Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lara (The World of Hetar, Book 1)


Synopsis from back cover: Welcome, dear reader, to the world of Hetar, a realm of Forest Lords, of Shadow Princes and Coastal Kings. A land of passions, both civilized and savage. Where the social classes know their place, but where anyone can, under the right conditions, advance to the highest pinnacle. This is a place where pleasure is never censured, but encouraged, and where deception and desire may be intertwined. The orderly, elegant veneer of refined Hetar can no longer ignore the rebellion brewing in the Outlands, a dangerous place of both magic and mystery.

From the city that is the very center of Hetar, Lara, the beautiful half-faerie daughter of John Swiftsword, ventures forth on a journey that will awaken her, both body and soul, as she learns the true meaning of love that will last an eternity – and a searing passion that will change the destiny of Hetar forever.

Creating Hetar and it's many characters has been a great challenge for me, but a wonderful ad creative endeavor. I hope you will enjoy Lara's tale.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 2005.

How acquired: Received from a Book Mooch member.

First line: She was naked.

My thoughts: While this book was published by Harlequin, I would not classify it as a romance, but rather as fantasy, with a little romance thrown in.

At the age of fourteen, Lara, who is half human, half faerie, is sold into slavery by her father, a mercenary, so that he can afford to outfit himself properly to apply to become a member of the Crusader Knights. Lara is meant to be auctioned off to the Pleasure Houses, but her beauty is so great that the owners of the Pleasure Houses begin to fight amongst themselves and so much dissension is caused, that avenue is forbidden. She winds up being sold to the Head Forester and his brother, who believe that if they can impregnate her and she gives them a child, a curse put on their race by the Queen of the faeries will be lifted. And that's just the beginning of Lara's journey, for she has a destiny to fulfill. She doesn't know what it is or where it will eventually lead her, but follow it she must.

The story unfortunately became a little tiresome after awhile. I didn't find many of the characters very engaging, other than the young slave girl Noss, who Lara takes beneath her wing, and the giant Og, who helps Lara escape the Forest Lands. There wasn't a lot of depth to any of the characters. Lara is just so perfect. Her beauty is apparently due to her faerie heritage, and while traveling she has to hide it, as all the men she meets are mesmerized. That got old also, and I would have liked a little more explanation of why being half faerie made her so enticing. Are the faeries just really so much more beautiful than humans? Does faerie magic make them appear so to humans?

The books spans two years, during which time Lara also becomes a very skilled lover. Which when I thought about her being just sixteen, seemed a little over the top, and even at times a little yucky. Sex between the characters flows pretty freely and without inhibitions, but the sex scenes aren’t very…sexy. They’re more just a non-graphic recitation of what happened between the people involved. There are many mentions of the male characters' “manroots”, an almost quaint term that didn’t particularly bother me - until Lara and the Shadow Prince are watching his horses mate, and reference is made to seeing the stallion’s penis. After that it began to irritate me that on a horse it’s called by what it is, but on a man it’s called a manroot. And then when Lara and the Shadow Prince fall to it themselves, Lara faints from the pleasure. Ugh, please. I had to set the book down and take a break at that point.

What I loved was the world building. Learning about the different races, the different peoples, and the mythologies behind their cultures, particularly the giants and the forest people. And that is why I will eventually read the next book in the series, and hope the plot improves.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Chasing Claire (Hells Saints Motorcycle Club, Book 2)


Synopsis: Claire Winston knows she’s lucky to be alive—and even luckier to have the love and protection of a man like Prosper, her adoptive father and leader of the Hells Saints Motorcycle Club. Yet, try as she may, she can’t leave yesterday behind. She’s still haunted by Reno, the bad-boy biker her heart loves but her spirit fears. And she can’t seem to escape the terrifying memories of a night filled with blood, bullets, and brutality.

Hells Saints soldier Reno has tried everything with liquor and lace to get Claire off his mind. But he just can’t forget her freckles, her fierce fragility, and her tender heart. He knows he’s the only man who can give her the love she truly deserves.

As Claire and Reno spiral back into each other’s lives, they wonder if happiness is finally in their cards. But when violence once again explodes around them, Claire must decide if she really can trust Reno and commit to life with him—or if she’ll stay chained to her past forever.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, published by Montlake Romance, 2015.

How acquired: NetGalley

My thoughts: Claire is the younger sister of Raine, the heroine of RAINE FALLING. Reno is one of the brothers of the motorcycle club, and is consider by Prosper, the head of the club, to be his nephew in the same way he considers Claire and Raine to be his daughters. Fortunately there is no actual blood relation between any of them (other than the two girls), cuz that would be yuck.

In between the first book and this book, off the page, Reno and Claire had finally come together, and for awhile it had been good. Then came the misunderstanding that drove them apart. The night when Claire opened up and told Reno all about herself and her past. The next morning she slipped away while Reno was sleeping. She “needed a minute” as she put it, to come to terms with and acknowledge that she was in love. But apparently Reno, upon waking, interpreted her being gone to mean she was not coming back. So this was the misunderstanding that drove them apart. It felt like a reach to me. They’d been having sex with each other for months, but had never actually spent an entire night together. I just don’t get why her slipping out while he’s still asleep should be a turning point to break them up. But we learn this story in retrospect, first from Reno’s point of view, then from Claire’s, and the narrative never digs too deep.

There isn’t as much violence as in the first book, and not nearly as many derogatory words for women flying around, which was a relief and made it easer to focus on the story. Raine and Diego are now married with a baby and living in their own home, while Claire and Glory share Prosper’s lake house (I think it was a lake house, I don’t remember exactly now). Glory has started a catering business, and Claire decides to enroll in college. Meanwhile Reno does…whatever members of a motorcycle club do. I never really knew what he was doing most of the time. 

Claire is still suffering PTSD (my diagnosis) over the incident at the end of the second book and her part in it. And while Prosper took the blame – or the credit, which is more how the guys would look at it – serious repercussions are coming that will drastically affect Claire and Reno. 

I think part of my problem with these books is that the writing feels like it’s aimed at a young adult audience, though the books clearly are not YA. The use of sentences with a period between every word annoys me, such as the second line in Chapter 18: “Oh. Yes. He. Was.” And these lines literally made me laugh out loud: “Reno stood next to his mother. He also stood in front of her and behind her.” 

Despite all the badassery, at the core of the club is a belief in family, and while most of the brothers go from woman to woman to woman, when the right woman comes along our heroes succumb to the notion of hearth and home and fidelity. It’s a long road to get there, but you leave believing they will have their happily ever afters. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Raine Falling (Hells Saints Motorcycle Club, Book 1)


Synopsis from Goodreads: After a lifetime of uncertainty, Raine Winston shouldn’t be fazed by anything anymore. But she’s terrified. Terrified that her wayward sister, Claire, has gotten into debt dangerously over her head. Terrified that a muscle-clad biker named Diego doesn’t want payment with money—he wants much more. And terrified of the dizzying desire she feels whenever Diego touches her…

Diego Montesalto spends his days raising hell and his nights in the arms of fast, easy women. Tough, tattooed, and used to taking what he wants, he refuses to get emotionally invested in anyone. But he can’t stop thinking about Raine’s sweet smell, striking blue eyes, and quiet determination. She may have the spirit of a warrior, but she needs someone to guide and protect her.

When Raine has no choice but to go on the run, she falls straight into the Hells Saints’ mayhem-filled world…and into Diego’s strong arms. But in a life filled with hard choices, raw lust, and blood-soaked violence, is there room for loyalty…or love?

Revised edition: Previously published as Game Changer, this edition of Raine Falling includes editorial revisions.

First line: I heard screaming, begging, and crying. 

Stats for my copy: Kindle, published by Montlake Romance, 2014. 

How acquired: Purchased. 

My thoughts: Where to begin? The set up was a little convoluted and confusing to me. We meet Raine, and her junkie sister Claire and Claire’s junkie boyfriend. A group of motorcycle thugs burst into the apartment, demanding thirty thousand dollars, payment for something that Claire and Jamie (yeah, that’s seriously their names) have stolen from them, or not paid them for, or something. Raine just happens to have a little over thirty two thousand dollars saved up and steps in to protect her sister, offering her money to the bikers. The money is hidden in her abusive ex-boyfriend’s garage, and getting it is a huge hassle – I won’t spoil by telling you how that goes down, but she is ultimately successful.

One of the bikers is Diego. He seems like a bad guy, but he’s also the hero so he must really be a good guy. But it takes a bit to get there with the way the plot is laid out.

And here I’ll say that I have not read any MC (or Motorcycle Club in case you’re wondering) books before. Unless Sleazy Rider counts, which I read in September 2013. From what I gather, violence and abuse towards women is pretty standard in them. There’s plenty of both in the beginning of this book, and it didn’t necessarily bother me, but with Diego being one of the big bad bikers it was hard to imagine that I could like him.

Then Raine and Diego go their separate ways, only to inadvertently end up in the same place. And at the point, the real story began, and I became more interested. For awhile. But the constant stream of curse words coming from Diego and the other bikers just got annoying. It seemed like when the bikers talked every other word was the F word, or referring to a woman as one of a multitude of derogatory words. And at one point a couple of racist words for two other biker gangs. Though thankfully none of the men “silently cursed” so kudos to the author for avoiding that clichĂ©. 

In some chapters Raine narrates her story in first person point of view, while other chapters give us Diego’s or another character’s perspective in third person POV. Normally alternating POV doesn't’ bother me, but at times it was a little jarring. 

If I hadn’t already gotten the next book for free from NetGalley, I doubt that I would even bother to read it. 

And one last thing - this might be considered a spoiler, so stop reading if you care about that…..

When the heroine becomes pregnant, she refers to Diego as the “baby daddy”, a term that is just so preciously irritating that I hate it and I cannot take seriously anyone who uses it. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Bounty Hunter (Loveswept No. 707)


Synopsis from back cover: “You have something that belongs to me – my heart...”

Hired to locate a runaway wife, he'd blown into her life like a hawk riding he wind, bu when Kane Hawthorne found Elizabeth Lawson, he wanted her for his own! A desperate woman who trusted no one, she tried to keep him from making her enemies his, but Kane insisted on fighting her demons. Could she cherish her savage hero until his own ghosts were silenced?

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Bantam Books,1994

How acquired: Won from the author in a giveaway on her Facebook page.

First line: “Find my wife, and I'll make sure you never want for anything in your life.”

My thoughts: I'm a sucker for an old school category romance, and BOUNTY HUNTER didn't disappoint. A Native American (Shoshone) bounty hunter is hired to track down a rich prick's runaway wife. He claims he cut off her credit cards and she ran off in a snit. But when Kane catches up with Elizabeth (using the name Annie) he immediately senses there's more to the story. So rather than hustle her back to her husband, he convinces her to hire him on for room and board to help out around the falling apart at the seams house and barn where she's trying to start a canning business. And of course, despite wariness and misgivings on both their parts, they fall for each other, while it becomes obvious both their lives are in danger. And then Kane has to come clean and tell Elizabeth the real reason he showed up at her door, and hope she won't hate him.

No need to tell you how it ends, because how else could it?

Favorite lines:
"Shhh. Stop trying to carry the whole world on your shoulders. Let someone hold you. Let me."

Who wouldn't melt at that? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rereadable Lines

"Shhh. Stop trying to carry the whole world on your shoulders. Let someone hold you. Let me."

Kane Hawthorne
BOUNTY HUNTER, by Donna Kauffman

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dog Day Wedding

Synopsis from Goodreads: Giovanni Roma was jilted at the altar. Twice. Meeting Natalie is an enchanting distraction—too bad she’s engaged to another man. To top it off, Giovanni’s mother has a mouth with no filter and is obsessed with finding her son a suitable baby-maker.

Natalie DeMarco is a good cop with one problem. Cold feet. Her fiancĂ© is a decent man, but she’s starting to wonder if decent is good enough. Maybe the doubts could be blamed on Giovanni, that guitar-making Italian hunk next door.

Giovanni knows he must do something, but things get out of hand when he learns he’s not the only one who objects to the wedding.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, published by Season Publishing, 2015; received through Netgalley for review.

First line: “Somebody kill me,” muttered Giovanni Roma, fiddling with his cufflinks.

My thoughts: If I had to describe this book in one word, that word would be Fun. With a capital F.

The story opens with Giovanni being stood up at the altar. As he drives away from the church, he stops to help an elderly woman catch her runaway dog, and almost gets a ticket for leaving his car parked in the middle of the street, but the officer takes pity on him and lets him off with a warning. Later he meets that officer again – turns out she's his neighbor's granddaughter.

Natalie is about to marry Jacks, despite the fact that he seems more interested in his car than in her. He doesn't even know her favorite color or flavor of ice cream. After not giving Giovanni a ticket, she sees him again while at her grandfather's house – outside, in his yard, in his underwear. He certainly gets her attention.

I loved the banter between Giovanni and Natalie, and they seemed to click together right away. Most of the characters in the book were pretty memorable, with their own distinct personalities. Giovanni’s mother isn't very likable, calling her son rude names while obsessively trying to match him up with someone who will quickly produce grandchildren. But his friends Stevie and Danny were welcome additions who I enjoyed. There's also Precious, the runaway dog who Giovanni finds himself dog sitting, and who was the catalyst in putting Natalie and Giovanni into each other's company.

A new character was introduced towards the end of the book, and his appearance came out of left field. His involvement and the direction the story took disconcerted me a bit. I felt like the plot almost went over the top at that point. However it was all resolved very satisfactorily.

It's not a deep character study, but rather a light, frothy, funny story that made me laugh out loud several times. It's refreshing to find a cute romantic comedy written by a man, and I've already bought, and look forward to reading, Mr. Amooi's previous book, FIVE MINUTES LATE.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Against the Law (Against Series/Raines of Wind Canyon, Book 3)

Synopsis from Goodreads: At thirty-two Dev is "mostly retired" from Raines Investigations, content to run operations from his sprawling Arizona home. But Dev has never been able to say no to a beautiful woman, so when Lark Delaney comes to him for help, the former U.S. Army Ranger from Wind Canyon gets back in the game.

Lark is sexy, successful and dedicated to tracking down the baby girl her sister gave up for adoption. It should be a straightforward case, but it's not long before Dev uncovers a shady adoption ring and worse—the child's parents have been murdered and the little girl has been taken.

As the case grows dangerous and Lark needs him more than ever, Dev can't ignore his growing attraction for her. He also can't trust his judgment with women or the emotions he's long-since buried. But there's a chance, if he gets this right and saves Lark's niece, that he'll end up saving himself, too.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Mira Books, 2011.

How acquired: Through Book Mooch.

First line: He had everything he ever wanted.

My thoughts: I went into this book with a little trepidation, knowing that the heroine was going to hire Dev to help her track down the child her sister had placed for adoption four years earlier. Knowing, from the synopsis, that the adoption probably was not conducted legally. This is one of my hangups. I work in the adoption field, and I hate seeing stories, on film or in print, that give adoption a bad name. And lines like this, nineteen pages in, did not help:
Once they located the adoption agency, the address of the adoptive parents should be easy enough to find. Assuming the agency people could be persuaded to give up the information.

The only thing that would persuade the staff at our agency to divulge a family's address would be a warrant. Well, maybe a gun to the head would do it for some of our staff. But we would never just hand that information over to anyone who wanted it.

Several pages later, after talking to another girl who also placed a child, and was currently pregnant and placing that child as well, albeit with a different agency, Lark wonders how much the girl earned, and Dev speculates:
She's blonde and blue-eyed. Caucasian babies are in high demand. Twenty thousand, maybe more. It isn't against the law – not if the agency is licensed and following all the state mandates.”

Maybe that's not illegal in Arizona, but it sure is in my state. We can pay a birth mother's living expenses – within reason and with a judge's signature on a court order – but we can give her money, and she does not get paid to place the child.

And now I'm probably just being a little nitpicky, but a few pages later they walk into a daycare center, and while Dev approaches the receptionist desk, Lark wanders around the play area, and then talks to a little boy. I cannot imagine any daycare in the country where a person can just walk in off the street and roam around among the children.

Anyway, after it was stressed a couple of times that Lark only wanted to be sure her sister's child was in a safe and loving home, and had no intention of disrupting that, I began to relax a little and enjoy the story. And then when they finally went to that home, just in time to see masked men fleeing after having gunned down the adoptive parents and the household staff, while terrified little Chrissy was hiding in a closet, I was completely hooked. And after that, it wasn't about adoption (other than Lark of course eventually adopting Chrissy). It was about drug cartels, and Mexican criminals, and lives being in danger, and me turning pages faster and faster.

I loved Dev and Lark together. Lark is a successful businesswoman, running her own company and making and selling designer handbags. Now that she has Chrissy to raise, the last thing she needs is a relationship. Dev is the youngest of the Raines brothers, and after his fiancee broke up with him days before their wedding several years ago, he doesn't trust women and is determined to never fall in love again. They may say they love you, but how can you know if they really mean it? The answer is to have fun with pretty women but never get serious with them. The attraction between Dev and Lark is palpable, but Lark is Dev's client, and he doesn't mix business with pleasure, so she's off limits as one of his flings. When they do finally give in to the chemistry between them, it was pretty sizzling.

We meet several men who work for Dev, or who served with him in the military and are called upon now to help out. The action never lets up as Dev, Lark, Chrissy, and other men are thrown into one intense situation after another. Of the three books about the Raines brothers, this one is definitely my favorite. The next three books in the Against Series feature three of the other men involved in this one, and I am eager to read all of them. So eager in fact, that I've already placed an order through Barnes & Noble for the next book, along with two other books in the Against series, and the first book in the Brodies of Alaska series.

So despite my initial misgivings, this was a very good suspenseful story with a complex plot. There were lots of scenes that made me either laugh out loud or grin like an idiot, and when the danger was over and Lark and Dev were coming to grips with their feelings for each other, there were some scenes that literally made me cry. I can't get the next book quick enough.