29 December 2013

Love Letters (Silhouette Desire No. 207)

Synopsis: DEAR MAUDIE, What should I do about my philandering husband? My daughter’s flirty boyfriend? My boring love life? Emmy Bakersfield, aka “Maudie”, dealt with such questions every day. Her most intriguing correspondent wanted to know how to woo the woman he'd loved since college, even thought she thought of him only as a friend.

Emmy tried to help. “Send roses,” she said – but she had her own problems. The publicity for her first book was being handled by her old college buddy Whit Hayes, but she felt differently about Whit now. If only he'd stop deluging her with roses!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Silhouette Books, 1985; 186 pages; given to me by a BookCrossing member.

My thoughts: Maude Edith Bakersfield, known as “Maudie” to the readers of her popular advice column, and Emmy to her friends, is about to embark on a publicity tour for her new book. The company that syndicates her column has hired a PR firm to represent her, and to Emmy's dismay one of the firm's partners is Whit Hayes. Whit was friends with Emmy's husband, Jerry, in college, and while Emmy and Whit worked together on the yearbook, after college she only saw him on occasion, such as when he and Jerry would golf together. Jerry nearly managed Emmy's career into the ground, and even now that they are divorced he is still a huge thorn in her side, trying to prevent her from selling her home unless he gets a cut of the profits. Emmy doesn’t dislike Whit, but she doesn't want Jerry learning about her business through his friend. She knows how men gossip!

Whit on the other hand is eager to get close to Emmy, having been enamored of her since college. He is determined to show Emmy that she can trust him, and to win her heart, even though he hasn't the first clue how to go about doing so.

Meanwhile, Emmy's newest letter writer, “Torch Carrier”, has asked her for advice on how to woo a woman he had a crush on in college. Emmy is so intrigued with T.C., as she and her assistant refer to him, that she quickly answers each letter and marks it “urgent' so it will be published asap. But each response from her elicits a new letter from T.C., as her advice keeps failing or backfiring (especially the advice involving roses!)

This was a fun and enjoyable read. Each chapter opens with a new letter from Torch Carrier, and I was eager to find out what advice Emmy would unknowingly give Whit through her column. And I don't think that's a spoiler, because I knew right off the bat that Whit was T.C., even though it took Emmy much longer to figure it out. I'd not read this author before, but I like her writing – flowing, descriptive, crisp and amusing dialogue, distinctive characters. And a hero who loves his cat and worries and fusses over her when she becomes a mama!

Favorite passage:
She opened her eyes wide. “And the way he looked at you!”
What look?”
Right before he left,” she explained breathlessly. “He gave you a look you could have poured over a waffle.” (pg. 43)

21 December 2013

Her Valentine Sheriff (Serendipity Sweethearts, Book 2; Love Inspired Large Print #833)

Synopsis: Rugged and tough deputy sheriff Eli Bishop isn't scared of anything. Except dogs. When he’s assigned a K-9 partner, he thinks things can't get any worse. Then he learns who'll be training him. Local vet Mary Travis is sweet as sugar...but she's also Eli's ex-fiancee's sister. Revealing his humiliating phobia to her is not an option. Neither is developing feelings for Mary – who's built her career around the dogs Eli fears. When a terrible storm hits their town, Mary and Eli must find the courage to work together and save lives – and fall in love.

First line: Serendipity, Texas, had gone to the dogs.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Love Inspired Books, releases in January 2014; 215 pages; purchased through Harlequin Reader Service subscription.

My thoughts: The Serendipity police force is getting it's first K-9 officer, and Eli Bishop is horrified to learn that he has been chosen to partner with the dog. A frightening encounter with a wild dog when he was very young left him with physical and emotional scars, and the thought of being around a dog still scares him. But he isn’t about to turn down a promotion, not to mention allow himself to become the butt of his fellow officers' jokes and teasing. He's still smarting from the jokes and teasing that followed his ex-fiancee jilting him, and he's not pleased that her sister will be training him. But he keeps his misgivings to himself and stoically accepts the new position.

Mary Bishop is excited about starting a K-9 training program, and if her first pupil and his partner do well, she hopes to get contracts from other local police forces. She's nervous about working with Eli, whom she had a crush on in high school, and she's still angry at her sister for the way she walked out on Eli and their engagement to be with another man.

Eli doesn’t tell Mary about his dog phobia, leaving her to ponder and wonder why he's so reserved and resistant to interacting with Bullet. She needs Eli and Bullet to become a cohesive unit in order to get the new training program off the ground. I'm fascinated by police dogs (well, by any dogs!), and Deb Kastner appears to have done some research into what makes them tick, and I enjoyed this brief glimpse into how the canine officers – and their human partners – are trained. And Eli's first training session with Mary and Bullet had me laughing page after page.

Mary quickly realizes her teenage crush on Eli is still going strong, but she doesn't think he would ever possibly be interested in someone like her. In fact, she spends a majority of the book convinced that he's fallen for her friend Alexis, and determined to be happy for them. Meanwhile, Alexis and Samantha, the other member of the Little Chicks, as the three girls are known around town, plot and scheme to get Mary and Eli together.

The storm scenes were descriptive and realistic, and I got a little tense but very immersed in the story. Thinking back, this is the first book I've read that featured any tornadic activity since my own city was devastated by a tornado back in May, and Mary and Eli heading out with their dogs for Search and Rescue made me emotional. But not in a bad way – with the happy ending it was also cathartic.

Overall an enjoyable and engaging read. I gather from Harlequin’s website that this is the second book in the “Serendipity Sweetheart” series, the first book having been Samantha's story, THE SOLDIER'S SWEETHEART, which thanks to my excessive subscriptions to Harlequin's Reader Service I already have in my massive TBR pile. But scrolling through synopses of Ms. Kastner's other books it looks like many of them are set in the same little town, such as MEETING Mr. RIGHT, which is the fourth book in the “Email Order Brides” series and is about Eli's sister, and which I'm pleased to realize is also in my TBR pile, along two more of her books. So, you know, just what I need. Another bunch of books to move to my “to be read next” bookcase, which is almost overflowing as it is. 

16 December 2013


Synopsis: Dawson Scott is a well-respected journalist recently returned from Afghanistan. Haunted by everything he experienced, he's privately suffering from battle fatigue, which is a threat to every aspect of his life. But then he gets a call from a source within the FBI. A new development has come to light in a story that began forty years ago. It could be the BIG story of Dawson's career.

Soon, Dawson is covering the disappearance and presumed murder of former marine Jeremy Wesson, the biological son of a pair of terrorists who remain on the FBI's Most Wanted list. As Dawson delves into the story, he finds himself developing feelings for Wesson's ex-wife, Amelia, and her two young sons. But when Amelia's nanny turns up dead, the case takes a stunning new turn, with Dawson himself becoming a suspect. Haunted by his own demons, Dawson takes up the chase for the notorious outlaws...and discovers the startling secret behind their story.

First line: The first hail of bullets was fired from the house shortly after daybreak at six fifty-seven.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, 2013; 410 pages; bought at Wal-Mart.

My thoughts: This is a brand new hardback, for which I paid $18.20, plus tax. That's how much I love Sandra Brown's mystery/thrillers.

Dawson Scott is a reporter who's been covering the war in Afghanistan from as close to the front lines as he can get. He's renowned and respected in his field for his straight-to-the-heart stories. But he's come home a broken man who wakes up screaming from nightmares. He may not have actually fought in the war, but he's definitely suffering post traumatic stress. There's a new boss at work, and she wants him to go cover what he considers an idiotic fluff piece. But his godfather, a retired FBI agent, talks him into going to Atlanta to cover a murder trial. The man on trial has been accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and her current lover, former marine Jeremy Wesson, in his kennel. Jeremy's body was never found, but a piece of his scalp was taken from the stomach of one of the dogs, so it's believed that he was eaten. This part I found a little out there. Even if the dogs did eat the body, surely there would still be something left, right? Too gross.

Dawson's godfather has particular interest in the trial because he spent the majority of his career trying to track down and capture Carl Wingert, the leader of a militant group, and his girlfriend, Flora Stimel. But Carl eludes him, leaving behind a vicious trail of murder and thieving. What isn't known to the public is that the notorious couple had a son – Jeremy Wesson.

Dawson isn't particularly excited about covering this trial, but it beats the assignment his boss has given him, so he blows her off and goes to Georgia. While sitting in the courtroom, thinking he should blow off this trial also, his attention is suddenly riveted when Wesson's ex-wife takes the witness stand.

Amelia just wants the trial to be over so she can try to create some semblance of a normal life for her two young sons. Jeremy has been dead for a year, and they were divorced before that, and she's done her grieving and wants to move on. When court breaks for the Labor Day weekend, she takes her sons and their nanny to her beach house. But she can't shake the feeling that someone is watching her. And then she meets Dawson. And then her nanny is murdered.

The plot remained unpredictable throughout, with an especially shocking twist towards the end that made me sit up and go “WHAT?!”. The attraction between Dawson and Amelia is there from their first meeting, but the buildup to anything actually happening between them is slow and realistic. Sandra Brown's characters are never cookie-cutter, and they all have their own distinct personalities and their own role to play, whether they are leading characters or secondary, including the children.

Sandra Brown never disappoints. 

30 November 2013

Blog Makeover

My blog has gotten a makeover! Just on the outside, the color palette. Oh, and the name! See, now that I'm fifty years old, I felt like I needed a more grown up persona. And, you know, I'm in the October of my life, or, something equally inane. No, I don't really know what I mean either. Just go with it.  

28 November 2013

An Accidental Hero & An Accidental Mom


AN ACCIDENTAL HERO: Struggling Actress Cammi Carlisle is leading a life of bad luck. When fate throws her and Reid Alexander together, though, things start to look up. Still, Reid harbors a terrible secret that the pregnant Cammi may not be able to forgive...

AN ACCIDENTAL MOM: Any glimpse of Max Sheridan, her long-lost love, has always made Lily London sparkle. Then Max, now a widower, returns to Amarillo with his young son. Max doesn't think the girl he left behind can handle a ready-made family – it's up to Lily to prove him wrong.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Love Inspired Books, 2011; 508 pages; bought at Wal-Mart.

My thoughts: I've only read one previous book by Loree Lough, OUT OF THE SHADOWS, in 2009, before starting this blog. In my journal entry on BookCrossing I wrote:
I finished this last night and got teary eyed a couple of times reading. Not because of the main characters love for one another, or for the hero finding his way back to God, but because of the sub-plot involving a little girl with a heart condition. All in all a pretty standard romance book that really hooked me towards the end.
So when I saw this omnibus some time later at Wal-Mart and recognized the author's name I decided on impulse to buy it. Plus the cover caught my eye with the horses. But then Love Inspired books almost always have beautiful eye-catching covers!

In AN ACCIDENTAL HERO, Cammi is coming home to Amarillo after a brief marriage to a Hollywood stuntman left her a pregnant widow. She is dreading facing her father, who disapproved of her moving to California to try to be an actress, and who does not know she married while she was away.

Reid returned home to Amarillo fairly recently himself. Recovering from a rodeo injury, he came back to the ranch he grew up on when he learned that the man who took him in and raised him as a young boy has ALS.

As Cammi drives into town, she runs a red light and crashes into Reid's truck. What a way to meet someone!

Cammi and Reid have a connection to each other, though neither realizes it at the time. When Reid inadvertently learns who Cammi's father is, he is convinced that once Lamont London tells Cammi who Reid is she will want nothing to do with him. It's kind of hard to go into the plot details any further without giving away too much.

Cammi and Reid are both pretty angst filled and wrapped up in their problematic lives. Both have lost faith, which is a major theme of the story, a little more so than I normally care of, but it also suited the story and the characters withoutu being hit you over the head. I loved Reid. He was often cranky, which, while not necessarily appealing in real life, I do love a cranky hero on paper.

AN ACCIDENTAL MOM picks up several months later, giving us the story of Lily London, Cammi's younger sister. Lily had a huge crush on Max back when she was twelve and he was eighteen. But he married and moved away to Chicago, where he became a successful CPA. Now a widower, he's back in town with his four year old son, Nate, to help run his mother's diner while she recovers from a broken leg.

Lily is sweet enough, but it was hard to believe (for me anyway) that after twelve years she is still pining for Max. She's never married, and didn't appear to have ever even had a real boyfriend. As soon as she sees Max again she is pretty much head over heels again, even though she thinks he never really noticed her back in the day. Well, that's because at eighteen he knew he was too old for her, and being a good guy even then, he did what he thought was right and got out of the way of temptation.

Max and Lily are both appealing characters, but I didn't connect with them as well as with Cammi and (especially) Reid. Max has much more angst than Lily, going back and forth in his head about his feelings for her, and whether or not he should stay in Amarillo or go back to his life in Chicago. When Lily visits him in Chicago, he acted very stupid and naive and I was quite irritated with him. Nate very much wants his father to find a new wife and a mother for him, and he takes an instant liking to Lily. He was a cute kid but thankfully not over the top precocious. 

Loree Lough's writing flows smoothly, and she's good with a turn of phrase. One of my favorite lines from the first book:
"Her sigh filtered through the wires, kissing his eardrum.” (pg 50)
I already have the third book in my TBR pile, AN ACCIDENTAL FAMILY, about Cammi and Lily's father, and anticipate enjoying it.

21 November 2013

Plain Jane


Synopsis: Back in college, Jane Lewis would have given anything to be like homecoming queen Connie Bryan. Instead she was just Plain Jane – overweight, frumpy, and painfully shy. That was then. Today, a lovely and confident Dr. Jane Lewis has a thriving psychotherapy practice, her own radio talk show, a beautiful old Louisiana mansion, and her affectionate, nutty dog, Olive, to keep her company. The only thing missing is someone to share her life.

Jane has never forgotten Michael Sorenson, the boy she'd admired from afar in college. Now, he's inspiring her to hope for a future together. She's also never forgotten the brutal, unsolved attack that ended Connie Bryan's life – and haunts Jane still. Suddenly, the present collides with the past, as she finds clues into the identities of Connie's attackers – clues that send her into a world of risk and excitement, challenging her to become a truly extraordinary woman...if she dares.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Kensington Publishing Corp, 2001; 345 pages; given to me by a BookCrossing member.

My thoughts: I've only read two other books by Fern Michaels. The first one, LATE BLOOMER, I loved. So much that I read it in one day, and then immediately looked up Ms. Michaels' back list and added all of her books to my wish list.

Next I read FINDERS KEEPERS, and I liked it for the most part, but I didn't love it the way I loved LATE BLOOMER.

I still had high hopes for this third book, but they were dashed pretty quick. The prologue moved quickly, as Jane and Connie are walking from the library to their dorm together one night at the end of their senior year, and are attacked by a group of boys who rape Connie. Connie insists that Jane not tell anyone what happened, and Jane, against her better judgment, agrees to keep the secret. She later finds out at graduation that Connie had committed suicide.

Fast forward to the present day. Jane is now a successful psychiatrist, and is still burdened by the guilt she carries around for never going to the police or telling anyone what happened to Connie.

I never connected with Jane. She was likeable enough at first, but as the book progressed she became shrill and demanding and self-centered, and I had a very hard time liking her or caring about her. She begins seeing a new patient, a man who's wife had been raped, and he's been unable to deal with it. Talking to this patient brings back all of her memories, and her guilt, and eventually a determination to find the men who raped her friend in college and see that justice is served.

The building relationship with Mike is about the only believable plot line. Jane's godmother, Trixie, adopts a retired police dog, and her antics with the too smart to be true dog are just so out there. He's depressed, and she decides he misses working, so she buys an old police car and hides baggies of marijuana on her property and then takes him out at night, lights flashing and sirens blaring, so he can look for them. I know they live out in the country, but I still can't believe there isn't at least one neighbor close enough to complain about the sirens.

Jane also has a dog who is unrealistically capable and intelligent, and there is the ghost of a teenage boy living in Jane's home, appearing to her when she thinks she must be asleep and dreaming, which I found a little creepy.

Between Jane's efforts to track down Connie's rapists, Trixie and her police dog, the mystery of the ghost boy's death, and a couple of other side stories that have Jane sneaking around peeking into her new patient's windows trying to get a glimpse of his wife and punching another therapist in the face...convoluted is the only word I can think of.

Will I give up on Fern Michaels? No, I won't. Because based on that first book of hers I read I know she can please me. Just not with this one. But she has so many others, I'll keep searching for another winner.

23 October 2013

Significant Others (Tales of the City, Book 5)


Synopsis: Tranquility reigns in the ancient redwood forest until a women-only music festival sets up camp downriver from an all-male retreat for the ruling class. Among those entangled in the ensuing mayhem are a lovesick nurseryman, a panic-stricken philanderer, and the world's most beautiful fat woman. SIGNIFICANT OTHERS is Armistead Maupin's cunningly observed meditation on marriage, friendship, and sexual nostalgia.

First line: Brian's internal clock almost always woke him at four fifty-six, giving him four whole minutes to luxuriate in the naked human body next to him.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc, 1994; 322 pages; bought at Half Price Books.

My thoughts: I read the first three books in this series in 2010, then finally read the fourth book, BABYCAKES, a few months ago. I've enjoyed all of them, and this one was no exception. I finished it awhile back and I don't even know why I've taken so long to write my review, but I may be a little fuzzy on the details now as my memory is not the best.

Of the main characters from previous books, the focus here is on Brian, Michael, DeDe and D'or. Brian and Mary Ann have moved to a fancy high rise up the hill, and I was disappointed in the person Mary Ann had become. As a local celebrity, she's very focused on her career and success, and the move was due to her desire to live in a setting that she deemed more appropriate for a woman in her position. Brian is a stay at home dad, and while he loves taking care of their daughter, he's become a little discontented. Then he learns that an old lover, a woman who he cheated on Mary Ann with in the past, has AIDS, and he becomes a big bundle of stress, worrying that he might be infected, and might have infected Mary Ann, and how to tell her. He decides not to until the results of his test come back, which means he needs to be away from her for those ten days as he has no way to explain to her why he can't have sex with her until he has his test results.

While hanging out with Michael, who is still mourning Jon, they meet Thack, who is in town on vacation. Michael and Thack dance around each other, but in the wake of the burgeoning AIDS epidemic Michael has been hesitant to be intimate with anyone. It's just too risky. However, he's really attracted to Thack, and when he and Brian decide to go to a friend's cabin in the woods, the perfect getaway for Brian, Michael invites Thack to go with them.

Meanwhile, DeDe and D'or head to Wimminwood, a women's music festival out in the middle of nowhere, while DeDe's stepfather, Booter, attends a men's retreat nearby. Pretty much all the women at Wimminwood are lesbians, while the men's retreat is full of rich entitled men where a gay man would probably not be openly welcomed. I never cared much for D'or in the previous books, and I didn't care much for her here either. Her character just grates on me, and she and DeDe seem to squabble a lot. I seriously thought they might end up splitting up.

A new character introduced is Wren Douglas, a plus size woman often referred to as the most beautiful fat woman. She's written a book celebrating being a fat woman in today's (well, the today of that time) world, and is in town to be interviewed by Mary Anne while on her book tour. She was a refreshing addition to the cast, getting involved with Booter, and then with Michael, Brian and Thack when Booter stashes her in a cabin nearby so he can sneak away from his retreat on occasion to visit her.

SIGNIFICANT OTHERS treats the threat of AIDS quite seriously without being heavy handed or too depressing. And at the very end, Mary Anne seemed to soften up a little, so I have hope that in the next book she'll come to her senses and realizes what a snob she's become. Maupin's writing is crisp and involving, and he's wonderful at dialogue. I have the next book, SURE OF YOU, waiting for me, thankfully.

20 October 2013

Ghost Night (The Bone Island Trilogy, Book 2)

Heather Graham

Synopsis: A slasher movie turns real when two young actors are brutally murdered on a remote island film set. Their severed heads and arms are posed in macabre homage to a nineteenth-century pirate massacre.

Two years later, survivor Vanessa Loren is drawn back to South Bimini by a documentary being made about the storied region. Filmmaker Sean O'Hara aches to see how the unsolved crime haunts her...and Sean knows more than a little about ghosts.

Lured by visions of a spectral figurehead, Vanessa discovers authentic pirate treasures that only deepen the mystery. Are the murders the work of modern-day marauders, the Bermuda Triangle or a deadly paranormal echo of the island's violent history? As Vanessa and Sean grow closer, the killer prepares to resume the slaughter...unless the dead can intervene.

First line: The sound of the bloodcurdling scream was as startling as the roar of thunder on a cloudless day.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by MIRA Books, 2010; 371 pages; bought at a used book store.

My thoughts: I read the first book in this series, GHOST SHADOW, in January, and I enjoyed it so much that Heather Graham immediately made my list of authors whose back list I obsessively began to collect, and I was particularly eager to acquire the other two books in this series. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in GHOST NIGHT.

Sean O'Hara is the brother of the heroine of the first book. And while he and the female lead were likeable enough, I never really connected with either of them or cared about them as much as I did Katie and David in the first book. I was pleased to learn right from the start that Bartholomew, the ghost of a privateer who lived with Katie, had now attached himself to Sean, as Bartholomew was one of my favorite characters in the first book. Sean had never been able to see or hear Bartholomew until after the events at the end of that book. Bartholomew, however, while involved in the storyline, was not on the page nearly as often as in the first book, and was definitely a secondary character this time.

Vanessa and a small group were filming a horror movie on Haunt Island, when the two leads' severed heads were found on the beach. Now, two years later, Sean and David are about to start filming a documentary about the history and local legends of the area when Vanessa appears and begs Sean to hire her onto the crew. She wants to go back to Haunt Island and try to figure out what exactly happened. Vanessa also just happened to be a childhood friend of Katie's. Sean reluctantly lets her convince him to hire her, and to include the mysterious circumstances of the murders on Haunt Island in the documentary.

Maybe I'm not remembering the first book properly, maybe the story drew me in so much that I didn't notice the writing, but the whole tone, the writing, of this second book just seemed...more amateurish for want of a better description. The plot was more convoluted and a little harder for me to keep up with. Maybe the book just needed better editing. For example, I had to read this part twice, and it just irritated me:
Hey, what's going on?” he asked.
Zoe stared at him without speaking.
Sean,” she said softly. “You need to be quiet and not raise an alarm.” (pg 359)
She can't stare at him without speaking, and then immediately say something, or, you know, speak.

I wasn't sure how it was going to end, and then the ending didn't feel real plausible to me. And yes, I know, we're talking about pirate ghosts here, so no plausibility to begin with, but still.

The third book is about Liam, and since I did like the first book so much, and I already have the next book, I'll still read it, and still look forward to it. I mean, not every book can be a winner for everybody, right?

15 October 2013

Cavelli's Lost Heir (Harlequin Presents No. 2887)


Synopsis: Normally Prince Nico Cavelli would never waste his time visiting the prison cell of a tourist. Except this particular alleged criminal has stolen something very personal to him - his son, heir to the Montebianco throne!

Lily Morgan knew it was a mistake coming to the Mediterranean kingdom, but she'd had no choice. First she was thrown into jail for a crime she didn't commit...now she's been bailed out by the prince - though in return she must become his royal wife!

First line: Crown Prince Nico Cavelli, of the Kingdom of Montebianco, sat at a fourteenth-century antique desk and reviewed a stack of paperwork his assistant had brought him an hour ago.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprise Limited, 2010; 183 pages; purchased at a library sale.

My thoughts: The royalty trope is one of my least favorites. I never dreamed about meeting a prince or being a princess. I was a fan of Princess Di and I was devastated when she died. But beyond that, royalty just doesn't do it for me.

Now that I have that confession out of the way...I enjoyed this book, the first title I've read from Ms. Harris.

Lily Morgan is a single mother, struggling to support her 18 month old son, Danny, while working for a newspaper. She doesn't want the assignment in Montebianco, but her boss insists she go as nobody else is available. After buying a trinket at a stand in the market, she is arrested and thrown in jail, on charges of trafficing in stolen antiquities.

Nico Cavelli is a prince, next in line for the throne. He's the younger, illegitimate son, and has always been a playboy with a zest for life. But after his older brother dies, he has to buckle down and become serious about his new role in the future of his country.

Two years ago, Nico met Lily in the US and they had a brief fling, and then he stook her up and she never saw him again. She didn't know he was a prince until later, after she discovered she was pregnant with his child. When she did learn his true identity and began reading all the press about him, she realized she was just another notch on the proverial headboard for him, and she was afraid he would take her baby away from her, so she never tried to contact him to let him know she was pregnant.

Now Nico shows up outside her cell, with a picture of her son taken from her suitcase, demanding to know if the child is his. This part I'm still a little fuzzy about. When Lily was arrested, the police went through her luggage and found the picture and gave it to Nico. But I'm not sure why. Do they always go through every prisoners' belongings? Or maybe only because she was a foreigner? Do they go to Nico and tell him about every prisoner they arrest? Or about every American? Did someone look at the picture of a child less than two years old and think, wow, he looks just like our prince, and put two and two together?

Lily of course is innocent of the charges levied against her, but she has no proof that she did not knowingly purchase stolen treasure. Nico offers her a deal - the charges will be dropped and she will go free, but she must marry him so that he can raise his son the way a prince should be raised. So not really free, she'll just trade one prison for another.

And so it happens. Lily is literally given no choice but to go along with Nico's plans. Plans which mean he breaks off his engagement to the princess of a neighboring country the night before the wedding. But Nico is all about duty, and he won't allow his son to be raised as a bastard away from his father, the way he was raised the first six years of his life. He also won't allow his son to be raised without a mother, as he was after his mother died, so he has no intention of taking the child and sending Lily packing. Marriage is the only proper thing to do, even if it does anger his father and royally piss off his ex-fiance's father. (See what I did there?)

The angst level is high. Nico is brimming over with it. He misses his brother. He's angry that he has a son he didn't know about. He has to deal with his father and the other king, and fix the damage that his broken engagement has caused to the relationship between the two countries. He wants Lily, but he's furious with her for keeping his son from him. But she's his wife now and he's certainly not going to not sleep with his wife.

Lily has her own angst and is miserable in her new life. Her best friend betrayed her. The king and queen hate her. She believes that her marriage to Nico has caused broken hearts for him and the Princess Antonella. She's a Lousisana girl and has no idea how to act like a princess. The only saving grace for her is that she still has her son, and she'll never have to worry about him going hungry or doing without. Though she does worry constantly that Nico will tire of being a husband and divorce her and send her away without her son, or go back to his playboy ways and his mistresses.

It's a slow burn and a long road for both of them. Of course they're attracted to each other, but love? No thank you. Even when it's hitting them on the side of the head and saying "Excuse me, but I'm here whether you want me or not".

My favorite quote:
He smelled like citrus and spice, with the faintest hint of an ocean-scented breeze. To her dismay, she wanted to lick him like a lollipop. (pg 122)
So back to my opening - the royalty trope is one of my least favorite tropes. But this book is an example of why I read them anyway. The characters of Nico and Lily are believable. The angst they go through, their thoughts and actions, seem realistic to me. And the author brought them to life and made me care about them. And while the happy ever after ending was predictable, because, you know, it's a Harlequin, I still wasn't sure how they were going to fnd their way to that ending. And I very much enjoyed the entire experience.

06 October 2013

Spooky Little Girl

Synopsis: Coming home from a Hawaiian vacation with her best girlfriends, Lucy Fisher is stunned to find everything she owns tossed out on her front lawn, the locks changed, and her fiance's phone disconnected – plus she's just lost her job. With her world spinning wildly out of her control, Lucy decides to make a new start and moves upstate to live with her sister and nephew.

But then things take an even more dramatic turn: A fatal encounter with public transportation lands Lucy not in the hereafter but in the nearly hereafter. She's back in school, learning the parameters of spooking and how to become a successful spirit in order to complete a ghostly assignment. If Lucy succeeds, she's guaranteed a spot in the next level of the afterlife – but until then, she's stuck as a ghost in the last place she would ever want to be.

Trying to avoid being trapped on earth for all eternity, Lucy crosses the line between life and death and back again when she returns home. Navigating the perilous channels of the paranormal, she's determined to find out why her life crumbled and why, despite her ghastly death, no one seems to have noticed she's gone. But urgency on the spectral plane – in the departed person of her feisty grandmother, who is risking both their eternal lives – requires attention, and Lucy realizes that you get only one chance to be spectacular in death.

First line: The very moment when the cab pulled up to the curb, Lucy Fisher knew that she was seeing something exceptional.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by Villard Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., 2010; 293 pages; bought at a library sale.

My thoughts: I previously had read only one book by Laurie Notaro, WE THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE PRETTIER: TRUE TALES OF THE DORKIEST GIRL ALIVE, a collection of laugh out loud essays that made me put her on my look-for-everything-else-she's-written list. That was in 2008, and while I don't remember much about it now other than the fact that I really liked it, SPOOKY LITTLE GIRL definitely lived up to that memory. It's not really laugh out loud funny, it's more subtle, but certainly amusing and enjoyable, enough that I sat up past my bedtime last night, fighting the usually welcome effects of a sleeping pill, because I kept wanting to read just one more chapter before setting it aside.

Lucy Fisher has just come home from a vacation in Hawaii with two friends, sort of a last hurrah before getting married, to discover everything she owns in the front yard of the house where she lived with Martin, her fiance. Everything except her dog, Tulip, who is inside, but Lucy can't get to her because the locks have been changed. Martin won't answer the door, even though Lucy thinks she sees him through a window, and won't answer his phone. Less than twenty-four hours later and she's been fired from her job for forgetting to make a deposit and failing a drug test, even though she knows she hasn't taken any drugs. With no other choice besides her best friend's couch, she packs what she can in her truck, leaves the rest in her friend's garage, and drives to her sister's house a couple of hours away. Where soon after she is hit by a bus, and wakes up in a dormitory where she's suddenly in a spectral school, learning how to be a ghost.

Before she can move to her final destination, The State (and not that white light that we've all heard so much about), she must complete an assignment on earth. Under the watchful eye of their teacher, Ruby, Lucy and her classmates learn the fine arts of being a spectral, er, being, such as how to draw energy from electrical appliances and manifest into their corporeal forms, how to move a physical object,etc. She also attends her funeral, which is a huge disappointment. Why aren't her friends and coworkers present and mourning her passing?

Finally it's time for her assignment, and she goes to bed that night eager and excited, convinced she'll be doing something to help her sister. The last place she expects to wake up the next morning is on the couch in her old house, where Martin seems to have completely forgotten she existed and has moved on with another woman.

Lucy doesn't know exactly what her assignment is and all Ruby can tell her is it will eventually come to her. Along the way, she learns about herself and matures as a person, so to speak. Oh, and Tulip! The best part about haunting Martin and his new “domestic partner” is being reunited with her dog, who can actually see and hear her.

I don't want to tell you any more of the plot but this is a wonderfully engaging and enjoyable book. In this age of the internet and everybody being so connected, the idea that the characters are so disconnected was a little hard to fathom, but if you just go with it, it's well worth it in the end.

02 October 2013

Cowboy Trouble

Synopsis: Fleeing her latest love-life disaster, big city journalist Libby Brown's transition to rural living isn't going exactly as planned. Her childhood dream has always been to own a farm - but without the constant help of her charming, sexy cowboy neighbor, she'd never make it through her first Wyoming season.

Handsome rancher Luke Rawlins is impressed by this sassy, independent city girl. But he years to do more than help Libby out with her ranch. He's ready for love, and he wants to go the distance...

Then the two get embroiled in their tiny town's one and only crime story, and Libby discovers that their sizzling hot attraction is going to complicate her life in every way possible...

First line: A chicken will never break your heart.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc., 2010; 386 pages; borrowed from my local library.

My thoughts: Over the last year or so I've gotten more and more into the cowboy genre, to the point where I'm actively seeking out and grabbing books that look like they fit that genre. I recently discovered Carolyn Brown who became my favorite new to me author with LOVE DRUNK COWBOY. During my last trip to the library, this book practically jumped off the shelf at me. Well, one of this author's books did, anyway - I had to immediately pull out my phone and look up the author on Fictiondb to check if it was a series so I could be sure to start with the first book. Anyway, to bring my rambling to a point, Joanne Kennedy has now bumped Carolyn Brown down a spot and has taken over as my favorite new author.

I was hooked from the first page. Libby has taken a job with the local newspaper and bought a farm where she plans to raise chickens. She doesn't know anything about farming or ranching or chickens, but she's a journalist, so she knows how to do research, and she figures she can figure it out. As she's unloading her truck on her first day at her new home, her closest neighbor pops in to say hello, a handsome rancher named Luke. Of course Libby is getting over a broken heart and has no interest in dating, hooking up or being in another relationship. Even if he's cute. And such a cliche, she thinks, in his chaps and talking with his cowboy swagger.

Later she meets the local sheriff, Cash, who's even more swagger with his silver star and hero law enforcement vibe. And she actually feels little sparks with Cash. But again, not interested, no more men, on her own, etc.

The book has a lot of humorous dialog and one liners, starting with that opening line and continuing non-stop. One of my favorites:
I'd like to go along,” she said. “But I think we need to talk first.”
Oh, no.” Luke backed away as if she'd suggested they take him over to the veterinary clinic for neutering. “It's okay. We don't need to talk.” (pg 91)
Libby and Luke are both fun characters, Cash is too full of himself, and the supporting cast slide seamlessly into the story, capturing you with their own distinct but rarely over the top personalities.

When Lucy hears about a young girl who disappeared awhile back, her reporter instincts kick in and she's intrigued. After the missing girl's mother approaches her and asks for her help, she begins digging into the story in earnest, trying to trace the girl's last steps, and interviewing her friends. Several of the locals seem like good suspects, including both Luke and Cash at times.

The cast is rounded out by several dogs and a wild chicken. And of course charming cowboys, who may be good guys or may be bad guys. I thought I'd figured out what happened to the missing girl before Libby did, but then a little twist came and I was surprised, so that was good.

A quick, lively and very entertaining read, and I'm now eager to collect the rest of the author's books.

26 September 2013

The Book of Someday

Dianne Dixon

Synopsis: Someday, Livvi Gray will break free from her past. Someday, she will escape her recurring nightmare about a stranger in a shimmering silver dress. Someday, she will have a family of her own. Now she's fund Andrew, and someday seems to be right around the corner.

But there's so much Livvi doesn't know. Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, she will come face-to-face with the stranger from her dream – an encounter that will alter Livvi's future and crack open everything she knew about her past.

Livvi is swiftly moving toward the ultimate turning point in her life – and she's not the only one. Linked by an unforgettable mystery, photographer Micah and young mother AnnaLee are also being rapidly drawn into a web of secrets about the unexpected ways in which we choose to protect – and betray – the people we love.

Stats for my copy: Hardback; published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc., 2013; 335 pages; won in a drawing on Bookreporter.

My thoughts: The prologue is somewhat mesmerizing, with a young girl named Olivia hiding from her father and stepmother, shivering in the cold while she waits to see if they will look for her. Then suffering when they find her.

Then Chapter 1 starts, with that little girl grown up, going by the name Livvi. And it's not as mesmerizing anymore. The book alternates chapters between Livvi, Micah and AnnaLee. Three separate stories that you know will eventually run together or interconnect in some way, though the connections didn't become apparent to me until about the last fourth of the book. Livvi has nightmares about a woman in pearl-button shoes. She's written a book, and has fallen in love with Andrew. She receives late night phone calls from someone who whispers to her and she quickly hangs up. She has secrets she keeps from Andrew, who turns out to have some secrets of his own.

Micah is a successful photographer who seems to have no friends and no family. She does nothing but work, and isn't even on a first name basis with her long time assistant. When she learns she has cancer, she sets out on some strange odyssey, unsure if she deserves to undergo treatment and live, or if she deserves to die. She has secrets.

AnnaLee's story is set in the past. She loves her husband and their precious little girl, Bella, but he's a dreamer who can't make a living, and she's slowly selling off family heirlooms to keep them afloat.

I struggled to finish this book. I never really connected with any of the characters or came to care about them for the most part. The writing style didn't appeal to me, at times feeling choppy and disjointed. For example, this is a paragraph from page 65:
After a while. After AnnaLee has let Jack lead her into the house. After Bella is tucked into bed. And President Reagan has begun a speech on television and twilight has come. The single, long-stemmed white rose remains forgotten on the terrace. Being buffeted by a cold wind that will soon strip it bare.
And this paragraph from page 79:
Several of the Laundromat's patrons look in Micah's direction. She stares them down until they turn away. Then. To calm herself. She runs her hands along the sides of her silk skirt, smoothing at nonexistent wrinkles.
I was considering putting the book down and giving up on it, when suddenly Andrew's big secret was revealed and Livvi's world was turned sideways, and I finally began to actually feel a little sympathy for her. And shortly after that, AnnaLee has her husband's angry teenage niece thrust upon her for the summer, and I began to admire and respect her a little. So those two story lines kept my attention enough that I finished the book, and for the last quarter I even got caught up in the overall interconnecting story and began turning pages quicker. But I still breathed a little sigh of relief when it was over and I could move on to something else.

17 September 2013


First the hit:

Romantic Notions, by Roz Denny (Harlequin Romance No. 3122)

Synopsis: When Sam Court came raging into Brynn Powell’s lingerie shop, Romantic Notions, to return the frivolous undies his thirteen-year-old daughter had bought, he was shocked to find himself attracted to the proprietor.

Sam disapproved of female vanity. Disapproved of women like his glamorous and unreliable ex-wife...a category that included former fashion models who “hawked filmy underwear.”

But despite appearances, Brynn was really a sensible home-and-hearth person. And she had to wonder if a one-time hockey great with a few too many bruises and an ex-model with far too many responsibilities could ever make a match of it.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback; published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 1991; 187 pages; purchased at a library book sale in February 2011.

My thoughts: At one of the annual library sales we go to they always have sealed boxes of books for sale, and I try to get at least one romance box. Some of the books will be good, some will so so, and some will be little gems, like this one. I'd never read a Roz Denny book until now, and what a wonderful introduction to a new to me author.

Brynn was a successful underwear model before coming home to care for her younger brother, who at age 15 needs a kidney transplant, after their parents passed away. But her real passion was design, and in addition to taking over the running of her late mother's shop, she sells her own line of lingerie. Before leaving New York, she had her heart broken by a man who she thought she was in love with at the time, and her focus in life now is to work and take care of her brother and the mounting medical bills. She's not interested in dating or being in a relationship.

Sam Court is a very well known hockey player who has left California (I think that's where he came from) in the hopes of providing a more wholesome life for his 13 year old daughter. He's a little older than the rest of the players on his hockey team, and starting to feel his aches and pains. His ex-wife was consumed by her looks and trying to become famous, and he overcompensates now by being too strict with his daughter.

Brynn and Sam clash from the moment they meet, which is standard fare for these older Harlequins, and which I have come to love and expect. The relationship builds up slowly, tentatively, almost grudgingly. It's a sweet story with wonderfully written characters, including the kids who are integral to the story and not just plot devices (see next review for example). Roz Denny, also known as Roz Denny Fox, is definitely on my radar now and I'll be snatching up everything of hers I can find.

11 September 2013

California! (Wagons West 6)


Synopsis: Violence ignited by the glitter of gold. Men desperate to strike it rich. Families and farms forsaken in a wild rush West to stake a claim. Strong men and courageous women struggle across an untamed continent to gamble their last dollar in overnight boom towns or die bush-whacked by outlaws. Some become valiant fighters in places where six-shooters keep the peace. No risk is too great, no depravity too low - when men catch gold fever and dream of quick millions, strong whiskey and wanton women.

Men answer the siren song of gold. Lonely wives fend off peril while husbands pan for nuggets. And Melissa, a red-haired Texas beauty, finds herself sold in shame by the man she loves. Former wagon master Whip Holt sets out to save her and joins Sheriff Rick Miller in a relentless search for two brutal murderers. Together they try to stem the tide of greed and violence which threatens to destroy the new American territory.

First line: Rick Miller rode out of the forest and drew his stallion to a halt at the top of a hill, where he looked down on the property his wife, Elisabeta, had inherited.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Bantam Books, 1984; 353 pages; received from a Book Mooch member in December 2007.

My thoughts: Several familiar characters are back in this sixth book in the Wagons West series, where the action takes place mostly in San Francisco and the Sacramento Valley during the heydays of the gold rush:

Rick Miller is now the Sheriff in San Francisco, struggling to maintain law and order while on a private vendetta to capture two renegade rapists/murderers after his wife Elisabeta falls victim to them in the opening of the book. While we watched Rick and Elisabeta fall in love in the previous book, this time around he has become a detached hardened (more than he was already) emotionless man. He grieves for Elisabeta, but the grief never really comes off the pages to touch the reader.

Danny and Heather Taylor decide to travel to California with Randy Gregg, to prospect for gold. Their plan is to be smart and while trying their luck panning for gold, to also buy some land and harvest it, so that whatever happens they have the land to fall back on. After being told by Melissa Austin that she will never marry him, Chet Harris also takes off for California and gets swept up with gold fever, and after striking it rich he lives a life of excess.

Two new characters are also introduced. Ralph Hamilton is an attorney who picks up and travels to California after being jilted by his fiancée. He has no intention of trying to find gold, but he figures there will be a need for more and more attorneys as California's population grows and it is admitted to statehood. Along the way he "adopts" an orphan, Isaiah.

Melissa and her newest beau join up with the Taylors and the Greggs to make the journey, but as soon as they arrive Melissa discovers that everything her lover has told her is a lie when he sells her to a pimp. Okay, I know they weren't called pimps in those days, but Big George runs a saloon with a stable of whores, and Melissa becomes his star attraction.

The characters all have their own separate storylines that criss cross with each other's. The writing is often clichéd and somewhat mediocre, and none of the characters have any emotional depth whatsoever. There are several deaths throughout the book, some quite violent, but since we don't really connect with any of the characters, we don't mourn those who die.

From what I learned when Googling information on the author, the books are pretty historically accurate. At times, it's more like reading a slightly dry history book than a novel. And if you're interested in the time period, then that's ok.

01 September 2013

Sleazy Rider

Karen S. Smith

Synopsis: When newlyweds Emma and Kit speed away on their matching Ducati motorbikes, Emma knows not to expect a conventional honeymoon. From the moment they meet a biker gang and the leader takes a shine to Emma, events take a turn for the bizarre. For the first time in her life she will be pushed to her limits as the gang's ideas for how to have a good time get more and more outrageous. With hard-drinking rock bands, hunky stuntmen, booze-filed biker festivals and a whole lot of kinky behavior on the agenda, Emma's taste for adventure is tested to the max – and Kit's not about to step in and save her from the wild bunch as he's having too much fun himself!

First line: I was pressed against the handrail, palms flat on cold metal, gazing across a calm, turquoise sea as the south coast of England receded into the distance.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback; published by Black Lace, 2005; 225 pages; received from a Book Mooch member.

My thoughts: I haven't read the shades of whatever book, but I suspect that this book is a much more realistic portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle. Emma and Kit are on their honeymoon, biking across the countryside. In that opening line, they are having a sexual encounter on the ferry, when Emma catches a biker on the deck below watching them. For both her and Kit, this makes it just that much more exciting. Just before embarking from the ferry, the biker pins a badge to Emma's jacket, and gives her his card.

Emma doesn't expect to ever run into Max again, but after an impromptu race through winding mountain roads leaves Kit injured and his bike sliding down the mountain, a distraught Emma calls Max, knowing without really knowing why that he can help. Which he does, and thus begins Emma's real adventure. Kit is now laid up with a broken leg, and Emma finds herself punished for causing the accident and then “sold” to Max.

Prior to the accident, Emma and Kit run into Geoff, and old friend of Emma's, and at this point I realized that there was a history with Geoff that wasn't really laid out but seemed implied that the reader was aware of. So I had to put the book down and do some research, and sure enough, this is the sequel to another book about Emma and Kit, UP TO NO GOOD. That book is apparently about how they met, and fortunately I didn't feel I was missing enough back story to worry about having not read it first.

This is a Black Lace book, so obviously there is a lot of sex. It starts out fairly vanilla, then Emma has a night with Geoff that includes some light bondage. It's not until she is with Max that the serious shit goes down. Some of it was a little repetitive, and Emma constantly marveling at how she has no control over what happens to her got a little old. I mean, it's only a revelation the first time she's bound and gagged and violated in unexpected ways. Though having never been in her position I can't say that with any experience, and maybe it truly did strike her over and over.

In between the sex scenes, there is a lot about motorcycles and riding, including a race at a rally that is described in excruciating detail. The synopsis is a little misleading, as it suggests Kit being involved in the action but he is actually not even around for most of the book. The writing and narration flow, the sex scenes are fairly hot and well written, and I sped through the entire book in a couple of days.