Showing posts with label Category Romances. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Category Romances. Show all posts

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: One Good Reason by Sarah Mayberry

It's time to move on...

Any day now Jon Adamson will pack his bags and hit the road. After all, his intention was never to hang around Melbourne once he’d settled his late father’s affairs. Yet he hasn’t moved on. And it might have something to
do with Gabby Wade. The not-so-big office manager with the really big attitude is making Jon’s days…interesting…engaging…fun. It’s impossible for him to resist her.

But he knows himself—long-term commitments and cozy family dinners aren’t his style. If that’s what the future holds, why is he still here? And why is he spending all his days—and nights—with Gabby? Because maybe she’s the one reason strong enough to make him stay.

What if you discovered that all you ever wanted were the things you’d left behind?
I'm so glad I read One Good Reason by Sarah Mayberry. After reading The Last Goodbye, I just had to know what happened to Tyler's brother Jon. It was worth it because as it turns out, I enjoyed Gabby and Jon's romance more than Tyler and Ally's.

After his father's death, Jon is still dealing with the fallout. He finds himself at loose ends and unable to work out serious issues from his past that are not allowing him to move forward with his life. Jon sold his business in Canada and doesn't really know what to do with himself, so his brother Tyler talks him into working for him at T.A. Furniture Designs on a temporary basis with hopes that he'll stick around. There, Jon meets Gabby, the shop's administrator and Tyler's right hand woman. Their first meeting doesn't go well and sets the stage for a hostile beginning to a relationship full of tension.

Gabby is a self-sufficient woman who doesn't really want to need anyone. She can do just about everything quickly and efficiently when it comes to the business. But after her long three year relationship with Tyler, Jon's brother, and the way their relationship ended, Gabby is suffering from low self-esteem. She really likes Tyler's wife Ally, but some residual feelings for Tyler linger and she has to deal with those. The last thing she needs in her life is Jon. As far as Gabby's concerned Jon is a silent, overprotective, too controlled man who reminds her of his brother in too many ways.

I like the increasingly hostile way in which Gabby and Jon demonstrate their initial attraction, it makes for a great explosive scene once they release all that hostility. The dialogue between them helps to build all that sexual tension with all the snap and sizzle, especially with Gabby's sass. Jon, well.. he's the strong, silent, passionate type that turns out to be too sweet for words!

Gabby is a bit of a PITA at times with her uber-independent woman of the year personality, although Jon's over protectiveness of her is a bit much toward the beginning, especially when he doesn't really know her. However, she really is oversensitive and overreacts most of the time with Jon. Now, the fact that Jon questions Gabby's sexuality based on her short hair, her lack of make-up, the way she dresses, her hostility toward him as a male, AND that she's having dinner with a girlfriend, is an assholish thing to do to say the least. That he verbalizes this to her in front of others is really idiotic in my opinion.

However, this book is really not about those dumb moments these two (evenly and briefly) share. It really is about both of them coming to terms with their pasts as they fall passionately in love and move forward together. Jon with the abuse he experienced as a child at the hands of his father, and Gabby with feeling unlovable because of the way her relationship ended with Tyler. Mayberry really digs into both of these characters' fears, guilts, vulnerabilities and strengths. She builds on those one step at a time as they first see themselves for who they've become, and then open up to each other slowly and painfully.

Jon's situation in particular is a painful one and Mayberry does a bang-up job of portraying this man's tough and uneasy journey out of the darkness. His yearning and passion for Gabby and for a life with her is heartbreaking. Gabby's combination of strength, vulnerability and insecurities make her quite human and therefore a great female protagonist for this story.

I thought the timeline for the romance was a bit rushed and I'm surprised because Mayberry usually does a better job with this. However, again the characterization is excellent in this book as both Jon and Gabby are well fleshed out throughout that short time-line. The focus on the couple is maintained throughout, although Tyler and Ally do play an important part in this story as they should.

One Good Reason is a solid, sexy, sweet romance that really hit the spot for me.

Category: Contemporary Romance (Category Romance-HSR)
Series: None -- See below
Publisher/Release Date: Harlequin, August 2, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B

Visit Sarah Mayberry here

Related books:
The Last Goodbye
One Good Reason

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: Shaken and Stirred by Kathleen O'Reilly

As a student and part-time bartender in Manhattan, Tessa Hart has found that a succession of roomies and cramped apartments are necessary evils in her life. Until she's out on the street and Gabe O'Sullivan, her mentor, boss and certified babe-magnet, steps in.

Any other woman would die to share his apartment--not to mention his bed--but Tessa's determined that they should stay just friends. The fiercely independent mixologist has to prove to their skeptical coworkers at Prime--the O'Sullivans' hot Manhattan bar--that the arrangement is strictly hands-off! But Tessa has trouble adhering to her own "no touching" rule when the actual sharing of close quarters day and night leaves her shaken and stirred....
Oh boy! This book has one of the best male protagonists around. Gabe O'Sullivan is one of those hot, sexy, sweet, understanding, lovable guys that are just total keepers, in and out of bed.

Tessa and Gabe are friends. They've been friends ever since Tessa hit New York City after a disastrous affair left her homeless and jobless in Florida and she decided that Manhattan was the place for her. Gabe gave Tess her first job as a bartender at Prime -- his family's bar -- and has always been there for her with words of encouragement, advice and a shoulder to cry on. Although Gabe is a gorgeous piece of eye candy, Tess sees him as the only dependable man she knows not as someone she would date.

Gabe is a happy man who has everything he wants out of life. His bar Prime is successful and he's about to expand to make it even better. He's single and has no problems finding women when he wants them, plus his two brothers are there to help him if or when he needs them. His only preoccupation seems to be his friend Tessa who is in trouble again. Her roommate bailed out on her and with five days to find an apartment with a roommate, she's about to go on the streets. He's not about to let his friend become homeless, especially since he has an extra room at his apartment. But when Gabe's naughty brother Sean O'Sullivan starts a bet at the bar assuring everyone that these two won't be able to keep their hands off each other, the long-time friends begin to see each other in an entirely different light.

I love the premise of this story, the friends to lovers trope and I absolutely fell in love with Gabe, there's no question about that. He not only gives Tess a place to live, but once the two of them do have their first hot sexual encounter and Tess freaks out, he gives her understanding and goes along with all of her fantastical requests. As the story goes along and Tess makes more and more unreasonable requests of Gabe, even after he tells her that he loves her, he still gives his lover and friend the benefit of the doubt along with passion, love and understanding. He's a keeper all the way, but... Tessa? I had a few problems with Tessa.

Tessa, Tessa, Tessa... what was wrong with you? I wanted to shake her. She begins as a likable character with possibilities then slowly deteriorates. Tessa is scared because of her past relationship, and for her it's all about making it on her own. Which is fine and dandy, except that she goes far in her quest, blindly too far in my opinion, to gain this independence as she lies and manipulates her friend and lover to get there. Although Tessa comes to the right conclusions by the end, I'm afraid that by then she was not a favorite.

What saved this book for me? Well, Gabe. Gabe and the fact that as O'Reilly is developing the relationship between the protagonists, there's in-depth character development. She also includes some intensely hot sexual scenes throughout the story, plus the other sexy O'Sullivans are woven into the plot, giving the story depth and making it tough to put the book down. The story gave Gabe his happy ending and I was glad for him, although I'm not ashamed to say that I wish he'd made Tessa suffer... at least a tini-tiny little bit before the end.

I have the other two books of the series in my TBR thanks to Tabitha who sent them to me, and I'm really looking forward to reading them. Despite my troubles with Tessa as a character, I can tell you that O'Reilly writes one sexy Blaze!

Category: Contemporary Romance (Category)
Series: Those Sexy O'Sullivans
Publisher/Release Date: Harlequin Blaze, March 1, 2008
Source: Received this book from Tabitha
Grade: B

Visit Kathleen O'Reilly here.

Shaken and Stirred, Book 1
Sex Straight Up, Book 2
Nightcap, Book 3

Monday, March 28, 2011

Minis: Karina Bliss and Sarah Mayberry

Here Comes the Groom by Karina Bliss

If Jocelyn Swann weren't so furious, she'd probably laugh. Her best friend, Dan Jansen, has launched a campaign worthy of his Special Forces training to arrange their wedding, from music and minister to flowers and food. What part of no does he not understand?

Their marriage "agreement" was a tipsy scrawl on the back of a coaster…three years ago! It's not a question of love. Of course she loves Dan. She's loved him all her life. If only she could get him to slow down a minute and listen—to be the friend she needs right now—she could convince him that marriage would ruin everything.
Here Comes the Groom is a good friends to lovers story with a bit more to it than just the romance. The male protagonist is suffering from mild PTSD and the female has a secret medical condition that she insists on keeping from her friend. After having lost his friends in Afghanistan, Dan wants to live "life" and decides that he's going to do so by marrying the one woman who has always been there for him, his best friend Jocelyn. She's not falling for it though... as he plans the wedding, sends out invitations, and tries to convince her at the same time.

There's quite a bit going on in this category romance and Bliss addresses the PTSD part of the story as well as Jocelyn's medical condition quite well. The friendship between Dan and Jocelyn is well drawn with lots of humor to lighten up the more serious parts of the story and enough emotion to capture the heart, although I thought that the trust factor in the relationship was a big miss for two people who were supposed to be so close.

The transition from friends to lovers was not the best in my opinion. Dan's motives are explained, but his final realization is an abrupt one and I never quite understood where Jocelyn's feelings changed toward him. There's definitely love between friends and later passion... but for me there was something missing in this story. Grade C

The Last Goodbye by Sarah Mayberry

Ally Bishop knows the settling kind when she sees one. And Tyler Adamson is definitely one. Ordinarily this never-in-one-place-long girl would stay far, far away. Maybe it's the way he looks in jeans, or the way he looks at her, but suddenly Ally is breaking her own rules with dizzying speed. All that Australian temptation right next door…well, there's only so much resistance one girl can have.
As she dives into a fling with Tyler, Ally assures herself she can maintain perspective. After all, he's only here long enough to care for his ailing father. That gives them a time limit, right? With each passing day, however, she falls for Tyler more. And soon she has the strongest urge to unpack her suitcase and stay a while.
The Last Goodbye is an interesting romance by Mayberry, where again she focuses on the romance but manages to dig deep into the male protagonist's past history of abuse to make him a fully developed character. The Last Goodbye refers to two different events in the story. Tyler's estranged father is dying and although there's a history of violence between them, Tyler decides to take care of him until the end. Ally is Tyler's father's next door neighbor. As Tyler finds himself needing and seeking emotional support from Ally, the two fall for each other and have a deeply passionate affair. However although Tyler wants a committed relationship, Ally is not made that way... she lives a nomadic life and only allows herself temporary sexual affairs. She agrees to stay only until Tyler's father dies.

Mayberry again delivers a meaty romance with this book. The characters must deal with conflicts from within and from without -- an abusive childhood in Tyler's case, and a neglected one in Ally's; plus Tyler's father's continued presence and impending death. All of these issues affect them as they are first attracted to each other and their attraction builds to passion and then love. Mayberry uses both sexual tension and her signature sensual scenes in this installment, so don't think that you'll miss out on that aspect of her writing.

My one problem with The Last Goodbye is that Tyler's character is better developed than Ally's and we know why he reacts the way he does every step of the way. On the other hand, the reasons given behind Ally's decisions didn't seem to be enough, and as a result her about face at the end of the story seemed too easily obtained and abrupt compared to the depth of emotions she exhibited while explaining her reluctance to stay. However, even with that one problem this was an enjoyable read for me. Grade B-

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Review: Cade Coulter's Return by Lois Faye Dyer

When he left Montana thirteen years ago, Cade Coulter swore he'd never return. But Joseph Coulter's first-born couldn't turn his back on the ailing family ranch. Or the woman who'd been given a home at the Triple C.

With his irresistible blend of danger and potent masculinity, Cade was the quintessential cowboy. But Mariah Jones believed that beneath the loner's gruff facade was a man who secretly longed to reconnect with his family. Why else would he have come back to Indian Springs? She'd made a promise to Cade's father—one she intended to keep. And now she was in danger of losing her own heart to the sexy, guarded rancher…
Cade Coulter's Return by Lois Faye Dyer is a Silhouette Special Edition. It's set in Montana and it has that rancher theme I enjoy so much. This is also the first book in Dyer's Big Sky Brothers series. Cade Coulter's Return definitely succeeds in setting up the series. I really enjoyed the first three quarters of the book where Dyer gives all the details for this particular story and sets up the rest of the series about the other three Coulter brothers. This book concentrates on the romance between the oldest brother Cade and Mariah Jones.

The four brothers, Cade, Zach, Brodie and Eli left the ranch right after the youngest brother graduated high school. Their father, Joseph Coulter, became an alcoholic after their mother's death and even though his grief is shared by his sons, the man's abusive behavior became intolerable to them all. Thirteen years later, while working at a ranch in Mexico, Cade receives a letter from an attorney informing him that his father is dead and he and his brothers have inherited the Triple C ranch. However, although the brothers keep in touch, they are scattered to the winds and the only one within reach at the moment is Cade. He returns to find a ranch that is almost bankrupt, with two old ranch hands and Mariah running it.

There is sexual attraction between Cade and Mariah almost immediately, although nothing happens between them. I liked Cade as the rancher and the friend, but I don't know about Cade the man. He is definitely the chauvinistic type with Mariah. She doesn't let him get away with it and that makes their interactions work, but there are still times when it feels as if Cade is indulging her for the moment. Mariah has a sad story and is a bit too good to be true, something that Cade has a problem recognizing or believing. She took care of Joseph through his last years, and after he died she worked as a waitress to take care of the ranch until Cade returned. She knows how to do just about everything that is necessary throughout this story, and of course, does it all quite well.

Dyer mainly uses sexual tension between Cade and Mariah to build this romance. There are very few passionate encounters, and I would say that at best, the sensuality scale in this book is warm. The conflicts presented along the way between the main couple are minimal and quickly resolved. Questions pertaining to the overall storyarc -- saving the Triple C ranch -- are left unanswered. I'm sure those answers will come in subsequent installments, however in the meantime it made this first book a bit of a frustrating read.

Cade Coulter's Return had some of those flaws sometimes found in 'first in a series' books and the couple is not a favorite with me. However, overall this was a good read and I'm still interested in finding out what will happen to the Triple C. I hope to enjoy the romance in the next book.

Category: Contemporary/Category Romance
Series: Big Sky Brothers (Book 1)
Released: October 1, 2010
Grade: C+

Visit Lois Faye Dyer here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Minis: Three Harlequin SuperRomances by Beth Andrews

During the last year I've been on the look out for new category romance authors to add to my list of old favorites. Recently, Wendy mentioned A Not-So-Perfect Past by Beth Andrews as a book she recommended and after doing a bit of research I decided to read the following three books by this author.

The following three SuperRomances by Beth Andrews are all related, although they can all be read as standalone books. They are all set in the small town of Serenity Springs. The protagonists from all three books are related to each other -- brothers and sisters. With the exception of two characters, our protagonists are introduced in the first book. 

Not Without Her Family
She claims she has to make things right... It's nothing but trouble for Jack Martin, chief of police, when Kelsey Reagan blows into town. Her ex-con brother just became the prime suspect in a murder, and this reformed bad girl vows to prove he's innocent. She even blames herself for her brother's jail record for her brother's convicted crime.
And now Jack's precocious young daughter is beginning to idolize Kelsey.

But an error in judgment nearly cost the widowed cop his career once; he's never going to let that happen again. Not even for a gorgeous troublemaker like Kelsey.

Kelsey's a former bad girl and comes to Serenity Springs to make peace with her brother Dillon. She has a past history of making mistakes and is here trying to make things right with the only family she has left. The first person she meets when she blows into town is Chief of Police Jack Martin and he's one suspicious man, never mind that he's gorgeous.  Jack can't help but drool over the woman he finds at his sister's bar while it's unattended, but he's a cop and no easy target, even when later the attraction turns out to be mutual.When Kelsey turns out to be Dillon's sister, the only ex-con in town, and Dillon becomes the suspect in a murder, Jack suspects that Kelsey will use their attraction to sway his good judgment.  He's a widower and a single father and can't afford to make mistakes that will affect his daughter or his career.

Not Without Her Family is a story full of suspicions and self-doubt. Both Jack and Kelsey have baggage and their vulnerabilities are explored in this story. As a cop, Jack used bad judgment once before and he's afraid that Kelsey might influence his actions while investigating the murder. Kelsey on the other hand has good reasons to distrust cops, is not the motherly type or ready for a commitment -- she has a tendency to run when things get hot and heavy. Dillon (A Not-So-Perfect Past), who is introduced in this story, is a brooding and bitter character who doesn't even want to see or talk to Kelsey. The scenes between the brother and sister are tense and heartbreaking.

I enjoyed some of this book and characters. The murder investigation was well developed and taken to a good conclusion. However, by the end of this book, I wasn't really sure that Kelsey was ready for a stable, committed relationship with a man, least of all with a single father. Although I enjoyed part of the storyline, I thought her character and the relationship between Jack and Allie needed a bit more development to make this story complete. Grade C+

Other Reviews:
Dear Author


A Not-So-Perfect Past 
Nina Carlson knows all about Dillon Ward. Knows he served time in prison. Knows nobody put out the welcome mat when he moved to Serenity Springs. But that doesn't stop her from renting him a place to live. And when someone crashes into her bakery, he's just the man to fix the damage.

And Nina isn't the only one who thinks Dillon's the perfect man for the job: her two kids have taken a shine to him. Still, she can't afford to get close to Dillon, even if he is tempting her to toss out her goodgirl shoes. Because it's not that she doesn't trust him. It's that she doesn't trust herself.

A Not-So-Perfect Past, is Dillon's story. He's Kelsey's (Not Without Her Family) brother and an ex-convict who did time for murdering his step-father. After living and working as a freelance carpenter in Serenity Springs for a few years, his only friend is Allison Martin (A Secret Agenda). And after being accused of a murder, he has become a pariah and no one in town is hiring. When his beautiful landlady Nina Carlson asks him to vacate the premises above her bakery, Dillon has had enough and decides to leave town. Nina a divorced mother with two children, allows her ex-husband and family to influence her actions and to avoid a confrontation with them, asks Dillon to move out. But when a young man crashes his fosterparents' truck into the bakery, Nina asks Dillon's help and he comes through for her.

This was actually a wonderful book and even though Dillon is introduced in the first book of this series, it stands alone quite well. As a male protagonist, Dillon was well developed and I liked him from the beginning. He broods and is clearly traumatized by his past experiences, as the story goes along his vulnerabilities are slowly exposed and his tenderness, loyalty, passion and love come shining through. I loved seeing this character unfold and grow with the story.

Nina on the other hand grew on me as the story developed. She's a woman who has no self-esteem and lets her family and ex-husband run all over her -- a frustrating situation at the beginning of the story. However as with Dillon's character, there's marked growth in her character by the end of the story and I was quite happy with her development.

This was a wonderful couple that had a lot to overcome and they did it very well. Some of the secondary characters were better developed than others. I especially enjoyed seeing Kelsey and witnessing a final resolution to some of the questions I had in Not Without Her Family. This book had a beautiful ending and I can see why it came highly recommended. Grade B+

Other Reviews:
Wendy - The Good, The Bad and The Unread
KristieJ - Ramblings On Romance


His Secret Agenda 
Dean Garret is about to break the number one rule of undercover work. And it's all because his new "boss" is as pretty as a professional cheerleader and has a do-gooder's heart. Who can resist that combination? Still, Dean suspects Allison Martin is hiding something behind her dazzling smile. That something being the runaway mother and son he's been hired to find.

To get the job done, he needs to gain Allie's trust. Only, the lawyer-turned-bar-owner isn't cooperating. But she can't remain immune to his good ol' boy charm and sexy drawl forever. Because Dean never fails. And he'll do anything to solve a case. Even if it means he has to break all the rules.
His Secret Agenda focuses on Allison Martin, Jack Martin's sister. She is first introduced in Not Without Her Family, but as Dillon's best friend, her character makes appearances in all three stories.

Allison is an attorney who gave up her practice in New York City to run a Bar and Grill in Serenity Springs. No one knows exactly why she gave up her successful career and although they suspect there are deeper reasons for her actions, they accept her brief explanations that she needed a change. However, her past is about to come back to haunt her when good 'ole boy Dean Garrett blows into town. Dean was hired to do a job and getting close to Allison is the only way to it. He's used to using his charm to get his way, but he has never broken the rules. But as the tension builds and times goes by, the sizzling attraction between the two makes this a tougher assignment than he thought possible.

Now here's a relationship built on lies. Allison is known to be a soft touch, she hires people who are in need instead of those who are qualified. Dean suspects Allison broke the law when she was an attorney, and he needs her help to find his quarry. However instead of asking her directly, he goes undercover and as he falls for her, proceeds to have a relationship with her built on lies and deception. Allison, makes mistakes in judgment and refuses to accept them along the way throughout this story. She also lies to her friends and family.

I initially liked both Allie and Dean, but frankly after a while I didn't love either one of them. Although these two have some great sizzling moments and I enjoyed the sexual tension and build up between them, in the end there's little room left to sympathize with these characters. There's no real change in Allie by the end of the story -- she continues to show poor judgment and only sees the consequences when they are pointed out to her by others, and she never comes clean with her family. Although Dean has reasons for his deception and he did show some personal growth along the way, the timeline was so quick that I thought this story didn't feel complete. The "happily ever after" felt rushed and abrupt without too many insights and the forgiveness and realizations didn't feel real to me.

I did enjoy revisiting with the secondary characters Dillon, Kelsey and Jack. Especially Dillon, who as Allie's best friend plays a good part in this story. His Secret Agenda was an average read for me. Grade C

Other Reviews:
Wendy - The Good, The Bad and The Unread

Visit RITA Award Winning Author Beth Andrews here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mini: Her Best Friend by Sarah Mayberry

This was a category romance with the friends-to-lovers trope, a favorite trope and a triangle -- not a favorite romance device for me -- so this was a mixed bag. I'm really loving Mayberry's writing and in some ways this was no exception -- she puts together a good book in a few pages.

Quinn and Amy have known each other since they were born -- neighbors in a small Australian town. Amy develops a crush on Quinn at age 14 and she's pretty sure he feels the same way until Lisa moves to town. Lisa becomes their friend and she and Quinn become high school sweethearts and eventually marry. Amy spends 16 years secretly in love with Quinn, her friend Lisa's boyfriend and then husband. It's so uncomfortable and painful for her that she decides to distance herself from her best friends. A year after Quinn and Lisa separate and while they're going through a divorce, Quinn returns to town to help Amy achieve her dream and things change. Quinn is definitely attracted to Amy but things get complicated when Lisa comes back to town.

I liked the main characters and Mayberry again fleshes out her characters and the story. I enjoyed Amy and Quinn's rediscovering their friendship and going from friends to lovers. As always with a Mayberry book, there's sexual tension and build-up and she knows how to write those sensual scenes.

However, although there's no question that Quinn had deep feelings of friendship and then lust for Amy, I did have a tough time buying the true love part of it all -- the "you are the love of my life" and "I want to marry you" love. I don't know... I wasn't quite sold on that. For me, it had a lot to do with the length of time Quinn was involved with Lisa, and the fact that he didn't give Amy a second thought in all that time -- that pesky triangle. The timeline used to develop Amy and Quinn's romance was also a factor.

Although I enjoyed some aspects of the story, first my reservations about Quinn's feelings took away some of that enjoyment, and later Lisa's return and actions gave Her Best Friend a sense of predictability that made this read a mixed bag for me.

Genre: Super Romance/Contemporary
Series: None
Release Date: April 13, 2010 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B-

Visit Sarah Mayberry here

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.

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.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John

When eighteen-year-old Mariah found herself pregnant and unmarried in her small Colorado town, she disappeared. One year later, she returned with a baby—though minus the "husband" who had conveniently ventured off to Alaska's gold fields to seek his fortune….
But now, with handsome adventurer Wes Burrows turning up and claiming to be the husband she had invented, Mariah's lies become flesh and blood—and her wildest dreams a reality!

I finally read Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John, a Harlequin Historical I've had on my "to be read" pile since it released last December. I loved her book, Joe's Wife and have begun collecting some of the books in her backlist already. She also has a new book this month, To Be a Mother and I'll definitely be adding that one to my pile as well.

Her Colorado Man is the story of a young woman in 1800's Colorado who gets pregnant out of wedlock. Her grandfather sends her away to Chicago to have the baby and tells the rest of the family and the community that she met and married a man there, Wes Burrows. This man then left Mariah and their newborn child for Alaska to seek his fortune looking for gold.

Unfortunately, the name grandpa uses is the name of a "real" person. Through the years, grandpa's old friend Otto writes letters to the young boy pretending he is the father who is away in Alaska. When Otto dies, the "real" Wes Burrows receives the letters and through their correspondence falls in love with the boy. Wes then decides to come "home" to meet his son and to be a "real" father to a boy who he feels needs him. Of course, he doesn't take into account that a wife comes with the son too.

In Wes, St. John creates a tough, but sensitive male character who needs as much as he is needed. I was touched by his sensibilities, his need for love and family and willingness to give. Wes is a "good" man. Mariah on the other hand, is a woman who is ahead of her time, but also very much of her time. She has an outward toughness that hides her inner vulnerabilities. Mariah is independent within her family circle, but is very much restrained by her gender and circumstances. She is trapped by both and her independence is almost an illusion until Wes comes along. 

This was a touching story. St. John begins this romance by having Wes fall in love with the boy first, then with the extensive Spangler family, and at last with Mariah herself. Mariah is understably weary of Wes and really doesn't understand what he wants -- this stranger who comes out of nowhere and whom she has to accept or break her son and family's hearts by revealing her lie. She is quite ruthless with Wes for a long time, even when he is a gentleman and a sweatheart. I think her reactions are quite understandable under the circumstances.

The book is warm on the sensual scale and excellent when it comes to characterization. St. John really takes her time when it comes to developing the protagonists and their romance. She gives you the reasons behind both Mariah and Wes' motivations as we get to know their past histories -- some of which are complex, especially when it comes to Mariah's past experiences. The author also takes the time to develop the large cast of characters that make this story what it is, the Spangler family in particular. Through them, she also explores the setting and historical times by cleverly using the family's ties to the brewery industry to do so.

A well written and developed Harlequin Historical, with excellent characterization, Her Colorado Man was an enjoyable read for me. I loved the clever way in which the setting and history were incorporated into the story, as well as the sense of family and the unique way in which it influenced this romance.

Genre: Historical Romance - American
Series: None
Release Date: December, 2009 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Cheryl St. John here.

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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Re-Read Challenge Review: Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard

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

One look and he had to have her. Never mind that she was New York and nightlife to his own plain-spoken Montana ways. She was willing to herd cattle, wax floors and bake biscuits by the dozen. She was even willing to bear his children -- but at a price he couldn't pay. She wanted love -- and he was a man who had no love to give.
Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard is one of my favorite category romances. It has almost all the ingredients that makes it a favorite read for me personally and I couldn't help but choose it as the first book to review for Nath's Re-Read Challenge. Why is this a favorite romance read for me? Well, Linda Howard seems to hit the nail on the head when it comes to the characters and the development of Maddy and Reece's relationship.

This couple doesn't know each other from Adam. Reece makes a calculated decision to marry based on his needs, but as a rancher he doesn't have the time or the inclination to court someone. He decides to advertise for a wife and is up-front and honest in what he needs -- a wife who will help him in his isolated Montana ranch and who is also willing to have a family. Reece doesn't promise love. He is too embittered by his past experiences with his ex-wife and doesn't want to give anything, except his body. Reece is nothing if not honest throughout the whole story and I appreciated that about him.

Maddy lives in New York City, works at her brother's successful company in a redundant position created just for her, and doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. She is financially solvent and answers Reece's ad out of curiosity and a need for change. Maddy doesn't really expect anything to come out of her impulsive actions until she meets Reece. Both Maddy and Reece are physically attracted to each other once they meet and click on a more personal level as well, but at that point only Maddy is willing to take it further. Reece doesn't think she's the right woman for him and tells her straight out. Despite Reece's initial misgivings, eventually they end up together and Howard develops the relationship through months of hardship and beautiful intimate moments at the ranch.

Reece is a drop-dead gorgeous alpha hero with a high sex drive. He is very sexy, but he's also very stubborn and used to having his way. He has his honesty going for him, but boy does he have a chip on his shoulder about the ranch, his ex-wife and everything he lost. Reece does everything possible not to make the same mistakes twice. He's one of those heroes who you want to kiss and shake at the same time a few times along the way, but that isn't necessary; Maddy is there to do it for us.

The description of Maddy in the book blurb above is deceptive if you're thinking Maddy is a doormat willing to do anything for Reece. On the contrary, she is one of the most likable heroines I've encountered. Maddy is deceptively smart, persistent in her love, relentless when it comes to not giving up on Reece, the ranch or their marriage and she never, ever backs down from Reece. She does what needs to be done and the best part of it all is that Maddy does it all her way. Maddy's character makes this story and this relationship work for me.

Howard uses both sexual tension and some intense passionate love scenes in Duncan's Bride to develop Maddy and Reece's romance -- I loved both. As a matter of fact, there's a scene that takes place on the back of Reece's pick-up truck that ranks high on my list of favorite explosive love scenes and it has nothing to do with it being graphic. (Pages 128 through 133)

Of course Reece carries so much baggage from his previous marriage, we know the conflict will come to a head at some point. When it does, there are begging scenes in this book where Howard hits the perfect tone. If you enjoy well balanced begging scenes you'll love these.

Was this book perfect? No, of course not. However for me personally, the small flaws I noticed did not take away from the immense enjoyment of re-reading Maddy and Reece's romance again. For me this is a Grade A read and one I highly recommend.

Duncan's Bride is a 1990 Silhouette Moments release by Linda Howard, and an Award of Excellence winner. My copy of the book has the above cover, 1st Silhouette Books printing September 1990 (thanks to a wonderful friend), but I found two other covers for this book. You can look for it at your local library, but in my opinion it's worth hunting through the used bookstores to find a copy.

Linda Howard doesn't have a website. Find a list of the author's books here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review: Her Secret Fling by Sarah Mayberry

Jake Stevens—star reporter and celebrated literary genius—is a snake. How else to explain the way he turns Poppy Birmingham's hero worship into loathing with a single conversation? So what if she's got a lot to learn about journalism? Aren't they coworkers now? On the same team? Jake can take his attitude and…

Then during a job-related road trip, their relationship goes from antagonistic to hedonistic in no time flat. And suddenly Poppy can't think of anything more delicious than having a secret fling with Jake. But with all this intensity, can she really keep it no-strings-attached?

This Blaze category romance by Sarah Mayberry set in Australia features Jake, a star sports journalist hero and Poppy, a swimmer and Olympic gold medalist who has decided sports journalism is what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

Poppy is naturally insecure about her abilities as a journalist. All she really knows is swimming and her confidence is lacking outside of the swimming pool, but she's determined to make changes and to succeed. On her first day on the job she meets her journalistic hero, Jake Stevens. She has read his book, all his articles, and has a secret crush on the handsome and brilliant man. But Jake is not happy to see Poppy in the newsroom. Oh, she's talented enough as a swimmer and she'll do as a woman, but as far as Jake is concerned, she has no business taking the place of a "real" journalist. Her gold medal doesn't mean she earned the right to be there or the respect due to someone who has worked for it. Jake is blunt and has no problem when it comes to expressing his feelings to Poppy. He even refuses to mentor her.

The antagonistic dialogue and relationship that develops between Poppy and Jake keep the story interesting as the tension grows between them. Jake certainly comes off as a snake at the beginning of the book and we feel for Poppy. During an assignment away from the newsroom, they are thrown together and an unexpected road trip ensues. This is where Mayberry steps up the character development. Poppy and Jake try to outdo each other with snark and as the sexual tension builds and snaps the story gets better... and hotter. This is the point where they begin to really "see" each other in a clearer way.

Neither Poppy nor Jake want to have an "office" affair. They're not interested in a long-term relationship either. They both have baggage they carry from their past that affect their decisions. Yet, these two people can't seem to stay away from each other and before they know it, they are in the middle of a hot, heavy and complicated affair.

In Her Secret Fling, Mayberry again develops a quick paced, full, rich romance in a short format. She gives this couple the time to know each other and a plausible conflict that she resolves beautifully. I love the way she develops Jake from being a total jerk into a lovable, sympathetic character and Poppy into a heroine that is neither too stubborn nor a doormat. There are secondary characters, but the focus is kept firmly on the romance and the main characters. The secondary storylines and some characters are used by Mayberry to give depth to the central characters.

I am loving the way Mayberry writes a contemporary where the hero and heroine don't just fall for each other in one day -- and she does it all in the short category romance format. Another hot, lovely romance by Sarah Mayberry. Grade A

You can visit Sarah Mayberry here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009: Favorite New-to-Me Authors

I make a point of searching for new authors every year. I make lists and eventually those authors that attract my interest get read. 2009 has been a great year for me when it comes to new-to-me authors as you'll see by my list below. I didn't get to many I wanted to this year, but then, there's always 2010!

Linnea Sinclair - Sci/Fi Romance

In March of this year, after devouring Gabriel's Ghost, Shades of Dark and Hope's Folly, I undoubtedly became a Linnea Sinclair fan and she moved up to the top of my list as a favorite author in the Sci-Fi Romance genre. I still have a few books from her backlist to read, The Down Home Zombie Blues, Finder's Keepers and Games of Command are all in my TBR pile and I'll be reading them in 2010. As you can imagine the new installment in the Dock Five series, Rebels and Lovers is also one of my most anticipated books of 2010. I cannot wait for this book!

Ilona Andrews - Urban Fantasy

Urban Fantasy was a new-to-me genre this year. My goal was to choose and read at least three urban fantasy series -- to give it a chance, something I had been reluctant to do. After much research and thought, I chose the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews as my starter series. In April 2009, I read Magic Bites, and proceeded to devour Magic Burns and Magic Strikes in a matter of days! I couldn't stop reading. After falling in love with the world and the characters Andrews created in the Kate Daniels series, I went on to read more of their work. With the addition of their quirky installment on a new series On the Edge and their excellent short story Sci/Fi Romance Silent Blade, Ilona Andrews moved to the top of the new-to-me favorite authors list of 2009. Magic Bleeds is also on my 2010 list of most anticipated books.

Meljean Brook - Paranormal Romance

Paranormal romance is a genre I enjoy, but don't necessarily love. After a while there just seem to be too many vampires, werewolves and "other" creatures running around, and uniqueness in a series seems to be tough to find. Maintaining tight worldbuilding in a series and balancing it out with the romances taking place in each book seems to be a definite challenge.

This year my paranormal romance reading had dwindled down to three series, but after reading Must Love Hellhounds Anthology, I decided to give the Guardian series by Meljean Brook a try. Well, I haven't been this excited about a paranormal series since I started reading the Psy/Changeling series by Nalini Singh. I began by reading Demon Angel last month and I've already finished Demon Moon and Demon Night. Demon Bound is next on my list and I'll be catching up with this series soon! Brooks is an excellent addition to my paranormal romance list of authors and her series is one I'll definitely continue to follow.

Pam Rosenthal - Historical Romance

I'm always looking for new or new-to-me historical romance writers to add to my list. As opposed to last year when I read quite a few excellent historical romance books, this year most of them fell in the average to the very good category. Pam Rosenthal's The Edge of Impropriety was a surprisingly fresh read, and one I remember even now in a category that too often feels saturated by sameness and predictability. Her backlist is one I will be exploring and I hope to read her new books in the future.

Margaret Campbell Barnes - Historical Fiction

It has been a while since I've read historical fiction, a genre I truly love. Margaret Campbell Barnes' The Tudor Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York reminded me not only of that love, but sparked my interest in reading more by this author. She has an excellent backlist and I'll definitely be exploring her work as well as reacquainting myself with other historical fiction authors I've neglected.

Lisa Dale - Contemporary Romance

I cut my teeth reading contemporary romance and to this day it's my favorite genre. My comfort reads are usually contemporary romances. A good contemporary will do it for me every. single. time. But boy are good, straight contemporary romances tough to find these days! The balance is hardly ever there... they are either plagued with suspense (I call it a plague), or the chick lit wave hits them with such force that the romance is lost and they're hardly recognizable. So, to find a contemporary romance writer, one that balances the romance with a good, meaty plot and great characters (including secondary ones), is not that easy. Dale seems to have the potential for reaching this balance. She didn't quite achieve it with Simple Wishes, but she wrote a book I enjoyed regardless. Her It Happened One Night got even closer to reaching that balance, so yes! I'm definitely keeping my eye on this author who only has two books out and whose writing I've enjoyed enough to look forward to that third one.

Sarah Mayberry - Category Romance

After a few years of not reading category romance, 2009 was my year to give this genre another chance. I enjoyed books by different authors, Jill Shalvis, Raeanne Thayne and Lucy Monroe. However of all the authors, Sarah Mayberry was the one who met the requirements most often, that feeling of having read a meaty romance when in fact it was a Blaze. I love the short, quick format for those occasions when I can't seem to find the time or the energy for a long read. Sarah Mayberry left me satisfied after I finished her books. My favorite one is Anything For You, a friends to lovers, which should not be a surprise to anyone who knows me by now. I still have some of her books in my TBR, but I'm saving those for the holidays. :)

China Mieville - Fantasy

After reading Perdido Street Station, I can't say anything but that China Mieville blew my mind. I haven't read any fantasy like Mieville's and I want to read more. I have The City and The City in my TBR pile, but I won't read it. I want to read The Scar and King Rat first, two of his previous books, THEN I'll read The City and The City... I don't know what else to say, but that at some point I'll have to gather my thoughts and write something about this book. I finished it at a time when I did not have the time to do a write up and I wanted to do it justice, so I opted for not reviewing it because it deserved both the time and the effort.

Ginn Hale - M/M Fantasy

Ginn Hale wrote one of my favorite fantasy books of 2009, not just M/M, but fantasy. Wicked Gentlemen is a book that stayed with me for quite a while after a read it. I truly couldn't put it away, the atmosphere, the world, the characters, they all stayed with me and I couldn't shake them. This book is one of two books that received an A+ from me this year, so you know I loved it. Her follow up book Lord Foster's Devils is another book I can't wait to read in 2010.

Steve Kluger, Vincent Diamond and Z.A. Maxfield - M/M Romance

In the LGBT category, under M/M Romance there are many authors I "discovered" and really liked or loved this year. There are many more whose work stayed in my TBR pile or TBB list, so my choices were not easy to make. I made those choices based on how the books I read by these authors affected me and how or if they stayed with me.

Steve Kluger's "Almost Like Being in Love" is a book I had on my TBB list for a while, but had not made a move to buy until last month. Reading the book moved this author to the top of my list with little effort. I'll definitely be checking out his other work, no question about it.

Vincent Diamond's "Rough Cut: Vincent Diamond Collected" is a collection of short stories that stayed with me long after I finished reading them. I followed that up with the Animal Attraction 2 Anthology and Feathers. I'm hoping Diamond will just keep writing although I know editing keeps her busy, busy.

And, last but not least, Z.A. Maxfield's ePistols at Dawn was my first book by this amazing author. A book that also stayed with me, not only for the relationships in the book, but for her amazing study of the way society uses masks, individual fears and insecurities, choices and how to triumph over the whole mess. I have other books by Maxfield in my TBR pile ready for reading and hope to get to them early next year.

Who were your favorite new authors of 2009?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mini-Review: Joe's Wife by Cheryl St. John


Tye Hatcher returned to Aspen Grove to find that life in the sleepy Western town hadn't changed much. The townspeople stubbornly refused to see the man he had become. That is, everybody but Meg Telford. Meg definitely took notice of the reticent rancher and gave him a chance in life when no one else would. Still, Meg clung to the memories of her late husband, afraid of the feelings Tye aroused in her heart. And though Tye vowed to proved his worth to the town, could he ever prove to Meg that he was worthy of her love?

Joe's Wife is my first book by Cheryl St. John. I saw a beautiful review for this Harlequin Historical romance at Leslie's Psyche and I just had to read it. This is an older book, 10 years old, but in my opinion worth searching out to read. I'm so glad I read it.

Tye Hatcher recently returned to Aspen Grove from the war. The same war that took the life of Meg Telford's husband Joe. As a bastard and the son of a saloon girl, Tye had a tough time growing up in a small town where its people always treated him like a pariah. He is a good man who is not judged by his character, but by the circumstances of his birth. Joe has dreams and something to prove to the people of Aspen Grove.

Meg Telford is a sweet, beautiful young woman who loved her husband. She wants nothing more than to continue the dream she and Joe began when they bought their ranch together. Even though the ranch now belongs to her, she's a woman and alone. This fact makes it tough for her to continue what Joe started. Meg finds herself fighting Joe's family and the bank to fulfill their dream. But Meg's sweetness hides a spine of steel, she'll do what it takes to keep Joe's ranch and what is hers. Meg's answer is to take a husband and Tye Hatcher is the perfect man.

I loved the way Cheryl St. John developed this story and the characters. The slow, tentative way in which these two people get to know each other and their love blooms. I fell in love with Tye and the subtle way in which he showed his love, as well as his passion for Meg. And, I couldn't help but admire Meg. Their guilts, self-doubts, jealousies, sexual tension and needs are realistic and understandable. Both Meg and Tye have issues and baggage that they bring to this unexpected marriage and the way they handle them, themselves and the town's reactions make the story in Joe's Wife.

This was a quick read for me and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Cheryl St. John has an extensive backlist and recent releases and you can be sure I'll be reading more of them.

You can visit the author here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mini-Impressions: On my latest reads #1

I've read more this month that I have in a long time! Well, being home sick for two weeks and having nothing else to do but sleep and read helped, lol! I hit my TBR pile with a vengeance. The only drawback to that is that I really haven't had the energy or the chance to write too many reviews, or My Weekly Reads posts. Instead, I'll be posting some short impressions on this month's reads and I'll try to catch up. This is the first post for non M/M reads. :)

Flashpoint by Jill Shalvis

This is a Blaze category romance, reviewed and recommended by Leslie of Leslie's Psyche. After reading Leslie's great review, I decided to pick it up, it turned out to be the right decision for me.

A well rounded romance with a bit of mystery in it, this was a hot, hot read. I loved both the firefighter hero and the EMT heroine. This couple had lots of chemistry and Shalvis did a great job of putting them in sexually charged situations, developing the characters and taking us for a ride to a hot HEA.

At The Hunt Ball by Olivia Parker

This book came to me via Tracy from Tracy's Place. Thank you, Tracy! Recommended by another friend, I wanted to read this for a while, it turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag for me. I thought it was a sweet romance, but I did have some problems with the premise.

The hero, a duke, decides to throw a ball to find a bride for his brother -- the "perfect" bride. He himself is too much of a perfectionist and doesn't wish to marry. They proceed to choose and invite seven candidates to their country home and have what amounts to a competition. The heroine doesn't really want to go and is blackmailed into going by her step-mother -- a really lame ploy by the way, one that doesn't make sense. She, of course, is completely "inappropriate" and "imperfect." Our hero, the duke, is attracted to her himself and well... they fall for each other.

The feminist in me had a bit of a problem with having these women entering singing, archery and other competitions for a man. Never mind that some of them were eliminated for having "flaws" like a crooked tooth or for wearing glasses. I know the hero falls for the "imperfect" one in the end, however the whole process annoyed me and took away some of the enjoyment of the book. It does have a sweet happily ever after.

Flashback by Jill Shalvis

After reading Flashpoint, I had to go ahead and read Flashback, the next Blaze in this category romance series by Shalvis. Boy was this a good one! In this installment, the firefighter hero and the unemployed soap opera diva heroine have a romantic history. The heroine returned to town because her brother died and she needs to take care of his personal things. So this has the old lovers reunite trope I enjoy so much. The hero let the heroine go and broke her heart when they were younger.

This is another hot read by Shalvis. I loved that Aidan, the hero, had no problem admitting his mistakes, and our heroine is no pushover. There is a hot begging scene (Aidan is doing the begging) that I'll be re-reading. *g* I will definitely be looking for more categories by Shalvis.

McKenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard

What can I say about this book? I love Linda Howard's old romances and wish she were still writing them. This is an older book and a classic I gobbled up like candy. I loved the virginal, plain, passionate heroine who came to town and had enough backbone to change the prejudiced views of a whole town, stood up for her beliefs and got her man. And her man? Hot, hot, hot! A Native American who had been abused by the townspeople, but who was willing to do what was necessary to protect his woman.

I LOVED this story by Howard and this book is now on my keeper/re-read shelf. I'm just sorry it took me so long to read it. I have the rest of the series (finally!) and will be reading it slowly, just so I can savor it. :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard


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

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