30 March 2014

The Nerd Who Loved Me (Nerds, Book 2)

Synopsis from Goodreads:

She's got the high-kicks...
Lainie Terrell is no ordinary single mother. With feathers in all the right places, she's one of the hottest showgirls in Vegas. Aside from a hot-tempered ex-boyfriend on her sequined tail, Lainie's biggest problem is finding a decent babysitter for her son. Lainie's dilemma is solved when she ropes Harry Ambrewster, the casino's shy-but very smart and cute-accountant, into the task.
He's got the low-down...
Inheriting his chemist father's high I.Q. and sexy good looks, Harry has always been intrigued by Lainie. He isn't thrilled at the prospect of babysitting, but he'll do anything to get near the gal who fuels his craziest fantasies. Then Lainie's dangerous ex comes knocking...
Their option? Run faster than a pair of net stockings...
In disguise and on the lam, Lainie's masquerading as the perfect wife. Harry's doubling as the he-man protector. But with a set-up this hot, who's fooling who? When the lights go down, and the masks come off, a nerd like Harry could be just the right ignition to set a woman like Lainie on fire...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, St. Martin's Press, 2004; bought at a used book store in 2005.

First line: “At work, my mommy wears teeny-tiny, sparkly clothes.”

My thoughts: Vicki Lewis Thompson is one of those authors who, after first discovering them, I begin collecting everything of theirs I come across. NERD IN SHINING ARMOR was the first of her books I read, way back in 2005, and since then I've collected the entire Nerds series, though this is only the second of those I've gotten around to reading. I've read seven other books by Ms. Thompson, most of which I've enjoyed, and I have another whopping forty-three of her books in my massive to be read pile!

From the first page I was hooked. I don't think this is considered a trope, but I do especially like stories where the hero is not used to being around children but finds himself having to interact with one. Although since Dexter, aged 4, is one of those kid geniuses who talks and acts much older than he really is, and Harry the accountant is also pretty danged intelligent, Harry doesn't really have much trouble talking to and relating to Dexter for long. Which makes him the perfect babysitter, as the usual babysitters don't last since they're all apparently to dumb to keep Dexter amused. I have this thing about kids in books. I like when a character has kids, but I want the kids to be realistic actual characters in their own right, and not just overly precocious plot devices. Dexter, with his super intelligence and often adult behavior, sometimes tread close to that brink, but he never toppled over it. Since my own kids are intelligent but non-geniuses, I don't know how realistic Dexter is, but overall I liked the way he was written and was happy with him.

While Harry has admired Lainie from afar, or at least from the audience at her shows at the casino where they both work, he would never seriously consider asking her out. For one, why would she want to go out with a boring accountant? And for two, Harry's mother was also a single parent show girl, and Harry wants a wife who is the complete opposite. Meanwhile, Lainie doesn't think Harry could ever get serious about her because, for one, see his for two above, which Lainie is aware of, and for two, she figures he wouldn't think she's smart enough for him.

I really liked Lainie. I was just a tad uncomfortable with the fact that she moved her child out of state and away from her ex without having anything set up legally through the courts to protect her rights in case the ex came calling, though I know women do this all the time. And I totally get why she did it. And when the chips were down, I admired that she was prepared to sacrifice her own happiness for the future well being of her son. I would do just about anything for my kids, but I don't think I would have been wiling to do what Lainie was prepared to do.

I loved Harry. He isn't the chiseled bronzed stud that the hero often is (not that I don't like them also), but neither is he the stereotypical nebbishy geek that the word nerd often suggests. He's a good man, who wants a good woman who can satisfy him both sexually and intellectually. When there is danger, his adrenaline flows and he may be frightened, like a normal person would be, but he tamps the fear down and acts courageously. He's a gentleman, but he's also a man.

Throw in the worthless ex who needs to show his father he has an heir in order to inherit a fortune and pay off his gambling debts, Harry's mother and her ex-showgirl friends, her long time boyfriend with suspicious mob behavior, and a good ole boy time share salesman/snake wrangler, a little suspension of disbelief for the slightly outrageous plot, and you've got a funny and very enjoyable good time that will leave you with the happy feels. 

24 March 2014

Devil of the Highlands

Synopsis from Goodreads: He is the most notorious laird of Scotland: fierce, cold, deadly...and maybe even worse. Yet Evelinde has just agreed to wed him. Anything, she thinks, is better than her cruel stepmother. Though Evelinde should be wary of the rumors, she can't help but be drawn to this warrior...for the Devil of the Highlands inspires a heat within her that is unlike anything she has ever known.

They may call him whatever they wish, but Cullen, Laird of Donnachaidh, cares only for the future of his clan. He must find a wife, a woman to bear him sons and heed his commands. He has no need for beauty or grace, but one taste of his lovely bride's sweet lips and the sultry feel of her skin arouse an untamed passion. Perhaps there's more to marriage than he thought.

Stats for my copy: Large print hardback, published by Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning, by arrangement with Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2009; borrowed from my local library.

My thoughts: If I didn't have a job to go to every day, which means having to get up of a morning, I might have read this entire book in one night.

This is the third of the author's non-vampire books I've read (the first two being The Brat and What She Wants.) As with all of Ms Sands' heroines, Evelinde is very likable, although she felt somewhat familiar, being similar, personality wise, to the heroines of THE BRAT and WHAT SHE WANTS. Cullen, however, was much more distinctive and I was quite enamored of him. But then he was the very description of “the bad boy”, and aren't we drawn to those men? At least on paper.

Since her father's death, Evelinde has been under her stepmother's power, and treated quite badly by her. Step-mama is thrilled to have arranged a marriage for Evelinde with the man who is fearfully known as the Devil of Donnachaidh, anticipating that Evelinde will be miserable in her new life. If she survives her marriage. After all, the devil is rumored to have killed his first wife when she did not bear him any heirs. And other relatives have died under suspicions circumstances.

But of course a reputation is sometimes just a reputation, and we all know there will be an HEA in the end. In the meantime, the characters have to deal with Evelinde constantly having accidents and close calls that become more and more suspicious, while she is determined to get to the bottom of the aforementioned deaths and clear her husband's name.

The situations Evelinde gets into are sometimes ridiculous, but I laughed out loud several times. I can always count on that happening when I pick up a Lynsay Sands book. 

16 March 2014

The Secret Kiss of Darkness

Synopsis from Goodreads: Kayla Sinclair knows she’s in big trouble when she almost bankrupts herself to buy a life-size portrait of a mysterious eighteenth century man at an auction.

Jago Kerswell, inn-keeper and smuggler, knows there is danger in those stolen moments with Lady Eliza Marcombe, but he’ll take any risk to be with her.

Over two centuries separate Kayla and Jago, but when Kayla’s jealous fiancĂ© presents her with an ultimatum, and Jago and Eliza’s affair is tragically discovered, their lives become inextricably linked thanks to a gypsy’s spell. Kayla finds herself on a quest that could heal the past, but what she cannot foresee is the danger in her own future.

Will Kayla find heartache or happiness?

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by Choc Lit Limited, 2014; won in a Book Girl of Mur-y-Castel blog giveaway.

First line: He'd sworn he would wait an eternity for her if he had to, on the assumption that the waiting would eventually be rewarded.

My thoughts: I was unfamiliar with the term “time slip” until this book. After seeing the book referred to as a time slip novel, I had to Google that term to see exactly what it meant. Considering that time travel is one of my all time favorite tropes, you'd think I would’ve come across the term before, but if I did it didn’t stick in my head. While time travel stories do seem to fall into the category of time slip, not all time slip stories actually have time travel in them. That's where this book fits. There are two story lines running concurrently, one in the present, and one in the past, and the narrative goes back and forth between them.

Kayla is our heroine in the present. A legal secretary (as was I for many years, so, you know, relate!), she comes into some money (not relate!), and decides to spend it on something for herself rather than save it or invest it or something equally boring. So she goes to Sotheby's, where she is mesmerized by a painting. Which she then spends nearly all of her money on. And then the man in the portrait begins talking to her.

Said man, Jago Kerswell, is the hero of the past story, set in Devon in 1781. He owns the local inn, is the bastard son of a gypsy and a titled gentleman, and is a smuggler. But a good guy smuggler, whose actions, along with the rest of the gang, benefit the poorer members of the community. When he runs into his half brother's wife, the Lady Elizabeth, he is instantly smitten with her, and thus begins an illicit affair between the two of them.

Back in the present, the Jago of the portrait needs Kayla to find the matching portrait of Eliza so he can be reunited with her. This quest takes Kayla to the scene of the crime, so to speak - Marcombe Hall, still owned by a descendant of Jago's half brother.

Both story lines were enjoyable, but Kayla's was much more engaging for me. She was a very likable heroine, who struggles at first to accept that a painting is talking to her, and that she's not having nightmares or going insane. I appreciated that it took her a little while to come to that acceptance. In Devon she meets the descendant, Sir Wesley, and his young daughter, Nell, who was precious without being sickening or ridiculously precocious. Not everyone can write a realistic child into a story, and make the child an integral part of the story and not just a plot moppet, but the author did a wonderful job with Nell and I was quite enamored of the little girl.

While finding Eliza's portrait is the reason Kayla visits Marcombe Hall, it's not what keeps her there longer than planned, and the quest often took a backseat to Kayla's own life. We come to know Kayla quite well, and at times I was so caught up in what was going on with her life that I momentarily forgot about Jago and his story, until the scene would shift back to his time. Jago's story wasn't quite as involving, and we barely get to really know Eliza at all. But I was quite content with that, and I was very satisfied with how both stories wound up in the end. 

08 March 2014

Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston


Synopsis from Goodreads: In 1950, Velma Johnston was a thirty-eight-year-old secretary en route to work near Reno, Nevada, when she came upon a truck of battered wild horses that had been rounded up and were to be slaughtered for pet food. Shocked and angered by this gruesome discovery, she vowed to find a way to stop the cruel round-ups, a resolution that led to a life-long battle that would pit her against ranchers and powerful politicians—but eventually win her support and admiration around the world. This is the first biography to tell her courageous true story. Like Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, or Temple Grandin, Velma Johnston dedicated her life to public awareness and protection of animals. Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs follows Velma from her childhood, in which she was disfigured by polio, to her dangerous vigilante-style missions to free captured horses and document round-ups, through the innovative and exhaustive grassroots campaign which earned her the nickname “Wild Horse Annie” and led to Congress passing the “Wild Horse Annie Bill,” to her friendship with renowned children’s author and horse-lover Marguerite Henry.

A powerful combination of adventure, history, and biography,Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs beautifully captures the romance and magic of wild horses and the character of the strong-willed woman who made their survival her legacy.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Scribner, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2010; borrowed from the public library.

First line: Bundles of dried sagebrush clung to the fencing of the corral behind Joe and Trudy Bronn's small clapboard house.

My thoughts: At the library with my daughter recently, I was browsing up and down the shelves when the title of this book caught my eye. I didn't think I'd ever heard of Wild Horse Annie, but when I read the chapters about Velma's friendship with Marguerite Henry, who wrote a book about her, I realized I probably read said book many many years ago. That whole section of this book actually made me want to go back and reread all of Henry's books.

One day in 1950, Velma Johnston, a secretary, was driving on the roads of Reno, Nevada, when she came up behind a livestock trailer, and noticed there seemed to be blood dripping out of it. That drip of blood turned into a small stream, and dismayed, Velma followed the trailer until it stopped, intent on warning the driver that he needed to check his cargo. I can only imagine the horror she felt when she looked inside that trailer, because just reading the description of the damaged and mangled live horses it contained made my stomach feel queasy.

The book traces Velma's early childhood to her death in 1977. Along the way she contracts polio as a child, which permanently disfigures her, and meets and marries Charlie Johnston, who would be her staunch supporter and helper in her campaign to save the horses. In the early days of the fight she and Charlie snuck around at night, freeing wild horses from corrals or pens where they were being held while awaiting transport to a slaughterhouse. But she soon became involved in politics and pushing through new legislation to protect the horses. Besides trying to keep wild horses from being slaughtered for pet food, she particularly wanted it to be illegal for the horses to be rounded up by airplane or helicopter, which was a terrifying experience for the horses that resulted in physical injuries as they were forced to run at panicked speeds over rough terrain. It was a long battle with many ups and downs, and Velma was fighting for protection and humane treatment to the very end of her life.

Detailed and articulate without being dry, the authors' respect for their subject shines through in this well written account of the life of a truly incredible woman.