This is almost too much for my heart to bear. Magic Shifts chapters 1 & 2 have been posted. It starts with a bang and ends with an explosion. I don’t know how I am going the be able to wait until it is finally released August 4, 2015. I’m telling you, I really need a time machine so I can go to the future and read ALL the books.
Garden of Lies
by Amanda Quick
With this one following Otherwise Engaged, it looks like Jayne Ann Krentz has stepped back from paranormal historical romance for a bit. While I still really want the final Ladies of Lantern Street book, I am enjoying her return to my historical romance roots. I think Amanda Quick may have been the very first ones I ever read, and if not, they are definitely the first ones I remember. So take this review with the grain of salt that is my nostalgia.
Garden of Lies starts with a really intriguing prologue, so if you read this on Kindle, check to make sure that Kindle didn’t “conveniently” skip it for you. Slater Roxton is one of the more nuanced heroes we have seen from Quick in a while, born between two very different London cultures and with some remarkable life experiences, he’s not just any substitute hero. Ursula Kern owns and operates an exclusive ladies secretarial pool. She has remade herself several times in an era when this wasn’t typically possible for women, and in ways that absolutely fit the time period. When her best friend dies, and she believes it is murder, she upends her own life in order to find out the truth. Mostly Slater Roxton is along for the ride because he wants to protect Ursula. He is nicely protective but not overly so, and doesn’t once as far as I can remember, step into alpha-hole territory. And furthermore, he respects Ursula, which makes it really easy for me to enjoy a book. The villainy and mystery were nice and twisty, and mostly (except for a brief flurry at the end) the relationship was nice and straightforward – which seems to be a nice change of pace for me. It reminded me why I loved Amanda Quick so much, because with her heroines could be smart, and brave, and resourceful, and intrepid, and any number of things besides just a damsel in distress requiring rescue. And in fact, the heroes could need rescuing too.
So, through the lens of my nostalgia, which is the only one I’ve got at the moment, this book was highly enjoyable. Trying to look at it objectively, I am not entirely certain new to Quick readers or those who don’t have the same fond nostalgia as I do would rate it as highly. Still, for me this is a 4 star book.
I believe it is very clear by now that I have big, big love for Shelly Laurenston, no matter her pen name and series. Whether it is her Dragon Kin Series under her pseudonym G.A. Aiken, or her newer series Call of the Crows. But the series that started my obsessive love was the Pack Pride Series. And for a limited time books 2-4 are on sale for $1.99 each. Fortunately, book 1 isn’t really the best book in the series, and you can start with book 2 with no fear of being lost, the overall series arc doesn’t even start until book 4 any way.
Don’t Walk Away
by Vivian Arend and Elle Kenedy
I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.
Don’t Walk Away is the third book in the DreamMaker’s Trilogy. Previous books have been comical and sexy, and I enjoyed them quite a bit. The premise is really the fun part, these former military Special Forces guys get out, and rather than opening up the ubiquitous security agency, they open DreamMaker’s, which is an upscale event planning service for clueless guys who want to impress their ladies.
The last book ended on a small cliffhanger regarding Dean, the unabashed manwhore of the group. There is a mysterious lady, because of course there is. Rather than having another heroine in jeopardy situation, this book takes a different route. Once upon a time Dean and Emma were inseparable, until they weren’t and Dean broke her heart. And it definitely was true love, as you’ll see why when you read it. When Emma happens to move to San Francisco, she inadvertently makes friends with Dean’s best female friend Suz, which of course throw the star crossed lovers into each other’s path. Because of their history together, this book really ramps up the feels when compared to the previous two books. It is a bit angsty, at least to start, because of all the emotional baggage. But their relationship settles in to sweet and caring with a nice side of sexy. And Emma’s secret was a bit…odd, but nothing insurmountable. And, as one of the things I enjoy about this series is the tapestry of relationships it forms, we also got peeks into Suz and Gillian’s future HEA’s, so whatever is happening next in this series looks promising. I am not sure if this series is going to extend past the previously promised trilogy, or if it is going to go into spin-off mode, but either way, color me stoked that there will be more.
This isn’t high literature, it is fluffy and happy and sexy, and they are fairly short books, but it’s a solid and enjoyable series.
by Nora Roberts
Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions …
The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.
Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning …
This year’s offering is a family saga/drama as much as it is romantic suspense. Shelby returns home to Tennessee after her husband’s death. It turns out her husband was a miserable excuse for a human being and she is absolutely better off without him, no matter how much debt he left her in with his death. Her daughter is more than a plot moppet in this story, and she was a cutie pie. Griff, the love interest is the Mary Poppins of romance heroes. There are also a host of other family members and friends who are integral to the storyline. I enjoyed reading about these people and their lives. What broke down for me a bit was the suspense, I had figured out all the plot twists before a quarter of the book was through. So while I enjoyed the journey, the book failed a bit on the suspense level. There were quite a number of twists though, so I am not going to heavily into the plot because that could possibly spoil it for the handful of people who might just be surprised. What i will say is that it was a nice cozy book that was easy to get into, with likable characters, and a plot that seemed relatively believable.
Overall I am rating this 4 stars, but read it for the characters and the journey, not for the suspense, unless of course you have never read a Nora Roberts romantic suspense book, only then would you possibly be surprised.
by Loretta Chase
OK, so I had to do something drastic to step out of this reading/reviewing funk I have been in recently. Fortunately, Desi linked to this blog post on romance and PMS, and something different piqued my interest. A historical nobleman ready and willing to deal with cramps and periods in a non sexual way.
And I am so glad I followed that random blog post. Mr. Impossible was delightful. The perfect anodyne to previous reading endeavors. How much was because of the sheer difference from what has recently been read, I just can’t say, but I really think most it was just this book. This lovely, lovely book. Here is the chimera, the unicorn; here is a man who legitimately falls in love and lust with a woman because of her mind. And Rupert, I adore him, he’s self-deprecating and sweet and not at all the aggressive alpha-hole, all without being a Beta either.
“And being a great dumb ox,” He went on, “I’m wonderfully easy to manage.”
I can’t quite put my finger on why, but he reminds me of my beloved Scarlet Pimpernel, who in so many ways is my ideal hero. And Daphne, she’s a scholar, and a spitfire. Her now deceased husband may have tried to curb her, but underneath it all, she is still who she is, and passionate about her research.
“It’s called ahezan,” she said.
“Yes, but what is it?”
“A scarf girdling the waist,” she said. “Useful for stowing things. Like my knives.”
“Have you the least idea how to use them?” He said.
“I know that you hold it by the handle and the sharp end is the part you stick in,” she whispered impatiently. “What else do I need to know?”
“Hold it with the sharp end aimed upward rather than downward,” he said. “More control, better aim that way.”
“Oh,” she said. “Yes. I see.”
“Shall we proceed, and ought I do so with my knife drawn?’
“You’d better keep it where it is for the moment,” he said. “Otherwise you might stab me to death accidentally.”
“If I stab you to death,” she said, “It will not be accidental.”
And what starts as lust on both their parts, slowly transforms into something very sweet.
Strange things happened inside him-a sudden rush of feeling he hadn’t a name for. Lust was involved naturally, since he was a man, and it would want far more than a few bloodstains on her clothing to make that go away. Lust though, was a hanger-o, an old friend as natural as breathing. The thing it hung upon was as strange and puzzling as the wooden figure tucked inside his coat. He didn’t understand the feeling and didn’t try to. He did understand that she was upset. She had reason.
And Rupert seduces Daphne in a manner that isn’t at all typical of historicals. He seduces her mind as much, if not more than her body.
She could hardly believe her ears. He had been so reluctant to teach her to shoot. But these were words used between equals, words of trust-in her judgement, in her skill-from a man. Her heart leapt with pleasure or fear, she wasn’t sure. Perhaps both.
And then I got to the period scene that started my journey, and it turned out to not even be my favorite scene, though it was awesome enough:
He did not like to leave her alone, suffering, even if it wasn’t his fault and the only cure was time.
“For such a clever woman you are woefully ignorant,” he said. “There’s a great deal one can do.
He had no idea what one could do. He had no sisters, and even if he had, they would have kept this secret from him as every other woman did.
And he proceeds to care for her, no matter how uncomfortable he was. It was as lovely as I had hoped. But that caring didn’t transform into something overly protective and smothering, it transformed into something that nurtured independence and acknowledges her as a strong woman in her own right.
“It wasn’t her rising to the occasion. It’s the occasion rising to her. Egypt and this business with you and the papyrus have finally given her the chance to show what she truly is. She’s-she’s a goddess. But human. A real goddess, not make believe. She’s beautiful and brave and wise, And fascinating. And dangerous. As goddesses are, as you know, in all the best stories.”
And then, the point when he tells her he loves her, it is beautiful, and I am not spoiling it with quotes, so you’ll have to read it when you get there.
I don’t think that this will necessarily make my re-read list, as there was something in the prose that wasn’t my preference and looking back there were a few plot holes (I didn’t notice those while reading though, only when reflecting back on what to say). BUT, it was a truly lovely story that I enjoyed very much, and I sincerely recommend it to any reader who like historicals and/or smart and independent heroines.
Falling for a Redneck
By Eve Langlais
So this is the second story in a row that simply hasn’t worked for me. And not just random stories, but things that should have worked. I don’t know if I’m heading into a slump or it’s just awful luck for this weekend, but whatever it is, I hope it straightens out PDQ.
Be forewarned, there WILL be spoilers and ranting.
So generally speaking, even if Eve Langlais books don’t make my top favorites list, I can at least count on solid enjoyment. This is in fact the first book of hers that was completely wrong for me. It should have been right dang it. We have an uptight, germaphobe, white collar woman, and an earthy blue collar guy with two adorable plot-moppets to melt her icy facade. But this reprint should have stayed safely in the past.
From this point on there will be spoilers and rants, feel free to skip out, but if you haven’t read anything by Eve Langlais, skip this book and try her Freakn’ Shifters (ignore the horrible apostrophe usage) or Furry United Coalition (yes that does spell FUC). Both of them are full of humor, whimsy, and sexy times.
So, we start out meeting Marissa, the pro-Domme, in full regalia in a session. Except this isn’t her kink, it’s a job she does so she can punish men and vent her anger at all men over the horrible way her ex-husband treated her. So yeah, we have another BDSM practitioner doing it in lieu of therapy, a trope I quite despise. It actually gets worse though because her former therapist is the person who turned her onto it. So, yeah, that happened. And then she doesn’t even own it, she’s all conflicted over it. Enter the sexy redneck Dirk and his adorable plot moppets. I settle in thinking alright, this is working for me. I’m even getting into the mystery of Marissa’s stalker. And I’m especially enjoying getting to know Dirk and seeing him as a person and his back story unfold. Then WHAM, another trope/comment I abhor. Marrisa refers to her pro-Domme activities as “…as bad as prostitution”. Literally, WTF? First off, that’s just an awfully denigrating way to think about or write about prostitutes. Considering prostitutes as ” bad” is just not something I can condone. There’s plenty of ways to think about prostitutes (and that’s definitely a debate for another time), but that dismissive horrified line of thought is one that just pisses me the hell off. And secondly, if you aren’t having sexual contact with a human being for money (which she wasn’t), then it isn’t prostitution. It’s a service right up there with paying for massage, hair cuts, or spa services. Yes it’s a little out of mainstream for the general population, but it still isn’t sex for money. So she’s going to quit because she’s tired of it anyway, and her anger’s all cured by the love and care from her redneck and his magical peen. That’s a little bit of magical thinking, but I tend to accept it in romancelandia. Whatever, on with the story. So Dirk takes her to his parents house to be safe from the stalker. It’s a farm, which makes for some fairly funny scenes. We get to find out plenty more about Dirk and his kids, and both he and Marissa really open up. The plot moppets’ bio-mom even breezes in giving Dirk closure and forcing both of them to confront their feelings for each other, and then conveniently breezes right out with no real repercussions or consequences. So Dirk and Marissa head back to real life, and she’s figured out her stalker is actually one of her now-former client’s wife. She sets up one last appointment with the man to lure his wife in, and this part I actually did like, she talks the wife down and teaches her to dominate her husband as he likes to be dominated. Those two go home a happier and kinkier couple. Then Marissa finally confesses to Dirk that all her angst and anger came from the fact she had cervical cancer which resulted in a hysterectomy, and that her husband knocked someone else else up and left her. Yes, that’s very miserable, but Dirk is a sweetie who explains she’s not half a woman, she’s the other half of his heart. They get married and our formerly very starched and buttoned up clean freak doesn’t even freak over the handprints the plot moppets leave on her wedding dress. It’s sweet.
Now, if that were the end of it, at least it would have been a high note. Still not a great or even good story, but a high note. But of course I wasn’t that lucky, we then have the epilogue from hell. A year later they wake up and find a freaking baby on their doorstep. The plot moppets’ bio-mom has popped out another kid and left it on their doorstep as a belated wedding present. WTF?!?! I guess someone must think that’s a happy ending of massive wish fulfillment proportions. But personally, I just found it creepy and weird.
I think what frustrated me so much, is that there was the bones of a great story in there. And Dirk and his backstory were just excellent. He’s one of my favorite heroes so far this year. I actually kind of even liked Marissa. But the story around them just completely irked the hell out of me. How on earth does an author even write characters I like in a story I can’t stand? There’s some sort of voodoo going on here, but I’m still giving this story 1 star.
The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die
By Marnie Riches
I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.
“When a bomb explodes at the University of Amsterdam, aspiring criminologist Georgina McKenzie is asked by the police to help flush out the killer.
But the bomb is part of a much bigger, more sinister plot that will have the entire city quaking in fear.
And the killer has a very special part for George to play…”
Fair warning, there may be spoilers, either for the previous 6 stories or this one. This is the point in the series where I don’t know how to do this any other way.
Jennifer Ashley turned the feels up to 11. While I knew she would never pull a J.R. Ward, I was emotionally invested in this couple in a way that does not happen often for me, I felt anxiety, and heartbreak and despair, and of course joy. Previous books in this series I read for the fun and smexy times. I enjoyed them but was starting to have some doubts with the last book Wild Wolf, but this one took it to another level.
Bowman and Kenzie’s relationship hurt them, mating for 15 years without ever feeling the mating bond. Always fearing the other would bond with someone else, and that would take away the person they love most. And I hurt right there with them.
Shades of Nalini Singh’s Tangle of Need anyone? Only this time it is the man who has to bare his heart, who has the fear of having it all ripped away.
There is this lovely push and pull in their relationship, they’re a couple who knows each other so well, they function as a team and each brings balance to the other, and the smexy times are hot. But as a couple they are just so loving. I think this may be the most romantic story I’ve read all year. I was so glad to see Jennifer Ashley go back to a more relationship driven story.