when she was able to let go and be a little bit vulnerable, when Jimmy Joe was able to break through her barriers, that I liked her more. Also, for such an obstinate woman she seemed to say, “I can't” a little too often, which is something that Jimmy Joe humorously pointed out to her at one point. In the end, I still thought that Mirabella and Jimmy Joe were as different as oil and water. It was difficult to see how they were going to “mix,” but I guess opposites attract all the time. I just usually like my heroes and heroines to have a bit more in common, though I'll have to say that readers who enjoy May-December romances with an older heroine should like this one.
One Christmas Knight is the first book in The Sisters Waskowitz series. It introduces Mirabella's best friend, Charly, who becomes the heroine of the next book, One More Knight, in which she is paired with Troy Starr, who I think may be one of Jimmy Joe's brothers, though I don't believe he was mentioned by name in this book. Also, Mirabella's two sisters, Sommer and Eve, the heroines of the other two books in the series, One Summer's Knight and Eve's Wedding Knight, receive a brief mention. In addition, One Christmas Knight spawned a spin-off series, The Starrs of the West, which features other members of Jimmy Joe's family as heroes and heroines. One Christmas Knight was a light, easy novel that was a nice way to wrap up my holiday reading. It was my first book by Kathleen Creighton, and I liked it well enough to explore other books from both series in the future. ...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" A Town Called Christmas is a sweet, easy holiday read that celebrates not only romance, but the warmth and simplicReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" A Town Called Christmas is a sweet, easy holiday read that celebrates not only romance, but the warmth and simplicity of hearth and home with a family Christmas in small town America. I really liked the close-knit ties of the York clan, and that even though they didn't exactly approve of Merry's out-of-wedlock pregnancy, they were nonetheless very supportive. I also enjoyed their family-owned Christmas tree farm and snack bar/gift shop that was a very important part of the little town of Christmas, Michigan (which according to the author's note at the beginning of the story, is a town that actually exists). The Christmas parade and festivities were cute and reminiscent of ones I've seen before in my days as a small-town girl. I could also appreciate the big family gathering on Christmas day which again was very much like ones that I attended in my youth and occasionally as an adult. All these elements really came together to give the story a very festive holiday feel.
The hero and heroine were both likable characters, with Mike as an active-duty Navy fighter pilot stationed in the Persian Gulf (presumably for the Iraq war, though that isn't specifically stated), and Merry as an expectant single mother who had moved back home to manage her family's business after her father's heart-attack. While I liked Mike and Merry both individually and as a couple, what didn't really work for me was the short time frame of the initiation of their relationship which was only one week. Readers are supposed to believe that this was love at first sight, and even though the author gave the story a nice infusion of emotions which is a must in making these types of stories believable to me, I still couldn't quite buy it. After much contemplation, I realized that during their short week together, Mike and Merry's conversations and interactions rarely went to a deep personal level. In fact, Merry didn't even officially tell Mike who the father of her baby was until he was nearly ready to leave town, and in all honesty, the circumstances of the pregnancy were a little weak to begin with, in my opinion. Also, Mike's over-active sense of commitment to certain people, born out of his father's accidental death years before, wasn't explored fully enough for me to completely understand him. Because Mike and Merry both initially felt that a long-term relationship would be impossible, due to a need to come to terms with their past mistakes, as well as present circumstances (the baby and his military service), it seemed that they, for the most part, held each other at arms length instead of totally giving into their feelings. Even after their correspondence during his six-month deployment following Christmas (an entire chapter is devoted to their letters and emails to one another) and subsequent reunion, I still didn't fully and completely feel their commitment to and love for one another.
In spite of Mike and Merry's relationship not being quite there for me, this was still a pleasant read. I did feel something between them, even if it wasn't quite enough to thoroughly satisfy me. There were also several secondary romances to enjoy: Merry's brother and Mike's best friend, Nicky and his wife, Shannon, who were high-school sweethearts, now married, and still hopelessly in love; Merry and Nicky's younger sister, Noelle, and her long-time boyfriend, Jeff; Merry's best friend, Jackie, and the town's geeky author of romance and mystery books, Oliver. These were all cute and likable romances in themselves, and I don't think I've ever read a novel that had so many different side romances going on at one time. These characters and many others gave A Town Called Christmas an extensive and varied supporting cast. Even though the story was very simple and I can't quite say it wowed me, it did give me a festive dose of Christmas cheer. Any reader who is looking to lift their spirits with a light, family-centric tale this holiday season would likely find A Town Called Christmas with it's warm, cozy atmosphere to be an agreeable way to spend a few reading hours. This was my first read by Carrie Alexander, but it has left me open to perhaps trying some of her other stories in the future.
Note:A Town Called Christmas is part of the multi-author series 9 Months Later, a theme series by Harlequin in which each story involves a pregnancy. A Town Called Christmas is #55 in this series, but to my knowledge is a stand-alone novel with no connection to other books in the series except the theme....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Do you believe in Christmas miracles? Do you believe in guardian angels? My guess is that most readers of this booReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Do you believe in Christmas miracles? Do you believe in guardian angels? My guess is that most readers of this book will either want to believe or have their beliefs reconfirmed after reading this enchanting tale. Marilyn Pappano has woven yet another magical Christmas story in the little town of Bethlehem, New York, a place that is watched over by a very special guardian angel. Some Enchanted Season is all about redemption and reconciliation, as well as the precious gift of love that was once lost but found again. I don't think I have ever read a romance novel in which the hero and heroine are already married at the beginning of the story, but are essentially estranged and must find their way back to the deep love they once shared. I wasn't sure if I would like it, because I don't usually care for a lot of relationship conflict in my romance and prefer to watch the couple go through all the ups and downs of new love. Well, I ended up thoroughly enjoying this captivating story that was filled with depth and emotion. While there was conflict, it didn't seem at all overdone due to past circumstances, and when misunderstandings arose they never lasted long. All things considered, I thought that Ross and Maggie communicated pretty well. It was also wonderful watching them rediscover their love that had never truly died but had been long buried under a heavy weight of ambition, anger, resentment and guilt. Having them reignite the passion that had marked the early years of their marriage, and learn that true love can overcome and forgive a world of hurt and past mistakes was equally wondrous.
Ross and Maggie were a very likable and relatable couple with a story that was very believable and realistic. The Ross readers see at the beginning of the book is the type of character that it would be very easy to dislike. He is a deeply ambitious man who became obsessed with money and power to the point that it blinded him to the truth of what's really important in life. Ross had also made a huge mistake and the revelation of that event is what led to the horrific accident that changed Maggie's existence forever. Normally this type of element in a romance novel would be a major turnoff for me, but as the story progressed, I found myself understanding quite well what had led Ross to this dark place, making him a very sympathetic character. Also, his intense remorse and self-loathing for his pasts sins, his fear of loosing Maggie forever which made him vulnerable, and the gentle, respectful way he treats Maggie all came together to make me truly like Ross, warts and all. The magic of Bethlehem has a way of healing the people who come there, and Ross was no exception. His change of heart from an almost Scrooge-like character as well as the emotional growth he exhibited were nothing short of miraculous and exceptionally heartwarming. Maggie was an incredibly strong woman who had endured the past half-dozen years of her contentious marriage as well as eleven months of painful surgeries, recovery, and rehab with her spirit, dignity and dreams for the future still mostly intact. I also thought that she had a very big heart to forgive Ross for all the past hurts he had caused and be willing to make a forever commitment to their marriage. Occasionally she was a bit short-tempered with him, which was pretty understandable given their history, but she was apologetic when appropriate. Maggie's growth and changes weren't quite as dramatic as Ross's, but she ultimately completed her healing process, both physically and emotionally in Bethlehem.
The town of Bethlehem really comes to life in such as way as to almost be a character unto itself, but I think that is owed more to it's gentle guardian angel, Noelle, and the host of warm, friendly townspeople who made me feel like I had just walked into a Currier & Ives painting. There are many carry-over characters from the first book of the series, Season for Miracles, including the hero and heroine of that story, Nathan and Emilie, and their family, as well as the Winchester sisters, two adorable old ladies who are like the world's best grandmothers to everyone, the Thomases, the Walkers, Harry and Maeve from the diner, and Holly McBride, the owner of the only inn in town. There was a little side plot about the Thomases desperate desire to have a baby, but so far being unable to, and a possible budding romance between Harry and Maeve. I will be interested to see if these stories are continued in future books in the series. Readers are also introduced to several new characters who will play major roles in other books. Dr. J. D. Grayson, a handsome psychiatrist, loves kids, left the big city for small-town life, and becomes the hero of the next book, Father To Be. Ross's cynical, cut-throat attorney, Tom Flynn, gets paired with the feisty Holly in book #5, First Kiss, and his personal assistant, Lynda Barone, becomes the heroine of book #6, Getting Lucky. Also, Leanne Wilson, the owner of the local baby boutique, becomes the heroine of book #9, Small Wonders. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but each one lends something special to the story, and really helps to bring it to life.
I found Some Enchanted Season to be a sweet slice-of-life romance that was a near-perfect joy to read. The only thing that might have been better is if both characters had done a little less redundant inner protesting. For example, Ross would begin to wonder if all he really needed was a little moderation in his business dealings to have a life, but then would immediately discard the idea thinking that his business was his life. He repeated this line of thinking quite a few times, even though it was obvious that he was already beginning to make changes. Maggie also had similar repeated introspections about whether their marriage was truly over, but I guess maybe they just needed time to convince themselves of the truth. Otherwise the plot was tight, and even though the ending seemed a tad rushed, it was still satisfying. Since Ross and Maggie spent a lot of time holding each other at arms length because of fears and trying to convince themselves that a divorce was the only resolution to their problems, their relationship progressed at a languid but steady pace, but until they figure things out, there is some nice sexual tension in the form of intense memories of the passionate early years of their marriage. In between, the pages of the story are filled with the mystical enchantment of the holiday season and all the events surrounding it that are so much a part of small-town life. Anyone looking for a holiday read to really put you in the Christmas spirit should look no further. Some Enchanted Season left me with the feeling of curling up in a warm blanket on a cold winter's day, and renewed my belief that miracles truly can happen, not only at Christmas, but any time of the year. It can be paired with it's predecessor in the Bethlehem series, Season for Miracles, for a double-dose of heartwarming holiday cheer. Both have earned a spot on my keeper shelf, and with two winners in a row Marilyn Pappano has earned a spot on my favorite authors list. I can't wait to dive into the remaining books in the Bethlehem series, Father To Be, Gabriel's Angel (a novella from the Yours 2 Keep anthology), First Kiss, Getting Lucky, Heaven on Earth, Cabin Fever, and Small Wonders, and explore some of the other books on Ms. Pappano's backlist....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Typically I prefer my romances to have enough realism in them to be believable, but still have the illusion of a fantasy. WhatReviewed for THC Reviews Typically I prefer my romances to have enough realism in them to be believable, but still have the illusion of a fantasy. What She Wants for Christmas, in my opinion, had a pretty heavy dose of reality to the point that it felt like I was reading about the rather mundane day to day lives of the residents of a rural Washington town with something of a focus on the hero and heroine. I know that there are readers who enjoy this type of storytelling, so from that perspective, I can see how this book might be very appealing to some. For me though, it was a little on the bland side. Also, for a novel that has “Christmas” in the title, I expected it to be more “Christmas-y”, but the holiday season really only came into play during the last third of the book. I ended up feeling like the story could have taken place at any time of the year, and the holiday was little more than an afterthought. In addition, I didn't feel like Joe and Teresa spent enough time together on the canvas. They each had plenty of scenes interacting with the various townspeople, including their families, but there seemed to be very long stretches in between the couple's alone times. They went on several dates during the months after they met, but for the most part they weren't covered in much detail nor was there a lot of deep discussion or strong emotional interactions between them. Not surprisingly, my two favorite scenes in the book were ones that conveyed some of these more intense feelings, one being their first love scene and the other being where Joe finally reveals his secret to Teresa. Still, they weren't quite perfect. The love scene was one of those anger turned to passion moments (not my favorites), but I could at least sense Joe's fear of possibly loosing Teresa and his desperate need to connect on another level. The revelation of his secret was more profound, but then he stubbornly pushed Teresa away in the end.
Perhaps it was the ordinariness of the story itself, but neither Joe nor Teresa ever really stood out to me. Joe was tortured by his secret, which in most cases would have made him very sympathetic to me, but I felt he was being a little too obstinate for the circumstances. While I understood that he had endured a lot of ridicule and intense struggles during his years growing up with this challenge, general understanding of his problem has advanced in recent years to the point where I think he could have done something to attempt to overcome it. Instead he chose to live with the status quo and simply not even try. His family had been supportive of him over the years, but they too seemed a little too accepting of his decision to do nothing further. When Teresa came along and encouraged him to seek help and even offered to help him herself, Joe acted as though she had rocked his safe little boat to the point of creating a tidal wave. Then he repeatedly kept thinking that she was ashamed of him and they could never have a future together because he was unworthy. I just felt like he was protesting too much, and even the ending was rather ambiguous about whether he intended to try to make life changes or simply continue the way he had for years. Perhaps I would have understood him better if his feelings about his problem had been explored more fully and/or he had shown more growth. However, he never really wanted to talk about it, and Teresa ended up either walking on eggshells around the issue or making mistakes. I did admire Teresa in many ways. She was a little on the feisty side, speaking her mind and making a good life for herself and her children after the death of her first husband. Teresa was a veterinarian who was kind and compassionate to both animals and people, and had a good disposition, never having a tendency to feel sorry for herself even though her teenage daughter was being a pain and the local dairy farmers in her new hometown were resistant to letting her treat their animals. Still, after an argument with Joe, Teresa did an almost complete about face in the final chapter, thinking that she had done something so stupid and unforgivable that their relationship was certainly over, and nearly gave up. This seemed pretty out of character for a woman who had taken the bull by the horns many times earlier in the story.
There were a few other things in What She Wants for Christmas that I thought could have been better too. I was initially rather annoyed by Teresa's self-absorbed teenage daughter, Nicole, who was resentful of their move to a “hick” town. She acted pretty bratty in the beginning, but she did lighten up and become a little more likable as the story progressed. My biggest complaint about Nicole's role though, is that every couple of chapters there was a passage written solely from her point of view. In my opinion, these excerpts were little more than filler and didn't really add much value to the main plot. I also found myself being a little bit skeptical of the dairy farmers being against Teresa treating their animals simply because she was a woman. Maybe I just haven't spent enough time in rural communities and I fully realize that even today there are plenty of people with gender prejudice, but we do live in modern times where there are plenty of female vets. Also this part of the plot never seemed to go anywhere as though it was just a little something extra thrown in to add more conflict. I will say that the author either has first-hand experience with dairy farming and logging or did her research very well. There were many details sprinkled throughout the book about both of these industries that seemed pretty authentic. Unfortunately, unless these topics are of interest to the reader (regrettably they weren't to me), they have a tendency to slow things down. Ultimately, I found What She Wants for Christmas to be an OK read that wasn't bad, but in my opinion, could have been greatly improved if all the padding had been replaced with more interaction and relationship development between the hero and heroine. However, What She Wants for Christmas is one of Janice Kay Johnson's earlier works, and since I read another one of her novels this year that I liked very well, I certainly won't be deterred from trying other books by her in the future....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars overall" Loving Sarah by Madeline Baker – Loving Sarah is a sweet, tender story about two lonely people finding loReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars overall" Loving Sarah by Madeline Baker – Loving Sarah is a sweet, tender story about two lonely people finding love and acceptance in a place neither would have expected, each other's arms. Toklanni is a somewhat tortured but sympathetic hero as a half-breed who doesn't quite fit in either the Apache or the white world, and who is very self-conscious about a scar that runs the length of his face and body. He is a very gentle hero though, who protects and provides for Sarah when she is left alone due to an Apache raid on her home. I thought Sarah was realistic as a former city-dweller who isn't fully able to provide for herself when left alone and miles from the nearest civilization, yet she exhibits a quiet strength of character through her faith and persistence after her husband is killed and her son is kidnapped. She also has a very forgiving heart to be able to love and accept Toklanni after the attack by his people in which he played a part. This story is very simple, things happen rather quickly, and it lacks some of the depth I've read in other books, but in my opinion, there was a certain beauty within it's simplicity that some full-length novels can often fail to capture. I found it to be an easy read and a refreshing change of pace from the intensely emotional romances that I usually tend to favor, a sweetly endearing story that had the feel of curling up by the fire on a cold winter's day. This is the first in a two-novella series. The sequel, Loving Devlin, can be found in the anthology, A Wilderness Christmas. Madeline Baker also writes paranormal romance as Amanda Ashley. Rating: ***1/2
A Christmas Angel by Robin Lee Hatcher - A Christmas Angel is another sweet, emotional novella in this anthology that I really enjoyed. Mick was a sympathetic hero, a man who had essentially been forced into marrying a woman he didn't love, and was now struggling to provide for his seriously injured daughter. Jennifer was a sweet, caring soul who was also a strong woman. She had gotten an education, become a nurse during a time when career choices for women were few, and lived on her own, providing for herself. I found it heartwarming that Jennifer had loved Mick since she was just a girl and had never stopped loving him. Mick's daughter, Phoebe, was an adorable child who was wise beyond her years. The only thing that was bothersome about the story was that the conflict relied heavily on the tired cliché of misunderstandings, and two people who were too afraid to just admit what they felt for each other. I suppose it was somewhat believable though, since Mick had been badly hurt by his first wife. However, it didn't all get sorted out until the very end, and the resolution seemed a tad rushed. Overall, I was happy with this novella, because it exhibited a great deal of tender emotion and pretty good sexual tension even though it was never consummated. A Christmas Angel was a quick and easy, but enjoyable tale that was a pleasure to read. It was my first story by Robin Lee Hatcher, but has definitely left me open to reading others by her in the future. Rating: ****
The Homecoming by Nora Hess – The Homecoming was an OK read, but it had quite a few weaknesses in my opinion. It started off with what was essentially a love quadrangle, which isn't something I typically like in a romance, and I initially had a hard time warming up to any of the characters. Kate seemed very naive and far too quick to marry a man who obviously didn't love her; Olive was a loathsome shrew, who in her jealously, gave Kate no end of grief; Jase was even more detestable for marrying an innocent woman simply to spite his lover, Olive, and never giving Kate the least bit of respect; and John had a pretty sordid past which also included having been Olive's lover. Luckily I did later warm up to both Kate and John. Kate finally grew up a little and saw her husband for the worthless weasel he was, and although in my opinion, John's prior relationship with Olive was a weak and unnecessary plot device, I was able to overlook it when his deep and long-standing love for Kate was revealed along with his tiring of the playboy bachelor lifestyle. Ultimately, there was enough of an emotional connection between the two characters to make me like them, but at times the plot seemed rather forced and contrived. It didn't make sense that Kate's grandmother had ever let Jase court her when she never allowed other young men to socialize with Kate, and she herself said that Jase was just trying to make Olive jealous. Also, everyone in the settlement seemed to know that Olive had slept with half the men in town, but she was never ostracized from social events as one might have expected in a tiny community of that era. In fact, some people seemed to buy into her vicious gossip. In addition, Jase made a laughable comment about not wanting John's leftovers (ie Kate), when even if Kate had slept with John (which she hadn't), she would still be far more pure than Olive could ever hope to be. There were also a couple of distracting continuity errors which a good editor should have caught. In one scene, Kate is studying John's features while he sleeps and thinking of how his lips had kissed her tenderly, but they hadn't kissed yet. The other is that the back cover blurb has little to do with the actual story and mentions a homestead in Kentucky when the settlement is actually in New York. The Homecoming did not really have as sweet a quality or tone as the first two novellas in this book either. In the end, there was just enough in this story to hold my interest, but I thought it could have been done much better. This was my first story by Norah Hess, but the jury will remain out on whether I like her writing style until I have the opportunity to read more of her works. Rating: ***
The Greatest Gift of All by Connie Mason - The Greatest Gift of All was a light, easy read that I found to be generally pleasant, but I thought it could have benefited from more depth in both plot and characterizations. Everything happened very quickly, and I had a hard time buying into the idea of Nick falling in love with Jenny based solely on his friend's descriptions of her, and Jenny in turn falling in love with Nick in only a couple of days, mainly I surmised, because he brought some Christmas spirit back into her and her children's lives. Nick was still a very nice guy though. I thought him keeping his promise to his friend, Lucas, Jenny's first husband who had been killed, was admirable, and he was also wonderful with the kids. Jenny, on the other hand, was very cold and cynical, snapping at Nick and the children almost constantly. I wanted to understand her resentfulness toward Lucas for his job choice which ultimately had led to his death, but as hard as I tried, I still kept feeling like it was a bit overblown. She had never even cried for Lucas in the year since his death even though she supposedly had been very much in love with him. Then she very suddenly was able to throw off all her anger and thaw out in the final chapter which just wasn't very believable to me. I think all my difficulties understanding her go back to the lack of character depth. I did enjoy the children, Annie and Luke. Their resilience after all that had happened and absolute conviction that Nick was really St. Nicholas was very heartwarming. If there had been a little more substance to the story and Jenny hadn't been quite so icy, I probably would have enjoyed this novella more. As written though, it just left a little something to be desired. This one also had a continuity error between the cover blurb which mentions Colorado and the actual setting of the story which was Montana. This was my first read by Connie Mason, and as with Norah Hess, I'll have to check out more of her works before I'll be able to decide if her writing style is for me or not. Rating: ***
Note: All of the novellas in this anthology are non-explicit which should make it appropriate for romance readers of all ages. Each novella has been summarized and reviewed separately. The overall rating for the book is the average of the ratings for each individual story....more
In my opinion, Breaking Dawn was a wonderful finale to an already great book series. I laughed out loud at the humor, I criedReviewed for THC Reviews
In my opinion, Breaking Dawn was a wonderful finale to an already great book series. I laughed out loud at the humor, I cried for Edward's and Jacob's pain, I felt joy and sadness, contentment and fear, as this book took me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Breaking Dawn answered all of the burning questions that had been left from the previous books: Would Edward and Bella finally marry and have their happily-ever-after ending? Would Bella be turned into a vampire? Would Jacob find a happy ending even though he couldn't seem to let Bella go? Would the Volturi, who covet Edward's and Alice's powers find a reason to come after them? The answers to all these questions and more I hadn't even thought of came together to create a romantic, tense and action-packed final volume in the Twilight Saga. I was very pleased with the tight plotting, and am happy to say that I found no holes of any kind. Every loose thread that I thought needed to be addressed, found a resolution before the end of the book. Admittedly, there were several events that I correctly predicted would happen, but it did not detract from my enjoyment of the story in the least. There was enough variety in the details to keep me on my toes, and there was one particular event involving Jacob which completely but pleasantly caught me by surprise. In addition, the author effectively kept me guessing between two potential scenarios for the climactic ending. While a part of me was itching for the one possibility to occur, I realized that it probably would not lead to a truly happy ending, so the way that it did wrap up was very satisfying to me. I also don't think I could have asked for a better final scene between Edward and Bella. It was something I had been wishing for all along.
Breaking Dawn had an interesting twist, in that it is written in three different sections. “Book One” is all about the romance, “Book Two,” at times, harbors enough pain and angst to rival New Moon, and “Book Three” takes a brief breather to allow everyone, including the reader, to experience some joy and happiness, before turning into a taut suspense thriller. “Books One & Three” are written from Bella's point of view just like all the other books in the series, but “Book Two” is written from Jacob's perspective like the epilogue of Eclipse. Not only was this a necessary device to propel the plot along, but I also found it to be quite appealing to get inside another lead character's head. Jacob certainly has a different way of looking at things, and it gives the reader a chance to get to know him a little better. Also, the titles of Jacob's chapters stand out in stark contrast to those in Bella's voice. Sometimes they were on the serious side, but the vast majority of them had me laughing out loud. In the end, it almost felt like three separate stories were being told.
Just as with Eclipse, the three main characters, Edward, Bella and Jacob are once again on the canvas together engaging in some very fascinating relationship dynamics. Edward continues to be the same caring, gentle soul that he's been throughout the series, and the one I tend to relate to the most. He did, however, make a couple of surprising decisions, which at the time made his perfection start to tarnish for me just a little, but ultimately I understood that they were born out of utter desperation. Up to this point, Ms. Meyer has done a wonderful job with making Edward's thoughts and feelings known through dialog and other means, but there were a few moments in this book where I really craved more insights. Even though I still felt that I understood him, at times, I found myself wishing to be a mind-reader myself. Bella is the character who I felt changed the most. Many times in the previous volumes, I had a little difficulty relating to her, but in this book, I found myself understanding her in a much deeper way. She matured very quickly and her choices in Breaking Dawn made a lot more sense to me than they had before. She also eased up a bit on the self-blame. On the downside though, I think her level of pessimism reached new highs, and she still has a very hard time seeing herself as the special person that Edward and everyone else sees. The trio is rounded out by Jacob, who in many ways is merely a normal, jealous teenager, of course with the caveat of his supernatural ability. After his sometimes inappropriate behavior in Eclipse, I was able to find a new respect for and understanding of his character in Breaking Dawn. He really came through as a friend to the end. I truly enjoyed reading all three characters and seeing how their lives and destinies are intertwined.
The secondary character palette in Breaking Dawn is teeming with new characters, including a wonderful addition to the Cullen family who has some very special abilities. All of the characters from the previous books are present with some new insights being added to a few of them, particularly Seth and Leah. Rosalie also plays a bigger role in this book. Even though she has never been a big fan of Bella in the past, she really steps up to the plate to defend Bella in her own brusque but rather heartwarming way, while her biting banter with Jacob was absolutely hilarious. Readers also get to meet some characters like the Denali coven who were mentioned before, but never actually played an active role. The Volturi return with some new members in their ranks, and a host of Carlisle's vampire friends surface, some of whom possess amazing powers. In fact, there are so many, that a brief index is provided at the end of the book to keep them all straight. All in all, Breaking Dawn was a very richly populated story with many widely varying personages.
I really felt that the maturity level of the series increased quite a bit in Breaking Dawn, with the characters finding themselves in much more “grown-up” situations. There are some love scenes in the book, and while they all end in cut scenes and nothing is played out explicitly, the before and after dialog implies very clearly what was happening in between, just in a very tastefully sensuous way. As with the previous books, there are only a handful of mild profanities, but there is the addition of a few lightly crude sexual innuendos. I also felt there was a significant increase in the blood and gore, although I didn't think anything was particularly gratuitous or out of context for the circumstances. In my opinion, the book is still suitable for older teens, but I would caution parental guidance of younger readers for whom some material may be disturbing and/or inappropriate.
As I predicted, finally finishing the Twilight Saga has been a rather bittersweet experience for me. I'm thrilled to finally know how it ends, but at the same time, I find myself longing for more. I was very saddened to hear that Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer's planned rewrite of Twilight from Edward's perspective has been put on hold indefinitely due to the unfinished manuscript being illegally leaked onto the Internet. Even though she has provided that copy to fans on her website, I have not yet been able to compel myself to read it for personal and ethical reasons, and I do hope that someday she will pick it up again. I have seen comments from her about possible future stories for these characters, and I also hope that will happen as well. Breaking Dawn definitely left plenty of room for more storytelling, especially for Jacob. Although readers are given the basic information about how each of the couples in the Cullen family met, I've often thought that it would be nice to go back and relive each of their romances individually. I personally think it would make for a great anthology of novellas, but of course that may just be wishful thinking on my part. Also, the one and only thing that I felt was left hanging was Alice's past. I had hoped they would find more clues about who she was in her human life, which again would make another great story, in my opinion. Even though I may be wishing for more tales about the Cullen family and friends, I will be interested in reading anything that Ms. Meyer's fertile imagination creates and all will immediately go on my auto-buy list. I am also eagerly awaiting The Twilight Saga: The Official Guide that appears to have been delayed for release until September 2009, which is going to be an excruciatingly long wait.;-) For now though, Breaking Dawn has taken it's place on my keeper shelf right next to it's three predecessors Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse, and in the meantime, I will simply have to console myself with the Twilight movie (which I haven't yet had the opportunity to see), and hope that it lives up to the books....more
When I finished Bronwyn Scott's Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady, I was left with an unsatisfied feeling about Julia's couReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
When I finished Bronwyn Scott's Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady, I was left with an unsatisfied feeling about Julia's cousin, Grayson. He had been missing and presumed lost at sea for the entire novel, only to appear on her doorstep in the final chapter, but no explanation of his whereabouts was provided in that novel. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Gray's story had actually been released first in a Harlequin Historical exclusive online e-book, and I just had to know where he had been for all those months. I have to say that I was not disappointed with the story Ms. Scott gave him. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of short stories, as they are often simply too short leaving me wishing for more. That was not the case with Grayson Prentiss's Seduction. I thought that Ms. Scott did a very good job of keeping the plot tight and reasonably credible, and overall found it to be a very satisfying read.
Grayson and Elena are both lovely characters, and even though Elena at first deceives an amnesiac Gray into believing he is her missing husband, I still found her to be very sympathetic. She never seemed like a conniving woman, just one who was desperate for survival, and of course both of them fell hopelessly in love with each other during the course of the charade. In spite of the short story format and the fairly short time frame of only a few months that passed during the course of the tale, the author managed to convey the building feelings between the two characters very well, making their love believable. Admittedly, there are several cliched romance novel elements in this tale, but as with Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady, Ms. Scott managed, in my opinion, to keep everything fresh and interesting with a very strong focus on Gray and Elena's relationship.
Grayson Prentiss's Seduction is the first story in Bronwyn Scott's series about the Prentiss and Ramsden families. Although it preceded Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady, the two stories take place simultaneously. It appears that the next book in the series, Peyton's Bride, which features Julia Prentiss's brother-in-law, Peyton, as the hero will be due out sometime next year. It also seems that there are plans for more books featuring the Prentiss and Ramsden brothers in the works. Although Grayson Prentiss's Seduction is a very simple love story, I found it to be an extremely pleasant and enjoyable diversion. In fact, each time I finished a chapter, I just had to read one more to see what happened next. At the moment this novella is only available in a free online e-book format from eharlequin.com, but I liked it well enough to consider purchasing the book if it were ever released in print format. At any rate, I am definitely looking forward to reading the future installments in this series, and checking out Bronwyn Scott's other novels, including those written as Nikki Poppen....more
In my opinion, Sam's Creed had a lot of potential, but ended up having enough plot holes to make swiss cheese. First, BReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
In my opinion, Sam's Creed had a lot of potential, but ended up having enough plot holes to make swiss cheese. First, Bella has supposedly been on the run from the evil bad guy, Tejala, for six months by the time she met Sam. Considering that they were being attacked almost immediately and constantly for the short time span of the story, I cannot fathom how she could have survived, seemingly without any friends or allies, for six days much less six months. Also, as soon as Bella meets Sam, she decides that she wants to loose her virginity on her terms, because Tejala is likely on their heels and when he catches them will take her by force. If she had been on the run for six months, I just couldn't understand the sudden urgency for this and why she hadn't thought of it sooner other than it being an excuse for the protagonists to have sex early and often. Finally, I can't for the life of me figure out why Sam left Bella alone with her mother whom they had presumed was supportive of Bella's arranged marriage with Tejala, and how anyone could have gotten past the Montoya ranch hands who were supposedly fiercely protective of Bella, without half of them being killed. Once again, this seemed like little more than a weak plot device to lead into an action-packed climax. These were just a few of the many things that weren't very well explained and didn't quite make sense to me. While this certainly wasn't the worst book I've ever read, I felt that it was plagued with a lack of substantial plot to hold together numerous scenes of sex and violence. In fact Sam and Bella carried the entire first ¾ of the book on their own with no secondary characters to even speak of, and their interactions during this part of the story basically consisted of riding through the desert, having sex and getting into a shoot-out then repeating the process for 300 pages.
Besides the weak plot, there were some other things which either bothered me about the story or I felt simply lacked credibility. First and foremost was the romance which was basically lust at first sight. I have said in numerous other reviews that love at first sight plots are not my favorites, but I can buy into them if the author gives me a strong emotional connection to the characters. Unfortunately, I found that to be lacking in Sam's Creed, as most of their scenes, especially early on, were basically fueled by lust. There were a few tender moments that I enjoyed, such as when Sam gave Bella a sponge-bath on their first night together, but overall I never really felt that all-important emotional connection between them and wasn't really sure when or why they fell in love. Their scenes together just never exhibited that swoon-worthy quality which is a must for me in romance. Another big thing for me was the love scenes. While I give Ms. McCarty kudos for thinking outside the box (not one of the numerous love scenes took place in a bed), all I could think of almost every time they made love was how at the very least that had to be uncomfortable and at worst possibly not even doable, particularly the acrobatic “relations” on horseback. Also, I couldn't help but think of how unpleasant certain said “relations” would be after long days on a hot, dusty trail with nary a bathtub or even a watering hole in sight. When I'm being dragged out of the heat of the moment by thoughts like that it is very distracting to my enjoyment of the overall story. In addition, I was a bit bothered by the violence level, which I felt, for the most part, was rather gratuitous. The body count was very high and some scenes were bloody with Sam being the one who was inflicting most of the damage. Even though it was always in self-defense or in defense of Bella, it just made him seem like a bloodthirsty killer to me, even though I'm sure that wasn't intentional. I just think the violence could have been toned down a little and still packed a good punch.
Sam and Bella were two basically good people with several positive traits, but I was never completely able to relate to either one of them. Sam was an extreme alpha who kept his heart locked up tight and never did fully release it in my opinion. He was just so hard and stubborn, lacking the consistent tenderness and vulnerability that I prefer in my heroes. I had been aware of Sam's heartbreaking boyhood experience surrounding his mother's death from reading Caine's Reckoning, but I never felt like the author added much to that backstory in this book. In fact, Sam didn't even open up enough to tell Bella about the incident and his fears and feelings surrounding it. Bella just intuited on her own that something from the past haunted him, and then the knowledge of it came from Tucker. Even that was done off the canvas, barely getting a passing mention which was disappointing to me. I thought Bella was admirable for her spunk and independence, and I liked that she was so willing to give of herself emotionally and physically to Sam. Still, I can't say that I'm a big fan of heroines, especially historical ones, who are quite so forward in their seductiveness and propositioning. Also, she could be just as hard and stubborn as Sam, which left them butting heads on one thing or another for the entire book. Although this wasn't as grating to my nerves as it has been in other books I've read, I'm also not a fan of the hero and heroine constantly vying for dominance in the relationship either. Overall, I thought that both characters would have needed a little more depth and exhibited a bit more vulnerability for me to truly understand them.
I really thought the book could have used better editing as well. There were many scenes that moved so slowly I found myself beginning to loose interest and just wanting it to get to the point. On the flip side there were other scenes that I found difficult to imagine or just plain confusing because they lacked enough detail. The dialog suffered from this same affliction, as I often found it problematic to discern who was speaking, especially if there were more than two people conversing at a time. This was also a problem I had with Caine's Reckoning, so I'm wondering if this is an issue with all of Ms. McCarty's books or just this series. In addition, there were a myriad of small continuity errors which I found rather irritating, such as someone sitting down but then suddenly they are standing again without any explanation or someone had their shirt off and then suddenly it is back on without explanation. The worst one was a poor dead prostitute whose name kept changing from Betty to Sally four different times over just a couple of pages. This one left me scratching my head in bewilderment as to how such a blatant mistake could have gotten past the proofreaders. Each of these were pretty small things in themselves, but when put together added up to one big distraction which caused the overall narrative to lack a smooth flow.
I realize that I have spent the better part of this review criticizing Sam's Creed, but even though I thought it could have been much better, I didn't exactly dislike it. In spite of the problems I had with the book, I still found Sam's Creed to be a mostly worthwhile read. I will also allow that I can see how it would appeal to some readers. Anyone who enjoys a strong alpha male hero, a spitfire heroine and/or lot's of steamy creative sex scenes should definitely check it out. However, unlike Caine's Reckoning, it's predecessor in the Hell's Eight series, I would not be likely to re-read it. I was rather disappointed that the only other member of Hell's Eight to appear in Sam's Creed was Tucker, but a few extra details being added to his character and the introduction of his presumed lady love have intrigued me enough to definitely continue the series when his book, Tucker's Claim, is released next spring. In the meantime, I will likely explore Sarah McCarty's backlist, as I know that she has the ability to write books that I can greatly enjoy even though I can't count Sam's Creed among them.
Note: This book contains explicit language, violence, and sexual situations, including light bondage, domination/submission, spanking and anal sex, which some readers may find offensive....more
"4.5 stars" In my opinion, many erotic romances have a tendency to suffer from an overabundance of sex and underdevelopReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars" In my opinion, many erotic romances have a tendency to suffer from an overabundance of sex and underdevelopment of plot. Fortunately, Caine's Reckoning has no such issues. It has an interesting and engrossing storyline while still maintaining the steamy sexuality that tends to mark erotic romances. The overarching plot of the series, that of eight mostly unrelated but sexy alpha men who have banded together as a “family” to fight evil and injustice, reminds me in some ways of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Although I have to say that since one features sexy cowboys in the old west and the other sexy vampires in a contemporary urban setting, the similarities for the most part, end there. The individual premise of Caine's Reckoning was interesting as well. Between the heart-stopping romance, Desi's struggles to overcome her past, some wild west action, and a light mystery surrounding one of Desi's abusers and his motives, I had a hard time putting the book down. After reading several reviews for this book, I was expecting it to be very violent. While there were a couple of shoot-outs and one short 2 ½- page nightmare sequence that contained an explicit sexual assault, I found that most of the violence was left to the reader's imagination, and wasn't much worse than many other books I've read. That's not to say that it would be easy for everyone to read, and for this reason, I would caution sensitive readers about the content. I think that it simply didn't bother me as much, because in my opinion, the author didn't delve quite as deep into the emotional fall-out to Desi's psyche as some other authors with similar characters have done, and Desi was a very strong heroine as well.
I thought that Desi was an admirable heroine, a young woman who had suffered unthinkable abuse, and yet had never truly allowed herself to become a victim. When the story opens with her courageously fighting her captors like a hellcat while the other women sat passively by, I immediately liked her. Later when she showed tremendous vulnerability, it only endeared her to me further, as did her ability to frequently blush in spite of her “experience.” I also found her to be relatable as a young woman who had been raised as a prim, proper lady, but who always felt a burning passion inside trying to surface. It wasn't until she started stubbornly holding herself at arms length from Caine's gentle, loving overtures, that I had a bit harder time with her character, but ultimately, her actions were understandable in light of her past. Some stubborn heroines can tend to annoy me, but that wasn't really the case with Desi. I think I just spent most of that part of the story worried that her willfulness would cause her to do something really stupid, but when she exhibited intelligence and ingenuity in the end, she truly earned my respect. I also thought that when Desi was finally able to fully let herself go and surrender to Caine, trusting him completely, their resulting lovemaking was both darkly passionate and thoroughly beautiful and romantic, a heady combination indeed.
Caine was an incredibly appealing hero. Having lost his family at a young age, like all of the Hell's Eight men, he has a dark tortured past too, but it wasn't explored in as much detail as I would have liked. I suppose that is understandable though, as there shouldn't be too much darkness in one novel, or it would become depressing. Actually, I thought that Caine had a wry and sometime self-deprecating sense of humor which I enjoyed, and which also helped to lighten things up a bit here and there. He is a very dominating alpha male, but he has a heart of gold and isn't afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve when it comes to Desi. He also pampers her in the most thoroughly romantic ways, and has some of the most swoon-worthy lines I think I have ever read in a romance novel. I absolutely loved the way that he is completely committed to their marriage and being faithful to Desi right from the start, even though he had no intentions of getting married anytime soon and basically only agreed to it out of a sense of honor and duty. Even though Caine's every instinct is to dominate, he puts his own needs on hold and shows Desi an unbelievable amount of patience. I liked that Caine was very intelligent and intuitive when it came to Desi's needs. Time and time again, Caine proves that he is an honorable man who can be trusted with anything and who is the epitome of a true gentleman, a diamond in the rough. Even though I'm raving about him, Caine did have a few impatient moments when he allowed his desires to get the best of him, but I was still able to admire him because he immediately recognized his mistakes and admitted he was wrong. All in all, I thought he did pretty well for a guy in the old west who didn't have access to a psychotherapist for his wife.;-) Caine is definitely a hero I'll remember for a long time to come.
Though Caine's Reckoning was good enough to earn a place on my keeper shelf, it wasn't quite perfect. There were several scenes, a few of the love scenes in particular, that I thought were a little too verbose. I'm all for whispering sweet nothings during lovemaking, but sometimes it seemed like they were carrying on an entire conversation. In my opinion, it made these scenes feel rather forced, like the author was trying too hard to convince me of the character's passion and feelings instead of showing me. I think a few more descriptive details and a little less chattiness in these scenes would have made them flow a bit more naturally. There were also several scenes involving dialog, especially among multiple characters, where I had a difficult time determining who was speaking. Going back and reading the passages a second time usually cleared things up, but having to do this multiple times throughout the book was rather distracting. I would have to say that Desi's ability to overcome her past, not only the abuse but the sexually repressive atmosphere in which she was raised, was a little too quick, taking mere weeks instead of the months or even years that any real woman would have likely needed. However, since this is fiction and it was good otherwise, I can allow for a little creative license. I was also a little disappointed that the mystery surrounding the ringleader of Desi's captors was not fully resolved nor justice fully exacted, but I think this was meant to be something of a cliffhanger ending that is going to carry over into a future book or books. Overall, though this was a very good novel that I would definitely recommend.
Caine's Reckoning is the first book in the Hell's Eight series. It introduces the eight members of the group, some with brief background information and some only by name, but one, Sam, is given a slightly more detailed background and more scenes. He becomes the hero of the next book in the series, Sam's Creed. The third book, Tucker's Claim, is due out next spring with another, currently untitled, volume to follow by the end of 2009. Though she is not directly on the canvas in Caine's Reckoning, Desi's twin sister, Ari, is mentioned and does play a part in the mystery that was left unresolved. I suspect that she may become the heroine of a future book, possibly paired with Tracker, since he was the first to volunteer to search for her. Unfortunately, if my assumption is correct, it could be a while before readers get to experience their story. Caine's Reckoning was my first read by Sarah McCarty, but I am really looking forward to continuing the Hell's Eight series and checking out the other books that she has written too.
Note: This book contains explicit language, violence (as mentioned in my review), and sexual situations, including mild domination/submission, spanking and anal sex, which some readers may find offensive. However, considering the subject matter, everything was handled very tastefully in my opinion....more