3.5 star review

Review – Brotherhood in Death by JD Robb

Brotherhood in Death

The new novel featuring homicide detective Eve Dallas from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Devoted in Death.

Sometimes brotherhood can be another word for conspiracy. . . .

Dennis Mira just had two unpleasant surprises. First he learned that his cousin Edward was secretly meeting with a real estate agent about their late grandfather’s magnificent West Village brownstone, despite the promise they both made to keep it in the family. Then, when he went to the house to confront Edward about it, he got a blunt object to the back of the head.

Luckily Dennis is married to Charlotte Mira, the NYPSD’s top profiler and a good friend of Lieutenant Eve Dallas. When the two arrive on the scene, he explains that the last thing he saw was Edward in a chair, bruised and bloody. When he came to, his cousin was gone. With the mess cleaned up and the security disks removed, there’s nothing left behind but a few traces for forensics to analyze.

As a former lawyer, judge, and senator, Edward Mira mingled with the elite and crossed paths with criminals, making enemies on a regular basis. Like so many politicians, he also made some very close friends behind closed—and locked—doors. But a badge and a billionaire husband can get you into places others can’t go, and Eve intends to shine some light on the dirty deals and dark motives behind the disappearance of a powerful man, the family discord over a multimillion-dollar piece of real estate . . . and a new case that no one saw coming.

This series is an auto for me. I adore Eve and Roarke and the whole gang. But, this is Book 42 in the series, and while the mystery stands alone and you probably COULD read this without the rest of the series, I would say it is inadvisable, because the STORY doesn’t standalone.

And this one features a favorite character that we haven’t had a whole lot of insight into. And I adore that part, although he was even more befuddled then I would have expected (it was a bit over done). I have to admit though, I am becoming frustrated by the increasingly fast and loose way Robb (AKA Nora Roberts) handles the police procedural part. Yes, the way Eve works with her husband and friends is part of the appealing aspects of the story, and part of watching her grow into herself, but now since so many of her friends are not cops, it is just becoming unsettling. Because the other part that is important about Eve, is that she is a great cop. The balance is getting shifted a bit too much in my opinion. If this is about the balance being shifted further to the home life and making the changes that will end the series, then I am OK with that, much though I will miss the series. But if we are going to hang out here for an extended length of time with Eve playing faster and looser with the police procedural side, I fear I am going to start getting very irked.

Anyway, beyond that, I really enjoyed this one. Mr. Mira (who it turns out is actually professor Mira) was a delight. There was lovely friendly banter between everyone, particularly noteworthy between Eve and Roarke, and Eve and Peabody. And the mystery part was fast paced, interesting, and it kept me engaged-even though the psychoses are horrifying. And we do get more character growth from Eve as she really talks to both Peabody and Dennis Mira.

And Eve and Roarke’s relationship seems to have reached a turning point. He’s not so perfectly inexplicably tuned to her as he has been before, and their relationship has become decidedly less adversarial.

So, as I’ve said before, much though I’ll miss this series, I’m hoping it’s a sign of things coming to a close and getting that final happily ever after for one of my favorite romance couples… before it loses the things that have made it so successful and wonderful. 42 books is one hell of a run, but I think it’s time to be letting go now.

Brotherhood in Death (In Death, #42)

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3.5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Mischief by Amanda Quick

Mischief

Imogen Waterstone has always prided herself on being a thoroughly independent young woman, but now she needs a man of implacable will and nerves of iron. That’s why she invited Matthias Marshall, infamous Earl of Colchester, to her home in Upper Strickland. Who better than the legendary explorer to help her lay the perfect trap?
Her scheme is simple, really: She plans to let it be known that when she inherited her uncle’s collection of antiquities, she also inherited a map to a fabulous ancient treasure. She’s sure that her enemy would risk financial ruin in pursuit of the mythical artifact. And to make doubly sure the scoundrel took the bait, she wants Colchester to pretend that he’s out to seduce Imogene so that he, too, could get his hands on her map.

Yet in all of her plotting, Imogene never anticipates Colchester’s violent reaction to her request or her own electrifying reaction to him. Neither does she expect that a malevolent threat would emerge from the labyrinth of London–sinister enough to endanger her and Colchester’s lives.

It was bound to happen sooner or later when I am on a comfort reading binge. Amanda Quick has been a shelter in the storm for me for a long, long time. I read them new, and I read them old, and I re-read them regularly whenever life happens. So it is actually kind of surprising that it has taken me so long to get back to her this time.

This is yet another one that is available on OpenLibrary, and again, I am reading my personal copy so I can not vouch for the scan (though all the ones I have borrowed form OpenLibrary have been good), and I highly suggest you borrow the PDF version and not the EPUB, unless you like playing the OCR text recognition atrocity game.

As with many of Quick’s books, the heroine belongs firmly in the competence porn category, along with a helpful dose of naivete and fresh faced innocence. Imogen is a blue stocking who was raised by her Original parents as something of a social experiment, and in many ways it shows. She is a confusing mix of over-educated bluestocking and completely uneducated socially. But she goes full tilt to whatever she believes in. Heroines like this are why Quick is comfort reading for me. It is pleasant to be in the head of a capable woman (rather than a damsel in distress) who also still has some happiness and lightness to her, who can see the good in life despite negative circumstances.

Colchester is the stock Quick hero, technically brilliant, removed from life, dark, and recognizing rather early how much he needs the heroine in his life. Quick’s heroes are stock wish fulfillment.

So basically I have blathered on about how stock and typical and cut from the same cloth Quick’s stuff is, which is true (Duh, comfort reading), but what gives it that little edge, for me, is how charming the characters are, and all the little details that suck me into their stories.

The problems are always different, but there is nothing that comes up that can’t be solved with a little logic and some fortitude, and love is transformative in lovely little ways. Quick’s books, especially the older ones, tend to leave me with a rosy little glow. I couldn’t say there’s any one thing in this one that makes it stand out more than her other historicals, it is just that it is just enough different to not be the same one, if you see what I mean. So, I’ll just bask in my after glow and drink my tea while contemplating the next one I’ll read.

Mischief

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3.5 star review

Review – Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bowen

Duke of My Heart.jpg

Scandal can be handled…
Captain Maximus Harcourt, the unconventional tenth Duke of Alderidge, can deal with tropical storms, raging seas, and the fiercest of pirates. But he’s returned home from his latest voyage to find a naked earl – quite inconveniently deceased – tied to his missing sister’s bed. And he has only one place to turn. Now he’s at the mercy of the captivating Miss Ivory Moore of Chegarre & Associates, known throughout London for smoothing over the most dire of scandals.

Miss Moore treats the crisis as though it were no more serious than a cup of spilt tea on an expensive rug. As though this sort of thing happened on the job every day. Max has never in all his life met a woman with such nerve. Her dark eyes are too wide, her mouth is too full, her cheekbones too sharp. Yet together, she’s somehow…flawless. It’s just like his love for her, imperfect, unexpected – yet absolutely true.

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.

I picked this up because Kelly Bowen’s other works have brought a smile to my face. They are over the top ridiculous, but a ton of fun too. And I just can’t resist a competent, take charge woman. And Miss Ivory Moore totally rocks it in the competence category.

This is pure escapism. We have a secretive agency that makes scandals go away, a dead earl, a nasty wager, and a convoluted plot-so very, very convoluted. It is delightful, so long as you can hold onto your willful suspension of disbelief. And believe you me, the willful part is necessary, this is wallpaper historical at its finest.

The plot is almost insanely entertaining, and I do hope we get Beatrice’s story eventually, but Ivory is what makes the story. She’s frightfully competent, clever, headstrong, and a damsel who doesn’t need rescuing, though she appreciates it when it happens. Max was fun and sweet, and clever too, but…how to put this, while I liked him and liked him for Ivory, he wasn’t remotely why I liked the story.

It is kind of weird, but I think I’d have enjoyed Ivory in a Chegarre and Associates mystery story with no hint of romance. It is a head scratcher. In any event, Duke of My Heart is a pleasant diversion to while away an hour or two, and I look forward to reading more from Bowen.

Duke of My Heart (A Season for Scandal Book 1)

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4.5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Ransom by Julie Garwood

Ransom

This book is available on OpenLibrary, but since I am re-reading my own copy I am unable to vouch for the integrity of the scan.

This is the sequel to The Secret, and the hero of this book is the rough, tough and growly Brodick, featured heavily in that book. Don’t you just love a good growly hero?

Gillian the heroine is also a strong, capable, (are you starting to see a pattern in Garwood’s heroines?) and wily heroine, and there is a delightful friendship between her and another woman, which as I have previously mentioned, is an aspect I enjoy in my reading. But really? I have to be honest, Brodick is who makes this story for me. He’s such a delightfully crotchety and recalcitrant hero that I could just eat him up with a spoon. Also, the plot is much more exciting than the previous story.

This particular story is unique in that there are actually a couple of different mysteries to be solved, and you can definitely see in this story how Garwood was starting to transition to romantic suspense. Ransom was published December 1999 and then one month later, as far as I can tell, is when her first romantic suspense was published. And she’s only published one more historical since she started writing romantic suspense, the conclusion of this series, which neatly ties in to the contemporary romantic suspense series. There are actually a few Easter eggs for fans of her historicals in her current series.

There are also two romances going on here, which some people find the second a bit tacked on, but I appreciated the foil the two heroes provide for each other. The secondary hero, Ramsey, is a beautiful and much harried by women character. He is the obviously kind and compassionate to Brodick’s gruff, tough, and unrelenting. And the two are best friends, though they wouldn’t talk about their relationship like that. However, Brodick seems to be the more astute in understanding human nature, albeit perhaps only slightly. Ramsey is a very stupid man 😉

The crux of the story is that Gillian is on a mission to go into the highlands to find her missing sister and a box belonging to the king of England. There is a mystery tied to the box and the villain of the story, Baron Alford, needs to obtain it in order to cover his crimes, and is holding Gillian’s uncle hostage to ensure her cooperation. Meanwhile, Laird Ramsey is having unrest in his own clan as he attempts to merge a smaller, leaderless clan into his own (at their request), and a young boy has been stolen and brought to Baron Alford for nefarious purposes. So, Gillian decides to rescue the boy, bring him back to his family, find the treasure, and rescue her uncle. Fortunately for her, the child she rescues has Brodick for a protector.

And that is not even the half of it. Writing it out like that makes it seem preposterous and ridiculous, but let me tell you, somehow it all seems very reasonable while you are reading. The banter though, that does tend toward the comically ridiculous, but in a good way. It is funny, not laugh out loud funny, more giggling funny, but funny nonetheless.

Evil doers get their comeuppance, good guys win, true love prevails-even for the curmudgeonly, and all that jazz. This is a happy, fun book that that isn’t just about the two protagonists. It is another one that makes my comfort reads.

Ransom (Highlands' Lairds, #2)

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5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – The Secret by Julie Garwood

Secret

This book is available at OpenLibrary, however, I am rereading my own personal copy so I can not vouch for the integrity of the scan.

This is another Garwood historical with a strong capable heroine, which is something I always enjoy reading. But what struck me most about this book is that while it is a romance, friendships, particularly between women, is a large part of the plot. I can’t for sure say this was the first romance I read with strong relationships outside the romantic leads, but if not, it was probably close and it is the one that has stuck with me all these years.

Once upon a time, in a land that vaguely resembles historical Scotland, an English girl and a Scottish girl became friends before they ever knew there was reason for enmity. Judith was a solemn little girl with a miserable mother and a drunkard of an uncle for a guardian, but she had a loving aunt and uncle and that is how she ended up at a border festival to meet Frances Catherine. Frances Catherine had two names, because she was named after her mother and her grandmother who each died from child-birth and were not buried on holy ground because they were considered ritually unclean, and so her father wanted her names to remind god of those women. It also, quite naturally gave her a fear of child-birth. So Judith made Frances Catherine a promise to find out everything she could about child-birth, and to attend her when her time came. And that is where the conflict of the story comes into play. Frances Catherine wound up in the highlands and her husband’s promise is one that his brother, the laird, felt bound to honor it. He, like all the men in this piece doesn’t get that women can be trusted friends.

Needless to say, Judith comes as quite a shock to the system. Shocker of all shockers, Judith is a proto-feminist. She’s also something of a Mary Sue, good at everything and capable of making friends with everyone. But she was so unpretentious without being down on herself that I didn’t even care. And while the romance with Ian was very sweet, the star of this particular book was her relationships with all the women in the clan. Judith changes everything, but relatively gently, not coming into a different culture and telling the women what they are doing wrong. She just started making friends, presenting opportunities, and standing up to the men. If ever there had been a feminist uprising in historical Scotland, this is a way I could imagine it happening. There is even a very woman-power, female solidarity scene at the end that still gives me the warm fuzzies after all these years.

In the end Judith finds family, love, friendships, and makes a place for herself, all with her own irresistible charm and pragmatic take on life. I revisit her story again and again.

The Secret (Highlands' Lairds #1)
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4 star review, Thoughts and Opinions

OpenLibrary Review – The Touch of Fire by Linda Howard

Touch of Fire

Romancelandia is no stranger to controversy, but the most recent dust-up over a Rita nominee finalist where the heroine is a Jew and the so-called hero (see I’m not biased or anything) is a Nazi in charge of a concentration camp, has really caught my attention. A lot of people have said all the things, but here are the two most relevant to me, and to why I am FINALLY starting this blogging category, which for lack of a better term, I am calling my “Shame Files”.

AztecLady over at Her Hands, My Hands has a nice explanation of the entire situation and links to more information, and she’s much more succinct and precise than I would be if I tried to unpack the whole thing the way she did. But we’ll just say that I have so many issues with the premise of the novel, from the power differential, to the genocide and the idea that everything is forgivable, to the religious aspects.

And then Wendy over at The Misadventures Of Super Librarian wrote this really pointed piece about how we as romance readers need to take a look in the mirror on this issue of the power dynamics, because the genre as a whole and in its various parts, is rife with this issue. And she is absolutely correct.

So I had been contemplating starting up my Shame Files segment for a while now. Not because I am ashamed to read or enjoy these books, but because I am always vaguely ashamed and reticent about recommending these books, even if they are on my re-read list. And the reason that I am ashamed to recommend them or discuss them, is that there is that problematical power dynamic and elements of non-con, and I liked it and forgave the hero any way.

So, here are your warnings: there will be spoilers in this review, and in any other in the future tagged Shame Files, because I can’t start unpacking the issues and my actual opinions without actually talking about what happened. There will also likely be non-consent scenes of some sort discussed, because I can’t think of anything else I’d be reticent to recommend over. Also, I am aware that when it comes controversial subjects, there isn’t always a good way to stay on the side of explaining and critiquing rather than sliding into justification, particularly when it comes to something as personal as reading preferences. I’ll do my best, but that is really all that I can do.

This book is available at OpenLibrary, all the usual disclaimers apply.

The Touch of Fire was originally published in 1993, so more than 20 years ago, so perhaps it isn’t entirely fair to use this book as my first example, but since It was my first example, it is what I am using. Once upon a time I glommed Linda Howard, and there were a ton of firsts for me in her works. This one counts as the first book I can remember reading a non-con scene and not being revolted and feeling like my stomach was turning over.

So for me to start unpacking this, you need to know a little bit about our main protagonists. It is the late 1800’s, and our heroine, Annie Parker, is a DOCTOR. She is almost 30 years old, she’s never been married, and when she grew up she wanted to be a doctor, and so she did it. Despite all the jeers and put downs, she went to Geneva Medical College and pushed through and became a doctor. And then when people in larger cities wouldn’t go to her practice, she moved west until she found a wild and rowdy mining town without a doctor, and she opened her practice there. Because being a doctor is who she is. She had fortitude and gumption.

Rafe McCay is a murderer on the run from the law and with an enormous bounty on his head. He’s killed people and expects to do so again. And then when he is injured by a shot from a bounty hunter, he ends up in Annie’s practice and when she informs him she needs long-term care, he kidnaps her. He holds her at gunpoint and actually kidnaps her. He drags her out into the wilderness, embarrasses her modesty all over the place, makes her sleep nearly naked in his arms, basically has complete control over every aspect of her life, is very pushy for physical intimacy, and then the first time they have sex, it is in a way I’d consider very dubious of consent even if it weren’t for the kidnapping, only since he was her captor it was so much worse.

So why wasn’t I completely appalled by this character, why did I find him a hero at all, even a “redeemable” one? Yep, this is where the unpacking comes in. For one thing, we spend a ton of time in Rafe’s head, so we know that he was pushed into this and that he was innocent of the thing that started this chain reaction. We also know how he feels about Annie, how fascinating he finds her and how he wants her and respects her. Annie however doesn’t know all these things, however, she does see how he has cared for her and protected her (yes he put her in this situation in the first place, but he isn’t as bad as he could be) and that there are inconsistencies in the whole situation. She is of course also wildly attracted to him, and she was attracted even before he kidnapped her, so I think that also helped keep me from completely repudiating Rafe. And she even admits her attraction to Rafe. Was she stupid to fall for a man showing her the behavior he already had shown? Yes, I’d say so. However, the other thing that I think kept me on board with this one, is that in all other ways Annie is such a level-headed and rational person, so when she says she wanted him, when she seems OK with their encounter, I feel comfortable taking her word for it.

Did it take away the awful power dynamic? No, that still existed up til that part of the book. So for the first half of the book, we are still working the captive/kidnapper scenario, even when they begin their sexual relationship. The other thing that worked in this book’s favor, in my opinion, is that this dynamic finally changed, a bit after the half way mark, that power dynamic dissolves and they become partners with the same goals. That certainly, by itself, doesn’t make what he did forgivable, but it does smooth out the rough edges of continuing a relationship, and as I said before, the heroine whose opinions I have already learned to trust, was fine with the whole thing.

So that handles the unpacking business. The rest of the story focuses on Annie and Rafe’s growing relationship, a real relationship between partners, and then getting to the bottom of the mystery that set Rafe on the run and getting it all resolved so that our heroine and hero can have their happily-ever-after, which definitely includes Annie going back to being a doctor. That part of the story was interesting and exciting.

Suffice it to say, I do enjoy this book very much, it remains on my re-reads shelf, and I do acknowledge the problematic elements, but I enjoyed the book in spite of those elements, and maybe even at times because of them. Because reasons, but your reasons may not match mine. So, will I start recommending this book in future? I am not entirely sure. It really is quite a bit of baggage to unpack, but I think I am going to try, with the caveat that I will certainly mention that there are problems, and maybe a bit about why I thought those issues were mitigated or ameliorated.

I am also going to try to do more of these types of posts, but I have a feeling poor Linda Howard and old school Jayne Ann Krentz, may be getting the bulk of such critiques as they are the authors I have loved the longest.

The Touch Of Fire

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5 star review

Review – Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

I have been reading Ilona Andrews, and been a rabid squealing fan girl for a lot longer than I have been blogging. Magic Breaks ended on a hell of a note, prompting me to look into plans for a time machine. Unfortunately for me I have neither the funds nor the educational background to enable me to go forward in time to read all the books, so I have had to wait. We’re on book 8 now, and I guess they have given up on a handy intro for new reader, which is fine, because you WILL NOT want to start here, this is not a stand-alone, not even a little bit, not even at all. This is the start of the conclusion arc to what I would hazard to suggest is the best Urban Fantasy series on the market today. If you haven’t already, you really need to go start at the beginning of the series. Yes, I think this series is that good, I recommend it to everyone regardless of usual genre preferences (though I’ll confess it does suffer a bit from first book syndrome, push through that and it gets to awesome) and this story is just that excellent. So you are going to want to back away if a rabid, squealing, middle-aged woman fan girling all over the place isn’t your cup of tea. Back away, because this could just be embarrassing for the both of us. Also, there will be spoilers for previous books, please, don’t let me ruin the surprise of this series for you if you haven’t started it already.

I was good last night, so good, and I didn’t start reading this at 12:01 when it popped up on my kindle. It was hard, but I got a good night’s sleep and started fresh in the morning. And then I READ it from start to finish in a coffee shop, even going back to old bad habits of walking around with the book in front of my face. (It is good to know that I still have excellent peripheral vision.) It seemed to go so fast and I almost wanted to slow down and savor it, but I couldn’t seem to help myself, I simply devoured it, feeling slightly bitter about how short it was. I double checked though, and it wasn’t short at all, it was just a really tight, action packed narrative.

Curran the Beast Lord is no more. He, Kate, and Julie have settled into their new home and are settling affairs to separate from the Pack in a peaceable way. Curran seems to be settling in to suburban life and fancy free lifestyle, and obviously the separation from the Pack suits Kate down to the ground. And then BAM, disaster strikes in the form of a missing person and difficulties in navigating Pack politics. And I just want to say that while I am uncertain precisely how I feel about Beast Lord Jim, Beast Lady Dali is every bit as incredible as I suspected she would be. She doesn’t have a huge amount of page time, but when she is there she has a helluva impact. The new Beast Lady rocks, and I am neither afraid to say it, nor ashamed to beg for at least more short stories with her.

But back to our main protagonists. The main theme of this story is family. Eduardo, our missing werebison has a humdinger of a family history. George, the one-armed werebear is having father difficulties as one might expect with a father like Mahon the executioner. And Curran, her defacto adopted brother, is naturally smack dab in the middle. Let me just say, while I was content with Curran leaving the Pack, and instinctively it made good sense to me, events and conversations in this installment made everything crystal clear.  But the main familial conflict, is of course between Kate and her father Roland. Roland is, well how can I put this? He’s monstrous, of course, but it is like a poisoned dagger hidden behind sumptuous velvet. Everything you see on the current surface just beckons you to come closer and even touch, no matter how bad you know the things hidden behind the surface are. This is no one dimensional caricature of an evil villain.

A lot has apparently happened in Atlanta between Kate’s abduction in the previous book and since they are finally settling in and able to really assess things. Once the action starts and they truly get sucked back into Atlanta’s issues, we are at a dead run for the entire book. And as we go along more than just Curran’s status with the Pack change dramatically. There are a lot of motives to be questioned, particularly Jim and Raphael’s. I have to wonder if their choice of what property to disperse to separate Curran’s finances from the pack is really as self-serving as it appears-somehow I do not think it is, I am thinking sneaky Jim had a plan with this. And there is also a good start on a flexible power base for Curran and Kate that I think suits them better than the rigid Pack ever could have. We also saw where Kate’s character growth is taking her, and rather than her becoming increasingly more of an all-powerful Mary Sue, we are seeing real humanity and vulnerabilities. We are no longer talking about just the smart mouthed merc we first met. As powerful and competent as she is, and as much as her power grows, there are still frailties and mistakes and she is learning to work within this framework and within the family she has built. And we also have the first real insights into Roland’s plans and his intrigues. The stage for the final confrontation is finally set, and I am so glad Ilona Andrews made the decision to spread this story line out through a couple more books, because I just can’t envision the confrontation I see building being condensed into just one book.

So yes, this is something of a transitional book. But as far as I am concerned, if a series requires a transition, THIS is the way to do it. The in-book mystery is well plotted and interesting keeping me entertained throughout. And while it doesn’t really further advance the overall series story arc, it doesn’t feel like filler either. Rather than simply fluffing or padding the series, this book felt like we turned a corner and it was actually needed in order to place us on the path to the finish line. I am sure more twists and turns will be coming, but this sets the foundation for the rest of it.

5 stars from me, I can’t wait to see what the next books bring.

Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels, #8)

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