Saturday, October 3, 2015

Animal Instincts

Synopsis from Goodreads: Unleashing your inner tigress isn't easy when you're a doormat by nature! Still, after escaping a wretched marriage to a cheating SOB, Dallas party planner Naomi Delacroix isn't about to let another man sweet-talk her into sheathing her protective claws. Not even hunky millionaire Royce Powell, who's hired her to arrange his mother's surprise party. Even if he does make her purr like a kitten with one heated glance...

Royce claims he's been in love with her ever since she threw a party for one of his friends six months ago. But if that's true, why is this incredibly eligible CEO currently taking applications for a wife? Despite herself, Naomi is tempted to fill one out. But can her inner tigress believe a man might change his stripes?

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Harlequin Enterprises, Limited, 2006.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts: Naomi has been burned by a cheating husband, and now that she's divorced she's determined to never trust another man. No dating, no falling in love, and definitely no getting married again. Royce saw Naomi across the room at an event she planned for his friend's sister, and six months later he still can't get her off his mind. He arranges for his mother to contact her to plan her “surprise” birthday party, and from the minute he gets her into his life he's determined to keep her there permanently.

I felt for Naomi. I empathized with her, I was right there beside her, agreeing with all her internal thoughts and reasonings. Neither of my exes (one marriage, one long-term relationship) cheated on me (that I know of anyway!), but cheating isn't the only way a jerk of a man can screw you over.

Naomi narrates the story, so we are privy to all of her thoughts and emotions. Watching her deal with Royce, put up walls only to have him knock them down, was incredibly entertaining. She's fun, and funny. She's embarking on a career that she loves, and is good at, but in her personal life she's unsure of herself. She's reading a self-help book, about unleashing your inner tigress, which causes her to have some funny internal conversations with her own tigress. I really liked Naomi.

There's a subplot about Naomi and her mother believing her step-father is cheating and Naomi trying to get proof that was also pretty funny, especially when Royce unwittingly inserted himself into her investigation.

Ah, Royce. What can I say about him besides, Yummy. He's cool and sexy, wickedly charming, and sweet all at the same time. He's pretty perfect and I was in love with him almost immediately after meeting him. Naomi's interactions with Royce's assistant are hilarious. Actually much of the book is hilarious, and I laughed out loud a lot. All of the secondary characters are wonderfully written.

I'll admit I'm not that crazy about the cover, and if it'd been written by some author I was unfamiliar with or wasn't a huge fan of I may have passed it up. I've only read one other book by Gena Showalter, but I loved it (THE STONE PRINCE), and ever since I've been snatching up anything I come across with her name on it.

ANIMAL INSTINCTS is a bit on the chick lit side, which may not appeal to everyone, but don't let that put you off if chick lit isn't your thing. It's a genre I used to read a lot of in my 30's, but as I've aged I began to feel I'd outgrown it. But you never outgrow fun, breezy writing with fantastic and believable characters and a story that keeps you up way past your bedtime two nights in a row! 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

For Better or Worse (A Candlelight Ecstasy Romance, No. 249)

Synopsis from Goodreads: No one had ever inspired such a volatile response with a single kiss as this man she distrusted on sight. John MacMasters, her new boss, was far too handsome for his own good. Or hers. Jaime Clarke should have known better than to accept a position as accounting manager for his California construction firm. They were worlds apart. She'd been highly educated and carefully groomed to take her place in life. He was a rugged self made man. How could their passion ever ripen into mutual love? He broke down all her barriers with the ease of a born seducer, then seemed to turn away. Furious, she vowed to haunt him at every turn until he owned up to the feelings she knew seethed within...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1984

How acquired: Bought.

First line: “Don't you think you just might be a little overqualified for this position, Ms. Clarke?” the man's deep, raspy voice asked as he looked over her resumé.

My thoughts: Linda Randall Wisdom, aka Linda Wisdom, is one of those authors who I read a book or two of, and loved them so much that I began obsessively collecting her back list. A count today revealed I have 32 of her books in my TBR pile! I haven't actually read one of her books in about four years. But FOR BETTER OR WORSE most definitely reminded me of why I became such a fan in the first place.

The book opens with Jaime Clarke being interviewed by John “Mac” MacMasters for an accounting manager position with his construction company. Jaime is overdressed, lives in a nice home in a nice area of town, drives a Porsche, and is used to dining in fancy restaurants and buying expensive clothes. But she's not a spoiled rich girl - she's friendly, quick witted, and down to earth. Mac's company has done well and he's making a comfortable living, but he wasn't raised that way and he's worked hard to get where he is. He dresses in jeans and boots, drives an old pickup truck, and spends as much, if not more, time out at job sites with his employees than he does in the office. When Jaime leaves after her interview, Mac's secretary tells him she is way out of his league, and he replies that he'll marry Jaime before the year is out. But deep down inside, he agrees with his secretary.

And that's the main point of conflict between our hero and heroine. As Mac and Jaime spend more and more time together, going to lunch, and then seeing each other outside the office, the attraction is undeniable. But Mac doesn't think he's good enough for Jaime, and she can't understand why he keeps running hot and cold. At first, I vaguely worried that Mac's insecurity might start to get to me, and in the hands of a lesser author he could've come off as a jerk/whiny wimp with his pushing Jaime away for her own good crap. But instead I felt for him, my heart broke for him, and I wanted to reassure him that he's good enough for any woman lucky enough to get him.

Wonderful writing with vivid and well-rounded characters. I loved this book. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Peril in the Park (Jamie Quinn Mystery, Book 3)


Synopsis from Goodreads: There's big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn's boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can't figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, 2014.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: “You know how Floridians always say, 'We don't care how you did it in New York?'” Kip asked me, exasperated.

My thoughts: Jamie Quinn is back, and once again trouble seems to be following her, with another mystery popping up in her life. She and Parks Director Kip are a steady item now, and shady things are going on in the Parks Department. Kip is under a lot of stress with his job, but won't talk about it much, and Jamie doesn't really know what all going on, other than a vandal being on the loose. Then she gets a mysterious email from someone going by the name I-C-U, with pictures of she and Kip at various locations, and warning her to tell her boyfriend to back off. From there things just get more and more mysterious as Jamie, and her PI friend Duke, are drawn into investigating the vandalism and the murder of another PI, with ties to the Parks dept.

Meanwhile, Jamie and her stepmother are still trying to get her father's visa application approved so he can come back to the US.

There's not much more I can say without giving away plot points that should be revealed to the reader along with Jamie. But I can say that it's an enjoyable read, with the mystery surrounding Kip's job having one unpredictable plot twist after another. Jamie is a fun narrator and character, the type of person I'd like to be friends with. A quick breezy read with a nice little mystery tidily wrapped up in the end. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of trouble Jamie finds next. 

And I LOVE the cover picture! 

 I do recommend reading this series in order, starting with DEATH BY DIDGERIDOO (click the title to see my review... 


Like the first book in the Jamie Quinn series it was a quick, fun read. I'm enjoying the character of Jamie and her breezy humorous narration. The mystery, with the soon to be ex-husband of Jamie's client suddenly dying, didn't feel quite as well developed as the mystery plot in the first book, and was resolved just a little abruptly, but it was still enjoyable. I was glad to see Duke back, but was hoping for more of Nick “Mr. State Attorney” Dimitropoulos - Jamie runs into an old flame and starts dating him, but I was wanting to see Nick become a love interest. Still, this was a perfect light read while recovering from hurting my back during my recent move.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Trail of Hope (Hot on the Trail, Book 2)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Callie Lewis is alone on the Oregon Trail. After her brother’s death, she has been left to fend for herself on a journey she never wanted to take. Her only hope for safety and a life at the end of the road is to become a trail bride and wed grieving widower John Rye. But John is harboring secrets that could end their hasty marriage before it has a chance to begin.

When a vicious tornado wakes John from the stupor the death of his wife left him in, he is ready to embrace Callie and the new life they could have together. But John is not the only one with designs on his new wife. Miles away from civilization, in a wagon train bristling with secrets and suspicion, John must catch a thief, fend off his rival, and reclaim his life to build the future Callie deserves.

In their darkest moments will they bring each other hope?

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Smashwords, 2014.

How acquired: Received from Badass Marketing for review.

My thoughts: Towards the end of TRAIL OF KISSES, the heroine, Lynne, saw her friend Callie and her husband John jump on a horse and go chasing after three other members of the wagon train. Lynne and Cade continued on their journey, wondering where the others were going, but leaving it to the trail master and his search party to find them.

TRAIL OF HOPE rewinds time and puts us back on the trail with the wagon train, when Callie was driving her brother's wagon while he and his wife and son were ill. We already know about the major events that will happen to the wagon train along the way, but now we're seeing the action through Callie's and John's eyes. This overlapping plot device is not something I can remember coming across before, but I liked it. Knowing some of the plot twists ahead of time only fueled my anticipation of going through it with Callie and John instead of Lynne and Cade. And story lines that were only hinted at in the first book were now revealed and played out.

Like Lynne, Callie is on this wagon train only because she was given no other choice. Her brother wanted to make the trip, and as a young unmarried woman with no other family, where he goes she must go. John is still grieving for his wife, who died in childbirth, and he has a definite plan to execute upon their arrival in Denver City. When Callie's brother, sister-in-law and nephew, an older woman who took the young girls under her wing convinces her that she needs to marry one of the eligible men so she'll have protection on the journey.

I loved Callie. She starts out scared, alone, and unsure of herself. But over the course of the story she matures and finds her inner strength. Of course, falling for her new husband helps. But John is the one who really grows and evolves during the journey. He's courteous, quiet, and keeps to himself. When Callie approaches him about marriage, he agrees because, after all, he's a gentleman. He can't refuse a damsel in distress. And with his final goal in mind, he doesn't really care what happens to him along the way.

The sex is ratcheted down considerably compared to the first book, which was in keeping with the characters. There's a bit of sexual tension between Callie and John, but Callie doesn't know what to do with it, and John is still too immersed in his grief. At first.

I enjoyed this second entry in the Hot on the Trail series. It was warm and sweet, with a mystery involving a teapot that I didn't figure out until just before Callie and John did. Some of the banter between them made me not only smile, but laugh out loud. The characters are distinctive and well drawn. Callie may find her inner strength, but John finds himself, and I'm glad I was along for the journey.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Please Release Me

Synopsis from Goodreads: What if you could only watch as your bright future slipped away from you?

Sally Cummings has had it tougher than most but, if nothing else, it’s taught her to grab opportunity with both hands. And, when she stands looking into the eyes of her new husband Peter on her perfect wedding day, it seems her life is finally on the up.

That is until the car crash that puts her in a coma and throws her entire future into question.

In the following months, a small part of Sally’s consciousness begins to return, allowing her to listen in on the world around her – although she has no way to communicate.

But Sally was never going to let a little thing like a coma get in the way of her happily ever after …

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Choc Lit Limited, being released September 10, 2015.

How acquired: NetGalley.

First line: They were lucky with the weather.

My thoughts: A woman in a coma, following a car accident on her wedding day. A devoted husband who visits her every day, reads to her, and generally lets the rest of his life pass by while hoping his wife will wake up. Another woman whose own life is in a rut following the deaths of her parents. A ghost who is not exactly a ghost.

While drifting in black nothingness, unable to move or speak, Sally slowly realizes she is in a hospital. She hears nurses talking about her, hears her husband talking to her. Telling her inane stuff about his day, his business. Stuff she was never interested in, didn't care to know about, before the accident. I'll admit I didn't much like Sally at first. I quickly came to the conclusion that she was a spoiled gold-digger.

I did like Peter. I loved his devotion and dedication to his comatose wife. And I liked Grace, who invited Peter to join her and other fundraiser volunteers in redecorating a common room at the hospice, and in doing so drew Peter back into the world. Or at least a small part of it. And as I got to know Sally better, and began to understand her, what made her the way she was, I began to actually like her as well, and to feel sorry for her.

This is one of those books where I can't say too much about the story without giving away the plot. Suffice it to say that it's light and amusing while also addressing some serious issues, the characters are well developed, the plot wasn't predictable, and the author gave us a fresh new take on love triangles. I quite enjoyed it.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Nerds Like It Hot (Nerds, Book 6)

Back cover copy: She's unleashed her inner vixen…

Hollywood makeup artist Gillian McCormick wouldn't normally be caught dead on a cruise aimed at single geeks. But as the sole witness to a murder, hiding out may be her only chance at staying alive. With P.I. Lex Manchester guarding her, and a voluptuous disguise in place of her plain-Jane wardrobe, Gillian should be safe… if she can resist a titanic attraction to Lex that's making her fantasize about some extra-naughty cruise activities…

He's rediscovered his inner nerd…

Lex thought he had left behind his nerdy ways, but his suave demeanor has no chance against Gillian's bombshell image and the smart, sexy woman within. And when the scent of seduction wafts through the sea air, what's a red-blooded male to do?

And the passion they've found is about to get out of control…

With a passenger list that includes a mobster on a mission, a cross-dressing sociopath, and hundreds of lusty nerds, Lex must find a way to keep Gillian safe--and prove that he's truly her nerd for all seasons…

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, St. Martin's Press, 2006.

How acquired: Bought.

First lines: “Gillian, Darling, it's Cora. Four out of five women surveyed say that nerds are amazing in bed. You simply must go on this cruise with me. Kiss, kiss.”

My thoughts: As I've now come to expect with this series, the characters and the situations they find themselves in are a little campy, a little over the top. Well, actually, not the characters this time around as much as the situations.

Gillian does makeup in the cutthroat world of Hollywood. Leaving the studio late one night, she overhears a ruckus coming from one of the star's dressing rooms, and just like that she's a witness to a murder with mob connections. Her elderly friend Cora, a former star who was friends with Marilyn Monroe back in the day, is headed out on a singles cruise for nerds the next day, and Cora convinces Gillian to go along as a way of getting out of the country. And she convinces Gillian to dye her hair and put on a sexy dress and bam, Gillian is a Marilyn Monroe lookalike. Because rather than blend in with the crowds of ill dressed and badly coiffed nerds and be inconspicuous, Cora says that she needs to stand out and participate in as many cruise activities as she can, so nobody would ever mistake “Norma Jean”, her fake cruise name, for Gillian.

Lex and Dante are childhood friends who have a fledgling private investigations business. They grew up in Cora's neighborhood and she considers them the grandsons she never had. So Cora hires them to come along on the cruise as bodyguards for Gillian. Cora happens to know the owners of the cruise line, so has no problem making last minute arrangements. Unfortunately, trouble follows Gillian as it soon becomes apparent that someone else managed to get on the cruise as well, and that someone wants Gillian dead.

A few scenes left me shaking my head with disbelief – Gillian verbally admiring how well endowed Lex is; a cross-dresser using fruit in a way nature never intended – but overall it was a fun and quick paced screwball romp with plenty of the author's signature humor and heart. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Turtle Moon

Back cover copy: Welcome to Verity – home of more divorced women from New York than any other town in the state of Florida. Where Lucy Rosen has moved to get away from her ex. Where Officer Julian Cash watches over the town with a fierce German shepherd and even fiercer expression. Where Lucy's son Keith hates everything: the heat, the school, and sometimes his mother. He can't wait to get away. And then he does, when a woman is murdered and her baby is left behind. Keith takes off with the baby. Lucy and Julian take off after him. And TURTLE MOON takes off on a funny, touching, and exhilarating journey.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, A Berkley Book, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1993.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: The last major crime in the town of Verity was in 1958, when one of the Platts shot his brother in an argument over a Chevy Nomad they had bought together on time.

My thoughts: Turtle Moon started out a little slow, as the characters were introduced and their lives begin to intersect, but quickly picked up steam. There's Bethany, hiding from her husband with her baby daughter. There's Lucy, trying to put her life back together after a divorce, fighting with and continually at odds with her twelve year old juvenile delinquent son, Keith. There's Julian, quiet, morose, driving around in his patrol car with his K9 tracker, Loretta, who lives in his house and loves his company, or scouting across the countryside with his cadaver dog, Arrow, who has no use for human kindness and no qualms about biting the hand that feeds him. There's Mrs. Giles, who raised Julian and hundreds of foster children after him. There's Bobby, who can't leave the tree where he died.

One hot Florida night, Bethany is murdered in her apartment, and Lucy's son disappears with Bethany's baby daughter, sending Lucy and Julian on a quest for the truth, coming together and falling apart.

The ending was anticipated and expected, and then suddenly wasn't, leaving me a little unsettled, but with hope for everyone's futures.

Alice Hoffman's writing has such a wandering, meandering, dreamy, mesmerizing quality. There are often long stretches where nothing actually happens, and yet you're glued to the page. While I've enjoyed almost everything I've read by her, I think this is one of her better books.