Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 2009 Reads

My September reads weren't too bad. I'm happy with the results, although I didn't get to some books I absolutely wanted to read this month. They are still at the top of my TBR pile and I'm hoping to get to them in October. With work gearing up and lots of personal commitments, I rearranged my pile to accommodate my momentary needs. Soooo, short reads came into play peppered with a few longer ones in between.

I'm still behind with my reviews, so this month I did review some of my August reads. Head Over Heels by Susan Andersen, A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James is posted at Musings of a Bibliophile, and of course those fun buddy reviews I did with Nath of Moonshine and Madhouse by Rob Thurman are posted at Breezing Through. I didn't do as well with my reading, but much better with my reviews this month. :)

Let's see what happens in October!


1) A Cold Creek Homecoming by Raeanne Thayne

2) His Second Chance Family by Raeanne Thayne

3) Must Love Hellhouds by Charlaine Harris, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook

4) Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman

5) Deathwish by Rob Thurman

6) Dona Nobis Pacem (M/M) by Willa Okati

7) Hex in High Heels by Linda Wisdom
Upcoming Review at Musings of a Bibliophile

8) Tempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas

9) His Convenient Husband (M/M) by J.L. Langley

10) Love in the Library (M/M) by J.M. Snyder

11) Don't Look Back (M/M) by Josh Lanyon

12) Unrequited (M/M) by Abigail Roux

13) Love Means No Shame (M/M) by Andrew Grey

14) The Tudor Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Review at Musings of a Bibliophile

15) On the Edge by Ilona Andrews
Upcoming Review

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Review: Tempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas

He was everything she'd sworn to avoid...

Poppy Hathaway loves her unconventional family, though she longs for normalcy. Then fate leads to a meeting with Harry Rutledge, an enigmatic hotel owner and inventor with wealth, power, and a dangerous hidden life. When their flirtation compromises her own reputation, Poppy shocks everyone by accepting his proposal -- only to find that her new husband offers his passion, but not his trust.

And she was everything he needed...

Harry was willing to do anything to win Poppy -- except to open his heart. All his life, he has held the world at arm's length...but the sharp, beguiling Poppy demands to be his wife in every way that matters. Still, as desire grows between them, an enemy lurks in the shadows. Now if Harry wants to keep Poppy by his side, he must forge a true union of body and soul, once and for all...

I've been following the Hathaway series by Lisa Kleypas and looking forward to reading all about Poppy Hathaway and Harry Rutledge. After finishing Tempt Me at Twilight I found that I liked some parts more than others. I read this book in basically one sitting and found it to be a quick read that concentrates mostly on Poppy and Harry's romance. That's what drives the book and what kept me reading.

In Tempt Me at Twilight the relationship doesn't really develop until after the marriage takes place. Harry is attracted to Poppy immediately and wants her for a few reasons -- he's attracted to her physically, her intelligent conversation and bright personality are a "curiosity" to him, plus he thinks she'll be an asset to him as a hostess for his business. He's ready for marriage and for the first time, Harry is interested enough in a woman to consider taking the leap. He then proceeds to ruthlessly manipulate the situation so he can have what he wants.

Poppy is on the rebound and heartbroken when Michael Bayning doesn't propose marriage. Michael's father, Lord Andover, thinks Poppy is beneath them socially and not an appropriate candidate as a wife for his son. Michael doesn't have the fortitude to go against his father's wishes and Harry promptly takes advantage of the situation, compromises Poppy and asks her to marry him. Poppy agrees to marry Harry even though her family disapproves of him. However, once they are married, the relationship takes quite a while to develop, especially from Poppy's side. Poppy likes Harry, but he is the one who is totally bowled over -- it definitely takes her time to appreciate and then love Harry. I enjoyed the sexual tension and thought the heat between them was worth the wait.

Harry Rutledge is portrayed as both manipulative and ruthless, but I liked that he was upfront about it. He lets Poppy know from day one exactly the type of man he is, and that type of manipulative honesty almost always wins me over. Not a black and white kind of man, he has more enemies than friends and doesn't really care one way or the other. He fights for what he wants and gets it. In this case, he wanted Poppy. Was he ruthless? Yes. Did I mind? No, I thought his was a flawed and likable character. I particularly liked that Harry was capable of tenderness and exposed his vulnerable side to Poppy. More than character growth, I thought Kleypas revealed Harry's character. He is still manipulating and ruthless at the end, but the characteristics that made him the right man for Poppy were always there. Poppy just needed to discover them.

Poppy was also a revelation in many ways. In the previous installments I never connected with her -- she was just... there. But Poppy comes alive in this story from the beginning. She wants the "normal, predictable" life she never had as a Hathaway -- this is what drives her. Poppy initially falls in love with Michael Bayning because she thinks he can provide her with that normal, predictable life she craves. She's refreshingly smart and I thought charming, bright, and quite naive -- maybe too naive. In Poppy we do see character growth and I liked that Kleypas had that growth come from both her love for Harry and from Poppy's insights into herself.

The Hathaway family was nicely brought into the picture and the hotel staff contributed to the story, without overwhelming or taking away from the romance. Leo and Ms. Marks were highlighted, but Beatrix is the one who caught my attention. She seems to be developing into an interesting and eccentric character. I thought there were times in this story where she exhibited more insight than Poppy -- in a Dr. Doolittle kind of way.

I was frustrated during the last third of the book when I thought Poppy's naiveté bordered on lack of insight. For example, by that time I thought she ought to have had a better idea of how to deal with Harry and how he felt about Michael. The purpose of the short suspense plot included in this part of the book also frustrated me and escaped me since by then, every one's feelings were out in the open.

I can't end my impressions of Tempt Me at Twilight without mentioning Leo and Catherine Marks. After reading the revelations at the end of the book, I was left wondering why the hostilities between Harry and Catherine were so over the top at the beginning. Those same revelations again become part of the convenient family ties that Kleypas seems to be weaving into this series. And, I must say it -- was it necessary for the epilogue to leave that bit about Leo and Catherine dangling? Did we really need the tease? It wasn't necessary for me, but I'll be waiting for the next book to find out what happened.

You can visit Lisa Kleypas and read an excerpt for Tempt Me at Twilight here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Elizabeth of York, the only living descendant of Edward IV, has the most valuable possession in all of England -- a legitimate claim to the crown.

Two princes battle to win Britain's most rightful heiress for a bride and her kingdom for his own. On one side is her uncle Richard, the last Plantagenet King, whom she fears is the murderer of her two brothers, the would-be kings. On the other side is Henry Tudor, the exiled knight. Can he save her from a horrifying marriage to a cut-throat soldier?

Thrust into the intrigue and drama of the War of the Roses, Elizabeth has a country within her grasp - if she can find the strength to unite a kingdom torn apart by a thirst for power.
The times between King Edward III of England and Henry VII, the first Tudor King, were full of intrigue, bloody battles and civil war. The Lancastrians and the Yorkists, descendants of the prolific Edward III both had a legitimate claim to the crown and they were tearing the country apart by warring against each other. This has always been one of my favorite times in English history to study and just enjoy. When I realized the Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes was available, I had to read it.

In the The Tudor Rose, Margaret Campbell Barnes begins by introducing a young Elizabeth of York in 1483, right as the French King Louis XI breaks the betrothal contracts between his son, Charles The Dauphin and Elizabeth. The book covers Elizabeth's life up until the birth of her last child. Throughout The Tudor Rose, Campbell Barnes weaves history and fiction seamlessly. There were a couple of instances where creative license was taken, but for the most part she uses known history accurately and beautifully. I love the way she develops and explores the characters in this book. She specifically explores the duality in their personalities and lets the reader be the judge.

When we first meet young Elizabeth, the French King's rejection feels more like a personal affront than a matter of state. Elizabeth quickly realizes that as the daughter of a King, she is not just a woman -- she is more a chess piece in the game of political alliances. This single act of rejection serves to make her aware of the ambitious and cruel acts of men -- a theme explored by Campbell Barnes throughout the book. A few months later, her father is dead and this lesson will serve Bess well.

Fearful of Richard of Gloucester, the King's younger brother and his closest relative by blood, Bess' mother, the calculating Dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, calls on her powerful Woodville relatives and attempts to take control of the new King, young Edward. When Richard thwarts her, she quickly moves the rest of her children into sanctuary. During their time in sanctuary, a seventeen-year old Bess is seen as the one who consoles her mother and takes responsibility for her siblings. Although young, Bess is quite sharp and recognizes her mother erred against Richard, however she soon loses faith in Richard's promise to be the young King's protector. Not long after, when he imprisons her two brothers Edward and Richard, and ceases the crown for himself all hope seems to disappear, as Richard of Gloucester becomes King Richard III.

At this point, Campbell Barnes tells us the account of the two princes in the Tower. Did Richard have the princes murdered? Bess agonizes as certainty and doubt plague her throughout her life. In the midst of loss and grief Bess' mother approaches her with the idea of a betrothal to the Lancastrian, Henry of Richmond. Horrified at first Bess refuses, but with confirmation of her brothers' murder and the realization that she is now the legitimate heir to Edward IV, she hastily agrees to marry Henry.

After a failed plot by Henry's supporters to cease the crown, Elizabeth is finally set free from sanctuary and returns to court with a public promise from Richard that she and her sisters will not be harmed. Soon after, Richard's son dies and Queen Anne of Neville goes into decline. During this time, we not only see Richard's duality, but Elizabeth's true understanding of it. After the Queen's death, Richard shocks Elizabeth by proposing a marriage between them in an attempt to secure the crown. This incestuous proposal gives Bess the impetus to seek help from powerful Lord Stanley and the second plot against Richard III is set into motion and succeeds.

In The Tudor Rose, Richard III's character just took over the pages. The way Campbell Barnes weaved history with fiction when it comes to this particular character was fascinating. Elizabeth's reactions to him were portrayed as those of a confused and troubled young woman who admired his accomplishments and talents while recognizing his faults. The battle where Richard loses his life to the Lancastrians is one of the most touching and fascinating narrations in this book. I couldn't stop reading and was just as arrested, horrified and admiring of him, as was Elizabeth herself.

Although Elizabeth looked forward to giving herself to her husband and hoped for a good marriage, she was to be disappointed. King Henry VII is portrayed as a cautious man whose cruelty is cold and who lacked passion. Bess describes Henry as a man who could "neither love nor hate." For a warm, giving woman like Bess who came from the passionate Plantagenets, this was a tough road. Campbell Barnes also explores the duality in Henry's character through Bess' doubts about his actions. Impostors, one of which claimed to be Bess' adored brother, Richard of York, plagued Henry's reign. He was a man who cared much for hoarding money and things and who left the crown well stocked for his successor, Bess' favorite son, King Henry VIII.

Elizabeth of York, first born to King Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville took the motto a "Humble and Reverent Queen." She was a giving, warm woman who gave much of herself to her family and the people around her, yet kept little for herself. She's portrayed as someone who was loved dearly by those around her, but who craved the passion denied her by her husband, King Henry VII. She suffered dearly throughout her life and never stopped grieving for her young murdered brothers, especially for the youngest Richard, Duke of York. However, a Plantagenet through and through, strong and focused she forged ahead and gave birth to the Tudor dynasty. The only English Queen to have been the wife, daughter, sister, niece, and mother to English Kings, she gave herself to her family and her people.

First released in 1953, The Tudor Rose is a classic. If you love historical fiction like I do, this is a book I know you'll enjoy.

Review based on ARC copy from Sourcebooks.

Books by Margaret Campbell Barnes you might enjoy.
The Tudor Rose
Brief Gaudy Hour
My Lady of Cleves
King's Fool

Originally posted at Musings of a Bibliophile September 28, 2009

Buddy Review: Madhouse by Rob Thurman

Half-human Cal Leandros and his brother, Niko, aren't exactly prospering with their preternatural detective agency. Who could have guessed that business could dry in New York City, where vampires, trolls, and other creepy crawlies are all over the place?

But now there's a new arrival in the Big Apple. A malevolent evil with ancient powers is picking off humans like sheep, dead-set on making history with an orgy of blood and murder. And for Cal and Niko, this is one paycheck they're going to have to earn.

Madhouse is the third installment in the Cal Leandros urban fantasy series.

After we finished reading Moonshine, the 2nd book in the series, Nath and I continued chatting as we started reading Madhouse -- we couldn't seem to stop talking about Cal and Niko. Originally, we thought of posting a combination review of both the 2nd and 3rd books. However our discussion was so extensive, eventually Nath had to split it up into two separate posts.

If you're interested in this series and would like to read our buddy review for Madhouse, you can find it at Breezing Through.

A big THANK YOU to Nath for chatting, discussing, and reviewing the first three books of this series with me. I had the best time!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

...On Winning & M/M Book Shopping!

This last week the winner of the M/M Reading Romance Challenge was announced by Anesthezea/Christina of I Heart Paperbacks. Guess who won the Gift Certificate to All Romance eBooks? Me! Thank you again Anesthezea.

So, you KNOW I went shopping... here are my picks:

Don't Look Back by John Lanyon - Peter Killian, Curator at Constantine House in Los Angeles, wakes in the hospital to find himself accused of stealing a tenth century Chinese sculpture. Peter knows he's not a thief -- but that's all he knows. Why is hot and handsome Detective Mike Griffin so sure he's guilty -- and so hell-bent on seeing Peter arrested? And why is Peter having these weird dreams about an unseen lover?
This is my first Josh Lanyon book! Can you believe it? I've been meaning to pick up his Adrien English mysteries forever and still have those books on my list of books to buy. I decided to give this single title a try first before getting into a series. I'm really looking forward to it. :)

His Convenient Husband by J. L. Langley - Innamorati, Book 1 - At the tender age of seven, newly orphaned Micah Jiminez lost everything and got lucky. The Delaney family opened their hearts and their hone, treated him like one of their own. One Delaney in particular, though, became more than a brother to Micah. The handsome and protective Tucker is the man to whom he wants to give his love. But a single passionate night together, Tucker rebuffs him and hightails it to Dallas to pursue his dreams. Leaving Micha to pick up the pieces of his broken heart - and feeling like a fool.
J. L. Langley is a favorite of mine. The Tin Star is still one of my old time favorite contemporary western M/M books. So, you know I couldn't pass this one up... especially with that title, lol!

Unrequited by Abigail Roux - Vic Bronsen has a problem. He's stuck in a rut, uninspired by his job, and in love with a man who has no clue. Thinking a change of scenery and company will do his aching heart some good, he goes off on a road trip with his best friend, only to find that the answers to his problems may have been right there in front of him all along.
Hmm... unrequited love, angst, a road trip, best friends. Yeap! Had to get this one, plus I haven't read Abigail Roux's work either, so a great way to start, don't you think?

Patient Eyes by Andy Eisenberg - Jaden is in a bind: he's an eighteen-year-old college student who doesn't make enough money at his part-time job to even afford food. So when one of his house mates introduces him to gay-for-pay porn, he reluctantly agrees to take part. During his first scene, Jaden meets Brendan, and he's stunned to find himself falling in love.
Now this one? I don't know... it looked like it might be HAWT and well... I mean.. gay-for-pay porn and he falls in love after shooting the first scene? I have got to read it! *g*

Saturday, September 26, 2009

...On Changes, Cloudy Days & a Ray of Sunshine

Manhattan Clouds by V. Richardson

Changes. Sometimes they are as predictable as the seasons. Fall is here! Already. Cool, cloudy days abound and those can be lovely and treasured. There's a beauty and a fascination to those cool, turbulent and cloudy days that peaceful, clear ones don't hold. Those are the perfect days for introspection, study and if caught under a cloudburst some character building.

If unexpected, do we really appreciate those changes -- those cloudy days? Not always -- not until they are over and we either see the devastation left behind, or the fruitful results of the unexpected cloudbursts. But how to reach the sunshine when mother nature is in control and we're in the midst of those clouds?

Autumn. What a marvel of nature. Leaves are falling and all is dying, but the colors are rioting and more beautiful than ever! Even more beautiful than in the spring... one last hurrah before all is gone! But during this last hurrah, the clouds, changes and cloudbursts, do you still search for that ray of sunshine? Where do you look for it?

Sunflower Morning by J. McGuiness

I often find it in simple everyday things, a book, a friend, a conversation... and sometimes in the most complex of nature's gifts. The sunflower, a sturdy, complex ray of sunshine for a cloudy day. A smart flower that follows the sun from east to west during the day, and readies itself at night by facing east to start its quest for sunshine all over again. Thinking of the complexity that makes a sunflower, its spirals and its daily quest, always makes me pause and lifts my day.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Buddy Review: Moonshine by Rob Thurman

After saving the world from his fiendish father's side of the family, Cal Leandros and his stalwart half-brother Niko have settled down with new digs and a new gig -- bodyguard and detective work. And in New York City, where preternatural beings stalk the streets just like normal folk, business is good.

Their latest case has them going undercover for the Kin -- the werewolf Mafia. A low-level Kin boss thinks a rival is setting him up for a fall, and wants proof. The place to start is the back room of Moonshine -- a gambling club for non-humans. Cal thinks it's a simple in-and-out job. But Cal is very, very wrong.

Cal and Niko are being set up themselves and the people behind it have a bite much worse than their bark...

In case you haven't noticed, lately I have become obsessed with reading the Cal Leandros urban fantasy series. Last month, the lovely Ms. Nath invited me to review Nightlife, the first book in this series, at Breezing Through and we had a blast! But, we were both so excited about this series that even after we finished the review, we continued chatting about Moonshine the second book in the series. Next thing we knew, we had enough e-mails to put together ANOTHER review. So, yes... all that chatting paid off, lol!

So, for a review of Moonshine by Rob Thurman, 2nd Book in the Cal Leandros Urban Fantasy series, please go to Breezing Through and we'll chat some more!

ETA: Note, expect lots of wonderful little spoilers with this review. :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New Cover: Mind Games by Carolyn Crane

So here it is, Mind Games by Carolyn Crane. Yes.... that's Ms. CJ from The Trillionth Place. She posted the cover on her blog this morning and I have to say I'm loving it, that is a HOT cover!

Mind Games, the first book in Crane's new Urban Fantasy trilogy is scheduled to release March 23, 2010. The second book is slotted to release September of next year. We don't have an official blurb available at this time, but we did get this bit of information from CJ herself:
Mind Games is the first in an urban fantasy trilogy about a hypochondriac who joins a psychological hit squad. It takes place in a fantastical Milwaukee/Chicago.
I'm loving both the cover and the title. After reading that little bit about the series, the title really seems to fit.

Congratulations CJ!

Friday, September 18, 2009

...On Friday and Cowboys

Well, it seems as if this was western week at Impressions... Westerns are a personal favorite and was excited when I saw KristieJ, Wendy, and Sybil decided to hold The Great Western Drive. They had the best recommendations and my list of books to look up or re-read is now even bigger. I don't need too much encouragement to read westerns, weather they are in a historical or a contemporary setting, those rugged men of the West do it for me. Love the cowboys. Yee haw!

I actually planned on posting a third review today on another historical romance western I'm reading, unfortunately work and real life intruded on both my reading and writing. Instead, I'm leaving you this week with my idea of what a cool, gorgeous cowboy hero looks like -- the fantasy type named "Jake." (Yes, I named him *g*)

Mmmm... well, I actually stole "Jake" shamelessly from a friend who gave him as a gift to another friend, lol! I stepped in and said "MINE".... she very gracefully stepped aside so I could share him with you all. (I promised her we would take care of him). Isn't that a gorgeous belt buckle? And don't you just want that hat? Hmm... yes...well, enjoy!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Review: Dona Nobis Pacem by Willa Okati

Mute saloonkeeper Donnell knows all about prejudice; he's had to battle it all of his life. He also knows how self-righteous and judgmental the people of the old west town of Nazareth can be, so he isn't surprised when he sees them spurn requests for work from a man who walks into town looking to be all but on his death bed. Donnell takes the man in and nurses him back to health, falling in love along the way. But is Donnell destined to have his heart broken?

Title Translation: Using Latin to English translator - A Votive Offering Us a Passus (a section, division or Canto of a poem or a story, a medieval one. Origins: late 16th Century: literally 'step, pace' in Medieval Latin 'passage of a book.') ETA: See link for more information.

I must admit to having a bit of a problem reading M/M romances set in historical times. Not because I don't love history or M/M -- I love both. The story's plausibility becomes the focus for me, especially when or if the mores of our times are applied to a historical period. For example, the total, unquestionable acceptance of a M/M relationship by one or more characters when the story is set in times of yore, becomes a tough one to buy. Of course, it all depends on the culture and time period being addressed, as well as in how the writer addresses the situation.

On the other hand, I love it when a writer takes an issue that could easily be addressed in a contemporary setting, places it in a historical context and still makes the story work. In Dona Nobis Pacem, Willa Okati goes back to the time of the gold rush in the west. The setting is a mining town called Nazareth by the "good" people of the town and "Hell" by the old timers. More than heat and dust can still kill a man in good old Nazareth where civilization is attempting to make itself felt under the guise of strict morals and tough religion.

Okati didn't take the easy way out with this story. Her heroes couldn't be more different or have a tougher road ahead. Donnell is a mute whose mother was a whore. He has two talents: Lady Luck is on his side and he can play the piano. Lady Luck helped him win Treighton's Saloon, of which he is now owner, and playing the piano allows him to not only entertain his clients, but to express otherwise repressed emotions. He is a man scorned by the town for his deficiencies as well as his occupation. His cynicism and lack of trust in people, and religion in particular, seem thoroughly justified.

Nathan is Donnell's opposite in almost every way that counts. He is a beautiful young man who arrives in town begging for work on the streets, wearing nothing but tattered clothing, and too proud to take food unless a job comes with it. Nathan is also a believer in crisis. When the good people of Nazareth refuse to help Nathan, Donnell takes him in, saves his life, and in the process loses his heart -- but what of Nathan's soul? This is where Nathan's conflict lies. Can he accept what his heart and body demand after a lifetime of strict religious beliefs? Will he come to terms with the heat and passion he and Donnell share?

The battle between the "good" and "bad" guys takes on a different twist in Dona Nobis Pacem. The adversaries here are not your usual gunslingers. Instead, the saloonkeeper and his employees are fighting the new preachers and self-righteous townspeople. Specifically Michael Mallone, a ruthless priest who through zealotry and manipulation wants to purify Nazareth by having Donnell's clientele "reconsider their sins." As portrayed in some westerns, the "good people" of Nazareth are quick to judge those who are different or even those who need a helping hand. In this case accepting a helping hand may mean paying a high price. So, who really qualifies as the "good" people of Nazareth? The reader becomes the judge, as the writer lays out plenty of black and white areas but leaves enough gray for further exploration.

Dona Nobis Pacem offers a good balance between the erotic, the romance and the plot. The main characters are well developed and secondary characters add to the story and the historical flavor of this piece. I am hoping Ms. Okati will further explore the overall story arc in the future.

You can visit the author here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Review: Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman

Never Love a Lawman is set in the small mining town of Reidsville, Colorado and the events take place in 1882. A spur of the California & Colorado Railroad Company (the C&C) is the only thing keeping it from becoming a ghost town. Those short railway miles linking Denver to Reidsville give the miners and townspeople access to goods. In turn they use the railway as a fast and efficient way to transport their gold and silver.

Clinton Maddox, owner of the C&C and a partner with interest in the Reidsville's mines, is dead. This death sets up a chain of events and like falling dominoes, plans set up by a clever and manipulative Maddox start falling into place. The import of this death to the people of Reidsville is enormous as his grandson and presumed heir, Foster Maddox, has been making questionable changes to the company and is an unknown.

Wyatt Cooper, the Sheriff of Reidsville came west following his father's footsteps. He is sharp and tough -- a lawman through and through -- but also a man of layers whose sense of humor and responsibility kick him a notch above the hero whose obvious passions rule the day. Wyatt takes care of the town and its people as if they were his own, and is willing to do what it takes to ensure their safety and future. Rachel Bailey is about to find out just how far he's willing to go.

Rachel is Reidsville's newest resident. She moved to town over a year ago and although readily accepted, she remains a self-contained woman who prefers her own company. A talented seamstress, she is both admired by the men for her beauty and respected by the women for her skills. She is friendly, but not too friendly, to all except for the Sheriff -- she avoids him at all costs. Unfortunately for Rachel, Clinton Maddox's death is about to change all that. Upon Maddox's death Rachel becomes the unexpected heir to both his interest in the mine and the railroad spur with one condition: in order to inherit, she must marry none other than Wyatt.

Jo Goodman develops Rachel and Wyatt's relationship slowly. These two people don't know or trust each other when they are thrown together by these unexpected circumstances. They circle each other, get to know one another and in the process become friends before acting on their attraction. The dialogue between them is witty and sharp enough to keep the story interesting throughout.

Wyatt is the type of man who makes his moves deliberately at times and goes by the seat of his pants at others, but he has enough insight to know how to deal with Rachel. He seems to know when to use his sense of humor, determination, sensitivity or just plain common sense to win more than one argument and smooth more than one awkward moment. Rachel on the other hand, doesn't really seem to know what to make of Wyatt.

I loved that Rachel was portrayed as an intelligent, independent woman with a sharp-tongue and a dry sense of humor. A woman who was willing to pay a painful price for maintaining her loyalty to a friend, Rachel was an admirable heroine whose past made her strong, but whose vulnerabilities I could also understand. She was the type of woman who was not easily convinced, but whose love was worth winning and waiting for.

Wyatt was just right too. He pushed Rachel but didn't really expect to get away with anything. He knew she would put him in his place sooner rather than later. He was both tough and vulnerable. This was a great couple. I loved the sexual tension and passionate interludes, their witty and joyful relationship... but most of all the friendship that got them to their happy ending.

Having said that, Never Love a Lawman would not be the same without the well-defined secondary characters that abound in the story. From "that no-account Beatty boy" to Rose, Adele and Molly, you'll find a full set of characters in this book that make a whole town come alive. They are the ones that make this romance and the story complete.

The events set off by Clinton Maddox's death are convoluted and the twists, turns and action are well done. The resolution at the end had the drama expected of a western with the Sheriff and his posse, a villain, trains and lots of happy endings.

A western romance with all the ingredients to satisfy my taste, Never Love a Lawman, with Rachel, Wyatt and company, is already a favorite.

You can visit Jo Goodman here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

...on Category Romances: Why do I love thee?

Category romances, why do I like to read them? They have always been a bit special to me, but sadly I hardly ever read them any more. When did that happen? KMont from Lurv a La Mode had an interesting post a few weeks ago wanting to know why we enjoy reading Categories. I've been thinking about it.

At one point in my life Category romances became the main staple in my romance reading diet. The reason behind this was not because I didn't enjoy other types of romance books, I've always enjoyed variety in my diet. It just so happened that during that time Categories were all I could either afford to buy or had the time to read. They were affordable, short and most important of all, romances. I had a bookshelf full of them from top to bottom and when I could not afford to buy new ones or used ones, I re-read my favorites over and over again. I think if it wasn't for those books, I would have had to stop reading altogether, and that has never been an option for me.

Categories provided brief moments of escape after a long week of long working hours, driving to and from work, driving my daughter to and from school, her after school activities and getting maybe an hour to myself in the evening to get ready for the next day to start all over again -- driving, working, struggling, driving... tough times! They helped me keep my sanity. I looked forward to my weekends and sneaking in the time to read my "six-pack" of used Category romances. I bought them in sets of six so I would have enough to read for the weekend, or maybe sneak one here and there during the week.

I remember hunting for them through used book stores. I couldn't afford to buy new ones most of the time and ended up buying some pretty old ones. Some of them had wonderful retro faded covers from the 1960's of nurses and doctors. The heroines were almost always nurses who had a strict moral code and lots of backbone and were either willing to sacrifice their love for someone else -- the sacrificial lambs -- or for their own high sense of honor. They were usually set in England where the nurses worked their shifts at the 'theatre', wore 'jumpers' and shared rented 'flats.' These books had wonderful first kisses and sexual tension, but no sex. They were dated and I loved them!

Others were from the 1970's with lots of secretaries, flight attendants and jerky bosses who loved to kiss hard and were mostly control freaks. The heroines were still virgins and some still had backbone... but they had to fight those jerky, hard kissing, bossy men. I still loved them! And I pursued the newer used ones released in the 1980's relentlessly. Yes, the heroines were still virgins most of the time in the 80's, but by then they slept with the hero and had to fight those bossy guys even harder! I started reading a lot of books set in Australia and New Zealand during that period and developed a yearning for a tough, fantasy Aussie bushman just for me, lol!

I remember collecting books by Charlotte Lamb, Anne Mather, Violet Winspear and yes Janet Dailey... hunting, hunting,.... reading and re-reading their books until I could probably recite the text.

These books had a few things in common throughout the decades that didn't seem to change, you might even call it a formula. The format was short, no more than 250 pages, and the romance was always the focus of the story. Of course that didn't mean the rest was left under-developed, or the details were not there. Whether they were set in a hospital in London, in a Spanish Villa, a Texas ranch or in a small unknown town, I remember the distinct flavor of reading about those places as well as the couples.

The tropes became familiar and I always chose my favorites: friends to lovers, enemy to lovers, second chance at love, older man/younger woman, there were more. I knew those tropes so well, it got to the point when I went to those used book stores and picked up a book, all I had to do was read that first paragraph to know that was the story for me. Most of these books felt complete and meaty and they had secondary characters who contributed to the storyline without taking away from the main characters, although some of them were memorable. I loved them!

So, why did I stop reading them? My love for them didn't suddenly stop. My life changed and my reading pattern changed. I moved cross-country and had to give away my collection -- no room for all those books -- no more re-reading of favorites. I started reading all those other books I missed out on, plus! I still read them once in a while in between longer books, when I needed that fix, but not as often. Then I don't remember when... I stopped. By the time I attempted to return to reading my trusty Categories... I just didn't seem to enjoy them the same way any longer.

Is it me? Has my taste changed throughout the years so that now I can no longer appreciate these little treasures? Or is it that I haven't found the authors and stories that suit me? Is it the insta-love, insta-sex, insta-mine that is used in most of the newer releases I've read, instead of character and plot development that turns me off? I know these are short, but having read so many of them I know it's possible to do both. When did it all become about Tycoons and babies? Where did those long winded, strange and unattractive titles come from? I obviously stayed away from Categories for a long time and missed a step somewhere.

I haven't completely given up on reading Categories. How could I? They saved my sanity once and who knows what the future holds. I know there are good ones out there and I'm still searching for those new authors who might make me love these wonderful little books again.

I've recently found two authors whose work I'm reading voraciously, Raeanne Thayne and Sarah Mayberry. I find myself enjoying both the format and the stories. So you see there's still hope for a second chance at love between Categories and me.

I'll leave you with a recommendation from my oldies but goodies bag -- a Silhouette Intimates Moment book from the 1990's I just love. If you want a romance, here is one for you...

Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard


Reece Duncan lost half his ranch and all his dreams to his ex-wife, so when it came time for a family he did the logical thing: he advertised for a bride. She had to be willing to work, to bear his children and to settle for lovemaking in place of love. It sounded perfect -- until Madelyn Patterson arrived.

One look and he had to have her. Never mind that she was New York and nightlife to his own plain-spoken Montana ways. She was willing to herd cattle, wax floors and bake biscuits by the dozen. She was even willing to bear his children -- but at a price he couldn't pay. She wanted love -- and he was a man who had no love to give.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

...on a New Banner & a Thank You!

After a whole week of staring at the stock banner that came with the new blog template, I knew those three cute little kiddies reading just were not going to do it for me. Nope, I knew they were not going to make it past the first week. I couldn't look at the blog without staring at those three kiddies... they became an obsession of the worst kind -- I HAD to get rid of them! But what was I going to do? I'm still trying to make friends with HTML, never mind that I'm a total duffus when it comes to putting graphics together.

So I sent out a cyberspace distress call and what do you know? The graphics goddess herself came charging in on her mighty cyber-spaceship to save the day! She weaved some magic and ta-da!... in no time at all out of cyber-nowhere a new Impressions... banner appeared. A beauteous one at that!

So, I must thank Ms. Kenda Montgomery (known as KMont to us mortals) for weaving her graphics magic and coming to the rescue. I do hope that cyber-spaceship slows down long enough so she can see me waving my thanks... 

 (Note I made her a goddess who captains her own spaceship AND can perform magic) 

Review: Must Love Hellhounds by Charlaine Harris, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook

The Britlingens Go To Hell by Charlaine Harris

Batanya and Covache, two Britlingen Collective bodyguards are contracted by Crick to go to Hell. He needs to collect an object he stole from Lucifer but left there while escaping from imprisonment. Batanya is assigned this dangerous duty by her superior Tovis, who seems to be obsessed with harassing her. 

In this world, witchcraft is enhanced by science and the witches facilitate transportation for the bodyguards. Batanya, Covache and Crick battle their way through the dark and dangerous tunnels of Hell and on their way meet Hell's monsters, Amelia Earhart, Narcissus and two hellhounds. 

This is my first Charlaine Harris read and I'm afraid neither the story nor the writing grabbed my attention. The addition of Earhart and Narcissus to the story came out of left field for me and threw me out of the story. This novella was the weakest in the anthology for me. 

Angel's Judgment by Nalini Singh

In this pre-quel to Angel's Blood, we meet Sarah before she becomes the Director of the Guild of Hunters. Angel's Judgment is Sarah and Deacon's story. 

Deacon is the Slayer for the Guild. A position so secret, it is known only to the Guild Director and now to Sarah. His job is to hunt rogue Guild hunters -- those who kill vampires instead of returning them to their masters. In this story, Deacon and Sarah join together in the battle against a rogue who is killing vampires -- this right after Sarah is offered the position as Guild Director and comes under scrutiny from the Archangels. During their battles, they encounter an angel, vampires and of course Lucy, the hellhound. 

Sara and Deacon's mutual attraction and sizzling chemistry is apparent from the start. Their attraction is one that may conflict with their future professional relationship.I thought both the action and the romance were well done in this story. 

I liked the characters and the story kept my attention. We were not given as many details as expected about the Guild Hunter's world, although what we did learn was relevant. Elena and Raphael both make brief appearances and neither has much of an impact on the story.  A nice addition to this series, Angel's Judgment gives us a closer look and some added development to some important secondary characters in this UF/Romance series.

Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews

Magic Mourns is a novella related to Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels urban fantasy series. Andrea Nash is a knight in the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid and Kate's best friend. She's also a shapeshifter in denial. The story picks up a few weeks after Magic Strikes ends, while Kate is recuperating from her wounds and Andrea is covering for her at the Order. 

In Magic Mourns, Andrea and Raphael, the sexy werehyena who has been courting her for six months, embark in their own harrowing adventure. They battle the three-headed Cerberus, Hades' hellhound, and must figure out why he left the gates he's supposed to be guarding. In the process, Andrea must come to terms with her feelings for Raphael and with her own secret monster. 

This story is told through Andrea's point of view, a refreshing way of seeing this character story and adding further development. Here, as in other Kate Daniels books we encounter mythology -- this time of the Greek kind. Fast paced and full of action, Ilona Andrews delivers a complete story with a couple of characters I loved and some great action.  This story was a winner for me.

Blind Spot (A Guardian Novella) by Meljean Brook

In this novella by Meljean Brook, Maggie "Winters" and Geoff Blake are thrown together when Katherine, Geoff's sister, is kidnapped. Maggie's loyalty is in question as the two of them joined by Mr. Pup, a three-headed hellhound, take off after the kidnappers for the rescue. 

A family secret that has been guarded and is only known by Colin, Savi, Katherine and Geoff is revealed. Maggie and Geoff discover each other's attractions while they race to save Katherine and prove Maggie's innocence.

I'm not familiar with this series and this is my first book by Ms. Brook. I found Blind Spot easy to follow and loved both the characters and world they inhabit. Ms. Brook's portrayal of Maggie and Geoff as both vulnerable and strong made them a winning couple for me. I'll be looking up the rest of this series. 

I usually read anthologies to discover new writers, to make decisions about a new series or to follow series I'm already reading. I discovered a new-to-me series I want to read, and loved the added development to two series I'm already reading.  Must Love Hellhounds was definitely a successful read for me.

You can find out more by visiting the authors:

Friday, September 4, 2009

Review: Head Over Heels by Susan Andersen

Who said, "you can't go home again?" In Veronica Davis' case, who'd want to -- especially when you hail from Fossil, Washington. But now she's back among the good-ol' boys who think she's fair game just because she's in a waitress uniform.

The truth is, Veronica's the boss -- at least until she can sell the family saloon and skip town again as fast as her feet can carry her and nobody knows that better than Cooper Blackstock. From behind the bar, the ex-Special Forces Marine sees all. And his undercover agenda has made the feisty boss-lady's troubles his own.

And her troubles are considerable, what with a family in turmoil, a pseudo-bartender with dangerous secrets, a murder investigation, and death threats. Though the town surprisingly rallies in support, it's still a good thing that Cooper will be there to catch Veronica if she stumbles -- if he doesn't start falling himself.
This is the second book by Susan Andersen I read and the better of the two by far. I'm not quite sure why I looked it up, especially since my first experience with an Andersen book was not a total success. I certainly didn't choose it because of the cover... but the blurb caught my attention and I decided to give it a chance. 

Veronica (Ronnie) and Cooper are both in Fossil, Washington for the same reason -- Ronnie's sister Crystal was murdered and her husband Eddie, who is on the run, is the suspect. Ronnie's return to town a few weeks after the funeral to see to her sister's business and to take care of her niece Lizzy is necessary, but something she's dreading for more than the obvious reasons. The truth is that Veronica left Fossil and didn't have any intentions of ever returning. She has a chip on her shoulders about working in the family saloon and the last thing she wants to do is set foot in the "Tonk" again. 

Cooper was hired to be the new bartender and manager of the Tonk by Marissa, Ronnie's childhood friend. He has his own secret reasons for being in Fossil and he's not about to let Veronica or his emerging feelings for her get on his way. Cooper is now renting a room at Crystal's home where Ronnie will be staying with her niece while in town. This set up throws them together and the stage is set for the romance and the nightly romps to begin.

This couple seemed to be big on making assumptions about each other. Early in the book Cooper assumed that Ronnie was just as trashy and easy as her sister, and I was glad that he got over those assumptions quickly. Ronnie on the other hand was big on judging Cooper by his looks and his job as the manager of the saloon... frankly, that went on for a bit too long. She seemed to see only what she wanted to see. Our heroine was not big on paying attention to detail. They both carried a lot of baggage from their childhood that needed to be resolved and turned out to be the biggest conflict between them. Neither seemed able to let go of pre-conceived ideas or old hurts. 

As secondary characters go, Marissa is the one worth mentioning and the best developed. She has her own romance going on in this book and as a widow with two children, some unique romantic problems. Although this story arc was interesting, it didn't really add to the central story. However, Marissa and Ronnie had that wonderful relationship and dialogue between best friends that can enrich a book. I loved the interaction between them and in that respect Marissa's character was a great addition.   

The murder plot was really kept in the background and it was not the focus here -- the romance was central. The resolution to the murder was used more as a device to reach that happily ever after. 

Head Over Heels had some excellent snappy dialogue I found very entertaining. Ronnie gave as good as she got and Cooper was no slouch either. As a couple, they had chemistry and I liked them together. This is really what kept me reading and the fast pace made it a quick read. Overall I found Head Over Heels to be a good read with a likable couple who worked for their happily ever after by getting to know each other in more ways than one. 

ETA: Sorry, this part was cut off the original post.

This book is part of a series:
Head Over Heels (Marine, Book 1)
Getting Lucky (Marine, Book 2)
Hot & Bothered (Marine, Book 3)
Coming Undone (Marine, Book 4)

You can visit the author here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Summer 2009 Reads: July and August

My summer reading was not quite what I expected this year... I basically concentrated on finishing my reading for the M/M Reading Challenge in the month of July. As you'll see by my lists, I was also able to fit in some new releases, but not much else -- there were too many outside interruptions this summer for me. I'm hoping that September will bring a return to my usual reading and writing schedule.


1) Hidden Currents by Christine Feehan - D

2) What Happened in London by Julia Quinn - B+

3) Don't Tempt Me by Loretta Chase - B+

4) A Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore - B-

5) The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan - A

6) Black Hills by Nora Roberts - B

7) Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh - A

8) Boarding Action by Angela Benedetti (Walk the Plank Anthology M/M) - B

9) Islands by Samantha Kane (M/M) - A

10) ePistols at Dawn by Z.A. Maxfield (M/M) - A

11) Out of Bounds by T.A. Chase (M/M) - B+

12) Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale (M/M)- A+

13) The Edge of Impropriety by Pam Rosenthal - A-

14) No Limits by Alison Kent - C


1) The Rancher's Rules by Lucy Monroe - B

2) Head Over Heels by Susan Andersen - Upcoming Review

3) Nightlife by Rob Thurman - B+

4) A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James - Upcoming Review

5) Moonshine by Rob Thurman- Upcoming Review

6) Dancing in the Moonlight by Raeanne Thayne - A-

7) Madhouse by Rob Thurman - Upcoming Review

8) Natural Disaster by Chris Owen (M/M) - B+

9) Shelter from the Storm by Raeanne Thayne - B

10) Slave to Shadow by Gavin Atlas (M/M) - B

11) Shy Hunger by Ginn Hale (M/M) - B

12) The Cowboy's Christmas Miracle by Raeanne Thayne - B-

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Latest M/M Romance Releases

Here are four of the latest M/M releases that caught my eye. These books became available at the end of August and I'm looking forward to reading every single one of them.

Damn Gorgeous by Jaye Valentine

Spencer Patterson writes "news" reports on paranormal phenomena for The Weekly Harbinger, a national tabloid magazine. He's had a lifelong love affair with all things supernatural, and having failed at serious news reporting, he eventually merged his hobby with his journalism degree and embarked on a tabloid career.

On assignment in the sleepy Massachusetts town of Fall River, home of the infamous Lizzie Borden axe murders, Spencer meets and falls for sexy Virgil Slade, lifelong resident and owner of a nearby bed-and-breakfast. Things are not as they seem. Virgil, with his hot body, sexy dreadlocks and usual tattoos, harbors a tremendous secret that turns Spencer's world upside down.

Available at Noble Romance.

Weather Rock is in a rotten mood from getting the runaround at City Hall, or it's Rig who's out of sorts from a bad day, the Jarheads know just how to cheer each other up. Rock, Dick and Rig know the best remedy for a case of the blues is some pizza, a few beers, and some hot lovin'... Can they get over what ails them together?

A Sip from Torquere

Dona Nobis Pacem by Willa Okati

Mute saloon keeper Donnell knows all about prejudice; he's had to battle it all of his life. He also knows how self-righteous and judgmental the people of the old west town of Nazareth can be, so he isn't surprised when he sees them spurn requests for work from a man who walks into town looking to be all but on his death bed. Donnell takes the man in and nurses him back to health, falling in love along the way. But is Donnell destined to have his heart broken?

Available at Torquere

Making It Up by TC Blue

When Dr. Thomas Paulson receives a cryptic phone message from his very first boyfriend's mother after ten years, he leaps to the conclusion that JJ -- Johnny Boudreaux-- is dead. His current lover, Alan, makes the same assumption. So imagine Thomas' surprise when he returns to his home town to grieve and discovers that not only is JJ alive and well, but is getting ready to marry Thomas' old girlfriend.

Live can be funny sometimes, and in the course of Thomas' visit he discovers a lot of things that force him to examine his own actions, past and in the present. He's made mistakes, but so has Alan who has flown to Oak Grove, Arkansas to try to help his lover and best friend. But Alan's interference makes things even worse, leading Thomas to believe that he's blown every chance at happiness he ever had.

Available at Torquere