The Book Gourmet

Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.

 

 

Professional Reader Reviews Published

Wolf Unleashed by Paige Tyler

Wolf Unleashed (SWAT) - Paige Tyler

Alex Trevino has his hands full. First, he has to convince the sexy vet that doesn't give him the time of day to go out with him. Then, when he finally accomplishes that and figures out she's his One, she gets it into her head, she's something else than a vet, trying to figure out who's running a dogfighting ring, and almost gets herself killed, forcing Alex to go half-wolf on her to keep her safe, she freaks and breaks it off, only to come back asking him to help her track her missing sister.

All this, while trying to find out who's behind the latest drug craze sweeping the city. Alex is just one man...With a little extra wolf thrown into the mix.


Once again, it was the suspense that saved the day. Suspense and the SWAT team with their closeness and zingers.
The suspense was intriguing and gritty with three separate investigations, keeping everyone fully occupied, only to merge (a little of an easy solution, if you ask me) into one single case. But it kept everybody on their toes, it kept me guessing, and it kept me glued to the pages.
The action scenes were intense, and the full-on wolf chase sequence was just the perfect cherry on the cake.

The cast of characters (namely the SWAT squad) was once more at their peak, both as emotional support for the hero, much needed heroes of the city, and the in-house entertainment to provide some much needed levity to the subject matter of the suspense arc.
I couldn't say the same for the heroine. She was annoying to begin with (with her hang-ups and emotional baggage), but instead of growing on me as the story progressed, she became even worse, until I couldn't stand her. I don't care that she had a 180 in the end, she's the worst heroine in this series so far and I'm glad "her" story is over.

Yet another great suspense and action story with wonderful (secondary) characters, but the romance (thanks to the heroine) left me cold.

I'm looking forward to what comes next, especially with the dangerous possibility of werewolf hunters converging on Dallas...And I'm wondering what he ME might know.

To Love a Wolf by Paige Tyler

To Love a Wolf (SWAT) - Paige Tyler

Little does Landry Cooper know the afternoon he walks into a bank to cash a check to cover a bet, that the awful day he's had, is about to turn into one of the best days of his life. It doesn't matter that he has to deal with a bank robbery, he's just met the most beautiful woman in the world. A woman he soon realizes she's The One for him...And the woman who will hurt him more than being blown up into a pink mist once she discovers his secret.


I was looking forward to Cooper's story from the first book in this series. There was something about the incredibly observant werewolf who everybody went to for advice and who could keep secrets that could cost him his job. But because he's just a wonderful character, of course his story couldn't have been all roses and rainbows, but instead turned out to be the darkest, most emotional one of the bunch (so far).

First, it was the star-crossed romance between him and Everly, the artist with four overprotective brothers and a magic-werewolf-mirror possessing father. The crux of the problem was telegraphed from the beginning when Everly told him how her mother died, but the big reveal still packed a punch. Especially once Everly's fears and memories kicked in. But I really couldn't empathize with the girl, not once she started spewing the m-word about the guy who saved her neck just a few days ago.
I know it created conflict, but the break-up was a tad too melodramatic for me, especially given everything that was going on around the two of them.
Still, it got solved rather quickly and it didn't really need one of those life-or-death moments (although we got that one as well).

And then there was the suspense, the main driving force, beside the weepy romance. I was right about the bomber, although I still wish I was wrong.
A bomber with his expertly made bombs was terrorizing Dallas and everybody pitched in, including Cooper, a former EOD tech who wolf-y instincts quickly started tingling. I might've seen the baddie coming from a mile away, but that final twist with the betrayal threw me (as it did Cooper). The suspense arc, especially given the personal connections, was dark and emotional, and quite painful to read toward the end, as I empathize with Cooper and what he was going through—and what he did in the end to save all those lives.

And then there were the characters. Cooper himself with his snarkiness and nicknames (Brothers Stupid brought a smile to my face) was enough to keep things lively, but the presence of the rest of the bunch didn't hurt, especially when the poor heartbroken wolfy needed a shoulder to cry on (or help getting out of being arrested).

Great suspense, an emotional romance, drama, angst, and a wonderful cast of characters. This is turning to be one of my favorite series.

In the Company of Wolves by Paige Tyler

In the Company of Wolves (SWAT) - Paige Tyler

SWAT officer Eric Becker, the renowned lover of women in tight yoga pants, does the most logical thing to do when faced with the most beautiful werewolf, he's ever seen pointing a gun at him in the middle of a shootout—he almost swallows his tongue at her sweet scent and then hides her in a crate to keep her from getting arrested or killed. Now, it's her turn to make a move.

Jayna Wilson has no idea what move she's supposed to take after a gorgeous SWAT hunk helps her hide and escape instead of hauling her off to jail. She's been out of moves ever since the alpha of her little pack has gotten mixed up with Albanian mobsters, revealed the werewolf secret to them, and now offers Jayna and her pack members as muscle to the criminals...So maybe she'll let the SWAT hunk have the next move as well...


The suspense was great as always, although the criminal group (at least they weren't Russians) seemed a little in disarray from the beginning, making Eric's job a little easier. They just didn't seem like very savvy criminals, if you ask me.
But I liked the suspense, the "mystery" of how Eric might save his dream woman and her little pack without having to sacrifice his own pack, his job or his life. And the action, as always, was top-notch with bullets, and in this case, claws and canines, flying every each way.

The problem I had with this particular story was the fact there appeared to be something missing. And I didn't realize what it was, until the end (the final chapter), when it was there again.
What was missing, was the SWAT pack. I love those guys to bits. I love their friendships, their relationships, their unflinching loyalty, their willingness to take a bullet for the guy standing next to them. And I love how they love each other. Even when they're pissed at each other, even when the alpha is snarling mad, their emotional connection is palpable.

And I missed it in this story, since it was mostly Eric and the new little pack of betas among the larger "pack" of mobsters. Thank god for Cooper, Eric's bestie with his secrets-keeping Cupid-extraordinaire superpowers, for the much necessary infusion of Pack camaraderie and humorous zingers (those were missing alongside the guys), since I didn't particularly care for the new pack and its characters. They seemed more like extras to me, extras who propped up the heroine (who wasn't bad, but wasn't all that much either). Even Becker paled compared to the Becker that I've come to love.

Solid suspense, great action, but as far as characters go, this was a let-down. But we did get to learn about a new "species" of werewolf.

Wolf Trouble by Paige Tyler

Wolf Trouble (SWAT) - Paige Tyler

The DPD SWAT unit is about to get a new recruit. But this time it's a woman, to appease the city politicians. Luckily the commander of the squad had some say in the matter and he found the one to better mesh with the team, since she's a werewolf as well.

Khaki Blake might be a fairly new one (barely three months since her change), but she jumps at the opportunity to leave her job in Washington State behind, since her ex (also a cop) has been making her life a living hell. Then she comes to Dallas and it quickly becomes apparent, her squad leader, Xander Riggs might also make her life a living hell, since it's obvious the guy cannot stand her. A pity, since he's very easy on the eyes, and smells absolutely delicious.

It's not that Xander cannot stand Khaki, his behavior is due to the fact he wants nothing more than to jump her bones. She's The One, but she's also his subordinate, and she's just come off a bad office romance. It might kill him, but he's determined to stay away from her...Until chemistry cannot be denied any longer and the two break all the rules.


Yet another amazing addition to this series. The romance was better than in the first book, mostly because of the "conflict" of the two coworkers getting all hot and bothered about each other and trying to hide it from everyone, but also because the two protagonists worked better together, not to mention the fact they were both werewolves trying to fight the impossible-to-fight attraction between them.

The main suspense (about the bank robbers) played second fiddle to the real twist in the end (my hunch proved to be right), but it all served to propel the plot forward, also serving as catalyst for the romance between Khaki and Xander to come out into the open.

But what worked the most (as in its predecessor), was the team. The characters themselves, their relationships, interactions, and camaraderie are the pillars this series is really based on...And what I'm looking most forward to when I start reading.

Hungry Like the Wolf by Paige Tyler

Hungry Like the Wolf - Paige Tyler

There's something off with the Dallas PD SWAT team. And it's not just the fact it's comprised of 16 easy-on-the-eyes hunks. Mackenzie Stone, investigative journalist, smells something fishy. The team is just too perfect. Everybody sings their praises and cites them as an example. They're involved in the community...No one is that perfect, so there must be something off. And Mac is sure she knows what is is...Turns out she has no idea.


This was a complete impulse buy for me, from a completely new-to-me author. And it blew me away. The plot was pretty tight, the suspense was gripping, the action scenes intense, and the story featured a pretty awesome cast of characters.

I loved the Pack, the family the SWAT team made. Their friendship and camaraderie really came through the pages and their interactions were a real treat to read.
The heroine more or less (except for those few pages in the last third of the story where I wanted to smack her) left me cold. I liked her enough, and I liked her paired with Gage, but that was pretty much it. The Pack stole the show in this one, and I didn't even mind the lack of any realistic romance. The one we got fell along the lines of paranormal-type romance, where the two protagonists are pretty much fated for each other, which absolves the author from making any kind of effort where the romance is concerned. Which I didn't mind in this case. At all.

I loved the action scenes, the tactical "drills" and "real-life" action, both in police work and personal lives of the two protagonists (that final confrontation in the penultimate chapter). There was nothing overblown about them; the writing was concise and to the point, creating the mood and conveying the images with ease and seemingly without much effort. Loved it. Intense, gripping, somewhat chilling at times. Loved it.

And then there's the world-building. Just when I thought there couldn't be much more to be invented in the werewolf world, Ms Tyler managed to surprise me with her little twist on just how a werewolf comes to be (there is no biting involved, just a quirk in the DNA). Although all tropes could not be avoided—and we got the The One spiel. Oh, well.

I'm looking forward to learning more about the DNA quirk...And of course, I can't wait to read more about the guys in the Special Wolf Alpha Unit.

The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick

The Other Lady Vanishes - Amanda Quick

Adelaide Blake escapes from her involuntary residence at a private asylum for the insane and seeks refuge in the small Californian town of Burning Cove. Working as a tearoom waitress, she does her best in not getting noticed, but she still manages to get the attention of Jake Truett, a recently widowed businessman recuperating his shattered nerves in Burning Cove.

Adelaide soon discovers Jake's nerves are as steely as hers, when he rushes to her rescue brandishing a gun, and when psychic to the stars Madam Zolanda plunges to her death, unwittingly fulfilling her own prediction of someone dying a bloody death, Jake's nerves of steel come in handy as it soon becomes apparent Zolanda and Adelaide's cases are connected.


Unlike its predecessor, the suspense in this story actually worked well. The entire plot was intriguing and rife with mystery and dangers, and what red herrings there might've been turned out to be genuine clues and connections.
I liked the mystery of it, I liked the guessing game I went through to discover who the villain is, what the possible connections were, who was pulling the strings...And I especially liked the final little twist to the well-developed suspense arc.

It's the rest of the story that lowered the rating. While the time period didn't bother me in this one, and the characters were rather well-drawn (the heroine wasn't off-putting in the least), I missed the romance element. It was there, in the story, but what we got left me cold.
I certainly wasn't convincing and came across as rushed and not as polished as the rest of the story was. Still, in the end, I sensed the seed of it, but that was all it was; the big revelation of feelings jumped the shark.

Still, the suspense saved the day.

Sanctuary by Nora Roberts

Sanctuary - Nora Roberts

Famous photographer Jo Ellen Hathaway suffers a breakdown, when she receives a folder full of photographs of her and one of her mother, the mother who disappeared twenty years ago, leaving her family behind. But in the photo, her mother is young, just as Jo Ellen remembers her. She's also naked...And dead.
When Jo Ellen comes out of the hospital, the photo of her mother is gone, like it was never there, and she takes refuge on the island of Lost Desire, in her home, with her estranged family, in order to get back on her feet, thinking she'd be safe.

But evil has followed Jo Ellen. Evil hiding behind a photo camera and lens, determined to outdo its mentor, and create a better portrait of an angel in death, and Jo Ellen would make an excellent subject.


This is what Nora Roberts does best. We have a very dysfunctional and estranged family separated by grief and self-isolation—a father who, after his wife's abandonment, abandoned his own children, in spirit if not in body, the oldest brother determined never to let a woman close in order to protect his heart, the youngest sister who hides behind a mask of a self-centered airhead, and the older sister who keeps everybody and everything at arms length, never needing anybody because they might abandon her like her mother did, who, following the lowest point in her life, comes home and brings the family back together.
Then there's the requisite romance, done in the usual NR laid-back, subtle style (but since there are three siblings, we get three separate romance sub-plots. They're completely different from each other, depending entirely on the characters that "live them" and their personalities, but they're also so well-done, they don't encroach on either each other, or the main plot.
There's of course the plethora of main and secondary characters, each shining through in their own way, each bringing something to the plot, and their relationships, interactions and evolving storylines are always a pleasure to read.

And then there's the suspense, so deeply enmeshed into the main arc of the story, its presence is always palpable. The reader can feel the evil, the danger lurking in the sidelines, creeping closer and closer. The added sprinkling of mystery as to whether the hero is really what he looks like or if he's indeed the villain, adds to the suspense and intensity of the read, keeping the tempo and expectations high as the reader turns the pages faster and faster.
When the truth finally comes (in only the last chapter!), the resolution is almost anticlimactic, after the heightened suspense and intensity of the path that led to it. The motive and reasoning certainly were, since it turned out the villain was just plain crazy.

A great mix of suspense, intrigue, romance, angst, family drama, and wonderful characters.

The Theft by Andrea Kane

The Theft  - Andrea Kane

Lady Noelle Bromleigh knows the circumstances surrounding her birth, what she doesn't know is her sire's identity. So she asks her adoptive father, her uncle, Eric Bromleigh to investigate, just to know the whole truth. But when she's presented with the fruits of said investigation on her eighteenth birthday, her curiosity gets the better of her, and she travels to London to catch a glimpse of her sire, and on the way meets her destiny...


The better part of this story was pretty good. Though I sometimes wished someone would slap the heroine silly, she quickly "mended her ways" thanks to the hero's influence, and she ended the story a rather mature young woman. The hero was once more a typical AK creation; tall, dark, handsome, intense, confident and using the requisite nickname for the heroine.

While the romance left me rather cold (it happened rather swiftly and I didn't really believe it), the best part of this plot was the suspense—especially once murder came into play.
Unfortunately the real villain was rather blatantly revealed (to the reader, not the protagonists) somewhere in the middle, but I was still looking forward to how the case would be solved.

Sadly, the tempo dropped tremendously right at the climax of the story as scenes dragged on for too long and, instead of creating tension and anticipation, the whole thing bordered on boring as I waited for the axe to finally fall.
Instead, it merely brought down the rating.

Yuletide Treasure by Andrea Kane

Yuletide Treasure - Andrea Kane

Four-year-old Noelle is a handful. Such a handful in fact, no family in the county wants to raise her and they keep returning her to her embittered uncle, until one day he snaps and decides to acquire a live-in governess for the girl. And he's adamant in accomplishing his goal, even if it means he has to marry the unsuspecting "victim".


This was a story about a spoiled brat of a child in need of a good thrashing, a brooding hero in need of a good smack on the head with a shovel, and a saint of a heroine that heals them both with her love and brings all of them together as a family just in time for the holidays.

It made my teeth ache with all the sugar, but it accomplished its goal of making me go "awww" in the end.

It was definitely too short, making the plot appear hole-y. The characters never really got the chance to shone through and this severe underdeveloped failed in making me know them and empathize with them, which caused huge disbelief in how easily it was all resolved (all thanks to love).

The Last Duke by Andrea Kane

The Last Duke - Andrea Kane

Daphne Wyndham has spent her twenty years on Earth in perpetual fear of her father and his vicious, violent temperament. But that doesn't prevent her from helping those less fortunate in any way she can...And hang the consequences.
But there's suddenly something she wants for herself. And that is the brooding, enigmatic Pierce Thornthon, who also happens to be the one man his father fears.

Pierce Thornton hates Harwick Wyndham, the Marquis of Tragmore with a vengeance. A vengeance that he's about to fulfill by ruining the Marquis once and for all. And the only thing preventing it, are the feelings he harbors for the man's lovely, defenseless daughter...


A nice little story of domestic abuse, hard divides between social circles and ranks, and one's ability to rise above it all.

It offered no superlatives, just the safe formula Andrea Kane is known for in her historicals. An instantaneous connection between the two protagonists that quickly blossoms into love, the hero using a unique pet name for the heroine, and slight suspense sub-plot thrown into the mix to bring the two of them together, captained by an avaricious villain willing to risk it all to gain the upper hand.

The trials and tribulations seemed pathetically easy to overcome, the trust between hero and heroine never wavered, and the villain got his due in the end (again, rather easily solved).

It was cute and sweet, yet nothing to write home about.

The Far Horizon by Marsha Canham

The Far Horizon - Marsha Canham

While bored out of his mind in the middle of a London ballroom, Jonas Dante sees her. Intrigued by her seeming indifference, he follows her, only to discover the lady is named Bellana Harper (formerly known as Bella Baker) and is a jewel thief.

Bella has no choice but to employ her nimble fingers once more. Her old husband dies without an heir, leaving her without any solid means of survival. To top it all off, her no-good half-brother knows where she is, and her former protector (in her more nefarious days) is gunning for her for a crime she didn't commit. She doesn't have the patience to deal with the arrogant pirate, but she quickly finds out she doesn't have any choice in the matter, as the infuriating man saves her life...And offers her temporary protection on board his ship, promising to disembark her in Cornwall as they sail past.

But there's no time to stop in Cornwall (or anywhere else, for that matter), for his brother-in-law carries on board a peculiar rumor. A rumor about a wolf hunter and a possible raid on Simon Dante's supposedly secret lair.


If you ask me to pick a favorite out of this series, you'll find me at a loss (I only know which is my least favorite). But if you ask me which of the four is the most suspenseful/dramatic/intense, it would have to be this one.
It's the last in the series, true, and so it packs an added emotional punch when the destruction is revealed and when the story of what happens is told (not in its entirety, mind you).

The first part of the story established the character of Jonas Dante, the eldest of the Pirate Wolf's children, who so far has only played a very marginal (sometimes for comic relief) role in the books. I couldn't say I was overly impressed with the guy, having come to know his father and brother before him, yet there was something larger than life in him. Tall, broad, scowling, with his thick mane of red hair...The depictions and descriptions sure were vivid. But he was also a little too rough around the edges, even after his softer side (he takes after his mother in artistic talents) was revealed. He was rather dissonantly brusque and rude.
Yet the heroine worked well in that context. She wasn't a fainting virgin or a wilting flower. She was sarcastic, ungrateful, calculating and manipulating...Yet the two worked perfectly together.
The romance wasn't worth its name, since in the end they more or less came to a mutually beneficial agreement than anything else, and there wasn't anything overly "romantic" about their interactions in and out of his cabin...But once again, it worked rather well in context of both their personalities.

But what made this story shine, was the second part so aptly and chillingly promised in the prologue. The treachery and betrayal, the horrifying scenes of destruction, the cold vow of vengeance and the execution of the plan. It was a bit too easy at times, but it sure got the goose bumps erupting and the blood flowing.
The suspense and the action were perfectly executed with the pacing spot-on to keep the reader on the edge of the seat and turning pages to see what would happen next, hoping all would be well in the end.

There were casualties, even among the beloved characters, so the story ended on a rather bittersweet, yet hopeful note of endless possibilities for more happy endings.

If you like your pirates/privateers, intrigue, mystery, suspense, wonderful characters, vivid imaginery, and fiery romance, this is the series for you.

The Following Sea by Marsha Canham

The Following Sea - Marsha Canham

With his Valour at the bottom of the ocean, Gabriel Dante sails the former Spanish galleon, now renamed Endurance back home to Pigeon Cay as they come across a ship sailing in a fixed circle and flaying the yellow flag announcing it's a plague ship and others should steer clear. Doing his seafaring duty, Dante orders his men to sink it, but after the first broadside, he notices a lone survivor...A slender, pale, yellow-haired waif standing on deck.

Despite his survival instinct, Gabriel decides to save her, towing her behind his ship in a boat in order to prevent possible contagion, but a storm changes his plans once more when he's forced to save the girl from drowning.

Despite the crew's superstitions and fears, Evangeline "Eva" Chandler isn't contagious or a witch, but merely searching for her missing father, and Gabriel, despite his better intentions, decides to help her...And soon they're embroiled in decades long intrigue involving a ghost ship disappeared during a hurricane carrying a treasure many would kill to possess.


This was yet another wonderful addition to the Dante saga. It had a much more dramatic story arc than the previous two novels, and the romance seemed a bit of an afterthought, but the ending slayed it with the culmination of the suspense/mystery sub-plot and that final action-y confrontation.

The prologue was reminiscent of Through a Dark Mist as the reader is thrust in the middle of the action, while travelling back in time to establish the story and characters with the first chapter.

As I said, the plot had a pretty dramatic flare with a displaced girl searching for her father, surviving the plague on board a ship and almost blown to smithereens, only to be rescued (twice) by a rather snarly, bruised pirate, but thanks to the characters (both main and secondary) and their interactions, the story worked very well.
The plot unfurled slowly and leisurely, yet the pacing never suffered, flowing easily, picking up the pace or slowing down when needed.

I liked the two leads, especially the heroine who was no wilting violet no matter what happened to her (holding strong even under duress), while the hero remained a slight enigma throughout the story. Even that worked in the book's favor, maintaining the sprinkle of mystique and intrigue no matter what.
The romance (mostly the quick resolution toward the end) might've seemed added as an afterthought with all the other things going on, but it also strangely worked well into the canvass of the plot. I liked the fact the hero and heroine were rather evenly matched, maintaining a nice balance of power without Eva appearing much weaker (unless physically, of course) than Gabriel.

What I liked most was the ghost treasure ship part of the story. It could've been done as a treasure hunt, instead of the way it was presented, but it offered enough mystery and intrigue to keep things lively, and provided that added incentive for the suspense to unfold and the action to kick in.

This was a wonderful mix of well-developed characters, mystery, suspense, and action with that added sprinkle of romance to tie it up nicely.

 

 

P.S. And there's another discrepancy in the time continuum of this series. It's set directly after the end of the final battle in The Iron Rose. But The Iron Rose is set in 1614 (it says so in the book) and this one (it's in the first sentence of the prologue!) in 1623. Something doesn't add up.

The Iron Rose by Marsha Canham

The Iron Rose (Pirate Wolf series Book 2) - Marsha Canham

Juliet Dante, daughter of the notorious Simon Dante, comes to the rescue of an English envoy ship about to be blown to smithereens by the Spanish. On board is the twelfth duke of Harrow, Varian St. Clare, who saves Juliet's life and then gets knocked unconscious by a blast...Only to wake up on board of Juliet's ship, the Iron Rose and bound for the secret island where the pirate wolf reigns...


I liked this one. The story flew nicely, the tempo was spot-on, increasing with each and every chapter, the action sequences were gripping, the sea battles intense (especially the heart-wrenching last one), and it was nice seeing old friends again and learning of their life beyond their story.

The only major problem this book had were the two leads. There was a glaring imbalance of power between the two from the beginning. He was injured and then spent chapter upon chapter coming across as a weak, spoiled English aristocrat, while she, unlike her mother, spent the majority of the book in full bitch mode.
I like my heroines strong and spunky, yet Juliet's bravado and obstinacy truly grated on my nerves. There's a difference between a strong, self-assured and resilient woman and a pig-headed, obstinate, unbending bitch.
I didn't like her, and I especially didn't like the imbalance of power between the two in their "romance", as the hero was forced to do all the work, while she kicked and spat almost the entire way.
I wished there was an apology scene or some grovelling thrown into the mix in the end.

Granted, I didn't care much about the two protagonists or the romance aspect of the story, but the rest more than made up for it. I'm also looking forward to Juliet's brother's stories.

P.S. Something else pricked me in this story—the glaring continuity error of Lucifer, the hulking black, scimitar and loincloth loving behemoth Simon Dante rescued all those years ago. In Across a Moonlit Sea Lucifer communicated through sign language and grunts, since, according to Simon, the Spanish had cut out his tongue. In this book, the man spoke without problems. Which one is it? Was the tongue thing a lie? Or is the speaking part in this book a mistake?

Across A Moonlit Sea by Marsha Canham

Across a Moonlit Sea - Marsha Canham

Simon Dante, a French count with a British mother, prefers to spend his time on the deck of his ship, Virago, battling the Spanish on the high seas, instead of being a man of leisure in the court of Queen Elizabeth. Then one day, he's betrayed by his fellow sea hawk and left to die in the circle of six Spanish zabras.
Dante and his crew put up a fight, remaining afloat long enough for a merchant ship, Egret, to sail by, captained by Jonas Spence and helmed by the man's daughter, Isabeau "Beau" Spence.

Sparks fly immediately between Dante and Beau, mostly thanks to the "unorthodox" way his crew come to stay on board the Egret, and later due to the palpable attraction between them. But they've both been burned before, so trust doesn't come easily...Even as they sail toward England and embark on a quest to help Sir Francis Drake in ruining King Philip's plans of war.


I love Marsha Canham's books. Simply love them. The narration is evocative, painting incredible vivid pictures of characters and their surroundings no matter which era the story is set in. This one was no different...The sea was brilliantly blue, the storms frighteningly loud, the battles at sea gripping (you could smell the gunpowder and hear the thunderous roar of cannons), and the battle of wits between the two sexes intriguing, engrossing and inspiring even though the outcome was predictable.

The set-up might sound formulaic—Marsha Canham always pits two headstrong leads against one another with the hero always towering over the heroine, at the peak of physical condition, dark, handsome and extremely arrogant and his heroine loving to antagonize him, matching him word for word as they both try to fight the passion and attraction blazing between them—but each story is an entity of its own (even if they're part of series or trilogies) with characters so distinctly different (albeit similar in physical descriptions), and romantic couples never encountering obstacles and woes similar to those before them (except for the fighting against the inevitable part), that the reader notices the initial formula or template, and then promptly forgets about it as they're swept along.

This story was no different. Both Simon and Beau were strong, self-sufficient characters, stubborn and afraid to trust the unknown, but they both became even stronger as a couple. Their verbal battles were amusing and rather arousing as they served as foreplay for what was to come. But even as they succumbed to the inevitable, they never lost those individual character traits that made them tick, keeping up with the battles of wits and words long after their fates were already set.
I loved them separately and I loved them together; the sparring and the loving equally wonderful to read.

Then there was the supporting cast (with an additional romance thrown into the mix) with two motley crews of seamen, friends and confidantes, a father talking to his daughter about itches that might need to be scratched, a hulking Cimaroon with his two gleaming scimitars, a gunman with unsteady sea legs constantly falling in love...And added to all that was Sir Francis freaking Drake.

The action sequences were breathtaking and intense, culminating in the singeing the King of Spain's beard in the port of Cadiz serving as backdrop to a much smaller battle brewing in the peripheral vision since the prologue.

This book offers a remarkable mix of a wonderful cast of characters, intense battle sequences, and a delightfully epic romance.

The Black Diamond by Andrea Kane

The Black Diamond - Andrea Kane

Aurora Huntley has spent more than a decade as a virtual prisoner in her home due to her overprotective brother and dangers lurking outside her little world. Her family is besieged by privateers and burglars trying to get their hands on the legendary black diamond that's supposed to be in her family's possession. Yet it isn't, and they have no idea where it is.

Still, dangers abound, and Aurora's brother, Slayde, decides on an ultimate protection for his sister—marriage. But Aurora doesn't want to get married, despite the suitability of the suitor, so she devises a cunning plan—she'll get a man to compromise her, thus ending her forced betrothal.

Little does she know that the man doing the supposed ruining is the Romeo to her Juliet, the last remaining descendant of the Bencrofts, her family's archenemies. Julian might have been the black sheep of the family, but he's still a Bencroft, and he's still in the search of the black diamond that's supposedly brought ruin to his family. But Julian isn't searching for the diamond out for its monetary value, his reasons run deeper, and he's willing to bring Aurora along on the journey.

A journey that will be more rewarding than either of them ever suspected.


Yes, yes, yes. If Legacy of the Diamond was a bad start to the "story", this one is a great ending.

First of all, Aurora, the rather self-centered brat from Legacy received a personality transplant and I actually liked her. She was lively, spirited, stubborn, resilient, and adventurous, a perfect other half of Julian, the hero.
They complimented each other, they were each other's equals, no matter what, and the budding friendship, partnership and romance that developed were wonderful to read. It didn't feel rushed (despite happening in a mere week), both characters were nicely developed, and the flow of the story gave the reader ample time to get to know both of them, and ultimately understand what drew them together.

The rest was also very well done. The pacing was excellent, the mystery intriguing, I loved the treasure hunt styled following of the clues, and the suspense scenes were well-written and gripping, offering one jolt after another when all was revealed.
I didn't see the other danger coming, and was pleasantly surprised by it.

The resolution to the utterly stupid family feud was beautifully done, and the finale with the affirming epilogue was just the right icing on this particular cake.

Legacy of the Diamond by Andrea Kane

Legacy of the Diamond - Andrea Kane

The black diamond, a gem of unfathomable wealth and beauty, has plagued the Huntley family for generations. It prompted the feud with the Bencrofts, it supposedly brought a curse upon the Huntleys...and now resulted in Aurora Huntley being kidnapped and held for ransom.

Slayde Huntley is more than happy to give up the diamond if it means saving his sister's life...Only it's not his sister that he saves, but Courtney Johnston, a sea captain's daughter whose ship had been attacked by pirates and whose father had been forced overboard. Aurora, on the other hand, had merely been in London for a short trip with a longtime family friend...



This book was a huge disappointment.

From the characters (the heroine and the hero's sister acted like children instead of young women and the hero was a curse-believing idiot for the better part of the story) to the suspense which could've worked if the story wasn't overburdened with the drama and angst of the characters. As it was, the big reveal of who the villain was, came as a huge surprise (the only plus of the book), while the motive ended up sounding rather idiotic, and the whole thing was resolved too quickly (a matter of pages).

It wasn't badly written, but was unfortunately weighted down by the characters and poorly developed suspense plot.