Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: Married by Morning (Hathaways, Book 4) by Lisa Kleypas

He is everything she wants to avoid…
For two years, Catherine Marks has been a paid companion to the Hathaway sisters — a pleasant position, with one caveat. Her charges’ older brother, Leo Hathaway, is thoroughly exasperating. Cat can hardly believe that their constant arguing could mask a mutual attraction. But when one quarrel ends in a sudden kiss, Cat is shocked at her powerful response — and even more so when Leo proposes a dangerous liaison. 

She is not at all what she seems…
Leo must marry and produce an heir within a year to save his family home. Catherine’s respectable demeanor hides a secret that would utterly destroy her. But to Leo, Cat is intriguing and infernally tempting, even to a man resolved never to love again. The danger Cat tried to outrun is about to separate them forever — unless two wary lovers can find a way to banish the shadows and give in to their desires…
When I finished reading Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas, I closed the book with a smile and sigh thinking that this installment is a great addition to the Hathaway series. The Hathaways were captured in all their glory by Kleypas -- their eccentricities, capability for love and manipulation, sense of humor, vulnerabilities, family concerns and passions. Kleypas took those Hathaway characteristics, wrapped them up and gave them to us in Leo.

The story of Leo Hathaway and Catherine Marks is really developed throughout the series. These two people dislike each other first, mistrust each other always and bicker at all times. Everyone knows that there's a possibility for more to their bickering, fighting, and mutual torturing except them -- until they share a mind-blowing kiss in the garden.

This kiss serves as a catalyst, the sensual dance begins between Leo and Cat -- the thrust and retreat -- and the real characters emerge. Leo emerges as a wickedly passionate, irreverent and fun character full of determination and, as we already know, a sad and flawed history that contributes to the conflict. I'll say it here, I adored Leo!

Cat, although still the snippy Ms. Marks who gives Leo a run for his money, emerges as a vulnerable and likable young woman with trust issues and a past history that also contribute to the conflict in this story. The witty dialogue, sensual tension and passion between Cat and Leo were the most enjoyable parts of this book for me.

There's a bit of suspense that goes with Cat's storyline that I thought worked well as it afforded her the opportunity for closure. However, the storyline pertaining to Leo's need to marry and produce an heir within a year seemed to be almost a non-issue and I thought was thoroughly underdeveloped. New secondary characters were introduced with a light touch and did not overwhelm the storyline. Kleypas highlights Harry and Poppy, integrates the other Hathaways, Cam and Kev while maintaining the focus firmly on the main couple.

Overall Married by Morning was a winner for me. I enjoyed the quick pace, witty dialogue and the ever bickering / loving / lust-filled couple in this story, together with the loving and eccentric family dynamics. I'm looking forward to reading Love in the Afternoon, the story featuring the intriguing Beatrix.

Gender: Historical Romance
Series: Hathaways (Book 4)
Release Date: May 25, 2010 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Lisa Kleypas here.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

M/M Mini: Crossing Borders by Z. A. Maxfield

Tristan's got issues; he knows he does. So when his most recent girlfriend dumps him via messenger, and he can't stop staring at the messenger's cock while he's breaking the news, Tristan figures it's about time he makes some changes. He formulates a foolproof plan to get himself someone who can show him what he's been missing -- until who should crash his little adventure but Officer Michael Truax, the man who gave him a really expensive ticket for boarding without a helmet back when he was in high school.

Michael has been trying to catch Tristan for give him a second ticket. Suddenly he's faced with his 'Sparky', all grown up -- and looking to get laid. The habit of protecting him isn't gone completely, but the opportunity is too much to resist. He figures the kid must know what he's getting into, so he takes him home. There, they carry on a cautious dance, only to find out that neither is what the other expected, and that together, they're hot enough to melt glass.
Crossing Borders by Z.A. Maxfield was a lovely coming out story. If you like that first kiss, that first love scene, that first everything... you'll love this book. I enjoyed the humor and the characters, never mind the hot couple that Officer Helmet and his "boy" Sparky made.

However although there are conflicts to the story, I found them to be somewhat predictable, lacking and... perfect. Tristan is the perfect son who has the perfectly lucky and "safe" coming out, with a perfectly accepting family and in the process finds the perfect man in Michael. I kept waiting for some edge to the story and never got it.

In the end I thought Crossing Borders lacked edge and real conflict, and although the story itself was predictable, there were plenty of sizzling hot moments and humor to keep me entertained, as well as the extremely likable couple, their "happily ever after" and the sweet epilogue.

Genre: M/M Romance
Series: None
Release Date: September 8, 2008
Grade: C+

Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: Storm Watch by Jill Shalvis

Subject: Jason Mauer, National Guard.
Current status: Homeward bound.
Mission: Getting some R & R!
Obstacle: Lizzy Mann. Sexy blast from the past.

After battling a hurricane of catastrophic proportions, Jason needs some downtime--badly! But there's no rest for the heroic. During another deluge, Jason's savior skills are suddenly in his hot friend Lizzy.

She's fiercely independent. But that doesn't keep them from having incredible sex as they, ah, ride out the storm!

Jason knows relationships and duty don't mix. Still, he feels as if he's being swept away by a flash flood of desire for Lizzy.

The permanent kind...
Storm Watch is a category romance by Jill Shalvis I've had on my "to be read" pile for a while, together with a few others by this author. I've previously enjoyed a few of her categories and looked forward to reading this one.

This is the story of Jason and Lizzy who went through high school together and ten years later meet up again. It's the classic tale of the geeky smart girl who has a secret crush on the gorgeous jock who hurt her feelings. In the middle of a devastating storm Lizzy needs help evacuating her pregnant sister Cece who she's sure did not evacuate and is not responding to phone calls. She goes to her friend Dustin for help and instead finds her old crush, Jason. Within minutes of meeting, Lizzy realizes that after ten years, her crush is blooming again and this time the chemistry seems to go both ways.

Jason is back in town on leave after ten years of working on the National Guard and is still recovering after the death of his rescue partner, Matt. He's in transition and doesn't really know what to do with his life. All he knows is that he needs rest, food and sex, in that order. Instead, he gets a storm, a flood, and Lizzy, his old high school tutor -- a girl who always made him feel more than he could handle.

The timeline for this story is three days, most of it taking place in one day while Lizzy and Jason are on their way to rescue Cece. Jason and Lizzy are kissing ten minutes after they see each other again, and while on their rescue mission it becomes a lurv-fest. I seriously questioned both Lizzy's concern for her sister and Jason's judgment as they indulged themselves on their way. By the time the storm passes and Cece is rescued, there is sunshine and there is love!

There's no question that this is a hot book with a likable hero and an independent heroine with a stubborn streak. However, although Storm Watch has its enjoyable moments and is definitely hot in the signature Harlequin Blaze way, this is a predictable story with a timeline that doesn't allow for real development.

Genre: Category Romance/Contemporary
Series: None
Release Date: August 1, 2009/Kindle Edition
Grade: C-

Visit Jill Shalvis here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: The Endearment by Lavyrle Spencer

HISTORICAL NOTE: Provided by Lavyrle Spencer
During the years immediately preceding Minnesota's declaration of statehood, while it was still considered the frontier, few women ventured into her depths, particularly not north of St. Anthony Falls. Frontier life made the women pay too dearly for her place in the North Country. Although newspapers in the East carried tempting descriptions of all the Minnesota Territory had to offer men, along with open invitations to settle there, no such invitation was extended to women. Instead, those newspapers ran articles discouraging women from that rough, untamed land. Thus, most men who came as pioneers to pluck a living out of the wilderness of the Minnesota Territory came, at first, womanless.
And so was necessitated the practice of sending for women, sight unseen. And these were called "mail-order brides."
The Endearment by LaVyrle Spencer is a historical romance set in Minnesota in 1854. This is a tale of pioneers living in the Minnesota wilds, a mail-order bride, her thirteen year-old brother and a Swedish immigrant -- an absolutely gorgeous tale. The details pertaining to pioneer life are just wonderful -- the description of the area, the loneliness, the heart and grit that it took to settle the land, all of it is there.

The characters are portrayed as people of their time. Karl Lindstrom is a twenty-five year-old Swedish settler who achieved his dream and his heart's desire in the land, but who needs Anna to make it complete. In Karl, Spencer creates a wonderful male protagonist who is knowledgeable when it comes to his beloved woods and survival, but clueless when it comes to women.

Karl's loneliness, strength, patience, need for love and sweetness pulled my heartstrings, as did his pride in all he had accomplished. His strong beliefs and intransigence were both frustrating and believable. My heart was broken for him, by him and he also restored it a few times during the course of the story.

Anna Reardon is no less of a character. She is a seventeen year-old girl/woman who takes an amazing risk to save herself and her brother from an unthinkable life. She becomes Karl's mail-order bride by answering his ad and telling him a slew of lies. Most of her lies come to light before Karl and Anna marry and even though he forgives her and she swears to never lie again, there's one secret she keeps to herself, one that will have deep repercussions and will threaten their budding relationship.

Spencer portrays Anna as both a young woman, who is experienced in some ways but immature in others, a flawed character that grows with the story. An Irish girl with a temper and grit, Anna is also irresponsible, fun and playful, hates housework and bathing. She also loves fiercely and is willing to work the woods with Karl from dusk till dawn. Anna is full of insecurities and needs everything Karl has to give, not only his love, but also his forgiveness and understanding.

Spencer completes this story by including James, Anna's brother, a young boy who flourishes in the Minnesota wilds under Karl's tutelage. Lavyrle Spencer uses James and Karl's growing relationship to relate the small details of pioneer life in the Minnesota wilds that set the tone and atmosphere for the story. The richness of those details made this book an absolute treat for me.

The Endearment is not full of sexual scenes, yet there's passion, sexual tension, loving, laughter, friendship, and warmth aplenty. I can tell you that I didn't want this book to end. The story of Anna and Karl touched me and for a while Lavyrle Spencer transported me to that little clearing in the Minnesota wilds and I didn't want to come back. I loved this book.

NOTE: All images taken from Minnesota archives of early settlers and are from 1854 or thereabouts. The first image is of Saint Anthony Falls, Minnesota. The image of the stove is a depiction of one used by early settlers. All images tie to the story.

Genre: Historical Romance/Americana
Series: None
Release Date: September 1, 2006/Kindle Edition
Grade: A

Find list of Lavyrle Spencer's books here.

KMont's Year of the Historical Challenge - May Review

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: The Hell You Say (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 3) by Josh Lanyon

Demons, death threats...
and Christmas shopping.
It's gonna be one Hell of a Holiday.

In the third in the popular Adrien English series, the "ill-starred and bookish" mystery writer has to contend with a Satanic cult, a handsome university professor and his on-again/off-again relationship with the eternally conflicted LAPD Detective Jake Riordan.

And, oh, yes, murder...
Oh my! After I finished reading The Hell You Say by Josh Lanyon, the third book in the Adrien English Mysteries, all I have to say is that I loved this book! I was exhausted by the end.

The mystery was excellent and quite involved; there is a whole sect of Satanists, curses and ritualistic murders. When it seems as if Angus, Adrien's assistant (and resident warlock) at the Cloak and Dagger bookstore is the main suspect, of course Adrien must get in the middle of it all.

The investigation progresses at a slow pace with multiple characters and threads introduced. As opposed to the investigation, the action is quick paced and doesn't slow down from beginning to end. Lanyon again integrates Jake and Adrien's ongoing relationship into his storyline so that the mystery flows and keeps the reader involved, while the personal conflict between the two main characters becomes more complex making The Hell You Say a suspense on both fronts.

Jake and Adrien's relationship was a bit of a roller coaster ride, with a slow, tentative beginning building to a highly emotional end. Their relationship took the expected turn in this book, but I found the journey to be both emotional and quite gripping. There's a definite turning point for Jake's character in this book and in turn one for Adrien.

Jake's decisions, his actions and reactions fit him and I think Lanyon took a risk with this character -- an excellent risk. In my opinion, anything else would not have been believable and whatever happens in future books, The Hell You Say had the perfect ending. However, I can't help but hope we get more Jake in the next book and see the consequences to his actions.

There are other factors I didn't mention previously that also make this series an outstanding one. Adrien's quick wit and amusing internal debates lighten up tense moments at the most unexpected of times. There are also unforgettable secondary characters that make the series feel complete. Their interactions with Adrien provide some unforgettable moments. My favorite so far? The often hilarious exchanges between Adrien and his interfering, overprotective and relentlessly manipulative mother Lisa.

The Hell You Say was a beautifully written book that provided a thrill on all fronts. I'm thoroughly hooked and going on to read Death of a Pirate King!

Genre: LGBT Suspense/Mystery
Series: Adrien English Mysteries, Book 3
Release Date: 2007 Revised Edition
Grade: A

Visit Josh Lanyon here.

Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: High Noon by Nora Roberts

Savannah-Chatham police lieutenant Phoebe MacNamara is one of the best hostage negotiators in the business, and her latest mission involves talking down a suicidal jumper from a building owned by Duncan Smith. Impressed by her cool, courageous actions and intrigued by the sexy woman herself, Duncan charms Phoebe into meeting him for a drink. As a single mother with family demands and a career woman working in a testosterone-dominated field, Phoebe doesn't think there is any time in her busy schedule for romance, but all of her famed negotiating skills can't convince Duncan to give up on a chance for a future with her. When Phoebe becomes the target of a psychopathic killer out to destroy her professionally and personally, Duncan turns out to be just the person Phoebe wants by her side.
I finally read High Noon by Nora Roberts and I'm glad it was a library read. This is one of those books that engaged me throughout, but that in the end left me with a flat feeling that I could not shake. Why?

In Phoebe McNamara, Roberts comes up with a strong, intelligent heroine who is both a great cop and a wonderful woman. She is surrounded by a supportive family that turn out to be a great responsibility as well. Phoebe is a single mother and sole supporter to her child and an agoraphobic mother. After having experienced violence in her childhood and a loveless marriage, in Duncan Phoebe finally finds a man who is both interesting and interested; just in time for someone to become fixated on her and threaten her life and the life of those she loves.

Roberts not only writes a great heroine, but in her inimitable way she makes us care about Phoebe's friends and family and we become involved in all their lives. The suspense is well executed and it develops slowly, as well as the investigation and the romance between Duncan and Phoebe, a romance that was well integrated with the suspense.

So why did I have a problem with this book? The end.  Yes, the suspense was resolved satisfactorily, and Duncan and Phoebe have their "happily ever after" moment, but... but...what happens to the rest of those characters we come to love? What happens to the rest of the situations that were presented in the book as obstacles or conflicts between Duncan and Phoebe? Or Phoebe's personal problems, the ones that were presented throughout the book as personal conflicts? Did they go away simply because Duncan and Phoebe said "I love you?"

The end felt rushed and I had so many questions by the end of this book that in a way it felt incomplete; a dissatisfied feeling. The happily ever after did not do it for me in this case. It did not resolve all the conflicts that were presented because obviously it was not the answer to all the problems. In this case, a book that was well executed throughout fell flat in the end and all those unanswered questions diminished a highly enjoyable read for me.

Genre: Suspense Romance
Series: None
Release Date: May 27, 2008
Grade: B-

Visit Nora Roberts here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

M/M Review: The Boy Can't Help It: Sensual Stories of Young Bottoms by Gavin Atlas

At some point, hasn't every bottom yearned to be ravished by a powerful, inescapable top? What dominant hasn't fantasized about a gorgeous young sub with an incredible ass, so horny he could never say no? The Boy Can't Help It offers over a dozen such stories of beautiful young men: a gymnast, a diver, a surfer, a marine and many college boys submitting to construction workers, horny professors, butch jocks, corporate titans, insatiable miners, and even one's own psychiatrist. Whether you long to be the helpless bottom or the top nailing him...whether your wet dream is a bit of bondage, a gang bang, sex on the sand, or naughty Gavin Atlas has the stories to satisfy your every need.
The Boy Can't Help It: Sensual Stories of Young Bottoms is a collection of Gavin Atlas' erotic and raw short stories.

As the title indicates, all are stories about bottoms and their erotic fantasies. For the most part these thirteen stories contain short, raw, sweaty, marathon-style sexual encounters. In other words, these are down and dirty, erotic fantasy-based "stroke" shorts, where in some cases the more the merrier applies and no is not a word often used. Gavin Atlas' talent for writing great slutty bottoms, dominant tops and their wet dream fantasies in a fast paced, clean and raw style is well showcased in this collection.

If you're looking for a hot bottom fantasy, you'll probably find it here. You'll find single hot encounters as in Wet Pass, the story of a polo player and a reporter. A short, hot, wet unexpected sexual encounter and the story that hooked me on Gavin Atlas' raw writing style. Or Blue Star Boy, the sexual fantasy of a man who while on a cross-country search for that perfect bottom finds him, and a bit more.

You'll also find stories involving multiple partners, interesting tricks, and slutty bottoms going on wild fantasy rides. Boy do they ever! In Claiming Danny, Simple and Easy, and Business with Pleasure all fantasies are fulfilled. Although I've only mentioned a few titles as examples, all the stories in this collection are well-written, sizzling reads. There's even what I'm calling a "bonus" story included in the book, an error by the printing press that gave the readers that extra hot read.

I love collections by single writers because usually their best work is compiled under one cover and I can take my time reading and savoring each story slowly, this is no exception. I took my time reading this book and can tell you without reservation that Gavin Atlas' The Boy Can't Help It: Sensual Stories of Young Bottoms (with a gorgeous cover I can't help but drool over) is now part of my permanent erotica print collection.

Genre: LGBT/ Gay Erotica
Series: None
Release Date: Lethe Press/February 14, 2010
Grade: B+

Visit Gavin Atlas here.

Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Winner-1st Anniversary Giveaway!

Last week I celebrated my 1st Anniversary AND held my first giveaway! I would like to thank all those who stopped by with warm wishes and congratulations.

For the Giveaway the participants had to choose one book from a list of my favorite authors' upcoming releases. Seven participants in total entered the giveaway and I selected the winner randomly by using Thank you all for participating. :)

Now! The winner is...


Natasha A. chose Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews! This is a favorite Urban Fantasy series, and Andrews a top author on my list, so have fun with Kate, Curran and the gang! Please send an e-mail with your address to claim your prize. Congratulations!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Review: Take On Me (Daytime Divas, Book 1) by Sarah Mayberry

In Take on Me, the first book in the category romance Daytime Divas series, Sarah Mayberry begins with a couple who has a past history. Dylan Anderson was the cool/dumb high school hunk and Sadie Post the shy/plain high school geek.

Their high school history is a predictable one, she had a secret crush on him and he was oblivious, although very much aware of her existence, and of course things didn't end up well for them. While Sadie unwittingly hurt him deeply, Dylan purposefully humiliated her during prom night and neither ever forgot the hurt or the humiliation. Mayberry takes this predictable storyline and turns it into a fun, hot read by using the enemies-to-lovers trope. 

Years later, Sadie and Dylan end up working together on the popular soap opera Ocean Boulevard's writing team. Let me tell you, these two cannot stand each other! She still can't keep her eyes off Dylan, but resents the heck out him, and now he can't keep his eyes off Sadie, but can't abide the woman. This is where all the fun begins! I love the witty, sarcastic dialogue between Sadie and Dylan... the internal hateful thoughts that cross their minds while they lust after each other, and the steamy sexual tension that just builds from all that hostility.

Whenever she'd cast him in one of her revenge fantasies, he'd always been balding and paunchy, with a pronounced stoop. Sometimes she even gave him missing teeth... But unfortunately for her, the years had been kind to Dylan. Not just kind, generous. Really, really generous.....
The bastard. 
This book is funny and hot! And I mean funny moments right in the middle or after their sexual encounters.

After the deed is done:
All the while she tried to ignore the warm throb between her legs. While every other part of her was cringing with regret over what had happened, her vagina was lying back, smoking a cigarette and vibrating with smug satisfaction.
The "hate/lust"part of this story is resolved midway through the book and that's when the deeper development of the relationship really begins. Mayberry fleshes out these characters and this relationship while still having them go at it like bunnies -- after all this is a Blaze so they must. 

The pacing during the second half of the book slowed down, and I missed that fast pace and tension that really had me going during their "hate/hate" lust-filled exchanges. Overall, Take on Me was a solid fun read with lots of steam and a sweet ending.

Genre: Contemporary Category Romance
Series: Daytime Divas, Book 1
Release Date: March 2, 2007 / Kindle Edition
Grade: Solid B

Visit Sarah Mayberry here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New M/M Release: A Hidden Magic by Angela Benedetti

Fey incursions into the mortal world have been on the rise lately, and Paul MacAllister's trying to figure out what the king of the local elven enclave Under the Hill is up to and how to stop it. Rory Ellison was caught up in one of those attacks and nearly killed by a gang of goblins. He doesn't believe they were real, though, and is resisting anything Paul might say to the contrary.
Normally Paul would be willing to let Rory go his own way, at least until he's taken care of more immediate business. But Rory has a particularly rare gift, one the elven king needs to have under his control in order to carry out his plan. Keeping Rory away from the fey who'll use him -- to death if necessary -- means protecting him night and day, whether Rory agrees or not.
Last year for the M/M Romance Challenge I read In The Driver's Seat, an erotic short story by Angela Benedetti, my first. At that time I hoped that I would get the chance to read more by this author.

I just found out that on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, Torquere is releasing A Hidden Magic, a new M/M Urban Fantasy book by Angela Benedetti. It seems I'm getting my wish. :D

Visit Angela Benedetti here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

M/M Mini: A Dangerous Thing (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 2) by Josh Lanyon

In this second LA-based adventure, bookseller Adrien English arrives at the Pine Shadow Ranch (left to him by a beloved grandmother) to find a corpse in his driveway. But by the time the unfriendly local sheriffs arrive, the body has disappeared.

Who are the mysterious strangers excavating on his land? And will he sort out his problems with LAPD Detective Jake Riordan, heavily into S/M sex but not so hot on relationships? Find out in this engrossing, slyly witty thriller.
This series is getting better. A Dangerous Thing, the second book in the Adrien English Mysteries series, has excellent balance between the mystery/suspense and Adrien and Jake's developing relationship. I love how well Lanyon almost seamlessly integrates the two. The mystery is full of great twists and turns with multiple murders, suspects and red herrings thrown into the mix. I didn't really guess who the murderer was until almost the end; just the way I like my mysteries.

Adrien was well developed in Fatal Shadows, but we only got enough of Jake to wet our appetite. In A Dangerous Thing there's a bit more focus on him, and we begin to see exactly how deeply conflicted he is about his sexuality. Jake is harshly vocal about his beliefs and self-doubts, resulting in uncomfortable situations and not so pretty scenes. Jake is still a work in progress when it comes to development, and I would say he has a long way to go as his character unfolds slowly.

I couldn't help but think as I was reading the story... "Adrien, you lovely man, what are you getting into? Get out while you can!" But as their relationship seems to be deepening, it's obvious that Adrien is going to go for it with Jake... he is cruising for a bruising and that's obvious too. Their intimate scenes together caught me by surprise. I expected passion, but not the tenderness that's obviously the "hook" when it comes to Jake.

I am loving Lanyon's writing, these mysteries, the characters that populate them and can't wait to read The Hell You Say.

Genre: LGBT Suspense/Mystery
Series: Adrien English Mysteries, Book 2
Release Date: 2007 Revised Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Josh Lanyon here.

Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Savor the Moment (Bridal Quartet, Book 3) by Nora Roberts

Wedding baker Laurel McBane is surrounded by romance working at Vows wedding planning company with her best friends Parker, Emma, and Mac. But she's too low-key to appreciate all the luxuries that their clients seem to long for. What she does appreciate is a strong, intelligent man, a man just like Parker's older brother Delaney, on whom she's had a mega-crush since childhood.

But some infatuations last longer than others, and Laurel is convinced that the Ivy League lawyer is still out of her reach. Plus, Del is too protective of Laurel to ever cross the line with her-or so she thinks. When Laurel's quicksilver moods get the better of her-leading to an angry, hot, all-together mind-blowing kiss with Del-she'll have to quiet the doubts in her mind to turn a moment of passion into forever...
Third in the Bridal Quartet series, Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts is Laurel McBane and Delaney Brown's story. In telling their story, Roberts uses the friends-to-lovers and the secret crush tropes, two personal favorites.

I really like Laurel's personality in Savor the Moment. She's a bit of a baking diva with an attitude, has a sarcastic sense of humor, and is no pushover. Laurel runs the baking side of Vows and is a brilliantly creative and beautiful woman who has accomplished much throughout her life and keeps her feet firmly planted on the ground. However, these accomplishments don't preclude Laurel from suffering insecurities that become part of the conflict in this story.

Del on the other hand has no real insecurities. He took over as head of the family once his parents died and takes his responsibilities seriously, including Mrs. G. and the Quartet whom he considers part of his family -- Laurel included. It's a heavy weight he carries well. Del seems to have two sides: the responsible, protective, careful Del and the playful, sexy, loving and boyish Del. I liked them both.

In a moment of frustration, with a sizzling kiss, Laurel basically changed a lifetime friendship into something more. Del always took care and tried not to look at Laurel in any other way but as one of the girls, but after that kiss there's no going back for either one of them. Roberts weaves a sweet romance amidst the often amusing and carefully constructed chaotic world these close friends inhabit.

Del and Laurel's romance is a public one. Their friends and family all take part in their coming together and although there are no real secrets between these friends, in Savor the Moment the friends' actions do not take away from the romance. I think this has a lot to do with Laurel and Del's no nonsense personalities. Del and Laurel are mature in how they react to each other -- well... most of the time. There was that shoe incident...
You might think this is over, but you're wrong. I've taken your shoes hostage. Contact me within forty-eight hours, or the Pradas get it.
It might not be a big surprise then that unlike Bed of Roses and a bit more than Vision in White, Savor the Moment really worked for me. In my opinion this book has the best balance of the series so far and the friendship between Parker, Emma, Laurel and Mac was played up nicely, although I can't help but wish some of the page-time spent on Vows was saved for the romance. Savor the Moment was a bit heavy on baking details, and although not heavy on conflict it was a satisfying and sweet friends-to-lovers romance I enjoyed reading.

I'm really looking forward to Parker's story in Happy Ever After.

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Bridal Quartet, Book 3
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Grade: B/B+

Visit Nora Roberts here

1st Anniversary Giveaway

As I said on my previous post, I would like to celebrate my 1st Anniversary with a Giveaway. I'm making it an easy one.   

I've decided to give away a book from one of my favorite authors by sharing one of their new upcoming releases. Well, I have quite a few favorite authors and they all seem to have new books releasing within the next few months, so you will find plenty of choices when it comes to genres and styles on this list. 

I chose the books from my WAITING FOR list, you can see the covers and release dates on my side bar. Here's a list of the eligible books:
  • A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh 
  • Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews
  • Naamah's Curse by Jacqueline Carey
  • Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas
  • Kraken by China Mieville
  • The Search by Nora Roberts
  • Demon Blood by Meljean Brook
  • Bonds of Justice by Nalini Singh
  • Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt
  • Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole
  • Lord of the White Hell by Ginn Hale
  • Killbox by Ann Aguirre
Giveway: If you would like to participate, choose one title from the above list and just leave a comment by Friday, May 14th midnight Eastern Time (U.S.) with the title of the book you'd like to win. Note that all the books are upcoming releases. The winner's choice will be pre-ordered and received soon after it is released.

The winner will be chosen randomly and I'll make the announcement on May 15th. Easy as pie! Giveway is open to U.S. and Canada residents only. GIVEAWAY CLOSED

Good luck!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Celebrating My 1st Anniversary

Good morning. It's May 8th and today I'm celebrating my first Anniversary at Impressions... One year old, can you believe it?!! I can't. Time goes fast when you're having fun, and this has been fun!

In reading my first introductory post "On Reading, Romance and Vices," I realize that it was the perfect introduction, it describes me to a "t." Reading is a personal pleasure that has evolved into a vice I can't and won't give up. A year ago, when I wrote that post I wasn't really sure blogging was for me.

I can be pretty selfish when it comes to reading and was afraid blogging would interfere with my routine. But I made a deal with myself that if or when blogging began to interfere with my reading, I would give it up. Fortunately for me that has not been the case, and here I am a year later enjoying the heck out of myself writing reviews and impressions from my perspective as a reader. It turns out that sharing that reading pleasure in this little space has only enhanced it for me.

So cheers to the wonderful readers and old and new "cyber" friends who stop by and make it fun to share.  Thank you for your support this last year.

Later on this week I would like to celebrate this first anniversary by having my first giveaway as a thank you. In the meantime, here's a rose for you. :)


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Impressions: Brothers in Arms Series by Samantha Kane

A couple of years ago, I read The Courage to Love by Samantha Kane, the first book in her Brothers in Arms erotica series. This past month, I decided to read a few of the other books in this series and as result re-read The Courage to Love to refresh my memory.

There were a few different aspects to this book I really liked: the setting is historical England, male protagonists Jason and Tony are ex-soldiers who fought in the English/French war, female protagonist Kate is a lady turned mistress who after falling on hard times is shunned by the ton.

Does this sound like another historical romance? It might be, except Kane gives it an interesting erotic twist. Jason and Tony began sharing a woman as soldiers during the war. They found that it allowed them to maintain a much needed human connection and alleviated battle trauma - a type of disconnect and inner isolation. That bond continued after the war ended, until they found themselves loving and wanting to share it permanently with a woman through marriage.

That is the basis for the entire Brothers in Arms series. During the war, hoping to help a few of their fellow soldiers cope with their own trauma, Jason and Tony shared with them their new-found solution, their bond. Slowly, those soldiers paired up during the war, making up a tight circle of friends who after the war continued to share this lifestyle. Eventually, they all yearned for the same thing: a woman who would share their lives permanently, a family.

Although there's an eventual "happily ever after" to all the stories and emotions are involved and addressed, the erotic in this series is the core. In The Courage to Love, the sexual scenes between Jason, Kate and Tony are scorching hot and amazing. But Kane also incorporates subtle homoerotic hints that build slowly and get hotter as the story progresses. By the time the whole story unfolds, there's loving all the way around and heat sizzles off the pages. Kane doesn't leave anyone wanting.

This homoerotic build-up is also found in some of the other books I've read as part of this series. As in The Courage to Love-Book 1, in Love Under Siege-Book 2 and Retreat from Love-Book 5, the male protagonists share strong bonds, but don't realize their true needs until the woman they love becomes part of that bond. In Love's Strategy-Book 3, the sexual relationship between the men is established before they approach their lady, giving this installment a different perspective. The females encourage these relationships, are lusty and loving of their men.

The above-mentioned similarities make this series feel repetitive after a while. Also, the fact that all these men need to or must have this type of relationship to go on with their lives after the war, makes the improbability factor creep in. It does make for highly erotic, scorching situations and Kane certainly knows how to write those beautifully. The couples are all likable, lovable and sexy, but the stories do tend to get mixed up after a while.

Two books that stand out for me in this series:
  • The Courage to Love was fresh and new, however after re-reading it, I realize that it still holds up as a stand out with the best homoerotic build-up in the series, and excellent threesomes all around. 
  • Retreat from Love has some of the most erotic M/F, M/F/M, M/M/F, M/M scenes of the whole series in addition to emotional angst galore and an interesting storyline to back it up -- I'll never look at leather gloves the same way again! 
Love Under Siege was more of an average read for me and I thought Love's Strategy was the shortest and least developed of the four books, making it the weakest installment.

If you like M/F, M/F/M, M/M/F, M/M with your erotica, these books are sizzling! Definitely high on the erotic scale. However, I do recommend that they be read far apart from each other for better enjoyment.

Genre: Erotica/Historical setting

Complete Brothers in Arms Series:
The Courage to Love - Book 1: Grade B
Lover Under Siege - Book 2: Grade C
Love's Strategy - Book 3: Grade C-
At Lover's Command - Book 4
Retreat from Love - Book 5: Grade B
Love in Exile - Book 6

Visit Samantha Kane here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mini-Impressions: The Rules of Seduction by Madeline Hunter

Dangerous. Sensual. Handsome as sin. Meet Hayden Rothwell, the shamelessly erotic hero of The Rules of Seduction.

He enters her home without warning or invitation–a stranger of shadowy motives and commanding sensuality. Within hours, Alexia Welbourne is penniless, without any hope of marriage. Until Hayden Rothwell takes her to bed. When one impulsive act of passion forces Alexia to marry the very man who has ruined her, Hayden’s seduction of Alexia is nearly complete. What Alexia doesn’t know is that her irresistible new husband is driven by a secret purpose–and a debt of honor he will risk everything to repay. Alexia is the wild card. Reluctant to give up their nightly pleasures, Hayden must find a way to keep Alexia by his side...only to be utterly, thoroughly seduced by a woman who is now playing by her own rules.
The Rules of Seduction is the first book of the Easterbrook series. Hayden is a great hero -- alpha but not in an aggressive way. He is honorable, although going by his initial actions you might not get that idea about him. Alexia is supposed to be a plain looking, reserved woman, but she is no wilting flower and not a game player. She is a mature heroine who approaches Hayden directly and honestly without being brash. Certainly there's character growth there for Alexia.

The conflicts between this couple are personal and intimate, but also very much a "family affair." The family part of the conflict dragged a bit for me, but that did not take away my pleasure in the overall story. Hayden and Alexia's scenes together are sensual and their coming together as a couple worth the read.

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Easterbrook Series, Book 1
Release Date: October 1, 2006
Grade: B

Visit Madeline Hunter here.

Interesting note: I think I might have read this book a while back and just don't remember doing so, in many ways it felt more like a re-read than a new read to me. Does that happen to you? I give away or trade my books after a while, due to lack of space, and didn't start keeping track of books read until 2008. I remember some clearly and others just get fuzzy after a while... so many books! In any case, I'm glad this is a historical romance I enjoyed.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mini-Impressions: Demon Forged by Meljean Brook

Four centuries ago, Irena and Alejandro would have succumbed to the need smoldering between them — if a demon and a monstrous bargain hadn’t shattered the possibility of love. Torn apart by shame, Irena avoided Alejandro for centuries — until a vampire’s call for help throws her into his arms again.

Alejandro can control fire, but he’s never been able to control — or quench — the flames between him and Irena. And he knows Irena, hardened by her hatred for demonkind, will never accept that he now works at a demon’s behest. But even as he fights for a second chance, a shocking betrayal and a deadly prophecy shake the foundations of the Guardian universe, and all Hell threatens to break loose…
I began and finished Demon Forged by Meljean Brook in one sitting. Well... holy angels and demons, I'm really loving this series, it just gets better and better! This book was great. Brook doesn't hold back when it comes to the action in her world or with moving the story forward within the series. She answered some old questions, took some of the new threads started in the last book, Demon Bound, followed through and further developed them in Demon Forged; as a result this book exploded with action. I'm loving the way Brook closes those threads and opens new ones in this world, leaving no room for gaping plot holes. Plus, you know there's so much more coming too.

Irena and Olek (Alejandro) were wonderful as the main couple. Irena wasn't exactly the belle of the ball when introduced in Demon Bound, personality-wise, but she is developed slowly in Demon Forged. She's no wilting flower, that's for sure, and I liked her! There's lots of tension and sexual tension between Olek and Irena and Brook really works developing the relationship -- something she's really done throughout the series with all the couples. The sexual encounters are hot, but it's not just about the sex between them, it's about the tension. Olek and Irena went 400 years wanting each other, so there are some really explosive scenes in this book.

When it comes to this series, I'm loving the way Brook develops and moves her world forward as well as the plotting. To that I'd like to add that while she introduces fascinating new characters in each installment, Brook really knows how to use already established characters in a meaningful and productive way. I'm loving that aspect of this series. When it comes to Demon Forged as a whole, the storylines, the ongoing battle between the Guardians, demons, vampires, etc., are all really engrossing and she accomplishes this while maintaining the couple in the center of all the action. I can't wait to find out what happens in Demon Blood.

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: The Guardian Series, Book 5
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Grade: B++

Visit Meljean Brook here

Saturday, May 1, 2010

April 2010 Reads, Blogging Woes & Favorites

April was a  crazy month for me. The personal upheaval and responsibilities continued and I seesawed in my reading and blogging. I read more than expected, but chose a few books with a short format when I didn't have the time for more. I was happy that throughout all the turmoil, I met my monthly challenges and was able to review a few books from this month's list, that in itself was a miracle. :D

I won't be including any Mini-Impressions with my list this month -- too many reads and my list is waaay too long for that -- last month my list turned into a saga, lol! Instead, I'll follow with a few mini-impressions later.

I've had some blogger woes too. I don't know if my template is corrupted or what's happening, but for some reason some of my edits, deletions, and in some cases even half the posts are not being saved! I've given up on some posts out of frustration, and noticed that my edits and changes did not "take" after my reviews are up. Frustrating! I'll be looking into that this month and hope to find a solution.

Okay, here's my list for April.

1) High Noon by Nora Roberts: B-
Upcoming Mini

2) Love Under Siege (Brothers in Arms, Book 2) by Samantha Kane: C
Upcoming Minis for the series

3) Love's Strategy (Brothers in Arms, Book 3) by Samantha Kane: C-

4) Retreat from Love (Brothers in Arms, Book 5) by Samantha Kane: B

5) Moonstruck by Susan Grant: B
Upcoming Mini

6 -8) Three Sisters Island Trilogy by Nora Roberts: C
  Dance Upon the Air, Heaven and Earth, Face the Fire (Re-reads)

9) Take on Me by Sarah Mayberry: B
Upcoming Mini

10) Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John: B+

11) By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear: B

12) Demon Forged by Meljean Brook: B+
Upcoming Mini-Review

13) Fatal Shadows (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon: B

14) A Dangerous Thing (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 2) by Josh Lanyon: B+
Upcoming Review

15) The Moonlight Mistress by Victoria Janssen: B+

16) Stroke of Midnight (Hellcop PsyCop short story) by Jordan Castillo Price: C+

17) Thaw (Hellcop PsyCop short story) by Jordan Castillo Price: C+

18) Kindred Spirits (short story) by Jordan Castillo Price: B-

19) Savor the Moment (The Bride Quartet, Book 3) by Nora Roberts: B/B+
Upcoming Review

20) Rapture in Death (In-Death Series, Book 4) by J.D. Robb: B

Although I read 6 books by Nora Roberts (a lot even for me), and there are a few B+ reads on my list this month, I did have some favorites. I'm really excited about Josh Lanyon's Adrien English Mystery series and can't wait to continue reading it. Meljean Brook's Guardian series just gets better; by reading Demon Forged I'm now all caught up and will have to wait for the new release in June. And going back to Nora Roberts, Savor the Moment was not a disappointment and a good way to end the month. :D

So, how was your April? Did you read any especially good books? Anything you would like to recommend?