Thursday, February 26, 2009

Review: Kids+Cops=Chaos / Moonstruck by Jennifer LaBrecque, Sandra Paul

Title: Kids + Cops = Chaos / Moonstruck
Author: Jennifer LaBrecque, Sandra Paul
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: May 10, 2001
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 0373441185
ISBN-13: 9780373441181

Kids + Cops = Chaos by Jennifer LaBrecque
The lawman meets his match...
Detective Sloane Matthews has taken on some tough cases in his career, but this one is a beauty! His assignment—to infiltrate the chief suspect's home by posing as...a nanny? He's not impressed, but after all, how hard can it be? That's when he discovers the three kids in question are little devils in disguise! Sloane is definitely in over his head. But he doesn't realize how much trouble he's in—until he meets the kids' absolutely gorgeous Aunt Jo....

Moonstruck by Sandra Paul
Baring it all?
Dee Evans is the model employee. But with one impulsive, nearsighted action, she mistakenly moons her straitlaced boss, Jason Masters—and from the company van!
Incredibly sexy and hot tempered, Jason is furious that an employee dares to be so disrespectful, and instructs Dee to get to the bottom of this. Now Dee has to lead Jason in a careful dance of truth and distraction. But what will happen when he uncovers the naked truth...?

My rating:

Two quite good and rather cute little stories in this book.

The first, Kids + Cops = Chaos by Jennifer LaBrecque, was the best of the two, though. It was hilariously funny, mostly thanks to the three menaces (read: kids), sweet, and rather "down to earth" for a romance.
The characters were well developped, allowing for even greater depth as the story progressed and the two leads learned some pretty important lessons. And the grandma...She was a real hoot. Everybody should have a grannie like Nora.
The sliver of suspense was like a cherry on the cake, rounding the story nicely. Very well done.

The second, Moonstruck by Sandra Paul was still funny with the whole mooning accident and the moonee's persistent search for the perpetrator, but I just didn't quite "feel" it, mostly because of the lead female. It just wasn't believable.
It was good for a few laughs, but unfortunately nothing more than that.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review: Summer of the Raven by Sara Craven

Title: Summer of the Raven
Author: Sara Craven

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: May, 1981
Publisher: Mills&Boon
ISBN: 0263735907

The last thing Rowan has wanted was to leave London, give up her studies, and go to live in the Lake District—but by the terms of her father's will she and her stepmother Antonia were stick with each other. There was one way out, though—if Antonia were to remarry Rowan would be free, and it soon became clear that Antonia's plan was to marry her 'cousin' Carne Maitland, in whose house they were going to live.
But that brought Rowan into far too close contact with Carne himself—Carne, the one man in the world she wanted, and a man who was totally out of reach.

My rating:

This book is actually older than me. ;)

Gotta love those vintage Harlequin booklets. It is rather refreshing coming across a book, especially one in the Harlequin/Silhouette line, with quite a good story without the required quota of sex scenes. But this one was written in the beginning of the 80's when the "mattress dancing" in books was definitely a no-no.

I like my books a little on the steamy side, I'm not dead, but I found I didn't miss it that much in this book. The author had woven an intricate plot, heaving with fairy-tale reference, with the evil, conniving stepmother, a naive and stubborn heroine that didn't know that well when to shut it, and a brooding, short-tempered hero with a cradle-robbing fetish...And despite it all, especially the latter, the whole thing still worked. And worked quite well.
It could be dubbed as "Two proud idiots and the evil bitch that should've been pushed off the frickin' cliff" yet it worked. Go figure.

I would've loved to have a little insight into the hero, but though it was written in the third person, it still told the story from the heroine's point of view, occasionally coming off as a little childish and asinine, but that was easily forgotten when the plot started thickening.
The characterization had a little to be desired, except in the case of the evil stepmom that ended up being the most developed character of the bunch and one the reader could more easily understand.

I wasn't put off by the age difference or the jail-bait theme. Maybe because I was prepared (thanks to Danielle's review) or maybe because I knew she wasn't really jail-bait, though the hero didn't. Not that she tried to act her true age, anyway. No wonder he bought the tale...I kept hoping he'd be a little quicker on the uptake, though.

Yes, the story had a dubious plot device, the conflict could've been easily resolved with a little backbone, some bitch-slapping, and a long talk, but I can't help but give it a great rating.
It was entertaining, refreshing (despite its age), and one of those books that once you pick up have to read through just to see what the idiots would come up with next, and to get the usual HEA fix.

If you're a fan of vintage, old-school Harlequin stories, you don't want to miss this one.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Review: Mercury's War by Lora Leigh

Title: Mercury's War
Series: Breeds
Author: Lora Leigh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: September 2, 2008
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 042522418X
ISBN-13: 9780425224182

Someone has been slipping the Sanctuary's secure information to a pharmaceutical company. Now it's up to Ria Rodriguez to pose as a clerk and uncover the leak. Yet she has no idea of the danger she's about to encounter, or the passion she's about to ignite in one of the greatest Breeds ever created.

Years ago, Mercury Warrant—who, according to his file, is one of the greatest Breeds ever created—thought he lost his mate, and he's had to live with the idea that he'll never know true bonding. Then he's tapped to protect the mysterious Ria—and finds himself falling in love.

But Ria is a woman of many secrets, and she fears being consumed by her feelings for Mercury. Little does she know that she has every right to be afraid. Because the woman believed to be Mercury's true mate is back from the grave, and she's not about to let Ria—or anyone else—get in her way...

My rating:

Enforcer Mercury Warrant is said to be the greatest Breed ever created, more beast than man. Unfortunately, the beast had been drugged into oblivion years ago, after Mercury's enraged violence after the death of his mate.

He's been off the drugs for years now, but the advantages of his unique genetic makeup are long gone and so is the beast...Until Gloria "please call me Ria" Rodriguez shows up in Sanctuary with the mission to evaluate if the Leo's money is well spent.

The paper-pusher act is just a cover, though, and Ria is really there to discover who's been selling Breed secrets to a pharmaceutical company. And despite her obvious attraction to Mercury, she's determined her stay at Sanctuary will be strictly business related. She wants it all, but since he's lost his true mate, she knows there will always be something missing...But Mercury's long-suppressed beast has another agenda and both Mercury and Ria will soon learn there is more to the mating heat than mere genetics.

Hell, yeah! This was one heck of a ride of a book (does this even make sense?). It had everything I'm looking for in a book and more. There was drama (some serious drama in fact), wonderful characterization, great suspense, two perfect leads, and page-burning scenes.

I loved Ria. IMO, she is the epitome of a perfect heroine. Both strong and vulnerable, down-to-earth and dreamy, selfish and selfless all in one tight little package with some serious bitchiness in the morning. She took a while to "get it", but it was worth the wait, since she never whined, but shone with a quiet acceptance that was almost humbling...And when she let loose her inner animal. Oh boy. I would've loved to see that cat fight. You go, girl!

Ms. Leigh struck gold with Mercury Warrant. For a man with such a dangerous and violent beast inside, he was (almost) the perfect opposite of his animal side. Quiet, gentle, almost unaware of his own worth and importance in the community and in the eyes of his friends.
It was bitter-sweet reading about his struggle with the lack of mating heat between him and Ria, how he wanted for something to be there, and when he finally realized the most important lesson, that it mostly is all about heart, I melted. And when the lion made his triumphant comeback - at the most inopportune moment, if I may say so - whew! Tinglies!...It also cleared up the "inconsistency" from Tanner's Scheme. You gotta embrace you inner beastie for the mating mojo to work its magic. Interesting.

The suspense was an added bonus in this book. It was so simply done it was quite easy for the reader to point the finger at the wrong Breed. And it made it quite easy to "hate" the said Breed despite all the support and kindness said Breed showed in the previous books. The mind is a fickle thing, I guess.

I also liked the small glimpsed in Jonas Wyatt's tender side. First the little info on him playing matchmaker in Dawn's Awakening. Wasn't that sweet? I turned into a manga drawing with little hearts in my eyes at that one. And then in the epilogue he showed us for sure that despite his manipulative tendencies he's a true FGP at heart. ;)

A definite keeper, close second to Dawn's Awakening (that's still my favorite, can't top that one), and owner of My Favorite Scene in the Series Award for…

He walked away from them all then and allowed the animal driving him freedom. It had been confined, so deeply hidden within him that even he hadn’t known it still lived.

It wasn’t confined any longer, and it was going for its mate.

As he stepped outside the mansion and moved for the Harley, he inhaled deeply.

He could smell them now. Knew where they were. Each living, four-legged lion that wandered the grounds, protecting its two-legged cousins, following them.

He roared out into the night, the animal and the man announcing their presence, their strength. And the calls came back to him. A symphony of animal screams, roars that filled the mountain, the acknowledgment from the animals that all moves to be near him, in triumph.

He was aware of the Breeds guarding outside, watching him warily now. The sounds of the lions called back to him, roaring out their greeting, their challenge, the echo of the fury they heard inside him.

He roared out again, filling the night with a sound he’s never known he possessed. His head tipped back, rage and triumph and the call for his mate tearing from vocal cords that were now more animal than human.

And the animals answered. He felt their response, felt them moving toward his destination. They were his pride and they would protect what was his. His woman. His mate. Their alpha female by choice and by nature.

The Breed that brought him the Harley stood back, wariness and respect filling his gaze as Mercury strode to him.

The Breed was awed by the sight of him. Eyes so blue they could rival a summer sky, the thick mane of hair flowing back from his savage features, his shoulders appearing broader, his body larger, than ever before.

The Lion Breed male saw something that both terrified and awed him, because this vision was a true Breed. The pure merging of lion and human. And he was enraged. That roar had been one of pure fury, and in it, it had held a message. A message so primal, so demanding, that the Breed himself nearly followed it.

Protect Mercury’s mate.

Oh, boy...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review: Dawn's Awakening by Lora Leigh

Title: Dawn's Awakening
Series: Breeds
Author: Lora Leigh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: February 5, 2008
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425219755
ISBN-13: 9780425219751

The runt of the lab she was created in, Dawn Daniels endured years of torture by her pride brother and the council soldiers. Finally freed from her torment, she's now a Breed Enforcer, in control of her own life. Until she's assigned to protect the one man destined to be her mate—and realizes it's far too easy to lose total control.

One of the Breeds' most important supporters, Seth Lawrence has spent years trying to forget Dawn, knowing that her lost innocence has made it impossible for her to get close to anyone. But suddenly neither of them can find the strength to fight the overwhelming passion between them.
At least until the most brutal tormentor from Dawn's past reappears—and threatens to destroy their newfound love, along with their lives...

My rating:

Absolutely adored this story. I'm unable to write a summary of it yet, I'm still shaking. In my opinion this is the best story in the series to date and I doubt one could surpass it. It was simply amazing...Actually there are not enough superlatives to describe it.

It was one heck of an emotional roller coaster, ranging from terror, despair, anger, hate, love, and everything in between.

The characters were rich, well-developed, and superbly drawn. They came to life under the readers eyes, making us feel their pain, cry at their memories and sacrifices, and laugh with them when they finally found love.
Dawn was beautiful, and so amazingly simple in her complexity is was a pleasure living her story with her. This woman that has lived through hell, letting the flames there shape her and hone her, became one of my favorite female characters in fiction to date. The emotional turmoil when at the beginning she learned what (almost) happened was heart-breaking and agonizing to read, yet the incredible inner strength she possessed helped her go through it, helping her become the woman she needed to be. The woman Seth needed her to be.

Seth. Oh, God, what to say about Seth. Romantic and carrying his heart on his sleeve, waiting, constantly waiting for the right moment that almost didn't come.
I've fallen in love with him from the get go, and it's been heart-wrenching ever since reading of what he felt for her, knowing his deepest fears stemming from his deepest desires. He's waited a decade for this woman, ten years of agony and terrifying knowledge of what she's been through, and when he came to terms he could never have her and gave up completely, his body "betraying" him, the two of them, my heart simply shattered...But yet again, he proved himself a better man, despite his fears of the opposite, and the tenderness and protectiveness inside him would've melted even the most hardened of heart.

These two were truly made for each other. It was as Cassie predicted, Dawn would awaken and they both would suffer. But it was the testament to their love, their strength, that they survived through it, emerging even stronger for the fight.
And when it finally happened, when (almost) all barriers fell, and they finally made love for the first time...That 11-page-long scene was one of the most romantic, seductive, tender, sensual, giving, sexy, hot love scenes I've ever read. Perfect, completely "in character", flowing with the story and history these two shared. Amazing and utterly purr-worthy. Rawr.

Kudos for the suspense subplot. The unknown threat constantly shimmered at the edges of the story, a constant presence infusing just the right amount of the unknown and terror into the story to keep the reader at the edge of the seat yet not taking over, weaving in and out of the plot, furthering the characters development, and serving as an additional means of resolution.

The entire story was beautifully written, the interweaving of the different element expertly done, creating a truly superb example of romantic fiction, building the story on emotions and inner turmoil rather that something more palpable and easier resolved and dealt with.
Not only are the characters in emotional turmoil, the reader is sucked into the primal vortex, living it all right beside them, hoping, crying, and praying with them.

And the epilogue was a work of art in itself. Many authors would've finished such a story with the leading couple basking in their happy bliss, yet Ms. Leigh changed directions once again. Closely tied in with the last few chapters it gave us an irresistible peak into the future...I can't wait for that future to come.

Hugely recommended not just for the Breed series, Lora Leigh or paranormal fans, but for all those who like a good romance book with great emotional span, wonderful characters, and amazing story-telling.

Update (November, 2009): I get a strange compulsion to re-read this story whenever I hear a song "just right" on the radio, browse my CD collection or my iTunes library. It's all about the lyrics, and it's usually a love-song that triggers the compulsion.
On a previous re-read I listened to Bleeding Love and I Will Be by Leona Lewis. This time it was all about Shania Twain and her From This Moment On. Awwwww.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Review: Aiden's Charity by Lora Leigh

Title: Aiden's Charity
Series: Breeds
Author: Lora Leigh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: July 2, 2007
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
ISBN: 1419954466
ISBN-13: 9781419954467

The forces of survival and destruction swirl in the darkest corners of men's minds. The nature of the beast cannot be harnessed, and survival is the purest of all instincts. Survival of the species itself goes soul deep. But can the human heart accept and adapt as easily? Can Charity bestow the love and the acceptance that has always been a part of her, to the man whose very survival depended on the hardening of his heart, of his soul? And can Aiden maintain that cruelty now, in the face of the sacrifices she made? Only time and nature can tell.

My rating:

In the Lab Aiden was very good at controlling his body's responses, even despite the drugs pumped into his system. But one lone woman shattered that control, bringing out the beast that swore revenge for the betrayal.

Six years later, Charity is one of the experiments. Her bond with Aiden made her unique and the Genetic Council's favorite new toy. In order to stay alive, Charity must give her life in the hands of the man she loves despite the knowledge of his hate. Aiden is the only one who can save her. But will owning her life be enough or will this lone wolf play for her heart as well?

The plot was minimal at best, but still thicker as in the previous Wolf Breed book. Unfortunately the secret it was built on—the secret that Charity supposedly held—was never explained or at least hinted at after the initial teaser.

There was little depth in the characters, which is quite an anomaly in a [author:Lora Leigh|2614] book, the conflict could've been expanded further, and Charity's stubbornness seemed forced at best. The whole relationship and interaction between characters was too "going through the motions" to be believable and the almost abrupt ending didn't help matters...But that's EC for you. Bummer.

The epilogue was one of the brightest points in this book and I wish I could read Hawke's story. Hopefully from another publisher and a whole lot of plot.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Review: Jacob's Faith by Lora Leigh

Title: Jacob's Faith
Series: Breeds
Author: Lora Leigh
Read copy: Paperback
Published: May 1, 2004
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
ISBN: 1843607484
ISBN-13: 9781843607489

They are a new breed, a new race. Engineered rather than born, trained rather than raised, and their unique genetics have created more than one surprise...

Jacob left Faith six years before, unaware that the mark he left on her also left her in an agony of sexual heat that never dimmed. Now Jacob and Faith are together again, but surprises lurk around every corner and dangers as dark and deadly as their very creation surround them in more ways than one.

My rating:

Six years ago, the Lab technicians went so far as to pump Faith full of aphrodisiac and offered her to Jacob on a silver platter. Since she was his destined mate, he couldn't help himself, but the explosion rocking the labs put a stop to the more or less amorous intentions, and Jacob disappeared.

Jacob's lived with self-disgust ever since, certain he's hurt her, convinced Faith now feared him. He returned briefly six months ago to help Wolfe in getting his mate and promptly disappeared again...He didn't count on the fact Wolfe would go so far as to send Faith after him just to be rid of her horny, hormonal outbursts.

Now Jacob has to face his own fears and demons, Faith's anger toward what she still sees as betrayal of the worst sort, and a common enemy that emerged to find them and destroy them forever.

Yawn. There's nothing more to say. This could've been one heck of a book, the back story alone was great source of conflict, but the author unfortunately failed to exploit all the little nuances the conflict between the two characters and the characters themselves provided.

The plot was nonexistent, the action wasn't gripping, the initial conflict disappeared in a puff of smoke, the sex scenes were repetitive and boring, and the characters bland at best. Although Jacob still had his bright moments, Faith was an immature, childish, self-centered schizophrenic with a caffeine and BOB addiction. She was the perfect example of a rape wanting to happen. She was so demented in fact, I kept hoping someone would put her out of her misery with a well-aimed bullet to her thick skull.
Trust me, when I root for the heroine to be killed, that's a bad sign for the book.

So I found myself merely skimming the pages, hoping for a miracle that wouldn't come. Thank God it wasn't overly long, I don't think my brain cells could've made it another ten pages, I could hear them groan with the torture.
The only thing that I liked about it was the required happy ending and the kick-ass cliffy in the epilogue. I hope Aiden's Charity lives up to the promise.

A horrendous excuse for a book that I wouldn't recommend to anyone without extensive stack of pain-medication.

Review: Tanner's Scheme by Lora Leigh

Title: Tanner's Scheme
Series: Breeds
Author: Lora Leigh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: August 7, 2007
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425216616
ISBN-13: 9780425216613

After the Feline Breeds' main base is attacked, Tanner desires revenge. So he kidnaps Scheme Tallant—the daughter of a one-time high-ranking member of the Genetics Council. But when Tanner discovers that Scheme herself is a target of her father's ruthless mission, his vengeance takes a back-seat to saving the life of the woman he hopes to claim as his mate.

My rating:

For the past eight years, Scheme Tallant has led a double life as the assistant to her father, General Cyrus Tallant, a member of the Genetics Council, and as a spy for the Feline Breeds. Only the man who recruited her, Jonas Wyatt, knows the truth and her cover doesn't make her a popular person in the Breed community...But now Scheme's life is at risk because her father has realized her game and ordered her killed.

Tanner Reynolds, the golden PR boy for the Breed community, has had his eye on Scheme for the past ten years, skirting the fine line between wanting to kill her and possess her, the latter prevailing by a long shot. So when he's conveniently at hand to prevent her assassination, he doesn't think twice in snatching her away.

When she wakes up deep in the belly of a mountain, Scheme has no option but to finally admit her attraction to Tanner. But that doesn't mean she trusts him. Her father has planted a spy in the Breed compound and until she knows for sure Tanner isn't it, she's willing to share her information only with Jonas...

I absolutely adored this book. The interaction between Tanner and Scheme was electric, their plays of cat and mouse fairly invigorating, and the attraction and passion between them combustible.
The whole close quarter setting proved to be integral in the development of their relationship and the characters themselves, and once again Ms. Leigh paired the perfect two individuals. They complimented each other, understood each other perfectly even when they were still "enemies", and they had an uncanny ability to see into each other's souls, uncovering secrets and hidden truths in a blink of an eye.

It was wonderful to uncover the beast within the seemingly easy-going Tanner. From what we've seen in previous books he didn't appear to have a serious, vengeful bone in his body, yet the entire perception changed with a snap of fingers. He's one of the most complex characters so far and Scheme was his utter equal in depth and complexity. What she's gone through, the knowledge of what a monster her father was, would've destroyed someone else. She's only gotten more strong and determined for it. And because of that strength and inner demons plaguing her, it was so much more delicious seeing her slowly lowering her guards under Tanner's tender determination.

The entire book had a little bitter-sweet feeling for me. Not the kind to induce incontrollable bawling, but the hands-on-chest-going-awww kind. Especially when Tanner was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice just to see to her safety.
Which brings me to the huge inconsistency in this story. So huge in fact it almost "destroyed" the whole idea of the Mating Heat as we know it. Sure, Cabal provided a rather plausible excuse (apparently it's an animal thing), yet from what we've learned so far, that was stretched so thin it was almost transparent...But it's what provided the story, so I ain't complaining.

It was great seeing a little softer Jonas this time. He was still a manipulative SOB, but at least he seemed to care. And little David Lyons was a riot. I love that kid.
But in the end it was Cabal that got the short stick and the awww-ing from before just got stronger and I really can't wait for him to have his HEA. From what he's done for his brother, he most certainly deserves it.

Ms. Leigh backed on the action a little bit in this one, concentrating on the story and the love-hate relationship between Tanner and Scheme, but what little action we did get in the end, was more than the adequate dose. Also, the envelope-pushing voyeuristic addition to the already scorching sex scenes was a nice touch, providing yet another subtle difference from the rest of the series.

A most definitely recommended read and since this book can easily be read as a stand-alone (if you don't mind being left in the dark with some tidbits) I'd recommend it also to those not yet familiar with the Breed series.
A truly wonderful and combustible read. A keeper if there ever was one.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Review: Harmony's Way by Lora Leigh

Title: Harmony's Way
Series: Breeds
Author: Lora Leigh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: December 5, 2006
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425213056
ISBN-13: 9780425213056

Harmony Lancaster is of the Lion Breed, created to be a huntress with a thirst to kill. But the way she seeks justice outside the law makes her a liability to her own kind. Yet she also possesses information that they need on the existence of the first Leo - who holds the precious secrets of desire.

To save her life, Harmony is paired with Sheriff Lance Jacobs, who tries to tame the killer within her, while protecting the gentle woman he longs to possess. But a dangerous cult leader, bent on destroying the Breeds, could change the way Lance looks at Harmony forever...

My rating:

Harmony Lancaster, a.k.a. Death, has worked on her assassin career for the past ten years, since her escape from the Breed Labs. She uses every skill she's learned in captivity to rid the world of the people who pray on the innocent, especially children.

But Harmony's hunted. When she escaped, she stole priceless information a lot of people would give anything to possess, including her brother, Jonas Wyatt. When he captures her, instead of enacting the Breed Law for her crimes, he decides to give her another opportunity to redeem herself. He sends her to Broken Butte, N.M. to be Lance Jacobs' deputy. The brilliant twist: Lance is Harmony's mate and Jonas hopes to manipulate the hormonal occurrence enough to make Harmony reveal the sought-for information.

Harmony is strong and resilient, always counting on her skills and dark emotions to help her, but she cannot fight the potent attraction between her and Lance. With enemies sprouting out around them, her fight and flight is about to come to an end.

I really liked this book. From the beginning it didn't look like much and I was really afraid it was just like some of the previous not so great book promising a bang but never delivering it. But boy did this one deliver it. And what a bang it was.

We were once again greeted with a strong heroine, but at least Harmony didn't leap into contradictions every two pages. Unlike her predecessors she was pretty much constant and that realization came as a pleasant relief. She was strong, yet she knew her limitations and weaknesses. And despite her past, her reputation, she was capable of so much depth of emotion it was almost scary in its intensity.
Lance was her perfect counterpart. His strength of character and utter confidence drew me from the first time he appeared in Megan's Mark and this book just confirmed what amazing guy this wonderful man really is.
These two were perfect for each other and it was beautiful to read how much Lance was a balm for Harmony's soul, making the ending so much more of a tear-jerker...Yeah, I cried, I admit it.

I loved the intrigue in this book. There were so many unknowns in the plot it really provided a roller coaster, edge-of-the-seat experience. Friends turned to enemies and enemies turned into friends at the drop of a dime, there was always some shady characters walking that fine line between friend and foe, and the mystery wasn't revealed until the very end (and even then not in its entirety), making this an exhilarating read.

With this book Ms. Leigh expanded this fantasy world a little further, providing fodder for the next books in the series, adding new and utterly unexpected depths to the recurring characters, making the reader even more curious.
Kudos for Jonas Wyatt. Ms. Leigh gave us a glimpse of his depth in the previous book, but she truly expanded on his manipulative SOB persona in this one. I think the epilogue wasn't exactly needed, until he finds his mate I don't need to know the guy has a sex life, thank you very much. But at least there's someone else itching to see him mated.
I hope he gets a tough-as-nails chick that will make him squirm. Because after what he did in this book alone, he so deserves to suffer a bit.

I most definitely recommend this one. It was a great read, the mix of all the elements I like in my books was much better, promising loads of exciting reads in the future.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Review: Megan's Mark by Lora Leigh

Title: Megan's Mark
Series: Breeds
Author: Lora Leigh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: May 2, 2006
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425209644
ISBN-13: 9780425209646

Cursed with the extraordinary power to feel other peoples’ emotions, Megan Fields has tucked herself away in a remote corner of New Mexico, working as a small-town sheriff’s deputy. She finds solace in the silence and heat of the desert. But when Breeds begin dying on her watch, Megan realizes that the secrets from her past can’t stay buried forever. Someone is out for blood—her blood.

An arrogant Feline Breed, Braden Arness broods with feral intensity. His mission to solve the mysterious murders brings him to Megan, a woman who accosts his senses like no other. Only with him can she let down her guard—and surrender to the insatiable hunger that wracks her body. But as they team up to hunt the elusive killers, Braden and Megan find themselves becoming the prey…

My rating:

Megan Fields has been struggling with her empathic abilities for the better part of her life. It was her inability to block other people's emotions that forced her to abandon her life-long dream to work in "serious" law enforcement, so now she makes her living as a sheriff's deputy in a small town in New Mexico.

While patrolling the desert, relishing its quietness and lack of thought and emotion, she discovers two corpses in a shot through SUV. Two Breed corpses. Examining the crime scene she quickly comes under fire herself, surviving only because of the timely intervention of Braden Arness, another Breed.

Braden knows there's more behind the shooting in the gully than serendipity. Someone wants Megan dead and there's no better was to learn why is that than to stick to her like super glue...And when the Mating Heat suddenly kicks in, playing her shadow is even more pleasurable. But unless they uncover the truth of what Megan has seen to warrant her death, the relationship is bound to be a short one.

Okay, so this book is like one of those old movies on a Saturday night, curled on your couch with a bowl of popcorn, perfect to send your brain on vacation. You can just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
I couldn't find anything that I didn't like in this book, except maybe the whole denial/guilt trip Megan had going for her at the beginning. Okay, you feel bad, you think you're a complete loser, we get it, let's move on...But there was nothing extremely great about this book either, hence the average rating.

I loved Braden, I love most all of them Breeds, but Braden was the first in this series that really made me laugh. They all have that tortured soul down to a T, but this guy didn't let it govern him too much and decided just to merely enjoy the life he's been given. Some of his one-liners were to die for and I found myself looking forward to his snappy repartees. No matter what, he always landed on his feet, maybe it was the DNA.

As mentioned before, Megan was a bit iffy. It looked like Ms. Leigh couldn't quite decide what to do with her. Was she an empath whose ability was more of a curse than a gift, forcing her to live in isolation, avoid confrontations? Or was she someone who liked to be in the thick of it, fighting with all she was worth, loving a good argument as the next girl? The jumping from one to the next was a bit confusing and tiresome after a while.
And why do (almost) all heroines have at least one family member in the Special Forces who helped with the Breed rescues? Does that make for a better bonding or something?

I'm looking forward to read more about Megan's cousin, the sheriff...And Jonas. What to say about that guy but "When's his book coming out?". Gotta love the guy, although the silver eye thing is becoming a bit of a cliché. It's time for the authors to find some other turn-on attribute.

Unlike the previous books where the characters had more or less center stage, this one was a little more action oriented and I must confess I've been itching for a fight (figuratively speaking). The whole Mating issues were put a little aside, not completely forgotten, because the phenomenon is still the driving force of the entire series, but the acceptance came a little easier, letting other particulars of the story emerge and lend a helping hand to the plot.
So this time the combination was just right. There was drama, angst, sex, romance and action...If everything were blended together a little better, maybe it would've earned a higher rating.

Still, this was a good book not to be missed by the fans of this hot little series. For those first-timers out there, I'd suggest (as always) to start at the beginning and work your way onward.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Review: Soul Deep by Lora Leigh

Title: Soul Deep
Series: Breeds
Author: Lora Leigh
Read copy: Paperback
Published: July 1, 2008
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
ISBN: 1419954628
ISBN-13: 9781419954627

Mother Nature has a way of making the most unlikely couples ‘fit’. And what could be more unlikely than a sassy, independent President’s daughter who doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut and a loner Coyote Breed with a hunger for a cute rosebud mouth that he’s determined to still.

The vote for Breed Law is coming down the pike. Kiowa’s job is to watch Amanda, the President’s daughter—look, but not touch. Just make sure the Goof Troop, the Secret Service detail assigned to protect her, do their job until the law is passed.

But when they don’t and the bad guys move in to take her out, Kiowa reluctantly slips in to the rescue, snatching her away to safety. But she isn’t going to come easy and it takes more than smooth talking to make her see his point of view.

For a man who’s had nothing, Amanda Marion is food for the hunger that has tortured him, the reality to every dream Kiowa never dared believe in. What he feels for her is more than heat, more than love. She breathes life into his hardened heart, melting the icy chill that has protected him all his life, and touches a part of him that he thought had died—his soul. And now he’ll kill anyone who tries to take her away from him.

But the one person he can’t fight is Amanda, and when she wants to leave…

My rating:

On Halloween night, a mere week before the important Breed Law is passed, Amanda Marion, the president's daughter, is almost kidnapped. Almost, because Kiowa is there to snatch her out of her would-be captor's hands and whisk her away to safety.

Unaware of the "mating issue", Kiowa kisses her to keep her quiet, unleashing the full blast of the hormonal heat on their heads. Unfortunately, he's also a Coyote Breed, the kind the Council bred for jailer duty. The Breed species everyone assumes is soulless...

This was too short, too rushed, too freaking contrived, it shot my concentration to hell. There was too much emphasis on the Breed Law, a few sentences would've been enough, not enough emphasis on Kiowa and Amanda and their budding romance, and once again, what space Ms. Leigh could've used to expand on that one, she spent in steamy, scenes and too much tidbits on Amanda's presumed perversion.
If she liked the pain so much, Kiowa should've just left her there to suffer and get it over with, instead of agonizing over the fact he couldn't have her, but couldn't let her go...Blah, blah, blah.

In the end Amanda was right, Kiowa was self-sacrificing (said in a sarcastic tone). I know he had it tough as a kid, but that was no excuse to mope around, feeling sorry for himself most of the time. I got the feeling, that he's made that final decision only so he could suffer more and not because he was doing her any favors. Wasn't he just a knight in shining armor. *eye-roll*
At the beginning Amanda was truly what he told her she was - a child. Throwing tantrums because she couldn't have it her way, prejudiced, spoiled, sticking her head in the sand...Made me want to slap her. Repeatedly...But as the story progressed, she turned out to be the more mature of the two.

The saving grace of it all were the secondary characters. It was great seeing Dash again, bless his soul, Callan, Merinus, Doc Martin, and little Cassie (we finally got an explanation on the whole "fairy thing"). And the little tidbit about Dawn and Seth made me want to read her book even more.

If it were just a tad longer, maybe the story would've improved, earning a higher rating, but I seriously doubt it. It's an EC publication after all and no one could accuse EC of caring a fart whether the book had any story at all...Unfortunately.
I'd say read it as part of the series, but don't expect any revelations or important facts, and don't expect more than what you know you get from EC. Disappointing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Review: Kiss of Heat by Lora Leigh

Title: Kiss of Heat
Series: Breeds
Author: Lora Leigh
Read copy: Paperback
Published: November 1, 2005
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
ISBN: 1419953400
ISBN-13: 9781419953408

They've waited a decade to come together. Long years filled with unbearable pain, and soul-wrenching torment that have changed them both and left wounds that have laid their souls bare. Wounds that stand one chance of healing—if only they could stop fighting each other long enough for the truth to work its healing balm.

Kane, a relentless warrior, lost more than his heart to Sherra in a night of mating passion that marked them both for life. But news of her death ripped his soul apart. For years he has fought to avenge the death of the woman he loved more than his own life, by revealing the deceit and cruelty of the Council that created the Breeds.

But Sherra didn't die. In a cruel and evil twist she was convinced by her sadistic handlers that the man she had given her body, heart and soul to had betrayed not only her, but the child she carried—and lost.

Amid the rapidly escalating violence against the Feline Breeds, Kane and Sherra learn that there's more to mating than just the "heat", just as there's more to love than just the sex...

My rating:

Eleven years ago Kane Tyler infiltrated one of the government Breed labs and experienced a night of heated "mating frenzy" in the arms of Sherra, a beautiful Snow Leopard Breed...Afterward, Kane committed the ultimate mistake by leaving her behind as he went in search of help. Attacked by one of her Pride brothers, he was left fighting for his life for months, only to learn of the destruction of the lab upon his waking.

For the past eleven years he's lived only to avenge Sherra by bringing the Genetic Council to justice and allowing the Breeds the freedom they deserved, when one night Sherra reappears in his life, alive and well...Hating him.

When Kane failed to return all those years ago, Sherra was convinced he'd abandoned her, making him a perfect target for her hate, blaming him for everything she'd endured afterward, the death of their baby...Even now, after learning the truth about what happened, she still strives to hate him, but Kane is adamant to make her see the attraction between them is more than just the mating heat...But with new threats emerging from every corner, will she realized it in time?

Oh. My. God.

I hoped this book would be good, but it certainly exceeded all my expectations. Ms. Leigh has struck the perfect balance between plot and the EC required steam. We were plunged straight back in the the heart of the Breed mating heat, but unlike the first two books, here the sex scenes, though still abundant, didn't deter from the main plot, but complimented it, supporting the story, and propelled it forward. As the story progressed, the characters grew and developed, so did the steamy scenes change, from the initial savage release of two angry, resentful almost-strangers, to the loving joining of two people in love when all the conflicts were resolved and the past resentments were resolved.

The characterization was marvelously done. Kane remained true to himself, consistent with the image he's maintained since the first book, the little digs were still there, even more venomous at the beginning, dissolving into more playful banter as the story progressed. Ms. Leigh has truly created a wonderful character. He's strong, determined to protect everything and everyone he cares for (even if they don't want him to), capable of the deepest love and most seething anger, but when his control finally breaks, he's still gentle, still protective, more reproachful toward himself than anyone else...His feelings toward Sherra were almost palpable, utterly bitter-sweet in their intensity and desperation, and the reader could literally feel how her continual refusals bit into him. Yet, he still persevered, wanting to help, wanting to comfort her, make her happy...
Absolutely beautiful.

Sherra was also wonderfully portrayed. So stubborn to shake her silly, so utterly sad to cry with her, so resentful yet desperate to grasp at anything she could, so scared and scarred and in need of comfort and love I forgot every hurtful word she hurled at Kane at the same time I wanted to slap her for being such a stubborn hellcat. The inner scars ran deep, the protective barriers around her were too thick, too high, yet they literally crumbled with every scene, giving in under Kane's sensual, loving assault...But she still continued with her silly stubbornness until it was almost too late, until at last she was woman enough to admit at her failings and brave enough to take a huge leap of faith from the proverbial cliff.

Kane and Sherra's (love) story was such an emotional roller-coaster everything paled in comparison. The supporting cast, though quite a massive body count, did their "job" marvelously, keeping in the back, letting the two of them shine, occasionally providing a valuable insight or word of wisdom, though Sherra refused to listed to reason almost to the end.
Another hidden gem of this story were Seth and Dawn. I went to check the blurbs of the next books in the series and I got very, very giddy. *huge grin*

I'd definitely recommend this book to every single fan of paranormal romance, not just the Breed and Leigh fans, although you might consider reading the series from the beginning to get acquainted with "the Breed history", the characters and their relationship and interactions with each other. Though it could definitely be read as a standalone, the general details are explained, it could prove a little difficult to follow for a "novice".

A definite keeper if there was one.