Thursday, May 13, 2010

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

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

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

Visit Angela Benedetti here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Josh Lanyon here.

Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Nora Roberts here

1st Anniversary Giveaway

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Celebrating My 1st Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Impressions: Brothers in Arms Series by Samantha Kane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genre: Erotica/Historical setting

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

Visit Samantha Kane here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mini-Impressions: The Rules of Seduction by Madeline Hunter

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

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

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

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

Visit Madeline Hunter here.

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

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mini-Impressions: Demon Forged by Meljean Brook

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Meljean Brook here

Saturday, May 1, 2010

April 2010 Reads, Blogging Woes & Favorites

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

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

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

Okay, here's my list for April.

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

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

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

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

5) Moonstruck by Susan Grant: B
Upcoming Mini

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

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

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

11) By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear: B

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

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

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

15) The Moonlight Mistress by Victoria Janssen: B+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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