1/29/10

"Classic" Review: Cutting Loose by Susan Andersen

I've decided to move all of my old reviews that are scattered across the net to one home. So, every Friday, I'll be posting a review from the past. They were written in 2007 and 2008 and reflect my opinions from that time. I hope you enjoy them!

Originally published on MySpace Blog August 11, 2008

After being so disappointed in so many historicals lately, I was relieved to find a favorite contemporary author did not let me down. Andersen's newest title, Cutting Loose, is the beginning of a new series about 3 childhood friends who inherit a mansion from an elderly mentor.

As the first in the series, Cutting Loose has some necessary backstory that, I admit, is a bit boring. I'll even admit to skimming it, since it didn't really engage me. But the story that followed was terrific. I liked Jane, the repressed curator for a Seattle museum and Dev, the Irish contractor.

Andersen does a terrific job capturing that Irish twinkle I'm familiar with, and I really enjoyed the fact that this hero was not some metrosexual, emasculated, sensitive, modern man. He wasn't a Neanderthal either--simply someone who was very real. You felt that this was someone you knew and someone on whom you could depend. There's something so appealing about that.

My only complaint, and it's relatively minor, was that the physical locations seemed a little fuzzy. The mansion, which is a centerpiece in the story, did not get fully realized. Neither did the museum where Jane works.

Overall, though, this was a wonderful contemporary title. The suspense isn't overdone. You know who the bad guy is, but there is a wonderful tension about what he will do next and when (if) he will be caught.

Well worth the time and effort! I'm eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

Follow up note: I decided to start with this review, since we recently received the awesome news that Susan Andersen has FINALLY been given the go-ahead for the third book in the trilogy!! Yea!!

1/28/10

Review: The Elusive Bride by Stephanie Laurens


Well, after bashing the first book in the Black Cobra Quartet (the review of which you can read here), I'm happy to report that book #2, The Elusive Bride is a HUGE improvement. Not perfect, but much, much better.

I've read a lot of Stephanie Laurens books. In fact, I don't think there's one I haven't read. So I'm really familiar with her writing style. And I can't remember ever reading one that was semi-epistolary before. Along with the complicated adventure narrative, we're treated to diary entries from our heroine, Emily, as she plots and schemes to advance her cause of gaining our hero, Gareth Hamilton, as her husband.

1/25/10

Review: The Truth About Lord Stoneville by Sabrina Jeffries


Sabrina Jeffries starts a new series (after recently concluding her popular School for Heiresses series) with The Truth About Lord Stoneville.  The Hellions of Halstead Hall is about five scandalous siblings who are given an ultimatum by their purse-string-holding grandmother to marry within the year. This is the eldest, Oliver's, story.

I have to say, having read most of Sabrina Jeffries's backlist that this novel was quite a bit darker than most of her other books. The book begins with a nasty murder-suicide. And much of the emotional drama is the natural fallout of that tragedy.

1/23/10

Rant: Why I Hate Jane from Dahl's Lead Me On


I was going to write a review about Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Mainly because I know that most of my problems with the novel were not the fault of the writing. Instead, they're a result of my hating the "heroine" of the story so much that I really didn't WANT her to find her happily ever after. Which, in romance, is kind of required.

Jane Morgan represents a certain type of woman that I quite frankly can't stand. Someone who is not only a big phony, but who is judgmental of others. Who is a hypocritical elitist. Who is so consumed with overcoming her "low origins" that she looks down on everyone. She overcompensates BIG TIME. And I just can't stand those type of women.

1/20/10

Review: Coming Undone by Lauren Dane


FTC Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from a contest on Twitter offered by Book Binge . I have not received any compensation for the following review. Purchases made through the affiliate link do earn a small commission.

I don't read a lot of erotic fiction mainly because the plot often ends up buried behind what seems like an endless parade of explicit sex scenes. I was therefore happily surprised when I read Lauren Dane's Coming Undone. While there are some very explicit scenes, they are well done and fit within the narrative of the story seamlessly.

Elise Sorenson is starting over in Seattle after experiencing great personal tragedy. She and her daughter move in next to Brody Brown, a motorcycle riding, tattooed man. What starts out as a simple fling between two adults quickly morphs into something more than either expects.

Review: The Care and Taming of a Rogue by Suzanne Enoch


Suzanne Enoch is one of my favorite historical romance authors. While she occasionally disappoints, she did not do so with The Care and Taming of a Rogue. It's a bit different from her normal writing and doesn't have the emotional depth of...say...England's Perfect Hero...but it's fun all the same.

Upon his return from the Congo, Captain Bennett Wolfe is surprised to learn that society believes him to be dead. And that someone who was part of his last expedition has stolen his journals and published a book effectively ruining Wolfe's reputation.

Phillipa, a bluestocking whose matrimonial prospects consist of her sister's eventual cast-off suitors, is surprised when Capt. Wolfe, a man whose previous adventures she had read about, takes an immediate and obvious interest in her.

1/15/10

Review: Skin Game by Ava Gray


Although not my particular cup of tea, Ava Gray's Skin Game is a compelling piece of suspense writing. Excellent (if unsympathetic) characters, a fast moving plot, and plenty of "action"--both violence and sex.

Strictly speaking, I'm not so sure this qualifies as a romance. Sure, there's a semblance of romance, here, but when you have one of the main characters STILL contemplating murdering the other in the second half of the book, I'd say that isn't particularly romantic.

1/13/10

Review: Hunter's Need by Shiloh Walker


I've never read Shiloh Walker before, but the premise of her Hunter's series intrigued me. Hunter's Need is part of an extensive series, but it stands alone just fine. In fact, it's probably one of the best paranormal romantic suspense books I've read in a long time.

I'm usually a little leery about starting a book that's part of an established series. As a series progresses, it always becomes really difficult to explain some of the important back story necessary for the plot without doing it in info dumps. Or doing the opposite and leaving out important information so that fans who have followed the series don't get annoyed with all of the rehashing of events. As a first time reader of Shiloh Walker, I can say she handled that dilemma with expertise.

1/11/10

How to Seduce a Sinner by Adrienne Basso


I had the hardest time remembering the title of this book. And there's a good reason why. It has NOTHING to do with the story. There is no "sinner" to be seduced. Yes, there is a seduction or two, but the inclusion of the word sinner seems kind of odd. The hero of the story, Carter, isn't a philandering rake. The heroine, Dorothea, isn't really  promiscuous either. So I'm at a loss as to why this particular title was chosen. Other than someone was a little too fond of alliteration?

I was really impressed with the author's writing style. The first half of How To Seduce A Sinner flew by due in large part to the witty dialogue. At times, it's so great you're smiling along with the characters. The second half of the book, though, seemed to lag terribly. It was probably an attempt to add tension by dragging out the seduction of our heroine, but for some reason, it didn't work for me.

1/10/10

Review: Sinful Surrender by Beverley Kendall


I'm having trouble putting into words just how I feel about this book. I admit, at first, I really didn't like it. Throughout the first 80 pages or so, the writing is stilted, the characterization shallow, and the plot uninteresting.

While there remains no clear narrative voice (a personal reading preference of mine), the writing improved dramatically in the second half of the book. You gain more insight into why James is being so obtuse and resistant to the idea of Missy as his wife. Missy gains some dimensionality, although I'm still not sure her actions are true to how the author portrays her.

1/8/10

Beware the Ugly Covers

Christina Dodd has been poking fun at bad covers on her Facebook page this week.


I inadvertently did the same after stumbling across the cover for the new Amanda Quick hardcover, Burning Lamp, due out April 20.
No, that's not her mouth. It's her nose.

There's something not quite right about this cover. With the creepy angle, near baldness of the woman, the odd eye color, and the nose-mouth thing at the bottom it's a wonder how this example of hideousness made it out of the art department.

Even weirder is the UK version. Perhaps it's because Jayne Ann Krentz is more well known in the UK than the Amanda Quick pen name that the JAK name was given such prominence. It's disconcerting to say the least. At this size, I can hardly even SEE the Amanda Quick name.

From there, it's just a quick jump to pondering the usefulness of the not-really-a-secret pen name. Is it merely to keep your genres separated ala Nora Roberts/JD Robb? Is it to keep prolific authors from overwhelming the market ala Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters? Or is it strictly a marketing tool? Given the intertwined nature of the Arcane Society series between both Krentz and Quick, I'm thinking the latter in this case.

For me, it seems a bit silly to write under assumed names that are open secrets. And even sillier to put those multiple names on such ugly covers.

1/7/10

Review: Bound by Dreams by Christina Skye


I've always been fond of Christina Skye's Draycott Abbey novels. Partly because they draw so heavily upon the old Gothic Romance tradition. This newest installment, though, seeks to draw from the paranormal shapeshifting fad and that is likely why I was disappointed with it.

I struggled with the first 80 pages or so of Bound by Dreams. I put it down frequently. It did not hold my attention at all. I think the reason has a great deal to do with the cryptic and vague way the beginning
is written. It's confusing. It's deliberately sketchy with details and context. And while that may work for some novels, I don't think it worked with this one. I found it more annoying than suspenseful. And I think 80 pages of that is definitely overkill.

1/5/10

I've got the Can't Stay Focused Blues

Something about the post-holiday let-down is making me not want to read anything. At all. I've actually been finding "spring cleaning" chores around the house rather than reading. And that's just not like me.

I have started and put down a whopping 4 books in a row. Just not in the mood for any of them. The last one I did finish, I hated. Maybe that's it.

So...while I continue to struggle with the newest Christina Skye (I usually love Draycott Abbey stories), I'm debating picking up an old favorite to reread.

My usual go-to books are Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens, A Secret Love by Stephanie Laurens, or The Lady in Red by Karen Hawkins. All, oddly enough, historicals.

What are your favorite rereads?

Review: At The Bride Hunt Ball by Olivia Parker


At the Bride Hunt Ball isn't brand spanking new...it came out last year. Somehow, I missed it. Which is a shame, since it's VERY funny.

The plot is a Regency play on the TV formula of the Bachelor...where young hopefuls compete against each other for the chance to be the bride of the Duke's younger brother. (Or the heir as the duke has sworn off matrimony).

The cast of characters is pretty typical and unsurprising. There's the normally taciturn duke, the shallow bachelor, the shy wallflower in love with the bachelor, the overbearing parents, the catty fellow contestants, and the spunky main character who reluctantly enters the contest under protest.

For all that the plot progresses exactly as you'd expect, I still enjoyed the journey. The characters might be stereotypical, but they're well done. And the dialogue and interaction between our hero and heroine is snappy, funny, and really quite sweet.

Nothing is a surprise here except how much I enjoyed the book. Parker's writing style should appeal to fans of Julia Quinn or Jacquie D'Alessandro. Light, fun, fluffy, historical fare.

My Grade: B

1/1/10

Happy New Year! 2010 already??

New Years is just another day to me. I'm not a big party animal,and I don't do New Year's resolutions. But I do like to set a few goals. (I figure if I don't label them resolutions, I stand a better chance of getting them accomplished).

I started the blog early last year on a whim. I'd toyed with reviews for years, but this was the first time I sat down and dedicated time and energy to an ongoing review effort.

Of the 66 posts I made last year, 60 of them were reviews. Not too shabby for a part-time solo effort.

My goals for this year are

1. Get my post count up to 2 per week.
2. Be more consistent with my blogging. I tend to skip weeks, then bulk post for a few days.
3. Try some of the authors who write in genres outside my usual comfort zone.
4. Try (again) to like ebooks. Difficult to do when you live in a low internet speed area with no wireless hotspots.

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy 2010.
Amber

Review: Seducing the Heiress by Olivia Drake


I picked up a newer release, Seducing the Heiress by Olivia Drake, simply because I was in the mood for an historical romance. I was delighted to discover while peeking at the copyright page that Olivia Drake was actually a pseudonym for a well known and respected author: Barbara Dawson Smith. I certainly learned my lesson there, though.

I'm having trouble articulating just why I was so disappointed with this novel. Part of it is definitely the writing. Take, for instance, this scene:

"He bent his dark head to her privates."

Maybe it's just me, but that particular phrase doesn't strike me as very romantic. Or sensuous. Or erotic. I can't think of any woman I know ever using the word "privates". In fact, it comes across as un-romantic as the "c" word.

Gifts for the Baker