Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tangled Sheets by Jo Leigh

This book reminded me a little of the films High Society & The Philadelphia Story. Maggie and Spencer were married and divorced years ago. Maggie is about to marry for a second time when her ex-husband makes a surprising appearance. She was a rich socialite and he was a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks with a messed up family life. Against the odds they start dating, fall in love, and marry. Then it goes terribly wrong, terribly fast. You find out, through conversations, as well as from the story told from each of their own point of view exactly what happened to tear their marriage apart. The description on the back of the book is a little misleading. Spencer eventually wants to win Maggie back, but the initial reason he came back was for revenge – to show her and everybody else who didn’t think he could be successful how wrong they were. They each have hurt and believe they’ve been wronged by the other. Spencer was always well-liked by Maggie’s father, sister, best friend, and staff. He is very charming when he wants to be. I was worried at first, after learning about Spencer’s original motives for coming back into her life that Spencer would carry out his revenge plan. Luckily, it didn’t take long for his heart to thaw and both of them gave in to their renewed feelings. It was fun watching the two of them fall in love again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Imitation of Death by Cheryl Crane

I hadn’t read the previous first book in this series, but after reading this book and liking it, I will definitely give it a whirl. Nikki is a celebrity realtor who is also an amateur private investigator. I was worried at first that this story would be a little too hard-boiled for my tastes, but I found it to be interesting and a lot of fun. Nikki is a very likable, non-obnoxious protagonist. She is temporarily living with her famous movie star mother while she is having work done on her house. It is while at her mother’s that she witnesses and then gets involved in an argument between childhood friend and family gardener Jorge and the druggie, loser son of her mother’s famous next-door neighbors. Some threats are made and then Eddie (the loser) is found dead in an alleyway dumpster with Jorge’s gardening shears imbedded in him. Jorge is understandably thought of as suspect number one and promptly arrested. Nikki then makes it her mission to prove Jorge’s innocence, even without his help. I enjoyed following Nikki’s investigation as she questions the various suspects – and there are a lot since most people had a reason to dislike Eddie. The story kept me guessing right up until the end. I enjoyed meeting all the supporting characters like Nikki’s celebrity buddy Marshall, Nikki’s brother Jimmy, and the mysterious Mr. M. Nikki’s boyfriend Jeremy seemed nice enough, but he was very much on the periphery and I was sort of hoping Nikki would wind up switching her affections to the nice, Robert Redford look-alike. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Heiress Behind The Headlines by Caitlin Crews

The opening of the book is strictly from Larissa’s point of view, and what little I learned intrigued me. Larissa Whitney comes from a very wealthy family. She is portrayed in the tabloids a kind of Paris Hilton. At the start of the book she is running away, not just from her cold-hearted father, but from her reputation. For me, this book was more chick-lit than a traditional romance. This book is the story of Larissa’s journey of self-awareness. She seems to recognize what’s wrong with her life, but having been emotionally damaged for so long by her domineering father; she’s not quite sure what direction to take with her life. Jack Sutton is somebody who comes from a similar background as Larissa. Years ago they had an intimate relationship until it crashed and burned. By chance, Jack comes upon Larissa as she’s hiding out. Through the course of this book, Jack says a lot of very nasty things to Larissa. In spite of how wrong he is by saying them, I believe he says those hateful things because he sees so much of himself in Larissa. It really reflects how he feels deep down about himself. If it wasn’t for how Larissa responds to these attacks, I wouldn’t continue reading the book. One of the things I liked about this story was how off-balance she kept Jack by her retorts during their verbal sparring. I felt like she was always in control of any of their conversations, no matter how Jack acted or what he said. I also really liked how Larissa changed her life and stuck up for herself with her father on her own, without help from any man in her life. I was happy that Jack came around and changed his ways at the end, but for me this story was all about the evolution of a woman.

Two Wrongs Make A Marriage by Christine Merill

At the opening of the book, Miss Cynthia Banester and Lord Kenton go for a moonlit stroll in the garden. They each go for their own very different reasons. Cynthia is looking to help her family out financially by marrying a wealthy man. Jack Briggs, masquerading as Lord Kenton, is an actor hired by the Earl of Spayne to pretend to be his long lost son, marry money, and produce an heir. Not knowing Jack’s plans, she pulls a pistol on him to get him to stay with her until someone comes to discover them and make them marry. This is no problem to Jack because in his mind, it fits in with his plans and he is extremely attracted to Cynthia. They have a brief courtship and then marry. It’s not until directly after the wedding, when Jack speaks to Cynthia’s father, that they finally learn the truth about each other. Cynthia’s family is just about broke & Jack is actually an actor playing a part and not actually Lord Kenton. They both feel cheated and angry with each other. Jack decides to go visit his “father” the Earl of Spayne with his new bride and ask his advice. At this point the marriage is still not consummated. The Earl seems understandably disappointed but very gracious to Cynthia. He says that no matter what, he will look upon her as a daughter. The Earl’s plan was originally for Jack to go off and have a fake tragic accident after making good. I enjoyed the relationship between the Earl and Jack. They end up having a kind of Father/son relationship. Jack helps the Earl with investment & estate matters. The Earl never planned on having any more children after his first one because he was a homosexual and couldn’t work up enough enthusiasm to try again. After talking it over, they all come to the conclusion that the source of everyone’s troubles seems to be Henry de Warde. He is the Earl’s slimy younger brother, and the one who scammed Cynthia’s father out of a huge chunk of change. They all decide to continue as if everything’s fine and Jack really is Lord Kenton. They decide to go back to London and see if they can rattle de Warde and see if they shake something loose from him that they can use against him. It’s during this time that they fall for each other a little bit. Jack seemed like a very charming, amiable guy through this – although I thought he was a little cruel toward the end the way he used Cynthia in the plan to ruin de Warde. Cynthia’s mother was an interesting woman to read about, having been an actress when she met Cynthia’s father. The ending is a surprise ending but I enjoyed it and was grateful for the info packed epilogue to wrap things up.

Worth The Risk by Charlene Sands

At the opening of the book, it’s the morning after Jackson Worth and Sammie Gold had a one night stand in Las Vegas. You are able to get the story of how that came about through his point of view and hers. Jackson Worth is a cowboy and a suave businessman. He has strong family ties and is generally a nice guy. Sammie Gold had a successful boot shop in a different state, but her boyfriend ended up stealing from her and caused her business to sink. Sammie’s best friend is married to Jackson’s brother. The friend asked Jackson to look after Sammie and encouraged them to become business partners since Jackson has more money than he knows what to do with. So now Sammie’s boot shop is located in Arizona. They had the one night stand in Vegas because they were both there for a business convention. Sammie had a little too much to drink so she doesn’t have a good memory of their night together. The morning after, she and Jackson decide to put it behind them and pretend it never happened. However, they both can’t stop thinking about it. Jackson almost has a fetish about the different sexy boots Sammie wears, but he soon is attracted by her personality as well. It’s because he was burned in the past by a former love that keeps him from recognizing and acting on his feelings for Sammie. Although the details of their last intimate encounter are a little hazy, Sammie knows that she finds Jackson super attractive, and the more she finds out about him and gets to know him, her attraction just quadruples. They also end up spending a lot of time together because of family connections, and because Jackson is a very involved and helpful business partner. Throughout the book the two of them keep breaking their pact not to get intimate again. They find the attraction between them too strong and that they just like spending time together. This was a sexy story with good characters.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Own The Night by Debbi Rawlins

Alana is a wealthy marketing executive in New York City. She grew up with a domineering, psychologist mother who, in Alana’s words, wanted a companion not a daughter. Her mother is pressuring her to go on a tropical vacation with her. That is absolutely the last thing that Alana wants so she decides to run away to this ranch in Montana that her friend told her about. The Sundance Dude Ranch in Blackfoot Falls, Montana is marketed toward single women looking for a fun getaway with gorgeous men littered about. That is something that women gush about in the reviews of the ranch – all the hot men around. Most of the men either enjoy the attention or laugh it off. One man who dislikes the attention is Sheriff Noah Calder. With his rugged good looks, women think he’s a piece of eye candy worth pursuing. Noah just finds it annoying. When Alana first gets to town, her luggage and purse are stolen. When she goes to report it to Noah, he thinks her physical description matches that of a female grafter that he just got a bulletin about. Because he’s unsure of her, he offers to put her up at his place as a way of keeping an eye on her. The attraction between the two is hot. It’s not all sex between the two. They get to know each other and find they have some things in common. They both have complicated relationships with family. Alana grows as a person and blossoms in this different environment. Removed from the influence of her controlling mother, she finds that she has a lot of inner strength and hidden talents. She’s also able to form close relationships and grow emotionally. I liked the romantic and yet realistic ending & hope to read more about this couple in later books.

A Fool's Gold Christmas by Susan Mallery

Evie Stryker has a complicated relationship with her family. Years ago, Evie’s mother May became a widow to a man who was her one great love. Shortly thereafter, she was intimate with a stranger and became pregnant with Evie. May was a widow and an adult and there was nothing shady about what May did but in her mind she was betraying her late husband. Consequently, she never had, or acted like she had normal maternal feelings toward her daughter. Evie always felt like she was an outsider within her own family. She felt like her mother favored her older brothers, and her brothers didn’t know how to act with her. When she was old enough, Evie moved out and lived on her own. Up until recently she was working as a cheerleader for a big name team. She had an accident while working and seeing it happen on television, her family came down to get her and bring her back to their small town of Fool’s Gold to care for her and repair the family relationships. Evie ends up living & working next to her brother’s partner and family friend Dante Jefferson. They begin hanging out and develop a kinship. They are both have painful pasts, and are a little overwhelmed at times by the cozy small town atmosphere and holiday enthusiasm. Reading the previous book in this series, I was unsure if I would like Evie. I should have known better. The author has created a series with textured stories and complex, interesting characters. Evie still has a lot of hurt from the past but throughout the book she grows as a person and heals emotionally. It was great to watch her interact with her dancing students and the cat she adopts. You don’t read as much about Dante’s inner life, but you get little bits here and there that help you understand why he is the way he is. Before reading this story, I was hoping that at some point she would have a heart-to-heart with Charlie or her ballerina mom, since they could both relate to Evie in different ways. I was happy that those conversations did happen. Overall, great story once again, nice romance, and great characters. I look forward to reading more books in this series and other books by this author.

To Tempt An Irish Rogue by Kaitlin O'Riley

Declan Reeves, Lord Cashelmore meets bookshop owner Paulette Hamilton at a very trying time in his life. He is a widower with a very young child to raise and he is under a cloud of suspicion because his late wife died in suspicious circumstances. For the sake of his daughter, he leaves the family home in Ireland and travels to England. Paulette Hamilton knows all about the importance of family, being one of many sisters. One of her passions in life is running the family bookshop, making it a success, and making plans for the opening of the location. Paulette has always said she likes fair-haired, easy going men, so when Declan walks into her shop she discards him immediately since he is a tall, dark, “Mr.Rochester” type. Her first impression is that he is too dangerous for the likes of her. However, after only a few visits to the shop, they both become enamored. She finds that despite his outward appearance and the whispers that follow him about his past, he is actually a nice, charming man and a totally devoted father. There are a lot of sweet moments in this book, and some humor, but there are also a lot of gothic elements: the late wife dying under suspicious circumstances, the young child who has not spoken since her mother’s death, clandestine meetings. This was my favorite book in this series so far. The main characters and their romance were enjoyable. The heroine’s friends and family were all helpful to the main couple. I enjoyed the relationship between Paulette and Declan’s daughter Mara. I feel like this story was a very good 2-for-1: a great romance with a mystery.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What Happens At Christmas by Victoria Alexander

Camille, Lady Lydingham is a wealthy widow looking to marry again. She doesn’t need to marry for money but is looking for romance. Her first husband, while a good man was older and she feels like she kind of missed the boat when it came to romantic love. She meets a Prince who is trying to sweep her off her feet. She decides to let him. She wants to charm him with a traditional English family Christmas. There is just one problem for Camille – her family is rather eccentric by the standards of the day. Luckily for her, they happen to be out of the country conveniently leaving her mother’s ancestral home empty. She hatches a very ambitious and somewhat crazy plan. She gives all the servants, except for the trusted butler, paid vacations and hires a troupe of actors to fill in for servants as well as her family. If she can’t naturally have the kind of family that would make for a traditional, picture perfect Christmas, then she’ll pay for one. The only one she confides in is her married twin sister, Beryl. Her plan runs into the first snag when she runs into Grayson Elliott. She and Grayson have a tangled history. They grew up together and became good friends. She developed romantic feelings at some point but she felt that he only thought of her as a friend or a sister. It is not until the day of her wedding that he comes to her declaring that he loves her and asks her not to go through with it. She is dumbfounded. He had never given her any indication that he was interested in her that way. She is shocked and a little angry that he waited until that moment to tell her his feelings. From his point of view, he never realized how strong his feelings were until she was going to be married. When she reacts badly, he leaves her and goes abroad for several years earning his fortune. He never had the safety of a title, being orphaned at a young age and being taken in and raised by his aunt & uncle. They never see or speak to each other for those years, each blaming the other for how things worked out between them. When seeing each other again for the first time, all those feelings come back to them and the bulk of the book is them working through those feelings. The romance was very sweet. As usual with this author, the circumstances and supporting characters make for some very funny situations which get more and more absurd in the best possible way. I loved Grayson’s cousin Win. He was very charming, witty & I look forward to the two upcoming stories that the author plans to come out with about him. I loved how everything worked out in the end, with Camille’s family, the charade, the Prince, and the ending scene between the hero & heroine was very sweet. For fans of this author’s “Effington” series, Avalonia gets a shout out.
I look forward to the author’s next book.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Season for Surrender by Theresa Romain

The hero of this story is Alexander Edgware, the ninth Earl of Xavier. Through the course of this book, he goes through a process of self-discovery. Though wealthy, his parents died at a very young age and he was pretty much left to his own devices with only servants to attend to his basic needs. As an adult, he is considered a rake and he is a living legend in society. With no close friends or family around him on a regular basis to give him a reality check, Alex even thinks of himself in the third person and has a mental numbered list of expressions he displays given the circumstances. This persona of the notorious Earl of Xavier has little to do with Alex’s own personality. He uses it like a mask and something to insulate himself from others. He is known for making and winning wagers with his very odious cousin, the Marquess of Lockwood. These wagers give Alex no real joy, he just feels as though he must keep winning them as part of his Earl of Xavier act. At the start of the book, Lockwood wants to wager Xavier that he can’t have a paragon of virtue stay for the duration of one of Xavier’s infamous house parties. These parties are typically only attended by rakes & less virtuous women. Xavier takes the wager but his condition is that no innocent should be ruined or forced to participate in anything beyond the pale. To make the wager less lurid than Lockwood originally intended, while still remaining true to the basic wager, he adds some respectable guests like his slightly younger cousin Jane and a few matrons. The object of the wager, as selected by Lord Lockwood, is Miss Louisa Oliver. Louisa and Xavier have a slightly tangled history. Louisa was engaged to James. Louisa’s step-sister Julia ended up marrying James. Everyone believes, erroneously, that Xavier told the scandal sheets about James & Julia’s first assignation.
This story caught my interest because I enjoy stories about house parties. However, what made me really enjoy this story and set it apart from many other historical romances was the depth of the character exploration. The slow, charming evolution of the relationship between Xavier and Louisa is very sweet & very interesting. They are both kind of taken aback by their attraction. I think Xavier is the first to see them as being soul-mates. It’s through his relationship with Louisa that Xavier starts to discover who he really is and even tells her to call him “Alex”. “Alex” is the real person, while Xavier is the fa├žade. I liked the connection between Louisa and Alex. They both have a love of learning & literature. I love the way he chooses to finally tell her he loves her & even the engagement ring has a lot of meaning to the both of them.
The entire story is not heavy. There are some funny moments. I liked Jane and hope to read a book about her.