Monday, December 22, 2003

Review: Midnight Pleasures (anthology) by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Amanda Ashley, Maggie Shayne, Ronda Thompson

Title: Midnight Pleasures
Series: Dark-Hunters, Dream-Hunters, Wild Wulfs of London
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon, Amanda Ashley, Maggie Shayne, Ronda Thompson
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: November 17, 2003
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312987625
ISBN-13: 9780312987626

Handsome and sensual, surrounded by an aura of danger, mystery, and the forbidden, a lover steps from the shadows. But is he mortal? Or is he an ancient god, a sorcerer, or a mythical beast who can possess a woman's heart...and her very soul?

Four of romance's most popular authors have created this spellbinding collection of stores filled with dark passion and desire. Under the cover of darkness, their heroes inhabit worlds haunted by ageless hungers and deadly forces stronger than any seen by day...and vanquished only by the power of love.

Now travel into realms where dazzling wonders roam the night, where magic replaces reason, and where a kiss unleashes a raging fire in the blood. And here, if you dare, discover the seduction that begins at the bewitching hour when a man and woman partake in...Midnight Pleasures.

Darkfest by Amanda Ashley
The price of saving her dying mother is Channa's promise to spend a year at the castle of tormented nobleman, Lord obey him as his servant or, as his secrets are revealed, to become his salvation. And her own.

Phantom Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Haunted by recurring nightmares of terrifying beasts, Erin McDaniels is afraid to sleep-until a hero arrives in her dreams to save her...and makes erotic, incredible love to her. But can she find him again when she is awake?

Under Her Spell by Maggie Shayne
A consultant for a TV series about one gorgeous witch, "white witch" Melissa St. Cloud plans to make the show authentic. But once on the set she is pulled into the arms of a man who opens up a doorway to the darkside and chilling peril.

A Wulf's Curse by Ronda Thompson
Running away from an arranged marriage, Elise steals aboard a wagon in a traveling circus and finds herself in the bed of the Beast Master, Sterling Wulf, who is something other than he seems...and suddenly all Elise desires.

My rating:

Amanda Ashley's contribution was, at least for me, the weakest of the bunch. The characters and the supposedly historical language put me off big time. Not to mention a few unanswered questions, like what happened to Darkfest's adversity to light, his sudden hunger for blood (Was he turning into a vampire? Did she save him from that fate?) and what was supposed to happen after the story ended. We learned that Darkfest has lived for more than three centuries so was immortal (or had an incredibly long life-span), but Channa Leigh was, for all I know, a simple mortal woman. Did she became immortal when she married him? Did he become mortal when he married her?
All these unknowns!

It is Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dream-Hunter novella that earned this anthology its three star rating. So it wasn't as edgy as her latest work, but it's always nice to travel back in time and read something a little lighter from under her pen.
It was a pretty straightforward SK story with the hero that turns out to be the initial bad-guy, but the love for a woman makes him a good-guy, which ends in suffering and torment, until the love of the previously mentioned woman sets him free and they all live happily ever after. Sappy maybe, but boy did I like it.

Maggie Shayne's story held much potential at the beginning, with the strange and potent attraction between the two leading characters offering all sorts of possibilities. But the end result with the cuckoo warlock ghost visiting his son from the grave to get his gorgeously tight, hot, young body, hit my enthusiasm with the force of a truck, pulverizing it in an instant.

Ronda Thompson's story, the last in the book, was nothing extraordinary, even a little boring at times, and created a completely different lycan mythology that we know. Apparently for the Wulf boys to change into the furry howlers, the moon factor comes in second. It's the love that sets the beast free, which I found rather peculiar, since the love is supposed to set everything right, heal all wounds etc.
I wasn't convinced and I really hope the three full-length novels will fare better.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Review: The Seducer by Madeline Hunter

Title: The Seducer
Series: The Seducers
Author: Madeline Hunter
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: September 20, 2003
Publisher: Bantam
ISBN: 0553585894
ISBN-13: 9780553585896

From the moment he arrived to rescue her, Diane Albret saw more in the darkly handsome, charismatic gentleman than just a guardian. Over the years that have passed since she first laid eyes on Daniel St. John, he had become, quite simply, the most dangerously irresistible man she could ever have imagined. Diane herself has changed from a bewildered schoolgirl, tragically orphaned, into a determined young woman of alluring charm and beauty. Now, leaving the cloistered life of her school, she has been brought to Daniel’s home with dreams of her own amid rumors and hints of scandal. But the legendary seducer seems to have other plans for Diane—and he possesses a secret about her lost past that he will do everything to keep: a secret that will put both their lives in jeopardy, even as the passion they have denied for so long threatens to break out of all control.

My rating:

Orphaned Diane Albret finds herself in the headmistress's office to be punished under the eyes of her mysterious guardian, Daniel St. John.

Daniel soon realizes his young charge is no longer a child he thought he knew and she no longer belongs into a school. He takes her to his home in Paris, a home he shares with his sister.

As Diane's guardian, Daniel buys her a new wardrobe and takes her to the theater, not realizing the impact such attention might have on his young charge... or to him.

Despite his reputation as a notorious seducer, Daniel fights his attraction to his beautiful protegee since she is part of the revenge plan he's been harboring for the past fifteen years.

But the heart and passion would not be denied and as Daniel takes Diane into his arms and his bed, he realizes the most important lesson of all. Revenge does not come sweet, when the cost is love.

Madeline Hunter has moved from the medieval settings into Regency, offering us a dark and sensual introduction into a new series.

Daniel St. John is one of the darkest, brooding heroes that I've encountered. His secrets keep accumulating, keeping the reader at the edge of the seat wandering what they are and whether there are even more of them.

Ms. Hunter weaves a dark tale of seduction, revenge, sensuality, secrets, and love so palpable you can touch it.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Review: Dark Prince by Christine Feehan

Title: Dark Prince
Series: Carpathians (Dark Series)
Author: Christine Feehan
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: August 1, 1999
Publisher: LoveSpell
ISBN: 0505523728
ISBN-13: 9780505523723

Prince of the Night

He came to her in the night, a predator—strength and power chiseled his features. The seduction was deep and elemental; he affected her soul. His need. His darkness. His terrible haunting loneliness. Her senses aroused, she craved the dangerous force of his body. Burned for him. And he had only touched her with his mind.

Lady of the Light

She came to him at dawn, his bleakest hour. As the beast raged inside him, threatening to consume him, he vented his centuries-old despair in an anguished cry that filled the waning night. And she answered, a ray of light, piercing his darkness. A beautiful angel. Her compassion, courage, and innocence awakened in him an exquisite longing and tenderness. He knew he must possess her, for only she could tame his savage side and lift the dark shadow from his soul. Apart they were desolate, bereft. Intertwined physically and spiritually, they could heal one another and experience an eternity of nights filled with love.

My rating:

Mikhail Dubrinsky, the prince of Carpathians, an ancient race very similar to humans with the exception of longevity, psychic and physical powers, and of course having to drink blood to survive, knows his race is at its bleakest hours. The males are losing hope of ever finding their other half, their lifemate, and prefer turning vampire than “choosing the dawn”. Mikhail himself has given up believing there is a lifemate out there for him.

Raven Whitney, a strong telepath – a rarity among humans, travels into the Carpathian mountains to get a little rest from being constantly bombarded by evil in her draining day job of following the twisted mental paths of serial killers.

She alone hears Mikhail desperate cry and answers, unaware her life is about to change forever.

Dark Prince is the first book in the wonderful and smolderingly sensual Dark Series by Christine Feehan. With this book she introduced they mysterious world of Carpathians, the dangers they live with constantly, their intense emotions, their powers, and their incessant search for their other half, the one woman they are destined to be, their lifemate.

We learn the basic of the Carpathians. They are just like humans, but for their need of blood to live, their longevity and amazing powers, both psychic and physical. Like the vampires in the lore they sleep during the day, but they do not kill when they feed. They are in perfect harmony with the environment, the elements and the animals, capable of shapeshifting.
The Carpathian male is a true predator, losing his capability of feeling emotions or see in color at an early age. Darkness slowly seeps into his soul until it consumes him. The only salvation is finding a lifemate, the feminine light that anchors him in the darkness. Finding her, he regains his emotions and sees the world in Technicolor once again.

And what perfect example of such salvation that offering the first out-clause to the Prince himself.
But Mikhail and Raven’s relationship is doomed from the start. She is human, and she doesn’t believe in Carpathians, vampires are a whole other story.
Yet even as they surmount the obstacle of her humanity, which is pretty easy, he turns her Carpathian, which is no easy feat in itself, since the humans usually go crazy. But apparently her being a strong psychic helps.

For me this book has two major problems.

The first is the romance, which I didn’t feel at all. Raven and Mikhail fall for one in a heartbeat, which from Raven’s part is almost a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t fall for a tall, dark, and handsome prince with a major protective streak that makes you feel like you’re the only woman in the world and would give you anything just to make you happy.
Well, maybe that’s not love, but I wouldn’t kick him out of bed.
I had more problem with Mikhail’s part. Here’s a 1000-year-old who hasn’t experienced emotions in centuries, he finds this one woman who can make him feel again, and bam, he’s in love. It just doesn’t work like this. I know it’s fiction, but still, it’s a tad too unbelievable.

The whole series is based on the same premise. Since all men are pretty much the same – see above, there’s no question about it that the women do fall in love with them eventually, but for the man, the question poses itself: how much of it is love and how much of it is just thankfulness and joy. And of course, sex.

The second problem – Raven. She was too stubborn for her own good. Don’t get me wrong, I do like feisty heroines who won’t let their man trample all over them, but Raven was too stubborn. She kept arguing with Mikhail through the entire book, even about the most insignificant things, flaunting her feminist rights and supposed intelligence, and kept ending in trouble page after page, putting everybody else at risk.

All in all, this is still a wonderful book, with the ultimate alpha-male hero and an extraordinary world that just beckons to be explored.

P.S. Oh, I guess her editor took a prolonged vacation just before this book was finished, since the repetitive sentences and description should’ve ended in the “deleted scene” DVD extra. Yes, Mikhail did move like a predator and he did have a muscular body, and Raven was innocent and compassionate, but there was no need repeating that over and over again.

And what does black-velvet voice sound like? Though I’ve never heard velvet (or any kind of fabric) speak before, I bet it’s quite the chatterbox.

And Raven’s mantra “I have brains.” No way! I have them, too! Though in her case I guess that brain looked more like a one-cell organism.

Monday, September 1, 2003

Review: A Rogue's Promise by Peggy Waide

Title: A Rogue's Promise
Author: Peggy Waide

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: June 28, 2002
Publisher: Leisure Books
ISBN: 0843950226
ISBN-13: 9780843950229


Eighteen years before, deep in the mountains of China, Lady Joanna Fenton's father found a sacred statue. The two-headed dragon was reputed to beget prosperity, but for Joanna, it had brought nothing but heartache. Her father had been obsessed with the piece until his death. Her brother had disappeared. Now, so had the artifact itself.


Her search took her to the darkest establishments of London. She visited pawnbrokers, dockside taverns, anyplace that might hold the answers she sought; and from those rat holes stepped a friend. He was a smuggler, a by-blow, and a man who had forsaken his noble heritage for the shadows. A man who saw at once that she did not belong. And when MacDonald Archer swore to aid her, no matter the cost to himself, Joanna realized something her father had not: the secret to true happiness was not in Oriental charms or spells, but in love.

My rating:

Lady Joanna Fenton is in way over her head. The ancient Chinese statue that would have saved her family’s finances is gone, along with her younger brother. With her mother’s ostrich-like attitude and the date of the auction, where the statue would’ve been sold, drawing near, Joanna doesn’t know where to turn.

On a friend’s recommendation, she boldly decides to go where no lady of the Ton has ever ventured before, and enters a seedy tavern in search of one MacDonald Archer. She hopes the man used to move in the underbelly of London, might help her find her brother and the statue, all the while keeping at bay a scandal that might ruin her sister’s possibilities of a prosperous marriage.

What she finds in the tavern is not at all what she’s expected. Mac looks more a gentleman than a (retired) smuggler, his educated manners belie his surroundings, and he has no intention of helping her.

Mac is just one illegal shipment away from forsaking his smuggler’s ways and try his hand at legal trade. The danger and adventure are no longer satisfying and in truth he doesn’t know what exactly he’s missing or looking for.

When Joanna enters his life and immediately intrigues him. He sees beyond the veneer she sports in front of the society and her intent on saving her family piques his interest. She is a puzzle, both vulnerable and determined and he soon joins her on her hunt fro answers.

Though at first glance this book is a romantic suspense novel from the regency era, the mystery subplot serves more as the backdrop for the romance and the necessary character development that comes along with it.

Unlike other historical suspense novels that focus mostly on the mystery subplot, reducing the romance into graphic coupling scenes with no romance and even less love, the romance in this book is strong and endearing. The author made an effort to incorporate equal amounts of sensuality and romance and her effort paid off.

Though Lady Joanna Fenton is a model of HR heroines, strong, determined, feisty, her lack of confidence and continuous disbelief in compliments Mac pays her really got on my nerves from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a wonderful character. Despite the fact that her family often takes her for granted and her reputation has been torn to pieces a few years back, she hasn’t fled to the country or doesn’t stay locked up in the house, but faces the polite society with as much dignity as she can possess. As Mac notices, she’s a mix of determination and vulnerability, and luckily by the end of the novel, she stops behaving like a martyr to her mother and brother, and decides to take Mac’s words to heart.

What to say of Mac? He is McDreamy and McSteamy blended into one, every woman’s fantasy come true. He’s a walking contradiction, which all women find appealing. He’s a bad boy one moment, and the next he’s putty in the hands of the woman he loves. Strong yet gentle, with an extremely short fuse, but caring, passionate, and with a sensual touch that turns both Joanna and the reader into mush.

With a combination of romance, suspense, and danger this book is one breathtaking rollercoaster. Yet despite all the action, the true gem of this book are the two main characters.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Review: Just the Way You Are by Christina Dodd

Title: Just the Way You Are
Series: Lost Texas Hearts
Author: Christina Dodd
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: June 3, 2003
Publisher: Pocket Books
ISBN: 0743456173
ISBN-13: 9780743456173

When Hope Prescott’s parents disappeared, her carefree teenage life vanished forever. She and her three siblings were separated and sent to different foster homes around the country. Now, seven years later, Hope is still searching for them. To support herself, she works for an answering service, and cares for her clients as if they were family. When wealthy businessman Zachariah Givens hires Hope’s service, Hope initially mistakes Zack for his butler. Tired of being coddled and flattered because of his money, Zack is charmed by Hope’s candor, not to mention her sexy voice, and keeps up the charade. As their friendship turns into passion, Zack is determined to have her, even if that means the unthinkable – marriage. But when Hope discovers his deception, Zack knows he must solve the mystery that haunts Hope’s past in order to convince her that their futures lie together….

My rating:

Seven years ago the Prescott siblings were separated after their parent's tragic death.

Hope, the oldest, is still searching for the others, while earning a living working for an answering service.

Zachariah Givens, a wealthy businessman, hires her service, but Hope foolishly mistakes him for the butler. Charmed and tired of being treated like royalty because of his wealth, Zack doesn't correct her.

Their quick friendship blossoms into love and Zack is willing to do anything to keep Hope at his side. But that is the least of his problems when Hope discovers the truth.

Zack knows that the only way for her to even think of forgiving him is to try to solve the mystery of her past.

Reading this book made me smile, though Zack's predicament of trying to find someone who loves him for himself and not his money is as old as time.

There is enough mystery involving Hope's past and the strange separation from her siblings, to pull the sometimes slowing plot forward.

Since this is a series which I haven't yet been able to finish, I'm looking forward to a final resolution in the last book.