Thursday, May 28, 2009

REVIEW: Never Romance a Rake by Liz Carlyle

COPYRIGHT: 2008
PAGES: 436
SETTING: Historical - Regency era
TYPE: Straight Romance
SERIES: 3rd book in the Neville family series
SENSUALITY: Warm

SUMMARY:
If he wins this hand...
Shunning the glittering elite of high society Kieran, Baron Rothewell, prefers the dangerous pursuits of London's demimonde. Hardened by a tormented past, he cares little for anyone or anything. So how can he resist the wager proposed by the dissolute Comte de Valigny? A hand of cards for the possession of the comte's exquisite daughter.

Will he win her heart?
Abandoned by her highborn father -- until he decides to use her -- Mademoiselle Camille Marchand puts no trust in an aristocrat's honor, especially that of the notorious baron. She too is gambling -- for her life -- and Rothwell is just one more card to be used. But whatever dark desires run through his veins call to her own, and the heart plays its own game -- winner take all!
THOUGHTS / OPINION:

I am a obsessive compulsive series reader. At least I used to be. I cannot pickup a book to read unless I am sure I have read the previous books in the series. But now I find myself falling behind in my reading of some of my favorite authors - Liz Carlyle being one of them. So when I find a recommendation for a book in a series I just jump in, grab it and start reading. I'm so glad I did because NRAR turned out to be an excellent read and I didn't feel like I was missing anything by started #3 in the series without having read #1 & #2.

Kiernan is a dark, tormented, self-destructive man and for good reason given his childhood abuse. He spends most of his time drinking to excess, smoking, and frequenting bawdy houses and gambling dens. His health is deteriorating badly and he fears his death is imminent and does nothing to alter his behavior. One thing I dislike about books about rakes is that they turn out to be "fake rakes". Well, Kiernan is a real rake deserving of the title.

Kiernan meets Camille Marchand one evening in a corrupt gambling hell when her depraved father, Comte de Valigny, wagers the right to marry her (and her large dowry) in a card game. Kiernan is shocked and thinks to put a stop to it but then realizes that Camille is not fighting it. But he cannot allow the lecherous slime at the table to have her so he makes sure he wins. Afterward he takes her aside tells her she doesn't have to marry him. But Camille insists upon the marriage AND a child in exchange for her dowry. She can only collect her grandfather's inheritance after she marries and produces a child. Camille is the illegitimate daughter of the Comte's and had a difficult and insecure childhood. Her father is now trying to use her to get at her huge inheritance.

Both Kiernan and Camille are deep multifaceted characters and their relationship development was a delight from their first meeting to eventually falling in love. The love scenes are steamy and Kiernan's redemption from rake to loving husband was wonderful. All the characters were well done especially Kemble. I believe he has appeared in several previous books by Carlyle.

Given these two superb characters and their relationship and Carlyle's usual excellent prose, I was completely enthralled. Kiernan's health issues and Camille's family issues (which I won't spoil) are resolved very satisfyingly. NRAR is another keeper from Carlyle.

GRADE: A-

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

TBR Challenge: REVIEW: Breathless by Laura Lee Guhrke

COPYRIGHT: 1999
PAGES: 389
SETTING: Historical - Turn of the Century
TYPE: Straight Romance
SENSUALITY: Warm

SUMMARY:
Award-winning author Laura Lee Guhrke steps back to a time of Southern propriety--and passion--in this thrilling page-turner laced with heated sensuality. A lawyer is reunited with an unforgettable lady from his past--and together, they step into a web of small-town scandal and desire.

Lily Morgan may be Shivaree, Georgia's most talked-about lady. Everyone in town knows about the bitter break-up of her marriage five years before, when Daniel Walker, her husband's tough, uncompromising lawyer, tore her reputation to shreds and left her with nothing but a wish to get even. But now something about Daniel makes her blood boil and her pulse quicken...not with righteous fury, but with passion.

Daniel has returned to Shivaree to once again match wits with Lily Morgan. The thought of a rematch with Lily delights him. for he has never forgotten her hot temper--or her lovely looks. But when a shocking murder shakes the town, Daniel joins Lily to find a killer, and their unexpected partnership sparks something between them that they never expected--desire. Now Daniel, the strong-willed lawyer for whom winning is everything, realizes he must win the one reward he can't live without: Lily's forgiveness--and her love.
THOUGHTS / OPINION:

Wow, I loved this book. Breathless takes place at the turn of the century... a time period I'm not that fond of... and I still loved it. I picked this book up because Wendy said it was her favorite book of all time and she owns 2 copies of it. Could her reason for loving it be because the heroine is a librarian? Well, that could be part of it, but I'm sure it's because the writing is superb, the characters are wonderfully drawn, and the story is filled with humor and is utterly charming.

This is a enemies-to-lovers story. Daniel is a lawyer, the lowest of the low as far as Lily, the town's librarian, is concerned. During her divorce trial where he represented her husband, he falsely accused her of adultery thereby ruining her reputation in the small Georgia town where she lives. But Lily has backbone and refuses to be cowed by the gossips in town.

Now Daniel is back and Lily is horrified. Lily has been trying to get rid of the local "social club" which is nothing but a brothel which she holds responsible for her straying husband's despicable behavior. Daniel has political ambitions and his main supporter has brought him back in town to overturn the injunction against the "social club". The plot gets a bit more intense with a murder of one of the "girls" at the social club, but it is very well done and the pages just flew by. Daniel and Lily fight a growing attraction and eventually Daniel realizes that he was wrong about Lily during her divorce trial. All the characters were engaging and well written and the dialogue is witty and had some very funny moments. I especially LOVED the scene where Lily refuses to issue Daniel a library card. A hoot!

When I first read this I was a bit annoyed with how the hero refused to see the truth about the heroine until late in the story. So I gave it a B+ but after thinking and thinking about it, I realized it didn't matter and made their coming together that much better. This one is a KEEPER.

This book reminds me a little of the movie The Long, Hot Summer with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (loved that movie). Read this book with that movie in mind and you'll see what I mean.

Keishon's TBR Challenge theme for this month is friends to lovers, but enemies to lovers is even better reading in this case.

GRADE: A

Monday, May 18, 2009

REVIEW: Power Play by Deirdre Martin

COPYRIGHT: 2008
PAGES: 290
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Straight Romance
SERIES: 7th (full length) book in the Blades hockey series
SENSUALITY: Warm

SUMMARY:
Just in time for hockey season

Hockey player Eric Mitchell is a man in demand. First he was traded to save the New York Blades, and now the publicity department has loaned him out to help boost daytime diva Monica Geary's career. What no one knows is that one of People magazine's hottest bachelors is also a closet soap opera fan. He's had his eyes on Monica for years—and can't wait to get his arms around her.

THOUGHTS / OPINION:

I have read only 3 books in this series about hockey players and Body Check, the first in the series, is still my favorite and a keeper. But Power Play was a decent read and I enjoyed it. Hero, Eric Mitchell, is the twin brother of the hero in Chasing Stanley, book 6 of the series, who are both NHL hockey players. Monica Geary's is a daytime soap star. My impression of sports stars and actresses is that they are very egotistical people so that's what I was expecting of Eric and Monica. And I was right ... at first ... they both are very self-centered. But deep down they are both very nice, caring people and they turned out to be likable characters.

Monica is worried about her future stardom on her show, The Wild and the Free, due to a new younger actress just brought onto the show. Eric's team, the NY Blades, just traded away a popular favorite to get Eric. The Blades are not having a good season so many are looking at Eric with resentment. Monica's publicist concocts this plot which involves pretending to be a couple which would boost Monica's career and make Eric more popular with his team mates who are avid TW&TF soap fans. Both of them don't think too much of the other at first but eventually they develop a strong attraction.

I thought this "fake date" plot was rather unbelievable at first but these two characters really made it work. Eric and Monica turned out to be a well balanced couple with each person's strength complementing the other's weakness. The relationship was very fun to watch with some snappy dialogue which kept me turning the pages. I loved the parts where The Blades were falling over themselves about meeting Monica and having her attend their games. I have read that lots of sports teams follow the soaps so I thought this was rather funny and endearing. If you like sports romances (which I do - I love the SEP's Chicago Stars series as well) then you are sure to enjoy PP as much as me.

GRADE: B

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Here we go

Well, I'm back again. Miss Unreliable. Still job hunting and finally facing the fact that I have been slightly depressed about it. I recently made the decision to go back to school and wonder of wonders I started getting some energy back. Part of the problem with my job hunt is that I really was not looking forward to finding another Software Test Engineer job. I love parts of the job, and the other parts I hate. I attended a seminar at the state unemployment office and it really opened my eyes. There are some worker retraining programs available to upgrade your skills that are paid for by the state and one program really caught my interest. If I get into it, I'll let you know. If not, there are some other programs that were interesting as well. Also, I found out that I'm getting a $70 a week raise in my unemployment compensation... part of the federal stimulus package. Woohoo! Go Obama!

The one thing that has not changed is that I continue to read quite a bit (hey, if I can't get the energy to do anything around the house I might as well read). And I made a list of the B+, A- and A books and have started writing some reviews. Let's hope I get a bunch done before procrastination rears its ugly head again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

REVIEW: Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas


SETTING/TYPE: Victorian Historical Romance
COPYRIGHT: 2008
SENSUALITY: Hot
SUMMARY:
Love has designs of its own.…

To all of London society, Lord and Lady Tremaine had the ideal arrangement: a marriage based on civility, courteousness, and freedom—by all accounts, a perfect marriage. The reason? For the last ten years, husband and wife have resided on separate continents.

But once upon a time, things were quite different for the Tremaines….When Gigi Rowland first laid eyes on Camden Saybrook, the attraction was immediate and overwhelming. But what began in a spark of passion ended in betrayal the morning after their wedding—and now Gigi wants to be free to marry again. When Camden returns from America with an outrageous demand in exchange for her freedom, Gigi’s decision will have consequences she never imagined, as secrets are exposed, desire is rekindled—and one of London’s most admired couples must either fall in love all over again…or let each other go forever.
THOUGHTS/OPINION:

I have several book themes I look for when picking romances and "troubled marriage" is one of my favorites. In fact, I have a tag for these types of plots in my LibraryThing account. So after reading all the buzz about Sherry Thomas' debut book, Private Arrangements, I had to try it and I'm glad I did because I found it very impressive.

Gigi, Lady Tremaine, has been separated from her husband, Camden, for 10 years. Gigi loves her husband but she is tired of waiting for him and has decided to get on with her life and remarry someone else for some small chance at happiness. Camden doesn't want her but doesn't want anyone else to have her either. Especially dim-witted Freddie, her intended fiance. So Camden demands that they live together for one year so he can get an heir off her in exchange for the divorce she wants. And Gigi agrees.

The story goes back and forth between the past and the present and slowly reveals why these two imperfect and somewhat unlikeable characters are so bitter and cruel to each other. When they first meet both characters are immature and Gigi has no self confidence in her beauty or personal attributes needed to attract a man aside from her considerable fortune. Camden is on the verge of proposing to another girl and Gigi is very determined to have him so she plots and schemes to bring Camden to propose. On the eve of their wedding Camden discovers her deception and is very angry (and I suspect, very hurt). He decides to proceed with the wedding and consummates the marriage, then very cruelly humiliates and rejects her. Of course, in this way he can throw her out and still have access to all her lovely money. Let's just say I was not too fond of Camden at this point. Especially after Gigi grovels and begs for him to take her back. Gigi is at fault for her deception but I found her much more sympathetic and I actually liked her quite a bit.

The weaving of the past with the present was smoothly done and the use of language by Thomas was superb making this book hard to put down. When Camden and Gigi first marry they are very young and so I gave their initial poor behavior some slack, but it is now ten years later and Camden is still bitter and angry and seems to still want to punish Gigi for making him fall in love with her. Gigi has grown up and acts much more honorably towards Camden and I found her a much more sympathetic character.

There is a lovely romantic sub-plot involving Gigi's mother, Mrs. Rowland, and a reclusive duke who lives next door. Mrs. Rowland tries to bag the duke for her daughter but ends up falling in love with him herself. A very amusing and well done sidebar to the main plot.

Overall this was a somewhat deep historical with three dimensional characters and a very satisfying and romantic ending. Everything I enjoy in a romance. I enjoyed this book so much Thomas is an auto-buy for me now. I have read Delicious and have Not Quite a Husband on my wishlist.

GRADE: A-

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Under construction

I found a new template I like and I have been tweaking my blog. So excuse the mess. Also made a new animated widget for my Library Thing. I used to have my Smart Bitch title icon on my blog and lost it. But I just found the .jpg file on my other computer so I can post it again. Also I need to add some new bloggers.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

REVIEW: Broken Wing by Judith James

COPYRIGHT: 2008
SETTING / TYPE: Regency Historical Romance
SENSUALITY: Hot
REASON FOR READING: KristieJ.... In her review from last October she gave it a 6 out of 5! When she speaks so highly of a book, I sit up and pay attention because KristieJ is one of my reading gurus (along with CindyS). We don't always agree but I would say most of the time we do.

SUMMARY:
Abandoned as a child and raised in a brothel, Gabriel St. Croix has never known tenderness, friendship, or affection. Although fluent in sex, he knows nothing of love. Lost and alone inside a nightmare world, all he’s ever wanted was companionship and a place to belong. Hiding physical and emotional scars behind an icy façade, his only relationship is with a young boy he has spent the last five years protecting from the brutal reality of their environment. But all that is about to change. The boy’s family has found him, and they are coming to take him home.

Sarah Munroe blames herself for her brother’s disappearance. When he’s located, safe and unharmed despite where he has been living, Sarah vows to help the man who rescued and protected him in any way she can. With loving patience she helps Gabriel face his demons and teaches him to trust in friendship and love. But when the past catches up with him, Gabriel must face it on his own.

Becoming a mercenary pirate and a professional gambler, Gabriel travels to London, France, and the Barbary Coast in a desperate attempt to find Sarah again and all he knows of love. On the way, however, he will discover the most dangerous journey, and the greatest gamble of all, is within the darkest reaches of his own heart

THOUGHTS / OPINION:
Wow, a very remarkable book from an author I had never heard of before. I'm not going to rehash the plot because there are oodles of reviews written out on the blogs and review sites, thanks to our dear KristieJ and her Questors. Check out her sidebar for a list of people under the label "Questors" who have reviewed this book. While not everyone loved it as much as KristieJ, I think the majority gave it a very positive review. Both AAR and TRR gave it an A.

I have read many of the reviews and I have to agree with some of the less than positive criticisms - it was not a perfect book - none of that bothered me. I found myself completely enthralled with the story and couldn't put it down. My reason for loving it so much can be credited to the H/H who are two wonderful extraordinary well-written characters.

Gabriel appears hard and cynical but inside he is a damaged child and very fragile. Gabriel could be a study in how an abused child becomes an adult with his overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and self destruction. He cuts himself which was disturbing and I think realistic for someone with his abused background. And Sarah through her soothing sweetness and gentleness can be credited with helping him heal.

Sarah is an unusual character as well and a perfect match for Gabriel. Her mother was part Gypsy so although she is born noble is not accepted into society. She was married off at an early age to an older man and she leaves him after a week (you go girl!). Fortunately for her he dies. She wear trousers and raises horses and does what she pleases. But she is sweet and kind and sees the goodness in Gabriel when no one else does.

The friendship that develops between them goes slowly... no popping into bed at the first signs of attraction ... which was appropriate given Gabriel's history as a prostitute. They truly become friends and care about each and and get to know each other. And they fall in love. Just as Gabriel begins to get some feeling of self worth back he sets off on an adventure to prove to himself that he is worth loving. And this is where the book takes a turn and has an epic feel. This part of the book is all about Gabriel.

There is a long separation when Gabriel has some adventures traveling around the world as a pirate and a gambler. Eventually his feelings of worthlessness come creeping back and when he makes his way back to England he doesn't get in touch with Sarah who thinks he is dead. Now this is where some reviewers wanted to smack him upside the head and I agree with them. Get in line! But keep reading folks, cuz the scene where Sarah discovers he is alive and shows up on his doorstep was a highly emotional tearjerker (man, I need to go back and read that again). But I forgave him just as Sarah does and ... sigh, what a great ending. I can see why KristieJ loved this book so much. Some people hated the long separation but I actually enjoyed it. It just made their reunion and reconciliation that much sweeter.

I recently read Kinsales' The Shadow and The Star and was struck by the similarities of the hero Samuel to Gabriel, both were sexually abused as children. While James is not quite in the same league as Kinsale as a writer, she makes a pretty good run at it, and for a first book BW is amazing. I see from KristieJ that James' next book is out soon. I definitely need to get that one.
If you are the the only person left on the planet who hasn't read Broken Wing, go out and find a copy. A great emotional read mixed with some adventure and a satisfying ending.

GRADE: A-