Sunday, May 31, 2009

Review: Whirlwind Wedding by Lilian Darcy

Title: Whirlwind Wedding
Author: Lilian Darcy

Read copy: eBook
Published: October 1, 2006
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1552546195
ISBN-13: 9781552546192

After a whirlwind seven-week courtship, Linnie finds herself looking down a twelve-mile aisle, suffering from a near-fatal case of bridal nerves!

My rating:

After a seven-week long courtship, Linnie is about to marry Ryan, when suddenly her high-school sweetheart barges through the door demanding she run off with him.

After a short hesitation, she decides to blow the guy off, but unfortunately the hesitation wasn't short enough to convince the groom...

This was a really cute little read. Sad and funny at the same time with a rather deep little message, though it took Ryan quite a while (and in a short story that's saying something) to get it.

A great little nibble of a story.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Review: The Untamed One by Ronda Thompson

Title: The Untamed One
Series: Wild Wulfs of London
Author: Ronda Thompson
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: May 2, 2006
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312935749
ISBN-13: 9780312935740

Running from angry villagers and the man who ravaged her, the witch Lucinda flees into the forest to have her child. But Lord Jackson Wulf hunts her down, believing her death will break the family curse that transforms him into a monster. Instead of killing the witch, Jackson is moved by her beauty and desperate plight. And Lucinda seizes the chance to find safety for herself and her babe when a bargain is struck between this outcast woman and this doomed man--and sealed by their marriage in name only...

In return for his protection, Lucinda has promised that her magick can free Jackson from his torment. But this pretty witch soon finds herself in danger of being seduced by Jackson's charms and pursued by the man who would see both her and her child dead. Can she trust a Wulf with her safety and the safety of her child? Can she trust her heart to Jackson? To surrender to a Wulf is a terrible risk, for love will either unleash the beast within the man...or finally set him free.

My rating:

I seem to be turning into a seer of sorts. Because this book turned out just as I predicted. Rather uneventful and dull.
That's too bad because I was prepared to like it and hoping it would turn out better than its predecessor. Unfortunately it was the complete opposite. While the first (or second) book in this series at least had an engaging and intriguing start (though the second part of the book ruined it all), this one had nothing engaging at all.

The characters were rather boring, the interaction and misunderstandings between them quickly grew old and tiresome, and the author's constant attempts at poking at the human psyche in order to make the reader understand what makes these two tick fell quite short of the desired effect.
Even the villain made me yawn, whether because of his little "on-screen" time or the silly premise I'm not sure and I don't want to know.

So I ended up merely skimming the pages throughout, just wishing for it to end.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Review: The Dark One by Ronda Thompson

Title: The Dark One
Series: Wild Wulfs of London
Author: Ronda Thompson
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: November 1, 2005
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312935730
ISBN-13: 9780312935733

Rosalind Rutherford knows full well the scandal she courts when she attempts to seduce the notorious Armond Wulf—in fact, she's counting on it as a means to escape her sadistic stepbrother's control. Unfortunately, Lord Wulf's better instincts prevail...although not before he gives Rosalind a tantalizing taste of what she's missing. And when the opportunity arises to rescue Armond from a grim fate while changing her own, Rosalind knows she must seize it...

Armond can no more ignore the Rutherford woman than his ancestor could resist the temptress who cursed the Wulf men with a terrifying transformation that occurs at the appearance of the full moon—and is set in motion by love. Now, to save her reputation and his freedom, Armond must marry Rosalind. But he vows that while they may share the pleasures of the marriage bed, she will never have his heart...

Yet as strange and mysterious events bring them closer in body and soul, Armond finds it increasingly difficult to keep his feelings for his new wife locked away. Especially when the reality of unquenchable desire--and certain danger--burn stronger than ever by the light of a full moon...

My rating:

Before starting this book I was rather skeptic, mostly due to the rather lukewarm novella in Midnight Pleasures that started this series. Yet this book started strong and sure, making me like the hero and heroine from the start. Him because of his apparent inner strength in the face of the dastardly curse, his stoicism in face of the shunning of the polite society, his kindness toward the dowager, and his deep sense of honor – he was the complete opposite of what the rumors claimed and I loved him.
I loved the heroine because of her determination and courage to do anything to get from under her cruel stepbrother’s thumb, even going so far as to attempt to be ravished by a total stranger to thwart the said stepbrother’s nefarious plot of marrying her off in order to settle his gambling debts.

Unfortunately after a few great chapters, my initial fears and doubts were confirmed, and everything quickly went downhill, taking along the plot and the characters, terminating in a rather anti-climatic and highly predictable ending.

The second half of the book failed to deliver what the first few chapters promised, mostly in the characterization department, resulting in the nasty impression of the leading couple being replaced by doppelgangers. When Armond was at first strong, determined, proud, albeit a little brooding, he turned into a pathetic, heavily brooding, feeling-sorry-for-himself whiner in a flip of the page.
And Rosalind unfortunately didn’t fare any better. While I appreciate HR heroines to be a little ahead of their time in their thinking and reasoning, she was a little too ahead of her time. While love wasn’t the main ingredient in regency era marriages, this chick, who at the beginning decided to “shatter” with the first available bachelor not caring about propriety or emotions being involved, suddenly demanded love before doing the deed with her husband, even though he happened to be the same bloke.
And what did he do? He allowed it, which was sort of sweet in its contorted way, in fact, he locked his door in fear of her ravishing him!

Eyes, I grant you permission to roll out of my sockets.

I actually kept looking forward to the scenes with the evil, women-bashing stepbrother. Which says a lot.

I’ll read the rest of the series, but I certainly don’t hope for much.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review: Burning Wild by Christine Feehan

Title: Burning Wild
Series: Leopard People
Author: Christine Feehan
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: April 28, 2009
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515146234
ISBN-13: 9780515146233

This time, what goes on between male and female is wilder than animal instinct-and twice as hot.

Born into a world of twisted monsters, Jake Bannaconni is shaped and molded into a cold, revenge driven man. Honed in the fires of hell, he controls his world and rules with an iron hand. He has everything and anything money can buy. He’s ruthless, merciless and considered a man to leave alone. His hidden legacy, that of a shapeshifter, makes him doubly dangerous in the corporate world.

Emma Reynolds is a woman who knows how to love and love well. When their two worlds collide, Jake’s plans for a complete take over, may just come tumbling down.

My rating:

Oh. My. God....This is the first thing that came to mind after I finished this book. Well, this and hot damn.

I started reading this one with a hefty dose of skepticism. The Leopard Series is the least favorite of mine, but I quickly had to rethink my position.

I must admit I didn't particularly like the hero, Jake Bannaconni, at the beginning, no matter the rather detailed explanation for his actions and behavior the author offered us in snippets cut from the boy's childhood. His parents were monsters, children of monsters, and were prepared to turn their son, whom they saw only as a failed breeding experiment, into a monster as well. If they didn't kill him in the process. Yet the little boy thwarted their nefarious plan, first by hiding the truth of his "other" and then by refusing to be like them, though he failed to see that fact almost until the very end.
Still, I didn't like him. And it wasn't because of his alpha-ness, I love Ms. Feehan's males, it wasn't even his domineering personality, it was the way he "weaseled" into Emma's life, or sucked her into his. I would've preferred a little more, I don't know if tact is the right word, but maybe cutting back on the Machiavelli-channeling wouldn't have hurt.
He quickly grew on me, though, once he, somewhat reluctantly, began to see reason, thanks to his friend and mentor Drake Donovon (oh, how I love that man!) and mostly because of Emma and their two "little monsters".

Emma. Sweet, tender, caring, loving, tenacious, stubborn, strong, resilient, little Emma. What could I possibly say about her without falling into clichés and diabetes-inducing superlatives.
She was just perfect for Jake.
She might have appeared weak and vulnerable at the beginning, broken down and empty, but once she got over her loss, she quickly let show her inner core of steel that prevented her from being completely taken over by Jake, and that single-minded determination of a woman in love on a very important mission. A mission of teaching her man the value and importance of love, loving and being loved. Showing him his true self, teaching him to embrace and accept all parts of his being, no matter how monstrous they might seem to him. Loving him no matter what he says or does to try to drive her away (because she knows deep down he doesn't mean any of it). Loving him no matter what.

And I must say she succeeded marvelously. Jake's progress and his change is obvious from the very first time he meets her to the end.
From the very beginning, Jake's been portrayed as detached, cold, feeling no emotions (except for rage and that incessant thirst for revenge). From the very first chapter and the glimpse at his first memory, his parents humiliated him, degraded him, dehumanized him, until there was nothing left.
Yet when Emma crashed, quite literally, into his life, it was immediately obvious just what kind of power she wielded, restoring his humanity, sparkling her joy and love into his bleak existence, until the brief glimpses of his humor, his smiles, his spontaneity (until he ruthlessly curbed it) were that much more special and precious, until they became a normal occurrence, finally signaling the inevitable. Jake was becoming human again, he was living for the first time and it was all thanks to Emma and his growing feelings for her.
The sex scened also nicely reflected this change, gradually changing from rough "kinky, hard-core sex" with no space for emotion, to a little less rough, but still extremely satisfying lovemaking. ;)

Although I usually don't like it when one plot-line overpowers the others, I didn't mind the romance subplot dominating in this book. It was so tightly tied into Jake's growth and maturing, his change, that it would've been a shame shoving it a little aside to make space for the rest.
Still, the suspense and imminent danger were there, skirting the edge, rearing their heads when appropriate to further the main story-thread and nudge the hero into more self-discovery.
And when the climax came it was explosive (I loved the depiction of the storm as a portent of impeding battle), snarling, clawing, roaring, deadly, and perversely satisfying.

This was once hell of a ride and an extremely satisfying read. It's up there with my favorites from this author and safely tucked onto my keeper shell. It was gritty, edgy, exciting, and though not exactly action packed, it presents another turn and improvement in Ms. Feehan's style.
Oh, my God? Hot damn? Yeah, definitely.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Review: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Title: The Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dumas

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: May 27, 2003
Publisher: Penguin Classics
ISBN: 0140449264
ISBN-13: 9780140449266

Falsely accused of treason, the young sailor Edmond Dantes is arrested on his wedding day and imprisoned in the island fortress of the Chateau d'If. Having endured years of incarceration, he stages a daring and dramatic escape and sets out to discover the fabulous treasure of Monte Cristo, and to catch up with his enemies.

My rating:

This is truly a classic for me. I love revenge stories and added the bonus of a historical setting and I'm a goner.
A great mixture of drama, romance, thriller and a pirate tale thrown into the mix.

Definitely a keeper.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Review: Speed Dating by Nancy Warren

Title: Speed Dating
Author: Nancy Warren

Read copy: eBook
Published: Fabruary 1, 2007
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426830734
ISBN-13: 9781426830730

One minute I'm locked out of my hotel room, and the next...

Dylan Hargreave thinks I'm an actress paid to pose as his girlfriend at a North Carolina society wedding. How did this happen to me, of all people? Kendall Clarke, award-winning actuary, the veritable shining star of number crunchers who, just hours ago, learned her responsible fiancé (sorry, ex-fiancé) called off our wedding because he'd gotten one of my colleagues pregnant. What are the odds? Don't tell me you've never heard of Dylan Hargreave. Celebrity NASCAR driver? People magazine's Sexiest Man of the Year? Those eyes. That smile... Forget sensible! I've assessed the risk...and I'm taking it! I usually keep the brakes on, but as of now I'm taking a vacation. From me.

My rating:

Not so much of a romance than a NASCAR tribute, but still a lovely and entertaining read. Made me want to clobber the hero over the head a few times, but I loved the heroine. Her gradual change from shy mouse to feisty lioness determined to fight for what she wants was almost bitter-sweet and slow enough to make it believable.

I’ve never been to a NASCAR race but this book made me want to give it a try. I could almost hear the roar of the engines and see the colorful cars fly along the track.

I have a question, though? How does a rebel yell sound? I first started wondering with the Billy Idol song, but Mr. Dylan “Dy (which is apparently short for dysfunctional)” Hargreave made me curious once more.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Review: Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch by B.J. Daniels

Title: Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch
Author: B.J. Daniels

Read copy: eBook
Published: 2006
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN-13: 9781426830662

After Hudson Savage betrayed her, Dana Cardwell hoped never to lay eyes on the seductive cowboy again. Until a bunch of old bones showed up on her family ranch. Suddenly her former lover was back in her life in a big way—to investigate a decades-old crime.

Five years ago, Hud left town with a heartload of regrets. But now, as acting interim marshal, he had a job to do. And this time he wasn't walking away. Because now Dana's life was on the line—as the unsuspecting target of a killer who still walked the canyon. Hud would do whatever it took to keep Dana close. Even if it meant risking his own heart for a second chance for both of them...

My rating:

I just love “short” Harlequin stories. They’re just long enough to cram everything in without the whole thing seeming hurried and short enough to finish it elegantly without the plot-dragging devices and predictable turns.

This book is one of such stories. The suspense was nicely done, even had some traces of a thriller in it, and surprise of all surprise I didn’t see that ending coming. The villain was utterly unexpected for me (yeah, you can call me naïve if you want) and the added bonus of a twist made my jaw drop. Ooh, boy. What a marvelously concocted and twisted plot. Wonderfully planned and masterfully executed.

The romance was a bit so-so for me, it could’ve all been resolved with a lengthy conversation instead of dragging the reader through the dirty-laundry machine. But still, it complimented the story and added a little more of an oomph to the twisted, twisted ending.

Oh, I’ll definitely pick this one up (figuratively speaking, since it’s an ebook) again.