The Book Gourmet

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

 

 

Professional Reader Reviews Published

Claimed by Elle Kennedy

— feeling horror
Claimed: An Outlaws Novel (The Outlaws Series) - Elle Kennedy

Are you effing kidding me?!

What did I just (attempt) to read?

Was there a plot? A point? I’ll settle for an idea. Maybe a concept?

This was pure PWP that just happened to be set in a dystopian future (end of world-building) and featured a bunch of hot young people orgy-ing their way through life (end of character development). I didn’t stick around to “learn” more.

I’ll just stick with her Harlequin/Silhouette contributions. At least those have some sort of plot.

(Oh, and by the way, communism is an ideal that has never been truly achieved, no matter what your historical books might tell you. Communism done right does not need a totalitarian regime, hence being an ideal never before achieved. And probably never will. The “communism” we all know or have heard about is a bastardized concept of the original, unachievable idea.)

Dangerous Waters - Toni Anderson Dark Waters - Toni Anderson

Dangerous Waters & Dark Waters by Toni Anderson

DANGEROUS WATERS

Two divers find a shipwreck off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. A wreck containing a dead diver with a knife buried into his chest. Enter Sergeant Holly Rudd who has lots to prove; that she didn’t get the job because of her daddy, but because of her merits, that she’s put her affair with her married (although she didn’t know it at the time) superior behind her, that she can close her first murder case, and that she can keep it professional when it comes to her attraction to one of the divers who found the body…


Let me tell you, she proved none of it. For a supposed “professional” she was rather incompetent when it came to everything from investigating, to interrogating, to listening to her guts, and to keeping her hands off the supposed suspect. And for someone who claimed to have gotten the job through merit, she was rather quick to doubt herself.

So, this was supposed to be a romantic suspense novel. So let’s start with the romance. It wasn’t there. One snap of the fingers and the two of them were immediately attracted to each other, another snap of the fingers and they were bumping uglies (no emotion behind it, mind you), and yet another snap of the fingers and they were in love.
Why? How? Why?
There was all tell and absolutely no show.
I didn’t understand what they saw in each other—she was an incompetent idiot with a teenage crush, he was an off-putting asshole with a chip on his shoulder and no compunction about lying to the woman he supposedly loved.

As for the suspense. There was none. Or if there was, it was buried so deep, I couldn’t find it. No chills, no intensity. Nothing.
There were two “mystery” sub-plots, really, but both connected by the same villain. The first, about the murder in 1982 and the fact the heroine bore an uncanny resemblance to the murder victim was so predictable it was transparent. I was just waiting for everybody to finally get their heads out of their asses and see the truth.
So the only “surprise” was the reveal of the villain and the motive. The latter was rather far-fetched, or I simply didn’t care by that point, and the villain...Yeah, I didn’t care by that point.

It started off great with the chill-filled prologue, but after a few chapters, the whole thing slowed down. The plot was vapid, the writing amateurish, the romance and suspense non-existent. In the second half of it, I skimmed scenes, hoping for a glimmer of something to keep it interesting, to kick the pace into a higher gear, and by the end of it, I was ecstatic it was finally over.

 

 

DARK WATERS

DNF @ 13%

A nicely intense prologue once more followed by plodding, slow, and boring "story".

I couldn't care less about the heroine, the hero was stuck in my mind as the asshole brother of the asshole hero in the previous book...
Instead of carrying on the intensity of the prologue, the difference in pace (and intrigue) in the first chapter was jarring, and having learned from the first book in this duology that improvement either in pace, characterization or intensity is unlikely, I went on to read the last chapter...And didn't get the urge to go back and read the whole thing.

River's End by Nora Roberts

River's End - Nora Roberts

When she was four, Olivia McBride found her father leaning over her mother’s mutilated body, covered in her blood, and ran in fear. She’s been running ever since, burying the memories, locking them away as she was taught by her overprotective grandmother.
Now, twenty years later, it seems running, hiding and burying of memories will come to an end. Her father has reached out of prison, contacting the only man Olivia has ever loved, the second man, after the one who sired her, to break her heart.

Noah Brady is a true-crime author, but writing the book about this particular murder isn’t just a job. It’s a calling. As son of the lead detective on the case, the murder, and the image of a distraught four-year-old girl, have stayed with him, and he knows he not only has to tell the story from all points of view, he needs to.

But neither Noah nor Olivia are prepared for the can of worms digging into the past might open.

“When you run away it comes after you, Liv. And it always catches up.”


If this book teaches any kind of lesson, it’s this. That there’s no point in running or hiding, the past (or anything for that matter) will eventually catch up to you. And the more you bottle it all up, the worse it will be. In this case, the combination of buried memories due to trauma, and the bubble she lived in afterward thanks to her grandmother, the bottling up turned the heroine into a bitch.
There’s no beating around the bush, here, she was a bitch. She got better, eventually, but the scenes I most remember her in are those in which she lashed out at Noah about and for everything. And he, the hero that he was, took it, took everything, and then came back for seconds.

It was this dynamic that ruined the “romantic” aspect of the book, because I didn’t feel the romance. Attraction, yes, passion, maybe, but it was all rather cold, without much emotion (except anger), dispassionate, and detached.

What I loved about the story were the descriptions of nature, the forest, meadows, flowers, fauna, bringing with them a strange feeling of peace and contentment, a welcome respite from the aforementioned tumultuous “relationship”.

I also loved the suspense, with the scenes delving into the past, flashbacks, and, most of all, the ominous feel as the climax approached. I knew almost immediately things were not as they seemed with the murder (a gut feeling, like with Frank), and soon after suspected how things truly were. And I wasn’t wrong. Although the truth was revealed almost at the end, and I knew what was what by then, I wasn’t disappointed with the finale.
Yes, it was predictable, but still written well enough to keep the suspense going, and yes, tug at a heartstring or two, when the bitter-sweetness of it all hit.

True Betrayals by Nora Roberts

True Betrayals - Nora Roberts

Kelsey Byden has spent 23 years of her 26-year-long life thinking her mother was dead. Imagine her surprise when she receives a letter from one Naomi Chadwick, her mother, back from the dead.
Despite the objections of her grandmother and stepmother, Kelsey decides to contact the woman who gave birth to her, and soon moves to the woman’s horse ranch.

As she slowly gets to know her mother, Kelsey finally realizes the life before moving to the Virginia countryside was no life at all, and her moving from hobby to hobby, and job to job, was merely searching for her true goal in life. A goal she’s finally found.

But as Kelsey gets accustomed to her new life, her true purpose, and the possibility of a long-term relationship with her mother’s charming neighbor, Gabriel Slater, a ghost from the past is slowly rising, determined to ruin all Naomi, Kelsey, and Gabe have accomplished.


My “experience” with Nora Roberts’s early books is hit-and-miss, unfortunately. And as I started this one, I honestly feared this would fall under the “miss” category, mostly because I didn’t particularly like the heroine or her actions and behavior. She sounded selfish, shallow, and, yes, spoiled.

I could not have been more wrong, though, and after a few chapters, and once Kelsey was out of the grasp of her blue-blooded family for whom appearances were everything, no matter who suffered for them, and moved to the country, I realized the spoiled brat was just the veneer, a mask she used to keep up those appearances, and to keep doubts about what her true place in life was, at bay.
Everything, not just the heroine, was different in the country, actually. The narration was different, the descriptions more vivid, the pacing steadier, the characters well-developed and realistic, the emotions stronger, the intensity higher.

I loved the relationship between long-lost mother and daughter. It built up slowly, steadily, its progress organic. The romance between Kelsey and Gabe, on the other hand, was much quicker to develop and progress, yet didn’t feel rushed, but just perfect, the tempo of it very much suited for both their characters. Despite their different upbringing these two were quite similar in lots of ways, leaning new things and how to adapt in the way they were complete opposites.
If Kelsey were truly that woman we got to know at the beginning, the polished, flighty socialite, their romance would not have worked, but since deep down she was just as passionate, just as emotion-driven, and just as stubborn as Gabe, they worked together more than nicely.

But what drew the story forward, what fueled the intensity, what kept me turning the pages, was the suspense. The twists and turns of it all, the danger both to humans and animals, the horrible ends people were willing to go to accomplish a goal, be it keep someone in line, punish someone, get rich, or simply to get rid of an unwelcome individual, were chilling, and strangely fascinating.
Some of those got their comeuppance, but I was sorry the biggest sociopath (the behavior and utterly remorseless responses made me think of that word) came through it without a scratch. This main villain, the one who put things in motion all those years ago only to repeat the process twenty-three years later, was rather predictable, but I didn’t mind, I was looking forward to the discovery and the punishment, only to be disappointed the punishment was lacking.
Oh well, the other baddie got what was coming, so I’m happy.

This book had it all; great characters, explosive chemistry, wonderfully sexy romance, mystery and secrets, suspense, danger and drama. Loved it.

Run to Ground by Katie Ruggle

— feeling doubt
Run to Ground - Katie Ruggle

Saving her siblings being her topmost priority, Juliet "Jules" Young suddenly realizes she's willing to do anything to accomplish that goal. Even if it means kidnapping the kids and taking them to Colorado, assuming new identities, and working in a small-town diner. It's the latter that proves to be a problem, since she immediately catches the eye of K9 officer Theodore "Theo" Bosco.

There's just something about the woman that draws him in. At first it was the squirrelly behavior clearly indicating she's hiding something or running from something, or someone, yet, as he gets to know her, Theo realizes there's more to her than just fidgety behavior and obvious lies...Both he and his new canine partner are at peace when they're with Jules and her family, letting go of their grief little by little.


Okay, that's a strange summary, but it's the best I can come up with. Because it was a slightly strange book, if I'm honest. Not strange in strange-plotline way, it just strangely didn't inspire much at all in me as I was reading it.

The first problem was the heroine and her idiotically erratic behavior. I know she's kidnapped her siblings (to protect them, mind you), but if you want to keep a low profile, especially as a newcomer in a small town, you shouldn't act like you have something to hide. Actually, you should bring attention to yourself as little as possible. In the first scene at the diner, when she and Theo first meet, all was missing was a red blinking arrow pointing at her, or maybe her jumping up and down and going "look at me, look at me, I'm shifty, I'm hiding something, look at me".
And since that behavior didn't actually improve (not one iota) for more than half a book, I simply couldn't stand her.

The hero was a little better, I like my heroes brooding and taciturn, only coming out of their shell when the right woman comes along, but I thought the whole guilt thing, coupled with the grieving dog was a bit much. It sounded too overdone, too contrived to be believable.

I loved the secondary cast, though. The kids were great, and I'm looking forward to reading more about them, now that they're finally safe and at peace with the brooding, hulking cop and his rehabilitated dog keeping watch. But what I'm looking forward to the most, is reading Theo's friends's stories. Otto and Hugh were the absolute best and their relationship and friendship was a real beauty to read about. I could feel their connection, and I'm glad they have each other's back, because I think they will need it when the truth about Jules and her siblings comes out and the villainous Courtney comes to town.

I'm looking forward to that particular confrontation, at least to cleanse my palate of the suspense in this story. What the heck was that?! A complete non sequitur, the baddie and the motive came out of the left field without any particular forewarning in the previous chapters. There was no build up, it just happened. For some reason or another. It had nothing to do with Jules and the kids moving into town, nothing to do with the evil they were escaping, Jules simply found herself in the cross-hairs because of her connection to the hero...It was flimsy, disappointing, and somewhat insulting.

After the End by Katie Ruggle

After the End (Search and Rescue) - Katie Ruggle

***eBook available for free on Amazon***

They each found their happily-ever-after in their books, now Ms Ruggle brings us their "second epilogues". Engagements, surprise weddings, puppy-napping and pregnancies, rockslides, and a brand new, surly character to herald a new series (which I'll certainly read).

Lighthearted moments mixed with some sadness, happiness folded in with just a dash of danger, these epilogues were fun to read (one of them even better than the book—which wasn't difficult).
It was fun revisiting these old friends, take a peek into their lives after HEA (which seem to be over-the-top good, but that's Romancelandia for you), and the little glimpse of the hero in the next book (and next series) whetted my appetite just enough.

A Simple Case of Seduction by Adele Clee

A Simple Case of Seduction - Adele Clee

Three years ago, Daniel Thorpe offered marriage to his friend's widow, only to be summarily rejected. His heart broken, he still kept an eye on her throughout the years, keeping her safe. But it looks like he hasn't done a good enough job, since a ghost from the past is haunting her, never to be seen and never taking anything. It looks like the ghost is looking for something, but Daphne has no idea what or why. Looks like this might be a job for her guardian angel.


In my review of the previous book in this quasi-series, I mentioned how Mr Daniel Thorpe and Mrs Daphne Chambers had more chemistry and more spark in their one little scene together than the two leads of the book in the entire story. Well, that chemistry was utterly absent in their own book.
I have no idea what drew him to her and vice versa, I didn't feel any sparks nor attraction...They appeared merely props, characters written for the sake of the story, pushed together because they happened to be main characters. Period.

She was a tad too naive for a woman of her age, especially a woman in her profession, her gullibility, her bubbly-ness, and her idiotic blindness to her own ineptitude (she's survived so far mostly because he was there to get her out of trouble, which she learned toward the end) got annoying really fast, and I actually wanted something bad to happen to her to make her see reason.
But she had her guardian angel to get hurt instead of her, the gruff, abrupt thundercloud by the name of Daniel Thorpe. The chip on his shoulder was rather disproportionate to what actually happened to him, and he definitely held the grudge for too long (or maybe we weren't given all the facts), and no matter how attractive, protective, and charming (when he wanted to be) both the author and the heroine made him appear, I wasn't convinced.
I was utterly indifferent about both of them, not caring one way or the other about what did, might, and would happen to them.

The suspense also left me quite cold. It was uninspiring, dull, slow-paced, and, let's face it, quite forced with the whole treason sub-plot. It just didn't click, feeling disconnected from the rest of the story, making it seem like I was writing two different books (neither of them particularly good).

A real disappointment given the great introduction to these two characters in the previous book and all the possibilities of suspense elements given their specific line of work.

Silver Silence by Nalini Singh

— feeling amazing
Silver Silence - Nalini Singh

Valentin Nikolaev, alpha of the StoneWater bear clan, has found Silver Mercant fascinating since their first meeting. She’s also his mate, so is it any wonder man and bear has been trying to get a proverbial foot in the door for months...To no avail. Until, one day, he finally steps foot into her apartment, but not under auspicious circumstances, since the woman is convulsing in his arms. Reason: fast-acting poison.

With the help of the famous Mercant Grandmother, Valentin finally gets Silver under his own roof (the next best thing for a bear wanting to court his mate, the best being kidnapping), and he’s determined to pull out all the stops to claim the woman who holds his heart.

Surprisingly, after a few initial hurdles, Silver is more than willing to experiment life beyond her Silence, but she does have her reasons. Her time is running out, her brain a ticking bomb. But Valentin is willing to do anything to save his Starlight. He’s willing to bear it all if only she remains breathing. Even if it means that saving her life might destroy them both.



There are books that make you reevaluate your opinion of a certain author (in a good or a bad way) and there are books that simply reiterate the talent of the author in creating memorable characters and stories while never letting down their “guard” when it comes to world-building. This book falls in the latter category.

Silver Silence is the first installment in the so-called second season (I’ll just call it chapter) of the Psy-Changeling series, and, like the first installment in the first chapter, Slave to Sensation it’s more of an introduction in future story arcs and villains as far as the suspense plotlines go, but, as the aforementioned book, it packed quite a punch in the terms of romance and romance-related drama and angst.

But, as soon as we came accustomed to the formula or template Ms Singh uses to write her romances (loads of drama and angst before the requisite HEA), she went and turned it all around, putting the drama and heartache after it all looked to be going nicely. Of course, the main couple found happiness too soon in the story and leaving it at it would’ve ended up in cheese and sap, the complete opposite of what we’ve come to expect from this masterful author. So, she dangled the carrot and promptly snatched it away.
And this what I love most about her writing. She keeps us on our toes. We know everything will turn out fine (it’s a romance, after all), but she succeeds in spreading little seeds of doubt with all those, sometimes seemingly insurmountable, obstacles she throws into her characters’s paths.
This story was no different. Predictable (in the sense of it being a romance with the requisite HEA in the end), while not being predictable at all.

The romance between Valentin and Silver was absolutely beautiful. I hoped, I laughed, I cried, and I suffered right alongside them. Their “star-crossed” romance was right alongside that of Hawke and Sienna in Kiss of Snow (with the latter still being my favorite, because, you know, Hawke), both in beauty and in the suffering.

Valentin was your typical NS Changeling alpha, but unlike his “predecessors”, Lucas and Hawke (cat and wolf) this bear was, despite his huge body, a true teddy bear, a romantic, love-struck and love-sick, lovable idiot carrying his heart on his sleeve for the whole world to see. He took his punches like a man, refusing to back down or crumble when his heart got bruised by his clan, his mother or the woman who was his other half. And I loved him for it. Here he was, an alpha with a heart of gold, unabashedly unembarrassed about showing it. He was who he was, completely comfortable in his skin and in his emotions. And don’t get me started on his stubborn refusal to back down (twice in one single book) in front of the majestic obstacle that was Silver Fucking Mercant and her Silence. The way he figured was, if he’s worn her down once, he’d do it the second time...Or die trying.
What to say about Silver, but the fact she paled a little in contrast with her bear. I’m sure that wasn’t Ms Singh’s intention, I’m betting these two were paired especially for the contrasts between their personas, both inside and out. And although I found her interesting from the first book she appeared in, she didn’t strike me as heroine material. I was proved wrong in her book, once we actually got to know the real Silver, what made her tick, why she was the way she was, but still, put side by side with her bear, said bear wins every time. Maybe because he had the more “tragic” role in their star-crossed love story, because he endured much more during the later chapters...I don’t know. However, she was a force to be reckoned with, especially when she went into full-on mama bear mode.
But yes, they were the perfect together, equals no matter their background or race, a perfect pairing to bring us into the future of the Trinity Accord and the future of all three races.

As in all “first books”, the world-building is key. But since we already know this particular world, this aspect of story-telling could’ve lagged behind. Yet it didn’t. There’s much about this futuristic “alternative reality” we’re not yet privy to, and Ms Singh decided to expand on some aspect of it we’ve only heard of in passing—the bear society offers a completely new part of this universe, similar yet different from the cat and wolf packs we’ve come to know and love. They’re also a unit, but with a different “personality” and “feel”, deceptively laid-back, their mostly good-natured behavior hiding cunningly sharp intelligence. Compared to the other two predatory changeling “species”, the bears don’t flaunt their superior strength, obviously using their bonhomie to lull their opponent into a false sense of security.
Which is just what Valentin did when it came to Silver. The girl never knew what hit her. And yes, once more, I loved them to bits.

You know what else the “first books” don’t have in spades? Suspense or sense of imminent danger. This one had its share of villain-y, but it had more of an ominous feel to it, despite some of it being pretty darn close to the center of all the action. It felt as if true danger is still lurking in the background, waiting in the sidelines for the optimum time of attack, which is the perfect way to go while writing a series. You don’t show all your cards at once, building the suspense, maintaining the intensity, keeping the reader (and the characters) guessing.
It worked in the “first season”, it should work in the second.

This book, for me, had it all. Old (some only in mention) and new characters, old (some only in mention) and new parts and aspects of the Psy-Changeling universe, a stunningly beautiful romance with the right amount of heartbreak thrown in to keep us on our toes, unpredictable predictability, drama, action, suspense, and the promise of danger to whet our appetites for more.

For the next installment, can we maybe have another human-Psy pairing? Maybe a cardinal M-Psy capable of repairing both damage from a gunshot wound and human brain? *hint hint*

Local Hero by Nora Roberts

Local Hero (Silhouette Special Edition #427) - Nora Roberts

It started with a pizza delivered to the wrong door, but then he fell in love with her son...and her legs, and Mitch Dempsey knew life would never be the same.


What a lovely, heart-warming, a little sad at time, and slightly exasperating, thanks to the heroine, romantic little story this was.

I loved Mitch (the hero) for his steadfastness, comfort with himself and around other people, for his stubbornness when he knew he was doing (and demanding) the right thing, and his love and care for Radley. I loved Radley for his openness, his optimism, and his love for his mom and his new hero. He looked at life as full of possibilities, unlike his mother who looked at life as full of obstacles, especially when it came to her and men in her (and Radley's) life.

I understood her reservations given what she's been through with Radley's father, but as the story progressed and the reader (and her) got to know Mitch, I couldn't help but find her a tad annoying in the way she kept using Radley's no-good father and her poor experience (a long time ago, mind you) with him as a crutch to push the more-than-decent guy away.

Luckily, Mitch was just stubborn enough and he had help in the form of his little Corporal, and the conflict (that shouldn't have been there in the first place) was resolved rather quickly...

Loved it.

All Night Long by Jayne Ann Krentz

All Night Long - Jayne Ann Krentz

Seventeen years ago, Irene Stenson found her parents corpses in their kitchen. The crime, ruled murder-suicide, has scarred her for life, since she couldn’t come to grips with the fact her father could’ve killed her mother, and so unable to put it all behind.

Now, Irene, an investigative reported with a small newspaper, receives an e-mail from her once-best friend, the one who was with her on the night that had changed her life, inviting her back into her hometown with promises of explanations about the past.

But instead of explanations, Irene finds more questions, when she finds her friend dead of a supposed overdose, while the very next day her friend’s house burns down. Something’s not right, but the local police denies any suspicions, yet Irene isn’t alone in her little investigation. Luke Danner, the owner of the resort Irene’s staying in, feels not all dots are connected, and knows Irene is right in the middle of the emerging picture.


Oh, wow. This is how you write romantic suspense, and this is what I’ve been missing lately in Ms Krentz’s novels.

Great characters, both scarred, both with issues not many people can understand or relate to, but they’ve each managed to find someone who does.
Both Irene and Luke (although we can only imagine what he went through) went through horrible experiences, and yes, those experiences have marked them, but didn’t put them out of commission, they’ve come back swinging and stronger for it.
And in the end, against all odds, both their diagnoses (hers confirmed, his not so much), despite his meddling family (which was the “weakest” part of the story, if you ask me, since it didn’t really “connect” with the overall plot), despite everything they found each other, that someone who can understand, who can relate, and who can help battle the demons when they struck.
Their chemistry was sizzling, and almost palpable, their romance rather believable, if a bit rushed, their communication both serious and funny...Boy, howdy, I loved them to bits.

But romance, no matter how strong the characters are, isn’t enough to make a romantic suspense novel. You also need suspense, and this one had it in spades.
Gripping, intense, edge-of-your-seat, keeping-you-guessing-until-the-last-page suspense. Nicely paced, well-written, well-plotted out, with many red-herrings along the way, and when the big reveal came (well, both of them), I just couldn’t. I absolutely didn’t see it coming, but in the end, the villain, the motive, everything made perfect sense.
Wow.

This one truly had it all; wonderful, layered characters, great chemistry and romance, a good supporting cast, gripping suspense with loads of misdirection, and the main villain you won’t see coming.

More, please.

Wicked Little Secrets by Susanna Ives

Wicked Little Secrets - Susanna Ives

***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***

Vivienne Taylor is doing everything she can to help her destitute father, even if it means burying her true characters as deep as she can to ensnare an appropriately wealthy husband. But once she's accomplished that, Fate seems to conspire against her, since her childhood crush, and irredeemable rake, Lord Dashiell is back in town and she can't seem to help herself from gravitating toward him, no matter what the Bible teaches her, and certainly despite his every effort to keep her away. And to top it all off, someone seems to be blackmailing her aunt, and Vivienne knows there's no one else to turn to but Dashiell himself.


This certainly started off great. I laughed my heart out at the end of chapter one, and was really looking forward to the rest of the story. If chapter one was a hoot, the rest must follow suit, right?

Wrong.

This story, that started off so great, failed miserably to deliver on the promise of the first chapter. I hated both the main protagonists, him for being such an annoyingly dysfunctional, emotionally stilted, rather wimpy asshole, and her for being so obnoxiously naive that she ended up sounding like an idiot. I felt they both needed someone to lead them through life by the hand. Add to it the pretentiously pious aunt (who turned out not to be as virtuous as she wanted to appear), the jerk of a fiancé that was even more false in his piousness than the aunt, a slower than slow pacing, a plot rife with fillers (idiotic musing, idiotic conversation, idiotic decisions, idiotic actions etc.), so-called humor that made the whole story appear like a parody, and a jumbled suspense side-plot that made little-to-no sense in the end, and you have this story...A complete waste of time.

The only redeeming thing this story possessed were the hero's grandfather and the dog.

Gabriel's Angel - Nora Roberts Unfinished Business (Silhouette Intimate Moments #433) - Nora Roberts

Gabriel's Angel & Unfinished Business by Nora Roberts

GABRIEL'S ANGEL

She almost crashes into him on a snowy road, he offers her temporary shelter in his cabin, discovers she’s pregnant, and on the run. To protect her, he decides to marry her, delivers the baby, and slays her dragons.


Sheesh. Far from Nora Roberts’s best work. Slow and as annoying as the heroine, with a bland hero, an unbelievable (in this day, but maybe it worked when it was written) premise and even more unbelievable romance and insta-love.

 

 

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

She left town when she was sixteen, traveled the world with her father, became a famous pianist...Now, a few months after her father's death, she's back in her hometown, living with the mother who supposedly hadn't wanted anything to do with her in the past years, and falling all over again for the man who abandoned her.


It was a nice story, with lovely secondary cast, lovely secondary romance, a lovely small-town setting, and a very lovely leading man.
Pity the heroine ruined everything. Rather self-centered, with a penchant of sticking her head in the sand, blaming pretty much everybody but the person who was responsible for her leaving, for her mother "abandonment", her crush supposedly dumping her.

I didn't understand her, I didn't get her reasoning, and I couldn't have cared less about what happened to her. Pity she was the heroine.

Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts

Honest Illusions - Nora Roberts

Roxy and Luke grew up together, ever since her father took the runaway boy under his wing, and through time, their relationship changed from initial animosity to friendship, and in the end, love. But Luke's past came back to haunt him, and he left his family, and his heart, behind to protect them.
But now, after five years, he's back, determined to get it all, especially Roxy, back no matter the cost.


I must confess these "time progression" stories by Ms Roberts are hit-and-miss for me. Unfortunately, this one falls into the "miss" category. I can't really put my finger on why that is, it simply didn't pull me in. It actually dragged too slow and too long in the beginning, establishing the characters, their history, and their relationships, and it definitely took too long to get back to the present...And then, finally in the present, everything was resolved rather quickly.
I guess the prologue, set in the present, ruined it for me, since the story immediately moved back into the past, and the whole reason for the anger in the prologue, took too long to be explained. Or maybe it's just me.

I also didn't really connect with any of the characters, and the main couple left me especially cold. Roxy was a brat and Luke was a jerk for the better part of the story, and once they finally started to get interesting, it all went down the drain thanks to an especially twisted villain, whose motive was a bit far-fetched, if you ask me, and his actions rather disproportionate compared to the "offense". I know crazy people think differently, but still. It was a bit too much.

Some reviewers complained Roxy was too quick to forgive Luke for abandoning her for five years, but I found the resolution to the conflict refreshingly quick. Which it had to be, since the book was running out of page space. ;)

It was better than some contemporaries out there, but still only average in Ms Roberts' opus.

Waking Up With the Duke by Lorraine Heath

Waking Up With the Duke - Lorraine Heath

Ransom Seymour, the Duke of Ainsley, is being emotionally blackmailed (by his own cousin, mind you) to give the cousin’s wife what she desires (and what she lost three years ago after the accident provoked by Ainsley himself leaving her husband in a wheelchair and unable to feel anything below his belt)—a baby.

Ainsley would have no problems siring a child, since he’s virile and able, but it’s the willingness that is lacking. Not because of who he would be bedding (a woman he’s been mourning not meeting first), but because she is a married, respectable woman. Thankfully, she’s even less willing that he is...Or is she?


This series has been “dealing” with unorthodox historical romance themes and premises since the beginning...A betrayed husband exiling his new bride to the country while fornicating his path through London, a woman “tricking” his younger brother into marriage by making him believe she was his son’s mother, and now the youngest of the three brothers serving as an early-model Victorian sperm bank falling in love with the woman in the process.
Unorthodox, as far as formulaic templates as they can get, and in the hands of someone else they probably wouldn’t have worked (I’m doubtful some other author would actually tackle something like it), but since Lorraine Heath is a master (in my humble opinion) she’s managed beautifully.
Yes, I didn’t like one of the themes, but that’s on me. There’s no dispute the writing or storytelling.

This story was, in all aspects up there, alongside (okay, to me it was even better) Passions of a Wicked Earl, the first installment about the oldest son of the scandalous Duchess of Ainsley, who also got her HEA in this book.
The why it was even better comes down to the characters. I actually liked Ainsley, the hero, who in no circumstances was a jerk or jackass. He was considerate, honorable, tender, protective (yes, emotionally blackmailable, but that’s on his cousin), so was it any wonder the heroine fell in love with him? I liked her as well, despite some instances toward the end when I wanted someone to slap her silly for being an idiot, but she came through in the end, and her emotional journey was pretty realistic.

Their romance was beautifully written, the progress organic, believable, and rather realistic (despite it being fiction). It was emotional, bittersweet, emotionally draining in a few chapters and/or paragraphs, beautiful...and hopeless. She was married to his cousin, and he was acting merely as stud. No matter their feelings, those were the facts, and sometimes (oftentimes) love doesn’t conquer all.

But if you’re like me and you’ve read some spoiler-y reviews, you know about the twist, and although knowing might lessen the emotional impact of the story (for me it didn’t, really, I was still leaking at the appropriate times), it certainly can heighten the anticipation of the moment. It actually made the plot even more gripping, and although the pacing was spot-on, it was a little torture reading while waiting for the other shoe to drop.
If there was a character in this book I didn’t like, it was the cousin, the blackmailing rat-bastard. Handicap or no handicap, his explanations, reasoning, and motivations were puny and self-serving, and his actions (except the smartest idea he had about the human sperm bank) unforgivable.

If you like your books with wonderful characters, explosive chemistry, beautiful romance with just the right amount of drama and bitter-sweetness, spot-on pacing, and masterful storytelling, this is definitely the book for you.

Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman by Lorraine Heath

Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman - Lorraine Heath

Stephen Lyons, yes, the guy who was the catalyst for the conflict in the first book in this series, has recently returned from Crimea, his body riddled with scars and his mind blank of the past two years. His last memory being taking tea with his brother’s wife, it’s as if he’s never even been to the war.

But he was and he has the scars to prove it...And a child his mother has brought to his family’s footstep thinking Stephen was dead.


There was nothing wrong with the story overall. I love Lorraine Heath’s writing. The pace is always wonderful, the plot nicely structured, the characters nicely layered and fleshed-out, the chemistry between the main characters always combustible, the attraction palpable, the drama and angst always spot-on...

But this particular story bothered me. And it’s all because the initial premise, or even better, the big lie. Granted, the heroine didn’t lie at the beginning. Everybody simply inferred that she was the child’s mother, and she didn’t correct them. But she also didn’t tell the truth when she had the opportunity (before and after the marriage). She could’ve told him when Stephen confessed as to not remembering, she could’ve told him when she was being blackmailed...Yet she didn’t.
And then she was “heartbroken” because he didn’t believe her when the (distorted) truth came out and she wanted to set the record straight. Can you blame him?

The hero’s reaction didn’t help matters one bit with him being so quick to condemn her based on hearsay, without proof, and then even quicker to forgive her, once more thanks to someone else telling him “the truth”.
Either you trust or not, make you own damn mind based on what you know, what you’ve seen of her character, not based on what others tell you.

Yes, the conflict was resolved pretty quickly, but still, the whole ordeal (the whole premise, actually) left a slightly bitter aftertaste. It was well-written and plotted-out, I just didn’t like the base on which the story stood.

Shadow Reaper by Christine Feehan

Shadow Reaper - Christine Feehan

Demons are riding Ricco Ferraro hard. He’s haunted by his past, that fateful night, long ago, when he was only fourteen, when he committed a crime to punish another, yet still couldn’t save innocent lives. Now, it seems, the past has come to exact its vengeance in the form of a female assassin, a fellow Shadow Rider that just happens to be the one Ricco’s been searching for all his life...His match, his mate, the only woman made for him.

For Mariko, killing Ricco isn’t just a job, it’s the means to save her brother. But no matter what, she cannot bring herself to kill. Not only because Ricco is a good man, but because he’s the only one who sees her for who she truly is, accepts her, and gives her what she’s always craved for...Love.



This is the second installment in the Shadow (Riders) series, but unlike the first book this one didn’t really “make an impact”.

Except for the action scenes, which I’ve stated many times before Christine Feehan knows how to write, and the full-on war in this one was a true joy to read, the pacing was extremely slow, the story was overburdened with fillers and repetitions, making for a tedious reading experience. Every single internal monologue by either Ricco or Mariko was an almost carbon copy of the previous one.
The Shibari scenes also didn’t do much to improve the tedium. Not being an expert, not even overly enthusiastic about learning of this particular art form, the scenes, instead of sounding erotic and sensual, as I believe was the author’s intention, merely served in slowing the pacing even further.

The only thing keeping the plot moving, actually, the only thing that kept me reading, plowing on through the mire of repetition and tedium, was the need to know who was behind the assassination plot. Was it who we all thought it was, was the conspiracy much larger? Was it all a red herring?
Unfortunately, the story ended up being predictable when the true culprit (I figured it out long before the characters did) became known, and whatever interest I held winked out.
In the end, I kept reading to see how the Ferraros would dispatch the villain. Which turned out to be quite anticlimactic.

I didn’t really care about the romance aspect of the story. To me, there was none, really. I felt no true connection between Ricco and Mariko, no spark, no real chemistry. The scenes in which their “mystical” connection was explained and droned on made me roll my eyes, the scenes of Shibari left me cold, the two sex scenes sounded formulaic, the two characters merely going through the motions...

We’re only two books into the series, and I’m already disappointed. How disappointing.

But there is a silver lining in all of this. Emme and Val being the first (in that one scene, in the middle of battle, the was more chemistry between the two that between the main characters in the entire book and I truly hope Ms Feehan finds a way to get them together), and the Italian bits have improved. Although I’ve never heard of an Italian male name Ricco, which means “wealthy, rich”. Rico, which is short for Enrico, yes, never Ricco. But hey, artistic freedom, I guess.
And the endearments weren’t cringe-worthy, although the grammatical use of two of them toward the end was utterly wrong. But, improvement!