Saturday, December 31, 2005

2006 New Years Resolutions

I hate making resolutions. If I make them, I break them. So what's the point? Every year the top of the list is: Lose weight I gained over the holidays (since October really). That one's a given. Everybody makes that resolution. That one and: Exercise regulary. I do that. I became addicted to Jazzercise about three years ago, so I go at least twice a week. Well, I should really go 3 or 4 days a week but I've been walking in the evenings with hubby sometimes (in the pitch dark, drizzly rain, even) so I'm going to count that.

Instead I thought up some book resolutions I can break:

1) Read 5 books a month off the top of Mt. TBR (I read about 12 books a month so maybe this one is do-able).

2) Read 2 category books a month (of the 5 above). I have 97 category books in my TBR so that will only make a tiny dent. Maybe I should get rid of a bunch.

3) Stop end peaking. This is a tough one for me. I've been trying for years and I'm getting better but it's a serious compulsion that will be hard to break.

4) Stop feeling guilty for buying books. I don't understand why I feel guilty sometimes. I have a good paying job and we're saving money. My husband's hobbies are much more expensive (golf and buying tools). So why do I feel guilty? I probably need therapy.

5) Read more non-romance fiction. I read only 3 books this year that would be considered non-romance. There are some mystery books (with a hint of romance of course) that I've been meaning to read. Any fiction will have to have at least some element of romance. I could never go cold turkey on romance. My goal will be anything more than 3.

6) Don't read the next new Suzanne Brockmann (Troubleshooters) or Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum) book. Seek help if I find myself starting to cave to the temptation.

7) Visit more author web sites and sign up for contests so I can win some books. I'm so jealous of all of you who win free books ::sob, whine, sob:: If I have to gush and suck up, so be it.

8) Read one more Julie Garwood from the TBR. If I don't like that one, get rid of the other 5 in my TBR that are taking up space. I read The Bride and really didn't get her humor. And, man, I expect a little more historical accuracy than that.

9) Resist glomming an author's work until I have at least read one to see if she/he works for me. That would have prevented the need for #8.

10) Re-read some DIK favorites. I did very little re-reading this year and I have tons I've been meaning to dig out again.

That's enough resolutions to break for now. Anyone have any resolutions?

Friday, December 30, 2005

2005 Favorites

After Christmas I started looking back over this year's reading with my book spreadsheet and compiling my list of favorites. Then I noticed KristieJ had beat me to it :) As she says "great minds think alike". So true. Heh. But Kristie was cooler than me 'cuz she include images of the covers. OK, now I have to do that. I'm such a copycat.

These were A or A - for me:

Match Me If You Can by SEP
This was a continuation of the Chicago Stars series with appearances by Phoebe (It Had To Be You) and Molly (This Heart of Mine). I loved the heroine, a matchmaker with a sassy attitude. My favorite contemporary of the year.

Black Ice by Anne Stuart
Anne Stuart is definitely a goddess when it comes to romantic suspense and this one was one of her best. I loved the very dark hero. My favorite romantic suspense of the year.

Ride the Fire by Pamela Clare
A surprisingly excellent book I read from a recommendation from KristieJ. My favorite American historical of the year.

The Courtesan by Susan Carroll
This was a wonderful, lush read in an unusual place and time (Renaissance France) for a romance. Loved both the hero and heroine.

Prairie Wife by Cheryl St. John
St. John has the ability to bring out the tears for me. This one really hit home.

Passion by Lisa Valdez
Wow, the most erotically luscious read as well as my favorite European historical of the year.



These were B+ (not quite excellent but great reads):

Breaking Point by Suzanne Brockmann
After about 4 clinkers in the Troubleshooters series in a row (I'm a glutton for punishment), this 9th book was a welcome surprise. I thought it was the best one since Out of Control. I've decided to quit on a high note so I'm going to resist any additional books in the series. I just don't care anymore.


The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll
My first SC book and I was truly impressed with her writing style.

Killing Time by Linda Howard
Most people didn't like this one, but I really enjoyed it. A time travel book that really worked for me. I'm a total Linda Howard fan-girl.
The Veil of Night by Lydia Joyce
This book was very dark, almost gothic in tone, which I love. LJ is a new author and I'll be watching for more of her work.

The Givenchy Code by Julie Kenner
I don't read many chick lit, but this one was more like a RS to me. The math puzzle angle really appealed to the mathematician side of my brain.

A Taste of Crimson by Marjorie M. Liu
Liu did an excellent job of world building in her contribution to this vampire/werewolf/demon series by multiple authors. Much better than the previous one in the series.

His Secondhand Wife by Cheryl St. John
The story of two emotionally scarred people and the healing power of love.

Carved in Stone by Vickie Taylor
A buried treasure. Not much buzz about this book but I thought the gargoyles world was very well done.

Dark Lover by J. R. Ward
Lots of well deserved hype on this vampire romance. Not perfect but a real gem none the less. I'm chomping at the bit for the next one in the series.

Black Rose by Nora Roberts
Typical Nora but I loved the older heroine aspect.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Fabulous young adult vampire book that I will be writing a review for.



I still have a few 2005 books in my TBR to read so I may need to update this before the AAR 2005 reader poll.

That's it. I'd love to hear your favorites too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Misc. Rambling and Ranting

I have about 5 reviews I'm trying to write but my motivation is nil. I could claim I've been busy (partly true) or lazy (much more believable). I really will finish at least one sometime this week. When I'm feeling eh, I like to play around with adding book cover images to my sidebar. Nicole posted about using BloggerBot and I've been having fun with that.

BTW, I'm typing this on our new laptop computer! My fingers aren't quite used to the keyboard yet so it's taking me awhile. I really like an ergonomic keyboard better, but I like sitting in my favorite comfy chair and surfing and bloghopping on the web so it's a trade off. The mousepad is kind of a pain so I have been using keyboard shortcuts a lot and getting pretty swift with them. I'm trying to teach them to my husband but he's got a mental block about anything to do with the computer.

I'm currently reading my second Liz Carlyle book for December's TBR Challenge for Keishon (The Devil To Pay) and I'm loving it, just as I did No True Gentleman. I think Keishon may not have enjoyed the LC she read and has decided that LC is not for her. That's too bad 'cuz I've decided I really like her. Speaking of Keishon, did I read somewhere that she is taking a two month hiatus? Damn! I'm going to miss her. Besides who's going to organize the TBR Challenge. My TBR is out of control.

And what happened to Maili??!!!?? Where is she? This is getting seriously upsetting and we can't allow this to continue. OT: How can we entice xina to start blogging? The girl is extremely knowlegdeable about romance. I think she's read everything and I respect her opinion. And she's articulate. I've seen her posts at AAR's message boards and Keishon's blog.

I picked up some books at the library today.



The last two are AA romances that AAR reviewed and they looked interesting. I have tried a couple AA and multi-racial romances and have been meaning to try some more. AAR did an ATBF recently on multicultural romances and it got me thinking about trying some others. Eric Jerome Dickey wrote one I liked (Milk in My Coffee) and one I didn't (Friends and Lovers). I would like to read more AA authors but I rely on reviews and other readers' opinion before I'll try new authors and reviews of AA books are scarce. If anyone would care to give me some recs for AA or multi-cultural romances, I'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Seven Things

CindyS tagged me with this several weeks ago. I haven't been ignoring you, Cindy, just too busy getting ready for my whole family (minus Dad) for Christmas Dinner at my house.

Seven things to do before I die:

  1. See Italy (including Florence and Sistine Chapel)
  2. See cathedrals in France
  3. See castles in England
  4. Re-learn to play the flute
  5. Know all my grandchildren
  6. Visit every state (in the lower 48) in our RV
  7. Lose weight and KEEP it off

Seven things I Cannot Do:

  1. Whistle
  2. Say 'no' to Gail (the church lady)
  3. Vote Republican
  4. Not cringe when I see Danielle Steele shelved with romance
  5. Read LKH
  6. Eat brussel sprouts
  7. Sing

Seven Things That Attract Me To My Spouse:

  1. His voice
  2. His laugh
  3. His mechanical ability (Mr. Fix-it)
  4. His work ethic
  5. He's crazy about me ;)
  6. His support for my career change and return to college
  7. His intelligence (hey, he married me didn't he?)

Seven Things I Say (or Write) Most Often:

  1. Hmmm.
  2. Darn (var. Dang)
  3. Shit
  4. Anyway
  5. Really
  6. What was I thinking?
  7. I don't think so

Seven Books (or Series) I love: (just seven!?!)

  1. The Notorious Rake (Balogh)
  2. Red Adam's Lady (Ingram)
  3. Pride and Prejudice (Austin)
  4. In Death series (Robb)
  5. Dance (Cuevas)
  6. Duncan's Bride (Howard)
  7. Dreaming of You (Kleypas)

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again:

  1. When Harry Met Sally
  2. Pride and Prejudice (A&E)
  3. The Wizard of Oz
  4. My Fair Lady
  5. Emma
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird
  7. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Seven People I Want To Join In (Be Tagged):

I don't think there is anyone left to tag. How about these if they haven't already:

  1. p.devi
  2. Crystal
  3. Meljean
  4. KarenS
  5. Suisan
  6. MistyG
  7. And whoever else hasn't done it and is reading this :)

Christmas Near Disaster

Ever since my mom died in 1999, Christmas has been a bit different. We used to gather the whole family every Christmas at my parent's house. I am the oldest of four with two sisters and a brother. We are all married and three of us have children and we all live in the greater Seattle area. My parents had an enormous house with a big kitchen that easily accommodated the whole noisy bunch. My mom never really enjoyed cooking (I have inherited this tendency) so years ago my dad took over. He loves cooking especially if it involves kitchen gadgets. My mom loved all the other stuff involving Christmas; the tree, presents, decorating, and baking Norwegian cookies. They were wonderful family gatherings.

My mom collapsed just before Thanksgiving in 1998 and was diagnosed with a brain tumor and never really recognized any of us again. We gathered that Christmas in her room at the nursing home where she was receiving hospice care to exchange gifts. It seems a bit bizarre when I look back on it, but we were trying to maintain some normality. Mom passed away two months later in February. My dad did not want to carry on the tradition because I think Christmas is too painful for him. He takes his motorhome to Arizona before Thanksgiving every year and stays till spring. There's another long story here I'll tell another time.

I apologize for depressing anyone but I think it's been rather theraputic writing this.

So the four of us kids decided to continue gathering together every Thanksgiving and Christmas without Dad anyway. My brother and sister #1 will take turns hosting Thanksgiving ever other year. Sister #2 and I will host Christmas every other year. This year was my turn to host Christmas. However, it was as a near disaster when I woke up early Christmas morning (6:00 am) from the carbon monoxide detector going off (gets your heart started doesn't it?) Found out that it went off because we lost power! Shit! What to do? I have 15 people coming for dinner!!

Called sister #2 about 9:15 to let her know we had no power and she offered to have it at her house (even though her house was a mess - what a trooper). A half hour later the power went back on! Yay! So then it was a mad scramble. Bob and I decided at the last minute to move furniture around and borrow some chairs from our favorite neighbors (what was I thinking - I don't have enough chairs to seat 15 people to dinner).

Anyway, I cooked a spiral sliced ham and Bob grilled a turkey breast and Daughter cut up veggies and sliced cheese for the pre-dinner snackies. Family brought the rest. It was wild, noisy, and crazy. Sister #2 spilled a glass of RED wine on my carpet but thank God for stain resistant carpeting. Bob cleaned it up (with massive amounts of water and sucked up with the shop vac) and you can't even tell where it was. She was so apologetic. I told her - no worries - I'll do it at her house the next time I come visit :) I'm so glad that's over. But I have to do it again in two years. ::groan:: But it was lots of fun (even with my 5-year old nephew bouncing his new soccer ball off the walls - yikes).

Hope everyone had a nice holiday too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Looking ahead to 2006

I should finish some reviews I started but eh, I just don't feel like it.

These books are possibilities for 2006. Some are books I want and some are books I'm considering. Some of these I picked for the cover alone :) (big surprise) but some of the covers suck (Lion's Daughter (a reprint), Lord Perfect). When I looked at all these covers together I could find no rhyme or reason to them. I'm all over the ballpark in tastes.


January:



February:



March:



April:

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Busy Weekend

Woohoo, almost done with the Christmas shopping. Daughter and I put up the Christmas tree and decorated today. Bob put up a train light sculpture ::sigh::. He came home with it this afternoon ('honey, it was half off at Lowe's'). It's very cute. I tried to take pictures of it but it's kinda blurred. We have Snoopy Santa on the roof and Winnie the Pooh Santa near our light post. Today I put wide red ribbon around the light post and affixed a big red bow. It's very cold outside (about 35 deg. and windy so the windchill was killing me) and my fingers were frozen. But it's sunny, so with all the extra energy I baked some mini-loaves of cranberry orange bread. House looks great inside and out and smells good too.

I was going to do Christmas cards last night but Bob wanted to go to the movies to see Walk the Line. We really enjoyed it.

So to recap:

Shopping - almost done (just want to get a couple more things)
Decorating - Done
Baking - Done
Wrapping - not started
Christmas cards - not started
Company Christmas Party - tonight at the Experience Music Project Science Fiction Museum, with catered buffet dinner and a band.
Reading - Currently reading Twilight. Not much time for reading this weekend

Saturday, December 17, 2005

'Tis the Season

I got a whole lot of Christmas shopping done today, but I'm still not finished. Daughter and I are going to Bellevue Square tomorrow morning so I hope to finish (or pretty close to it). I decided to bake mini loaves of cranberry orange bread for the neighbors, but I'll do that on Sunday. And I'll finish up the Christmas cards on Saturday night in front of the TV while I watch one of the DVDs I have from Blockbuster Online. Somewhere in there Daughter and I are going to put the tree up and decorate. Whew.

In the spirit of the season I pulled out a Christmas themed book from the TBR. I was glad I did since What She Wants For Christmas by Janice Kay Johnson was pretty good (a B+). Johnson is one of the better Harlequin SR authors IMO. Her writing flows very smoothly and so was a very fast read which is good since I've not had a lot of time for reading (or blogging either). The heroine, Teresa Burkett, is a veterinarian who has just moved her family from the big city suburbs to a small town in Washington. Joe Hughes is a logger who owns his own business but he has a big secret that makes him feel inferior and unworthy to Teresa. Usually big secrets really piss me off if they are carried on too long but in this case I found the reason for keeping his secret and his feelings of worthlessness rather believable. I shed a few tears for Joe too. Teresa's two children were also portrayed very realistically and were not annoying in any way.

The coolest part to me was all the references to the locations. The setting takes place in western Washington with mention of places I know very well. Whenever I read a book that takes place in the Pacific Northwest I really pay close attention looking for mistakes. But Johnson got everything right. Looks like she is very familiar with the area or did her research. Anyway, I'm off topic. There was one glaring problem.. even though this book was published in 1996, there was not one mention of a condom in any of the sex scenes which really bugs me. I really expect that condoms should be mentioned or a least a thought to birth control and protection from disease in books with a contemporary setting. Or am I whacked out here? What do you think?

Anyone have any recs for other good Christmas themed books?

Well, off to bed. I'm getting up early to go to aerobics class before we hit the mall.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I'm starting to panic

The queen of procrastination (that's me) has done very little Christmas shopping. I woke up in the middle of the night (my nightly routine), then couldn't get back to sleep just thinking about how behind I am. Christmas cards NOT sent. Christmas tree NOT up. House NOT decorated. Shopping no where near done. Why do I do this to myself? I went to the stores two weekends in a row and only lasted 2 hours at most, then I got claustrophobic with the crowds and traffic and headed home.

OK, so in a mature moment I decided to take Friday off from work and get my shopping done. Daughter and I will put up the tree and decorate on Saturday. Instead of reading tonight after dinner I promised myself to start the Christmas cards. Whew I feel better now.

I recently finished Dark Lover (Ward) and Breaking Point (Brockmann), both very good books. I don't think I'll do reviews on either of them (unless someone begs :). Dark Lover has so much buzz (Tara, CindyS, and an AAR review by Sybil, etc.) and I don't think I have anything to add since they said it so well. I thought it was excellent for the most part but the last 1/4 seemed slightly uneven so I gave it a B+ overall. I can hardly wait for the next one in the series. Loved the vampire world building on this series and want a story for Butch too.

Breaking Point was much better than I expected, and probably better than the last four in this series (since Out of Control which I gave an A). I loved all four of the main characters: Max, Gina, Jones and Molly. There were no loose ends too which I have been getting sick of in these books. And not a trace of WWII story (hallelujah). I gave it a B+. I feel a sense of closure on this series now and have no real desire to read the next one (Into the Storm) . Brockmann's voice is starting to grate on me and I have noticed some quirks in her writing style that are bugging me. I think that's what happens when you read too many books by one author close together.

Right now I'm reading Twilight (Meyer) which is a YA vampire book. I'm on chapter 3 and finding it very compelling. I'm also reading Leaving Normal (Holm) which reads a bit like a chick lit (whatever that is - I need to look up a definition) but it's a mm paperback.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

No True Gentleman by Liz Carlyle

Keishon's TBR Challenge for December was to read a Liz Carlyle. This one has been in my TBR pile since January 2003 so I was glad for an excuse to whittle down my pile. I originally bought this book based on the reviews. It received an A- at AAR and a 5-heart review at TRR.

Copyright Year: 2002

Synopsis: Lady Catherine Wodeway is a widow newly arrive from the country. Maximilian de Rohan is an Italian immigrant who has worked his way up from a policeman to a magistrate in the Home Office. Max is working on a case of police corruption when he observes Catherine on her morning rides in Hyde Park and is attracted to her. When she inadvertently gets too close to a couple of suspects, Max pulls her into a kiss so that they can't identify them. And so the romance begins. Max fights his attraction because he feels unworthy of her and Catherine seems to do most of the pursuing.

I have ranted in the past about tired well-worn plot devices or stereotypical characters. So it was so enjoyable to read about memorable, unique characters. Max is not a womanizer or a rake, bedding everything in site. Catherine was not a young naive virgin. I enjoy reading about characters who were not of the aristocracy and especially enjoy reading about relationships that cross the lines of social class. Although Max is no gentleman, he is an honorable and decent man, reminding me a bit of a character from a Lisa Kleypas book. Catherine is a strong heroine but there is one puzzling scene when she asks Max to dinner even though he is a virtual stranger. This seemed to push the idea of her independence at bit too far from reality for me. The sex scenes were wonderfully sensual and steamy. The secondary characters were memorable as well - Max's meddling Italian grandmother, Kemble, and even Max's dog, Lucifer. Hard to imagine an HEA for two people with such disparate social backgrounds but the ending was satisfying with a terrific epilogue.

Grade: A-

New author for you: No, I read A Woman of Virture back in June 2002 and really enjoyed it.

Would you read more of this author's work: Yes. I plan to read The Devil To Pay this month too. I would like to glom the rest of her work because Carlyle has wonderful depth to her writing. I thoroughly enjoyed her unusual characters and the hot sensuality of her writing. I'm not too enamored of a mystery/suspense element in historicals if it takes away from the romance and/or is not believable. But in NTG this was not the case. The murder mystery did not take over the story but it was very close. Carlyle was able to weave the mystery into the romance very skillfully.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Romance reading friends & relatives

My sister who is also an avid reader is a book snob! She will occasionally pick up a romance but always gives me the impression that she is lowering herself. She takes on a snooty attitude (which she does well) and says, "Well, I'm in the mood to read trash!" GRRRRRR. We were on our yearly camping trip a few years ago when she ran out of stuff to read. I had just finished Lisa Kleypas' Suddenly You and handed it over to her. Over the next two days she was pretty quiet, reading very intently, and commenting occasionally "Whew, wow, this one is hot. Renee, I can't believe you read this stuff." I know, shocking! I'm the conservative older sister (supposedly) who never got in trouble and always did what mom said. My family tends to put me in a slot. But it's too much trouble to set them straight. I may appear conservative but underneath I'm very liberal.

My sister gives me the impression that she thinks I'm some sort of neanderthal for reading romance. I love her dearly but I think her social status has corrupted her. Her husband was assistant to the mayor, a high ranking city government position. So she has been hanging out with the mayor's wife and assorted political wives and they formed this book club where they read all the latest highbrow books. Egad! To be fair my sister is a great person! We connect on so many levels. Just not in reading tastes. ::sigh:: Oh, well. Surprisingly to me she loved Suddenly You and asked me if she could loan it to other friends in the book club, which she did. I never saw it again :) But I don't think it converted her by any means.

One of my favorite friends reads a little romance. She loves Nora Roberts and we have shared many of her books. But she does not like historical or paranormal. She really likes Catherine Anderson too, but I find some of her books way too saccharine. She also likes Julie Garwood contemporaries (heh) and Jayne Ann Krentz (liked her but heroines all seem the same so I quit reading her). I prefer darker rather than light. She hates anything dark and tends toward the sickly sweet. She also likes inspirationals and I can't stand them. Too preachy. (We attend the same church, but I guess there are different levels of sinners :) Last week, she asked me what I was reading and I told her "a vampire romance" and she gave one of those "are you insane" looks.

Then there is my next door neighbor. We share some interests since she reads an occasional historical romance (like Judith McNaught's historicals), but she also adores Danielle Steele. (::gag::) She buys every one of Steele's books in HB so she has a huge collection. And she likes Nicholas Sparks (::double gag::). To each her own, of course. Just makes it hard to talk books.

Thank God for you reader bloggers out there in blogland!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Her Secret, His Child by Paula Detmer Riggs

Normally I hate secret baby books because I believe women are just plain stupid and irresponsible when they play martyr or let their pride get in the way of doing the right thing for the sake of their child. Raising a child as a single mother with no support, financial or otherwise, is extremely difficult and not fair to the child's well being. IMO, the baby's father should at least be given the chance to act responsibly. Whether they do that, of course, is a whole different story. OK, I'll get off my soapbox now. End of lecture.

It seems that anytime I have such an intolerant attitude about something, along comes a book that provides some thought provoking moments. HSHC is a secret baby book but also deals with the controversial subject of date rape and both subjects are treated very realistically.

Mitch Scanlon is a former star football quarterback who was severely injured and left a paraplegic. Carly Anderson is president of a small financially strapped college who is hoping to attract Mitch to coach her football team and give the school a financial boost. Mitch is instantly attracted to Carly. Although Mitch has a feeling he has met Carly before, Carly pretends they are strangers. Mitch and Carly have a disastrous past. Years ago when they were both young college students they meet at a bar. Mitch takes her to a motel and after some heavy petting, Carly changes her mind and says 'no' just at the point of consummation when it is too late for him to pull back. While Mitch is technically a rapist I found I couldn't hate him.

I loved Mitch who is a very complex, tortured character. Even though he was cut down at the height of his career, he rebuilds his life while struggling to cope with his horrendous disability. He suffers deep anguish and guilt from his past actions and feels unworthy of Carly's love. His feeling that his paralysis was a just punishment for what he did to Carly years ago nearly broke my heart.

Carly Anderson is very hard to warm up to and makes some questionable decisions. Even though I disagreed, I could maybe understand her decision to keep the baby's identity a secret when she was a young traumatized rape victim. However, I did not understand the decision to deny Tracy, her college age daughter, knowledge of her paternity, especially when her father is so loving and willing to take responsibility. I think she has a right to this information no matter the circumstances of her conception. (Spoiler: At the end when Mitch and Carly use invitro-fertilization in order for to conceive, I thought how cruel that this child would know its father but not its sister, and Tracy would know her sister or brother but not her father. The IVF provided a too convenient ending that allowed them to start over. End Spoiler)

Although there were times I wanted to shake Carly, I thought these difficult issues were handled realistically. PDR is a good writer and provides surprising depth for the shorter category format. This was a very poignant story and I enjoyed it very much.

My grade: B+

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Quickie Reviews

I read 16 books in November, same as last month, and 158 books total for the year. Doesn't look like I will make anywhere near my 2004 total of 197 and 2003 total of 229. I was unemployed for part of 2004 and all of 2003 so I guess that makes sense.

I'm behind on my reviews so I thought I better put some thoughts down on a couple before I completely forget. I'm too lazy to do long reviews so here are some quickies. I was going to put some covers up but I couldn't be bothered. Changed my mind.

Almost Perfect (Julie Ortolon)
KristieJ raved about this author on her blog and since she and I have such similar tastes in books I decided to try this first book in the Perfect Trilogy. Maddie, Christine and Amy were college roommates. In this book Maddie and Joe were high school sweethearts who meet again at a summer camp. Years ago Maddie had rejected Joe's marriage proposal to attend art school. Joe is a former Ranger who had a tough life. I really liked Joe. Even though he still feels hurt by Maddie's rejection, he gives her support and encouragement while she overcomes her fears and attempts to make a name for herself in the Sante Fe art community. Maddie was a bit harder to like and I couldn't understand her initial rejection of Joe. AP was a light and quick read, and I enjoyed it almost as much as Kristie.
My grade: B


Her Body of Work (Marie Donovan)
Very few of the Harlequin Blazes I have read have lived up to the term 'blaze' but this one certainly does! Wow, it's a sizzler. And very well written especially considering this is a debut book for Donovan. Rey is a Chicago sculptor who only works with nude male models. Whew, I want this job. Marco is a Cuban-American with a perfect body who Rey hires to model for her latest commissioned sculpture. The h/h are great believable characters. The steamy, hot sex scenes were excellent and provided a perfect balance to the cold Chicago setting. And the sex scenes were an important component of the h/h's developing relationship. Not just sex for the sake of sex. The backstory involving Joe's job as a DEA agent and the danger from a drug lord provided some suspense but I found the growing relationship between Rey and Marco much more fascinating.
My grade: B

Wild Orchids (Karen Robards)
I was complaining a while back about being cold and had heard that reading a book set in a hot climate can warm you up. So I went looking for something set in a steamy jungle from my TBR and came up with this one. WO is a road/cabin romance that starts out in Cancun, Mexico when Lora is carjacked by Max. I normally love an alpha hero but this guy is an alpha jerk. Way over the top jerk too. He scares her to death when he jumps in her car with his face hidden by a sombrero, kidnaps her and manhandles her when she tries to escape, but the worst part is his repeated threats of rape! You know, I could almost forgive him if he could have groveled or even apologized because he does not actually physically abuse her. But, no! No apologies, no groveling. Heroine is no wimp either, she's a fighter and insists on staying with him when their lives are in danger. So I never understood why she is SOOO hot for him even while he is bullying her or threatening her with rape. I did not fall for that crap. Well, WO warmed me up, partly because of the hot sex scenes and jungle heat, but mostly because it pissed me off. I thought this book which combined two of my favorite themes (jungle and road/cabin romance) would be great but I ended up disappointed. Granted this was an oldie, originally published 1986, so I should probably allow some leeway, but threats of rape turn me off.
My grade: C-


I have a couple more reviews to write but they'll have to wait till later. I'm pooped and going to bed.