Thursday, June 27, 2013

Three Little Words by Susan Mallery

I loved this book! Since Ford Hendrix came home from the military, Isabel has made a dedicated effort to avoid him. She is currently temporarily house-sitting and living in her parents’ house. This is convenient because she is currently watching their bridal shop while they are away. Not so convenient to have the person you are trying to avoid renting the garage apartment next door. Isabel and Ford have a complicated history. Isabel had a major crush on Ford in her youth but he was engaged to her older sister. When she was 14, her sister ditched Ford in favor of his current BFF Leonard. In response, Ford signed up with the Navy and shipped out – but not before Isabel confessed her love. She wrote to him for years while he was away. Ford never wrote back. What she never knew is that he read and cherished all those letters, even when they morphed into diary entries more than letters. Those letters were his rock in some very tough times. Flash forward to the present. Isabel is divorced and killing time until watching her parents’ shop until she jets off pursuing her retail dreams in NYC. Ford is running a defense academy with his military buddies and dodging his mom and sisters. His mother, Denise, recently set up a booth taking applications from women who might be interested in a romantic relationship with either of her two sons – Ford & Kent. If she was my mother, I would be livid but since she’s not, it’s hilarious. It occurs to Ford that if he could get Isabel to be his pretend girlfriend then maybe his mother will back off. I loved the sexy romance that develops between the two. I also loved this book because of the secondary romance that develops between Kent and Consuelo. It was just a sweet thing to read. Kent is so surprised by Consuelo’s apparent interest in him. He can’t imagine what such a beautiful and strong woman would want with a boring math teacher. He has no idea. Consuelo is attracted to him physically but she is looking for the complete antithesis of the kind of guy she is normally around. She likes that Kent is such a normal, sweet guy. Very happy with how things end. Can’t wait for the next book!

Mine To Take by Cynthia Eden

Skye Sullivan has a stalker. She comes home to find things rearranged. She goes to the police but feels like they don’t believe her or take her seriously. She then goes to Trace Weston. Trace is her one great love, the man who pushed her away, but also the man who fiercely protected her in the past. Skye and Trace grew up in the foster care system together. Over the course of the book, you get glimpses of their past which give you a flavor of what their relationship was like and what they mean to each other. Trace is thrilled to have an opportunity to get Skye back in his life. He also believes that the person stalking Skye now is the same person who stalked her years ago while she was a professional dancer working in New York. It would also be the same person who caused her car to crash, thus ending her dancing career. I loved the sexiness of this story, as well as the taut thriller aspect of the story. The story is set up so that the reader is constantly wondering who the bad guy is. Is it some unknown person? Is it one of Skye’s other former lovers, or is it Trace – the man she never stopped loving and came to for help? In this story, Trace behaves in a very possessive and protective manner toward Skye. Does he really love her? Is it just protective and possessive, or is it a dangerous obsession? I very much enjoyed this story and look forward to reading other similar stories by this author.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Two of a Kind by Susan Mallery

Gideon Boylan - the hero of this story - is one of a group of former soldiers currently making their home in the town of Fool's Gold. Just about all of these former soldiers bare some type of mental scarring leaving them with emotional issues that need to be worked out. In Gideon's case, he was held captive and tortured at one point. He was the only survivor. He believes that the main reason he was able to endure and survive is because he didn't have any emotional ties to anybody back home like the others did. He thinks that is what weakened his fellow captives. Enter Felicia Swift. Felicia was in the military as well. She has been super smart all her life. Some people find her intelligence intimidating - her parents were freaked out. Her parents pretty much "opted out" on raising her, leaving her to basically raise herself in various institutional settings. She became emancipated at age 14. Due to her super brain, and how she grew up, she is aware that she processes things a little differently than everybody else. She and Gideon had a one night stand years ago. She was a virgin at the time and, after some consideration, picked out Gideon to lose it to. Flash forward to the present and Felicia and Gideon find themselves in the same town and still deeply attracted to each other. There are many things about this book that I loved - the great characters, the sexy romance, the comradery between the former soldiers, and the relationship that develops between Felicia and 13yr. old Carter. The mother-son type relationship between the two was very touching. In addition to liking Carter, she finds that she can relate to his situation because of her teenage experience. I also liked the tease of a possible love match between Consuelo and Kent Hendrix. After reading this book, I couldn't wait to read the next book in the series.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Beyond the Masque by Kae D. Jacobs

So...... I had just finished watching Love Never Dies - the sequel of the musical The Phantom of the Opera so I was looking for some "phantom" spin-off books or "inspired by". Turns out there are quite a few, much like the cottage industry of Pride & Prejudice spin-offs, etc. I realize that some readers dislike these types of books and only see them as terrible bastardizations of classic works of literature. I have no problem with them - provided they are good and work overall.

I was able to find, and requested, a few from various libraries. The first book I read was a truly horrid contemporary "inspired by" story. It was bad on so many levels. It referenced the original works and had main characters who were crazed fans. Sigh. The "hero" was a total nutjob/stalker and the heroine totally went total Stockholm Syndrome.

But I digress. This second book I tried was Beyond the Masque, by Kae D. Jacobs. I found this book to be very well-written and exactly what I was looking for. It felt like it was written by a professional author, rather than somebody writing fan fiction. The story opens more or less picking up where the original story left off and goes from there. It tells a story of how Christine and her phantom could wind up together and still make sense and not make you roll your eyes. The characters are fleshed out with added depth. This book had the best version of the Christine character. In this book Christine is a product of her times, but she is not quite the passive damsel in distress that she appears to be in some incarnations - she is more self-aware. This book does not, as I'm told other "Phantom-inspired/spin-offs" do, make Raoul into a villain. The book is very romantic, almost very "Song of Solomon" at times. If you enjoy The Phantom of the Opera, or if you just enjoy romantic historical fiction, you might enjoy this book. It is written very much in the style of the period written about. It is most definitely not a snooze but it is also not a book w/ a million assorted conflicts haphazardly thrown in. It is simply the story of two people's journey through life and love. It is a rather lengthy book. The Epilogue ends at page 700. There is also an extensive character description/biography at the end that I found very helpful. In spite of it's length, I didn't feel as though I was trudging through it. I've read a few chapters each evening before bed, taking about a week or two to finish. Again - not for everybody but exactly what I was looking for & loved the writing. I very much look forward to reading more by this author - especially if she writes about some of the other characters that were in this book as she hinted at on her website. But after reading this book, I would try anything else by this author.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die by Edith Maxwell

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this mystery at first because of how intense the supporting characters were about eating local. Almost immediately, however, the main female character seemed to be more low key and easier to relate to. She is committed to working her farm and going totally organic, but she is not as religious about only eating or drinking locally grown/made products herself. She respects the passion of others but is more like everybody else. The main character, Cameron, “Cam”, Flaherty has taken over her great-uncle’s farm and is committed to it being totally organic, not using chemicals on the produce. At the opening of the book, she has to fire her handyman for going against her orders and farm policy. He doesn’t take it well. He is soon found murdered on Cam’s farm with a pitchfork through him. I really enjoyed this mystery the more I read it. Cam is a likable character and easy to relate to. The members of the locavore club were interesting suspects and supporting characters. I liked the romantic interest for Cam. I hope that angle keeps going through future books. I liked the friendship Cam had in the book with Lucinda & Ruthie, as well as the mentor role she had with Ellie. I look forward to seeing all of them in future books. The mystery kept me interested until the very end. I found the issues brought up in this book regarding immigration and guns to be very relevant. I found the plant info scattered through the book to be interesting as well. Great mystery & I look forward to future books in this series!

Night's Mistress by Amanda Ashley

The heroine in this story, Mara, first appeared in the book Night’s Kiss. Mara is an ancient vampire; much sought after by attractive men and vampire hunters – albeit for different reasons. At the start of this story, she is in a melancholy mood. She’s been on the earth for a very long time, loved and lost, seen friends start families, and the end of her last romance hit her pretty hard. Her last romance was with a human man named Kyle. He was an artist and she fancied herself very much in love. However, when he discovered what she really was, he was repulsed and horrified. She took off to lick her emotional wounds. It’s during this time that two major things happen in her undead life – she starts to turn mortal and she runs into a former flame now going by the name of Logan Blackwood. Not only does Mara want to stay a vampire, but if word gets out to her vampire enemies that she’s mortal & therefore vulnerable, she is in extreme danger. Logan is a vampire, whom Mara turned a few hundred years ago. It is something he doesn’t resent her for. They had a hot love affair until Mara left, worrying she was getting too close. Now the tables have switched – Mara is weaker and Logan is in the role of looking after her. She finds out the miraculous fact that she got pregnant by Kyle. This is the heart of the story – who should Mara choose, her human ex-lover & father of her child who spurned her when he first learned what she is or Logan the vampire who has loved her for hundreds of years  no matter human or vampire. For me it would be an easy choice. After all, besides being wealthy & Greek god sexy, Logan takes care of her for months before her ex-love turns up on the scene again. My only nitpicks about this book is that I feel like the author’s personal stance on certain social issues was really put out there. Also, I disliked a choice Mara made toward the end of the book. However, everything righted itself by the end and these things didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book. I look forward to more books in this series and more books in general by this author.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A SEAL Wolf Christmas by Terry Spear

ARC copy gotten from the author.

This is Book 12 in the author's "Heart of the Wolf" series. I loved this book! I have been looking forward to Anna & Bjornolf's book since reading about their first meeting in A SEAL In Wolf's Clothing. I loved the idea of a romance between these two because they are so evenly matched. Bjornolf has "ghosted" various paramilitary teams and field operations. Like Bjornolf, Anna is a highly skilled operative. There were definitley sparks back when they first met. They meet up again when, at the opening of the book, Bjornolf is found to be "ghosting" a team that Anna is on down in the Amazon jungle. Her team, led by fellow wolf shifter Hunter Greymere, is on a mission to recover a kidnapped family. I was happy that this book revisited the characters from To Tempt the Wolf because they were some of my favorite from the series. It's while on this mission that Hunter tells Bjornolf of another mission that he would like both he and Anna to be directly involved in. Hunter got word that the scent of some dead wolf bodies turned up at a Christmas tree farm. He wants Anna & Bjornolf to go undercover posing as newlyweds (as well as aunt and uncle to the teen werewolf who discovered the scent) to investigate. Bjornolf is familiar with Nathan because he had previously brought back the teen after he ran away. Anna is hesitant about handling a teenager underfoot. Her doubts prove to be groundless. Both teens in this story, Nathan & Jessica both come to care and respect Anna. She also surprises herself by how she's able to relate to their situations, drawing on her past experiences. She soon comes to care for them both as well. The interaction between the three of them was very sweet at times. Besides the sinister things going on at the Christmas tree farm, Bjornolf makes it his personal mission to discover why Christmas leaves Anna cold. Several things make this a satisfying paranormal romance: the mystery, humor, the characters, and the sexy love story. The mystery kept me interested and the resolution made sense. I look forward to the next book in the series! I also look forward to revisting the characters in this pack again in a future book. I'm hoping for Rourke to get his own book.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Jaguar Fever by Terry Spear

I got this as an ARC from the author.

This is Book 2 in this author's "Heart of the Jaguar" series. This book is a good example of how you can have a great paranormal romance full of sexy, strong Alpha-males without having them be jerks. The main male characters in this story are paramilitary jaguar shifters but they never use their physical strength to manipulate the female characters. They appreciate that strong women are just a fact of life and often work side by side battling the bad guys in some very physical situations. Wade (hero) and Maya (heroine) are both jaguar shifters. They know of each other from the events of the previous book, but come face-to-face for the first time in this book. It is attraction at first sight. Wade had been under the mistaken impression that Maya and Kat were both Connor Anderson's mates. In reality, as Wade quickly found out in this book, Maya is Connor's sister & only Kat is Connor's mate. Sibling relationships seem to be a focus in this book - Maya and Connor, Wade and David, among others. The importance of family is looked at in this story in addition to the action & suspense. Wade is looking for some permanence and a mate. Maya is looking for some fun and love but is hesitant and very cautious about jumping into a commitment because of the relationship between her mother and father. In addition to seducing her physically, Wade tries to lure Maya into believing in "forever". The main characters who made up the "good guys" interacted in a fun way. The romance was sexy and the respect and caring shown by Wade and Maya for each other was sweet and nice to see. Again, I loved how strong the female characters were & how they weren't afraid to play an active role in the action involved with trying to nab the bad guys. I liked meeting the new characters introduced in this book and look forward to the next book in this series and other books by this author.

A Cowboy's Pride by Pamela Britton

I loved this book! I usually enjoy books with a scarred hero (whether mental or physical). I find it interesting to read about the character’s struggles as well as personal victories. Physical therapist Alana McClintock first meets rodeo star Trent Anderson when he arrives at New Horizons Ranch to recuperate after receiving an injury that left him paralyzed from mid-thigh downward. When first arriving, Trent is stubborn, grouchy, and a little bitter about his situation. However, he is in good hands with Alana. She finds him exasperating at first as well as very attractive – much to her dismay. I loved the gradual building of a friendship and romance. I thought all the characters had depth and were genuine. For me, this was the right blend of good story, characters, sweet moments, and sexiness. I liked that Trent and Alana were able to bond over both having lost a loved one and experiencing survivor’s guilt. I found the ending satisfying. I very much look forward to the next book, which I believe comes out in November, involving two characters from this story.

Bedding The Wrong Brother by Virna DePaul

This was a very sexy tale of love and longing. Rhys and Max Dalton are twins and superstar magicians. Melina Parker is a professor and entomologist. Melina and the Dalton twins grew up together and remained friends throughout the years. During those early years Melina fell for Rhys and he likewise fell for her. The problem is that they never let each other know how they felt. For her part, Melina felt geeky, awkward, and way out of their league. At the opening of the story she has very low sexual self-confidence due to some jerk ex-boyfriends. After talking with her girlfriends, she decides to ask Max for some sexual tutoring so she can figure out how to be a better lover and attract a mate. He reluctantly agrees. She trusts Max and her heart isn't in danger from him like it would be with Rhys. However....both Rhys and Melina never imagine how Max plans to play cupid. The two soon wind up in each other's arms and things continue to heat up from there. I enjoyed this romance and liked the fact that Rhys had also secretly had a crush on Melina like she did on him. I was satisfied with how things ended up. I look forward to stories about Melina's friends.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Just My Luck by Kelley Vitollo

Betsy Harris has worked for her sexy lawyer boss Jace Macnamara for years. She has been secretly in love with him for just about the entire time. One day, Jace’s grandfather dies and in his will it stipulates that Jace can only keep his childhood home if he is married. Jace feels incredibly betrayed by his grandfather and can’t think of any way to fix things until he considers his trusty friend & employee, Betsy. He is aware that Betsy has (in his mind) a little crush on him and he knows it is a lot to ask but he asks if she would be willing to marry him right away and live with him for 6 months to help him out. He believes she needs a little financial help so he offers her cash as an incentive. Betsy does need some extra cash, but she wants to keep Jace in the dark about why she needs it. She needs the money for her mother’s care facility. Betsy’s mother is a little loopy. On a bad day she is like the mom from “Carrie”, but on a good day she is nice but with a pinch of difficult thrown in. IT didn’t help her mother’s state of mind that Betsy was conceived through rape. Due to Betsy’s background, she has always been a little timid around men in general and hasn’t had a lot of relationship experience. In this book the two friends and co-workers get to know each other on a more emotionally intimate level and dance around an attraction – an attraction that is new on Jace’s part. The thing that is hampering their growing relationship is Betsy’s secrecy regarding her mother. Jace feels that she’s keeping something from him but doesn’t know what. He wishes she would trust him more. Betsy just doesn’t want to be known as the girl with tons of baggage and doesn’t want anybody, especially Jace, look at her with pity. This was a sweet romance about the importance of trust. I liked the contrast between Jace’s feeling like he can open up to Betsy about personal things that he doesn’t usually with other people, and Betsy’s feeling as though she has to clam up. There were a lot of sweet scenes between the two & I found the end satisfying.

Bad Mouth by Angela McCallister

This story takes place in a world where vampires and humans co-exist and are aware of each other. It is possible for a human to go through a "transformation" and be changed into a vampire. These transformations are performed by certain vampires called "adjuvants". I feel like this story was part paranormal romance/part gritty detective story. This is a good story for paranormal fans who like "world-building". There is a glossary of terms under the book's description on, which I believe the author provided, that might prove helpful for some readers. The gist of the main conflict is that there are some sinister things going on. Some vampires want to put the blame on humans but the heroine of this story, Valerie Craig, believes it's the work of vampires. Through her work at the Vampire Liaison Office, she is thrown together with vampire prince and adjuvant Kade Rollins. For good reasons, he hates humans as much as Valerie hates vampires - but they are forced to work together to track down the bad guys. This was a sexy story with a hero who has a badass exterior but a marshmallow center when it comes to the woman he loves. I look forward to more books in this series with Ian, and maybe a love match that seems hinted between Ezra & Alice.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Just What He Wanted by HelenKay Dimon

This is Book 4 in the author's "Holloway" series but it is only the first book I've read by this author. In spite of that, I was able to to follow and enjoy the story. Andrea "Andie" Patterson was hired by the Holloway family to manage a campground. Travis Yardley is an employee for the Holloway family and at a young age was welcomed and absorbed into the family. They decide to send Travis to go and check on things up at the campground to make sure that Andie is not too overwhelmed and check if she needs anything. Andie & Travis have an inauspicious first meeting. Travis says a few dopey, badly timed things because Andie's beauty strikes him stupid. Travis's behavior is baffling to Andie. She is immediately attracted to Travis but she figures they would never hook up. She believes he is too young and she is also insecure about her looks, in spite of being a strong woman in every other respect. I liked both characters a lot, and found their issues added depth - Andie with her body image issues, and Travis with his raw wounds about his biological family. I loved how Travis pursued Andie & I loved how they both were able to teach each other something.I look forward to reading more books by this author.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

It Had to Be You by Jill Shalvis

This is Book 8 in this author's "Lucky Harbor" series. Since I love mysteries and I love Jill Shalvis books, I was happy that this book was both. This was a great romance with a little thrown in.
At the opening of this book, Ali Winters has a nice life - a job she enjoys working at the local floral shop, a charming boyfriend, a place to stay, and she's able to teach classes to the seniors she has a soft spot for. However, only a few pages in and she has about a million more sources of stress than she did. Her boss at the floral shop is looking to make a move, her boyfriend turns out to be a cheating swine thus leaving her single and without a place to stay all at once, AND a theft makes her suspect # 1. She comes into the orbit of Luke Hanover because it was his place that her boyfriend was renting and she was living at. Luke is back in his hometown of Lucky Harbor to hide/relax after a high profile case he was involved in went south and became a major headache as well as source of guilty feelings. Luke is no stranger to feelings of guilt. He also harbors guilt, whether misplaced or not, for his grandma's death and his sister's troubled past. One thing that Ali & Luke both have in common is that they are both mired down with an overwhelming sense of responsibility. I liked Ali and felt she was a very real female character. This was another great book in this series. The romance was sexy & the characters were well-developed and enjoyable. Loved the antics of the seniors and their protective feelings toward Ali. Very cute. Looking forward to Jack's book.

Bucking the Rules by Kat Murray

This is Book 2 in Kat Murray's "Rope & Wrangled" series. The hero in this book is Trace Muldoon - rodeo star & single father to baby Seth. I was intrigued by Trace in the previous book so I was looking forward to his book. This didn't disappoint. We learned in the previous book that Trace showed up with his baby son Seth with no sign or story about the mother & Trace refuses to answer any questions about her. You do finally find out the story behind that in this book. It's such an unusual situation for a highly attractive, healthy single man to take responsibility for a baby and raise him on his own and be so into fatherhood as he is. The scenes between Trace and Seth are just so sweet. It's one of the things that make Trace such an endearing character. He reads up on parenting and carries him everywhere. In addition to being a great dad, he's also super sexy, laid back, and has a good sense of humor. In spite of focusing on being a father, he finds himself very attracted to Jo Tallen. Jo owns her own bar in town. She's viewed as an outsider by some townspeople because she wasn't born a local. She has traveled all over, partly because her mother constantly changed husbands. I liked Jo the more I read about her. She's another strong female character, like Trace's sister Peyton, except her style is very different from his sister. I liked the little friendship that struck up between Jo & Trace's actress sister Bea. Bea seemed to have more depth in this book and I look forward to reading her story next. I liked how Trace & Jo both had lousy mother figures in common for them to bond over. I also liked how Trace was firm about letting Jo know that he wasn't looking for a quick replacement mommy for Seth. He wouldn't have somebody around him who was a bad person and bad influence, but he was the parent. He wanted Jo for who she was and loved her just for herself. Great characters, and sexy, sweet romance. I like how things worked out between Jo and the townspeople at the end of the book. Can't wait until the next book.