Sunday, May 13, 2012

Minis: Jodi Thomas, Catherine Lundoff + Links

Happy Mother's Day!

This has been a busy week. For my third blogiversary I chose to highlight favorite authors that I have recommended throughout the last three years under different categories --  Historical Romance: Mary Balogh,  Fantasy: Elizabeth Bear, Contemporary Romance: Nora Roberts, Women's Fiction/Romance: Lisa Dale.

However, I didn't want to end the week without posting a couple of those mini impressions I love to feature once in a while. One book is by Jodi Thomas, another favorite author, and the other is by a "new-to-me" LGBTQ author. You all know how much I love discovering new authors and the LGBTQ sub-genre. Here they are:

Just Down the Road (Harmony# 4) by Jodi Thomas

Just Down the Road is the fourth installment in this small town romance series by Jodi Thomas. I'm loving it because Ms. Thomas has a knack for drawing characters with qualities that the reader can connect with easily. That applies to characters that take center stage, as well as to those that play secondary roles within any given book.

In this particular installment Jodi Thomas focuses on loses and finding love and hope. There is one very satisfying romance featuring a man who lost his love of life when he lost his wife to cancer, but unexpectedly finds new hope and a second chance at love through the love of an orphaned child and renewed passion when he falls for a woman who has lost her sense of self by trying to please others. Then there are other story lines, one highlighting a much loved young couple going through changes, loss and strife, now finally settling into some sort of understanding, and the other an older couple dealing with doubts and unexpected surprises.

In the meantime, secondary characters gain depth as Thomas highlights strengths, flaws and vulnerabilities. As a result when or if a time comes for these characters to take central stage they will be just as dear to the readers as they seem to be to their families and friends in Harmony. That's a kind of magic. The kind of magic that makes this quiet small town romance series a winner for me. (Contemporary Romance)Grade B+


Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff

In Silver MoonCatherine Lundoff weaves a fantasy set in a small town where only a few women are called by magic to change into werewolves when menopausal symptoms flare up. This book's premise is what sold it to me.

The story's central character is a woman of a "certain age" going through multiple changes in her life, including menopause. At first glance it might seem as if equating those biological changes with the werewolf theme is dramatic, but in fact I found it to be both creative and on target. Change. Through the theme of change, Lundoff also focuses on other issues that affect women during this time in their lives. She adds insightful touches such as the "invisibility factor"* that women experience after they reach a "certain age," which ties in quite well with the issue of those same women being abandoned or dismissed by husbands or partners (like yesterday's news) for younger women.

I mentioned above that the story is about change, but in the end it's really about either fighting those changes or embracing them gracefully when the inevitable time comes. Lundoff serves this fantasy dish with a scoop of hope. While the main character in her story goes through that roller coaster, the other women show the final result: accepting change doesn't mean you have to give up love or sexuality, instead there is much to gain, lots to offer and still great things to come in the future.

I read Silver Moon from a female's perspective, but this book is categorized as a lesbian fantasy. As such, and if you read this book from a concrete or literal point of view, I would say that it is high on the fantasy/paranormal with lots of action, with amusing and insightful moments (at least they were amusing and insightful to me), and quite low on the romance. A quick, enjoyable read. (LGBT - Lesbian Fantasy)Grade B

*(If you don't know what the "invisibility factor" means, you haven't turned 50 yet. It's when people, this applies to men and women, stop seeing you as a "woman," and in fact you become almost, if not totally, invisible.) 


Finally, I would like to provide you today with links to free downloads for short stories by two favorite authors:

Cheryl St. John - Harlequin Historical: In case you haven't read it yet, here's a link to Cheryl's website where you can download the prequel to the Irish Bride's Trilogy. The first book, The Wedding Journey by Cheryl St. John is available now. I have it in my TBR and hope to read and review it soon. :)

Alex Jeffers - LGBT Gay Fantasy: Additionally, there is also a free download available here for "Firooz and His Brother," a short story that will be included in Alex Jeffers' upcoming release You Will Meet A Stranger Far From Home: Wonder Stories. I read it and loved it... wonder story indeed.

Thank you all for coming by to celebrate this week with me!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Review: A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale

Continuing with favorite writers that I have recommended throughout the past three years, today I am reviewing the last book released by a favorite writer in the women's fiction with contemporary romance elements category: Lisa Dale.

I tend to love Lisa Dale's books, not only because of her beautiful prose and excellent writing skills, but also because from that first book I read in 2009 to this last one, I've found that she has developed a great knack for balancing out both contemporary women's fiction and romance. Her stories have HEA's (happy-ever-afters), but they also have some of the best characteristics found in women's fiction. Her books are usually character driven, and throughout them I've found that whatever the main subject may be, finding a path to personal growth and forgiveness are always part of her exploration. So here it is:

A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale

An unforgettable novel about love, forgiveness, and letting go.

Nine years ago, Lauren Matthews prosecuted the case of a lifetime. But her error in judgment sent an innocent man to prison. Now Arlen Fieldstone has finally been released, and Lauren has only one thing on her mind: asking forgiveness. How can she make up for nine years of his life? To get to Arlen, Lauren must first get through Arlen's best friend, Will Farris, who hasn't forgiven her for destroying Arlen's life.
In the steaming summer streets of Richmond, Virginia, three people's lives collide. Lauren needs forgiveness. Arlen needs hope. And Will? He needs something too, something that no one can know—especially not Lauren...
A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale is a character driven novel with complex characters, but not an overly complicated plot. With this novel, Dale excels at digging into her characters' motivations and in keeping the reader glued to the pages to find who these people really are deep down inside.

There are three main characters: Lauren Mathews, Will Farris, and  Arlen Fieldstone. Plus there's Eula, Arlen's ex-wife, who serves as a strong secondary character. Lauren Matthews was hailed a prodigy when she prosecuted and won the case that sent Arlen Fieldstone to prison for a crime he didn't commit. Her successful career is based on that one case. When Arlen's case is retried, found not guilty and released after nine years in prison, Lauren begins to question everything about her life. There are reasons behind reasons for these questions, but the one thing she clearly knows is that she needs to ask for Arlen's forgiveness to get on with her life. Will he grant her what she needs?

Arlen Fieldstone's life went on hold when he was nineteen years old and accused of a crime he didn't commit. He lost his wife Eula and his future. Arlen wants freedom but no longer knows what the word freedom really means. After nine years he continues to live in a prison made up of fear, anger and resentment. What does he have to do to find real freedom?

Will Farris is Arlen's childhood friend. He never doubted Arlen and he's the only person there for him now. When Lauren walks through the door of his antique store, Will remembers her from the trial. His initial feelings for her are portrayed as a mixture of attraction and repulsion, dislike and personal obsession. Will's initial response is to protect Arlen and places himself between the two. However through daily contact Will's view of Lauren changes as do his feelings, and as she reveals herself to him, a key turns and he feels the need to open the door that will reveal to Lauren the real man behind the facade. But can he?

In A Promise of Safekeeping, on the surface, Dale's characters don't seem to have anything in common but beneath it all they do. They are all holding on to feelings or things that imprison them just as surely as Arlen was imprisoned for those nine years. None of them really know what freedom means and it takes truth, forgiveness and love to free them.

There is a rather dramatic scene at the end that I did not expect of such a well paced (I read this novel in one sitting) character driven novel, plus the end felt rushed and abrupt after the depth found in the rest of the story. However in this case, the ending did not detract from my overall enjoyment of A Promise of Safekeeping.

As with her previous novels, I love Dale's prose in this novel. I can't say it enough, but she definitely has the touch when it comes to fusing contemporary romance and women's fiction, because yes there is a satisfactory romance between Will and Lauren. Plus what can I say about the fact that Dale brings a couple of interesting subjects including that of wrongful incarceration to women's fiction? This is a character driven novel and Dale's deft execution when it comes to creating complex characters comes through. Recommended.

Category: Women's Fiction/Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Penguin/January 3, 2012
Grade: B+

Visit Lisa Dale here. Read excerpts here.

Other books by Lisa Dale:
Simple Wishes
It Happened One Night
Slow Dancing on Price's Pier

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro #2) by Nora Roberts

Continuing with my blogiversary week, today I'm highlighting another author whose works I have reviewed repeatedly at Impressions throughout the last three years. Nora Roberts has been my "go to" contemporary romance author for years. Throughout the years some of her romance books have become my comfort reads, my chicken soup for the soul. Roberts has had two releases within the last month, The Witness, a book I highly recommend, and of course the latest release in her straight contemporary romance series:

The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro, #2)

The Last Boyfriend is the second book in Nora Roberts' Inn BoonsBoro contemporary romance series. Avery McTavish, the owner of the popular pizzeria Vestra, caught my attention in the first book of the series and I've been looking forward to reading her romance with the manager and organizational genius in the Montgomery family, Owen.

What did I find in this novel by a favorite romance writer? In this book, Roberts most definitely uses a true form of the "friends to lovers" trope. Owen and Avery grew up together and have known each other since they were children. Avery even chose Owen as her first boyfriend when she was five years old, but since then they have been the best of friends. However, the relationship between them changes after they exchange a passionate kiss at the inn.

In The Last Boyfriend, and unlike what I found in the first book, there is more of a focus on the romance between Owen and Avery. They spend more time together on the page getting to know each other as a couple figuring out their new feelings and if or how they should go forward with a new relationship. As characters they are both extremely likable. Owen is a dependable, sexy sweetheart with a heart of gold, and Avery is a strong and vulnerable firecracker. She's one of Nora Roberts' redhead characters.

Owen and Avery enter into an affair early in the story, and there are passionate moments between these two people during that time, however, after those initial moments sexual tension is lacking. Additionally, their friendship and knowledge of each other's foibles and strengths allows them to work out their differences easily, so that even when few conflicts arise between Owen and Avery they seem minimal.

Although Roberts makes more time for this couple, there is a definite family atmosphere to this story. Everyone is not only involved in what's going on between Owen and Avery, but Roberts also layers additional individual story lines to the mix. It's almost as if The Last Boyfriend is one romance with Avery and Owen at its center, but with a bigger romance being told: the one between the town of Boonsboro and the whole Montgomery clan.

Roberts knows how to convey that family atmosphere on the page, and there are some wonderful moments here between the Montgomery brothers, between Avery, Hope and Clare, and between Justine (mother Montgomery) and her boys. There's one particular scene between Justine and Owen that had me in stitches... poor Owen!

It is also true that Roberts is great when it comes to research and in these books it is particularly obvious that she knows her stuff. There's the design, construction, and decoration of the inn, and now there are also other structures being restored through Boonsboro, so there are details, details, details. Beautiful details, but again, at times way too many of them and everything just works out... perfectly. And then there's the friendly ghost at the inn who by now has made her wishes known and whose backstory will predictably tie in with Hope and Ryder's romance.

I found The Last Boyfriend to be  an entertaining, sweet, contemporary romance with minimal conflicts and predictable situations. It has likable characters and that wonderful family atmosphere I've come to expect from Ms. Roberts. So yes, although this story falls on the average side of the spectrum for me, there's some real tension between hot stuff Ryder and Hope in this book and I will definitely be reading the last book of the trilogy, The Perfect Hope.

Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: Inn BoonsBoro
Publisher/Release Date: Berkeley/May 1, 2012
Grade: C+

Visit Nora Roberts here.

The Next Always, #1
The Last Boyfriend, #2
The Perfect Hope, #3 (Releasing November 6, 2012)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Impressions: Range of Ghosts (Eternal Sky#1) by Elizabeth Bear

This is my blogiversary week. Yesterday, I featured a review for the latest release by one of my favorite historical romance writers, Mary Balogh. Today I'm featuring one of my favorite female fantasy writers and one whose works I have recommended repeatedly at Impressions throughout the last three years, Elizabeth Bear. Here are my impressions of her latest release:

Range of Ghosts (Eternal Sky #1)

Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.
Elizabeth Bear. How does this author manage to do this to me every time? What a magnificent fantasy read Range of Ghosts turned out to be for me! I read it slowly because I wanted to savor every single detail on the pages, and I didn't want to miss a single word, nor did I want to lose track of her world building.

What made it so absorbing? The way she weaves the story, of course, plus the world building which is based on both Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, and the characters that inhabit that world, from heroes to villains.

Bear takes the reader from the steppe plains on the land of the Eternal Sky where the Great Khan once ruled and where Qori Buqa waged a terrible war killing the rightful heir to the Khagnate and leaving young Temur to flee for his life, through the Range of Ghosts where blood ghosts raised by an evil wizard threaten his life. To the Rasan Empire and the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth where Temur meets the strong and beautiful Once-Princess and now wizard Samarkar. And to the great Ala-Din stone in the Uthman Caliphate, a land of veiled women where assassins, a djinn and an evil wizard's magic drive our heroes on to the White Sea.

There is war and love, life and death, evil and magic. There is a sense that fables come to life as our hero and heroine(s) race through danger. Magic takes a toll, debts must be paid, and while villains do damage, they don't win all the battles. The hero is young, uncertain and just beginning to find his strength and will, yet females are strong and powerful in this tale of wizards and warriors. Oh, and horses are magnificent!

I love the sense of wonder in our characters as they move from their own lands and witness the changing skies that Bear uses to define the different empires, and fully experience the differing cultures of this world. There's a contradictory sense to this story in that it can lull the reader with its beauty, yet the pace is quick with action. I chose to let it lull me this time instead of quickly gobbling up the action. Bear ends this first installment at just the right moment satisfying the reader, but leaving the road open with a big 'danger ahead' sign that promises further adventures.

Of all the books I've read by Bear to date, this is the one that gets closest to what I think of as a traditional fantasy story -- that's not a bad thing... just rather surprising. I also find it interesting that this is the second series I've read where Bear begins with her hero/heroine at the end of an epic battle and where a horse comes to his/her rescue. The other story is All The Windwracked Stars. On the minus side, the first few sentences in this book worried me as they are a bit overdone! Don't let that put you off because thankfully that only lasts for a few sentences and Bear's story telling abilities quickly take over.

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear is a beautiful fantasy read and a great beginning to the Eternal Sky series. If you love fantasy, I thoroughly recommend it.

Category: Fantasy
Series: Eternal Sky #1
Publisher/Released: Tor/March 27, 2012
Grade: A-

Visit Elizabeth Bear here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Impressions is 3! Thank You!

Today Impressions of a Reader is 3! I've been doing this for three years already? Time flies when you're having fun. Thank you all for making my blogging experience throughout these past three years one that I'll always remember.


Review: The Proposal by Mary Balogh

Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy, especially since a freak accident took her husband much too soon. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. But when Hugo, Lord Trentham, scoops her up in his arms after a fall, she feels a sensation that both shocks and emboldens her.

Hugo never intends to kiss Lady Muir, and frankly, he judges her to be a spoiled, frivolous—if beautiful—aristocrat. He is a gentleman in name only: a soldier whose bravery earned him a title; a merchant’s son who inherited his wealth. He is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. He doesn’t wish to court Lady Muir, nor have any role in the society games her kind thrives upon. Yet Hugo has never craved a woman more; Gwen’s guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face have ruined him for any other woman. He wants her, but will she have him?

The hard, dour ex-military officer who so gently carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman’s heart. Despite her cautious nature, Gwen cannot ignore the attraction. As their two vastly different worlds come together, both will be challenged in unforeseen ways. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, she cannot resist Hugo’s devotion, his desire, his love, and the promise of forever.
I am, unquestionably, a Mary Balogh fan. It should then be no surprise that as soon as The Proposal, the first book in her new historical romance series The Survivors' Club, was announced my excitement was great, and this book read as soon as it released.

The heroine in The Proposal is an old friend. If you've read A Summer to Remember, one of my very favorite novels by Mary Balogh, you will probably remember Gwen, Lady Muir. In that novel she was described as a beautiful widow with a limp who nevertheless seemed happy with her circumstances. I always wondered if she would find a happy ever after of her own.

In The Proposal, Balogh pairs our Lady Muir with a hero of the Napoleonic Wars. They both bear psychological scars, Hugo as a result of his actions during the war and Gwen as a result of long held guilt due to dark events that occurred during her marriage to the late Lord Muir. Neither really likes the other when they first meet as they are very different people. He is morose, stern, and holds a deep dislike of the aristocracy. She is personable and sociable. He comes from a family of businessmen and she comes from a well-known aristocratic family. On the surface they have nothing in common.

That doesn't stop Hugo and Gwen from being passionately attracted to each other or from acting on that passion. As two rational adults who think with their heads first, both agree that a relationship is not a possibility or even a consideration. The conflict, as superficially presented and argued extensively by Balogh's characters in this romance, becomes one that is seemingly about "a matter of class." However, there's always more to a Balogh novel, and as these characters are revealed in their true light through interactions and conversations, it is then understood that it is ultimately a matter of the heart.

Hugo gained his title through his heroic efforts in the war. However in his heart, he is a farmer and businessman and resents the aristocracy that made it tough for him to work his way up through the ranks in the military. Hugo is a strong man, a blunt, heroic, humble and capable man, yet he's also insecure when among the aristocracy except when in the company of fellow members of the Survivors' Club. He's convinced that he needs a wife of his own class to be happy, but finds himself passionately and physically attracted to Gwendoline. This is not necessarily a problem for him until he slowly becomes impossibly emotionally attached.

At first Gwendoline's attraction for Hugo is also physical, even as she doesn't necessarily understand her passion for such a man. However there's an affinity of spirit between Gwen and this blunt man that slowly and surely gains ground. She falls in love. But will love be enough for Gwen this time around? Can they put aside their differences and doubts?

In The Proposal there are no outside villains that become part of the conflict. The conflict that takes place is entirely between the two protagonists. As such this novel is character driven and entirely focused on the main characters, relying on dialogue and internal musings, doubts and personal realizations to move the romance along. There is physical passion, but there's also a subtle kind of passion that can be found in the characters' personal actions. This is a subtle romance.

It is because this is such a character driven novel that I found it to be uneven in sections. The emotions from one character or another are not always well-conveyed to the reader, and that surprised me. There's also a lack of flow and fine detail in some sections of this novel that were unexpected. This is Ms. Balogh and my expectations are always high. Regardless, I was able to lose myself in the story until the end.

The Proposal did not turn out to be my favorite story by this favorite writer. It is still a historical romance that I recommend if you like character driven novels with a subtle touch. I am most certainly looking forward to reading the upcoming stories about the members of the Survivors' Club. In this first novel, Balogh piqued my interest with her description of those characters and I can't wait for their happy ever afters.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: The Survivors Club, #1
Publisher/Release Date: Random House/May 1, 2012 - Kindle Ed.
Grade: B-

Visit Mary Balogh here.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review: Bear Like Me by Jonathan Cohen

Fired from his job at Phag magazine, Peter Mallory has to find a way to make a living...and get revenge When his best friend suggests writing a book about the bear community--and using his new ursine look to go undercover at Phag--Peter is soon letting his body hair grow and practising the fine art of flannel couture. When Peter's sabotage campaign works only too well, he starts to run the risk of discovery. With an envious fellow bear set to unmask Peter as a fraud, and a relationship with an intriguing bear on the line, things are about to get very hairy.
I'm a fan of bear erotica and bearish romances when I find them, so Bear Like Me by Jonathan Cohen, an amusing, light tale about a man who becomes part of the bear community, through let's say the back door, is right up my alley.

Cohen weaves this bearish story around Peter Mallory, a journalist and self-proclaimed twink who becomes obsessed with getting revenge after he's fired from his job at Phag magazine. In the meantime he needs to make a living and at his friend Mac's suggestion Peter decides to write a novel about the bear community. Unfortunately, he is clueless. Problem? He's part of the mainstream gay community and lives in what he refers to as the "gay ghetto," but Peter doesn't even know what a bear is!

Mac suggests Peter go undercover to research his novel. To blend in he grows a beard, stops waxing his body hair, and gains heft by eating like food is going out of style. And in some of the most amusing moments in the story, his wardrobe undergoes a dramatic change as Peter sheds his trendy suits and ties for flannel. Of course there's more to the experience than growing fur, changing wardrobe or gaining weight.
"Becoming a bear, just like coming out of the closet, requires a certain shift in perception. What you find attractive, what you find acceptable, what you deem important, all changes. In a way you become an outsider, but in a way you become part of a small, select private group. Usually this is a long process that accompanies repeated exposure to the bear community. I didn't, however, have the luxury of time." 
Peter's partner Danny is not necessarily over the moon about the lack of income, but all the physical and psychological changes that slowly turn Peter into his other self, Dan the bear, take a real toll on the relationship.

Peter/Dan is driven by his obsession to get that revenge against Phag, meanwhile that "shift in perception" slowly takes place within Peter. This takes time, however even as he clings to the belief that inside he is still a twink and that his foray into to bear community is temporary Peter falls for Ben, a big teddy bear of man who sees the bear and other qualities in him that Peter doesn't see in himself. Unfortunately Peter doesn't know when to stop lying and scheming, so that by the time he comes to his senses it might be too late to keep the friends who welcomed him with opened arms, or his man.

There are over-the-top moments (Peter loves and attracts drama like a magnet), and since this book was first published in 2003, a rather dated back story. But I like that through all the mayhem Cohen sneaks in slight critical views of both the mainstream gay and bear communities from an insider and an outsider's point of view. Additionally, the pace of the novel is quick as lightning and it makes this story not only entertaining, but a super fast read.

In Bear Like Me, Cohen presents an overview of the bear community with all its rules and bearish family atmosphere. Peter's second coming out story as a bear is entertaining with an intentionally campy style, outrageous moments, and a surprisingly sweet romance.

Category: Gay Fiction/Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Bear Bones Books/June 9, 2011
Source: Lethe Press
Grade: B

About the Author (Summarized): Jonathan Cohen was born to non-bear parents 40-some years ago in Toronto, Canada. The rise of the Internet in 1995 connected Jonathan to a community he'd never heard of before. "Bears" were hairy, bearded, large men, Jonathan found to his surprise --- and they liked men just like him! After coming out to himself and others as a bear, he decided to study their community, their rituals, and of course their sexual practices. The novel Bear Like Me was the result and was published in 2003. Jonathan now lives in Toronto. Brown hair is turning to gray, but Jonathan still remembers those halcyon bear days and gropes of yore.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review: Naked Angel (Club Burlesque) by Logan Belle

Naked Angel is the third book in Logan Belle's Club Burlesque trilogy. I did not read the first book of the series Blue Angel, but got hooked on this sexy erotic romance trilogy after reading the second book, Fallen Angel. However, I do not recommend that this book be read as a stand alone.

Earlier, Wendy very aptly described this series as a soap opera and she hit the nail on the head. That's exactly what this series is, an erotic soap opera where the characters are either jumping in and out of bed with each other, lusting after each other, planning revenge, or going behind each other's backs to outdo the next guy/gal, all in an uber erotic burlesque setting. I love it.

There's the main couple Mallory and Alec, whose erotic romps and romantic ups and downs began on that first book and end with the trilogy. After going through their romantic woes in Fallen Angel, in this installment Mallory is trying to get their new burlesque club The Painted Lady off to a good start, while Alec decides it is time to ask her to tie the knot. Mallory is fine with the idea until Alec suggests that maybe Mallory should hang up her feather boa and pasties and stop dancing. Wha...???!! Is that boy out of his mind? Mallory loves to shake her booty, and didn't she give up law school for burlesque in the first place? What is he thinking?!

THEN Logan introduces Nadia, a failed ballerina who decides to use her dancing background to make a new life for herself by dancing burlesque. Unfortunately she meets Max, the owner of a small ballet company who thinks Nadia can do better than make a living as a burlesque dancer. They lust after each other and fall for each other, and although he can't keep his hands off of her still resents her job and makes an idiot out of himself. Ohhh the drama!

THEN, there's Violet Offender! Violet is the villainous dominatrix who previously had the hots for Mallory and then turned into her bitter enemy. She is sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, and a personal favorite. Of course there's also Gemma, a character brought to the forefront to play additional havoc with our cast of characters. I could go on, but to make a long story short, there's an affair, a divorce, a burlesque competition, some pretty twisted back stabbing, all while the steam rises and the erotic romps abound.

Mallory, Alec and Violet Offender are likable and memorable, although I would say that they are defined as characters only to a certain degree. Unfortunately there's just not enough depth there to make a real emotional connection with the some of the characters that play a central role in this installment. I'm referring to Nadia and Max. I found Max to be self-centered, domineering, and demanding with less than valid concerns, and Nadia too easily and suddenly agreeable to his demands, as well as unbelievably understanding.

My favorite aspect of Naked Angel, as with Blue Angel, is the setting. Logan Belle's wonderful world of burlesque is one of beautiful costumes, sequins, feather boas, pasties, and music where even the dances are described in fine detail. I also obviously enjoy the ins and outs of the characters' drama-driven lives and their erotic adventures. Fortunately Logan Belle ends the trilogy quite nicely indeed with plenty of that drama, a happily ever after, and some extra surprises. (I'm going back to read that first book I missed. :D )

Category: Erotic Romance
Series: Club Burlesque
Publisher/Release Date: Aphrodesia/March 27, 2012
Source: Kensington Publishing
Grade: B

Visit Logan Belle here.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April 2012: Reads + Updates

April is over. The good thing about April? There were new releases that I was looking forward to reading and I read them all. That means that even with all those crazy "real life" issues that are continuously affecting my daily life lately my reading slump is officially over. Good thing!

Anyway, here are my reads for the month. Those new releases were wonderful because they got me to read and I enjoyed them for different reasons, but only a few of them made it to the top of my list:

Total Books Read: 18
  Contemporary: 4 (Romance: 2 Romance Suspense: 1 Romance Erotica: 1)
  Historical Romance: 3
  Urban Fantasy/PNR: 1
  LGBT: 10 (Romance: 5 Fiction: 2 Spec Fic: 2 Memoir: 1)

1.   About That Night by Julie James: C
2.   Just Down the Road by Jodi Thomas (Upcoming Review) 
3.   The Duke's Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley: B-
4.   The Rake by Mary Jo Putney: A-
5.   Split by Mel Bossa: A-
6.   Private Eye by S.E. Culpepper: C-
7.   Almost a Gentleman by Pam Rosenthal: C
8.   Carbon and Ash by Chris Owen (Re-read): B
9.   Added Money by Chris Owen: C+
10. Lover Reborn (BDB#10) by J.R. Ward: C-
11. Lily by Xavier Axelson: B
12. Dutch's Boy by Xavier Axelson: B
13. Earthly Concerns by Xavier Axelson: B
14. The Heart's History by Lewis DeSimone: B+
15. The Witness by Nora Roberts: A
16. Bear Like Me by Jonathan Cohen (Upcoming Review) 
17. Naked Angel (Club Burlesque) by Logan Belle (Upcoming Review) 
18. Dirty Poole: A Sensual Memoir by Wakefield Poole (Upcoming Review)

Upcoming Reviews:

Currently Reading:

These are two very different books! Range of Ghosts is Elizabeth Bear's latest release and the first book in her latest fantasy series Eternal Sky. I'm loving her world building so far, but I'm not far into the book so I can't tell you much about the characters yet.

The same goes for The Seduction of Phaeton Black by Jillian Stone. This is more of a Victorian noir, paranormal romance. The beginning of the book is quite erotic, so I'm expecting the steam level to be on the high end of the scale. That first chapter kept me reading and Phaeton Black is certainly a character! Let's see how it turns out.

That's it for my April reads. May looks like it's going to be a great reading month too... I'm looking forward to reading quite a few new releases. How about you? How did your April turn out?