Saturday, July 12, 2014

It All Depends On Love (Harlequin Presents No. 1363)

Synopsis from back of book: Tessa had worked hard to get to the responsible position she held. The last thing she'd consider would be giving up surgery for the joys of love and marriage.

Patrick was an obsessive workaholic who'd built an empire and now saw the acquisition of children as a natural step to ensure the succession. And he wanted a full-time mother for his family.

“It would serve you right if you fell madly in love with a successful career woman,” Tessa said.

“I'd prefer to be a bachelor forever in that case,” Patrick replied.

Their battle of the wills was inevitable – but would one of them emerge the winner...?

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 1991; from my personal collection of books – I have no idea where or how I acquired it.

My thoughts: The plot was a little silly and far fetched. Tessa is 27 and a surgeon who spends all her time working, to the point of near exhaustion. Her boss forces her to take a three month vacation, so she goes home to her godfather's, where she was raised after her parents died. He is away himself, but the home is currently occupied by his housekeeper and a dog named Henry. On her first day home, she discovers a hole in the wall between her home and the neighbor's, where Henry has been slipping through to make himself a nuisance next door. While examining the hole in hopes of repairing it, Patrick, the new owner of the neighboring home, happens along, and assumes she is there in answer to an ad he's run for a household staff member. He is condescending and arrogant, and wanting to take him down a peg or two, Tessa goes along with his assumption, taking on the persona of an 18 year old drop out, letting him think she is house-sitting next door. When they part company, she thinks how funny it will be when he learns who she really is. But to her surprise, she is later offered the position.

You would think at this point she would decline the employment offer, but no, she decides to accept, and continue with the joke. Naturally they are attracted to each other, with Tessa constantly being insulted by Patrick treating her as a silly teenager (though of course she is masquerading as one), and Patrick fighting the attraction and appearing to feel disgusted with himself every time he breaks down and kisses her, since he of course believes she is a flighty teenager considerably younger than he is. I kept feeling a sense of foreboding and thinking no good could come of this little game.

What saved the story for me was Tessa's personality. She's smart and sassy and funny. Since her job is just a lark to her, she isn't under the normal constraints a household staffer should be and has no problem smarting off or talking back to her boss, Patrick, or his snooty assistant who is also her boss. Until her enforced vacation she had immersed herself in work after a bad breakup, and hasn't really been interested in another relationship, but now she finds herself wanting Patrick. Meanwhile, Patrick tells anyone who will listen his views on marriage – someday he'll marry, but he will expect his wife to put him first and not have a career of her own.

As Tessa gets deeper and deeper into her lies and more involved in Patrick's household, she does begin having qualms about her charade, and she keeps deciding she's going to come clean and reveal her true identity, hoping in the process to wipe a smirk off Patrick's face and show him how wrong he is to judge people. But then she decides for one reason or other the time isn't right, and of course once she realizes she's fallen for him, she wants him to fall for her before he finds out she is a dreaded career woman.

A quick, fun and enjoyable read, despite the silly plot (and slightly creepy cover). 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gone With The Nerd (Nerds, Book 4)

Synopsis from back of book: Movie star Zoe Tarleton has everything but respect. Now she's determined to get it by snagging the coveted role of a plain-Jane chemist. All she needs is for her decidedly uncool attorney, Flynn Granger, to teach her the award-winning subtleties of being a nerd.

California's “Bigfoot Country” is the ideal secret hideaway for coaching. That means rehearsing the steamy scenes too. Who'd have guessed that Zoe and Flynn's performances would be so convincing? Unfortunately, something is turning their hot love story into a hair-raising thriller.

The killer bees, the poisoned food, and the toppled tree are no accidents. Someone's out to get them. Does Flynn have a love-struck woman in his life? Does Zoe have an insanely jealous fan? Or is Bigfoot real – and more resourceful than anyone imagined? It's just Zoe's luck. She's finally found the man of her dreams and the role of a lifetime – and both of them could be her last.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by St. Martin's Press, 2005; Christmas present from my mom.

First line: Two blocks from the restaurant, Zoe Tarleton knew she was screwed.

My thoughts: Zoe is a fun heroine, a movie star who's been relegated to glamour girl roles and who longs to be taken seriously. She's auditioning for the role of a nerdy scientist, and decides she needs to immerse herself in the world of nerdism. Enter Flynn, her contract lawyer. He wears glasses, he drives an older car (she has to ask him how to lock the doors because the car does not have power locks), he's in a long distance relationship with another lawyer, and his PDA is never out his reach. When Zoe asks him to go to a remote cabin in the woods under the assumed names (from the movie script) of Tony and Vera (in order for her to avoid being recognized by anyone) and teach her everything she needs to know about being a nerd, he is resistant, but finally gives in and agrees, on one condition – he has to tell his girlfriend where he'll be and why.

Part of the nerd training sessions involve reading lines of hokey dialogue from the movie script, with Flynn coaching Zoe on how a nerd would talk or act or respond to situations, such as telling her the character of Vera would not leave the top two buttons of her blouse undone, or she would not sound so sure of herself, etc. I thought the movie dialogue was a little over the top, and that Zoe was wrong in thinking this was a serious movie that would get her serious attention. I kept anticipating that in the end the movie would be a bomb or be canceled before it got off the ground, or something along those lines. But no, it actually was a serious movie.

Of course all kinds of wacky times ensue, some between the two of them, some involving the local townspeople. Flynn quickly gets into the spirit of things and embraces his nerd persona, and Zoe quickly realizes she wants to embrace Flynn. They dance around each other, and the build up to their relationship was played out slowly (though not too slowly since it is a single weekend) and satisfyingly.

I went into this one a little leery compared to the other Nerd books, as the backdrop of the Bigfoot storyline did not appeal to me at all, but I was satisfied with the way that played out.

As usual with a Vicki Lewis Thompson book, there is plenty of humor to go along with the heat. One of my favorite passages:
As long as Flynn kept his tie on, he wouldn't turn into Tony. Besides, most sexual encounters began when a guy loosened his tie. A loose tie led to everything becoming loose. Flynn wanted to stay tight.

Unfortunately when I made a note of that passage I forgot to write down the page number and I'm too lazy to flip through the book and look for it now.

Very enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to continuing with the series. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Sheikh's Impatient Virgin (Harlequin Presents No. 2901)


Synopsis from back of book: Set up against her will as a potential Arabian queen for the notorious Sheikh Karim, unworldly Eva has a plan to deter the desert king. She will convince him she's a modern, sexually experienced woman - and definitely not marriage material - even though she is really still a virgin.

However, the next thing she knows, Eva's become a bride! And her new husband is having a startling effect on her...She finds herself increasingly impatient; could it be that shy Eva is curious about what lies ahead in the sheikh's marriage bed?

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 2009; purchased at a library sale.

My thoughts: Royalty is not one of my favorite tropes, much less sheikhs, so I went into this book with low expectations. Putting aside the sheikh factor, I still would not have loved it. Every scene seemed to be so drawn out, an exchange between the two characters that probably would have lasted five minutes would take that many pages to get through. A character would say something, and then one of them would be thinking thinking thinking and in my mind I pictured the other character just frozen in place waiting for the first character's internal monologue to end. And at one point, the heroine puts a small dog in the pocket of her coat and then forgets about him for pages and pages, while she walks and then gets in a car and argues with the hero and gets out of the car and I just can't imagine a dog lying quietly in a pocket for all that time and I worried that she would accidentally sit on it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Nerd Gone Wild (Nerds, Book 3)

Synopsis from back of book: Inheriting a fortune means less to Ally Jarrett than fulfilling her real dream: to take off for the wilds of Alaska and photograph animals. Unfortunately she;'s also inherited her grandmother's personal assistant – an overprotective nerd who couldn't survive a snowball fight.

As a PI and bodyguard, Mitchell Carruthers is the perfect man to protect his late employer's granddaughter. However, keeping his geek-masquerade – and the secret behind his real mission – isn’t easy when the freeze between Ally and Mitchell begins to melt.

Yet all's not well in the sub-zero paradise. Ally's bad seed uncle is staking a claim on the family inheritance with a dangerous masquerade of his own. With Ally's life in danger, it's time for her right-and nerd to expose the real man undercover, and prove himself to the vulnerable body he's been hired to guard.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by St. Martin's Press, 2005; purchased new.

First line: “Here in Porcupine, some folks have sex just to keep warm.”

My thoughts: Ally is an heiress who's grandmother has recently passed away, leaving her a fortune. But Ally has no desire to be involved in the running of her grandmother's estate or affairs, or being a society woman. Instead she packs up and flies to Alaska, camera in tow, to photograph wildlife. Her uncle Kurt, who lives in Alaska, has arranged for a famous photographer to meet her there and provide some one on one mentoring.

She's dismayed when Mitchell, her grandmother's nerdy personal assistant shows up, under the flimsy excuse of coming across some paperwork that needs her signature. She thinks he's really followed her because he has a crush on her. She doesn't know that he's actually a private investigator/bodyguard, hiding behind a nerd persona, but she does slowly become aware of the hot bod he's hiding under his nerdy clothes.

Mitchell isn't a true nerd, though he has nerd roots from his high school days, which helps him carry off the persona. And of course he is attracted to Ally, but he really did follow her because he promised her grandmother he would protect her. Ally doesn't know the true story behind why her uncle Kurt was banished from the family home and why her grandmother would never even allow his name to be spoken in her presence. But grandma did confide in Mitchell, and Mitchell is determined to keep Kurt from trying to get his hands on any of Ally's inheritance.

There are lots of wacky supporting characters – in fact, every supporting character seems to be wackier than the last. There's plenty of humor, and there's a pretty hot strip poker game. I didn't love this one as much as Book 2 in the Nerds series, THE NERD WHO LOVED ME, but it was a lot of fun. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Small Island

Synopsis from Goodreads: Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be received as a hero, but finds his status as a black man in Britain to be second class. His white landlady, Queenie, raised as a farmer's daughter, befriends Gilbert, and later Hortense, with innocence and courage, until the unexpected arrival of her husband, Bernard, who returns from combat with issues of his own to resolve.

Told in these four voices, SMALL ISLAND is a courageous novel of tender emotion and sparkling wit, of crossings taken and passages lost, of shattering compassion and of reckless optimism in the face of insurmountable barriers---in short, an encapsulation of the immigrant's life.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by Picador, 2005; received through Book Mooch.

First line: I thought I'd been to Africa.

My thoughts: Written in first person POV, with the narration alternating between the four main characters, the author did a wonderful job of giving each character a distinctive voice and personality, drawing us into his or her story completely.

Gilbert joins the West Indian RAF, eager to defend the Mother Country, which he loves without reservation. He gets a brief trip to America, which he is eager to see. He's impressed with the vast abundance of food available to the military there, but puzzled by how he and his fellow Jamaican citizens are treated differently, better, than the black people in America. Once in his beloved Mother Country, he is astounded to realize that its residents know nothing about Jamaica.
You British?” one of them finally asked.
Yes”, I said.
I hope I don't cause offence if I tell you that to my eye you don't look British. You must be rare as a sunbeam in a cave.”
I am from Jamaica.”
Jamaica, England?”
Had no one outside the Caribbean ever heard of Jamaica? (pg 129)

After the war is over, Gilbert and Hortense marry in Jamaica, and he travels back to England to look for work and find a place to live, sending for Hortense to join him six months later. She arrives expecting to be immersed in culture and class, and live in a nice house with a fancy doorbell. She is not expecting a single dirty room in an old house with a nosy white landlady who goes to market dressed in what appear to be her bedclothes. Hortense was a teacher in Jamaica, and expects to teach in England as well, but those hopes are quickly dashed. She and Gilbert didn't marry Gilbert for love, but for the chance to immigrate. The sections of story narrated by Gilbert and Hortense were my favorite. They are both fascinating and appealing characters, motivated by a desire for a better life in a country they've been brought up to love and respect, but which looks down on them because of the color of their skin.

Except for people like Queenie. When the war ended, her husband did not return, and she began renting out rooms in their home to support herself. Despite the disapproval and disdain of her neighbors, she gladly rents rooms to not only Gilbert and Hortense, but to another Jamaican immigrant as well. Queenie's and Bernard's sections of narration were still engrossing, but I didn't feel quite as embedded or invested in their lives as with Gilbert and Hortense.

The author's writing is very evocative, with just the right amount of humor and lightness thrown in among the serious topics.
Madam,” I began, but she was gone, rattling through the crowd like a laxative. (pg 157)

Racism is the prevalent theme, treated with both dignity and matter of factness, a way of life that each character reacted to differently. Bernard is the least visible character, and the least likable, though in the end he shows unexpected compassion and strength. When the end of the book came, I was left wanting more, having questions that still needed answers. A secret was revealed, which provided a link between two characters that was not resolved to my satisfaction. But that's a part of life, right?

A beautifully written and thought provoking look at a country and it's people torn apart by and then putting themselves back together after a war. Read it. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Bridge


Synopsis from inside jacket cover: The year is 2035. For over forty years the Ecologists have had their way and the killing by man of any living thing has been outlawed. Insects, fish, plants, and animals abound, in fact run rampant, revered by all but a few such as Dominick Priest. Priest still believes in the primacy of man.
In this adventure story of the future, D. Keith Mano demonstrates once again his concern as a novelist with the situation about to arise, the problem as yet unforeseen, the solution not yet quite arrived at.
THE BRIDGE tells the story of Dominick Priest's adventures, in a world that may come to be.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1973. Given to me by my mom when she cleared out some books from her personal library.

First line: At the crest he could hear the first ee-thud, ee-thud of the mortars.

My thoughts: This is a weird book. Weird, weird,weird. I didn't love it, yet I was disappointed when I reached the last page.

The story is set in New York in 2035, and all killing has been completely outlawed, whether it be man, beast, or microorganism. Much of the country has been taken over by wildlife, with buildings falling down, decaying, crumbling apart. Humans live on a man made liquid diet called E-diet. Acts of aggression have also been outlawed. People can't even argue with each other without being arrested. Raised voices? No. No voices at all. Humans communicate with a type of sign language, using their fingers to tap out messages against another person's arm.
Tumors had been declared an autonomous life form, no less valid than the life form of their hosts. In any case, the doctors could do little. Drugs, x-rays, surgery were illegal: they destroyed unconscionably high numbers of bacteria.” pg 51

Dominick Priest was arrested for playing chess by himself – a competitive game. But he is unexpectedly released, along with all his fellow prisoners, under a government mandate for all humans to eliminate themselves for the good of the planet. Everyone is given a suicide pill, and are expected to use it within a certain period of time. Priest sets out on an odyssey to find and reunite with his wife. In his travels, he meets up with an actual priest, who teaches him a bit about ancient (to him) Christianity.

The prologue and epilogue are both set even farther in the future, where Dominick Priest is the current population's spin on Jesus Christ. When I said earlier I was disappointed to reach the last page, it's because we leave Priest at the end of his travels, with only a brief glimpse into how he attains his later exalted status. An abrupt end to his story that wasn't the end of his story, and I wanted to stay with him for awhile. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Family Fortune (Harlequin Superromance #850; The Lyon Legacy #3)

Synopsis from Goodreads: The Lyon family matriarch has disappeared. And now her money's disappearing, too - bit by bit. Margaret Lyon's grandniece, Crystal Jardin, who looks after the family finances as well as those of the business, is growing more concerned every day.

The Lyons wait anxiously during this time of crises, hoping for word of Margaret. Then, as if Crystal's life wasn't complicated enough, she meets Caleb Tanner - and she falls for him. Hard. Even though Caleb's everything she doesn't want. He's too handsome. Too confident. And far too relentless. Can she afford to take a chance on her feelings?

Margaret's not there to give her advice, but Crystal knows what she would have said: Follow your heart.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited; 1999; purchased at a library sale.

First line: Another three thousand dollars withdrawn from Margaret Lyon's private bank account!

My thoughts: I was drawn into this pretty quick, and really liked the character of Crystal. But, her all-out disdain for kids playing any kind of organized sport got on my nerves a little bit. She believes that kids should not play soccer, football or basketball because of the dangers of being injured and disabled for life. Exhibit 1 – Skip, a foster child in the hospital who was injured in a football game and may never walk again. Crystal plays with a jazz band on weekends, and also volunteers time at the children's ward of the local hospital, playing for the kids, and she has a soft spot for poor little Skip. Not only is he a foster child, but thanks to his need for a wheelchair, he may not be able to return to the foster family he lived with and his social worker, who happens to be Crystal's foster cousin, will have to locate a new placement for him. Coincidentally, (Exhibit 2) the several other boys in the same ward with Skip are all hospitalized due to sports related injuries. When Crystal got on her soapbox about how terrible these sports are, I wanted to shake her and say chill out, girl! Even though my daughter was injured in a soccer game and her ankle still occasionally bothers her several years later. But shit happens.

Caleb is also a patient in the hospital, with a sports related injury – he's a professional football player. And his injury may have ended his career, though he's having a very hard time facing that reality. Caleb took me a little longer to like. I'm not a fan of football, so his career certainly did not impress me. Actually I'm not a sports fan at all, though I loved watching my kid play soccer. But, you know, that's my kid and she was the best goalie around. Caleb is definitely a player, and I did think “gag me” right along with Crystal at the way he peppered his conversations with “darlin'” and “sweetheart”, etc. etc.

This is the third book in a series, “The Lyon Legacy”, and normally I’m very anal about reading series books in order, but with category romances I don't usually bother with that as much, especially when it's a multi author series, as this one is. But there are so many members of the Lyon family, working together at the broadcasting company they own, and many living together in the family mansion, that I was often confused about who was who, especially Andre and Alain, which is probably just because their names are similar. Yes, they are. Well, they both start with the letter A. And I'm old and get confused easily. The book has a family tree at the front, and I consulted it more than once. So I do think I would have benefited from reading the first two books before reading this one.

I warmed up to Caleb right along with Crystal, especially as we learned more about how he fought the state to keep his three younger sisters out of the foster care system after their parents died. The main storyline is about the Lyon broadcasting company wanting Caleb to come on board as their new sportscaster, and Crystal, who handles the company’s finances, finding herself being pushed into also handling this jock. And while she learns that he's certainly more than just an athlete in a sport she abhors, she doesn't ever really seem to change her opinion about sports in general. A little growth there would have been nice.

There is also a subplot about the family matriarch, Margaret, being missing, and money being mysteriously withdrawn from her bank account several times (which Crystal knows about as, again, she's in charge of the finances). A private detective is eventually brought in to try and track Margaret down, and I seriously had a hard time understanding why the family would not notify the police and file a missing person's report. It's not like they didn't care, they were all terribly worried about her, but hesitated to admit she might actually be a real missing person and not just off alone grieving for her recently deceased husband.

The Skip storyline was resolved nicely, even though one day Caleb was dead set against Crystal wanting to be his foster parent (and if that's a spoiler I apologize, but you should have seen it coming), and the next day he's suddenly on board with it. He had an epiphany apparently, but it was off page, and I would have liked it to have been explored more.

Overall I quite enjoyed the book. There's a lot of plot crammed into it's 299 pages and the action moved along nicely with the story never dragging. Plus, for some reason I just really like the cover picture, especially the girl laughing. But, I was disappointed when I turned the last page, and Margaret was still missing. Which means if I want to know what happened to her, I have to read the next book.

The rest of the series:


The Lyon Legacy (#1), by Peg Sutherland, Roz Denny Fox, and Ruth Jean Dale
Family Secrets (#2), by Ruth Jean Dale
Family Reunion (#4), by Peg Sutherland