3 star review, DNF

August TBR Challenge 2016 Double Header – Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lyndsey & Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

TBR Challenge 2016

Topic: Kicking It Old School (publication date 10 years or older)

Defy Not the Heart

Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.

This one has been on my TBR for some time, and it seems to be one of the few Johanna Lindsey books I can not remember having read during my teen Lindsey binging period. It has been published and then republished (multiple times) since 1989-so it fits comfortably in the TBR Challenge parameters. And just this past fall it was brought to my attention again, and once again slipped off my radar-I even had it checked out from the library and forgot to read it. I was going to do a different book for this challenge, but I figured NOW is the time.

This should have been my jam. Heroine starts out in armor defending her home. Hero has a cat. I hear good things. But alas, by the 5th chapter I was STILL trying to force myself to read it. Even reading the last chapter didn’t entice me to continue reading. I didn’t even get to any of the good parts when I had to quit. Something about the was the author used language just put me right off and had me crinkling my nose and curling my lips into a sneer.

I tried, really I did. I don’t remember if this is the way Lindsey has always written, or if this is unique to this particular book, but it really didn’t entice me to go back and reread anything. And pleasure reading really shouldn’t be this hard, so I finally gave up.

Defy Not the Heart (Shefford's Knights, #1)
But, since I got an early start on this one and had the time, i went ahead and tried for a second one.
Cold Comfort Farm

This was another recommended read, it is the oldest book on my TBR (published in 1932), it was immediately availalble from the library, and I was hoping a change was as good as a rest.

When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex.

At the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years.

But Flora loves nothing better than to organize other people. Armed with common sense and a strong will, she resolves to take each of the family in hand. A hilarious and merciless parody of rural melodramas, Cold Comfort Farm (1932) is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time.

I don’t know exactly what I just read, but it was unexpectedly delightful. Somehow much of it puts me in mind of my childhood memories of the Anne of Avonlea series…though I read those so long ago anyone with current experience could likely rightfully dispute me. The rest of the book is filled with onomatopoeia and ridiculousness. Half the words aren’t really words, and the rest of the words don’t often make sense when put together….if you stop and think about it. So whatever you do, don’t think about a bit of it and let the imagery the paint pictures in your mind.

So what that the cows might lose legs, and hooves, and their horns? Just enjoy how Flora cheerfully goes about managing everything in her midst until everything is just so. She plots and maneuvers with the best of intentions until everything falls perfectly into place, and then is left lonely and bereft. So what is a managing female to do but fall instantly in love with the man who won’t tolerate her managing, and him with her?

I suspect that there is much I am missing in this. But it seems the type of thing one can either read surface or deep, and enjoyment is possible at either level. I am not in raptures over it as some seem to be, but it was cute. And while I won’t likely be re-reading it, I do think I will recommend it to others. It is definitely unique if nothing else.

Cold Comfort Farm

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3.5 star review, 5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Dream Man by Linda Howard

Dream man

This 1998 classic one was way overdue for a re-read, and the comments from my review of Troublemaker made it imperative. Dream Man is available from Openlibrary, but the usual disclaimers apply.

Detective Dane Hollister of the Orlando police department has never met anyone quite like Marlie Keen. While he has doubts about her supposed clairvoyant powers, she sees crimes as they’re being committed, there is no doubt about how much he desires her. To Marlie, Dane is all heat and hard muscle, and he makes her body come alive as it never has before. But not even she can foresee that their passion will lead them on a dangerous journey into the twisted mind of a madman who will threaten their happiness and their lives.

So things to note, I adored this book, it got 5 stars from me and I have reread it so very many times. And I still love it, but, just bear in mind these comments are me trying to read this thing with 2016 eyes. If you still love and have fond memories of this book, you just may want to look away. Because as much as I still enjoyed it, I think perhaps it didn’t hold up to time as well as others have. And considering this is such a widely read and reviewed book, well there may almost certainly be spoilers, and my comments are going to be more directed and specific than I would otherwise be. You have been warned.

Holy crap, I DID NOT remember Dane being such a stalkerish pig. I really didn’t. I will grant you that he is no where in the alphahole league as the ones I really trash, but I remember him as being a sweet hero. But really his bowling her over and moving in was slightly creepy to me now. I mean there is some genuinely witty banter, and he is rather sweet at times, but still. On the plus though it was the late 90’s version of this Athur Dayne guy-which is a must read. READ IT!!!!

Other pluses include a psychic heroine, but it somehow doesn’t strike as hardcore paranormal, she is a strong heroine who shows a huge personal growth pattern (some would say too much), the romantic connection, the sex scenes, and Dane’s partner, and the mystery and truly creepy villain. There is a ton of good stuff.

On the side of I don’t know if this is a plus or a minus-the prose is remarkably purple and I enjoyed the hell of it in the way that only a reader of the old skool possibly could, your mileage may vary.

On the negative Marlie kind of gets healed by the magic Peen, there is some acknowledged condomless sex that I had completely forgotten about (and Linda Howard is usually so wonderful with this), the hero flat betrays the heroine (not sexually, but…professionally), and there wasn’t nearly enough groveling… but the make-up sex was hot and sweet.

And back to the pluses, the epilogue, the magical wonderful baby epilogue. I know that epilogues in general get a bad rap, and baby ones even more. But seriously, this one simply must be read, to quote one of the nurses “There may be justice in this world, after all.”

So in the end what was formerly a 5 star book is probably down to a 3.5 star book for me now, still goo, still maybe a re-read, but not the top of the re-read stack. And maybe subconsciously I knew this and it was why I had such a delay in re-reading it. Who knows?

Dream Man

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3 star review

Review-If He’s Noble by Hannah Howell

If He's Noble

New York Times bestselling author Hannah Howell delivers adventure and instant attraction in this all-new Wherlocke Family novel…

For Lady Primrose Wootten nothing has been ordinary since her father the Baron died and his wayward family filled the estate with greed and treachery. Primrose knows if she can just track down her brother, he can send the odious relations on their way. But instead she finds this enormous, powerful stranger, and forgets entirely what she was doing in the first place…

Sir Bened Vaughn isn’t much afraid of a pistol. But he is a bit afraid of the woman holding it, who stirs up something so primal he’s not sure he can shake it off. Vaughn is an honorable man, and he knows he has no right to desire Primrose. Yet he does have an obligation to help her, and as they learn more about her brother’s disappearance, he realizes that means staying by her side…wanting her all the while… and wondering how much longer they can resist temptation…

So a little less than a year ago when THIS book came out, I binged, and binged, and binged, and binged, and binged, and binged (yes, that is 6) to prepare for this book and then I rather didn’t care to see another Wherlocke ever again. For some reason though this popped back to my attention and I figured maybe it was time to try to finish this off. Plus the 21rst Murray story is coming out in September, and I think I would feel guilty if I didn’t read this one first. Yes, I am strange.

What we have here is the epic trek. Primrose and Bened trek about all over the countryside killing people and foiling kidnapping and murder plots while searching for her brother. It is a romp. I actually expected a ton more “I am not good enough he/she is too good” etc, but there was only a little. What there was more of was adult like contemplation of the ramifications of their possible affair, which was a pleasant change from the usual fare.

There really wasn’t any mystery so this was more action oriented and on that it delivered fairly well. Primrose was charming and capable, and slightly ridiculous. Bened was stalwart as a good historical hero should be. And there was a ridiculous little plot pet of the man-eating purse rat variety.

I liked this one fairly well. No one was cheating, there were no protracted ridiculous separations, and there were happy endings all around (you know, if you consider bad people dying a happy ending, which I do). I hope if there is a next book it will be Modred’s, but I suspect it will be the brother’s.

If your local library has copies of these, I recommend them as a pleasant way to pass the time.

If He's Noble (Wherlocke)

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3.5 star review, Miscellaneous

Review – Where the Wild Things Bite by Molly Harper

Where the Wild Things Bite

Delivering a rare book to a valued customer is definitely part of mild-mannered archivist Anna Winthrop’s job description. You know what isn’t? Protecting her precious cargo from mid-flight theft by the very pilot who is flying her to Half-Moon Hollow…while trying to appear as unappetizing as possible to the only other passenger, a vampire. Undead bookstore owner Jane Jameson could be waiting a very long time for her book. Possibly forever.

Fortunately, Anna’s dashing fanged companion Finn Palmeroy helps her fend off the attack, but not before their plane crash lands in the forest hundreds of miles from civilization. Great, now she’s stranded with a priceless tome and a rakish vampire whose bedtime is fast approaching. Why does everyone want this book so badly, anyway? Anna just wants to get it to Jane before Finn decides to turn her into dinner-or sweep her off her feet. Okay, the second option is really tempting. But they’re not out of the woods yet…

Molly Harper is another funny favorite of mine and this is the fifth book in her Half-Moon Hollow series which is itself a spin off from her 4 book Jane Jameson series. She sort of specializes in shady characters, and this one might be one of the shadiest yet. We met Finn when he was kind of  up to no good in the last book (there was something there but he was just too damned shady), and he is pretty well up to his same old tricks.

Anna may be the most neurotic and idiosyncratic character I have read in a long, long time. She has mommy issues, and dating issues, and self esteem issues, and medical issues. Yes, issues, she has them. But she is stronger and more capable than she knows, thought still far from perfect. Plus, she’s a librarian who handles rare paranormal manuscripts, how could we resist that? The answer is that we can’t!

This seemed incredibly short and fundamentally ridiculous, and I enjoyed ever insane second of it. There’s immolating vampires, crazed homicidal pilots named Ernie, banter in the woods, freaky shifters with poor communication skills, betrayal, and new found friendship. It MUST be love.

Honestly, I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys their romance ridiculous, funny, and filled with female friendships.

Where the Wild Things Bite (Half-Moon Hollow, #5)

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4 star review

Review – This is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland

This is All I Ask

Set near the Scottish border at a rugged castle on the edge of the sea, this is the story of a courageous lord who lost everything he held dear. Of a strong young woman willing to sacrifice everything for happiness. Two lost souls who find in each other a reason to live again, to laugh again, and to love for the first time…

I am not quite entirely sure how this book ended up on my TBR, particularly with none of the other books in the series read or an my TBR. But I suspect it somehow came to my attention after reading Candle in the Window and becoming interested in how blind protagonists are treated after reading The Arrangement.

It turns out that this is also somewhat a paranormal, and we have witches, I suspect from they way they are presented here they have been meddling along in the series and will continue to meddle. So yep, a historical paranormal with a blind hero.

Fortunately it is only a touch paranormal, the rest is just historical. We have the rough, tough cream puff hero, who protects himself due to prior emotional wounding. He also happens to be blind, and a little self-pitying. So while he will marry the heroine due to a long-standing promise and his honor, he is determined not to love her or care for her (beyond being a proper husband) or like it in any way. We have the kind, but living in fear heroine who initially fears the hero, but learns to first trust and then love, and then learns courage and her own self-worth. And then we have a cast of humorous and sympathetic characters, and of course the heroine’s father-the villain.

Man, oh, man, this book is almost painfully sweet. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just, it is so sweet, but you know the other shoe is about to drop sometime. It is also on occasion, whether intentionally or not, kind of humorous. Not like it is a comedy, but just enough to leaven the topics and make you feel happy reading it instead of entrenched in the doom and gloom of what are some pretty awful situations. And we also have a hero who is in touch with his own emotions on a level that I find delightful but that may leave readers who prefer a more traditional alpha hero feeling a little uncomfortable, YMMV.

And another thing I really enjoyed, we have no miracles here. Things are what they are, our characters have to live through and with the things that have happened to them, but separately and together they grow as individuals and find their way through and together. Which is a mishmash way of saying we have a delightful happily ever after with two characters who are more than happy to depend on one another but aren’t exactly dependent on one another, if you see what I mean. Looking at this objectively, I would probably have given this 3 stars, but , but for me this is one where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and it is an emotional event that I will likely return to. However, the rest of the two series this book is entwined with seem to have a significant number of time travel books, so I doubt it will be a glommable series for me.

This Is All I Ask (de Piaget, #6; de Piaget/MacLeod, #3)

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3 star review

Review – Troublemaker by Linda howard

Troublemaker

A thrilling, fast-paced novel of romantic suspense from sensational New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Linda Howard.

For Morgan Yancy, an operative and team leader in a paramilitary group, nothing comes before his job. But when he’s ambushed and almost killed, his supervisor is determined to find out who’s after the members of his elite squad—and why. Due to worries that this unknown enemy will strike again, Morgan is sent to a remote location and told to lay low and stay vigilant. But between a tempting housemate he’s determined to protect and a deadly threat waiting in the shadows, keeping under the radar is proving to be his most dangerous mission yet.

The part-time police chief of a small West Virginian mountain town, Isabeau “Bo” Maran finally has her life figured out. She’s got friends, a dog, and a little money in the bank. Then Morgan Yancy shows up on her doorstep. Bo doesn’t need a mysterious man in her life—especially a troublemaker as enticing and secretive as Morgan.

The harder they fight the intense heat between them, the closer Morgan and Bo become, even though she knows he’s hiding from something. But discovering the truth could cost Bo more than she’s willing to give. And when Morgan’s cover is blown, it might just cost her life.

Linda Howard is one of my loves. I have been with her through a lot of the years. For some reason though I was really late realizing she had a new release out, and so was completely blindsided when the reviews started coming in. And they were mixed to say the least. So I was really late getting around to it. It appears to be a series…maybe?

Where to start, so much where to start? The initial set up is pretty good, rough tough cream puff has been shot, his organizational leader sends him to recuperate with said organizational leader’s former step-sister who is the chief of police of a small town. We have the feisty chief of police with a cute little plot pet, who isn’t immediately on board and asks some questions and asks for assurances of safety for herself and her town.

THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN MY CATNIP!!! But it wasn’t😦

For some reason they harped on the fact that Bo’s position is purely administrative so she isn’t a real cop. And while it is a legal option in some states, I find it a) irritating that this is harped on, b) irritated that this was the choice that the author made when she could have been a real police officer, and c) that she doesn’t stick to her purely administrative position when her role is defined that way. I am also kind of flipped off at the reasons she needed money and so acquiesced to her step-brother’s demands. It made her seem weak which irritated me.

On the pluses, these two experienced no insta-love, they took their time and got to know one another. So it was completely lovely and relaxed how they got together. Unfortunately, looking at it closer, WE THE READERS never really got to know the main characters, we never got the text of their conversations with one another….what we got was a ton about Tricks the plot pet. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good plot pet as much as the next person (probably more), but this was effing ridiculous. It was too much.

So I am torn on how to rate this and whether or not to recommend it. In the end I did enjoy it, and it was super relaxing to read and kept my attention well, but I am not going to re-read it. And it was interesting enough that I would be interested in continuing to read the series, if it is indeed a series. But there were the aforementioned issues. Plus, it is still 12.99 and that is quite insane. So I don’t know, YMMV, and it isn’t a complete nix.

Troublemaker: A Novel

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4 star review

Review – Illusion Town by Jayne Castle

Illusion Town

A new adventure begins on Harmony…

With its opulent casinos and hotels, the desert city of Illusion Town is totally unique—and will take you on a thrill ride you’ll never forget.

Hannah West isn’t the first woman to wake up in Illusion Town married to a man she barely knows, but she has no memory of the ceremony at all. For that matter, neither does Elias Coppersmith, her new husband. All either can remember is that they were on the run…

With Hannah’s dubious background and shaky para-psych profile, she could have done much worse. The cooly competent mining heir arouses her curiosity—as well as other parts of her mind and body. And even her dust bunny likes him.

But a honeymoon spent retracing their footsteps leads Hannah and Elias into the twisting underground catacombs, where secrets from both their pasts will come to light—and where the energy of their clashing auras will grow hot enough to burn…

So long have I been reading this series. SO long. This is book 13 in the Harmony series, or like book 1 bajillion if you consider that the tie-ins from her Amanda Quick and Jayne Anne Krentz’s pen names are part of the series. And I honestly can’t believe I haven’t written about any of those, but then I realized the last Amanda Quick and Jayne Ann Krentz ones were in 2013 (still waiting for her to finish those two out), and time really does fly doesn’t it? But I bring it up because we have TIE IN! Family is a strong theme in these series and it followed the people through the curtain to Harmony.

I adore engineers, know this made me predisposed to love this book. Castle got the abrupt, highly specific and almost hyper literal communication method down pat, it reminds me so much of real life I was able to settle right in.

This was action packed, and plenty twisty, and seemed much longer than the past few books, but in a good way. Needless to say there is a lot going on. We have also branched out significantly from the guilds, so it will be interesting to see where she goes in the series from here.

It is hard to know what to say about this book, except that if you read this series, you know what you are getting. Two off the chart talents, disparate worlds, family ties, albeit often unconventional ones, a mystery or two, and DUST BUNNIES!

This one struck me as a bit more fun and charming than the last couple, but YMMV. I like the pragmatic engineer hero. It is kind of a thing for me. I also enjoyed the ridiculous retracing of steps, kind of abbreviated Hangover type scenario.

I can’t quite explain what it is about this series that brings me back time and time again,. but they make me happy. And really some days that is all one can ask. You can probably read this as a stand alone. But if you haven’t started this series, I’d say start at the beginning and then pace yourself. If you binge I can imagine the similarities might get to you. But, since I am not binging, all I can say is that I’ve enjoyed my annual trip to harmony, and this particular one will likely go back on my reread shelf for a future blah day, it isn’t deep but it is broad, and it left me smiling.

Illusion Town

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