30 April 2012

Trust Me On This


Jennifer Crusie has long been one of my favorite authors, and I have pretty much everything she's written. So I was beyond excited when I came across this book at a library sale and realized it was one I'd not read yet. I put it on the shelf, not intending to read it right away as I already have so many books lined up, but it began taunting me, “read me, you know you want to, trust me on this!” So I finally dove in, and oh, it was worth it. Jennifer Crusie never disappoints.

Dennie Banks is a reporter, looking for that elusive big story that will make her career, but stuck at a small time paper where she covers weddings and such. Alec Prentiss works for the government, investigating fraud, and currently targeting a grifter who pulls real estate scams. Alec and his boss have been after this guy for a long time, and desperately want to bring him in.

Dennie and Alec wind up at the same hotel for a convention, where Alec has spotted his target and is determined to set him up and reel him in. Meanwhile, Dennie has gotten a scoop about an esteemed professor who is at the convention, but the professor doesn’t want to be interviewed and complains to hotel management that Dennie is stalking her. Alec happens to know the professor, who is a friend of his aunt, who is also at the hotel.

When their paths cross, Alec thinks Dennie is working for the scam artist and cozying up to her will get him closer to the target, and Dennie thinks cozying up to Alec, who seems to be a bit of a nerdy goofball, is the key to getting the interview of her life.

In a note to readers at the front of the book, Crusie describes this as the only screwball comedy she's ever written. While I'm not sure I quite agree, as I love screwball comedy and I love all of her books, which all have wonderfully humorous and at times screwballish scenes in them, this is definitely screwball in the way some of the greatest old movies are. I was captivated from the beginning. I loved the banter between Dennie and Alec, and the way they were so attracted to each other but bound and determined to ignore and/or fight that attraction and just use each other for their respective purposes. And of course it all ended just the way it should have.

(I purchased this book at a library book sale.)

25 April 2012

Some Kind of Wonderful


Some Kind of Wonderful is full of interesting characters, people you'd want to be friends with in real life. Carol Baker moved to Christmas, California, two years ago, and has a successful shop selling candles and keepsakes and Christmas themed decorations. She has carved out a happy life for herself in this weird little tourist town.

I say weird because I'm not sure I would want to live there myself. The entire town stays decorated for Christmas all year round. There is a permanent Nativity scene set up in the town square, the local businesses include the Reindeer Cafe, the Ho-Ho-Hotel, Elve's Hardware and Christmas Carol's (the heroine's store), and the streets have names such as North Pole and Jingle Bell Way.

Jack Reilly grew up in Christmas, and is back in town, temporarily, to fill in for the local sheriff who has been ill. Jack used to be an LAPD cop, but left the force, and he took this temporary position very grudgingly. He's anxious for the sheriff to come back to work so he can get back out of town. He's surly and always scowling, with shadows in his eyes.

One night Carol is walking her dog through the town square, and finds a baby lying in the Nativity scene's manger. A real, live baby, only a few hours old. She takes the baby to her friend Phoebe's clinic, and that's when she meets Jack, who is of course called to investigate. Jack's sister, Maggie, is the local county welfare officer, and when Carol volunteers to be the baby's temporary emergency foster mother, Maggie agrees.

Having grown up in the foster care system, Carol has always longed for home and family. She doesn't expect to keep baby Liz forever, she is just determined that the baby not wind up at a group home, where row upon row of babies lie in cribs waiting for someone to pay attention to them.

Carol and Jack are of course attracted to each other, but Jack keeps her at a distance, while moping around and glaring at everyone. Honestly, what is it about a man like Jack that is so appealing? I've not actually known one in real life, but I do love a moody angtsy hero in a romance novel.

I was swept up in this story pretty quickly, and really enjoyed the author's voice. Lots of humor. While the identity of the biological mother of the baby isn't revealed until the last quarter of the book, it was pretty obvious early one who she was, at least to the reader, though not to the other characters. But I think the author intended for us to figure it out, as she slowly fleshed that character out and made us sympathize with her. The ending was predictable and a little sappy, but then I would have been upset if it had ended any differently.

Well, actually, that's not quite accurate. SPOILER ALERT - STOP HERE IF YOU DON'T LIKE SPOILERS:

In my mind, I pictured Carol taking both mother and baby under her wing, letting them both live with her and taking care of baby while mom went to college, but not actually adopting the baby as her own child. But then, I kind of forgot about Jack becoming a part of Carol's life also, because my mind left him out of that scenario. So obviously the author knew better than me how to end the story.

This is the first book I've read by Maureen Child, and when I looked at her back list on her website I realized that she has written a lot of books. Many of them are of the Harlequin/Silhouette variety, but I'm more eager to find her other contemporary novels first.

(I purchased this book at a library book sale – based on the cover which caught my eye.)

21 April 2012

Show No Fear


I know that romances featuring military men and Navy SEALS have become more popular and prolific, but I haven't really read a lot of them. I've liked what I've read so far, so I thought this book sounded good. The publisher's synopsis:

Lucy Donovan always gets her man. As a fiercely independent CIA agent, she's survived hundreds of death-defying missions. But her latest may just get her killed. Weighed down with a secret she's desperate to keep, the last thing Lucy needs is to be sent undercover with a man who brings out the best – and the worst – in her.

Navy SEAL Gus Atwater never turns down an assignment, even if it means working with the only woman he's ever loved and lost. So with a volatile mix of desire and distrust, Lucy and Gus confront their tangled past. Pretending to be man and wife is risky enough, but now the clock is running out. As their mission escalates from desperate to deadly, will Lucy's secret expose them both?

The book opens with Lucy imprisoned in a warehouse, and Gus having been sent in to extract her. She's been beaten, and came close to being raped, and once the ordeal is over she is a changed woman. Where before she was fearless, she's now lost her confidence. She has PTSD, but she is in denial and determined to plow ahead and not let her experience affect her future missions.

Ten months later she is sent on a new assignment, and Gus is her partner. They go undercover in Colombia, as husband and wife and as part of a UN team, to negotiate the release of two of Lucy's co-workers who are being held hostage.

It's not a bad book. Lucy and Gus are both great characters. But the jungle setting on the mountain in Colombia, tramping around in the jungle with the FARC...just not my cup of tea I guess. So it was kind of slow going for me. Until about the last 100 pages, when I was suddenly on the edge of my seat and eagerly turning pages. Which made the book completely worth reading.

(I purchased this book at a library book sale.)

17 April 2012

The Brat


 I love Lynsay Sands' Argeneau vampire family series, but had only read one of her non-Argeneau books prior to this (The Highland Bride, which was also about a vampire). The Brat is a historical romance, with no supernatural elements, unless you count the fact that Murie, the heroine, is incredibly superstitious. And that superstition is what drives her into the arms of the hero..

Murie was orphaned at the age of ten, and brought to court to live with the King, her godfather, and the Queen, who never seemed very welcoming to the young girl. She was bullied by the other girls, until a girl named Emilie gave her some advice on how to survive life at court. Thus, she became The Brat, known for her fits of weeping and wailing loudly. The King doted on her, spoiling her horribly.

Balan has come to court with his cousin, Osgoode, in need of a wife, preferably one with coin. After his mother died in childbirth, his father neglected the child and allowed his castle to fall into a state of disrepair until his own death. Then the plague struck, and many of the servants and all of the villagers who survived fled for greener pastures, leaving a small collection of loyal servants who, try as they might, just can't do it all. Osgoode suggest the Lady Murie for a wife, to which Balan reacts with horror. Marry the Brat? God, no!

Murie has been ordered by the king to marry, but will be allowed to choose her own husband. Knowing of her superstitious nature, one of the ladies, Lauda, tells her about a St. Agnes Eve belief, that if you either fast all day, or eat rotten meat on that day, you will dream that night of the man you are to marry.

But Balan and Osgoode have overheard two separate conversations – Murie and her best friend talking about how Murie got the king to order her to marry, and Lauda and her brother, Lord Aldous, scheming to trick Murie into marrying him. Realizing there is more to Murie than the rumors and her nickname imply, they determine that they must thwart Lord Aldous, which inadvertently puts Balan in Murie's path as a potential husband. Thank goodness they have no problem eavesdropping!

As with the Argeneau books, Lynsay Sands infuses plenty of humor into her story, causing me to laugh out loud more than once. Murie and Balan wed for practical and convenience reasons, and of course eventually realize they actually love each other, and I was quite in love with Balan practically from the beginning. It's not all roses and rainbows of course, as while traveling to Balan's home it becomes apparent that someone is out to kill Balan, and nearly succeeds more than once. I thought I knew who was behind the murder attempts, it seemed so obvious, but I was wrong, and I like that.

A very enjoyable book, with a satisfying HEA.

(I received this book through Book Mooch.)

14 April 2012

An Unexpected Blessing


Dori Morales has been caring for her infant nephew, Jacob, since her sister and her husband were killed in a tragic accident. Dori was very close to her sister, and Tyler had been loved by everyone in her family.

Tyler had been estranged from his father and his half brother for many years. Unbeknownst to Dori, he had recently contacted his brother in an attempt at reconciliation, and had named Chase as the executor of his will. Chase wants to be involved in Jacob's life, and while Dori resents his suddenly being around when he didn't even come to Tyler and Marisa's funeral, she is forced to work with him as he begins going through the estate papers and financial records. In the meantime, Tyler's father, Warren Chase, who disapproved of his son's marriage to Marisa, wants custody of his grandson and threatens to challenge Dori's plan to adopt the child.

Dori is a likeable character, a young woman suddenly thrust into the role of full time single mother. She is still grieving for Marisa and Tyler. She is living in their home with Jacob, but she never goes into the master bedroom and doesn't want to get rid of any of their personal belongings.

Chase is also grieving for his brother and the years they lost with each other. As the illegitimate son of Warren, who never even gave Chase his last name, he's spent most of his life trying to gain his father's love and approval. He never wanted to be estranged from Tyler, but when Tyler insisted he choose between him or their father, Chase resented his brother for forcing that decision on him, and chose his father. He has no desire to take Jacob away from Dori, he just wants to be allowed to be a part of his nephew's life. And when Warren announces his plan to fight for custody, Chase realizes a marriage to Dori and joining her in her adoption plan would be the best route to take for Jacob. Once the adoption is finalized, the marriage can be annulled, but he can still be Jacob's father.

The overall theme of this Love Inspired romance is forgiveness and letting go of the past. It's a struggle that Dori, Chase, and even Warren must all deal with. I'd never heard of this author before, and while I didn't love this enough to seek out her other books, it was a solid, enjoyable story, with a few tear inducing scenes.

(I purchased this book at a library book sale.)

10 April 2012

Tempest In Eden


Sandra Brown has long been one of my favorite authors, though more so for her mystery/thrillers than her straight romances. According to the author’s note, this book was originally published under her first pen name, Rachel Ryan, which promptly sent me to Fantastic Fiction to see what else had been published under that name in case I’ve missed something. (Only five books listed, all of which I believe I’ve either read or have waiting to be read.)

This one was a little different, in that the hero and heroine seem very incompatible at first. Shay Morgan works in a gallery, and models part time for various artists, in the nude. Nothing tawdry, nothing you’d see in the pages of a girly magazine, but sculptures and actual works of art. Oftentimes her face is not even used, just her body, or a part of her body. She’s very proud of her portfolio and feels no shame or regret in what she does.

Her mother remarries, and invites Shay to join her and her new husband at his cabin for a weekend. She doesn’t realize that she now has a new stepbrother, until she is wandering through the supposedly empty house and sees him stepping out of the shower. And then she finds out he is a minster.

I read a lot of Love Inspired books, so a romance featuring a minster or the like is not unusual for me to come across. But Shay’s life is so different from the usual heroine in those books, that their differing occupations seemed to me to be an insurmountable obstacle. Of course it all works out in the end, but it left me wondering how it would have played out in real life. Could it actually work out like this book did? I can’t imagine falling in love with a minister, or being a minister’s wife. I’m not a religious person. I don’t go to church, I don’t pray. I’ve gotten hooked on the Love Inspired books, but I don’t feel something missing in my life or that I’m searching for something. I just enjoy the stories. Shay’s religious background and beliefs were touched on only briefly, and I guess that’s what I felt was lacking in this story. They are supposed to be such disparate people, and yet she actually blended into his life and church quite easily and seamlessly. The adjustment would have been much harder for me, and I’m not sure that it would have even been successful. That conflict could have definitely been expanded on.

On the other hand, this was originally published as a “genre romance” as the author’s note puts it, so a light, enjoyable read it should be, and at that it excels. Sandra Brown never disappoints.

(I received this book through BookCrossing.)

08 April 2012

Flowers In The Attic


My sister and our friends and I all devoured these books when they were first published, which has been eons ago. Despite the many years that have passed, the story was still pretty fresh in my mind when I picked it up to reread, and I kept anticipating scenes coming up.

Our narrator is Cathy, age twelve when the story begins. Her brother Christopher is fourteen, and the twins, Carrie and Corrie, are five. They live a happy, idyllic life with their beloved parents. Then one day their lives are shattered when their father is killed in a car accident.

Corinne, their mother, takes them to her childhood home, where she has told them they are going to live with her parents. However, when she was young, she angered her father, and he disowned her. Now she must ingratiate herself to him to earn his forgiveness and get him to love her again, and put her back in his will. He is very ill and will die any day now. She tells her children this is their only hope for the future, as she has no skills and cannot possibly support them on her own.

When they arrive in the dead of night, their grandmother meets them and ushers them quickly through the house to a room on the top floor, where the children find themselves locked in and left alone. Thus begins their lives as the Flowers in the Attic. The grandmother brings them food every morning. Their mother visits often, bringing gifts and telling them stories about her exploits in secretarial school, and her attempts to get her grandfather to love her again. Then she comes less often. The children, especially Cathy and Chris, grow older, begin to mature into young adults. Sexually aware young adults.

The book is a compelling and quick read, and was much better written than I expected or remembered. Twisted, incestuous, and yet highly enjoyable.

(I received this book through BookCrossing).

03 April 2012

Incubus Dreams (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 12


It took me a little over a month to read this 722 page book. That’s because I set it aside more than once to read something else. Then I made it my bedtime read, and read other books during the day. I just couldn’t take much of this book at one time. In fact, I considered not finishing it a couple of times.

When I first started this series, I was very enamored of it. Edward, the assassin, quickly became my favorite character, though he wasn’t in every book. I was never in love with the Master Vampire, Jean-Claude, but I just personally don’t see the appeal of a man who is pasty white, has long girly hair and wears frilly clothing. So when Richard, the Werewolf, came into the books, I was glad to meet him. Unfortunately, he became a little tiring.

I’d been hearing/reading that as the books went along the sex was amped up, and by the time I got through Blue Moon, the eighth book, I could definitely see that. But sex in books doesn’t bother me and I didn't mind.

And then came book 9, Obsidian Butterfly, in which Edward was involved in a major part of the storyline, and I particularly enjoyed that entry in the series. My journal entry at that time:

In this book, Edward calls in his favor from Anita and she travels to Arizona to assist him in investigating a series of mutilation murders. We get some insight into Edward's character and a glimpse at his long-buried human side! Jean-Claude only makes one brief appearance in this book, and Richard doesn't appear at all other than in conversation. And quite frankly, I did not miss either one of them! Terrible, I know, since Jean-Claude especially is such a central character, but I've never much cared for him or their relationship. In Arizona, Anita meets another of Edward's occasional back-ups, Olaf, who is a cold-blooded serial murderer who starts out hating Anita but comes to respect her in a creepy way, and I suspect that he will show up later in the series as well. An interesting character.
Then came Narcissus in Chains, and it seemed like it was nothing but sex, violence and gore. Micah was a nice addition, I decided I liked him better than Jean-Claude or Richard. But the magic was gone, and the next book, Cerulean Sins, just dragged. It was the first one I’d read where I wanted it to end sooner rather than later.

So that brings us to Incubus Dreams. Anita is called on to investigate when a stripper is found dead, the victim of several vampires who appear to be on a serial spree. But that storyline is really in the background. Up front and center is the “ardeur”, which despite having read every book I seriously cannot even begin to explain or understand completely. Basically Anita is becoming less human and more supernatural herself, and the beast within her must be fed.

Anita’s sexual partners start piling up in this book. Seriously, the first 200 pages were like one long extended sex scene. I don’t think in the entire book there were hardly more than five pages in a row that did not have a sex scene. In addition to Jean-Claude, Richard, and Micah, we now have Damian, and Nathanial. And some other random characters who’s names I don’t even remember who fill in when the ardeur must be fed and the others aren’t available. I’m ok with sex in a book, but I want some story around the sex. Not just a bunch of sex scenes loosely linked. That serial killer storyline probably only took up less than a quarter of the book.

Am I done with Anita Blake? I don’t know. I have the next three books. My understanding is that Edward does not make another appearance until Skin Trade, which comes after those three and which I don’t have. I may continue with the series, but not for awhile.

(I purchased this book new at Walmart.)

01 April 2012

Spreading Fires


First line: Neville came with the house.

Many years ago my daughter read A Separate Peace, by this same author at school, and wanted to read more by him, so I got this book for her. I don't what she thought of it, or if she ever even actually read it. Now that I've read it myself I realize it's not a Young Adult book, and she was only 13 at the time I received it for her. I think I had just assumed this author's books were written for teens.

Anyway, that aside, I just finished reading this myself today. In the beginning it was ok. Brendan Lucas has rented a villa while on vacation, and is to be joined there by his sister, her fiance who is also his best friend, his mother, and the fiance's sister. Neville, the cook who came with the house, is a very odd duck.
The book read smoothly but the story pretty much slid right out of my mind when I put the book down. Neville's behaviour becomes more and more erratic, and the last third of the book did turn out to be pretty gripping.

(I received this book through BookCrossing.)