Monday, May 31, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Lisa Kleypas here.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: Storm Watch by Jill Shalvis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Jill Shalvis here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: The Endearment by Lavyrle Spencer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find list of Lavyrle Spencer's books here.

KMont's Year of the Historical Challenge - May Review

Thursday, May 20, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Josh Lanyon here.

Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: High Noon by Nora Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Nora Roberts here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Gavin Atlas here.

Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Winner-1st Anniversary Giveaway!

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

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

Now! The winner is...


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

Friday, May 14, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Sarah Mayberry here.