24 December 2015

Perfect Chance (Harlequin Presents, No. 1826)

Synopsis from back cover: Take a chance on love....

Mary Newman -- her life was safe, predictable and reasonably happy. Until the day he walked in!

Chance Armstrong -- he had no respect for rules and regulations and cozy life-styles. But he was offering Mary the perfect chance for a lot of excitement, and she was tempted -- oh, so tempted....Until Chance offered the most tempting challenge of all...He asked Mary to marry him!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Books, 1996.

How acquired: Book Mooch

First line: Mary paused to lean against the counter of the nurses' station as she surveyed the emergency room in the Newman wing at Memorial Hospital.

My thoughts: I love the older Harlequins. I want to read every single one written. Amanda Carpenter is an author I wasn't familiar with, but when I requested a couple of books from another Book Mooch member, she threw in several Carpenter books. So I picked this one up one night to read at bedtime.

Forty pages in I had already put little sticky flags on three different passages that I wanted to go back to later, and I was already a fan of Ms. Carpenter. She reminds me a little of Lucy Walker. The story is in third person POV, yet it still feels as if Mary is confiding in the reader. The narration is breezy, casual, and at times amusing.
If he was in his late thirties, he could have three or four marriages by now, and any number of kids. Mary could just picture them, blond hair dripping into their sad eyes, wanting their daddy to stop flirting with her and come home to them.

Mary has been dating Victor, another doctor at the hospital, for two years. When Chance meets her, he pursues her, even though he knows about Victor. Mary is torn between the two, yet she continues to see Victor, and doesn't tell him about Chance, even though Victor saw her leave the hospital arm in arm with Chance. Another book, another author, and I might've been put off at a heroine stringing along one man while kissing another. Rather than facing the truth and owning up to her actions and her feelings, Mary ran and hid from confrontation. Literally, in one scene, when Chance comes to the home she shares with her brother and grandfather, and Mary bolts into the house and up to her room to hide from him. But she's young and naive, definitely not worldly, and the confrontations catch up with her, causing her all kinds of anguish.
What kind of a kiss was that anyway? It was the kind that sucked your soul out of your body.
Hey, she wanted to call to the man who'd just left. You forgot to give my soul back.

You can't help but empathize with her and feel for her. What chance (no pun intended) does she have up against a soul sucker?

Chance is a journalist, a war correspondent. He's taken a temporary teaching position at the local college in order to spend some time near his family. He's started thinking about slowing down, settling down. And then he gets a call from a White House source and quickly begins packing to rush to D.C. to cover a conference. And Mary's reaction made me angry. Made me want to shake some sense into her and tell her for Pete's sake, grow up already!

And of course it all worked out in the end, cuz, you know, it's a Harlequin. And the journey from page 1 to page 187 was just absolutely delightful.  

22 December 2015

Rereadable Lines

"What kind of a kiss was that anyway? It was the kind that sucked your soul out of your body. 

Hey, she wanted to call out to the man who'd just left. You forgot to give my soul back."

PERFECT CHANCE, by Amanda Carpenter

I left my book at work yesterday, so I started this one last night, and I'll probably end up finishing it first, then going back to the other book!

20 December 2015

Kill the Messenger

Synopsis from back cover: Bike messenger Jace Damon is on his last delivery of a long day – a package from one of L.A.'s sleaziest defense attorneys, Lenny Lowell. But when Jace tries to make the drop, he is chased, shot at, and barely escapes with the package – and his life. Meanwhile, Lowell has been murdered and Jace finds himself suspect number one.

In a city fueled by money, celebrity, and sensationalism, the slaying of a bottom-feeder like Lowell won't make headlines. So when LAPD's elite show up, homicide detective Kev Parker wants to know why. Parker begins a search for answers that will lead him to a killer – or to the end of his career. Because if there's one lesson Parker has learned over the years, it's that in a town built on fame and fantasy, delivering the truth can be murder.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Bantam Dell, 2006.

How acquired: From my mom.

My thoughts: My mom gave me three or four Tami Hoag books when she was culling books from her collection. This is the first one I've read, and it certainly won't be the last.

From page one we are immediately plunged into the world of bike messengers, as we ride along with Jace through L.A. traffic. I'd not realized what a dangerous and perilous occupation it was, with the messengers putting their lives at risk every day just to deliver documents from one place to another. It was a tense and gripping opening for a book that stayed pretty tense and gripping all the way to the end.

There are lots of characters, and the narrative jumps around at times from one character's POV to another's. We first meet Jace, and stay with him for awhile as he goes on that last ill-fated ride, where the danger he faces is more than the ordinary traffic hazards. He finds himself being chased by a man in a long black car, and while he manages to get away, it's not without injury to himself and destruction to his bike. The attorney he made the pick up from is killed shortly after Jace leaves his office, and whoever killed him is now after Jace and whatever is in the package he carries.

Kev Parker is the lead detective investigating the attorney's murder. He used to be an arrogant hot shot whose career bit the dust after he scuttled a prior investigation. The more involved he becomes in this case, and the more he learns, the more it looks like it could be the case that brings him back. Or the one that ends his career altogether.

There are many other characters seamlessly woven into the plot, and the author does a wonderful job with developing each one, but most particularly (besides Jace and Parker) Jace's younger brother, Tyler. He's a wise beyond his years ten year old who never hesitates to tell an adult he's smarter than they are (with a high IQ to back up that claim), but the author manages to stay away from the dreaded precocious plot moppet trope and make Tyler a realistic little boy. Even when we don't really learn much about a character, he or she is still vivid and individual. And with the detailed descriptions of the city and the characters' surroundings at any given time, L.A. is as much a character as any of the hapless humans roaming it's streets. The good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, and there's not a lot of deviation or surprise in that particular characterization, until suddenly there is.

The action zips along at a quick pace, and without being predictable. KILL THE MESSENGER is an absorbing read with a satisfying conclusion and, for me anyway, a perfect introduction to Tami Hoag's work. 

13 December 2015

Born to Bite (Argeneau, Book 14)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Legend has it that Armand Argeneau is a killer in the bedroom...

But with all three of his late wives meeting unfortunate and untimely ends, is this sexy immortal a lover or a murderer? That's what Eshe d'Aureus intends to find out. As an enforcer, it's her job to bring rogue vampires to justice, even if the rogue in question makes her blood race red hot.

Armand knew she was trouble the moment Eshe roared into town on her motorcycle, clad in tight black leather. She claims she's hiding from dangerous fiends, though he suspects something more. But after three wives who've all had trouble remaining, well, undead, Armand is reluctant to open his heart again. Then strange accidents start to happen, each deadlier than the last, and Armand realizes he may not have much time to prove he's a lover, not a slayer.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Avon Books, 2010.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts: My least favorite Argeneau book so far. The characters just never grabbed me. Except Bricker. I enjoyed all of his scenes and was glad when he put in an appearance. The Argeneau books usually have a lot of humor in them but this one was a little lacking. And there was no romance at all. No sexual tension, no build up. When Eshe and Armand first meet, they both realize right away that they are life mates, and fall into bed together very quickly after that. And yes, the circumstances didn't really allow them any time to pussy foot around and get to know each other, what with Eshe there to secretly investigate Armand who was suspected of killing his three wives and his son's wife. And even when it became evident that someone was now trying to kill both Eshe and Armand, I never felt any sense of urgency. I didn't know who was behind the attacks, yet still felt little suspense. And then when the mystery was resolved at the end, the action was quite civil and a bit of a letdown.

I always thought it was rather ridiculous in previous books that the women always faint after having sex. But now apparently it's not just the women, it's life mates. Both Armand and Eshe faint afterwards. Was it always both partners and I just never noticed? Either way, I still think its ridiculous.

And as I complained about previous books, the characters are constantly saying things “dryly”. Three times on one page. And sometimes now they even smile dryly. And towards the end I began to notice that they also often murmured when they spoke. I'm a little tired of both words now.

Regardless, every book can't be a winner, and I'm still a fan of the author, and I'll still continue with the series, though maybe not right away. 

05 December 2015

The Borrowed Bride (Seavers Brides, Book 1; Harlequin Historical No. 920)


So wrote Hannah Gustavson to her childhood sweetheart, the father of her baby. But with no response, she was forced to marry another man ... her lover's brother.

Tall, handsome and honorable, Judd Seavers could make any woman's heart race. Hannah was no exception, and she was awed by the ex-soldier who gave her his name.

A forbidden love as grand as the Rockies crested between them. But a shadow loomed. Would the baby's father come home? And if he did, would Judd return his borrowed bride?

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Books, 2008.

How acquired: Unknown. I've had it for a couple of years, but do not remember where I got it.

First line: Hannah felt the approaching train before she heard it.

My thoughts: Quint is headed off to find adventures in Alaska. He's wanted to do so for awhile, but with his father dead and his older brother off fighting in the war, he had to stay home and keep the ranch running. Now Judd is coming home, and it's Quint's turn to travel, leaving his childhood sweetheart behind.

Judd and his best friend signed up together and fought together. But now Judd is coming home alone, with a broken body, a broken spirit, and nightmares.

Hannah is devastated that Quint is leaving. She writes to him every week, but there are no letters from him. No word from him, to her, or to his brother and mother. The night before his departure, she gave herself to him in a hay barn. And she soon realizes that she now carries a piece of him, growing inside her.

This was a sweet little story. When I picked it up I was looking for something light. It wasn't. It was in fact a little bleak at times, a little sad. Hannah is young and desperately in love with Quint, but realizing she's pregnant makes her have to grow up quickly. When Judd learns of her pregnancy, he offers marriage, in order to give her his family's name, make her child legitimate, protect her from disgrace. Judd's family is well off, Hannah's is dirt poor. It's to be a marriage in name only. Judd has divorce papers already drawn up and ready to signed the minute Quint comes home.

It was a valiant offer, but I couldn't help wonder what would have happened if Quint did come home, Hannah and Judd divorced, and Hannah married Quint. I can just imagine the gossip and speculation that would cause among the townsfolk.

But it doesn't matter, because of course as time goes by Hannah and Judd fall for each other. Hannah was a good character, sweet. But at times I wanted to shake her and tell her to quit pining for the brother who just up and left, without a look back, and appreciate the man taking care of her. Because I really liked Judd. He was a good man, with a lot of emotional scars, not just from the war, but also revolving around his father's death many years prior. With Quint gone, we don't really get to know him, but it's still clear that Quint is a boy, and Judd is a man.

The ending was satisfying, although part of the resolution felt a bit rushed. Quint does finally come home. His reaction was expected, but then he went from one extreme to another, and I felt like he bounced back unrealistically quick. However, it is Judd and Hannah's story, not Quint's, so I guess I shouldn't actually have expected much dwelling on him. But I do look forward to reading his story in the next book. 

02 December 2015

Devil's Bride and A Rake's Vow (Cynster, Books 1 and 2)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Welcome to the wonderful world of the Cynsters! When I embarked on the stories of the Cynster clan, I knew they fascinated me, but I had no idea how much they would appeal to readers. This volume contains the books that first introduced readers to the glittering, glamorous, passionate, and sometimes dangerous lives of the Cynster cousins and their ducal dynasty. In Devil's Bride, the head of the dynasty, Devil Cynster, 6th Duke of St. Ives, is caught in a compromising position with a governess. He astonishingly offers marriage, but Honoria Anstruther-Wetherby has no interest. Devil is convinced, yet someone is not so enthused, and accidents start to occur. Can Devil convince Honoria that marrying him will be a more exciting adventure than anything she's dreamed? And if he succeeds, will they both survive? In A Rake's Vow, Vane Cynster, Devil's cousin and closest friend, determined to avoid Cupid's dart, takes refuge at his godmother's country house, where fate throws Patience Debbington literally into his arms. Vane is impressed; Patience is not. But as both become embroiled in a mystery involving ghosts, thefts, and ultimately attempted murder, Patience learns that she can place her trust in this rake's vow, because it's one that comes from the heart

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Rhapsody, 2004..

How acquired: Through Book Mooch.

My thoughts: I recently joined a group on Facebook, the Old School Romance Book Club, where at the end of each month a poll is put up and members vote on which book everyone will read the following month. The book for November was DEVIL'S BRIDE. I had to hunt down a copy, and wound up with this omnibus that also contains A RAKE'S VOW.

In DEVIL'S BRIDE, Honoria is a governess. One day while caught in a storm driving back from an excursion into town, she comes across a man lying in the road. While she's investigating his condition, a crack of thunder frightens her horse and he takes off, leaving her stranded with the unconscious man. And then Devil comes riding along and happens upon them. They take refuge in a nearby cottage. The young man, Tolly, who is Devil's cousin, dies. Devil and Honoria pass the night together in the cottage, sleeping in chairs before the fire. Only to be discovered by another of Devil's cousin in the morning, and Honoria's employer. A scandal in the making.

Devil offers Honoria marriage as a way for her to save face, which her brother and countless others are in favor of. But she has no intention of marrying. She wants to travel to Africa. So she repeatedly tells Devil thanks but no thanks.

I struggled to get into the story. I liked Devil well enough, but Honoria often irritated me. Devil and his cousins set out to discover who murdered Tolly and why, and Honoria was determined to be part of the investigation, while Devil was determined that she not be. I was conflicted in my feelings. I get that Honoria was a strong female character who was unwilling to settle into the conventional life of a woman of that time. And yet I often wanted to tell her to just let the the Bar Cynster, as the cousins were known, worry about the murder mystery. Which dragged out and was uninteresting.

I think a lot of my problem was that the author's writing style just didn't appeal to me. It's very effusive and flowery, with lots of long sentences, broken up with lots of commas. It was a little repetitive at times, with paragraphs dragging out in many more words than necessary to convey a thought. And the sex scenes have to to be some of the longest I've ever read. They aren't graphic, yet they are explicit.

Towards the end though I did get quite caught up in the action and was happy with how it all turned out.

In A RAKE'S VOW, which takes place several months later, Vane, one of Devil's cousins, is traveling when he gets caught in a thunderstorm near his godmother's home, so he stops in, planning to just stay the night and then be on his way. Right off the bat he meets Patience, his godmother's niece, and of course he is immediately intrigued with her. And then his godmother, Minnie, tells him that there have been a number of thefts in the household, small, usually insignificant items stolen, and there has been a mysterious being roaming around in the nearby ruins of an old abbey at night, who the household are all referring to as a Spectre. Minnie presses Vane to stay and help sort things out, and so he finds himself settling in with the rest of her house guests to investigate and figure out who is the thief and/or the Spectre.

I liked Patience much more than I did Honoria. She, too, has no plans to marry, especially not an “elegant gentleman” such as her father was, and such as Vane is. Her mother was desperately in love with her father, who did not return her affection, and Patience is determined to not let herself fall into the same type of marriage that made her mother miserable. Vane has no desire to marry either. He's a rake. Who needs a wife when you can have a mistress? And he quickly sets his sights on Patience. I also liked Vane, very much. And Minnie, and Patience's brother. And the mystery was much more interesting, and the writing didn't bother me as much as in the first book. I liked A RAKE'S VOW considerably more than DEVIL'S BRIDE. Enough that I want to get the next book and continue with the series.