10/26/09

Most Wicked of Sins by Kathryn Caskie


I love it when I rediscover an author. I've read and enjoyed Kathryn Caskie books before, but I had forgotten just how good she really is.

The Most Wicked of Sins is part of a series featuring seven siblings from Scotland nicknamed the Seven Deadly Sins.

Fans of early Julia Quinn or Victoria Alexander will love Kathryn Caskie. Her writing is so full of mirth that you find yourself chuckling along. And her characters are nothing short of fantastic. Flawed, believable, complex, and compelling.

The plot device in The Most Wicked of Sins is too silly for words. Very improbable, but it sets up the rest of the book so nicely that I gave it a pass. Essentially, our heroine, Ivy, has 1 month to recover the affections of her wayward suitor (now entranced by an Irish beauty) before her father arrives or risk losing his support, affection, approval etc. So she embarks on a madcapped scheme to win him back by hiring an actor to impersonate a peer--someone who would then both a) charm her rival away from her suitor and b) make her suitor jealous by dancing attendance on Ivy.

The "perfect" plan goes awry, however, when Ivy hires the wrong man to impersonate Lord Counterton. Instead of an actor, she hires...Lord Counterton himself. (Here's where the improbable comes in). Of all of the people to be hanging about the theater at the exact same time Ivy is, it just happens to be the very peer she's determined to have someone impersonate? I think my odds on winning the lotto are better, but as I stated, it DOES make for a fun bit of mischief.

I like that Ivy is flawed. I like that she is more than a little bit shallow. I also like that she's vulnerable to what her family (especially her father) thinks of her. She has that need for approval that many of us can relate to.

I also really like the hero and his cousin. I found his early recognition of his feelings refreshing. Most of the Regency heroes have to be dragged kicking and screaming into acknowledging their feelings. Some don't do so until years after the novel's time line (Devil from Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens for example). Here, our hero articulates what he feels before our heroine does.

I really enjoyed the skillful blend of romance and humor in this book. The dialogue is snappy when it needs to be, subtle when appropriate. The story at times frantic, hysterical, sexy, and even sweet. It's a terrific way to spend a few hours on a fall afternoon.

My grade: A-

10/20/09

Make Her Pay by Roxanne St. Claire


Make Her Pay is romantic suspense at its best: fascinating characters, intriguing locales, danger, steamy sex. Roxanne St. Claire just keeps getting better!

Part of what really works in this book is the hero: Constantine Xenakis. He had a supporting role in Hunt Her Down, but he's given his own story here despite his prior naughty antics.  He's not just a little bit naughty, either. He's a newly reformed, highly talented thief trying to work his way back into the good graces of the Bullet Catchers. He lies with impunity and has no compunctions about taking stuff from others. But what makes me adore Con's character is that he's aware of his personal failings. And he has certain codes, certain innate behaviors, that make him seem more like a good guy caught in the wrong century than a truly bad guy. He would likely have fit right in fighting bad guys in the wild west.

That is not to say that the heroine is a light weight. Lizzie couldn't be wimpy and survive any sort of relationship with Con. Although I liked Lizzie more than the heroine of St. Claire's last book, I still feel like the hero gets more depth than the heroine. I don't dislike her, and she is believable, but she doesn't have the same complexity.

I found the historical backstory very compelling. Treasure, insanity, pirates, exotic islands... It was very well done and obviously well researched. It didn't weigh the story down with details, and it was woven throughout the story seamlessly.

My Grade: B+

10/12/09

My Wicked Vampire by Nina Bangs


I have a soft spot for Nina Bangs's  Cosmic Troublemakers series. I adore Sparkle and Ganymede. I really do. They are incredibly annoying and have no character growth. And they are so dang funny.

My Wicked Vampire takes us back to the Castle of Dark Dreams with a new batch of otherwordly beings hanging around. A few demons, a few vampires, Holgarth--the annoying, and some seriously wacky plants.

Although the plot and characters are fine, I did have a difficult time getting through this one. The pacing is a bit off--which made an ordinarily quick read seem to take forever. Part of this I attribute to a dearth of dialogue. There's far less witty quips in this book than in previous installments in the series.

Another danger for readers is the huge amount of back story involved. Yes, the author does her best to explain the history without rehashing it, but it still crops up far too frequently for someone just starting the series. I know the back story, but a new reader may be completely lost OR completely bored by it.

Lastly, while I think Cinn, the heroine, is believable and fully realized, the hero, Dacian, seems a bit 2 dimensional at times.

Overall I think it was good but not great: well worth the time to revist a favorite group of characters and see what havoc they've been causing.

10/7/09

Dark Slayer by Christine Feehan


I'd given up reading anything new in Christine Feehan's Carpathian series because they were getting so repetitive. The same ritual words. The same characters. The same plots. It was almost as if they were written on autopilot. Fortunately, Dark Slayer takes a significant step towards changing the tenor of the series, as well as providing a welcome respite from super Alpha males and their binding words.

Ms. Feehan surprised the heck out of me with this one. Not only was the main character far, far (FAR) different from her predecessors, she was someone who was strong without being bitchy. And that takes some serious skill to pull off in this type of book.

I'd like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book. But truthfully, I only enjoyed about  3/4 of it. The last 1/4 honestly seemed as if the author was struggling to get her page count. She rehashed the same emotions, reactions, mental wanderings so often I had a combined case of whiplash and deja vu. I'm sitting there with a book I was enjoying-- yelling at it. "I get it! Enough already!"  Bad sign for a happy reader. While this book didn't repeat the themes, characters, dialogue, settings etc etc of the rest of the series, it began to seriously repeat ITSELF.

I don't want to go into too much detail, because much of the charm of the book lies in the differences between this book and the rest in the series. Her fans should love this. It's worth reading just to gain the plot points for the next installment, but it could have been so much better.

The Renegade Hunter by Lynsay Sands


I normally adore Lynsay Sands's Argeneau series. They're usually very well done in a genre that is, well, overexposed. The characters are more normal--more human--than characters in most other paranormals. But most of all, they're usually funny.

I have to say I'm horribly disappointed by this book. The hero, Nicholas, was quite intriguing. A definite break from the standard Argeneau guy, although he was a bit too emotionally wimpy for my tastes. But it was the heroine in the novel that irritated me.

She seemed completely clueless with no basic self-preservation instincts. While she was extremely with it in the emotional and critical thinking arenas surrounding Nicholas's crimes, she was otherwise too stupid to be believable. The death knell to her believability was a single paragraph in the novel. One where Nicholas --who is VERY old in typical vampire fashion--references I Love Lucy. And our heroine has no idea what he's talking about.

Now, I understand the point the author was trying to convey. What I object to is two-fold: it had the subtlety of a cast iron skillet to the head AND was wildly improbable. Perhaps Ms. Sands credits the under 30 generation with no pop culture lexicon, but Lucille Ball was NOT just a TV star from the 1950s. She was an icon ala Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and others. She spanned generations. And who has not caught at least a glimpse of her while flipping past Nick at Nite? I understand the dilemma here: you need a reference your reader will get while the heroine does not. But Lucy? C'mon.

It could very well be that the reference sprang from a real world occurrence where a "young" person didn't know who Lucy was. But that person would be in the minority of the population. In any rate, it tossed me completely out of the narrative and soured the entire character for me.

What finished the disappointment was the complete lack of humor in this novel. I buy a Lynsay Sands book expecting to be smiling while reading a portion of it. I didn't find anything funny about this book. Not one thing. Which means Ms. Sands just got dumped off of my auto-buy list.

Gifts for the Baker