February 28, 2010

Back cover:
Haunted by chilling memories of demonic possession and murder, Moira O’Donnell has spent seven years hunting down her mother, Fiona, whose command of black magic has granted her unprecedented control of the underworld. Now Moira’s global search has led her to a small California town that’s about to become hell on earth.

Tormented by his own terrifying past and driven by powers he can’t explain, ex-seminarian Rafe Cooper joins Moira’s dangerous quest. But Fiona is one devilish step ahead. Hungry for greater power, eternal youth, and stunning beauty, the sorceress is unleashing upon the mortal world the living incarnations of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Together with a demonologist, a tough female sheriff, and a pair of star-crossed teenagers, Moira and Rafe are humanity’s last chance to snatch salvation from the howling jaws of damnation.

Since the back cover blurb describes efficiently what the book is about I'm not starting with my own plot summary but will dive straight into what my thoughts about this book were.

Before I give my opinion of this book I must sketch a little background of how I came about reading and reviewing it. I have had books by Allison Brennan on my shelves for a few years now. I think since Speak No Evil was released. A fan of romantic suspense/thrillers I glommed her entire backlist up to that moment and have bought every new release from her ever since. However, they are all still on my TBR pile because I just haven't gotten around to reading any. Then I read about the start of a new series by her, The Seven Deadly Sins and its first installment ORIGINAL SIN. The author called it a supernatural thriller and my attention was immediately drawn and there it went...on the order list. When the book was offered to me for review I didn't even hesitate and almost fell over my feet, running to accept it. I took it with me on vacation and started reading it about halfway through my vacation.

And here is where my expectations harshly collided with what I actually got from the book. I was expecting a fast-paced read full of suspense, action and engaging characters. I was expecting a paranormal romance combined with romantic suspense. What I got was a book that to me qualifies as Urban Fantasy, a genre that is not high on my reading menu and I think this was the main reason of why I struggled so much with this book. I am absolutely convinced that if you like Urban Fantasy you will love Original Sin, despite the slow pace, the extensive and complicated world-building with info-dumps and flashbacks. For me, unfortunately, the book didn't work until about the last 150 pages of the book.

My main struggles were with Moira’s characterization, the excruciatingly slow pace (until the last part), and the fact that the book doesn't contain a rounded, stand-alone story. It's very clearly an introductory first book in an UF-like series and I suspect that everything I was expecting in this book, will be offered in the following installment(s). Because I do have to admit that the last part of ORIGINAL SIN has made me curious about a lot of things that were revealed and I am very tempted to get CARNAL SIN to find out more.

Another thing that impeded my full enjoyment of the book was Moira. She and I just didn't click, especially in the beginning. She was too guilt-ridden, too insecure. This improved a bit once she and Rafe were put together and I did like that she developed a bit to being more confident and less guilt-ridden. Despite the flashbacks and characterization of the main characters through the multiple POVs I didn't have the feeling that I have gotten to know the characters. They all stay on the surface, again contributing to my feeling that there is so much more to be revealed about all of them.

Despite the above I cannot say that ORIGINAL SIN is a bad book. Absolutely not. Even if the build-up and pace were slow I was intrigued by the premise of the all magic is evil plot and the deadly sins that have been unleashed on the world. And the suspense building was well done too because in every chapter small revelations were subtly imbedded into the many flashbacks and information, revelations intriguing enough to keep me reading despite Urban Fantasy feel of the book.

The last part of the book worked the best for me because after the slow start and world building, from about 3/4 into the book, Brennan gave me the pace and action I was longing for. In a considerably faster pace the suspense grew and some threads were unraveled with surprising and unexpected revelations. After how ORIGINAL SIN ended I am heavily speculating about some stuff surrounding Rafe and Moira and I'm curious to see if my speculations are correct.

So despite the things that didn't work for me in this book, the last 150 pages were great and that part is making me look forward to the next installment because now I need to know how things are going to play out and what's further in store for Moira, Rafe, Skye, Anthony and the rest. And I have high hopes for a more romantic focus in the future books because even if there was no clear romance thread in this book, there were subtle suggestions that something is developing between Moira and Rafe. The romance lover in me clung to these subtle hints and to the romance between Anthony and Skye.

In conclusion, as UF is not my favorite genre and this book really leans strongly towards it, it could not enthrall me as much as I hoped it would but even if the book didn't quite work for me, I do believe this book will greatly appeal to UF readers and lovers and I do plan to read more by Allison Brennan, starting with her straight-up romantic suspense/thrillers because that thread in ORIGINAL SIN pulled it up from a disappointing to a fairly satisfactory read.

Rating: 6.7 out of 10
February 21, 2010

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren

During my vacation I didn't receive many books...This is a direct consequence of the tight book budget I am on since January, which is a consequence of losing my job and being forced to get unemployment benefits which are much lower than my salary was. I am now forced to make choices and think before I click the buy buttons at my favorite online bookstores. Let's hope I find a new job soon so I can go off this book budget, because I really don't like this :(

Author: Sara Lindsey
Title: Promise Me Tonight
Series: Weston Family Series, book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Release date: February 2010
Bought via The Bookdepository

The Weston siblings have been blessed with Shakespearean names and an affinity for impropriety. Prepare to fall in love while discovering how the Westons are won.

Isabella Weston has loved James Sheffield for as long as she can remember. Her come-out ball seems the prefect chance to make him see her in a new light.

James is stunned to find the impish girl he once knew has blossomed into a sensual goddess. And if he remembers his lessons, goddesses always spell trouble for mortal men.

When Izzie kisses James, her artless ardor turns to a masterful seduction that drives him mad with desire. But, no stranger to heartbreak, James is determined never to love, and thus never to lose. Can Isabella convince him that a life without love might be the biggest loss of all?

Author: Allison Brennan, Roxanne St. Claire and Karin Tabke
Title: What You Can't See
Series: Anthology
Genre: Suspense
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Release date: January 2008
Won via Allison Brennan


Allison Brennan - Deliver Us From Evil (prequel to Seven Deadly Sins series)
Demonologist Anthony Zaccardi can't save the twelve priests brutally slaughtered at a California mission, but he's determined to send the killer -- an ancient demon -- back to hell. And when tough, sexy local sheriff Skye McPherson refuses to believe something supernatural is at work, Anthony realizes that to "Deliver Us From Evil" he must first win Skye's trust, then her heart.

Roxanne St. Claire - Reason to Believe (part of the Bullet Catcher series)
Popular TV psychic Arianna Killian's conversations with the dead have earned her the attention of a killer who fears her abilities, and Bullet Catcher Chase Ryker is the skeptical bodyguard assigned to protect her. æWhen the messages turn deadly, they are given a "Reason to Believe" in life after death...and love...after all.

Karin Tabke - Redemption
After a fatal car crash, bad boy cop Zach Garret's descent into hell is interrupted by an unusual deal for "Redemption." All Zach has to do is return to earth as a warrior sworn to defend his ex-fianc?e Danica Keller, the unknowing keeper of a power coveted by the forces of darkness. But even harder than keeping Danica alive that long is convincing her to give a second chance to the man who once betrayed her.

Author: Lora Leigh
Title: Nauti Deceptions
Series: Nauti Series, book 5
Genre: Erotic Romance
Format:Tradesize Paperback
Release date: February 2010
Bought via The Bookdepository

Caitlyn "Rogue" Walker left her life in Boston to become a teacher in a small Kentucky town. But her dream was shattered when she was framed in a sex scandal. Refusing to be run out of town, Caitlyn shed the identity she had and became Rogue.

Sheriff Zeke Mayes knows there's more to her than meets the eye, though what meets the eye is pretty smoking. He's prepared for a long struggle getting Rogue to drop her defenses-and give in to desire. But soon Zeke will become embroiled in a deadly game that sweeps Rogue up in its wake. And when everything seems to be a matter of life and death, there is no reason to hold back...

Author: Karin Alvtegen
Title: Shadow
Series: Stand Alone
Genre: Suspense/Thriller, Euro Crime Fiction
Format: Tradesize Paperback
Release date: February 2010
Won via It's A Crime blog, received from the publisher Canongate

In a nondescript apartment block in Stockholm, most of the residents are elderly. Usually a death is a sad but straightforward event. But sometimes a resident will die and there are no friends or family to contact. This is when Marianne Folkesson arrives, employed by the state to close up a life with dignity and respect. Gerda Persson has lain dead in her apartment for three days before Marianne is called.

When she arrives, she finds the apartment tidy and ordered. Gerda's life seems to have been quite ordinary. Until Marianne opens the freezer and finds it full of books, neatly stacked and wrapped in clingfilm, a thick layer of ice covering them. They are all by Axel Ragnerfeldt, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, with handwritten dedications to Gerda from the author. What story do these books have to tell, about Gerda, and more importantly about Ragnerfeldt, a man whose fame is without precedent in the nation's cultural life, but seldom gives interviews?
February 15, 2010

Back Cover:
“No one touches my woman. She bears my mark. I claim her.”
Dangerous warrior Ivar Gunnarson is a man of deeds, not words. With little time for the ideals of love, Ivar seizes what he wants – and Princess Thyre will not become the exception to his rule!
Mysterious and enchanting, Thyre rouses Ivar’s desire the moment he lays eyes on her. With Viking factions engaged in a bloody feud, Thyre is yet another captive this hardened warrior conquers – but to be king of Thyre’s heart will entail a battle he has never engaged in before…

Thyre is her stepfather's advisor and the driving force behind her his estate, but secretly she dreams of a man to love who loves her back for herself, not her worth. The fragile peace between the Ranriken and the Viken creates a situation they try to keep far away from, but because her stepfather, Ragnfast the Steadfast, owns a bay that is coveted by both parties, it's difficult. Especially when a Viken ship, led by the Viken jaarl Ivar Gunnarson, comes to shore for repairs after a sea battle with a Ranriken jaarl.
Ivar is immediately fascinated by Thyre and sets out with the intention of spending just one night with her. A ruse to deceive Ragnfast and Ivar, in which Thyre takes her half-sister’s place, turns into a night of passion after which Ivar soon discovers what Thyre did and plans retribution. He claims her as his concubine and takes her with him to punish her for the deception. Disclosure on her parentage, however, leads to a somewhat forced marriage but before they can work out their complicated relationship, an outside threat appears and saving Thyre's loved one becomes their first priority.

Thyre is dutiful, responsible and loyal. She is also resourceful, quick-witted and an instinctive take-charge kind of woman. Secretly she longs for adventure and to break free from the confines of her life. Though she's intelligent and resourceful her actions sometimes get Thyre in more trouble than she bargains for but luckily for her, things in the end all work out in her favor. I found it remarkable how at first, Thyre doesn't see that everything she dreams of in a man, is right in front of her in the form of Ivar. Ivar surprises Thyre by showing her he is not all warrior with muscles and prowess but he has brains and can be sensitive too. And he is such a sweet talker too.

Quote Ivar and Thyre:
"You are all night-time promise and daytime fierceness.”
“Something to be admired?”
“To me it makes you interesting, a puzzle. I am finding that I quite enjoy puzzles."

Thyre may seem content but deep down she's not. Ivar puts this nicely into words.

Quote Ivar:
You're not living, you are only existing.

Ivar sees through the smoke screen Thyre puts up to protect her inner feelings and dreams. Ivar has several contradicting sides to him. A tender, caring, sensitive side opposed his rude, impatient, harsh side. He is confident but at the same time also very suspicious of people. He doesn't trust easily.

Both Thyre and Ivar are proud, headstrong, and full of loyalty and a sense of duty. Thyre goes from doting daughter who's running things behind the scenes, to a passionate yet a little deceitful concubine, to reluctant wife. Ivar develops from the warrior out for the spoils with no need for a significant other to a man who cares deeply enough to protect Thyre at all costs. Every stage is written excellently and believably. I admired not only Thyre's stubbornness and perseverance, but also Ivar's ability to keep a cool head because Thyre really tried his patience on a couple of occasions.

The cast of secondary characters was extensive but necessary. Although some were more remarkable than others, all of them contributed to the plot in one way or another. The more memorable for me were Dagmar, Thyre's sister, who is a bit of a drama queen, especially in the beginning, but she did grow on me further along in the book. Then there was Sigmund Sigmundson who is Ivar's nemesis and one of the villains in the story. I truly loathed him for being a treacherous coward. He was not the only villain though but to reveal the other would be too much of a spoiler so I'll let readers discover that story line themselves. Asa, Queen of the Viken was hard for me to pinpoint. I thought her vicious, resentful and conniving but she also did some things that made her a little bit redeemable. Reading the interactions of Ivar and Thyre with some of Thyre's friends (Haakon, Annis, Vikar and Sela) made me curious for the books of those couples as I suspect they are the main couples featured in Michelle Styles' other books in the Viken series. I would love to read more about how their love stories came to be. Finally there were Ivar's nephew and sister, Asger and Astrid, who were very likeable and enjoyable.

There was one small thing that bothered me in this story. Thyre's mother died 8 years before the start of this story, when Thyre was 8 years old. This puts Thyre at 16 during the events in this book and even though I know customs and circumstances were very different in medieval times I did have some trouble believing a 16 year old would have the maturity Thyre has and the ability to go through the things she goes through in this book.

It took me a while to get into the book because of this discrepancy (Thyre's age/demeanor) and because of the Viking terms that were unknown to me in the beginning. I do think reading the previous books in this series would have been helpful and preferable over starting with this installment without some background. Still this did not impede the overall feeling of a great read I had when I turned the last page of the book. I didn't read the other books in this series but now, after reading THE VIKING'S CAPTIVE PRINCESS, I really want to so I can read the back stories of some secondary characters that I liked. So I will most surely be looking for the connected books.

The last time I read a historical romance in a Viking setting must have been ages ago and was in Dutch translation because I've only been reading English for a few years. With reading THE VIKING'S CAPTIVE PRINCESS my appetite definitely has been whetted for more. It was a story of seduction, duty, family-intrigue, secrets, politics, trust and passion, with a great plot that was revealed gradually, with strong characters that held my attention firmly, with the right amount of battle and action and with a courtship brimmed with adversity that made the HEA that more welcome and appreciated.
Though this book was a category romance of less than 300 pages, it totally didn’t have that feel, it was well rounded, well crafted and complete. Hence, praise to Michelle Styles for the delivery of another entertaining, solid Viking story and giving this historical romance lover an escape in the form of a few pleasurable reading hours.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10
(ROOB-rating: 4 stars)
February 12, 2010

I had planned to do this overview at the end of 2009 and in the first week of 2010 at the latest. Unfortunately due to serious lack of time and illness I wasn't able to meet that self-imposed deadline, so I decided to do the overview later and leave it to post during my vacation.

The first book of 2009 was ONE LAST BREATH by Laura Griffin and the last book of 2009 was ALL JACKED UP by Lorelei James.

Best reading month: September, with 13 read books (in 2008 it was July with 12)
Worst reading month: November with 5 read books (in 2008 it was February with 6)
Author with most read books: Lorelei James
New to me author discoveries: Evie Byrne, Victoria Dahl, Susan Donovan,Lorelei James, Joely Sue Burkhart, Maya Banks, Lauren Dane, Moira Rogers, Ava Gray, Vivian Arend, Shannon K. Butcher, Suzanne Brockmann, Andrea Kane, Stephanie Tyler, Dawn Halliday.

Top 10 favorite reads (in random order):
 1. Bound by Blood by Evie Byrne
 2. The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann
 3. Skin Game by Ava Gray
 4. Branded as Trouble by Lorelei James
 5. Hard to Hold by  Stephanie Tyler
 6. The Darkest Whisper by Gena Showalter
 7. Sweet Persuasion by Maya Banks
 8. Seduce the Darkness by Gena Showalter
 9. Whisper No Lies by Cindy Gerard
10. Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

Heroes added to favorite list:
Jack Donohue (Rough Riders, Lorelei James)
Billy Chase (Tumble Creek, Victoria Dahl)
Damon Roche (Sweet, Maya Banks)
Cabal St. Laurents (Breeds, Lora Leigh)
Colt McKay (Rough Riders, Lorelei James)
Jake McGregor (Magic, Cheyenne McCray)
Stacey Quinn (Knock Me Off My Feet, Susan Donovan)
Johnny Duane Reed (Black Ops Inc., Cindy Gerard)
Gregor Faustin (Faustin Brothers, Evie Byrne)
Ben Lawson (Tumble Creek, Victoria Dahl)
Rehvenge (Black Dagger Brotherhood, J.R. Ward)
Nikolai (Midnight Breed, Lara Adrian)

Heroines added to favorite list:
Molly Jennings (Tumble Creek, Victoria Dahl)
Crystal Debrowski (Black Ops Inc, Cindy Gerard)
Gwen (Lords of the Underworld, Gena Showalter)

Books of 2009 in numbers
Please note that in the lists below any info in maroon is in relation to the numbers of 2008

Total books read: 103 (including 6 novellas). -This is about the same as in 2008 when I read 99 books-
Total books reviewed: 92 -No 2008 info for this-
ARCs: 17 (8 for ROOB, 9 for Blog) -Almost double of 2008 when I reviewed 9 ARCs-
Requested Reviews: 7 (5 for ROOB, 2 for Blog) -more than triple the requests in 2008-
Rated perfect reads (10 out of 10/5 stars): only 2 --- Evie Byrne's BOUND BY BLOOD and Suzanne Brockmann's The UNSUNG HERO, this low number is pretty remarkable with all the amazing authors I discovered in 2009... -apparently 2008 had more perfect reads: 7-

Breakdown by format:
Ebooks: 35 -I read only 7 ebooks in 2008, so this is quite an explosive growth and I expect this development to continue in 2010-
Mass Market Paperbacks: 50 -No 2008 info for this-
Tradesize Paperbacks: 10 -No 2008 info for this-
Hardcovers: -No 2008 info for this-

Breakdown by genre:
Erotica/Erotic Romance: 26 (22)
Paranormal: 23 (25)
Contemporary: 18 (9)
Historical: 17 (23)
Romantic Suspense: 15 (16)
(Urban) Fantasy: 4 (4)

Breakdown by month:
January: 12 (6)
February: 6 (6)
March: 8 (10)
April: 10 (7)
May: 9 (9)
June: 7 (10)
July: 6 (12)
August: 7 (11)
September: 13 (8)
October: 8 (8)
November: 5 (6)
December: 12 (8)
February 7, 2010
Release date: February 9th, 2010
Back Cover:
He’s the last man she should ever want. She’s the last woman he can ever have.

Coming from a family with psychic gifts, Derek Gabriel was aware of but separate from the dangers of the supernatural world, until a rogue wolf shifter stripped away his humanity. The change he barely survived didn’t drive him insane, but the cultural bias against him as an inferior transformed wolf might. And it doesn’t help that he’s fallen for the daughter of the most powerful wolf in the country.

Almost from the moment she was born, Nicole Peyton started planning her escape from the strict confines of elite shapeshifter society, an old-fashioned world where women are valued only for their bloodlines and bank accounts. In New Orleans she has a bar she loves, friends in decidedly low places, and a smoldering sensual tension with an incredibly attractive and deliciously unsuitable man.

Their forbidden longing erupts into unbridled need—until Nick’s sister burns into town with a strike team hard on her heels. Saving her means Nick has to play by the Conclave’s rules…and give up the man she is growing to love.
Unless Derek does something completely crazy—issue a challenge that could shake the foundations of their world.

Warning: This book contains forbidden lust, strip poker, instinct-driven sex in odd places, devious shapeshifters, and love and loss in a world of paranormal politics and supernatural schemes.

Derek Gabriel has been a werewolf shapeshifter for 2 years now. He wasn't born into it, like most shifters surrounding him, but he was turned in a vicious attack that nearly cost his life. He is still fighting to get in control of it and he's insecure about being a second rate werewolf. His crush on Nicole Peyton isn't a big help as she is considered the elite among the werewolves, being the daughter of the big kahuna who is part of the Conclave that runs the werewolf community in New York.

Nicole "Nick" Peyton is also a werewolf shifter. She's next in line for the leadership of one of the biggest and most powerful shifter communities. However, she doesn't want that responsibility and runs from it. She settles in New Orleans, happy running a bar and being surrounded by a group of loyal and tight friends. Until her sister is in danger and she needs to man up, stop running and help her sister. But she also needs to deal with the situation with Derek and her love life. Ultimately she has to choose between her sister's life and her love for Derek. And that's a very tough choice to make.

When I read CRUX I already knew CROSSROADS was waiting for me to read too, as I was one of the lucky ones to receive an e-ARC of it to review. After finishing CRUX I was very happy to be able to dive straight into CROSSROADS because it was clear that Nick and Derek had something going on between them that they needed and I wanted to explore further.

I really like that Moira Rogers' writing is fast-paced and free of any unnecessary information or embellishments. The humor is great and carries the book through the action and the romance. I also loved the getting-straight-to-business vibe of the start of the book, it continued in that crisp and clean writing style I loved in CRUX, leaving out any elaborate or distracting back-story. Just what was needed to keep the plot going was explained, and for those who aren't as obsessed with reading in order as I am, I must say that CROSSROADS would read very well as a stand-alone. That being said, I loved revisiting the group of friends in New Orleans and liked that the knowledge on the group I got to know in CRUX was expanded in CROSSROADS.

The dialogues, between any of the characters, are such fun. All the characters together, and there are quite a lot, form a witty bunch of friends and relatives. There are quite some secondary characters but all are connected to each other or the plot in some way. They all play their part and none of them are written in just to fill the book. Of course I have favorite ones, ones I'd love to see more of in the future and I'm happy that they will have their own stories. I'm talking about Alec and Andrew. I'm dying to see which female is going to rock Alec's world and blow his steady, brooding and succinct demeanor to smithereens and I'm also especially looking forward to reading Andrew's story because if there was any secondary character in the paranormal romances I've read so far who has made a stunning first impression, it's definitely Andrew!

One thing that kept me glued to the pages was the chemistry between Derek and Nick. Even if I was less enamored with Derek than I was with Jackson (Bree knows why LOL), he and Nick still knew how to set the pages ablaze with some scorching hot scenes. Another thing I enjoyed was the big amount of Conclave stuff, which is what I wanted after CRUX. I do have to say that my curiosity and fascination with the Conclave didn't last long when I learned how they work and how archaic, ruthless and power-hungry they are. But still before long I was immersed in pack politics, assassin squads, empaths and seers gone wild. I was engrossed in the story and couldn't stop reading because there was a lot going on and a lot of stuff to be figured out. I did miss Marcus though, granted he was mentioned in a passing kind of way but would have loved to see how he was doing after CRUX, or could it be that there might be a book for MARCUS in the future and that's why it was a little hush-hush around him? Enough speculating, on with the review...

To me CRUX is still the favorite of the two books because in the middle part of CROSSROADS I did miss the romance as the focus went almost entirely to the plot and action. People, who know me, know I am not a UF lover and to me this middle part did feel a bit UF-like. However, the exhilarating and climactic end definitely made up for the middle part I struggled a little with. It was also very emotional, not only between Derek and Nick but also the stuff with Luciano and the situation with Michelle. And I suspect I have a lot to look forward to in the next part of the Southern Arcana series, which will be Alec's story; it will be coming out early 2011 and is titled DEADLOCK.

CROSSROADS is a book that will entice both new and already established readers of this series and when you leave out personal character preferences it's right up there with CRUX, offering an emotional, thrilling and action-packed read that will have you rooting for the main characters from start to finish and waiting in desperate yearning for the next book in the series!

"Not a damn thing," Nick muttered darkly. "My love life is officially a barren wasteland, where sexual satisfaction is entirely reliant on a fresh supply of C-cell batteries." To say nothing of the loneliness

This time it only rang twice before he heard Alec's gruff voice. "You'd better not have called me by mistake during some drunken sex."

Rating: 8.0 out of 10
February 4, 2010
Back Cover:
After years of turmoil, Roderick Cherbon has left the Crusades to return to the home he loves. But the wars have changed him, and the heir who thought to heal his father’s injustices has become a vicious beast of a man, scarred inside and out. He will speak to no one, see no one; he leaves the shadows of his ruined keep only under the darkness of night. And even in death his father mocks him: to retain his land and title, Roderick, the Beast, must marry.

Lady Michaela Fortune is reviled for her poverty, ridiculed for her dreams, and preyed on for her soft heart. Humiliation and want dog her beloved family, and her pride is an indulgence she can ill afford. Cherbon and its shattered lord offer a solution. But to court a man who has fallen so low, Michaela will need all her grace and beauty to harbor any hopes of taming the beast…

Roderick Cherbon returns home after escaping the clutches of death on the battlefield to the home were he was never wanted and an inheritance laced with the condition he marry before he turns 30. A condition made by his deceased father as a last spite to show Roderick he is not worthy. Finding a wife when scarred physically and mentally proves very hard though as all candidates flee the moment they lay eyes on Roderick and his gloomy castle. Even the offer of money doesn't entice the ladies.

Roderick’s quest for a wife comes to the ears of Michaela Fortune who is devastated when the man she thinks she’s in love with, and he in love with her, marries another. That man happens to be Roderick's cousin, Alan Thornfield, the man who inherits everything if Roderick doesn’t succeed. For Michaela there's no better revenge than to marry Roderick and make sure Alan doesn't become the heir by default. The money Roderick offers will also help her family who is scraping by. But soon money or revenge is the last thing on Michaela's mind as the scarred man, who beneath the ornery and harsh exterior is a man of honor longing to be loved, enthralls her.

TAMING THE BEAST was my first encounter with Heather Grothaus' writing and I must say I enjoyed it very much. Her strength definitely lies in her characters that are far from flawless but very likeable at the same time. Michaela grew with every page. She is smart and outspoken from the beginning but she is also a bit musing. Even though I liked her a lot because of her clumsiness, the way she holds her own and her caring nature and love for children I didn't like the parts where her blind adoration and crush on Alan took an almost childlike form. Luckily this changed when she went to Cherbon and fell in love with Roderick.

I loved Roderick. He is the epitome of the scarred beast hero but often enough his outer shell of rudeness cracked and showed the man beneath who is tender and yearning for love and acceptance. Like Michaela, he too grows in the story. Things around him are subtly and gradually exposed to the reader and some were pleasantly surprising and unexpected.

Next to the well fleshed out, three-dimensional hero and heroine, Grothaus also delivers on the secondary characters. Alan is manipulative and greedy and even though I started out not liking him at all, he was caring towards his daughter and he redeemed himself a bit at the end of the book. Harliss, Roderick's childhood nurse plays a very important role in the plot and she reminded me of the typical mean old witch we all know from the fairytales. As much as I liked Michaela and Roderick, I despised Harliss and, to some degree, Alan.

And then there's Hugh, Roderick's best friend. His character puzzled me several times in the story. One moment, I would like him, the other moment not so much and it wasn't until I got a surprising bit of information about him that it all clicked for me. I really didn't see that twist in his characterization coming at all and it had a nice twist to it and the story in general.

I know there are plenty romance readers who dislike having children play a part in romance novels but I really like it and in this book it was Leo who stole my heart, he is such an adorable 3 year-old. He's the kind of child you want to take out of the book to cuddle with. He is also crucial to plot and characterization and I really loved how Heather Grothaus wrote his character into the story.

The plot TAMING THE BEAST is a layered and rich one but at times also a little bit predictable. This could have been a problem for me but because of some very surprising twists, especially from the second half onwards, I totally forgot about the predictable stuff in the beginning. The last part of the book was very emotional and included some paranormal elements that were unexpected despite the hints to them given prior in the story. Many things that arose questions with me in the beginning, fell into place to my relief and satisfaction.

With TAMING THE BEAST Heather Grothaus tackles the age old trope of "the beauty and the beast" and she does it with original and refreshing writing, wonderful characters and a plot with a dash of paranormal, that goes from a little predictable to completely unexpected twists. If you love medieval historical romance with engaging characters and an interesting plot, this is not to be missed on the reading pile.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10
(ROOB-rating: 4 stars)
February 1, 2010

Just a post to let you all know that I won't be around the coming two weeks due to a long awaited vacation to Cape Verde. The Islands where my parents were born and grew up. They came to the Netherlands in their early twenties. And their courtship and marriage was one that belongs in a romance novel, but that's for another time because I want to keep this about the vacation.

I was born in the Netherlands but my roots lie on the Cape Verde Islands as both my parents are from there. I have been there a few times, both as a child and as an adult but the last time I went there was 10 years ago. I met my hubby 9 years ago so he's never been there and this vacation is his first encounter with my roots, which both he and I are very much looking forward to. We will be going to 4 of the 9 islands: Boa Vista, S. Vicente, Sto Antao and S. Tiago. And on S. Vicente we will celebrate my mom's 60th birthday, which she wanted to celebrate in her home country.

We'll start and end our trip on Boa Vista in a wonderful hotel hubby found and negotiated a sweet deal for. Below are some pics of it. Can you see me lying in one of the beach chairs, sipping on a cocktail? I can!

The fact that I'm away on vacation doesn't mean the blog won't be updated. I won't participate in the IMM and OMW memes these two weeks but I do have a few nice posts scheduled for your enjoyment:

I start with a ROOB-review on February 4th: TAMING THE BEAST by Heather Grothaus
On February 7th you can read my ARC-review of CROSSROADS by Moira Rogers
On February 12th there will be a reading round-up of 2009 post. A bit belated but better late than never, right?
On February 15th there will be another ROOB-review: THE VIKING'S CAPTIVE PRINCESS by Michelle Styles

And on February 17th I'll be back and ready to catch up on all you have been doing while I was slacking away on vacation.

Of course I wouldn't be a book addict if I didn't make this post about books too. I've been preparing the stack of books to take with me for a few weeks now and just the night before last I was loading the iPhone (which is already groaning under the weight of ebooks, movies and music) with even more ebooks to take with me. God forbid I might not have enough books to read for 2 weeks LOL.

Well after much debate, picking books, putting them back on the shelves, picking others, putting those back and getting the first again....and after many repeats of this cycle I have the following print books packed to take with me:

  • FRAGILE by Shiloh Walker 
  • COMING UNDONE by Lauren Dane 
(I wanted to have read these two books before my vacation but didn't have the time to finish them, so I hope to finish them on during the flight)
  • BROKEN by Shiloh Walker (a bit of ARC reading on vacation)
  • TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS and NO RESERVATIONS by Megan Hart and Lauren Dane
  • REESE'S BRIDE by Kat Martin
  • SHAKEN AND STIRRED by Kathleen O'Reilly
  • PRIME TIME by Hank Phillippi Ryan
  • FEEL THE HEAT by Cindy Gerard
  • ORIGINAL SIN by Allison Brennan
  • MARK OF THE DEMON by Diana Rowland
  • PLEASURE UNBOUND by Larissa Ione

So that is 13 books for a 2-week vacation. Want to start placing bets on how many I will have finished by the end of the vacation? Be my guest, I couldn't even dare to tell you. I do know I read a lot more when on vacation than when I'm at home and two 6 hours flights will definitely put a dent in this pile of books. And for the unfortunate event that I might not be in the mood to read these books I'm taking with me I have a spare pile too: a digital one on the iPhone, among those are:

A very special beta-read which will remain unnamed till further notice, BUTTERFLY TATTOO (Deidre Knight), GLORY IN DEATH (J.D. Robb), PACK CHALLENGE (Shelly Laurenston), BLOOD VICE (Keith Melton), TAMING ELIZA JANE (Shannon Stacy), SEDUCING SIMON (Maya Banks), ROCKY MOUNTAIN HEAT (Vivian Arend), DARKFEVER (Karen Marie Moning), PLAYING WITH FIRE (Gena Showalter)...and many more...

Welll I think I have informed you of all the relevant information surrounding my vacation. I hope to see you all again in a few weeks, when I hope to return refreshed and ready to take on the jobhunting world and with a nice dent in my Mt. TBR.

Stay safe, have fun and happy reading!

Nice to meet you!

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39, married to my real life romance hero, addicted to TV shows, reading romance novels and Twitter. I'm a chronic (e)book hoarder and my absolute favorite genres within romance fiction are contemporary romance and romantic suspense, but I don't shy away from historical, paranormal or erotic romance either. Even the occasional (urban) fantasy romance, futuristic and sci fi romance may make it to my Mount TBR. This is my corner of the world wide web where I let you know what books I'm hoarding, reading and reviewing.
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Pearl has read 10 books toward her goal of 50 books.

On My TBR Shelf

  • Unforgivable - Laura Griffin
  • Snapped - Laura Griffin
  • Darkness at Dawn - Elizabeth Jennings
  • Sizzle and Burn - Alexis Grant
  • No Mercy - Lori Armstrong
  • Animal Magnetism - Jill Shalvis
  • Crazy for Love - Victoria Dahl
  • Kink - Saskia Walker/Sasha White
  • So Sensitive - Anne Rainey
  • Dark Taste of Rapture - Gena Showalter
  • The Darkest Secret - Gena Showalter
  • Vampire in Atlantis - Alyssa Day
  • Vampire Dragon - Annette Blair
  • Captive Spirit - Anna Windsor
  • Chosen by Blood - Virna DePaul
  • Rebel - Zoe Archer
  • Stranger - Zoe Archer
  • A Taste of Desire - Beverley Kendall
  • Mistress by Midnight - Maggie Robinson
  • To Desire a Devil - Elizabeth Hoyt
  • To Tame a Dangerous Lord - Nicole Jordan

Digital TBR Next

  • Driven - Jayne Rylon (reread)
  • Shifting Gears - Jayne Rylon
  • Beg Me - Shiloh Walker
  • Tempt Me - Shiloh Walker
  • Jazz Baby - Lorelie Brown
  • Playboy Prankster - Pamela Britton
  • Just Like That - Erin Nicholas
  • Sweet Inspiration - Penny Watson
  • Breathe - Donna Alward
  • My Gigolo - Molly Burkhart
  • Scent of Persuason - Nikki Duncan

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