Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Quote Worth Quoting


“I do understand. You can have all kinds of friendships. Some develop over time, some are destined to remain casual.” He stepped closer, so her back brushed up against the door of the truck. “And then there are the rare few who just become part of your orbit from the moment they step into it. I like it that you’re there. Even if you drive me crazy.” 


THE BLACK SHEEP AND THE HIDDEN BEAUTY, by Donna Kauffman

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Black Sheep and the Princess (Unholy Trinity, Book 1)

DONNA KAUFFMAN

Synopsis from Goodreads: They’re the black sheep - the bad boys every good girl wants to have hold her, touch her, take her, love her. But being bad never felt so good...

I have some spare beer, if you’re interested...”
I’d know that voice anywhere, and every time I hear it, it makes me sweat. Not that well-bred heiresses are supposed to sweat, but if you saw Donovan MacLeod, trust me, you’d need a change of clothes, too. It’s been eighteen years, but he’s got the same cocky swagger, silver-gray eyes, shaggy hair, and that sexy smile that promises a whole lot of trouble. Not that I’ll ever find out because he loathes me - thinks I’m some spoiled princess. So, there’s something I’ve just got to ask...

Why are you here, Donovan?”
The lady asked a question, she deserves an answer. Well, Kate Sutherland, how about, 
I’ve fantasized about you for eighteen years? Or,I wanted to remember how it feels to need a cold shower every time you flick that perfect blonde hair out of your blue eyes? Or, Why don’t you come over here and let me show you, baby? Yeah, good answers, but I’ll stick with this one - I came back to help, because I think you’re in some trouble. My bad boy gut says you’re gonna need me - in more ways than one...

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by Kensington Publishing Corp.,2007; received from the author - I won autographed copies of all three Unholy Trinity books in a giveaway on her Facebook page!

First line: Donovan MacLeod ducked as the compressed-air tank shot like a cannonball over his head and slammed into the shelves lining the cinderblock wall behind him.

My thoughts: I was a little lost from that first line above for the first few pages, as Donovan “Mac” MacLeod and his friend and business partner Rafe tussle through a warehouse while being shot at by, bad guys? I wasn't even sure at first if they weren't the bad guys themselves, being shot at for breaking into someone's warehouse, making the shooters the good guys, or also bad guys. In the middle of all this confusion, they come across a piece of a newspaper article about Kate Sutherland trading her huge inheritance from her late mother to her step-brother in order to take over his inheritance, the family's lake property, which leads them to think something fishy is going on and she needs help, which leads to Rafe insisting Mac just go immediately and scope out the situation cuz they both know he always had the hots for her.

Goodness. Once Mac arrives at the camp and inserts himself in the middle of Kate's business, it's quickly obvious that something fishy is indeed going on and she does indeed need help, though she of course doesn't agree, yet, anyway.

Kate's socialite mother owned a camp for rich kids. Kate grew up privileged, occasionally visiting the camp, covertly watching Mac and jealously listening to all the other girls' stories about him. Mac's father was the camp handyman, kept on despite his constant drunkenness because he was a mechanical wonder and could fix anything, so Mac grew up on the camp grounds, running wild, hanging with his friends Rafe and Finn (dubbed the Unholy Trinity), seducing all the girls except Kate, who he seemed to studiously ignore but who he was actually always very aware of and assumed was out of his league and not the least bit interested in him.

Cut back to the present day, and sparks are flying as Kate and Mac are still wildly attracted to each other. Mac, who was a cop for awhile, and his two friends are now partners in a company called Trinity. They seem to be sort of like detectives, private investigators – they help people who need help (like Kate), not for the money but for the thrill of righting wrongs and helping people who can't help themselves. Kate was cut off by her mother when she refused to allow her mother to run her life for her, and became a teacher. She now wants to reopen the camp, which has sat unused for years, but not for rich kids - for children with special needs.

The story is told from both Kate's and Mac's points of view, with lots of internal ramblings, characterization, soul searching...all of which I love. The plot line about the camp – graffiti, vandalism, unwelcoming townspeople, and Kate's step-brother dragging out the inheritance trade even though it's to his benefit -- at times seemed convoluted and confusing, and I had a little trouble keeping up with it. But at the core of the book are Kate and Mac getting to know each other, remembering each other from their youth and learning how each of their lives since then has shaped them into the man and woman they are today. The banter between them often made me grin like an idiot, and when they finally gave in to the attraction, it is hot hot hot. I was head over heels in love with Donovan “Mac” long before Kate was ready to admit she was too.

The ending went a bit different than I anticipated, and as I began to see that coming I wasn't sure I liked it, but Mac convinced me right along with Kate that it was the best next step.


Overall, I very much enjoyed the book, and am eager to read Rafe's story, THE BLACK SHEEP AND THE HIDDEN BEAUTY. 

 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Streets of Laredo

LARRY MCMURTRY

Synopsis from Goodreads: In the long-awaited sequel to LONESOME DOVE, Larry McMurtry spins an exhilarating tale of legend and heroism. Captain Woodrow Call, Augustus McCrae's old partner, is now a bounty hunter hired to track down a brutal, young Mexican bandit. Riding with Call are an Eastern city slicker, a witless deputy, and one of the last members of the Hat Creek outfit, Pea Eye Parker, now married to Lorena -- once Gus McCrae's sweetheart. Their long chase leads them across the last wild stretches of the West into a hellhole known as Crow Town, and finally, into the vast, relentless plains of the Texas frontier.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Simon & Schuster,1993; bought.

First line: “Most train robbers ain't smart, which is a lucky thing for the railroads,” Call said.

My thoughts: LONESOME DOVE is one of my all time favorite books. It took me awhile to get into it, but once I did I was mesmerized until the last page, and was still thinking about the book and missing the characters weeks later.

STREETS OF LAREDO also took me a bit to really get into, and while I enjoyed it, I wasn't completely mesmerized until about the last quarter of the book. Gus McCrae of course was a very big part of Lonesome Dove, and of Woodrow Call's life, and traveling along with Call without Gus took some adjusting to. Gus and Call complemented each other so well in the first book, and without Gus Call seems even more morose.

A large span of time has passed since the first book ended. Lorena is now married to Pea Eye and they have several kids, ranging from an infant to a fifteen year old. They've settled on their own ranch in Texas, and Lorena is also the local schoolteacher. It was good to find out that Lorena had found a future with a man she loves and a family she cherishes. Call, on the other hand, is just an old man who seems to have nothing much beyond his memories. He still has a legendary reputation, has been hired by the railroad to track down and kill Joey Garza, a young Mexican boy who's built up quite a reputation of his own as a train robber and cold blooded murderer. When Call telegraphs Pea Eye to join him on the hunt, Pea is unhappy about it, but his loyalty to the Captain won't let him refuse. Pea is very happy in his life with Lorena now, and he hates leaving the farm more with every summons from Call.

There are plenty of new characters - Brookshire is an accountant sent by the railroad to accompany Call and keep up with expenses. Having been born and raised in the East, traveling throughout Texas and Mexico with Call is a serious culture shock for him. It starts out as an adventure, with Call looking down on him somewhat, but Brookshire manages to hold his own, earning the Captain's respect and friendship. Deputy Plunkert is eager and excited when Call rides through his town and asks him to joint the hunt, leaving behind a young pregnant wife. Neither Brookshire or Plunkert have any idea of the heartache this trip will cost each of them. And then there's Maria, Joey Garza's mother, and her two young children. Maria has had the hardest life of any of them, and she's desperate to protect Joey from Call, even though Joey hates her and steals from her.

The narrative weaves back and forth between Call and his men hunting down Garza, Lorena setting out to find Pea and take him back home, and Maria, hoping every time she sees Joey that he'll have gone back to being her loving son. As in the first book, the narrative flows from one character's point of view to another, and even minor characters are vividly drawn. The violence is sometimes a little overwhelming, and overall it's rather depressing, as so many characters seem to be filled with regrets or doubts, and live such hard, miserable lives. If you go into this story with a romanticized view of the old west, that will quickly be knocked right out of your head.


While Streets is a sequel, it pretty much reads as a standalone. It's not quite as outstanding as Lonesome Dove was, but a close second. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Secret Admirer

ANNE STUART, VICKI LEWIS THOMPSON, and MARISA CARROLL

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Dangerous Lover by Anne Stuart
Emma O'Bannion has been entertaining herself with romantic daydreams about the mysterious, gorgeous Frenchman who's moved into her New York apartment building. On a whim, she decides to act on her instincts for once, and ends up in water so hot that her heart may never beat normally again!

Once Upon a Mattress by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Amelia Townsend's Bedroom Fantasies store is a tremendous hit, but being the boss has definite drawbacks. Though she feels a bit awkward indicating any personal interest in her deliveryman, Will Murdoch, the guy makes her salivate every time he muscles a mattress onto the truck. And now he's asked for her advice on waging a secret admirer campaign for another woman!

Special Deliveries by Marisa Carroll
Nine-year-old Dani Jensen and her little sister think Christy, their new neighbor, and their dad would be a really good match, and Dani has figured out a perfect plan to get them together. Unfortunately, the anonymous cards the girls have been sending prompt Christy to go to the Authorities, and the path that was supposed to lead to romance for Del Jensen points to the police station instead!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises, Limited, 1999; received from a BookCrossing member.

My thoughts: I wanted to read this book mainly for Vicki Lewis Thompson. I'd only read Anne Stuart once, and that was a joint effort, Dogs and Goddesses, with Jennifer Crusie and Lani Diane Rich (and despite my love for all things Crusie I didn't much care for it). Marisa Carroll I'd never heard of. The underlying theme of each of the three stories is, of course, secret admirers.

In the first story, "Dangerous Lover", by Stuart, Emma is an attorney who has, not one but two boyfriends, either of whom would make a perfectly decent husband if she could pick one of them. We never meet them, but are told that they know she is dating both of them and don't care. Because Emma apparently is bored and has no excitement in her life, which is a sad state of affairs for a women dangling two guys on her string, she's developed a lust crush on the mysterious Frenchman who's moved in upstairs. So with Valentine's Day coming up, she decides to send him candy and flowers and little notes anonymously. Just for fun, as one does. Luc, said mysterioso, however, is actually a retired spy, and he figures out pretty quickly that Emma is behind the anonymous gifts, and he is convinced that her agenda is to kill him. So he kidnaps and drugs her and takes her out into the country to interrogate her in privacy. This story of course has a happy ending, but I didn't even care. The plot was just too silly and over the top for me, and to say the relationship developed too quickly would be an understatement.

Thompson's story, "Once Upon a Mattress", was better, though not as better as I anticipated. Amelia owns a furniture store that sells, or leases rather, fantasy. Themed bedroom groupings, giving the customer over the top love nests in their own homes. She is described at one point as being “thirtyish”. Will is one of her college student employees, a deliveryman. I got the impression that he is older than the average college student, having served in the military before school, but his age is never revealed. Amelia and Will lust after each other, but she's the boss and he's an employee, so neither thinks the other could ever possibly be interested. When one of the sales girls breaks up with her boyfriend, Will is convinced by his fellow deliveryman to pursue her, and hatches a plan to send her flowers and candy and notes, anonymously, and then reveal his identity at a restaurant on Valentine's Day. Will tells Amelia the plan and enlists her help, which drives her insane with jealousy, but being a mature sensible woman she pushes it down and helps Will by planting the deliveries for the other girl to find. I think my biggest problem with this story was thinking about this “thirtyish” woman and this college kid, and I really wished I knew how old Will was. Older woman/younger man stories just do not appeal to me at all.


Marisa Carroll's story, "Special Deliveries", was my favorite. Christy has taken a leave of absence from her nursing job in Atlanta to come home and run her aunt's business for her while her aunt is out of the country for a month. Of course her path quickly crosses with Dani and Kara Jensen, the daughters of her high school boyfriend. Christy and Del dated for six weeks when she was seventeen, and then his ex-girlfriend announced she was pregnant with his child, and Del married her in order to do right by the child. Christy left town for college and never looked back. Now Del is raising his two girls alone, and after seeing pictures of the two of them gazing at each other lovingly in Del's high school yearbook, nine-year-old Dani decides they need to be together. So with Valentine's Day coming up, she begins leaving anonymous valentines in Christy's mailbox, planning to sign her dad's name on the last card inviting her to dinner. To disguise her handwriting, she prints her messages on a computer and tapes them to the back of the cards, which are those jokey kinds kids give each other, with sharks and such on them. And which to Christy look menacing and suspicious, and make her think someone is stalking her. Carroll's story was sweet and engaging, with a more believable (and sensible) happy ending.

I haven't really read anything before, that I remember, featuring a secret admirer storyline, and frankly I don't really care to. I think I would feel like Christy in that situation - like it could be some crazy stalker, and that just isn't romantic. So between that, the horrible first story, and my personal aversion to older woman/younger man stories, I wasn't crazy about this book. However, the last story made it all worthwhile. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Talk Nerdy To Me (Nerds, Book 5)

VICKI LEWIS THOMPSON

Synopsis from back of book: Fashion model Eve Dupree is fed up with being labeled “the pretty one” while her sister's called a genius. Eve's got loads of brilliant ideas, not least of which is the invention she's building in her garage. But when she turns to the nerd next door to help get it off the ground, she finds herself on dangerous ground.

Charlie Shepherd has discovered that there's more to Eve than meets the eye. But it's not just her body he likes – it's those sexy brains of hers. Romance is a complication he doesn't need right now. The problem is, she has something he needs and he can't seem to resist her.

Keeping her creation under wraps is harder than Eve expected – as is denying her attraction to Charlie. But when a saboteur starts sniffing around her project, she questions everyone around her, even her nerd in shining armor. Can opposites attract, or will they light a fire they can't control?

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by St. Martin's Press, 2006; purchased new.

First line: The explosion caught Charlie by surprise.

My thoughts: Is it just me, or are these Nerds books becoming less and less about characters who actually are real nerds, and more and more about sex?

The synopsis above sums it up pretty well, so I'm not going into a description of the plot. Suffice it to say, Eve and Charlie meet, then lust after each other. Eve is new in town and thrilled to have found a place in a cozy homey little middle American town, away from the bright lights/big city of her usual life. Charlie has lived in said town his whole life and can't wait to get away. Thus, they both realize the other person is unattainable as a permanent mate, so they try to hold back, leading to much brooding and internalizing.

Eve supposedly has genius level smarts, though she didn't graduate from high school. Which is OK – I think I'm fairly intelligent myself and I also did not graduate from high school, so nothing wrong with that. When Charlie tells her his phone number, she doesn't need to write it down, because she can just remember it right off the bat. Yet when she visited her sister one time, she set off the alarm at her sister's house several times over a weekend because she couldn't get the code right. And those codes are usually only four digits.

I liked Charlie, very much. He's a good guy, who is protective of his mother and aunt, and rides a motorcycle while wearing leather chaps. Eve was OK. She's sweet enough, a little naive despite being a runway model and having been raised in elite society, and of course she's beautiful with her perfect 36B figure. The supporting characters were all definitely characters, with the neighbor who claimed to have been abducted by aliens and taught all sorts of alien love techniques being the most out there. The whole book just seemed a little silly and over the top.


And yet, I still really enjoyed it. It was a fun read, with some hot scenes and lots of humor. I just hope that at least continues in the rest of the series. 

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.