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Monday Minis

Dabney’s reads:

I first read Chase Me in November and loved it. Just loved it. So, while stuck in a surgery center waiting room for most of a Friday morning, I read it again. And loved it again. (I’m not sure my fellow waiting room waitees shared my love. My constant snickering garnered many a long suffering stare.) In this very hot contemporary, struggling actress Roxy Cumberland stole my heart–and that of sexy lawyer Louis McNally the Second–from the moment she appeared. Roxy appears at Louis’s door dressed in a pink bunny costume to sing him a telegram from one of his many one-night stands about, yes, his cock. The encounter between the two is flat out hilarious. It’s worth reading this book just for that. After meeting her, Louis is determined to have her and not just in his bed although man does he want her there (His thoughts are so steamy, I confess that, when I wasn’t snickering, I was squirming.) Roxy doesn’t trust the rich and she finds Louis’s serious attentions hard to take seriously. Chase Me is lighter than Ms. Bailey’s other books although fans looking for her trademark dirty talking hero won’t be disappointed. I found the ending a bit abrupt and struggled to not reach into the pages and smack Roxy for her silliness there but, other than that, this is a winning read. Grade: B+.

Ten Good Reasons by Lauren Christopher is a book I picked to read because I am overwhelmed by my TBR pile (currently with over 1000 books on it…) so I decided to sort by new and upcoming releases with a four star or more rating on Goodreads. This book is one such romance albeit it has just nine reviews. I haven’t read the author’s debut novel, The Red Bikini, which people rave about on Amazon, but after reading Ten Good Reasons, I might. This story of a withdrawn, grieving boat captain and the bubbly yet not annoying PR professional finds the right balance of light, sexy, and sad. Plus there are whales! Lia is a heroine whose joy in life reads as real rather than painfully perky and it makes sense that Evan slowly lets her show him how to live again. The love scenes are doled out slowly and in a way that supports the emotional relationship the leads cautiously build. (If you’re sick of books where the lovers leap into bed and then grow to care about one another, this is a good choice for you.) There is some hard to hit sweet spot between contemporary romances so sugary they ping my “this is some serious crap” meter and those so dark I find myself longing for a Jill Shalvis novel. This book hits that special place. Grade: B.

I tried yet another New Adult rock star book. Yet again, I didn’t like it. However, in the case of Deep, my dislike doesn’t stem from the rock star adulation or the young adult angst. Nope, I disliked this book for a host of other reasons.

It’s official: The couple that gets pregnant the first time they have sex while using a condom is the laziest plot device currently en vogue. It requires no relationship building because, hey, the lovers are insta-bonded over the baby–who invariably has some cutesie pie name like Bean. Each book in the Stage Dive series has been weaker than the one before it and this one is no exception. There’s endless info about much of nothing here and when the focus is on the leads they’re usually texting, a literary affectation I found annoying.

I also find the child bride thing a bit creepy. Not only is the age/life experience gap too great, the heroine Lizzy hasn’t a life outside her relationships which, given how career obsessed Ben, the rocker baby daddy, is makes her seem vapid.

I can’t think of anything I liked about this book. Even characters I liked in their books were iffy here. I also found the casual violence–all the guys keep beating the shit out of each other for trivial reasons–off putting.

No more Stage Dive or Ms. Scott for me. Grade: C-


Maggie’s reads:

Fans of Briggs’s Alpha and Omega series will not be disappointed in Dead Heat, this fourth book of the series. The story starts with a serious conversation. Anna wants children. She knows Charles does as well. But for werewolves, childbirth is a great challenge and they will have to be creative to overcome the many obstacles they face.

In an effort to lighten the mood – and to ensure he gets Anna the best birthday gift possible – Charles plans a rare personal vacation to Arizona. It gives Charles a chance to reunite with an old friend and Anna a chance to purchase a new horse. But trouble is waiting for them in this seemingly idyllic location. A Fae of incredible power and cruelty is hunting the children of this area. And it will not tolerate any interference to its plan. Grade: B+.

Dead Heat kept me glued to my seat and eagerly turning the pages. It has that rare but wonderful combination of action packed adventure, intriguing mystery and wonderful relationship building that a great book should have. I love how Briggs is able to move the story line of the whole series forward while still delivering a tale that stands completely on its own. If you’re looking for a good paranormal read, look no further.

Haunted by Lynn Carthage was difficult for me to grade. On the one hand, after a slow start, I became very invested in the characters and their destiny. On the other hand, there are definite flaws.

Phoebe has done something so awful that her family has felt the need to cross the ocean to England and move into her step-father’s ancestral estate. None of them are quite prepared for what they find. The house is not just large, it’s huge – a mansion complete with artwork and antiques. It’s also creepy. Not just dust and spiderwebs icky but full of odd sounds which local legends attribute to a ghost. Phoebe soon finds out for herself that something far more horrible is in that house. But that monster is not the biggest surprise waiting for her.

Part horror story, part gothic and part teen romance this book examines the life of the average teen and how much impact they have on their family. Phoebe’s adventures as she fights the horror in the house, meets Miles and starts to fall in love and how she makes some startling discoveries about herself made for interesting reading. The big secret however is fairly apparent long before she figures it out. That makes for a slow point as the reader frustratingly waits for the maim character to catch on to what is happening. Once that occurs though the story takes off.

Overall I liked this enough that I plan to read the sequels. Given how many series I’ve recently stalled on or quit that says something quite positive about the book. Grade: B-.

Sara Thomas loves numbers. She is far less fond of people. Her cousin Jaqui is an exception and when Jaqui offers her the opportunity to work on a journal written entirely in cipher, Sara agrees. She’s not sure she can solve it – she’s not an expert code breaker – but she’s willing to give it a go.

She heads to France where the diary is kept and meets an intriguing cast of characters, including the handsome Luc Sabran. Sara knows she is socially awkward, a bad bet for any kind of long term relationship but she soon finds herself wishing she could keep Luc in her life forever. She also finds herself deeply intrigued by the tale of young Mary, whose diary she is deciphering. 

Mary Dundas’ family essentially deserted her for the Jacobite cause. When her brother comes to the home where she is staying,  saying he wants her to join his family she is ecstatic. She feels far less delighted when she figures out he needs her for one of the many clandestine projects for his cause. Before she knows it she is whisked off to Paris, playing a part in a dangerous charade. It is here that she meets a mysterious and dangerous man who proves to be both her protector and savior many times. But can he ever be more, as her heart longs?

While I thoroughly enjoyed the history in A Desperate Fortune and the journey through the world of ciphering we took I found myself doubting all the relationships. I couldn’t understand Mary being kind and helpful to people who had nothing to do with her for years. Her love story fell flat for me because I could never see the hero caring as much for her as he had for his cause. I found Sara’s love story completely unrealistic; Luc was more taking on another child than he was marrying an equal and I found that disturbing. Kearsley does her usually bang up job of telling an interesting story but the romance here won’t be sweeping you off your feet. Grade: B-.


Caz’s reads:

Winterblaze (Darkest London #3) by Kristen Callihan

I don’t read Paranormal Romances as a rule, but I’ve made an exception for this fantastic series. When Inspector Winston Lane of Scotland Yard is attacked and almost killed by a werewolf, he becomes aware of a truth that has been long-suppressed – that there are supernatural beings living among human society. During his recovery, he makes another unpleasant discovery – that his wife of fourteen years (Poppy, the eldest of the three Ellis sisters) has been lying to him for the entirety of their relationship. Unfortunately, however, it seems the betrayals they have wrought upon each other don’t end there, and there is worse to come when a powerful demon reveals a long-buried secret that threatens to tear them apart.

The story follows Poppy and Winston as they come to realise that perhaps their marriage had not been everything they had believed it to be, and sees them gradually beginning to readjust to the truths they now know about each other. There are bitter words and recriminations, but ultimately, there is no question these are two people who love each other very deeply and need each other at an instinctual level. I loved seeing them as they re-evaluated each other and their lives, and then watching them work together to win the day.

The balance between the romance and the action is just about perfect, the storytelling is wonderful and the plot is exciting and well-paced. Ms Callihan creates the most incredible sexual tension between her couples, and here, shows us the Lanes’ relationship evolving through a series of flashbacks, which are touching and very effective. It’s a fabulous book and I can’t wait to read the next one. Grade: A.

Seize the Fire by Laura Kinsale

I felt emotionally exhausted by the time I’d finished reading this book. There’s no way to do it justice in couple of paragraphs, but there’s no question that in Sheridan Drake, Ms Kinsale has created one of the most complex, compelling heroes – should that be anti-heroes? – I’ve ever read.

A decorated naval officer, widely regarded as one of the nation’s heroes, Sheridan knows he’s a fraud. He’s clever, ruthless and manipulative, but finds himself on the receiving end of similar treatment following his father’s death, when his father’s former mistress – who is companion to Olympia, princess of a small European state – insists Sheridan marries Olympia in order for him to attain the inheritance left him. Olympia already has a serious case of hero-worship, even before she meets Sheridan, and of course he exploits that to the full – but she nonetheless turns him down. A series of misadventures sees the couple running off in secret, captured by convicts, stranded on an island together, and then sold into slavery, and over the course of those events, Olympia comes to see Sheridan at his worst, and his best – and to love him in spite of it all.

I honestly couldn’t put the book down. It’s not an easy read at times, because Sheridan is a difficult character to like. But it gradually becomes clear that he is not really what he seems to be, and that he’s in fact a deeply troubled man who is haunted by so many of those events for which he has been lauded as a hero. My one complaint about the book is that the ending is very abrupt, but it’s still an amazing story. Grade: A.




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03/16/2015 5:19 pm

_Seize the Fire_ is also one of my favorite Kinsales, though _Flowers from the Storm_ is also my personal favorite. Like Caz I still have a few unread Kinsales that I’m holding onto (I think I just like the idea of having unread Kinsale books left still).

I loved the complexity of Drake and find him at varying times in the story equally hero and anti-hero. I recall wishing that Olympia had been a bit more interesting and a little less passive, though the island part of the book brought her to life more for me and was my favorite section. I miss expansive, leisurely books like this one! I do recall though actually loving the ending of _Seize the Fire_ – it is so different from typical romance genre endings and was just pitch perfect for this particular story. If I had to list favorite endings of romances, which I think we’ve done on this site before, I usually put this book down as one of the best. So heartbreaking and melancholy and at the same time just suggestive that a happier ending is a possibility for them both. Given the trauma of all that has come before this moment for both characters, I can’t now imagine a better ending.

Caz Owens
Caz Owens
Reply to  Blackjack1
03/16/2015 6:56 pm

What I think LK does so incredibly well is make Sheridan captivating even when he’s being a complete bastard. It’s clear right from the start that he’s not what he seems. For sure, the smooth charmer is an act he puts on, but what’s made just as obvious is that the ruthless bastard is just as much of an act – he just can’t see it, which makes him an unreliable narrator for much of his portion of the story.

I agree that the ending, while abrupt, is probably the best one, as there’s not much else she could have done without it getting too much, I suppose, but I was so invested in the characters that when it came to an end I wanted to howl!

I only have one or two unread or unlistened-to Kinsales now. I’m eagerly anticipating the audiobook of this one, because Nick Boulton is going to hit it out of the park.

Reply to  Caz Owens
03/17/2015 2:49 am

It’s a haunting ending and one that stuck with me for a long time. I do agree too that Drake is an unreliable narrator, which is a fairly uncommon narrative device in romance writing. Kinsale is a lovely author and I miss her contributions to the field. Glad though you reviewed her for this week and reminded me of this wonderful book!

Elinor Aspen
Elinor Aspen
03/16/2015 1:38 pm

Seize the Fire is my second-favorite Laura Kinsale (after Flowers from the Storm). I should really re-visit it; I haven’t read it in years. I completely agree with your assessment of Sheridan Drake. So many authors nowadays try to write romances with damaged and complicated heroes, but I have yet to find one who does it as well as Laura Kinsale.

Caz Owens
Caz Owens
Reply to  Elinor Aspen
03/16/2015 6:59 pm

ITA – nobody does the damaged hero quite as well as LK does. She doesn’t sugar coat or hide their not-so-nice side; they have redeeming qualities for sure but she never makes excuses for them. She explains them, and helps the reader to understand them, but never whitewashes them.

03/16/2015 7:12 am

Ah, Seize the Fire, my favorite romance ever. :)

Caz Owens
Caz Owens
Reply to  Paola
03/16/2015 1:27 pm

It’s amazing, isn’t it? I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read it, but in my defence, given that Ms Kinsale isn’t the most prolific of authors, I’ve been saving up her books for when I wanted a really GOOD read!