May 28, 2010

Back Cover:
Uncovering the truth is her specialty
As a forensic accountant, Mia Sauter could usually tell when people had something to hide. She made her living exposing secrets while concealing her own. Then, in Vegas, she met a clever, ruthless man who called himself Addison Foster. One year later, she’s still haunted by his betrayal.

He’s a natural born liar
The truth of him had long ago been buried. Foster was only one name of many; he’d been so many men, he’d lost count. Reinvented as Thomas Strong and hell-bent on revenge, his mission is about to be compromised by the one woman capable of exposing him…

Reunited, they confront the explosive chemistry still crackling between them. But their chance meeting will have consequences, for a ruthless madman has his own deadly agenda. The question is—if they survive the fallout, will he choose love over vengeance?

This review may contain some spoilers for those who have not read SKIN GAME (book 1) yet, so proceed at your own risk…and if you haven’t read SKIN GAME what ARE you waiting for?

Before I talk about SKIN TIGHT let’s go back to SKIN GAME. When I read it I immediately fell for Foster. Even before his true role was revealed, I knew he was not who he was made out to be in the beginning. That famous prostitute scene put Foster on my radar and he almost took over SKIN GAME for me. I say almost, because Kyra and Reyes took back the reigns and set me straight fairy quickly. After reading SKIN GAME I found out that Foster was dubbed BatPunisherMan. I did not get why but now having read SKIN TIGHT I do.

One more thing before I treat you all to my thoughts about SKIN TIGHT: Though Foster’s wonderful real name is revealed in a memorable scene that’s one of my favorites of the book, I will keep referring to him as Foster in my review because I want readers to experience that revelation first hand and not through my review. Also though I know his true name now, to me he’ll always be Foster.

A year after their first encounter Mia Sauter and Addison Foster meet again when Mia is hired to ferret out who is misappropriating company funds at Micor Technologies and Foster has taken on the persona of Micor’s HR director, Thomas Strong. Of course he is not there because he’s such a good HR director, he has a very strong motive to take on that position within the company. Because of Foster’s gift people see in him what they expect to see and that way he can take on any identity he wants without being recognized. Until Mia, the moment she spots him at Micor Technologies, she immediately sees the man who betrayed her one year ago.

Foster is not your typical romance hero. Yes he is dark and brooding and tortured but he’s also manipulative and will go to any length to get what he’s after. He has a goal and he lives for achieving it. Everything he’s done has been leading up to this one objective of destroying the ones responsible for destroying his happiness and therefore him.

The humor in Foster is subtle but it’s definitely there. He is something else. I thought I had him figured out after reading SKIN GAME but it was all blown out of the water very soon. Every page I turned provided me with more insight and more questions at the same time. Foster is definitely going on my favorite heroes list (and if you’re curious to know his real name, you’ll find it there). I knew from the moment he entered SKIN GAME that Foster was going to be an awesome hero. And he definitely was. Foster is the detached, distant iceman, but not with Mia, she breaks through his defenses. Ava Gray managed to make him vulnerable without losing the deadly focus, loosened him up a bit without losing the intensity he oozes, made him open up without losing the mystery and she made him sensitive and gentle without losing his edge.

Mia isn’t your typical romance heroine either. She’s a forensic accountant who normally has the best interest of her clients at heart but sometimes she goes vigilante on them. She needs to be in control and she’s scarily intelligent. She’s a strong woman who hates to be vulnerable or helpless and deep down, she’s a romantic at heart. Because of the way she grew up Mia doesn’t form friendships or bond with people easily, yet she yearns for that connection. Her friendship with Kyra and some of her actions in SKIN TIGHT, showcase that beautifully.

In the beginning of the book I wasn’t able to grasp the extent of Foster’s ability and it was as elusive an element as Kyra’s was in SKIN GAME. However, contrary to that first book in the series, Ava Gray offered much more background to where these abilities come from and the how and why of them. It was something I missed in the previous book and I was very happy to see in this one.

Both Mia and Foster want the same: acceptance of what and who they are, love and a family. I loved the chemistry between them. It was intense and subtle at the same time. Always there, simmering and sizzling. They’re both so cunningly smart they keep each other on their toes constantly, which created a great type of tension between them. With every chapter Foster and Mia got further under my skin and I must admit Foster stole the show, all the way (Surprise huh?) but I already suspected that he would and it still didn’t take away from Mia being an amazing heroine, but still…Foster…wow! His gentleness with Mia truly undid me. Little by little he is partially forced to drop his protective shell and the man behind it shows himself, taking pleasure in the littlest things.

As with SKIN GAME I had the honor of reading and reviewing SKIN TIGHT early as I received a digital review copy from Ann Aguirre (aka Ava Gray) and the day my request was granted I literally jumped up and down and danced around the room. People, who know me, know I am not that type of person so that said a lot about my expectations of this book.

Ava Gray immediately sucked me in with this book. Her writing is compelling and addictive. The way she sets up the stories is brilliant. Little by little and slowly you get the pieces to the puzzle. However, don’t confuse this excellent gradual build-up with slow pace. SKIN TIGHT is definitely a fast-paced book that kept me on the edge, waiting for every next development in the plot with abated breath. And let’s talk sex scenes for a bit. From SKIN GAME I knew Ava Gray could write some steamy scenes and the ones in this book were so unbelievably hot! Ava Gray proves that erotic and hot doesn’t need explicitness and two people with an intense connection can set the pages on fire.

This book, Mia, Foster, their story…it all broke my heart. There’s so much behind the characters and Ava Gray knows how to get to the bottom of them, letting the reader peel of layer after layer until they lay open and vulnerable on the pages. I honestly couldn’t stop reading this book and finished it in 24 hours. Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe it for me. Everything was right: the suspense plot, Foster, Mia, their romance, the secondary characters, everything!

Speaking of secondary characters, Ava Gray did it again! She has me pining for a future hero as much as I was for Foster! She introduced Taye to me. I cannot say too much about him but suffice to say that his attitude and defiance alone made me crave his story and I was over the moon when I heard his book (SKIN DIVE) is in the making. I look forward to it with the same anticipation as I did SKIN TIGHT!

You may have noticed that I haven’t spoken about the suspense plot of this book and I am not going to either except to say that it was excellently set up. As with the revelation Foster’s real name it is something I think readers should experience for themselves without knowing stuff in advance. I do want to say that Ava Gray writes the most sick, creepy and yet fascinating villains I’ve ever read. This man was truly delusional and yet his intelligence and ruthlessness fascinated me. I repeatedly wished the one in SKIN TIGHT a painful, slow and horrible end and suffice to say that even there Ava Gray did not disappoint me.

Every bit of information, no matter how small, is significant and ties up somewhere in the story. I love that doesn’t waste pages and time in extensive info-dumps and still gets everything across you need to grasp the world and plot. She just excels in giving you everything you need to sort out the plot and get to know the characters thoroughly without overwhelming back-story or storytelling. This makes her a top-notch favorite on my shelves.

Quote:
A smile built; he loved when seemingly disparate parts came together to form a diabolically clever whole.
This quote by Foster sums up exactly how I felt about SKIN TIGHT (and it made me think of the A-Team's Hannibal's expression: "I love it when a plan comes together!")

The end of SKIN TIGHT brought it all together. I couldn’t have wished for a more wonderful ending to this amazing book. There was one thing keeping me from giving this book the highest rating and that was that no matter how much I was impressed by the characters, the romance and the plot, it hadn’t touched me in the heartbreaking emotional way that my perfect reads all have done. And then came the end…and I bawled, I cried quietly and I smiled through the tears because of what Foster had to do and because of what Mia did for Foster. With this ending Ava Gray earned herself that extra point to make it a perfect 10 read because she outdid herself. SKIN GAME was great but SKIN TIGHT was mind-blowing. So far it’s number 1 on my 2010 favorite books list and I wonder if she can top it with any of the next books in the series and I honestly think she will because this series just keeps getting better and better.

SKIN TIGHT is all about deception, appearances, loneliness, alliances and secret agendas. Reading SKIN TIGHT is like opening a present wrapped in multiple layers of wrapping paper. Every time you peel away one layer another, prettier one, appears and when you’re done what remains is a heartfelt, endearing, intricate story laid bare for you to enjoy.

So if you like romantic suspense with paranormal elements, with amazing characters and an author that knows how to write it all, SKIN TIGHT is a book that can’t be missing in you TBR-pile or on your shelves!

Quotes:
She liked his hands. Bony wrists flared to broad palms topped with long, tapered fingers. Hands like that would feel good on a woman’s body, full of strength and assurance. A shiver rolled through her, and with effort, she forced herself to look away and open her menu.

“No wonder my curse cannot keep you. I should take you home with me, for who could match a man without a heart better than the woman who cannot dream?”

He was the most broken man she’d ever met, like a diamond improperly cut, so only when you held it to the light a certain way could you see the brilliance within.

He lifted up, rubbing against her heated flesh in long strokes. “Now. Take me, nothing between us this time.” It was both a plea and a demand. “You’re mine, and I’m yours. I won’t lose you again. Oh, God, Mia, you’re my breath and bone. You’re the song I sing.”


10 out of 10!

Because I loved this book so much I am giving it away next week on release day, so make sure you come back on Tuesday, June 1st for an author-interview with Ava Gray (aka Ann Aguirre) and for a chance to add this book to your shelves. 
May 26, 2010

Poseidon’s warriors swore an oath eleven thousand years ago to protect humanity from those who stalked the night. Yet when a woman with an ancient Gift dares to claim the heart of one of Poseidon’s fiercest warriors, the world teeters on the knife’s edge between desire and darkness . . .

A WARRIOR SCARRED…
Alexios survived two years of unspeakable torture at the hands of a vampire goddess. Now he’s been ordered to team up with a beautiful warrior and take on the most dangerous mission of his life: to retrieve the Vampire’s Bane. Without it, Atlantis can’t ascend to the surface and take its rightful place in the world. But when evil threatens, will Alexios be led by duty—or his heart?

A DESCENDANT OF DIANA…
Grace is part of the rebellion against the vampires and shape-shifters trying to take over her world. She is deadly with her bow, because when she takes aim, she never misses her target. But suddenly she’s focused on a damaged Atlantean warrior who sees her as a weapon, not as a woman. When thousands of lives are on the line, will passion overrule, or will her aim still be true?

When two worlds collide…Atlantis is unmasked.


Grace Havilland is a descendant of the Goddess of the Hunt, Diana, complete with bow and arrows. She's a true warrior woman who is independent, fierce, headstrong and courageous.

Alexios is a Warrior of Poseidon who is a lot more than meets the eye. He is quiet and intense, sincere and honorable, loyal, powerful, broken and uncertain he is able to love. His imprisonment with the vampire Goddess Anubisa has left him scarred both emotionally and physically.

ATLANTIS UNMASKED starts right after an attack on the St. Louis rebel headquarters. Grace's best friend Michelle is injured in the attack and when Alexios and Grace are alone after taking the seriously injured Michelle to the hospital, they share a kiss that sends Alexios running as fast as he can from Grace. But he can't keep running because when the Fae High Prince contacts Grace wanting her to set up a meeting with the Atlanteans to discuss the problems with the vampires, he is sent back to her as the Atlantean representative and to train the group of rebel recruits she commands. Amidst feral shifter attacks, injuries and sparring sessions Grace and Alexios grow closer and closer and the attraction between them is undeniable.

I don't know what to say about this installment of the Warriors of Poseidon so this isn't going to be one of my long-winded, ranting and raving reviews. It definitely felt different from the previous books I read in this series. In every series there's a book that is what I call the transition book. The book that falls right in the middle of the overall story arc and even though it continues the arc it doesn't move forward with it. To me ATLANTIS UNMASKED was the transition book in this series. I liked it a lot but I did miss the sizzle of the first few books in this series and I missed the overall story arc a bit as it was just mentioned a few times. And I am also a bit ambivalent about the ending. Though it rounded off the book perfectly, it was kind of sudden and felt a bit rushed compared to the rest of it. It felt to me as if all the action and resolution were cramped into the last 20 pages and I am not used to that by Alyssa Day. This was an installment I just didn't feel as connected with as with the rest of the books in this series. Unfortunately that can happen.

Were there things I liked about the book too, you ask? Of course there were! I love the banter between the warriors, which was of old and a joy to read again and their self-deprecating humor that gets to me every single time. I loved a certain joyful event that took place in the beginning of the book, an event I have been waiting for from the moment I closed the first book. I loved that the mutual pining and not acting on it stopped just before it started to bother me. I loved that the focus was on the romance between Grace and Alexios and liked the fodder for speculations about the Fae, Alaric, Quinn and Michelle sprinkled throughout the book. I adored Christophe who is getting cockier and more fascinating by the page and I can't wait to read his story and see him find the woman who will make him take it down a notch. So thanks to the ambivalent ending that predicted a lot of interesting twists and turns to come I am looking forward to continuing with the next installment of this series.

Quotes:
She’d met Alexios months ago and seen him sporadically since but she’d never been in such a small space with him. It felt like being trapped in a cage with a lion who’d just eaten a full meal. Deadly, dangerous and exhilarating, but maybe –just maybe– you’d live through it.

“Let’s get out of here then,” Christophe said. “It’s stioll early enough to find a top-notch ale and a woman with a big, round ass who is willing to do very nasty things to me.”

If a poem could dance of the pages of a book and wield daggers and a sword, the sight of it might come close to describing Alexios in motion.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

GIVEAWAY – GIVEAWAY – GIVEAWAY – GIVEAWAY – GIVEAWAY

Because I had the pleasure of winning a signed copy of ATLANTIS UNMASKED and I’d already bought my copy to read before that, I now have two copies of it and since I have no need for two copies I’ve decided to give away the unsigned copy to one of my readers/followers.

All you have to do to enter is tell me what you’re reading at the moment and leave me a way to contact you.

This giveaway is open to all and I’ll randomly pick a winner on Friday, June 4th!!

Have fun!
May 25, 2010
Digital ARC received from publisher via the author.

A lady must be prepared for anything . . . when marrying a scoundrel.

Sadie Moon once thought she was in love. Then her dashing husband left her to seek his fortune, and she had no choice but to transform herself from a heartbroken waif into London Society's favorite fortune-teller. But even she could not have foreseen Jack's return - until their paths cross in the last place either would have expected: London's most exclusive house of pleasure.

Now wealthy and successful, Jack Friday has everything he'd ever dreamed of . . . except Sadie. He swears he will never trust the woman who broke her promise to wait for him, though his passion for her burns as hotly as ever before. But love, like the past, comes back to haunt them - drawing them into a web of intrigue and betrayal that could save or destroy them both.

Sadie O’Rourke is a simple Irish girl who has the gift to see the future in tea leaves. After a star-crossed marriage and a tragic loss she has made a living as the popular fortuneteller Sadie Moon. Then the husband who abandoned her comes back into her life after 10 long years and she is determined not fall for him again. Jack Farrington defied his family and married the girl he loved when he was only 18, disowned and disinherited by his family and sets out in the world to make his own fortune, not knowing that leaving behind Sadie will lead to tragedy that ends in Sadie leaving him without as much as a goodbye. Now he has changed his name to Jack Friday and finds himself unexpectedly reunited with the wife who wasn’t there anymore when he returned home. He is determined to find out what why she left him and a true reunion is the farthest thing from his mind.

Though I have several Kathryn Smith books (mainly paranormal) on my shelves WHEN MARRYING A SCOUNDREL was my first encounter with her writing and it was certainly a memorable one, both negatively and positively. The book started out very promising and I was pleasantly surprised by the agreeable writing style that made me float easily from page to page, engrossed in the story. However, after a few chapters something started bothering me and it had to do with the characters and the way the story was being set up. After the promising start I felt like a lot had happened prior to the first few chapters and the story was being disclosed little by little to me as the reader. How can this be problematic? Well, on its own it shouldn’t but because I was left with so many questions and so little explanations for a considerable part of the book, it became a problem for me. I was distracted by wondering why instead of enjoying the story. Why did Sadie leave Jack without a goodbye? Why didn’t Jack go after Sadie immediately when she’d left? What happened after Jack left? Who was Sadie’s mysterious benefactor?

Some parts were downright confusing me and if this was just it, I could have let it slip by, but next to this I also lost the connection with Jack and Sadie’s characters and motivation after the initial chapters. They were acting in ways that I didn’t like and that didn’t stroke with the way the story had been set up. There were quite some contradictory actions that were initiated but never seen through. I am a reader who likes consistency. The way Jack and Sadie were portrayed, as estranged spouses didn’t rhyme with their characters development for me. I couldn’t understand the amount of interest they kept showing in other perspective bed partners/lovers.

The worst thing is that I cannot clearly pinpoint what it was about Sadie and Jack and their characterization that was off for me, still I will try to explain as best as I can. I like the trope of reuniting estranges spouses and second chances and can’t say Kathryn Smith did a bad job of it, I just couldn’t relate to the characters enough to enjoy it fully. I didn’t understand Jack’s aversion to Sadie’s profession, which formed a major conflict between them. About halfway through both Jack and Sadie’s behavior towards each other changed drastically. Well, drastically may be overreacted but it did change abruptly and with little build-up to it. In my opinion the change of heart could’ve been set up better and to illustrate that I want to use the example of Jack’s aversion towards Sadie’s fortunetelling. It changes suddenly just by him wanting a reading from her and suddenly believing in it (even before he actually witnesses the truth in her predictions). This to me didn’t concur with his earlier behavior and was one of the things that didn’t work for me.

I just couldn’t click with them and missed intensity and genuine chemistry between them and that kept me from getting immersed in their romance. It went so far as to leading secondary characters to capture my attention more than the main couple did and though I can’t offer a clear explanation for the why of it this is not how it should be with a romance novel.

All of the above-mentioned things seriously prevented me from getting interested in their HEA. I am afraid that not even the love scenes, though very fitting, sensual and hot, could make Sadie and Jack work for me. My disconnection with them prevented me from utterly enjoying this book despite the wonderful premise, setting, writing and romance. Yet despite the disconnection I did enjoy the writing, which was to the point, unembellished and fluent. And despite the fact that the characterization was off for me I did enjoy most of Jack and Sadie’s dialogues and thoughts that were sharp and witty enough to make me smile quite a few times.

This all was until about 100 pages from the end. Around chapter 15 is when I finally, finally connected a bit with Jack and Sadie and I truly loved those last chapters of the book. They gave me the heartbreaking and emotional intensity I was looking for. After 200 pages of slow progress and my initial anticipation fizzling out there finally was the character development I wanted all along and I admire Kathryn Smith for making the end totally work for me and have me rooting for Sadie and Jack, even if it took a bit too long. Also it was a pity that Sadie’s caring and beautiful character only showed at the end of the book. Had it been shown earlier I could have liked the book considerably more.

In conclusion I really wanted to be blown away and love this book but in all honesty I have to admit I can’t say more than “I liked it” and “it absolutely wasn’t a bad book.”
WHEN MARRYING A SCOUNDREL is a good historical romance that unfortunately didn’t work for me because I couldn’t connect with the main couple’s characterization and their motivations for most of the book. However, despite my inability to love this book completely, the amazing ending contributes to the fact that it’s a book that can be enjoyed and valued by readers who love historical romance. And despite the disconnect with Sadie and Jack I am very curious about the story of what’s going to happen with their friends Vienne and Trystan. So I’m declaring this one an unfortunate mismatch and looking forward to that book.

6.5 out of 10
May 22, 2010
I received the digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley .
New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter returns with another sizzling installment of the Lords of the Underworld series, as Aeron, keeper of the Demon of Wrath, dares to taste the forbidden . . .

For weeks, the immortal warrior Aeron has sensed an invisible female presence. An angel--a demon-assassin--has been sent to kill him. Or has she? Olivia claims she fell from the heavens, giving up immortality because she couldn't bear to harm him. But trusting - and falling for - Olivia will endanger them all. So how has this 'mortal' with the huge blue eyes already unleashed Aeron's darkest passion?

Now, with an enemy hot on his trail and his faithful demon companion determined to remove Olivia from his life, Aeron is trapped between duty and consuming desire. Worse still, a new executioner has been sent to do the job Olivia wouldn't...

As the back cover blurb summarizes the story adequately I will not bother with a summary of my own but get right down to business.

Aeron is the Keeper of Wrath. He has no need or time for women in his life except for his adopted demon daughter Legion. His need to hurt outweighs his need to pleasure women and it takes time for females to warm up to him because they fear him. He's a loner and distant, he loathes weaklings and is brutally direct. But he also has a good heart and goes through fire for the people he cares about. He won’t hesitate to sacrifice himself for the ones he loves. If you thought Aeron had a hard time in THE DARKEST PLEASURE or THE DARKEST WHISPER, think again. In his book it is even worse. I really felt sorry for him numerous times throughout the book.

Aeron captured my attention from the moment he stepped on the scene in THE DARKEST NIGHT (book 1 of the LOTU). With his tattoos, black wings and his thirst for vengeance he made a big impression on me and I am normally not one to fall for this type of dark, tortured heroes. As his character was explored more in the following books I just got more and more anxious for his story. Never would I have guessed his heroine was going to be a lovely angel, albeit a fallen angel.

Olivia is sweet, resilient, persistent and headstrong. If I ever met a heroine who just doesn't give up, now matter how terrible the odds, it's Olivia. She's has a beguiling kind of innocence and honesty which makes her the total opposite of Aeron and therefore she's his perfect match. Even though I really did like Olivia, I couldn't get a complete grip on her character. To me it felt as if Gena Showalter wasn't quite able to grasp how she wanted Olivia to be. Confident, seductive and strong or sweet, innocent and a bit insecure? This made for an Olivia who would be very powerful on one page and a bit weaker on the next.

Olivia's attempts to catch Aeron naked were endearing and hilarious. Olivia's bubbly nature was a perfect counterpart to Aeron's dark and brooding character. Aeron can't but melt a little for Olivia's charm, despite fighting hard not to. Both Olivia and Aeron but Legion too, get themselves into some tricky situations and I was flipping through the pages like a madwoman, anxiously, to find out how they were going to get out of them.

For me the start of THE DARKEST PASSION was a bit slow because there's a lot of back-story on the Lords in the first few chapters. I understand the need for it because it makes the overall story arc comprehensible as a stand-alone for newcomers to the series, but for followers of the series it's a bit distracting and repetitive. However, from about page 80 I really got into it and I was treated to everything I love about Gena Showalter’s writing and this Lords of the Underworld series.

Gena Showalter's writing is humorous, hot, action-packed and fast-paced. She's not one of my absolute favorite authors for nothing. Despite the continuing story arc she manages to give each installment its own unique vibe. No book in this series feels the same and yet together they form a perfect continued story. I love the way she keeps expanding the LOTU world and overall story arc in this series. With every book new layers of information are added and new mind-blowing revelations are made and the DARKEST PASSION was no exception in this. There's a lot going on. All were things that had me wondering what they all entailed and how it was going to play out in the end. And in the end I got answers but also more questions which undoubtedly will be answered in the next book or books!

Gena Showalter keeps her readers engaged throughout the book, revealing little and big things but never too much and always enough to keep you guessing and anticipating the next revelation. One of those anticipated revelations is Gideon's story (THE DARKEST LIE). The set-up made in this book for it is simply brilliant and enticing. I can't wait to read the whole story on Gideon's HEA. Also, after reading THE DARKEST PASSION I am more convinced than ever that William belongs on my future favorite heroes list! The enticing, teasing treasure map tattooed on his body stuff definitely sealed the deal. Not to mention another glimpse of his character and his back-story.

The end of this book broke my heart, especially the scene where Aeron and Lysander battle it out. Can't say more about it because it would spoil the plot and ending but suffice to say I was sobbing while reading. However, the very end (after the heartbreaking scene) also, despite the intense emotions, did seem a bit of an easy cop out. Compared to all the preliminary, brilliant set-up throughout the book it felt a bit rushed and simply resolved, but because the rest of the book was so great I am willing to let Gena Showalter get away with it.

THE DARKEST PASSION is a perfect mix of action, plot and fights to accompany the romance and humor. Deals, promises, bargains and sacrifices form the spine of this fifth book in the LOTU series. The last few chapters really packed a punch and left me craving more, much more, of the LOTU. I really NEED to know what happens next with all these surprising twists in the plot and fascinating new characters delivered by the extremely talented Gena Showalter.

Quotes:
Paris to Aeron:
“One day, someone is going to fascinate you, draw and ensnare you, and you’ll crave her with every cell in your body. I hope she drives you insane. I hope, for a little while at least, she denies you, leading you on a merry chase. Perhaps then you’ll understand a glimmer of my pain.”

She’d fallen to the floor, robe bunched at her waist, and her panties – shit, her panties. Too white, too pure. Made a man want to rip them apart with his teeth and dirty the wearer up a bit.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10
May 20, 2010
Welcome to the Six Pack Ranch, where one sweet young thing plus the Coleman boys equals trouble with a capital T.
Back Cover:
Blake Coleman is old enough to know that acting on impulse causes nothing but a heap of trouble. But when trouble’s a blonde wearing a cowboy hat with slim legs that go on forever, what’s a man to do? Wanting the sweet girl next door is just wrong. Hell, he was the one that taught her to ride a horse and now all he can think about is riding her. The responsible thing to do is keep his hands off.

Jaxi has other plans for his hands, and his heart. She may have considered Blake a big brother once but that was a long time ago. She’s all grown up now and ready to convince him that she’s just what he’s been waiting for.
Add the complication of two sexy younger brothers who have suddenly noticed Jaxi and things heat up fast. Blake’s gonna have to decide if a little trouble is worth fighting for.

After a particularly hot prologue that sets the scene for the rest of this novella, the story truly starts when Blake Coleman’s mom breaks her arm in an apple picking accident. Jaxi is the one to take care of her until she’s better and this puts her in close proximity to Blake, her childhood’s crush, a proximity she welcomes because she’s ready to make her move on Blake. She’s had her friendly fun with the other Colemans, even dated Travis, which didn’t work out but now it’s time to rope in her man.

Jaxi is a sweet, loyal and quick-witted young woman. She has always considered the Colemans as her second family because of her close friendship with the younger brothers, the twins, and the neglect by her own family.
Blake is caring, giving and responsible, the typical traits of a first-born son.

Even though on the surface Jaxi and Blake relationship seems a big brother-little sister relationship type of thing, it’s soon clear that they have feelings for each other that defy any brother-sister type of relationship. Both fight those feelings though, Jaxi because she is sure Blake doesn’t reciprocate the feelings and Blake because he is ten years older than Jaxi and feels like he’s too old for her. At first Jaxi’s relationship with Travis seems to be the big problem but this is soon taken care of. Travis does have some sort of secret that was a very intriguing given in the book. I am fairly certain I know what that secret is and am anxious to see it confirmed. I must also admit that Travis’ character puzzled me a bit, certainly if my suspicions about his secret turn out to be correct. I am not a fan of him. He treated Jaxi badly and acted like a first-class jerk. Am very curious to see what Vivian is going to make of his story

For a short novella, I have to say it was a very good read. It had development in the characters, spanned a reasonable and believable period of time and the romance, sex and characters were very well balanced. Kudos to Vivian Arend for proving that short novellas can be satisfying too and the length of a story doesn’t have to impede the storytelling qualities.

So if you’re looking for a hot and sweet contemporary with Canadian cowboys, ROCKY MOUNTAIN HEAT would be the perfect choice because it was a short and sweet and above all, a HOT read. I loved it from start to finish and when I was done I couldn’t wait to see what Vivian Arend had in store for the other Coleman boys/men.

Rating: 8 out of 10




Welcome to the Six Pack Ranch, where learning to live again takes some sensual twists.
Back Cover:
Beth Danube has escaped to a small Alberta town to make a new start for herself and her three little boys. Her emotionally abusive husband may be dead and buried, but so is her heart. What she doesn’t want is another man in her life—not now, maybe not ever. Yet when her libido reawakens after ten years of unsatisfactory sex in the missionary position is any woman strong enough to turn down sex-in-boots, Daniel Coleman?

The middle child of the rowdy Coleman boys, Daniel’s the quiet one who has always subdued his desires and acted as peacemaker. His powerful attraction to the young widow takes him by storm, and he’s willing to pursue her until they both find satisfaction—in and out of the bedroom.

Only Beth isn’t sure she’s ready to cross the line. Becoming friends with blazing hot benefits means she’s still the one in control. Letting her heart trust again? She isn’t that brave—or foolish. Daniel is going to have to be mighty convincing to help her overcome the past.

Beth Danube and Daniel Coleman meet during a night on the town in a Calgary bar. Sparks sizzle but Beth is not planning on pursuing anything with the first man who makes her want to explore her sexuality after an abusive relationship. Then faith lands her right in Daniel’s arms again when she moves to his hometown and ends up in a farmhouse owned by his father. Daniel always wondered why the woman he shared some hot moments with months ago, ran off leaving him with no way to contact her. Now that she’s fallen into his lap, he’s not letting her go again.

Beth has had a rough past, after a terrible accident in which her abusive husband died and she was left with a severe leg-injury, she’s trying to build a new life for her and her three sons Lance, Nathan and Robbie. She’s resilient and strong, despite the adversities she’s been through.

Daniel is the quiet Coleman brother, the peacemaker. He’s confident and direct but he’s also intuitive and compassionate.

I loved this second installment of the Six Pack Ranch series as much, if not more, as the first one. I loved the contraction in Daniel. He is quiet and sweet but also sexually dominant at the same time. I also loved Beth’s strength and her love for her sons and as a reader who likes children as characters in romance, Beth’s sons stole my heart and Nathan broke it when he opened up to Daniel about his fears. No I didn’t keep it dry, but don’t tell me you were expecting me too because by now everyone knows I’m a crybaby when it comes to emotional stuff in books.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HAVEN is another hot, hot, hot book in this series. Vivian Arend is very talented and creative when it comes to sex scenes. They are explicit and beautifully written and I can guarantee you need something to cool down with once you’re done with her books.

In a rather small page count Vivian Arend delivered a beautiful story, full of loveable characters, hot sex, family dynamics and sweet romance. I didn’t think she could top ROCKY MOUNTAIN HEAT with its sequel but she certainly did by giving me the emotional, tear-jerking ending I crave so much in the romances I read.

Quotes:
She came undone. Between the relentless strokes, the dirty talk and the whole
naughtiness of the situation, the earth unraveled and took her with it. His mouth clamped down on hers as she started to cry out, the need to express the pleasure tearing her apart, overriding the logical sections of her brain.

"Tonight, you're mine. No games, no playing. Just open yourself up and give
yourself to me, Beth. Let go and let me catch you." Her throat was tight as he suspended himself over her, thigh to thigh, nose to nose. His eyes, oh damn—his eyes were beautiful. Full of tenderness and need and she wrapped her arms around his torso and pulled him down on top of her, sighing as his bare
skin touched hers as if for the first time.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

In general about this series and the writing:

I have found another pack of cowboy siblings to love and add to my keeper shelves because next to the McKays from Wyoming (yup, I’m talking Lorelei James here) I now have the Colemans from Alberta. All the Coleman brothers are undeniably and deliciously yummy, from Blake down to the oh-so naughty double-teaming twins Joel and Jesse whose story I am awaiting with abated breath. From the obnoxious Travis to the quiet Daniel and the mediator Matt, they all have that “come-to-mama-and-let-me-make-you-feel-real-good” vibe that just pulls you in. The bond between them is strong and heartwarming and the banter is highly amusing.

Though I’ve only read these two books in the series (because there are only two so far…I’m pining for the next), I already know that each book has a different and unique vibe to it. Each book fits the personalities of the main couple both sexually and emotionally. I appreciate this in series and Vivian Arend did a great job of it.

Whether it’s straight contemporary, paranormal or cowboy romance, Vivian Arend's writing is so easy and natural it’s no hardship to read. Humorous, hot, down-to-earth…I really like that combination and they keep pulling me back to her books. Shortly I’ll have read her complete backlist and yearning for more if I keep this up…
May 18, 2010
My first guest review at Fiction Vixen is up today. I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Emma Wildes' SEDUCING THE HIGHLANDER.






Snippet from the review:
Emma Wildes did a great job in this single author anthology bringing instant, gratifying and pleasurable entertainment with a trio of delectable Highlanders.

Want to check out the full review? Click on the cover!
May 17, 2010

Back Cover:
In the darkest corners of the night in Caldwell, New York, a conflict like no other rages. Long divided as a terrifying battleground for the vampires and their enemies, the city is home to a band of brothers born to defend their race: the warrior vampires of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

John Matthew has come a long way since he was found living among humans, his vampire nature unknown to himself and to those around him. After he was taken in by the Brotherhood, no one could guess what his true history was- or his true identity. Indeed, the fallen Brother Darius has returned, but with a different face and a very different destiny. As a vicious personal vendetta takes John into the heart of the war, he will need to call up on both who he is now and who he once was in order to face off against evil incarnate.

Xhex, a symphath assassin, has long steeled herself against the attraction between her and John Matthew. Having already lost one lover to madness, she will not allow the male of worth to fall prey to the darkness of her twisted life. When fate intervenes, however, the two discover that love, like destiny, is inevitable between soul mates.

First a warning: If you haven't read LOVER AVENGED, this review will contain spoilers so if you don't like them, reading further is at your own risk.

What to say about Lover Mine? It wasn't a perfect read but it was most certainly one of the best of the series so far. It was flawed yet awesome. It was definitely a trip back to Ward's earlier books in this series when it comes to romance and yet she threw in some great new stuff too. Her signature writing style with all its annoying slang and mid-scene breaks didn't do anything to prevent the enjoyment of combination of a wonderful love story that was not only powerful and strong but also hot as hell and an action-packed plot and subplots that were fast-paced and excellently put together. The subplots, main plot and romance came together in the end in a way that I don’t remember experiencing in the previous books.

LOVER MINE opens with a prologue that takes us way back to the time where Tohr, Wrath, Vishous and Darius were young vampires and these flashbacks form one of the storylines in the book. A storyline I liked because it provided me with more insight into the Darius/JM connection. However I still think that that thread was a bit glossed over in JM’s POV and would have liked to see more about it.

Then after the prologue I got a bit confused because the real start of the book was in a POV of a totally unknown and new character…At first I thought: WTH? But soon it clicked into place as we went to Xhex’s POV. If you’ve read LOVER AVENGED, you know that at the end Xhex was taken by Lash and now we get to find out what happened to her. The only thing I can say about Lash is that he’s a very sick and disturbed character and I was very glad that what he put Xhex through was mostly off-page because I wouldn’t have been able to stomach reading what happened between them.

To me LOVER MINE had a very different vibe from the other, most recent (LU, LEn and LAv), BDB books I read. I can’t exactly pinpoint what it was that was different about it but the focus on the romance between Xhex and JM was definitely part of it and the flashbacks with Darius and Thor too. I absolutely loved the romance between JM and Xhex. For me it was the best in the series so far, romance wise. Also, the way Ward went back to the beginning and worked her way to the present, bringing storylines together was another part of it. It felt more coherent than the other recent books in the series. Furthermore, as much as I despised Lash as a character I must say that he did make the Lesser storyline a lot more interesting than in the other books. I admit that I have skimmed Lesser scenes in all the other books, except for LOVER AVENGED and LOVER MINE and I can’t deny that Lash has something to do with that.

Xhex is the kind of heroine who has no illusions about herself. She knows who, what and how she is. Her honesty and directness stretches towards herself too and that’s one of the things I liked so much about her. She is realistic and strong and yet there’s a kind of vulnerability to her that really resonated deeply in me. There was no trickery or manipulations; just what you see is what you get. She epitomizes a strong and capable female and to me she’s the strongest Ward heroine to-date. I never would have thought this before reading LOVER MINE but Xhex is my favorite heroine of the bunch. I really didn’t expect to like Xhex as much as I did. The stuff she’s suffered and lived through (and not only talking the Lash stuff here) just baffled me and made her strength even more admirable. I also loved that Ward feminized Xhex but kept her strong and powerful. She softened her up without sacrificing her strength.

While writing this review I realize all of a sudden that I made absolutely no notes of JM’s character! Why? I can only speculate that I was consumed by how much I liked Xhex. It seems that for me she was the one who carried the story and the romance. But I do remember liking JM and the way he was determined to rescue Xhex and love her, no matter what. The scene where he is in the room where she was held broke my heart as I felt his despair and pain. However where Ward succeeded in putting Xhex in a very prominent position for me, she wasn’t able to do this with JM. He too was a character that before this book, wasn’t one I was totally into and despite the way he cared for Xhex and despite Ward’s attempts to make him a very hot hero, the click that was there with Xhex’s character, wasn’t quite achieved with JM’s character for me.

Risking the wrath of all the Qhuay fan girls out there I must say that I am not on that bandwagon. The story line just doesn’t awe or touch me the way it does others. Despite it being an emotional and heartbreaking storyline, Qhuinn’s attitude towards Blay and his reasons for not taking a chance with him, just annoys me and Blay’s self-pity in some parts of the storyline was just too much for me. I actually liked seeing Blay with Saxton but sadly I suspect that’s not going to end up in a HEA. However, knowing Ward, she’ll probably be able to make the Qhuay story work for me when the time for their book comes.

The thing that annoyed me most in LOVER MINE were the “What the F” mid-scene breaks, there were several minor ones that only had me raising an eyebrow but there were 3 that really had me crying out: “What the F!” One was in the middle of a fight scene, 2 were in the middle of conversations…Really Ward? One characters asks a rather crucial question and *poof* before we get the answer, switch to a totally different scene. This is unacceptable and I don’t understand why the editor of this book let this pass by in the book…several times even! Maybe I am in the minority here but this really annoyed me and took away from the pace and tension arc.

Don’t get me wrong; I was not annoyed by the multiple storylines. As might be known I really like books with multiple storylines that come together in the end, when done in the right way but I was not happy with some of the points chosen to do those switches/scene breaks. With the exception of the Qhuay story line I really liked all the side stories in LOVER MINE, even the TV crew one, contrary to others. Probably it was because it all the plots worked towards a good ending and didn’t take away from the focus on the strong romance between Xhex and JM.

Despite the flaws or annoyances it cannot be denied that Ward’s writing is addictive as nothing else. Once you start reading you keep reading. Never mind the weird scene breaks, the ghetto-slang, the product placing or names that you only recognize if you were born and raised in the US and therefore familiar with its pop culture. The stories she tells are captivating and thrilling. The way she sets them up is so brilliant you’ll be dying to know what’s next and you’ll forgive her all the annoyance she causes. I really don’t know what it is with Ward’s writing but no matter how much some stuff annoys the crap out of me, it’s impossible to stop reading and liking it.

Once again I notice that I’m not able to write a coherent and logically set up review (as I wishfully think my other reviews are set up) of a BDB book. Every time I read a book in this series and sit down to write the review my thoughts are all over the place and it shows. Sorry for that people but it seems to be the only way for me to review these books…

Quotes:
For all of her life, Xhex's heart had not been prone to breaking. She'd long suspected that it was a result of her symphath side, a kind of congenital condition that hardened her about things that most females lost it over. Turned out that was wrong, however.
As she stood beside John Matthew, and watched his huge body crumple down by the bed, the organ that beat behind her sternum shattered like a mirror. Nothing but shards. She was utterly and completely ruined as he cradled that pillow like it was a newborn, and in this moment of his utter despair, she would have done anything to ease his pain.

The first taste was . . . a transformation. His blood was so pure it blazed in her mouth and down her throat . . . and the fire it ignited in her stomach tore throughout her body, thawing her, enlivening her. Saving her. With greedy pulls, she took from him to revive herself, each swallow a life raft for her to crawl into, each draw a rope slung over the cliff of her demise, each pull on his vein the compass she needed to find the trail back home.

"I want to get mated to you. Properly mated. Like in front of the king and everyone. I want this to be official."
Well . . . didn't that just make his heart stop.
As he sat up and looked at her, she smiled. "Jesus, the expression on your face. What? You didn't think I'd want to be your shellan?"
Not in a million years.
She recoiled a little in surprise. "And you were okay with that?"
It was hard to explain. But what was between them went further than a mating ceremony or a back carving or a witnessed exchange of commitment. He couldn't put his finger on the why of it . . . but she was his missing puzzle piece, the twelfth in his dozen, the first and the last pages of his book. And at some level that was all he needed.
All I want is you. However that comes.
She nodded. "Well, I want the whole deal."
He kissed her again, softly, because he didn't want to hurt her. Then he pulled back and mouthed, I love you. And I'd love to be your hellren

Rating: 8.5 out of 10
May 16, 2010

Back Cover:
FATE HAS THROWN TWO SWORN ENEMIES. . .
Of all the hotel rooms rented by all the adulterous politicians in Chicago, female Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde had to choose the one next to 1308, where some hot-and-heavy lovemaking ends in bloodshed. And of all the FBI agents in Illinois, it had to be Special Agent Jack Pallas who gets assigned to this high-profile homicide. The same Jack Pallas who still blames Cameron for a botched crackdown three years ago—and nearly ruining his career…

. . .INTO EACH OTHER’S ARMS
Work with Cameron Lynde? Are they kidding? Maybe, Jack thinks, this is some kind of welcome-back prank after his stint away from Chicago. But it’s no joke: the pair is going to have to put their rocky past behind them and focus on the case at hand. That is, if they can cut back on the razor-sharp jibes—and smother the flame of their sizzling-hot sexual tension…




Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge


Cameron Lynde is an assistant US attorney. Unforeseen circumstances lead to her being the sole witness to a high-profile murder, which puts her in the path of an FBI agent she'd rather not cross paths with ever again after they crossed swords professionally in the past. I loved Cameron. She is a great heroine who will definitely be added to my favorite heroines list. She's professional, witty and not afraid to own her mistakes.

Jack Pallas is an FBI Special Agent. After a forced transfer to the Nebraska office, he's returned to Chicago and the key witness in his first case is the assistant US attorney responsible, in his eyes, for his transfer. Julie James has provided me with yet another sigh & drool-worthy Jack to add to my fave heroes list. He seems so aloof and cool but it's just the surface of a passionate man.

The cast of secondary characters isn't very big but there were plenty of remarkable and memorable characters to help Cameron and Jack carry the story. In particular, Sam Wilkins, Jack's partner who made a lasting impression on me with his humor and metro sexual ways, which he had no fear displaying.

In SOMETHING ABOUT YOU Julie James combined a few elements that reel me in every single time: law enforcement/legal stuff and humor. I am a sucker for both and SOMETHING ABOUT YOU had plenty, making it an instant candidate for my keeper shelf. With it's exceedingly strong start, once I read the first page it was very hard to stop reading, the humor, legal stuff, and investigation and FBI stuff...I ate it all up and loved it. Something that had not happened in a while occurred when I read this book: I read it in almost one sitting because I just couldn't put it down.

I liked that it wasn't a whodunit but it was still suspenseful in the way Cameron's role was incorporated in the investigation. This gave more room for the relationship between Jack and Cameron to be set up and explored. The build up of the sexual tension between the main characters was brilliantly and believably done. I wouldn't have liked it if Jack and Cameron had jumped into the sack immediately because to me that would've been out of character, so another point for Julie James' wonderful writing skills. Though not extremely focused on the romance, the balance between romance, plot and characters is excellent. And knowing who the killer was early in the story made it a more of a contemporary romance rather than a romantic suspense novel for me.

SOMETHING ABOUT YOU is a contemporary romance just the way I like them! My first taste of Julie James' writing has left me wanting more, much more. I am definitely ready to dive into JUST THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE and PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!

Quotes:
He stole another look, for security purposes, and watched as the sweater once again slid away from her collarbone, inching down, taunting him, teasing him, dipping lower and lower, revealing creamy ivory skin and that delicate gray silk strap he could rip away with his teeth.
A shoulder. He was going crazy over a fucking shoulder.

Thank God -he was cranky about something. This Jack she could handle. The Jack who cupped her face as he whispered the most romantic and sexy things anyone had ever said to her as he made love to her on her own staircase, on the other hand, was a force of a different nature.

Rating: 8.8 out of 10
May 15, 2010
There are no plain Janes on Jane Street. It’s the exclusive enclave of twelve erotically exotic women. Just a dozen jewel-box houses, each one holds a rich man’s mistress. Deeds to these properties are difficult to come by, passing only through death, deals, and perhaps a dirty trick or two. Known by those in the ton as “Courtesan Court,” three very unlikely women find themselves installed there most unwillingly.
Charlotte Fallon let her guarded virtue fall once—and she’s paid dearly for it ever since. She swore she’d never succumb to men’s desires again. But even a village spinster’s life miles from temptation can’t save her from a sister with no shame whatsoever. Or a heart that longs for more, whatever the cost…

Sir Michael Bayard found more than he expected in his bed when he finally joined his new mistress. He’d fantasized about her dewy skin and luscious curves, assured her understanding that what passed between them was mere dalliance. But he didn’t expect the innocence and heat of her response in his arms. Nor her surprisingly sharp tongue once she was out of them…

A few days of abandon cannot undo the hard-learned lessons of a lifetime. Nor can an honest passion burn away the restraints of society’s judgments. Unless, of course, one believes in nonsense like true love…
Title: Mistress by Mistake
Author: Maggie Robinson
Series: Courtesan Court Trilogy, book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Brava Kensington
Year of release: 2010
Format: Trade Size Paperback
Source: Won in Twitter contest held by author
First line: Honestly, Charlie! You're ruined anyway! What difference does it make?"

QnD-review:
Summary: Charlie takes her foolish and selfish sister's place in the bed of Sir Michael Bayard when Deborah carries out one of her impulsive stunts and breaks the courtesan contract she had with him to elope with another man. Bay arrives home to find his new mistress waiting for him in bed and doesn't hesitate to finally seal the deal only to find out it's not his mistress but her sister. When it appears Deborah took a priceless heirloom with her, Bay forces Charlie to stay his mistress as leverage until Deborah returns the necklace.
Hero: Michael Xavier "Bay" Bayard. Wonderfully blunt and direct. A bit gruff but oh so charming when he wants to be
Heroine: Charlotte "Charlie" Fallon. Sharp-tongued and passionate. Self-declared spinster
Writing: Maggie Robinson has a lovely writing style. I loved the pacing that was fast without too much descriptions. The pace kept it moving forward, however it never felt rushed. The book was well-written, entertaining, humorous and moving.
Likes:

  • Slow but sure development of the feelings between Bay and Charlie. They go from animosity to unadulterated lust to genuine love and affection
  • The chemistry and verbal sparring between Charlie and Bay
  • The charming way Bay went in pursuit of Charlie when she went home to Little Hyssop

Dislikes:

  • The story line with Bay's ex-wife

Verdict: This book put a smile on my face from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this fresh new voice in the historical romance scene and with  MISTRESS BY MISTAKE Maggie Robinson brings humor and fiery passion to the courtesan themed romances. She is a gifted writer who has made a great first impression on me with her debut historical romance. I am looking forward to the other installments in this installments. Especially now that I've found out who the next 2 mistresses will be.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10



Random.org gave me #4 as the randomly picked number last night.



 Excluding Tracy the 4th commenter on the blogpost was:

Cathy M

Congratulations Cathy. I will contact you and Tracy shortly to coordinate how to get the ebook to you.

Thanks everyone for entering and look out for another giveaway soon for a book I read recently and rated 10/10 which will release soon.
May 13, 2010
The Legend Hunters ...
The Men of Solomon's meet in secret, their very existence only a rumor among the best of Victorian society. They are treasure hunters, men of wealth and title, seekers of myths and legends. And no legend is as alluring as the tale of Pandora's Box...
Fielding Grey is a treasure seeker with a taste for danger and experienced women. His latest mission: wrest Pandora's fabled box from a notorious criminal mastermind. Not in the job description: save an innocent damsel in distress.

A bookish miss, Esme Worthington has favored dusty tomes over society balls, and thrilling tales over flirtations. But when two scoundrels break into her home, she is thrust into a real-life adventure. Pursued and suddenly possessing the forbidden box, Esme can't resist peeking inside. Under the spell of Pandora's seductive curse, she's soon offering herself to Fielding – body and soul. With her reluctant rescuer determined to resist her charms, can the two outwit an enemy who will stop at nothing to seize their precious prize?

Title: Seduce Me
Author: Robyn DeHart
Series: The Legend Hunters, book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Year of release: August 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Source: Bought
First line: Sweat and sand mingled and dripped into his eyes, clouding his vision.

QnD-review:
Ingredients: The hunt for an artifact from the ancient Greek myth: Pandora's Box, damsel in distress, treasure hunters, greedy villain, cursed bracelets and an adventurous couple.
Hero: Fielding Grey
Viscount of Eldon, treasure hunter for hire, resourceful, adventurous, observant, unpolished, rough-edged
Heroine: Esme Worthington
scholar, bookish, smart, chatterbox, brazen, passionate, vibrant, fighter, stubborn
Plot: There were a few different ones that came together very excellently
- Unraveling the mystery of Pandora's Box and its bracelets
- Fielding's investigation into his father's untimely death, which takes a surprising turn when nearing the end of the book
- Romance between Fielding and Esmee
Writing: fluent, engaging, with pace and flair yet remaining within the confines of historical romance
Likes:
  • The start of this book reminded me of the Indiana Jones and Mummy movies!
  • The way backgrounds, the myth of Pandora's Box and the characters' backstories were easily and effortlessly imbedded in the story without extensive info-dumps
Dislikes:
  • Expected the first all-the-way love scene to be hotter with all the sexual tension and build-up that led to it.
  • The way both Fielding and Esme talked themselves down didn't rhyme with their actions and the rest of their characterization
Verdict: By combining Historical Romance with Action/Adventure Robyn DeHart gave me all I could wish for and more in my first taste of her work. A pleasant, fast-paced and thrilling first book in a series I am bound to read more of.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10:

A small plane crashes in the Rockies, and the only two survivors, Jack and Sophie, help each other live until rescue arrives, seven days later. Only Sophie goes on to pick up the pieces of her life, which has now been irrevocably changed by big, gentle Jack’s love…and death.

But Sophie learns that Jack’s death didn’t close that chapter of her life, after all.
A drifter called Martin holds the key to her heart, alongside a deadly secret. Combined with a corrupt and desperate police chief and her pressure-cooker life as a single mother in a small town, they plunge her head-deep into the after-shocks caused by those seven days in the mountains. The consequences will reach out to rock state governors, district attorneys, and one of the deadliest crime lords in the land, and all of them have reason to react. For Sophie, life is about to change again…for the worse.

After a terrible plane crash Jack and Sophie are the sole survivors. They spend five days on a mountain ledge before they are saved. Jack is in a critical state due to a head injury and Sophie has a severe fracture. When Sophie finally learns about Jack who is staying in the same hospital, it’s only to hear that he didn’t survive surgery. Then fast forward to 8 years later. Sophie is not a lawyer anymore, has been married, has had 2 children and is running a diner/café. One day she sees this stranger walk into the bar across the street and is surprisingly drawn to him. The stranger, Martin Stride, turns out to be Jack, raised from the dead. The reason he let her believe he was dead is that there are people after him and everyone around him is in danger. While they sort out the feelings that were born on that mountain ledge 8 years ago, the danger is closing in on Jack and Sophie. Will they find out in time who is running the show and who wants Jack dead?

Jack Laubreaux is a former police officer. He is guilt-ridden, mysterious and stubborn. Sophie Kingston is a lawyer turned café-owner. She is pragmatic, fighter and determined. And this is about it as for what I can tell you about Jack and Sophie’s personalities. I didn’t really get to know them very well as I didn’t totally connect with them. To me it all stayed on the surface despite the many inner thoughts and flashbacks to their lives before the events in the book.

DEAD AGAIN starts at a very slow pace and with lots of background information on Sophie and Jack, given in thoughts and flashbacks. At a certain point in the beginning of the book I was wondering when the real suspense was going to start instead of just Jack’s thoughts and inner hints toward his mysterious life and the reason why the plane crashed. The first three chapters were full of descriptions (of the characters, the surroundings, the past) but after that the suspense started to build slowly and little by little the plot is revealed through small clues, mainly in the dialogues. Despite the descriptiveness in the writing style the book remained very mysterious. A lot is left untold and calls for speculation and wondering what exactly is going on. I realize this is the essence of a suspense (romantic or otherwise) book but I prefer to have a little more knowledge than the characters in the book.

There was an editing miss that bothered me enough to mention it. In the beginning of chapter 8 it says “ten years later” but along the chapter and the rest of the story both Sophie and Jack keep referring to their first encounter as 8 years ago. I try not to let small editing misses influence my overall opinion of books but thought this was a rather obvious thing that shouldn’t have been missed.

About half way the book it was as if something “clicked” into place and I began to get into the story much better than in the first half. However it was still slow-paced and I wasn’t completely feeling the romantic element of romantic suspense. It was definitely there in a subtle way with small hints and references but just not quite enough to my liking. It is often said that romantic suspense is a hard genre to write because the readers demand both thrilling suspense AND a good romance. For me if either one blows me away I’m pretty satisfied. Unfortunately neither the suspense nor the romance could really do that in this book. For me it felt like the things that needed to be told weren’t and those that weren’t necessary were told in an extensive way, which took the pace out of the book. It wasn’t until about ¾ into the book that the suspense thread really kicked off and Tracy Cooper-Posey delivered on the promise that was there in this book all along. She wrapped up the suspense in a fast-paced, thrilling conclusion that had me biting my nails and even gave me an emotional romantic ending that I was hoping for but wasn’t expecting.

In Tracy’s guest post on this blog last week, she talks about against type books, and DEAD AGAIN is most definitely that. For me it didn’t completely work but I have no doubt that lovers of against type romantic suspense will adore this book.

Quote:
She was here. Now. Real, live, warm. Not a faded memory dug up from his mind. And the man who called himself Martin feasted on the image, storing it with the single-mindedness of an addict.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
May 6, 2010
Today I want to welcome Tracy Cooper-Posey on the Blog! Her latest romantic suspense DEAD AGAIN was released on April 27th with Cerridwen Press (Look for my review in the course of next week!). Today I am happy to have her tell you a bit about how she loves to screw with formulas and how she applied that to DEAD AGAIN. Let's give her a warm welcome and don't forget to check out the giveaway!

Ticking Clock, Romance Locks, and Screwing With The Formula...There’s Fun In Them Thar Tropes!

I make a habit of going against the grain. Most of the time I do it quite unconsciously, but I usually end up doing things very much the opposite of the way most other people do it. As a consequence, my kids have grown up being able to tell their friends that their dad is a professional wrestler and their mum (never “mom”) is a romance writer, that their accents are Australian, and they moved here when they were five and eight, because I met my husband on the Internet before most people were really sure what the Internet was (that was in 1996). When they were still in school, and depending on the context and my kid’s moods, that was sometimes a good thing or a bad thing. These days, they just find it all hilarious.

When it came to Dead Again, I also screwed with the formula there, too, and again, it wasn’t intentional.

Most romantic suspense derives its tension from the immediacy of the problems harassing the hero and heroine. They’ve captured the heroine’s baby sister, so naturally the hero and heroine must act immediately before the bad guy does nasty and unspeakable things to her. Or the bad guy is going to blow up the city in twelve hours. This second example is what is called a “ticking clock” in the movie trade – a device that sets a countdown going in the storyline. The ship is going to sink in 90 minutes: Titanic. When both suns are eclipsed in twenty minutes, the carnivorous, unstoppable creatures are going to take over the planet and eat everything that moves: Pitch Black. The bad guys are coming to town at high noon to kill the sherriff: High Noon. If Marty doesn’t get back to the future before the picture of himself fades away he’ll be erased from existence: Back To The Future.

In all these movies and in a high proportion of all thrillers, suspense and romantic suspense movies, there are two factors that make them work apart from the ticking clock factor, which is not essential to the plot (although it always helps!).

1) The story takes places over a fairly short space of time. A couple of days, if not a few hours. The more tightly compacted the timeline, the tighter the tension can be ratchetted up. The movie Angels & Demons took place over four hours once the initial set-up was finished, and you felt like you barely had time to draw breath. Nor did the main characters.

2) Particularly in romantic suspense, the hero and heroine should be thrown together and kept together in tightly enclosed, intimate conditions, whether they like it or not, for as long as possible. North by Northwest is a good example of how even a non-romantic suspense managed to squeeze in at least twelve hours of intimacy for the hero and heroine in the midst of some of the best and classic suspense/thriller action of the last fifty years.

Dead Again did neither. First, the story is spread over nearly nine years in time. And during that time, the hero and heroine spend years and weeks apart. There is no enforced intimacy anywhere in the book at all, except at the beginning, and there’s a factor that prevents that intimacy from being anything but romantic.

But it is still a romantic suspense, and judging by the reviews I received from the first edition of the book, a damned good one. The dictionary defines suspense as “apprehension about what is going to happen,” and Dead Again must deliver on that score, for the first edition reviews said, and I quote: “The suspense is beautifully dragged out... so full of suspense... a suspense-filled book.”

So I feel fairly certain that once again I’ve managed to do the complete opposite of what I’m supposed to, but still deliver the goods.

Have you ever read a book that was so totally against type, but still a damned good read, all the same?



Dead Again by Tracy Cooper-Posey
A small plane crashes in the Rockies, and the only two survivors, Jack and Sophie, help each other live until rescue arrives, seven days later. Only Sophie goes on to pick up the pieces of her life, which has now been irrevocably changed by big, gentle Jack’s love…and death.

But Sophie learns that Jack’s death didn’t close that chapter of her life, after all.
A drifter called Martin holds the key to her heart, alongside a deadly secret. Combined with a corrupt and desperate police chief and her pressure-cooker life as a single mother in a small town, they plunge her head-deep into the after-shocks caused by those seven days in the mountains. The consequences will reach out to rock state governors, district attorneys, and one of the deadliest crime lords in the land, and all of them have reason to react. For Sophie, life is about to change again…for the worse.

Excerpt

In ninety minutes, he had stripped the plane of hundreds of yards of electrical wiring, which sat in a stiff spaghetti nest to one side. The sun was up high now, bathing him with unrelenting light. At this altitude there was little bite in it. The day was barely warm but he was sweating anyway and his heart was pounding as it worked to compensate for the altitude. He went back to the gouge in the ravine and called down, “You okay?”
“Thirsty.”
“Not long now,” he assured her.
On his way back to the wreck, he checked out the distance of the nearest tree to the edge, estimating he’d need thirteen extra feet.
For the next two hours, he wound strands of wire around each other, braiding himself a rope half the thickness of his forearm and the twenty-five feet long he needed to get to the ledge, plus thirteen extra feet. By the time the wire rope was long enough, he’d run out of collected wire and gone looking for extra, digging through smaller pieces of fuselage and ripping up a seat or two for the wiring inside.
Finally, he was ready. He picked up his rope and dragged it to the cliff edge. Damn but that sucker was heavy.
Fifteen minutes later, he finally reached the ledge and saw her for the first time.
Absurdly, happiness touched him as she lifted her head to look at him.
She lay on the damp ground, half-in and half-out of the sun. Even if she hadn’t told him, he would have guessed her leg was broken by the odd way she tried to sit up, as if her leg was glued to the ground.
Jack crouched down beside her. For a moment, he stared at her, too pleased to be face to face with someone else to be able to speak words of concern or comfort. Then, he saw blood matting her red-gold hair and shivers racking her frame.
“Here.” He offered her a sealed bottle of Evian, which he’d salvaged.
“You remembered.” Her voice was croak.
After cracking the seal, he gave it to her. “Drink up. We can get more. Water isn’t going to be one of our problems.”
She drank, very nearly draining the bottle with two or three deep swallows. Jack studied her while she sipped the last inch in the bottle, wetting her lips and clearing her throat, coughing, water dripping onto the white silky shirt. Sensible trekking gear, it was not.
He’d seen her come aboard the little aircraft at Vegas. She was all legs and pedigree and the smart business suit she wore told him more plainly than words that she was as far removed from his world as a woman could get. The impossible-to-bridge gap allowed him to watch her with a detached interest as she pushed a heavy briefcase and day-old L.A. newspaper beneath the seat in front of her and buckled her seat belt.
She hadn’t given him so much as a glance. Instead, she sank into her seat and turned her head to stare out the window into the night. One row ahead, he could see a sliver of her profile between the seats. Her chin was sharp, with that little outward thrust that most people took for stubborn assertiveness.
He was well acquainted with aggressive females. Isobel had it in spades. It made him uncomfortable—the constant need to be on guard.
He’d given a mental shrug, dismissing the redhead. The endless legs weren’t worth the price.
But, her calm acceptance of his long delay getting down to her didn’t seem to fit his first assessment of her. He’d actually thought it had been the one other woman on the plane—a middle-aged woman, who had settled down to read a two-inch thick paperback as soon as she was seated and hadn’t looked up once throughout the taxiing, take-off and steep ascent to cruising height.
This woman before him put the empty bottle on the ground beside her. “Aahhh, that was good.” She smiled. “I think my leg’s busted in a couple of places and it hurts like hell. So does my head. But for the last couple of hours, all I could think about was water. Crazy, huh?”
He considered this. “No. It’s just your survival instinct at work. Priorities first. Water is the critical one.”
“You know something about this stuff, then. Thank god.” She grimaced. “Wilderness survival doesn’t seem like all that big a deal when you live in the middle of L.A. but I’ve been lying here most of the night wishing like crazy that I’d read at least one book about it.”
Jack moved, so he could study the angle of her leg. “Well, I’ve read zero law books in my life, so we’re even.” It was a tiny lie, a drop in the bucket, comparatively.
“How did you know?”
“That you’re in the legal profession?” He shrugged. “Lucky guess. The suit and the big heavy briefcase you lugged on board helped.”
“And the expensive, useless look?” she asked, with another small smile. “I’ve heard all the jokes about lawyers at least twice over.”
He felt a twinge. Even though she was being cynical about her profession, it was a paraphrasing of the conclusions he’d drawn about her personality when they’d been taking off.
“What’s the S.K. stand for?” he asked, deliberately changing the subject.
“Of course, my briefcase. Sophie Kingston.”
He nodded. “I’ll have to straighten out your leg, Sophie.”
She grimaced. “I would have done it myself but every time I tried to move it, it hurt so much I quit.”
“I’m just going to feel for the bone, first,” he warned her as he reached for it.
Her lips compressed as he probed gently, feeling the angle of the leg through the soft fabric of her trousers.
“I think you’re right. Two places at least,” he said. “Ready?”
Gently, he straightened her leg. Her steadiness was another surprise. All she did was chew her lip and, once, suck in her breath, whistling it through her teeth, although, he knew damn well that the pain was enough to make her want to scream. She turned chalk white and for a moment he thought she was going to pass out but she only blinked for a few seconds.
“Thanks.” Her voice was husky. She tilted her head back, exposing a long column of throat, looking back up the cliff.
“Not a hope,” Jack said quietly.
She didn’t pretend to not understand. “I won’t last long on this shelf…just getting through the last few hours of the night since the crash was bad enough.” She bit her lip. “The plane didn’t catch fire, did it? There might be food, warm clothing…”
He looked back up the cliff himself, then back at her. There was no entreaty in her eyes or irresolute hope. Just steady determination.
He realized then that he’d been wrong. Sophie wasn’t aggressive. She wasn’t out there claiming victories for womanhood, racking up a tally of smaller souls destroyed in her wake. No, she was serenely getting on with her life, going her own way. There was a quietness about her that he’d overlooked until now. A sense of wisdom. Maybe, old hurts buried deep. All good roots for strength of character that had nothing to do with aggressiveness and everything to do with purpose and resolve.
For the first time since the plane had lurched without warning to one side and begun its long sideways slip down through the night sky, Jack felt his guilt lighten a little. This woman was a born survivor. A fighter. He’d promised himself he’d get her out of this but now he knew she would be doing her best to make sure it happened too.
Abruptly, he felt their fledging relationship shift from rescuer and victim into something warm and comfortable. Partners.
“We’ll just have to bring it down to you, won’t we?” he said.
The climb back up nearly finished killing him. He’d slipped three or four times, only to lunge for the wire just in time to hold himself up. Each little fall jerked on his ribs in a way that sent hot pokers of agony through him and made his vision swim. But after his sight cleared, he doggedly carried on, aware of the woman sitting below him, watching and listening to every move he made.
By the time he climbed back onto on the edge of the cliff, his whole body trembled and his muscles and sinews shrieked white agony.
For a very short moment, he rested on the edge, while his heart settled back into something that could be called a rhythm and his head stopped throbbing from the thick rush of blood. The throbbing underscored a sore spot at the back of his skull. With careful fingers, he probed under his hair and found a place so tender he jerked his fingers away. But there was no broken skin—the thick thatch of his hair would have helped prevent that—and his fingers were clean, so no blood. He couldn’t even remember being hit.
Considering the others, he’d been lucky.
He grimaced but before he could drift off into that black pool of guilt again, he got to his feet and strode to the broken fuselage. Sophie was waiting for him to return.
He let the memory of those startling, sea-green eyes swim into his mind, the eyes with the ancient, wise soul staring out of them. The quiet determination he’d felt emanating from her when he’d looked into her eyes washed over him now like a calming tonic. His mind floated in that serene pool, while he worked at scavenging through the wreckage, stripping it of anything that would aid their survival.
He had been speaking a simple truth when he’d told her water would be the least of their problems.
Now he realized that the arrival of a rescue party would not be quick.
Given the circumstances, rescue wasn’t even guaranteed.

To buy Dead Again, click here.

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Tracy is giving away a copy of DEAD DOUBLE, another romantic suspense, to one of the commenters. Click here for details on DEAD DOUBLE.

The winner will be selected on May 14th and the giveaway is open worldwide.
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Pearl
Netherlands
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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