Hunt Her Down by Roxanne St. Claire

I love romantic suspense. There's something about the blend of mystery, danger, and romance that just does it for me. The exact ratio seems to be what determines whether something gets shelved in the fiction, mystery or romance sections, but any book with that combination is welcome on my TBR pile. And I must say the cover of Ms. St. Claire's novel helped put it on the tippy top of said pile.

Hunt Her Down is typical beach-read romantic suspense. Tropical location, sex scenes, danger. I sometimes felt like I was reading an episode from CSI: Miami.

I found it difficult to connect with the heroine of the story. Her life experience should have resulted in a corresponding depth of character, but I found her rather shallow. The same could not be said of the hero, who I thought was intriguing, mysterious, and just a bit of a jerk.  The best character in the entire novel was the heroine's son, Quinn. The author captured the angst of being a teenager with some serious identity problems quite believably.

The suspense was top-notch, too. I figured out the plot well ahead of time, but the peril faced by the characters in the story was extremely well done and the plot moved at a frantic clip.

While the characters could have used just a bit more depth, this was well worth reading. Compelling enough to have me searching the shelves for backlist titles in the Bullet Catcher series.


Be Still My Vampire Heart by Kerrelyn Sparks

Kerrelyn Sparks is quickly becoming a favorite paranormal romance author. Her series is a wonderful blend of romance, fantasy and humor similar to Lynsay Sands. Her characters in the Love at Stake series are always wonderfully believable and very unique. Each one with his or her own quirks, dreams, weaknesses, and motivations. Be Still My Vampire Heart is no exception.

Because I started the series in the middle (and there is a chronology of sorts), reading backlist titles by Sparks means that I already know who hooks up with whom. I'm not sure if that helps or hurts the book's plot for me. But with Be Still My Vampire Heart, it means that two important characters who appear throughout the series have to have a strong story of their own. And they do.

Angus is one of my favorite characters. A little old-fashioned. Even a little curmudgeon-ish.
Emma is a perfect match for his "antiquated" notions of honor because she follows her own code--one that does not always mesh with modern mores. And she can appreciate Angus's character traits that are often politically incorrect--without taking offense. Because while Angus is protective, overbearing, dictatorial and gruff, he never treats Emma as somehow less than he is. He respects her. And that is a crucial element.

Sparks's story is not frivolous. There are some serious issues being dealt with. But her characterization and dialogue is so funny, that you find yourself smiling along. Particularly when Angus checks under his kilt to make sure his important bits arrived safe and sound during vampire transit.


Storm of Shadows by Christina Dodd

Christina Dodd's second paranormal romance series is perhaps more intriguing than her first. It is a lovely combination of archaeological mystery (a particular favorite of mine) and romance. With a little paranormal Good vs. Evil battle going on as well.

Although I *wish* Ms. Dodd would have strayed a little further from stereotype (must the unworldly, dowdy librarian be a woman?) I concede that it's easier and more marketable to cast the characters in their expected roles.

This is the second in the series, and I have not read the first installment. It's easy to see I would have gotten a bit more from the story by reading the first novel, but it wasn't necessary. This book stands on its own.

While the main characters are well crafted, the secondary characters are not always so vibrant. Some are memorable, others not so much. Presumably we've either already read about them or will read about them, but the other Chosen Ones are often more sketchily drawn than incidental characters who appear throughout the novel.

The story takes some intriguing twists and turns, with multiple changes in pace and plot. I did find myself thrown out of my reading stride, however, by some choice phrases that I sincerely hope the author meant to be humorous.

an erection so big, King Kong could have climbed it holding Fay Wray in his palm.  Aaron could almost see an atomic blue glow coming from his balls.

That was not the only laugh-out-loud line in the book, but it was by far the strangest.

Overall, it was a fun read.  It's definitely a nice change of pace from the many werewolf, demon, vampire books dominating the paranormal genre these days. This is far more spiritual and magical. More elemental. And for that alone, it's worth a read.


Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare

It's rare that I enjoy the first book by a new-to-me author. I don't like change, and I like knowing what to expect. What tone, what kinds of characters, the level of angst. Predictable and safe.

Two words that definitely do not apply to Tessa Dare's novel, Surrender of a Siren.

With this book, I am charting new territory. I read it based solely on recommendations from fellow Tweeters. It's a book (and an author) I discovered on Twitter.com . What makes that unusual is that it wasn't discovered on a blog or printed review. It wasn't discovered propped up on the new release shelves or as a loan from my fellow romance readers. A few mentions scattered in those 140 character bursts convinced me to give it a try despite the extremely unlovely cover.

In a word, it was glorious.

I'm a stickler for well developed characters. I loathe action-heavy books with wimpy two-dimensional characters. No danger of this book letting me down there. Every single character jumps off of the page with emotional intensity. Every single one. Even those you only see for a paragraph or two. It's amazing. And a little exhausting.

Even more amazing is that the tension levels in this book are off the chart. The reader experiences the excruciating hyper awareness between the two main characters in what feels like real time.

And Ms. Dare knows her stuff. Sophia, our heroine, is an artist. And having known more than my fair share of artists, I can honestly say she nailed the compulsive need to express oneself that most artists have.

This is the second book in a series, but I haven't read the preceding novel. Surrender stands alone wonderfully.

I highly recommend this book for anyone sick of cookie cutter characters and plots. This is by far the best historical romance I've read this year!

**edited Oct 1 to correct this as 2nd in series, not 3rd.


The Laird Who Loved Me by Karen Hawkins

The finale for the MacLean series has arrived, and it does not disappoint. Of all of the books, this one was perhaps the most serious. It was definitely less light-hearted than Hawkins's normal style. But given the long history between the two main characters and the serious nature of the oldest MacLean, that's to be expected.

Aside from the extremely yummy cover (<---), what makes this book intriguing for me is the tiny touch of paranormal that is included in the overall plot. The ability to create storms through loss of emotional control or temper is a wonderful plot device--and helps add depth to the heroes throughout this series. I particularly liked how Hawkins manages to make two characters who were unappealing to me in previous stories seem so compelling in this one without changing their overall personalities or providing excuses for their obvious character flaws. Taking place in both England and Scotland, this book also ties the series up in a nice, neat bow. I thoroughly enjoyed the glimpse of Honoria and Marcus from Lady in Red. Although it could be read as a stand-alone novel, it would be best served by--at the very least--reading the novel preceding it in the series: Sleepless in Scotland.