Sunday, April 11, 2010

Review: Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi

Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi was the first book I read by this author. My friend Reny sent it to me back in December and I read it then in one sitting -- she recommended it as her favorite Morsi book. As always, Reny was right on target with her recommendation, Simple Jess became one of my favorite historical romance reads of 2009. What a great book!

In March I read my second book by Ms. Morsi, Courting Miss Hattie and I loved it too! But, before I post my thoughts on that book, I wanted to share my thoughts on Simple Jess. I wrote this review in January and think it's about time I share it with you.

The last thing widow Althea Winsloe wanted to do was remarry. Unfortunately, her meddlesome mountain neighbors had other plans. So, one autumn night they banded together and gave Althea a shocking ultimatum: She was to find herself a husband by Christmas... or the town would do it for her! Althea knew she had her choice of any single man in Marrying Stone, Arkansas. Yet the only one she felt truly comfortable with was Simple Jess. Sweet and gentle, Jess wasn't as smart as your average man. But his tender manner stirred Althea's heart in ways she had never dreamed possible.

It would take a miracle to find a husband in Marrying Stone. But sometimes miracles are right under your nose...
Simple Jess is set in the Osark Mountains in 1906 and Ms. Morsi truly captures the setting. The cast of characters in this book is amazing and the story of Simple Jess and Ms. Althea is so touching it actually made me cry. But theirs is not the only story told in this book, there are secondary storylines about some of the people involved in Jess and Althea's lives that Ms. Morsi develops with much care. The farming community as a whole is so well integrated into Jess and Althea's lives and storyline that I found myself feeling as if I knew the people and the place. I could see them -- I really could.

Jess is a wonder of a character. He is hard working, gloriously handsome, honest and... simple-minded. He learned to work hard and to perform tasks by repeating and memorizing instructions. As a man, Jess has a few dreams of his own: he would like to have a gun and a team of dogs so he can hunt and provide for himself and he would like to have a woman. He knows he might be able to get the first two by working hard, but he figures the last will remain a dream. See... Jess is aware of his limitations and how the community views him and he has resigned himself to being "simple." Ms. Morsi definitely excelled in her creation of this wonderful character and more so in developing this romance. For those of you who have read this book, Jess won my heart at "sugar, coffee, cartridges."

Miss Althea is a widow with a child -- Baby-Paisley. She's had a tough life and is determined to continue on her own with her child. The community has interfered in her life and she must choose a husband between two beaus, Oather or Eben, to run the farm and to raise her child. I loved the way Ms. Morsi created Jess, but I loved the way Althea's character was developed in this story. We get to know Ms. Althea from the inside out, why and how she comes to love Jess. It is not easy for her to love a man like Jess or to make the decisions she must make. Morsi develops this part of the story and Miss Althea's character thoroughly and for me, that development is the key that makes this romance work.

Although this book has plenty of touching moments, I found myself laughing out loud at the amusing dialogue as I read along. But I must admit that Jess' sweet and naive thought process made me giggle more than once -- especially when it came to his sexual thoughts of Ms. Althea.
"Her hair hung down. It was real long. He hadn't known that. It hung down the front of her josie and kind of curled around those. . . those big round places that he tried not to think about. Her . . . her round places were really round. And they had points on the end of them. He could see the points through her josie." 
Simple Jess is a book I highly recommend to those who would like to read a different type of historical romance. This book is beautifully written, heart warming, with unforgettable central and secondary characters, plus the interwoven storylines make the community come alive without taking the focus away from the central characters. Simple Jess was a winner for me. Will I read the rest of Morsi's backlist? You bet!

Genre: Historical Romance - American
Series: None -- linked to The Marrying Stone
Release Date: April 1, 1996
Grade: A

Visit Pamela Morsi here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Review: Rebels and Lovers by Linnea Sinclair

It’s been two years since Devin Guthrie last saw Captain Makaiden Griggs. But time has done little to dampen his ardor for the beautiful take-charge pilot who used to fly yachts for his wealthy family. While Devin’s soul still burns for Kaidee, she isn’t the kind of woman a Guthrie is allowed to marry—especially in a time of intergalactic upheaval, with the family’s political position made precarious by Devin’s brother Philip, now in open revolt against the Empire. And when Devin’s nineteen-year-old nephew, Trip, inexplicably goes missing after his bodyguard is murdered, this most dutiful of Guthrie sons finds every ounce of family loyalty put to the test. Only by joining forces with Kaidee can Devin complete the mission to bring Trip back alive. And only by breaking every rule can these two renegades redeem the promise of a passion they were never permitted to explore. At risk? A political empire, a personal fortune, and both their hearts and lives.
Rebels and Lovers is a good addition to the Dock Five series by Linnea Sinclair. The book felt a bit like a transitional book in the series, but by the end it advanced the overall storyarc -- the war between the Empire and the Alliance. By focusing in the all important and powerful Guthrie family, Sinclair tipped the odds.

The above summary is really very accurate. Devin and Kaidee have known each other for years. He burned for her secretly then and has been dreaming of her ever since. Years ago her husband was fired and she chose to go with him, and Devin thought he would never see her again. But now that he's found her and she is a widow, Devin does everything to keep and win Kaidee.

Kaidee always thought highly of Devin. She sees him as a controlled, almost perfect man whom she respects and finds very attractive -- for her, he is also an impossible dream. To her way of thinking, she is not the type of woman a Guthrie would ever regard as an appropriate companion -- not with her history, her family, or her murky past.

I liked both characters. Devin is more beta than alpha... he doesn't remind me of Sully or Phillip. He's a thinking, numbers man, not a man of action, although he knows how to take care of himself. Sinclair balanced his character quite well on that front. I loved the way he yearned for Kaidee and his willingness to change his circumstances for her -- Devin the rebel. Kaidee is also unique to this series. She's a Captain and has certain qualities that do remind me of Chaz, but very few. She was a combination of tough and vulnerable that was perfect for Devin and for the situation. What Devin lacked, Kaidee had in spades and vice versa. She also has an interesing background and I'm curious to see how the Alliance uses her unusual contacts.

Rebels and Lovers begins as a fast paced book. I was caught up in the action -- Trip's disappearance, Devin's pursuit and Kaidee's situation in Dock Five. There are multiple characters introduced, some quite interesting, and we are reacquainted with old characters. Devin and Kaidee's paths cross in Dock Five and their race to save Trip is on. The action continues and it's pretty intense, with lots of twists and turns until they get off Dock Five -- this takes the first half of the book.

The second half of the book takes place for the most part on the ship, on an uncertain race to Port Chalo. During this time the pace slows down quite a bit. After all the action in the first part of the book, it actually felt very slow and protracted. Having said that, Sinclair used this part of the book to develop Devin and Kaidee's romance. In this part of the book is also where Devin and Kaidee try to figure out the how, why, and what is really happening to them. If you're a scifi fan, this is where you'll find a lot of those little details that make this genre unique.

Overall, Rebels and Lovers was a good read with a lovely couple, an excellent first half full of fast paced action, and a second half, that although necessarily slow paced for development, went on a bit too long. The book had an exciting, fast paced resolution and it ended on a high note -- it looks as if the Alliance and the Empire are jockeying for position. Although frankly, Rebels and Lovers did not have that exciting WOW factor that Gabriel's Ghost-Book 1, Shades of Dark-Book 2 and Hope's Folly-Book 3 had for me, it was still a solid addition to this series and I can't wait for the next installment.

Genre: Sci-fi/Romance
Series: Dock Five Series, Book #4
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Grade: B

Visit Linnea Sinclair here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Review: Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

When Arlene Fleet headed off to college in Chicago, she made three promises to God: She would never again lie, she would stop fornicating with every boy who crossed her path, and she'd never, ever go back to her tiny hometown of Possett, Alabama (the "fourth rack of Hell"). All God had to do in exchange was to make sure the body of high school quarterback Jim Beverly was never found.

Ten years later, Arlene has kept her promises, but an old school-mate has recently turned up asking questions. And now Arlene's African American beau has given her a tough ultimatum: introduce him to her family, or he's gone. As she prepares to confront guilt, discrimination, and a decade of deception, Arlene is about to discover just how far she will go to find redemption - and love.
I read Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson when it was first released in 2005. It was Ms. Jackson's debut novel and one that made my keeper shelf for different reasons. This is a women's fiction book, but it's also considered "Southern Fiction." Ms. Jackson is from the South and those roots can definitely be appreciated and recognized in her writing, characterization, subject matter and humor.

Gods in Alabama is one of those books with an unforgettable first line, one that "hooked" me into reading it and became engraved in my mind. Every time I looked at my bookshelf and saw the title of the book, I remembered it.
"There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus. I left one back there myself, back in Possett. I kicked it under the kudzu and left it to the roaches..."
Thus begins this complex story written in first person as seen through Arlene Fleet's point of view. Lena left Possett, Alabama for Chicago ten years ago right after high school. At that time, she made a deal with God: she would not have sex, would never lie, and would never again return to Possett, Alabama as long as that one "god" she kicked under the kudzu and left to the roaches was not discovered.

For ten years the deal held up, she's now a teacher's aid at a local University and working on her PhD. Lena's African American boyfriend loves her and because he's also the son of a Baptist preacher, he seems to understand and goes along with her need for celibacy. But all of that is about to come to an end when to Lena's great surprise and frustration, Rose Mae Lolley from Possett shows up at her door with a question that Lena will not and cannot answer -- and Lena can't lie. Against her better judgment, Lena finds that after all these years she must return to Possett, Alabama to head off the troubles that Rose Mae Lolley brought back to her door. To Lena's way of thinking, God broke their deal.

Joshilyn Jackson begins this story at the end and works her way to the beginning of the story, making the beginning, the end. I remember the first time I read this book not being able to put it down because I wanted to know what happened in the beginning. It's fast paced, with only a couple of slower chapters in the middle and then picks up again to the end. We get to know what happens to Lena through some flashbacks, confrontations with her family, and Lena's dialogue with her boyfriend, Burr. It was a fascinating ride to the surprising twist in the end the first time, and an even better ride the second time around for me.

Gods in Alabama is an interesting mixture of heavy subjects and witty, humorous prose. Through Lena's guilt-ridden eyes and conscience, Jackson tells a story full of family conflicts, murder, rape, racism, guilt, redemption and immense love. She throws in a bi-racial romance and sets it all in a small southern town full of unforgettable characters. But, the best part of this book is that while reading about all these heavy subjects, all of which she addresses fully and without reserve, there is not a "heavy" feel to this book.

Jackson uses her gift for humor and wit to tell Lena's story and the writer's southern roots definitely show in the telling. There no such thing as southern "flavor" in this book, there is much more than that. The way she describes the setting, the usage of language and humour make you feel as if you're right there in Possett and these elements make the story come alive. The characterization was excellent in most instances, however in some cases she seemed to gloss over the characters and they came off a bit stereotypical. Lena and Aunt Flo's characters were flawlessly developed, but I do wish that cousin Clarice had been better drawn. She was an important character in this story whose motivations stayed 'sketchy' in my mind, both through my first read and this time around.

I thought Gods in Alabama was an excellent debut novel for Joshilyn Jackson. Then and now, I loved her gift for telling this type of story with wit and humour. I enjoyed Ms Jackson's writing style and meant to follow up on her other releases. I'm sorry to say I didn't. However, re-reading this book made me look her up again and it turns out that she now has a backlist I can enjoy. I'm interested in reading her second release, Between, Georgia. Also, this is a huge coincidence, but she has a new book Backseat Saints coming out June 8, 2010 featuring Rose Mae Lollie and I'll definitely be reading that one.
"There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus..."
Tell me that's not a great first line. Hah! :)

Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction
Series: None
Release Date: April 13, 2005
Grade: B+

Visit Joshilyn Jackson here.

Nath's 2010 Re-Read Challenge - March Review

Thursday, April 1, 2010

March 2010 Reads and Minis: Lip Service by Susan Mallery, Dangerous Ground by Justine Dare, Dark Elves: Taken by Jet Mykles, Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb

March was a bountiful reading month for me. Although I had a tough month personally and didn't have the time to post and review much, thank goodness I was able to read. When it comes to quality reading, I would say that it was in the good to great category... lots of B and B+ reads with few exceptions.

This month I'm late posting my review for Nath's Re-read Challenge, but I did read the book and it will be coming up soon. :) My mini-review for Christine's 'In-Death' Challenge is included in this post. I read five new March releases, but I also read quite a few books that have been on my TBR pile for one month or longer and I feel great about that. It's too bad I didn't join the TBR Challenge, I'd be acing that one, lol! But, at this point it has become a personal challenge instead.

So here we go... my March reads:

1)Best Gay Erotica 2010 edited by Richard Labonté selected by Blair Mastbaum: B+ (Review here)

2) Dark Angel by Mary Balogh: B
3) Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh: B+ (Reviews here)

4) Roadkill (Cal Leandros Series, Book 5) by Rob Thurman: A
I really enjoyed Roadkill. This series is getting better in my opinion -- darker. There are two different points of view, although Niko's is not used in this one. Cal's character is further developed in this book and I like what Thurman is doing with him. Definitely. I wasn't sure where she was going with these characters after the last few books, but now this series has gained new momentum. Both touching and chilling, Roadkill was a great read for me.

Upcoming Review/Book Discussion at Breezing Through with Nath and Leslie 

5) Something About You by Julie James: B (Review here)

6) Naked Edge by Pamela Clare: C- (Review here)
This was my one big disappointment this month. I was really looking forward to this book because I'm a Pamela Clare fan. I loved both Extreme Exposure and Unlawful Contact, and to a lesser degree (I loved Julian, had problems with the rest) Hard Evidence... so this was a highly anticipated book. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way for me. I still think Pamela Clare does a marvelous job of integrating romance and suspense... she certainly knows how to write the suspense and yet the reader does NOT miss the romance. She also writes highly erotic scenes and none of these things went missing from Naked Edge. However, there were other elements in this book that didn't quite do it for me personally. But since I'm a fan of her writing, you know I will be reading the next book in this series. ;D

7) Lip Service by Susan Mallery (Titan Sisters Series, Book 2): C-
Lip Service by Susan Mallery is not a book I enjoyed much. I had a tough, tough time finishing it although I must say it was not due to Ms. Mallery's writing, it had to do with my dislike the characters and the plot. I didn't like the central female character in this book at all. Skye Titan is the second of the Titan sisters and she's a widow. When she was 18 years old she gave up her love for Mitch and betrayed him because her "daddy" told her to, and married the man her father chose for her. Mitch joined the service and now after many years away and a crippling injury during service he finally returns home. Skye and Mitch are obviously still in love with each other and Skye proceeds to do everything in her power to get him to forgive her and trust her again.

Well, that's fine and good, but I thought it was bad enough that she betrayed her love for Mitch the first time when she was 18 years old and had "daddy" issues. However, she's now a full grown, supposedly mature woman, and she's still spineless. After begging Mitch to forgive and trust her, as soon as "monster daddy" put a little pressure on her, she was ready to do it all over again. I had absolutely no respect or sympathy for this woman. She certainly didn't deserve Mitch's easy forgiveness -- a lot of begging maybe? Plus, there's really no resolution to the rest of the storylines in the book -- the sisters' struggles with their half-brother Garth -- because that continues throughout the rest of the series.

I did enjoy some secondary characters. I particularly liked Izzy, the youngest sister who is a hoot. Her story is next on this series and I already have it on my TBR so I'll be reading it. Step-brother Garth gets more and more intriguing as the storyline goes along and I can't wait to see what the deal is with him. I have his book too. :)

8) Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie StiefvaterB (Review here)

9) Demon Bound (Guardian Series, Book 9) by Meljean Brook: B (Review here)
A key book in this squee-worthy Paranormal Romance series -- yes I'm squeeing! This book has a creepy female lead and a wonderful young and exhuberant hero. There are important revelations and turns of event in this book that really move the overall storyarc forward, so this is a must read for this series. I have Demon Forged and I'll be reading it in April. :)

10) Dangerous Ground by Justine Dare: B-
Dangerous Ground by Justine Dare is a book I've had on my TBR for quite a while. It turned out to be more suspense than romance -- an interesting take on a woman, Beth, whose teenage son is kidnapped in order to attract her dead husband's old team of undercover operatives, so they can be assassinated. Beth had been in love with Jess, a team member, before marrying Ian, her dead husband, who was the leader of the group. Jess is still in love with Beth but is still carrying the same old baggage that broke up their relationship all those years ago.

Beth is spunky and quite the brave woman. Jess is likable and although he is supposed to be the cool customer, he comes off as vulnerable and I felt for him. They go through some harrowing moments together. Although this book doesn't have many sexual encounters and/or sexy scenes in it, these two people have a connection and the book is about the two of them working out their differences and coming to a realization while fighting the villains and figuring out the who and the what of it all.

11) Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson (re-read): B+
Upcoming Review

12) Dark Elves: Taken (Book 1) by Jet Mykles: B-
This is an erotic M/F erotic/paranormal tale that came to me via Tracy from Tracy's Place. I haven't read M/F erotica for a while except for Lorelei James and certainly nothing in the paranormal side of things. This was an okay read for me. It's first in a series by Mykles... Dark Elves who live in the Dark Forest and take human women to mate because they don't have their own females. The women then have sex with different Elves until they find their truemate who is the only one who can impregnate them. Lots of sex play, M/F mainly, although there's some M/M play... and some background into the world of the Dark Elves. The sexual encounters in this particular installment were of the dominant/submissive type and turned out to be quite erotic. I have the other books and will continue the series. :)

13) The Rules of Seduction by Madeline Hunter: B
Upcoming Review

14) Blaze of Memory (Psy/Changling Series) by Nalini Singh: B
Upcoming Review

15) Rebels and Lovers (Dock Five Series) by Linnea Sinclair: B
Upcoming Review

16) The Boy Can't Help It by Gavin Atlas (M/M): B+
Upcoming Review

17) Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi: A
Upcoming Review

18) Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb: B  'In Death' Challenge

Immortal in Death is my favorite book in this series so far. In this third book of the series, Eve faces multiple challenges on both her personal life and the professional front. She's juggling an unexpected wedding that still baffles her, childhood memories and brutal nightmares are plaguing her, plus not one but two cases are vying for her attention. The first case is the murder of one of her weasels who turns out to be involved in some sort of "illegals" (drug) distribution or trafficking; and the second case is the murder of a famous model. Her best friend Mavis is the main suspect and accused of this murder. Eve asks for Officer Peabody to assist her and a friendship of sorts ensues. The cases turn out to be complex and there are twists and turns with more than one suspect involved as well as three other brutal murders.

I really liked the complexity of the storylines in this book, both the suspense/murder plots and the personal ones between Eve and Roarke. I love the way Eve's mind works when she's solving the crimes, her sense of humor and her harsh reality-based personality. There was a bit of both the expected and the unexpected when it came to the crime solving and I really enjoyed that part of it. Eve's vulnerabilities certainly came to the forefront in this book and we get to know more about both Eve and Roarke and how they fit together.

The secondary characters in the series are now taking shape and I'm enjoying getting to know them and figuring out who is who. Summerset continues to be my favorite secondary character and certainly the most intriguing. I still think Mavis is good for Eve's girly side, but I'm glad that she is developing a relationship with Office Peabody, another female with a great dry sense of humor who can understand Eve's "cop" side. An enjoyable installment and HEY... Eve and Roarke got married! I can't wait to read the next book to find out if she got in trouble during the honeymoon, lol!

That's it for March. I have quite a few reviews to write up or post, let's see if I can do it. You might get lots of Minis from me in April, depending on available time. So, how was your reading month? Did you read lots of great books?

Coffee, Dessert, NJ Bloggers & Books

March was a long month for me... so many things happened that it just seemed to go on forever. It has been a tough first quarter for me personally in 2010 -- tough changes, family health issues and other events -- but, I'm hopeful things will get better, afterall Spring is here!

However, March ended on a high note for me. After many emails, scheduling and re-scheduling, I finally met three beautiful, sweet and wonderful New Jersey bloggers in person! Last Saturday, Christine (The happily ever after...), Mariana (Hips Like Mine), Natalie (Reading 2 Learn) and I met for coffee and dessert and had the best time discussing books, blogging and just getting to know each other. I'm afraid we didn't take pictures to share with you. :( We were all so busy talking, talking, talking none of us thought of it -- I know I didn't. After my tough month, I really needed that. Thank you ladies for driving all the way up to meet me!

I came home with some books too. :) Mariana was getting rid of some books and I chose a few (didn't want to be too greedy, lol). And, I borrowed a few books from Christine. Here they are:

Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Getting Lucky by Susan Andersen and Summer in Eclipse Bay by Jane Ann Krentz are all backlist books from these authors that I've been wanting to read, and for one reason or another didn't buy or get to yet. So now I have them!

I read Nora Roberts' Three Sisters Island Trilogy a looong time ago. At the time, I decided to exchange all three books at a used book store for other Nora Roberts books I wanted to read. Mistake! For years I've been meaning to buy them again so I can make them part of my Roberts collection and so I can re-read them, now I can. Thank you, Mariana!

AND, because I don't have enough to read, lol... Christine, sweetheart that she is, offered to lend me Stolen Fury, Stolen Heat and Stolen Seduction by Elisabeth Naughton. I've been wanting to read this author for quite a while and now I have the opportunity. Thank you, Christine!

Note ALL the books are contemporaries. I'm still craving those a contemporary romances as you'll see when I post my March reads list later on. :)

Meeting Christine, Mariana and Natalie was a great experience. It's amazing how we just all sat around and talked as if we had been doing so forever. It was lovely to experience how the love of books and reading can bring people together in such a comfortable way. Hopefully we'll be doing it again soon. :D

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Dark Angel and Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh

Jennifer Winwood has been engaged for five years to a man she hardly knows but believes to be honorable and good: Lord Lionel Kersey. Suddenly, she becomes the quarry of London’s most notorious womanizer, Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill. Jennifer has no idea that she is just a pawn in the long-simmering feud between these two headstrong, irresistible men—or that she will become a prize more valuable than revenge.

Jennifer’s cousin Samantha Newman is smarting after she too is toyed with by Lord Kersey. In the midst of her heartbreak, she seeks solace from her new friend, the disabled gardener Hartley Wade. If only she knew that Hartley is secretly Lord Carew, and that he hides more than extraordinary wealth: a passionate secret held deep in his heart that only her love can reveal.
This book by Mary Balogh has two related stories: Dark Angel and Lord Carew's Bride featuring Jennifer Winwood and Samantha Newman, a pair of young cousins coming to London for their first season. These two books set in Regency times were originally released by Signet in 1994. I didn't read the original releases and was happy to get my hands on this book since I'm still making my way through Balogh's backlist.

In Dark Angel, Jennifer is the central female character. She has been engaged to Lord Lionel Kersey for five years and believes herself to be deeply in love with him, and although her contact with Lionel has been quite limited throughout the years, she dreams of being his wife. She admires his physical beauty and standing in society, but doesn't seem to see or really know anything else about Lionel. Her hope is that they'll get to know each other once their engagement is formally announced. Instead, the man she gets to know is the Earl of Thornhill.

Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill, is attracted to Jennifer on sight, but he also has a grudge against Lord Kersey. Gabe seems to be Lionel's opposite, where Lionel is blond and light, Gabe is dark. He has a terrible reputation and is barely tolerated by polite society. Gabriel begins a subtle game of courtship and seduction and Jennifer unwittingly becomes his main focus and eventually a victim in Gabriel and Lionel's games of revenge. But she's not the only victim, as a secondary character Samantha, Jenny's beautiful younger cousin, plays an important role in this story and also falls victim. Sam will never be the same girl after these events are over.

I enjoyed Dark Angel. I liked Gabe as the main male lead in this story. He was an honorable man who let his thirst for revenge overcome that honor. With his character, Balogh mainly addresses his personal fall from grace and then his redemption through what he thought was sacrifice and turned out to be love. Jennifer on the other hand is an interesting character study. She is a naive young woman of her times who is blinded by Lionel's beauty and what she thinks is love to the extent that she can't see anything else. Jenny's self-deception doesn't allow her to see Lionel's villainy even when it's right in front of her eyes. She puts on her blinders and basically has to be told the facts to see the light. This made for a difficult conflict between Gabe and Jenny with a good but tough resolution at the end for this couple.

Lord Carew's Bride features Samantha Newman, Jenny's cousin from Dark Angel. Six years after Jennifer and Gabe's wedding, Sam is still unmarried by choice. Samantha no longer believes in love and has decided marriage is not for her. She is a blond, blue-eyed, petite beauty who gets more than her share of proposals and who is tired of being admired for her physical appearance.

While on a walk through the woods at her cousin Jenny's estate, Samantha trespasses on Lord Carew's lands and meets a gentleman. She assumes he's a gentleman "gardener" by his ordinary looks, clothing and knowledge of the parks. They like each other immediately and strike a beautiful friendship based on mutual likes and dislikes. She likes him because he doesn't seem to focus on her beauty and feels the bond of friendship but no passion, therefore she feels safe with him. This gentleman gardener, Hartley Wade, turns out to be Lord Carew. He is rich, talented, sweet, patient and also crippled. I fell in love with Hartley as soon as he was introduced! He is SO sweet. Although he likes Samantha's personality and admires her independence, he of course also appreciates her beauty and falls in love with her.

Lord Carew's Bride was a beautiful story. I found myself rooting for Hartley as he overcame his shyness and self-consciousness about his physical shortcomings and went after what he wanted, Samantha. I also liked the way Samantha's character grew and her feelings for Hartley moved from friendship to love. There are secondary characters that bring cohesiveness and humor to this story, but Francis, Samantha's old beau and true friend is a favorite of mine. I loved the ending and their happily ever after.

Conclusion: In summary these are two enjoyable re-releases by Ms. Balogh. In Dark Angel and Jenny's character, in the way this character loved because she was "supposed" to love, Ms. Balogh gives us a glimpse into the way some society women followed the rules and mores of Regency times without question. In contrast, in Lord Carew's Bride, Ms. Balogh shows that a woman could also be independent of thought during that time and still be acceptable to society.

In both books she places emphasis on how large a role physical beauty played in how people in that society "viewed" themselves and others. In Dark Angel we see this through Jennifer's eyes when she contrasts Lionel's "angelic" beauty to Gabe's dark and "satanic" looks. We see that emphasis even more in Lord Carew's Bride where Hartley is an imperfect cripple who is shown either disgust or contempt by his peers because of his imperfections -- disgust and contempt they're willing to disguise only because of his wealth -- as opposed to Samantha and Lionel who are beautiful and physically flawless in society's eyes. Lionel is beautiful and a well-known dishonorable man, but because of his "beauty" society is willing to overlook and quickly forgive his flaws. In Samantha's case, she is judged by her beauty when she marries Hartley. Society assumes someone as beautiful as she, can only marry a cripple like Hartley because of his wealth. In Balogh's world, however, the heart wins every time. :)

Genre: Historical Romance - Regency
Release Date: February 23, 2010
Grade -- Dark Angel: B
Grade -- Lord Carew's Bride: B+

Visit Mary Balogh here.

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

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mini-Review: Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater is a young adult (YA) fantasy book. I don't usually read YA, however after reading Christine's review for this book at "The happily ever after..." I thought this would be a book I might recommend to my niece, but one I should read first. Later when Tracy posted her own review at "Tracy's Place," I remembered it was already on my list and that I should get to it. Tracy was also generous enough to send me the book and finally this month, I read it -- thank you Tracy!
Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. She's about to find out she's also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. When a mysterious boy enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of nowhere, Deirdre finds herself infatuated. Trouble is, the enigmatic and conflicted Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin—and Deirdre is meant to be his next mark. Deirdre has to decide if Luke's feelings towards her are real, or only a way to lure her deeper into the world of Faerie.
In Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, Maggie Steifvater uses Celtic Faerie mythology to weave her fantasy world while keeping the setting strictly in contemporary times. Through Stiefvater's beautiful and engaging writing, the reader experiences this creative mythical atmosphere while enjoying contemporary characters, dialogue and events. I more than enjoyed the beautiful way she mixed and balanced both. I particularly loved the lyrical/poetic ballads she included as part of the story.

Deidre, a gifted but typical 16 year old teenager full of fears she must conquer, some overtime hormones coupled with romantic idealism and a certain rebellious streak, is the focus of the story with Luke, the dark hero, sharing that focus. Their adventure was a dark one as they battle the Faerie Queen and some rather cold and scary characters that are as fascinating as the atmosphere set by the writer. Being that this book is set in contemporary times, I did wonder how or why Deidre decided to go along with Luke while having reservations about him. I questioned her judgment during those times and had to suspend disbelief to continue reading their adventures. One of my favorite characters was James, Deidre's best friend, and I wish he'd had more page time.

In this fast paced, beautifully written story, Stiefvater keeps the reader turning the pages to see what happens next as the mystery builds. While this book felt different in many wonderful ways and I enjoyed it quite a bit, there were unanswered questions and some confusing answers by the time the abrupt ending came along. There are "cloudy" patches and open-ended threads in this story. An indication there's another book in the offing, and one that always leaves me wondering if the answers to those open threads will be in that second book. Having said that, I'll reiterate that this book was an enjoyable read for me. In my opinion, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception is a book adults will enjoy and young adults will love. I'll personally recommend it to my niece. :) 

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: Faerie Series -- Lament (Book 1), Ballad (Book 2)
Released: October 1, 2008
Grade: B

Visit Maggie Stiefvater here

Monday, March 22, 2010

Review: Naked Edge by Pamela Clare

What do you do when desire drives you to the very brink?

The day Navajo journalist Katherine James met Gabriel Rossiter, the earth literally moved beneath her feet. Nearly killed in a rockslide while hiking, she found her life in the tall park ranger's hands. Although she can't forget him she thinks she'll never see him again. She is crushed when she recognizes her rescuer among the law enforcement officers raiding a sweat lodge ceremony one night, throwing her and her friends off Mesa Butte, land they consider sacred.

Gabe long ago swore he would never again lose himself to a woman not even one with long dark hair and big eyes that seem to see right through him. But from the moment he first sees Kat, the attraction he feels is undeniable. Appalled by what he has been ordered to do, he's determined to get to the bottom of recent events at Mesa Butte and to keep Kat safe.

But asking questions can be dangerous almost as dangerous as risking one's heart. And soon Kat and Gabe's passion for the truth and each other makes them targets for those who would do anything, even kill, to keep Native Americans off their sacred land.
The Naked Edge by Pamela Clare is a contemporary romance/suspense I've been looking forward to reading for a while now. I enjoyed some aspects of it, however not as many as I'd hoped. The above blurb summarizes the plot accurately.

In this book Pamela Clare addresses the fight Native Americans are waging against private owners and the government to keep their sacred land and to maintain their traditions. Clare uses Gabriel, a park ranger, and Kat, a journalist and I-Team member, to develop this part of the story. She also uses her ability to integrate the suspense and romance successfully -- this is something I find Clare does quite well.

As a man, Gabriel was deeply hurt and in the process damaged badly. From the beginning, he knew what he wanted from Kat as a woman and marriage was not it. I enjoyed his internal dialogue in this book where he upbraided himself for his base feelings and emotional cowardice -- if nothing else, he was honest with himself. I appreciated his growth in his relationship with Kat and liked the way his feelings moved from lust to love. The reader goes through the whole process with Gabriel. However, I did question his judgment when it came to his role as a protector in the suspense part of the story.

Kat is a character we met in previous books and one that turned out to be an absolute surprise -- at least to me. Kat is not the strong, confident woman I expected. Instead, she turns out to be a shy, vulnerable virgin -- or as Gabriel refers to her "extra virgin" (as in olive oil) -- for personal reasons, she has decided to wait until she marries to have sexual relations with a man. This sets up the conflict between Gabriel and Kat.

Kat is half Navajo and half white and as a result of some heavy traumatic childhood experiences, she lacks confidence both as a woman and as an overall person. However, that's not the reason I say she's not strong, my problem comes with the fact that Gabriel spends most of the story rescuing Kat (I lost count), or you find Kat crying for one reason or another. After a while, the fact that she keeps putting herself in dangerous situations, the constant rescuing, and the crying almost did me in.

I also question Kat's qualifications as an investigative reporter. This is not a new problem when it comes to this series, I had this problem with another book. In my opinion, Kat is a poor investigative reporter indeed. She puts everything together at the end, but her methods are appalling and her abilities to work things out are next to non-existent.

The rest of the I-Team make appearances in this book as expected. Both Julian and Hunter played a part in the investigation and I really enjoyed both their banter and their contribution to the story. Clare works with both the expected and unexpected when it comes to the villains in this installment.

The suspense part of Naked Edge has an awfully dramatic ending that requires the reader to temporarily suspend desbelief. The romance between Gabriel and Kat although slow to develop has both erotic and tender moments. However, I must say that the end to the romance, like the suspense, was a bit over the top for my personal tastes.

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Suspense
Series: I-Team Series (Book 4)
Release Date: March 2, 2010
Grade : C-

Visit Pamela Clare here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Review: Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark Series, Book 9) by Kresley Cole

Lucia the Huntress: as mysterious as she is exquisite, she harbors secrets that threaten to destroy her—and those she loves.
Garreth MacRieve, Prince of the Lykae: the brutal Highland warrior who burns to finally claim this maddeningly sensual creature as his own.
From the shadows, Garreth has long watched over Lucia. Now, the only way to keep the proud huntress safe from harm is to convince her to accept him as her guardian. To do this, Garreth will ruthlessly exploit Lucia’s greatest weakness—her wanton desire for him. . . .
I was pleased to read Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortal After Dark Series, Book 9) by Kresley Cole. I enjoyed it. This is another paranormal series that I'm still enjoying, although some books in this series work better for me than others. I'm so glad Garreth and Lucia's story didn't let me down after waiting for it for so long. Garreth was such a wonderful werewolf character... not brooding or damaged like Lachlain and Bowen, he was fun! Lucia didn't stand a chance, lol! He was also tender and boy did he know how to persevere... not only because she was his mate, but because he learned to love her.

I thought it was interesting that in this story the dark chararacter, the character with the baggage, and I mean dark, drooling, and evil baggage, was Lucia. I liked that, and thought it made for a nice change. As a heroine, Lucia was brave and sexy, but more than a bit frustrating. I could understand her reluctance to trust, but after a while I thought it took her too long to do so. Through that lack of trust, she placed both herself and Garreth in danger and that poor judgment almost caused Garreth his life. However, I understood some of the reasons behind her hesitation and my frustrations with her character did not outweight the fact that I liked her.

The story is full of erotic, hot, sexually charged moments, and lots of sexual tension... and an adventure ala Tomb Raider/Raiders of the Lost Ark, taking place for the most part in the Amazon jungle. Lucia and Garreth's romance develops slowly on their journey up the Amazon river and that works -- they have some wonderful moments together.

Cole introduces some very interesting secondary characters in this installment and I wonder if she'll bring them back and how she'll work them into the storyarc. Cole did an excellent job of working the timeline of Pleasure of a Dark Prince into the overall story. The epilogue turned out to be the beginning of the next book and ended in one big cliffhanger.

Overall an enjoyable paranormal romance with lots of sexually charged moments and a couple with great chemistry, Pleasure of a Dark Prince is a great addition to this series. I do love the way Cole writes her werewolf characters. :)  I'll be reading Demon from the Dark, the upcoming installment in this series releasing August 31, 2010.

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Immortals After Dark Series, Book 9
Released: February 16, 2010
Grade: B+

Visit Kresley Cole here.