Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: Rising Moon by Lori Handeland (Re-read)

Over a city of wicked pleasures and dangerous passions...

Denizens of The Big Easy know its steamy nights can hide any number of sins and secrets. Private-eye Anne Lockheart is counting on it. Her life has been in a holding pattern ever since her sister Katie disappeared without a trace...but when a leads Anne to a jazz club in the French Quarter, everything changes. Rising Moon's proprietor, John Rodolfo, is mysterious in his own right, a gifted musician who reaches deep into Anne's soul and whose mere presence taps into desires she can't afford to indulge...there's a bad moon on the rise.

By going undercover at the Rising Moon, Anne can get close to people who know what goes on after dark--people like John, whose nocturnal disappearances are more than a little suspicious. But unlocking John's secrets is harder than Anne had anticipated. What's far too easy is surrendering to him. And now someone--or something--is stalking the innocent and the guilty, and waiting for Anne's next move...
I read the entire paranormal Nightcreatures Novels series by Lori Handeland a while back and of all the books, the three novels set in New Orleans (Crescent Moon, Midnight Moon, Rising Moon) are my favorite, and Rising Moon (Book 6) is at the top.  I remember writing the following note the first time I read this book back in February, 2008:
Rising Moon. I loved, loved, this book. I have to say this is my favorite of all the books set in New Orleans. The romance was great. John was great! The mood of the book was the best and the monsters were excellent because well... that whole gray area again -- good/evil -- who knows?! Will we meet (some of the characters) again? I wonder....
In that little note my reasons for loving this book were sketchy at best, although the meat is there. In Handeland's hands New Orleans becomes more than a setting, and as I re-read this story I again felt transported and through her writing experienced the music, the dark streets, the tastes and smells of the city, the fun and danger. The place attracts and repels the reader, it's both dangerous and beautiful. This sets up an atmosphere that is perfect for this mystery thriller / paranormal romance -- and this story is both.

The characters in this story are just as dark, dangerous and ambiguously attractive as the city itself. Even Anne, from whose perspective we see the events unfold, is not a black and white character. She's conflicted and lies when she has to to accomplish her mission -- that of finding her missing sister. Anne is a private PI with no life, a woman, who by her own admission, is not physically attractive and has no time for sex, men or relationships -- at least not until she finds her sister. That all changes when she walks into the Rising Moon club and meets jazz musician and club owner, John Rondolfo.

John's music is mesmerizing, his looks are hypnotizing and Anne can't seem to keep her eyes off him. But there's something wrong with John. He's beautifully dark and brooding, but he's also obviously deeply hurt and suffering, he's blind but not helpless and people around him and the Rising Moon disappear. Anne goes undercover as a waitress at the Rising Moon, hoping to find her sister and to help police Detective Sullivan find out information about the other mysterious disappearances. Soon Anne finds herself involved with John. He seems to be attracted to her in an almost desperate way, and her attraction for him grows by the minute no matter how dangerous the situation. The hot and steamy sexual scenes between John and Anne are as sultry and sensual as the setting itself.

As the plot moves along, and it moves along at a good pace, it's tough to figure out who is good and/or evil. The secondary characters are just as ambiguously gray as the central ones, making them excellent additions to this story. The reader never knows who to trust, or what twist or turn will come around the next corner. There are dark, scary moments that made my heart beat faster, Anne's TSTL moments (there are always some of those) gave me anxiety attacks, and although there were hints along the way I couldn't wait to figure out who was who by the end. There are all types of legends and monsters: voodoo, werewolves, loup-garou, and of course the Jäger-Suchers (Hunter-Searchers) make a brief appearance.

I enjoyed Rising Moon this time around almost as much as the first time. Anne's decisions (TSTL moments) frustrated me a bit more during this re-read, but not enough to make too much of a difference. This book really is a spooky and steamy read. I enjoyed the twist at the end and what I thought was an excellent resolution. Great read.

Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Nightcreature Novels (Book 6)
Release Date: January 7, 2007
Grade: B+

Nath's 2010 Re-read Challenge - October Review
Complete series:
Blue Moon
Hunter's Moon
Dark Moon
Crescent Moon
Midnight Moon
Rising Moon
Hidden Moon
Thunder Moon

The good news for me? After two years, Lori Handeland is again writing Nightcreature novels. A new installment Marked by the Moon is releasing on November 2nd, and I'll definitely be reading that one. :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Minis: White Tigress by Jade Lee, I Love This Bar by Carolyn Brown, Holiday in Death by J.D. Robb

So what's everybody reading? I've had one of those great, lucky months so far where almost everything I pick up I either love or like with very few disappointments. Those months don't come too often, so better enjoy it, right?

I haven't been doing my Weekly Reads posts this month because well... there have been quite a few distractions for me. But I would like to share some quick impressions from this month's reads including my post for the In-Death Challenge.

White Tigress by Jade Lee
Englishwoman Lydia Smith sailed to the Orient seeking her fiancé. She found treachery. In seedy Shanghai, she was drugged, sold, made a slave—to a dark-eyed dragon of a man. But while her captor purchased her body, was that what he sought? He demanded not her virginity but her Yin—the essence of her ecstasy—and there seemed no choice but consent. What harm, Lydia wondered, was there in allowing him to pleasure her, to teach her, until she could flee?

It was the danger—and reward—of taking the first step on a journey to heaven, and her feet were already on the path to becoming a radiant and joyous White Tigress.
White Tigress by Jade Lee was a free erotic ebook and not quite the thing. Set in China, this story just didn't deliver. The author uses Taoist philosophy as the basis of the story but frankly the whole thing doesn't turn out to be erotic -- at least it didn't work for me. The characters, particularly Lydia is a study in contradiction. She is English and shows up in China to meet her fiance, is kidnapped and sold into slavery and used by the main male character for erotic purposes. This woman is submissive and lost one minute and smart and resilient the next, back and forth -- you never know what you're going to get with her, or indeed out of this story. The ending is highly improbable too. Grade D

I Love This Bar by Carolyn Brown
Funny, sexy, and sure to appeal to the huge audience of country music fans, this new trilogy features the Honky Tonk beer joint and its succession of lovelorn owners. Serving two counties, one wet and one dry, the Honky Tonk is the gathering place for every hothead, thirsty rancher, and lusty lady looking for a good time. Owner Daisy O'Dell vows she'll run the place until they drag her cold dead body through the swinging doors. That is, until the day Jarod McElroy walks in, looking for a cold drink and a moment's peace from his ornery Uncle Emmitt. The minute Jarod sees Daisy, with her hot looks and smart mouth; he knows he's met not only his own match, but Uncle Emmitt's as well. Now, if only he can convince her to come out from behind that bar and come on home with him…
An ode to Toby Keith's song, country music, honky tonks and country living. I Love This Bar was full of great characters, fun moments, music and good lovin'. Don't expect detailed bedroom scenes in this book although they're there, do expect good romantic moments. I loved all the down to earth characters from Daisy and Jarod to the secondary cast: Chigger (boy, oh boy!), Momma, the Walker triplets, Tinker, Merle and cousin Cathy. There were a couple of threads left dangling that I'm sure will be picked up later in the series, but that really made no sense in this book. If you like ranchers and country music, you'll enjoy this one. I did. Grade B

Holiday in Death by J.D. Robb
No one likes to be alone during the holidays. For New York's most posh dating service, Personally Yours, it is the season to bring lonely hearts together. But Lt. Eve Dallas, on the trail of a ritualistic serial killer, has made a disturbing discovery: all of the victims have been traced to Personally Yours. Eve soon enters an elite world of people searching for their one true love--and one killer searching for his next victim.
Holiday in Death had a good criminal investigation going with sexual crimes committed by a man dressed as Santa Claus. The victims were all people who had signed up with Personally Yours, a love-match agency. The villain used the 12 days of Christmas as a theme for his crimes. I enjoyed the criminal investigation in this book.

This story has the most sexual scenes between Roarke and Eve in the series so far. Wow! I began skimming them after a while, I think because I'm not used to them in these books? I particularly enjoyed the byplay between Peabody and McNab and Peabody and Eve in this story. Eve's judgment continues to get clouded by her past experiences while she's solving crimes and her psychological problems interfere with her work. I wonder if or when this will be addressed by her superiors? She's relentless in this story and borders on self-destructive by not taking care of herself, but isn't wonderful the way Roarke is there to bring her back and make sure she does? A good read. Grade B

Christine's In-Death Challenge - October Review

Okay, so I didn't mention above what I was reading! I just finished two books -- The Indiscretion by Judith Ivory and A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh, both were historical romance and quick reads. Right now I'm re-reading a paranormal romance, Rising Moon by Lori Handerland. It's spooky and great for Halloween. :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Minis: Linnea Sinclair, Jennifer Crusie, Josh Lanyon

I haven't been reading as much in October as I did in September, but so far the books I've read have been highly enjoyable. Here are Minis on three of them.

Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair

The universe isn’t what it used to be. With the new Alliance between the Triad and the United Coalition, Captain Tasha “Sass” Sebastian finds herself serving under her former nemesis, biocybe Admiral Branden Kel-Paten–and doing her best to hide a deadly past. But when an injured mercenary winds up in their ship’s sick bay–and in the hands of her best friend, Dr. Eden Fynn–Sass’s efforts may be wasted.

Wanted rebel Jace Serafino has information that could expose all of Sass’s secrets, tear the fragile Alliance apart–and end Sass’s career if Kel-Paten discovers them. But the biocybe has something to hide as well, something once thought impossible for his kind to possess: feelings . . . for Sass. Soon it’s clear that their prisoner could bring down everything they once believed was worth dying for–and everything they now have to live for.
I loved Games of Command. I stayed up until 2:00 am reading it and finished it off the following morning! It's a Sinclair ride, that's for sure... Kel-Paten, the hero, had me at HELLO. That biocybe is just the sweetest thing I've seen as a romantic scifi hero in a long time. I sighed and melted when our heroine Tasha read his personal logs (that's all I'll say about that). Tasha's a classic Sinclair heroine -- she's tough and takes no prisoners, she doesn't fall easily but when she falls, she falls. I enjoyed all the action and the secondary characters, Jace Serafino and Dr. Eden Fynn (who are actually quite central), are also arresting.

Games of Command was definitely a winner for me. I was not disappointed in the plot or characterization. The pacing is excellent -- the action keeps the story moving along -- and the romance, while slow on the build-up, was satisfying. Kel-Paten's yearning for Tasha made that part of the story both sweet and angsty. I loved the slow way Sinclair developed trust between Tasha and Brendan, plus their interaction and dialogue just got better as the story progressed. The final outcome to the overall storyarc was quite complex with twists and turns from beginning to end. Grade: A

Visit Linnea Sinclair here.

Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie

Tess Newhart knows her ex-boyfriend Nick Jamieson isn't the right guy for her. He's caviar and champagne; she's take-out Chinese pot stickers. He's an uptight Republican lawyer; she was raised in a commune. He wants to get ahead in business; she just wants…him. But there's no way Tess will play second fiddle to his job.

Yet somehow she finds herself agreeing to play his fiancée on a weekend business trip that could make or break Nick's career. And while he's trying to convince Tess that he needs her in his respectable world, Tess is doing her best to keep her opinions to herself and her hands off Nick.

I couldn't wait to read Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie, a gift from Nath. I liked this book. It's the pairing between a yuppy lawyer and a free-thinking, liberal, hippy-like female. The very 80's political style -- even though it was released in the early 90's -- with references to Nancy Reagan and the Quayles dates the story. I loved the whole crazy relationship between these two very different people, with their prejudices against each other, their love and compromises. My favorite scene? The absolutely crazy scene in the restaurant.  I'll continue reading Crusie's backlist and know I'll enjoy it. Grade: Solid B

Visit Jennifer Crusie here.

Somebody Killed His Editor: Holmes & Moriarity (Book 1) by Josh Lanyon

Thanks to an elderly spinster sleuth and her ingenious cat, Christopher Holmes has enjoyed a celebrated career as a bestselling mystery writer. Until now. Sales are down and his new editor is allergic to geriatric gumshoes. On the advice of his agent, he reinvents his fortyish, frumpy, recently dumped self into the sleek, sexy image of a literary lion, and heads for a Northern California writers conference to try and resurrect his career. A career nearly as dead as the body he stumbles over in the woods. In a weirdly déjà vu replay of one of his own novels, he finds himself stranded in an isolated lodge full of frightened women—and not a lawman in sight. Except for J.X. Moriarity, former cop and bestselling novelist. The man with whom he shared a one-night stand—okay, maybe three—long ago. The man who wants to arrest him for murder. A ruthless, stalking killer, or a hot, handsome ex-lover. Which poses the greater danger? It’s elementary, my dear Holmes!
This is a mystery, a good who dunnit with a large cast of characters, but for me the best part of the book was Christopher Holmes. Christopher or Kit, the main character in Somebody Killed His Editor: Holmes & Moriarity, Book 1 is one of those characters that no matter how many bodies he finds, or how bloody the situation, will make you smile. This story is told in first person point of view and I just loved Christopher's voice... talk about a sardonic, sarcastic, insecure man with a flair for drama. I loved his internal dialogue and every single impulsive word that came out of his mouth.

He finds a dead body as soon as he arrives at the conference, winds up meeting J.X. Moriarity, an ex-cop, ex-lover and young(er) "successful" writer, and this mystery caper takes off from there, as does the rather interesting relationship between JX and Kit. We follow Christopher as he becomes the main suspect, uses less than great judgment (has some great TSTL moments), and gets involved without even trying. A favorite quote, and I had many:
"I jumped up and started yelling, "Help! Help!" I never said I was the hero of this story." 
Somebody Killed His Editor was fun, funny, sexy, full of snark, somewhat touching and I loved it! I heard there's a sequel coming out soon and I can't wait to read it. Grade: B+

Visit Josh Lanyon here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: Bayou Moon (The Edge, Book 2) by Ilona Andrews

Last year I fell in love with Rose, Declan and the boys when I read On the Edge and was quite curious about William the Wolf, as well as life on the Edge. Bayou Moon continues two years with William's story and takes the readers to the Mire, a swampy bayou on the Edge that's full of magic, great characters, family feuds, evil, and life and death situations.

Bayou Moon is a long book and I must admit that it didn't grab me from the beginning with the same force as On the Edge, yet I liked it just as much. Andrews' well-defined and fascinating worldbuilding continues in this story. The Mire, a place within the Edge, is detailed and described so well you can almost smell it, taste it and feel it. Ugh! There are creepy crawlies and characters in that bayou that will definitely make your skin crawl, and they fit the story and the setting perfectly. The Mire is on the border with the Weird's Dukedom of Louisiana, becoming a natural dumping ground for exiles and criminals alike. Magic flows strongly, not only from the new criminal and villainous element, but also from the exiles' families and descendants.

This is the world that William walks into and he hates it -- all the damp, mud, rain and weird creepy crawlies, he just wants dry socks lol! For the past two years he has been living a boring and lonely life. He's reading a letter from Jack and George and talking to his action figures (yes, action figures) when Mirror agents, the top Andrianglian spies or special ops, show up at his doorstep. William agrees to spy for them again once he finds out that his archenemy Spider is at the Mire seeking a weapon hoping to start a war between the Louisianans and Andrianglians.

While the Mirror is recruiting William, Cerise Mar is having troubles of her own. Her grandparents home has been taken over by a feuding family and her parents have been kidnapped by the Hand, a criminal gang feared for its powerful and dark magic. Until her parents return, Cerise is head of the vast Mar clan and needs to make some quick decisions or none of them will survive, but first she must go into the Broken. On her way back, she meets William.

William and Cerise embark on a dangerous journey through the bayou as strangers and soon become allies through necessity. William hates the bayou and Cerise knows it and can't help but use it against him. He hates being dirty, the mud, the dampness, the strange creatures -- his internal thoughts on the subject had me laughing and agreeing with him through much of the story. I enjoyed Cerise and William's dialogue and loved the combination of acerbic comments with light banter and fast paced action, as this couple begins by taking each other's measure and not liking what they see, moving on to admiration, then lust and later on to love. The development of their relationship is not an easy one, as they're quite busy fighting evil or often ruthlessly interrupted by Cerise's vast family, but the Andrews team manages to do it quite well.

I liked William in On the Edge and I liked him even more as Bayou Moon unfolded. He's a man full of contradictions -- a natural born killer, ruthless, cold, loyal, loving, tender, and also a man attempting to recapture a childhood that was stolen from him. I also loved Cerise as the strong and powerful leader of her family clan, with her uncertainties, vulnerabilities and vast responsibilities. She carried it all quite well. Cerise was ruthless when necessary and I loved how she used her powerful magic, and her absolute belief in her abilities. The way Cerise fell for William fit her character perfectly too. She was passionate about him and fell in love with eyes wide open -- no rose-tinted glasses for our Cerise.

I could go on and on about the secondary characters, they were all excellent. Kaldar and Richard, Cerise's cousins stand out in this story, as does her sister Lark. I hope that the Andrews team will write their stories in the future. I did have a question about the family in the end that was not answered and that was a bit of a disappointment.

With Bayou Moon, the Andrews team continues the outstanding worldbuilding they began with the first installment of this series, as well as with excellent central and secondary characters that carry a fast paced story full of romance, action, creepy villains, battles, victories and deaths.There were a couple of interesting open-ended threads that I'm sure will be addressed in the next installment (no cliffhanger). And believe me, I can't wait to read the next book.

Category: Fantasy Romance/PNR
Series: The Edge, Book 2
Released: September 28, 2010
Grade: A-

Visit Ilona Andrews here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: Love Me if You Dare by Carly Phillips

When hostage negotiator Rafe Mancuso takes a bullet to save Sara Rios, his former partner, his actions make him a bona fide hero—and New York City's newest most eligible bachelor. Then Rafe admits that Sara is much more than just another woman he's rescued. Suddenly, a firestorm of gossip turns him into exactly what he doesn't want to be: the Bachelor Blog's newest hot topic. His only solution is to leave town and get himself out of the spotlight…and sexy, jaded Sara out of his mind.

NYPD officer Sara Rios has Rafe to thank for saving her life, and Rafe to blame for the media chaos surrounding her. She wants to throw herself back into duty at full throttle, but until her injuries heal, she's on leave and in search of her rescuer. From the moment she finds Rafe and meets his large, boisterous family, she's hooked. But mutual attraction doesn't always mean happily-ever-after, and these two have a long way to go to find their fairy-tale ending….
After reading Kiss Me if You Can by Carly Phillips and enjoying it, I knew Love Me If You Dare was a book I definitely wanted to read. I'm so glad I followed up because I liked this second book in the Bachelor Blog series even more.

Sara Rios and Rafe Mancuso are both cops and ex-partners. When Rafe is wounded while saving Sara's life during a hostage situation, the Bachelor Blog chooses him as New York's latest bachelor hero. Ralph inadvertently gives away the attraction he feels for Sara to a reporter as he's losing consciousness and their names are linked by the media.

Needing space to recuperate from his wounds and unable to fight both the media and his growing attraction for Sara, Rafe decides to leave the City and go back to his small town home. When the media can't find him, their focus shifts to Sara just as she's due to testify against a criminal and they inadvertently place her in danger. Sara's only recourse is to get out of the city and she can only think of one safe place, and that's with her ex-partner Rafe.

Phillips begins Love Me if You Dare with sexual tension between Rafe and Sara and carries it through to the end of the story. Rafe's feelings are strong and seem to get stronger as the romance is developed. Sara is also quite attracted to Rafe and is willing to have an affair, but she fights deeper feelings all the way. She is convinced that because her family of cops has always failed at marriage, her destiny is no different from theirs. I liked Rafe's love and passion for Sara, as well as his willingness to be both loyal and faithful. Sara was a tough cookie, though. I liked both her passion and loyalty, although at times her stubbornness and single mindedness were frustrating.

There are quite a few things happening in this story at the same time: Sara is in hiding from the press and criminals she's testifying against; Rafe's brother and sister-in-law are having marital problems and play secondary, supporting roles; plus Phillips incorporates the rest of Rafe's family into this story quite well. There's another amusing and highly enjoyable storyline that includes them. Poor Rafe. The man has to hear all about his aunt and uncle's sex lives and handles the fall out from that and more, and it all turns out to be a convoluted hoot... I laughed out loud more than once. Rafe was very sweet in his dealings with the sexy seniors and won me over.

Overall, I enjoyed Love Me if You Dare. This romance is well developed and Phillips maintains the sexual tension between Rafe and Sara, even through the angsty parts, with the steam carried through to the end. The secondary characters in the story provide a light and fun atmosphere that made Love Me if You Dare a fast paced, enjoyable read.

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Bachelor Blog Series, Book 2
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Source: NetGalley
Grade: Solid B

Visit Carly Phillips here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Releases: November/December 2010

Wow, almost end of year! Again I've decided to combine new releases I'm looking forward to reading for the next couple of months: November and December. I don't have too many books on my list, but the ones I do have are the sure thing.

When it comes to genres, this time it seems as if I have one of each and some books are by some of my very favorite authors. In my list I'm including Happy Ever After, the last book in Nora Roberts' gorgeous contemporary romance Bridal Quartet series; Play of Passion, another installment in Nalini Singh's Psy/Changling paranormal romance series; the amazing looking cross-genre anthology Songs of Love and Death, which includes fantasy, science fiction and romance, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, this is not one I'm missing; Marry Me by Jo Goodman, a historical romance that looks sweet and it's set in the West; and The Duke & The Pirate Queen by Victoria Janssen an erotic romance by an author whose writing style I enjoyed earlier this year and want to try again.

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts (Bridal Quartet, Book 4)
Release Date: November 2, 2010

As the public face of Vows wedding planning company, Parker Brown has an uncanny knack for fulfilling every bride's vision. She just can't see where her own life is headed. Mechanic Malcomb Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker is no exception. Both know that moving from minor flirtation to major hook-up is a serious step. Parker's business risks have always paid off, but now she'll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart...
Visit Nora Roberts here.

Play of Passion by Nalini Singh
Release Date: November 2, 2010

Passion and reason collide with explosive force in the newest installment of Nalini Singh’s “mesmerizing”* Psy/Changeling series. As a conflict with Pure Psy looms on the horizon, two powerful wolves fight a far more intimate war of their own…

In his position as tracker for the SnowDancer pack, it’s up to Drew Kincaid to rein in rogue changelings who have lost control of their animal halves—even if it means killing those who have gone too far. But nothing in his life has prepared him for the battle he must now wage to win the heart of a woman who makes his body ignite…and who threatens to enslave his wolf.

Lieutenant Indigo Riviere doesn’t easily allow skin privileges, especially of the sensual kind—and the last person she expects to find herself craving is the most wickedly playful male in the den. Everything she knows tells her to pull back before the flames burn them both to ash…but she hasn’t counted on Drew’s will.

Now, two of SnowDancer’s most stubborn wolves find themselves playing a hot, sexy game even as lethal danger stalks the very place they call home…
Visit Nalini Singh here.

Songs of Love and Death: All-Original Tales of Star-Crossed Love [Hardcover]
Release Date: November 16, 2010

In this star-studded cross-genre anthology, seventeen of the greatest modern authors of fantasy, science fiction, and romance explore the borderlands of their genres with brand-new tales of ill-fated love. From zombie-infested woods in a postapocalyptic America to faery-haunted rural fields in eighteenth- century England, from the kingdoms of high fantasy to the alien world of a galaxy-spanning empire, these are stories of lovers who must struggle against the forces of magic and fate.

Award-winning, bestselling author Neil Gaiman demonstrates why he’s one of the hottest stars in literature today with “The Thing About Cassandra,” a subtle but chilling story of a man who meets an old girlfriend he had never expected to see. International blockbuster bestselling author Diana Gabaldon sends a World War II RAF pilot through a stone circle to the time of her Outlander series in “A Leaf on the Winds of All Hallows.” Torn from all he knows, Jerry MacKenzie determinedly survives hardship and danger, intent on his goal of returning home to his wife and baby—no matter the cost. New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher presents “Love Hurts,” in which Harry Dresden takes on one of his deadliest adversaries and in the process is forced to confront the secret desires of his own heart.

Discover the many realms of the heart with this extraordinary cast of acclaimed authors: Peter S. Beagle, Jo Beverly, Jim Butcher, Jacqueline Carey, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Yasmine Galenorn, M.L.N. Hanover, Robin Hobb, Cecelia Holland, Tanith Lee, Marjorie M. Liu, Mary Jo Putney, Linnea Sinclair, Melinda Snodgrass, Lisa Tuttle, Carrie VaughnThis exquisite anthology, crafted by the peerless editing team of George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, is sure to leave you under its spell.

The Duke & the Pirate Queen by Victoria Janssen
Release Date: December 1, 2010

Aboard her privateering ship Seaflower, Captain Imena Leung is the law. Ashore she answers only to her employer, Duke Maxime. They are a powerful couple, with an intense attraction neither can disguise or deny. As a nobleman, Maxime is destined to wed strategically, so his seductive advances must be purely for pleasure. And what self-respecting pirate denies herself any pleasure?

Their delicious dalliance is prolonged when Imena is forced to abduct Maxime to foil a political plot against him. At sea, with a stunningly virile man bound in her private quarters, Imena can imagine--and enact--any number of intoxicating scenarios.

The heat between captain and captive is matched only by the perils that beset Seaflower and her crew. Violent storms, marauding corsairs and life-or-death sex games on a desert island--how fortunate for the seemingly insatiable lovers that danger and desire go hand-in-hand.
Visit Victoria Janssen here.

Marry Me by Jo Goodman
Release Date: December 7, 2010

Rhyne Abbott is fierce, brave, and used to a life of isolation on her father's spread on the outskirts of Reidsville, Colorado. But when, overcome with sickness, she collapses, she knows she must return to town if she is to have any hope of recovery. Only there is no place for her but the new doctor's home, and he wants more than just to heal Rhyne. He wants her hand in marriage.


Doctor Cole Monroe's hands are already more than full with his orphaned little sister to look after, and yet somehow he can't resist the magnetic pull of Rhyne's bewitching eyes—or her tempting kiss. But convincing her to trust him won't be easy. For Rhyne's heart needs as much tender care as her ailing body. And the only cure is the thing she most fears: to let herself fall in love...
Visit Jo Goodman here.

As you can see I've highlighted a bit of everything on my list. What about you, any good recommendations for November and December? What books are you looking foward to reading?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Release: Out of the Ashes by R.W. Day

The world after the Ice remains a dangerous place. Callum and David have survived the dragons but rebuilding lives is no easy task. When the army comes to their town to enforce an evacuation, Callum is suspicious about their claims of tainted groundwater and radiation. David feels he must join his family in defending the town, even if rebellion means deadly force is needed. Tragedy strikes when the Brethren, a crazed religious order, seeks to control the new world through not only preaching intolerance but forced conversion and torture as well. Can the love between these young men withstand not only distance but betrayal?

Out of the Ashes by R.W. Day is finally out! This book is the sequel to A Strong and Sudden Thaw, an LGBT Fantasy/YA book I read and reviewed in August. If you read my review, then you know I loved that book and I've been looking forward to reading the continuation of David and Callum's adventures. Now it's finally here!

You can find this book here or here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook (The Iron Seas, Book #1)

First in an all-new series where seductive danger and steampunk adventure abound in the gritty world of the Iron Seas.

After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power-and fear-of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.

But when Mina uncovers the victim's identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans-and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen, as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.
In Brook's fascinating alternate world, she alters world history as well as England's Victorian society, although the reader will recognize some of the ton's societal values, attitudes, dress codes and politics. In The Iron Duke, the Mongol Horde successfully conquers all of Europe, Africa and Asia as well as other parts of the world. Two hundred years prior to our story the Horde used previously unknown technology to control populations in whole continents, first through war machines and then by infecting them with nanoagents or "bugs" introduced into the blood by different means, and then controlling the nanoagents by remote control or a Tower.

When the Horde first attacked Europe, many English aristocrats escaped to the New World, and now that England is free of the Horde, their descendants have returned -- they are called “bounders.” The descendants of those who stayed behind call themselves "buggers." Buggers and bounders see things from different points of view.

Brook begins her story with a ball and a murder. Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth is also the daughter of an Earl and a Lady, and she's attending a ball fraught with tension between buggers and bounders when her assistant Newberry arrives to inform her that a body has been found at the Iron Duke's property. Rhys Trahaearn is England's savior -- the pirate who destroyed the Tower and liberated buggers from the Horde and became a Duke.

Mina and her assistant Newberry arrive at the Duke's residence to find that the unidentified body of a dead man was apparently dropped from an airship on to Rhys' doorstep. The reader is immediately caught up in the tension and attraction between the two characters. Mina is unsure if hers is real or if it's part of her hero-worship for the man, and Rhys is surprised that he wants a woman at all. This is only the beginning, Mina now has a delicate investigation on her hands and Rhys is not about to stand behind the scenes.

Mina has other problems. She "wears the Horde on her face," that's how Brooke states it in the story. Mina's mother was raped by the Horde during a controlled sexual Frenzy and she's the byproduct. Being the daughter of a Countess doesn't make it easier, it makes it tougher for herself and her family -- her Asian features are a reminder of "bugger" slavery. As an inspector her job takes her through the seediest parts of London and Newberry acts not only as her assistant, but also as her bodyguard to prevent personal attacks. The aristocrats are no better. These experiences make Mina both strong and vulnerable, cynical and sensitive and I enjoyed all aspects of her personality -- even her insecurities. She yearns for normalcy and will sacrifice anything for a family that has always shown love and support.

After a visit to the Blacksmith, the body is identified as that of the captain of Marco's Terror, Rhys' beloved ship. As information begins to fall into place, Mina and Rhys find themselves on a train to Chatham and soon after an airship, as they race against time to save the lives of those aboard the Terror including Mina's youngest brother. But there's more... this adventure takes our protagonists on a battle against krakens, nanoagent infected zombies, the Black Guard, traitors and more! Brooke doesn't skimp on action, twists, turns, friends or foes and I loved every single moment. And she doesn't skimp on steampunk details or atmosphere either. There are mechanical monsters and beautiful clockwork objects integrated throughout this exciting story.

The romance between Rhys and Mina is developed throughout their adventure. Rhys first sees Mina as someone that he would like to possess, and pretty quickly his lust turns to admiration and slowly to love. His willingness to do whatever it takes to keep her in his life goes a long way, especially after my initial impressions of him. Mina's admiration for Rhys suffers, she must take him down from the pedestal where she placed him as a hero, to then admire him as a man. Her personal situation, doubts, and society's bigotry play a major role in her decisions and the romance. I loved every nuanced moment between these two.

There are quite a few secondary characters in The Iron Duke that play key roles. Yasmeen, Lady Corsair is one of the most prominent and fascinating characters and I hope we'll see her featured in the future. Scarsdale as Rhys' drunken, fun friend with his secrets, loyalty and sad history was a favorite, as was Newberry. And I couldn't help but be intrigued by the Blacksmith! I want to know more about him, his past and what makes him tick.

I loved The Iron Duke. It's a fast paced adventure with intrigue and excellent worldbuilding. I loved all the characters, both central and secondary -- heroes and villains -- the steampunk details and atmosphere. This is not a perfect book. I had a few niggles, there were a few details about Rhys and Mina that I wish had been explored, but frankly these niggles were quite minor and overridden by my overall enjoyment. I didn't stop reading this book until that last page was turned and recommend it highly.

Genre: Fantasy Romance/Steampunk
Series: Iron Seas Series, Book #1
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Grade: A-

Visit Meljean Brook here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: The Doctor's Wife by Cheryl St. John

How could she say yes?
People like Ellie Parrish did not get proposals of marriage from someone like Dr. Caleb Chaney. Even if his offer was the answer to her prayers, a man as decent and kind as Caleb didn't deserve a woman whose past was a lie.

Caleb Chaney could see that Ellie Parrish was a woman with a troubled soul. But he could also see a woman with a heart big enough to love his infant son as though she were his mother, and big enough to teach Caleb himself how to love again.
The Doctor's Wife by Cheryl St. John is a Harlequin Historical romance I received as a gift from Leslie, and one I've had on my "to be read" pile for a few months. This is another well-written, heart warming historical set in the West by St. John.

In this story, St. John focuses her story on rank poverty in the West and how society viewed and treated those who were less fortunate. The heroine is the daughter of a prostitute. Ellie raises her two younger brothers in squalor from the time they're born until their mother dies and the boys are taken into foster care as free farm laborers. They've all been victims of violence throughout their young lives and Ellie herself was raped at age fourteen (the rape is alluded to, briefly sketched in the book, although not detailed). She changes her name and leaves town, finding a job as a waitress in a decent hotel and is saving money so she can bring her brothers to live with her.

Ellie meets Caleb, a doctor, when she breaks her arm. Caleb is a widower and a single father. After a series of events, Ellie agrees to take care of his infant son while he takes care of his practice. Eventually, Caleb recognizes that Ellie would make a good wife and wonderful mother to his son and proposes marriage.

The story deals with Ellie's self-doubts as she and Caleb embark on a relationship. She confronts different issues including trauma from the rape, the physical abuse that she and her brothers received throughout childhood and her personal shame. Ellie is a strong protagonist with a tough past and little self-esteem -- plus other concerns include the lies and omissions she uses to obfuscate her past. Caleb on the other hand is a wonderful man and portrayed as straight forward, compassionate and understanding, an almost perfect man at times. St. John incorporates all of the above while slowly, but surely, developing Ellie and Caleb's romance to make it believable. Secondary characters, particularly Ellie's brothers, give depth to this story and have much to contribute.

The Doctor's Wife was an emotional read for me. Although lukewarm when it comes to the romance, it's quite heart warming and family-oriented with excellent characterization, plot development, and a well-deserved happily ever after.

Genre: Historical Romance/Americana
Series: None
Release Date: Harlequin Historical/September 1, 1999
Source: Used copy received from Leslie
Grade: B

Visit Cheryl St. John here.

KMont's 2010 Year of the Historical Challenge - October Review

ETA: Available as part of Blogger's Bundle, Volume III: Super Librarian Selects The Harvey Girls: The Doctor's Wife, The Lawman's Bride, The Preacher's Daughter. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blogger Friends, Books & a Grrreat Time!!

This was Columbus Day weekend, and Monday was a holiday for some of us in the States. It was also Thanksgiving in Canada. I hope all our Canadian friends had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sorry I'm late wishing you all a happy holiday but I was quite busy! I had a terrific holiday. A few weeks ago, Nath told me that her sister Emilie wanted to spend a weekend in New York City for her birthday. The two of them planned on driving down from Canada, and it just so happens that I live right across the City! So we planned and plotted and after a few bumps (Nath got sick!) next thing we knew, they were down here and we were having a wonderful time. We walked, walked and walked some more in NYC and we shopped, shopped and shopped some more in New Jersey (well, they shopped... I dropped, lol). Then Christine joined us Saturday afternoon and we had a great evening, book shopping (Nath can really book shop!), discussing books and we had a nice dinner by the Hudson River.

Nath and Emilie!

Nath is just so lovely! And Emilie is the sweetest... my family and I fell in love with both of them. Nath came bearing gifts -- books of course! She knows that I'm about to go on a Jennifer Crusie reading binge and brought me some good ones, plus! Here they are:

  • Jennifer Crusie: Strange Bedpersons, Getting Rid of Bradley, Man Hunting, What the Lady Wants, Fast Women, Trust Me on This, Anyone But You. I can't wait to get started on these!
  • Carolyn Brown: One Lucky Cowboy, Lucky in Love. I've been wanting to read these books by Carolyn Brown for since last year! I saw Leslie's great review for One Lucky Cowboy and wrote the title and author down on my TBB list. Now I can finally begin the series. 
  • Cherry Adair: Edge of Danger, Edge of Darkness, Edge of Fear. I'm curious about this series and Adair is another one of those authors I just keep bypassing... so this is my chance! 
  • Anne Bishop: The Tir Alainn Trilogy (The Pillars of the World, Shadows and Light, The House of Gaian). This is another series I've had on my TBB list! AND, I have the Black Jewels Trilogy by Bishop in my TBR pile already, so yes... I'll be reading Bishop.  
Thank you Nath for your generosity!

Of course, I had to buy some books when we went to Borders, but I was GOOD! I only bought the books I had on my list for September and October. :)
  • The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook... (Yay, I finished reading this one already!)
  • Killbox by Anne Aguire, FINALLY more Jax!
  • Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews... OMG, I can't wait to read it! 
  • Double Cross by Carolyn Crane... more Justine! 
  • AND, from the books I highlighted in my Cowboys & More Cowboys post, I chose to buy Cade Coulter's Return by Lois Faye Dyer in print. 
I loved meeting Nath in person and I know we'll be seeing more of each other in the near future. :D Thank you for everything Nath and Emilie, I had the best of times! AND, I hope you had a good time and a HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EMILIE! 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Review: 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.
A Hidden Magic is an excellent beginning to Angela Benedetti's new M/M urban fantasy series. She begins by plunging the reader directly into her world of magic and setting the dark atmosphere that will surround her characters.

Paul McCallister, Cal, Manny and Aubry are members of a Mage Team who use spells and other magic abilities to battle Fey, trolkins, goblins and other magical creatures and come "topside" to steal magic from humans so they can banish them back to Under the Hill where they belong. The urban setting for these disturbances: Downtown San Jose, California.

Rory Ellison has always been different. He has seen strange creatures all his life, and in fact after years of therapy and medication Rory believes these creatures are hallucinations -- a product of his deluded, psychotic mind. Rory is attacked by a dangerous gang of goblins and almost loses his life. The Sentinels come to the rescue and it is then that he finally learns the truth about himself. His life is about to change forever.

As Paul and the Sentinels protect Rory from more frequent and dangerous attacks from the fey, Rory battles not only his grave doubts about this new world of magic, but a growing attraction for Paul. And Rory fights hard! He doesn't want to believe and he doesn't want to be attracted. However, when all investigations as to the continuous attacks point to King Pelamine, things rapidly deteriorate for the Sentinels and Rory. The real battle begins.

I enjoyed this book. To develop Paul and Rory's romance, Benedetti uses sexual tension quite effectively throughout the story. It all builds up to an intimate encounter and the beginning of a relationship. Although both Paul and Rory are attracted to each other and there's a satisfactory outcome to their attraction, as follows with most urban fantasy series, there's room for further development of both the romance and the world building in future installments.

The two main characters in this story are well developed, although there's more depth to Rory's character than Paul's. The Sentinels as secondary characters are well defined, their personalities are set and it's obvious that they'll be pairing off in future installments. Aubry as the most powerful Mage and Cal as his assistant stand out in this story.

Benedetti uses Rory's introduction to the Sentinel's world of magic, his doubts, and the exploration of his new powers to introduce the reader to the world building for her new urban fantasy/romance series, and answers questions as the story moves along at a fairly fast pace.  The story was intriguing with lots of action, interesting characters and twists and turns along the way, it kept me turning those pages. A solid beginning to this new series.

Genre: M/M Urban Fantasy Romance
Series: Sentinels, Book #1
Released: May 26, 2010/Torquere
Grade: Solid B

Anesthezea's 2010 M/M Romance Challenge

Mini: Unfinished Business (Sentinels, A Hidden Magic #1.5) by Angela Benedetti

After a morning of saving the world, apprentice mage Cal Toscani heads down and works a full day in his busy restaurant, because foiling the bad guy doesn't pay the bills. After midnight, bruised and aching from the aforementioned foiling, and exhausted from a long day of work, Cal goes home hoping for a hot bath, a nice massage and some sex, not necessarily in that order.

His lover and master, Aubrey Fletcher, unfortunately remembers that he gave Cal a lesson that morning before everything got exciting, and he's determined to finish that lesson before anything else happens -- yes, right now. Cal finds himself naked in bed, trying to figure out how to remove Aubrey's spell, while a naked Aubrey does his best to be distracting. Cal's pretty sure he's going to explode long before he figures the damn thing out

As a follow-up story to A Hidden Magic, Unfinished Business -- a Sip by Torquere --is quite the hot short story. This is a quick encounter between Aubry and Cal and follows up on a scene that takes place in A Hidden Magic. However, this Sip stands well on its own as an erotic encounter.

I loved seeing this side of both Aubry and Cal and I thought it was an excellent glimpse into these two characters and their relationship. I definitely hope to see more of them in future installments. Hot, hot!

Genre: M/M Urban Fantasy Romance
Series: Sentinels (A Hidden Magic Story), Book #1.5
Released by: Torquere
Grade: B

Anesthezea's 2010 M/M Romance Challenge

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Featuring SFR: Minis - Shielder Series by Catherine Spangler (Part 2)

Yesterday I began a new series of posts highlighting science fiction romance -- "Featuring SFR"-- with an overview of the Shielder series by Catherine Spangler (click here to read overview). Today, that same feature continues with Part 2. As promised it consists of information, and some quick personal notes on all five individual books.

I can NOT end this post without making a comment about the covers! This is definitely a case of "don't judge the book by its cover."As you can see, they are... well... quite dated and the first four definitely don't reflect the genre or content of the books.  The fifth book does have more of a sci-fi "feel" to it, although it still doesn't reflect content except for the somewhat pink moon. Ummm, but hey they are quite colorful, aren't they? ;P

SHIELDER (Book #1)

Outcast Heart
Unjustly shunned by her people, Nessa dan Ranul knew she was unlovable—but when an opportunity arose for her to save her world, she leaped at the chance, disregarding her own life. Setting out for the farthest reaches of the galaxy, she had one goal: to elude capture and deliver her race from destruction. But then she found herself at the questionable mercy of Chase McKnight, a handsome bounty hunter whose hard-muscled arms both captured and protected. Suddenly, Nessa found that escape was the last thing she wanted. In Chase’s passionate embrace she’d found a nirvana of which she’d never dared dream—with a man she could never dare trust. But as her identity remained a secret and her missions incomplete, each passing a day brought her nearer to oblivion. Nessa knew the truth could save her, but could she risk trusting her heart?
The first book in Spangler's Shielder science fiction romance series, this book is an excellent beginning to one of my favorite, older SFR series. Nessa was brave, vulnerable and relentless in her journey and Chase was sexy, brave and compassionate. I loved their romance and adventure. This book will hook you into reading the rest of the series.

SHADOWER (Book #2)

The Hunter
Sabin had been in every hellhole in the galaxy. In his line of work, hives of scum and villainy were nothing to fear. But Giza’s was different, and the bronze-haired beauty at the bar was something special. Not only could she sweep a man off his feet, she could break his legs an steal his heart. And though Moriah wasn’t what Sabin had come for, she was suddenly all he desired.

His Heart’s Prey
The man was a menace, what with his dark good looks and overwhelming masculinity. Worse, Sabin was a shadower, a bounty hunter, which meant he was only one step removed from the law. He was dangerous to a smuggler like Moriah, to her freedom. Yet he drew her as a moth to a flame, and even as she pledged to stay cool, her senses caught fire. Then, in his arms, Moriah realized that this bounty hunter was different. His touch was gentle, and his kiss sweet. And his love led to a fantastic freedom she’d never known.
The second book in the Shielder SFR series, Shadower is my favorite book. A smuggler, Moriah is one of the strongest heroines and my favorite female protagonist all around. Sabin is both sexy and intriguing, plus he also gets my vote for favorite male protagonist of this series. I loved both the action and the romance in this book.

SHAMARA (Book #3)

In a universe of darkness and depravity, the Shielders battled to stay one step ahead of the vengeful Controllers. Their survival depended upon the quest of one man.

To Live
Jarek san Ranul had found evidence of a wormhole, a vortex to another galaxy; escape from those who sought the destruction of his race was at hand. But when his search produced the most intriguing woman he’d ever met, he found he wanted something more than duty and honor.

To Love
On the run from a mighty warlord, Eirene Kane had to protect her identity. She was an Enhancer, one of a genetic few with a powerful gift. Then her flight hurled her into the arms of Jarek, a man who both stole her heart and uncovered her perilous secret – and though she knew she should flee, Eirene found herself yearning for both the man and the one thing he claimed would free them forever.
I just re-read Shamara in September. I wanted to do this post and needed to refresh my memory. This book is key to the overall storyarc because this where Jarek fights to find a way out for the Shielder race, unfortunately this is also the biggest disappointment of this great series. The problem? Characterization and lack of focus. The overall storyarc seemed to lose focus in this installment and went in circles centering more on the romance and the weakest and most frustrating female protagonist of the series. For me, this was the weakest book of an otherwise excellent (classic) sci-fi romance series.


Celie Cameron spent her youth as a smuggler, skirting the law. But though she's given that up, she misses the adrenaline rush of danger. Then a routine delivery goes haywire, throwing her into the arms of a handsome pilot—an android, or so she thinks—and Celie suddenly finds herself embroiled in a galaxy-spanning intrigue and deception. Rurick is a miracle creation. But though he attracts her as no human ever has, his secrets threaten all Celie has ever believed. She resists his allure...until she learns to trust her heart. Then they will challenge the evil that threatens the Verante quadrant, and love will bring light to the dark expanse of space known as Shadow Crossing.
The fourth book of the series was a definite a winner! And especially pleasing after reading Shamara (3rd Book), which was a disappointment. Celie, Moriah's younger sister and partner in her smuggling business, is another strong heroine, and Rurick was an excellent romantic pairing for her. Their adventures through space were exciting and the inclusion of the human-like android added to the story. Deceipt, fast paced adventure, romance, strong characters and lots of space time. Who can ask for more?


In the relentless heat of the wild Sauran desert, Jenna and Arion wage a battle of wills until they discover that the heart is mightier than any weapon-and that love will forge shadow and fire together.
The fifth book in the Shielder series, this is the FIRST book I read in 2005 and the one that later on (2007/2008) got me to read the rest. This is the most alien book of the whole series as it focuses on a Leor male protagonist -- a reptilian-like race -- and a female Shielder as the romantic central figures. The whole story takes place on the Leor planet. The romance itself is well developed, and I give the author high marks for making me fall in love with a reptilian-like hero. Spangler is quite creative developing this alien world.

After reading the series in order and re-reading this book, I found some inconsistencies in the heroine's personal conflicts, plus the fact that the Controllers become a factor here gives the overall storyline a predictable feel. Having said that, the creativity factor still ranked high when I revisited Spangler's alien world, and I couldn't forget how fresh it felt the first time I read Shadow Fires.

Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Series: Shielder Series
Published: 1998 through 2004/Love Spell
Grade for Series: B+

Visit Catherine Spangler here. Find out more about her SHIELDER series here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Featuring SFR: Overview - Shielder Series by Catherine Spangler (Part 1)

If you visit this blog, you know I love science fiction romance. Every so often I review a book or mention a favorite author, however to date I've not gone out of my way to highlight this genre. It's about time.

A shoutout to Heather from The Galaxy Express, one of my favorite science fiction romance informational blogs. Recently, Heather put together a list of blogs that review science fiction romance books. You KNOW I'll be visiting them! Here's a link to that list in case you're interested.

I'm beginning this feature by highlighting Catherine Spangler's SHIELDER series, a classic science fiction romance favorite. Published by Love Spell beginning in 1998 and ending in 2004, the series is labeled as Futuristic Romance and consists of five titles: Shielder, Shadower, Shamara, Shadow Crosser, and Shadow Fires.

World building: The world building in this series is excellent. Catherine Spangler certainly gets high marks for creativity. The Shielders are a humanoid race who are born with a natural mental shield. The Controllers have taken over most the galaxy by using their mind control abilities and brutal violence against those who oppose them. The Shielders' natural skills makes these two races enemies. The series begins when the Shielders, who have long battled the Controllers for survival, are almost decimated. The Controllers are systematically committing genocide against their race and colonies are being erased from the galaxy by deadly chemical viruses. The series then continues with the battle for survival of the Shielder race by taking the reader through different adventures, planets and ends with Book 4. Shadow Fires, Book 5, is related and involves a Shielder but it's focused on another alien race, the Leors.

Characters: Throughout the series, Spangler doesn't restrict herself to introducing Shielder and Controller  characters. Instead, she mixes it up and the reader gets a wonderful view of the different beings and creatures that inhabit this galaxy that she created. Her male protagonists range from ship captains and doctors, to bounty hunters, leaders and aliens. The female protagonists also have different backgrounds and come from different planets, there is a brave Shielder, two smugglers, an Enhancer and a Seer.

Romance vs. Science Fiction: The romances in these books are central to the stories, more so than in most science fiction romance books today. Spangler combines all the ingredients I love in this genre and balances them quite well: the romance, science fiction details and space adventure in this series. The books are older and so is the style and some of them might feel bit dated. For example: the "absolute kick butt" space heroine is not there yet (although you'll find some of that in the books). The first book was published in 1998 and the last book in 2004, so you must take this into consideration when reading the series.

Issues: Spangler addresses different issues throughout her stories. You'll find a feminist thread as well as others through the whole series: how societies treat those who are different and the consequences of ignorance; male centered societies and how they affect females; the struggle for independence and validation, and of course there's more. She takes all of these issues, places them into a science fiction setting and weaves them into her great adventures.

There's plenty of "rescuing the female protagonist" in this series, yet... you'll find that, with the exception of one, most of the females do plenty of rescuing themselves and two of Spangler's heroines are smugglers -- not exactly the "come rescue me" type.

Conclusion: Most of the books have a great balance between the romance and adventure with excellent science fiction details. For the most part they are fast paced reads and the world building is easy to understand and follow. With the exception of one book, this is an excellent science fiction romance series -- a classic.

This is a two part post -- tomorrow's post will have pertinent information on the individual books: the series in order with covers, summaries and some quick personal notes on each book.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Review: Once a Father by Kathleen Eagle

Logan Wolf Track had horses in his blood. For this "Indian cowboy," teaming up with army sergeant Mary Tutan to enter the Double D's wild mustang training competition was a win-win proposition. This tough yet vulnerable woman was a natural with horses—and with Logan. She soon had the single father yearning for love and family, something he'd lost when his grown stepsons left home.

But as with horses, it wasn't enough for Logan to know how to ride this feeling; he had to know how to fall. And when Mary made a shocking discovery that threw their relationship into question, Logan knew he'd risk all to keep their untamable passion alive….
This is the book I was reading when I left on my brief vacation, and the one that stayed with me. It's the cowboys, the horses and the western setting. They always do it for me. In Once a Father, I really enjoyed the way Eagle's unique character combination and how she portrayed both the "Indian cowboy" hero and army sergeant heroine.

Logan Wolf Track is an expert at training wild horses -- he even wrote a book about it -- and he wants to join the Mustang Sally Training Competition. The fact that he's on the Indian Council leasing lands to Sally, however, disqualifies him to enter and win the $20,000 purse. Mary Tutan would also love to enter the competition and she does qualify, but her forte is training dogs in the army, not horses. Her friend Sally comes up with the perfect solution -- Mary will partner up with Logan and she'll enter the competition while he shares his horse training methods with Mary. If they win, they'll split the purse.

While Mary is on a 30 day leave from the army to take care of her mother who is ailing, she finds herself torn between wanting to spend her days with Logan training their their horse, and taking care of her mother. Although her mother is sweet and understanding, her father makes things difficult. There's no love lost there. Her father is a man who has emotionally and verbally scarred his entire family. He's also a rancher and has a problems with using good land to save wild mustangs.

Mary is a plain looking woman and doesn't think of herself as attractive, but what I like about her is that she doesn't really seem too concerned by it. Logan is immediately attracted to the character he sees on Mary's face and a mutual attraction and sexual pull develops pretty quickly after that. Logan is one of the nicest men I've encountered in a book -- a man with two grown up children, a giver -- and Mary is a strong woman who's still trying to find her true path in life. Together, they make a beautiful couple.

The romance itself is heart warming and although there's not a lot of external conflict, I enjoyed the characters and their internal and personal struggles. Although the sexual scenes between Mary and Logan are written in an almost mystical way and not necessarily to my taste, others might find them pleasing and I must say that there's just something about Eagle's writing that I enjoy. The title of the book fits the story, Eagle gave it a bit of a twist that gave this story and characters depth.  

Eagle's protagonists are warm and down to earth. The story is quite contemporary, and while it centers around Mary and Logan, the plight of the wild mustang in the West is also a focus. Training the chosen horse plays a big role in the story and romance that develops between Mary Tutan and Logan Wolf Track -- Eagle integrates the two in an almost mystical way. Characters from the previous two books in this series make appearances, and I'll be definitely pick up those books.

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Western
Series: Western American Series - Book #4
Released: Harlequin/Silhouette Special Edition - September 2010
Grade: B