17 July 2012

The Firstborn / The Second Sister


Heartskeep, Books One (Harlequin Intrigue No. 730) and Two (Harlequin Intrigue No. 736)

The Firstborn: Hayley Thomas and her twin sister, Leigh, grew up at Heartskeep, a mansion owned by their grandfather. The huge house is passed down through the family to the oldest child, which is Hayley. Seven years ago, their grandfather passed away, and not long after that their mother disappeared without a trace. The twins’ father, Marcus, an OB/GYN, has always been cold and distant, basically ignoring the girls from the time they were born. After their mother was declared legally dead, Marcus married his nurse, Eden, a shrew of a woman. Hayley and her sister moved to Boston, where they share an apartment.

Hayley is set to inherit Heartskeep on her 24th birthday. She’s now twenty-three, and has received a letter from the estate’s attorney, who wants to meet with her. So she arrives at Heartskeep one dark night. She didn't let Marcus and Eden know she was coming, and she is filled with determination to step in and claim her inheritance, despite the fact that she hasn't been back here in quite some time, and her father and his wife have lived in the house and treated it as their own.

On the night Hayley arrives, the house is dark and empty. The power is off, and there is no sign of Marcus and Eden, or the housekeeper and her daughter, who have always lived onsite. A gate has been installed around the property, which fortunately is not locked, and bars have been placed over most of the windows. Hearing a hammering noise from the garage, Hayley cautiously approaches, where she sees Bram Myers for the first time. It turns out Marcus hired Bram, a blacksmith, to design and install the gate and the bars.

Bram is a good ten plus years older than Hayley, and despite his attraction to her he is determined to avoid her. She’s too young, a kid, and he senses that with her, only the whole package will be acceptable. In other words, love, marriage and a family. All the things he does not want. Not to mention she’s an heiress who says Marcus had no right to hire him and his services are no longer needed, but he’s struggling to pay medical bills for his father and was counting on this job.

This is a Harlequin Intrigue, so there are secrets and mysterious happenings around the house. I was kept pretty riveted and read the book in two sittings. There’s a fairly large cast of characters, but they are all well written and it was easy to keep track of everyone. Hayley is a likable heroine, with some witty dialogue. And I really liked Bram. He’s strong and sensitive, a great hero. Although the model pictured on the cover just doesn’t look right to me for the part.

The Second Sister:  This book picks up right after the events of the first book, with Leigh arriving at Heartskeep. Trying not to give spoilers for the first book so this may be vague, but Leigh finds herself taking on responsibility for the house and some repair work being done. She also finds herself suddenly thrown together with the estate’s attorney, Gavin. At age seventeen Leigh had found herself in a dangerous situation, and Gavin had rescued her and then become her first lover. Leigh had always had a crush on him, but because of the circumstances she regretted their coming together, especially since he didn’t even realize at first that she was Leigh, and not her twin Hayley.

Former bad boy Gavin has turned his life around and tried to make something of himself, thanks to Leigh’s influence on him, though she doesn’t know that. Leigh discovers that her crush on him is alive and well, and Gavin is also drawn to her, but she is his client, so he is determined to keep their relationship on a professional level.

Again, there are secrets and mysterious happenings, and again I was riveted to the page, and read this entire book in two days. Though this time around I did get a little confused over some of the peripheral characters, having trouble keeping who was who straight. Leigh is another likable heroine, known as the quiet twin, always living a little in Hayley’s shadow. Gavin is another strong and sensitive hero, drawing Leigh out of her shell and helping her find her own ground to stand on.

There is one more book in this trilogy, The Third Twin, which I ordered immediately after finishing The Second Sister. After that I guess I’ll have to look for some of this author’s other books.

(I purchased The Firstborn at a library book sale and received The Second Sister through Book Mooch.)

08 July 2012

A Game of Thrones

Today I started A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. Not counting the appendix pages, this book is 807 pages long. Which means it will be awhile before I am back to post my thoughts on it! Lately, it seems like the only time I can find to read during the week is at night, when I get into bed, and sometimes I'm so tired I only make it through one chapter before turning out the lights. So far today, Sunday, I've read 56 pages.

I don't get HBO so I haven't seen any of the TV series, but I did add it to my already very long Netflix queue. However, currently I'm on season seven of House and season one of Friday Night Lights, so I won't be watching Game right away!

07 July 2012

One Foot in the Grave (Night Huntress, Book 2)


Isn't that cover gorgeous? One Foot in the Grave picks up four years after the events of Halfway to the Grave. Cat Crawfield, half vampire,half human, has been working for an elite government unit, leading her own team and doing her part to eliminate as many rogue vampires as she can. She now has a reputation among the vampire world. She hasn't seen or had any contact with Bones, the vampire bounty hunter she worked with and fell in love with in the first book. And then unexpectedly she suddenly finds herself in the same room with him.

I raved about the first book, and I loved this one just as much. Cat, still sassy and sarcastic, has grown and matured, having settled into her new life and her job and being genuinely fond of her co-workers. Seeing Bones again brings up all sorts of emotions, feelings she never got over. But she isn't sure if he feels the same or if he hates her now, or maybe he moved on with his (undead) life and never even thought about her.

Now her life has been targeted, and in between dealing with trying to stay alive and find out who has put out the hit on her, she also has to figure out just where she and Bones stand with each other. And since she needs his help, there is no avoiding the issue. Or eventually the sex, and there is one very hot session that takes Cat somewhere she thought she'd never go.

As in the first book, the writing and dialogue is fresh and snappy and amusing. A couple of my favorite passages:
Lazarus stared at my glowing eyes uncomprehendingly. “It can't be. You breathe, your heart beats...it's impossible.”
“Yeah, isn't it? Life's a bitch and then one stabs you.”

When I came up to the vampire that looked the closest to taking his companion on a one-way stroll, I didn't even bother with small talk. I just elbowed the pretty blonde he'd been speaking to aside and slapped my panties on his chest.
“As soon as I saw you,” I purred, “I knew I wouldn't be needing these.”
I don't have much else to say, except I loved this book and I can't wait to get the next one in the series.

Oh wait, I do have one more thought: Bones. Ahh, Bones. * sigh * Bones is the hottest, sexiest...words fail me. I love him. I do.

(I received this book through BookCrossing.)

03 July 2012

June Acquisitions

This may be my  new monthly feature!

First, from Random House, thanks to Friday Reads, which I participate in via Twitter:

Next to Love, by Ellen Feldman

After I finish the book I'm currently reading (One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost) and then read the book I already have lined up next (A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin), this will be next. Alas, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, which I started like a month ago, will be put on the back burner once again.

I read a Maureen Child awhile back and really enjoyed it, so on my latest Amazon spree I purchased a few of her books:

Beyond the Boardroom; Claiming Her Billion-Dollar Birthright; and Forever...Again.

High Society Secret Pregnancy; The SEAL's Surrender. As well as:


Love is Murder, by Rebecca Brandewyne, Maureen Child, and Linda Winstead Jones; and Visions of Magic: An Awakening Novel, by Regan Hastings (isn't that cover just gorgeous?)

Some other acquisitions throughout the month of June:


Pacific Vortex!, by Clive Cussler - I don't really read much of this type of book, but after seeing the movie recently, I was inspired....

A Man Called Masters, by Lucy Walker - I just love her quaint little romances. Some of them are hard to find and can go for as much as $100 on Amazon! I think I paid about $6 for this one from Alibris.

Damage, by Josephine Hart; Taking Lives, by Michael Pye; and Should've Been a Cowboy by Vicki Lewis Thompson (another gorgeous cover - yeehaw!).

And, a little more on the naughty side:

Wicked Allure by Leslie C. Ferdinand (which I've already read and reviewed).

Spanked: Red Cheeked Erotica, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussell; and Naughty Spanking 3: 20 Erotic Stories, edited by Miranda Forbes.

Okay, I need to slow down in July and not buy anymore books as my TBR pile is way too high!

01 July 2012

Wicked Allure

Leslie C. Ferdinand and Shirley H. Ferdinand

I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. I mean, erotica, obviously, and from the back cover copy it seemed to actually have a real plot. But with erotica, you don't always know what you're going to get from an author you're unfamiliar with, whether it will be something really good – a love story, for instance, or something really crappy – a bunch of sex scenes cobbled together with a little narrative. So I was happy to discover a story about desperate love, denial of feelings, and determination to stay away from the other. .

The book opens with a lengthy, fairly hot, but slightly bizarre sex scene between Zach and Madi, which ends with them going their separate ways, neither really remembering that night and both thinking it was a drug (Zach) or alcohol (Madi) induced dream.

Three years prior, Zach and Madi had been in a hot and heavy relationship. Madi was young and very in love with Zach, wanting to settle down with him and start a family. But Zach had no desire to travel down that road, and when Madi walked in on him with another woman in his bed, she fled from him and her family and started life over in a new city. Now Madi's mother, who is also Zach's business partner, has conspired to bring her home and manipulated her into running the company's newest acquisition with Zach, a spa/sex club.

I'm pleased to tell you that Madi and Zach are two incredibly tortured souls, who we, the reader, get to know really well. Madi's whole family is dysfunctional, and her mother has never forgiven her for siding with her father in their divorce. The girls have grown up in the public eye. They're celebutantes, but not your typical spoiled little rich girls. When Madi and her sister find themselves having to buy groceries they don't even know where to start:

“Where do we begin, Madi?” Brianna's hesitant voice snapped her back to the present.
“I don't know. I-I think you go in alphabetical order.”
While this is Madi's story, her two sisters are important characters as well. The girls love each other, but they also fight and squabble amongst themselves. And since they have the Mother From Hell, it's no wonder they're all a little damaged. Karolyn's treatment of her daughters sometimes made me cringe, and I was glad when she left town and stayed away for awhile, though her influence was still strongly felt. .

Zach lost his mother as a teen, and his father crumpled under his grief and left his sons emotionally abandoned. Zach is a strong and charismatic man. He has a lot of failings, and he treated Madi pretty bad three years ago, but you can't help but be drawn to him. Sometimes I would think how in the world can Madi get past his actions. Then I would remind myself that drugs and alcohol affected his behavior, and he's trying to be a better man now. Yet despite that, at the core he hasn't changed, he still doesn't want that settle down and start a family life. It was a struggle to decide how I really felt about him. On one page I adored him, and then suddenly I wanted to smack him. We also meet his brother, Dakota, who's come back to town and is staying with Zach. Some of the scenes with the two brothers talking were my favorite, and it was very satisfying to see how their relationship slowly evolved.

I was once asked if I prefer novels that are plot driven or character driven. For me it's characters, first and foremost. A book can have absolutely no plot at all, but if the characters are well written it doesn’t matter. The characters in Wicked Allure fit that description. From the beginning, the authors put us inside both Madi's and Zach's heads, and by the end I was very emotionally invested in their story. Zach, particularly, burrowed into my heart as he grew and matured and redeemed himself and learned what's really important in life.

My only problem with the book was in the editing. There were a lot of small instances of the wrong spelling of a word being used, or a comma where I didn't think one was appropriate. Not anything major, but enough to be a little irritating.

While the back cover copy describes the book as multicultural, that essence of the story was matter of fact rather than drummed in, as it should be in real life.

To sum up, the authors have created a powerful story and vivid characters with an HEA that was a long time coming and extremely satisfying.

Oh, yeah, the sex – this is erotica after all! There's plenty of it, and it's good. But honestly, I don't think I would have really noticed if some or even most of it had been deleted. The rest of the book was that good.

(I received this book from the author through a giveaway on Reader Views.)