Saturday, January 26, 2013

Falling For Her Fake Fiance by Cindi Madsen

I always enjoy stories like this involving people who have been friends for years and then turn things into a romantic relationship. It adds such a richer element to the romance. Dani and Wes met in college and have been best friends ever since. They have a similar love of history, and Wes was there for her when Dani was injured. Their closeness is something that has been an irritant to anybody they've been romantically involved with. The inevitably of them being together was obvious to everybody except them. Now, both single, Wes could use a girlfriend to help take the heat off him at his sister's wedding & Dani could use a significant other to help her scores points toward a promotion at the couple-dominated company she works for. They decide to be fake engaged. While Dani is down visiting Wes for the wedding & when he comes up her way for her company's retreat, they both can't help being affected by each other and are overwhelmed by the attraction. I found this love story very sweet and enjoyed the chemistry between Wes & Dani. You really felt the connection between the two of them. I only wish that there would have been an epilogue for a peek at how things worked later on after the happy ending.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lush by Lauren Dane

Mary is a successful culinary businesswoman. She’s also one of the last single people in her circle of friends. While catering a party for her friend Gillian and her rock star hubby, Mary meets another rock star - Damien Hurley. They both feel an instant attraction. Mary wants to keep it casual since Damien is a rocker and has a reputation for hard living and being pretty wild with the ladies. She doesn’t want to think of Damien as relationship material. While Damien is famous, he has taken the wild ways down a notch. He’s been there, done that, and looking for something more. Unbeknownst to Mary, Damien starts to yearn for a serious relationship with her. He actively tries to get her to change the way she thinks of him and the possibilities of where there relationship can go. He convinces her to meet his family on their ranch and they love her & she loves them back. Other than the fame Damien and his brothers have, his family and her family are a lot alike. They both come from tight-knit, hard-working families, with loving parents who have been married for a long time. The main conflict in this story centers on Mary’s ability to deal with the hassles and jealousies that come with dating someone famous. Mary is a very strong woman and I like that she was focused on her career, but still involved and caring toward her friends and family. I also liked that she told her friends to back off when she thought they were butting in where they shouldn’t. Damien is almost too good to be true. He is very sexy but a total sweetheart with Mary and his family. Besides the great story there is a ton of hot, sweaty sex. I would like to read about Damien’s brothers in the future.

Austensibly Ordinary by Alyssa Goodnight

This is the first book I’ve read by this author. I enjoyed this book but I think it would have been fine just as a regular romance without all the magic journal stuff. I thought the whole Alfred Hitchcock-themed party was very fun. The romance between Cate and Ethan was very cute and true to life I think because that’s very often how two friends end up in a romantic relationship (minus all the magic). I think Cate was a little slow to pick up on the clues that Ethan was interested in her as more than a friend, when her friends, mother, and even her students could see it. And I couldn’t believe that even after she and Ethan had become intimate that she was still trying to fix him up with her friends. I was happy that she didn't do anything really stupid like hook up with somebody else in an effort to talk herself out of being in a relationship with Ethan. This is a complete case of not seeing what’s right in front of you. I can see the parallels to Jane Austen’s Emma. Cate tries to play matchmaker for everybody she knows, while totally being blind to the great guy who is a both a good guy and into her. I was happy with the resolution – how she & Ethan get a little helping hand, and the parting lines. I think Jane Austen fans will like this book, as well as people who enjoy romances involving two longtime friends finally getting together.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Cat's Meow by Stacey Kennedy

I was drawn to this book by the fun cover and interesting book description. What kept me interested were the characters, the romantic tension between the witch Libby and the warlock Kale, and the mystery. The mystery involving dead cats, human corpses sans souls, & power-hungry warlocks kept me guessing who Mr. Big was - the bad guy calling the shots. Kale appearing out of thin air, and his sexiness, sweetness, yet determination to remain an enigma helped to add to the suspense. I also really liked that, other then a sexy dream encounter, Libby and Kale didn't actually hook up until secrets were revealed and Libby felt like she could trust Kale. I look forward to reading more stories with the two of them.

Dark Dealings by Kim Knox

I hate romantic triangles in romances. However I LOVE romantic quadrangles. Specifically when two of the people involved join up to split apart the other two (who are the objects of affection) and wind up falling for each other instead. Such is the plot of Dark Dealings by Kim Knox. Reist and Fallon started a romantic relationship much to the consternation of Ava Kalle and Nahum Heyerdar. Ava has been in love with Reist, her mentor, for ages. Fallon was Heyerdar's lover before she was Reist's. Ava goes to Heyerdar with a plan to work together to split Reist & Fallon up for their own selfish romantic reasons. The plan involves some sexy dream tampering shenanigans. This makes for some very hot scenes between the two. The other main story in this book, besides the romantic story, involves tracking a murderous gang of magical thieves. Ava is a "thief". In this story, a "thief" is not what we normally consider a thief. In this world, a thief is pretty much an ultimate parasite. It's a being that not only feeds on another being's magic and life source, but feeds on flesh and bone as well. Consequently, thieves are not held in high regard. I found this story fascinating. I enjoyed the search for the bad guys and I loved the evolving relationship between Ava & Heyerdar. I was a little surprised by the revelation of Heyerdar's brother and also the big reveal at the end of Reist's true character. I was totally cheering for Ava & Heyerdar at the end. Loved how things worked out and liked seeing Heyerdar's hidden depths.

Monday, January 14, 2013

One Night in London by Caroline Linden

The Truth About the Duke: Book 1
Rating: 5 stars

Lady Francesca Gordon and Edward de Lacey are both after the same thing – to engage the services of London’s top solicitor. Francesca gets there first but when a note arrives from Edward, the solicitor drops her like a hot potato in favor of helping a Duke’s son. Francesca needs help finding her young niece. Her sister died years ago and then more recently her brother-in-law died. Her brother-in-law told her that the niece (Georgina) would live with her in the event of his death. However, the step-mother and her brother refuse turn Georgina over and end up disappearing for parts unknown. Francesca wants the lawyer to argue her right to guardianship in the courts. Meanwhile – Edward’s father the Duke of Durham has just died. Upon his death, the family solicitor informs Edward & his brother Gerard that, years ago before the Duke married their mother, he married somebody else. They never ended up living as man and wife and realized their mistake after the fact. The problem is that he was never divorced and he never knew for a fact that the other woman died before marrying again. They also learn that shortly before his death, the Duke was receiving blackmail letters from some anonymous sender. The Duke had tried to find the blackmailer but was unable to. This now leaves his children grieving his death, but also feeling somewhat betrayed because the Duke never confided this to them. Each of the three sons plans to deal with the situation in a different way. Charlie, the oldest and heir, prefers to do nothing and let his brothers handle it. Gerard, the soldier, plans to search for the blackmailer and enact some street justice. Edward, the planner and man of business, decides to find the best lawyer to plan their defense of the Dukedom.

When Francesca blazes a trail to Edward’s doorstep to demand help and plead her case, sparks fly between the two. She leaves both defeated and angry. Edward goes to tell his fiancĂ© what the situation is, thinking that she has a right to know. He swears her to secrecy. She tells her papa, who sells the story to the gossip rag. Upon seeing the story in the paper, Francesca goes to Edward with a new proposition: help her find a good lawyer to help her & in return she will help convince the owner of the gossip sheet to print a retraction since she knows him. She fulfills her part and he helps her. After spending so much time in each other’s company hunting Georgina, the spark of attraction they first felt grows. Soon they give in and the passion is electric. I liked both characters. Edward is a little bit Mr. Darcy material. This was my fav story of the series so far.

Lucky Stiff by Annelise Ryan

This is book 4 in this series but this is the first book by the author that I've read.

There were actually two mysteries in this book. The first mystery is concerning the death of Jack Allen - a paraplegic who recently won a huge casino jackpot. The second investigation centers on the body of Donald Strommen that turned up floating in the water. I enjoyed both mysteries. They kept me interested and guessing so much that I never really stopped reading once I started. The laundry list of suspects in the Jack Allen case was very believable as legitimate suspects. I enjoyed the process of checking alibis and finding motives. The mystery involving the floater was compelling and very sad at the end of the case. I found the medical tidbits along the way very interesting. I normally read a lot of cozy mysteries. I wouldn’t really call this a cozy – it’s more like CSI. The first autopsy scene grossed me out a little but I was ok with the others. I liked Mattie, the main character. I thought her character seemed very real & likable. I could relate to her. I just couldn't believe it when she kept taking out money and going back to the casino. I understood what her reasons were but I felt like shaking her and saying "What the hell are you doing?" Going the first time I could understand but going back so many times and with so much cash drove me nuts. I also enjoyed the romantic tension between Mattie and Hurley. I was happy they finally hooked up at the end, but……everything that happened in Mattie’s personal life that happened directly after that just threw me for a loop. Between the evil ex-husband pulling the lousy thing he did, and Hurley’s past coming back to haunt them – it just seemed like too much. I really hope that things look up for Mattie in the next book because I really liked and care about the character & enjoy this author’s way of writing a mystery.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter by Jessica Sims

Rating: ★★★★★
Midnight Liaisons: Book 2

This is Book 2 in this series but this is the first book I've read by this author (other than a short story in an anthology). I was fine reading them out of order but I recommend most people read them in order.

This book picks right up from where Book 1 leaves off. Sara Ward is a were-wolf. She was turned years ago by an abusive boyfriend. She was rescued from that boyfriend by her sister Bathsheba who came to get her and killed the dirtbag. Because of the circumstances surrounding her turning, Sara never had a were mentor to show her the were-wolf basics like how to control her changing. Sara and her sister work at a dating service for paranormals. Bathsheba is a human married to a were-cougar. Sara has been generating interest from the local wolfpack. The bulk of whom could have come out of the movie Deliverance. They have kidnapped a female were-cougar and demand Sara is handed over for the were-cougar. A plan is hatched. Everybody in the good guy camp makes it look at first they they will play ball. After the were-cougar is handed over, Ramsey (huge bear-shifter & second in command to the were-cougar leader) claims Sara as his mate. Much to the surprise of everyone, they end up putting on a little show to prove the relationship is the real deal. The wolves are still suspicious and claim they won't put up a fight (for long) if they send one of their own on the pretense of helping Sara learn to control her shifting and to judge how real the mating is. The good guys reluctantly agree.

I loved the many hot & sweet moments between Ramsey & Sara. The chemistry is intense. Ramsey is such a sweetie - he treats Sara so fab, helping her with shifting, soothing her after nightmares, and everything else. I love how Sara conquers her wolf & kicks some redneck wolf ass at the end. Very much looking forward to Book 3 in this series.

Intimate Betrayal by Adrienne Basso

Morgan Ashton, Duke of Gillingham is drawn in to the world of spies, much to his chagrin, because some spy activity is being linked to one of his properties. It's in his best interest to aid the government and find out who the real villains are. About the same time that he is made aware of these things, he participates in an auction for a Viscount's country estate - not that he's all that interested, he bids almost as an afterthought. He goes to the won property, on the way to his own, to inspect exactly what he's won. He fully expects to find the Viscount. What he finds instead is a rather shappy estate and the Viscount's daughter Alyssa Carrington is running the estate in the capacity that a man would as a paid estate manager. Morgan is shocked by this state of affairs. Not only is the pretty and very capable running things, but it appears she has been doing so for some time as well as handling the settling of the Viscount's gaming debts. He is also surprised that nobody has informed Alyssa that the property has been auctioned off. One reason, other than the fact that her father has never given her or her welfare much consideration, is that word arrives that her father has committed suicide. Alyssa is devastated - if for no other reason than the little nest egg that she has been putting aside for the day when something like this may happen is eaten away by her father's other debts. In the end she secures a position of supervising the refurbrishing of Westgate Manor for Morgan's family members. During this time he and Alyssa engage in a very passionate affair. The start of this is a HUGE misunderstanding. Morgan proposes Alyssa be his mistress but he unintentionally phrases it so that she believes he is proposing marriage. I was surprised the misunderstanding went on as long as it did. When they both clearly understand each other, it understandably leads to very hurt feelings. Alyssa winds up pregnant and they end up marrying. The one thing I disliked about this book was how long the enstrangement between the two lasts. It goes on too long for my tastes.

The Importance of Being Wicked by Victoria Alexander

I was looking forward to this book because I'm a big fan of this author, and I really liked what I've read of the hero from appearances in other stories. The heroine has also been a supporting character in a previous book. The setting of this book is Victorian England.

Both the hero and heroine in this book have undergone changes to their personality, due largely to circumstance. They both seem to be unaware of it until pointed out to them by friends and family. Winfield Elliot, Viscount Stillwell was something of a rake in his younger days. After the defection of his cousin, three failed engagements (none of the three being his fault despite public opinion), and some maturing, he is still the charming, likable man he always was but also became more responsible and a man to be counted on. At the opening of the book, a fire damaging his family country home and facing his father's mortality shocks him and have him acting not quite himself at times. Lady Miranda Garrett is a widow. She comes from a large and opinionated family. In her family she was often regarded as the meek and mild one. She later married a man she loved, but she often acquiesced to his wishes and let him take all of the credit for her contributions to his architectural firm. After her husband's death, she is still hiding behind the scenes in many respects. She also continues to let her family think of her as they always have. Win & Miranda meet when Win hires her firm to repair and restore his home. Their first meeting is rocky because Win expects to be dealing with a man. They have a brief battle of wills in which Miranda is the victor. This sets the stage for their future dealings with each other. The meetings are filled with verbal sparring, which eventually leads to attraction. Miranda's intelligence and strength sparks Win to voice some conservative ramblings just to be contrary and draw out Miranda. I like watching the moment when Miranda finally thinks of Win as carming and Win realizes his desire for Miranda physically as well as intellectually. My favorite moments were when he shows her the folly and shows her his romantic side, and when they both sing each other's praises to her family. I like that Win isn't turned off when he finds out that she is the brains behind her firm, only wanting and waiting for her to tell him because he wants her trust. I also liked how, near the very end, he doesn't go for her brother's stupin plan to get her to admit it.
The ending is fabulous and totally true to the characters.

One Night with a Cowboy by Cat Johnson

This is the first book I've read by this author. At the opening of the book, Rebecca Hart is in a bad place emotionally because she is laid off from her teaching job at Vassar and she comes home to find her boyfriend moving out of their place. Consequently, she is kind of a downer. Thankfully her bubbly sister Emma helps pull her out of her funk and helps her with her job situation. Unbeknownst to Becca, Emma submits Becca's resume to OSU for an associate professor position - which would be an even better position than she had at the previous school she taught at. Emma and Becca travel out to Oklahoma after Becca gets picked for an interview. Emma convinces her to have some fun and go to a rodeo their first night. Tucker Jenkins is participating in the rodeo with his buddy Jace. Tucker is still nursing a bruised heart from his ex-wife's cheating ways. He and Becca lock eyes at the rodeo and he and Jace introduce themselves to Emma & Becca. He and Becca manage to have an extremely hot one-night stand. I did appreciate that both parties thought about and practiced safe sex in spite of opting to hook up so soon after meeting. The morning after they both part reluctantly, no numbers are exchanged. Becca figures that Tucker, while nice, is probably in a different town each night riding the rodeo circuit with rodeo groupies aplenty. Tucker figures Becca will be headed back to New York, thus never seeing her and making anything long term impossible. In the end, Becca gets the position at OSU and she and Tucker are surprised to find that they are now co-workers. Becca works in the English department at OSU and Tucker is on the payroll instructing cadets in the military science department. Both are shocked. Both think that the other should have volunteered more information about themselves at their last meeting. They end up rekindling the flame and sparks fly. Things get very hot. The only reason I gave this a 4 star rating instead of 5 stars is because the book description made it seem as though Tucker was strictly a cowboy. I thought maybe he worked on or owned a ranch in addition to riding in rodeos. That's not entirely an accurate picture of him though. He only does the rodeo thing on the side. He is a soldier and primarily a military instructor. If anything, he is more of a military guy rather than a cowboy. I enjoyed the supporting characters like Jace, Logan & Emma. I look forward to reading Emma's story.