Sunday, October 18, 2009

Review: Carnal Innocence by Julie Miller

Title: Carnal Innocence
Author: Julie Miller

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: November 5, 2004
Publisher: Mills & Boon
ISBN: 0263840638
ISBN-13: 9780263840636

His business would be her pleasure!

Caitlin McCormick: An overprotected girl, who longs for independence and adventure. She is a
good girl...with a weakness for bad boys.

Sean Maddox: An avowed bachelor, career focused, who is in need of a
good woman.

Sean's latest assignment has him posed to infiltrate a hedonistic island resort where anything is possible. But he can't go alone.

Caitlin can't resit—him or his offer. For the first time she has the chance to experience danger...and raw sexual desire. She's determined that by the end of her adventure, she'll know just how
bad Sean really is.

My rating:

Before ruling on an ongoing Bureau investigation a judge retires after returning from a weekend trip to Pleasure Cove Island. A few days later an ambassador turns up dead, also just returned from Pleasure Cove Island. Coincidence? The FBI doesn't think so. There must be something hinky going on on that island and Sean Maddox is about to find out.

Unfortunately, he needs a date and since his love life is literally nonexistent, he has no other choice but to ring up one of his partner's special friends.
But as he arrives at Cassie's apartment, he discovers she's gone off with someone else, but her roommate, a blond Amazon with great legs is available.

English teacher, Caitlin McCormick wants nothing more than to experience an adventure. So when a rugged, beastly-looking FBI agent asks for her help in maintaining his cover, what is she to do? She accepts. The only problem? Well, they should look convincing in their act as lovers. Unfortunately, Caitlin's measly two sexual encounters (with the same man) aren't much of an experience. But lucky for her, Sean doesn't mind teaching the teacher.

Oh, what a fun, sexy, light, quickie of a read this was. A pleasant surprise as far as HQ Blaze books go. It had a load of story, but didn't hold back on the sexiness either. And though the sex scenes were hot, the author kept them on the sensual side, which was a nice respite from the newest stories in the line.

Somewhat it reminded me of Beauty and the Beast with the awkward, almost six-foot high heroine with an Amazon build thinking she was anything but beautiful and feminine until Sean, an overworked, workaholic, emotion-hiding FBI agent came along, hoisted her up against his chest and made her see what it meant to be a woman.

I absolutely loved those two together, learning from each other, learning together, working together. Sure, some suspension of disbelief is needed, but though it all happens in a short amount of time (a weekend), the romance still had time to build, though the attraction was there from the start.

Caitlin needed some time to get used to. She was a little too innocent for this day and age, daydreaming instead of living her life (all thanks to her overprotective father and brothers and her height-related issues). At the beginning of their adventure together, she was sometimes borderline TSTL, but luckily grew out of it and made the reader see just what drew Sean to her.

Sean didn't need all that time to get used to. As soon as he appeared on the scene, he grabbed my attention and held it until the last page. This guy was the epitome of leading man. An alpha with enough common sense to know when to stop pushing and change tactics to get what he wanted. A "beastly lion" with a heart of a kitten. All steel on the outside, but a total marshmallow on the inside.
Can I have one of those for my own, please?

The story was interesting, intriguing enough to hold the reader's attention, yet never overshadowing the romance blossoming between Sean and Caitlin. It actually helped their story to move on and evolve.
Now, that's what I call a nicely thought-out plot. Everything flowed nicely, characters and plot twining perfectly together to make one heck of a good read. Wished it was longer though. I wasn't prepared to say goodbye so soon.

A 5-star keeper and a huge THANK YOU to Danielle for recommending this one.

Review: Hot Spell by Michelle Rowen

Title: Hot Spell
Series: The Wrong Bed
Author: Michelle Rowen
Read copy: eBook
Published: November 1, 2009
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426842643
ISBN-13: 9781426842641

Everybody knows there's no love lost between paranormal investigators Amanda LaGrange and sexy Jacob Caine. They can't even stand being in the same room together....

Well, unless it's an enchanted bedroom. And they're trapped there, at midnight. And the sexual tension suddenly becomes too powerful to resist...

Then that bedroom gets really hot, really fast! But come morning, they still can't keep their hands off each other. Are they cursed forever? If so, neither one's complaining.

My rating:

Amanda LaGrange and Jacob Caine met two years ago when he came to work for the PARA agency. There was a spark, but an unfortunate mention of a hated nickname from her youth destroys all chances Jacob might have.

Now Amanda has quit the PARA agency and is about to move to New York with her normal boyfriend who has no idea she can actually talk to ghosts. But before she can cut all ties with the paranormal, she has one last job to do. Investigate a haunting in an old house. Her partner for the mission – Jacob Caine, the man she’s never worked with before. The man she’s been avoiding for the past two years. The man she’s been secretly lusting after for the past two years. The man who is rumored to have had at least fifty one-night stands in the last six months.

Two years have done nothing to diminish the attraction Jacob feels toward Amanda, but her icy demeanor always kept him away. Well, things are about to change as they are trapped (truly, the door is locked) overnight in a bedroom with an old enchanted clock that makes them lose all inhibitions. But even in broad daylight the two just can’t keep their hands off each other. And she can suddenly hear his thoughts. And can respond to his questions only with the truth.

Amanda is adamant in breaking the curse. She can’t very well move with her boyfriend while insanely lusting after another man, can she? So what if the strange curse made her fantasies come true. She absolutely refuses to accept there is more to that. It’s just a curse!...Or is it?

Whoa! I love it when H/h can’t keep their hands (or anything else) off each other. In this instance, they had some extra help in the form of two ghosts and a long-deceased witch’s clock, resulting in some major hotness (even on the hood of a ’68 Mustang). But this wasn’t just a sexapade with a paranormal edge, it had quite a good and solid story to back it all up.

Unfortunately. that good and solid story was heavily tied with the heroine who wasn’t a great character. Too many issues (thanks to her screwed-up parents and screwed-up childhood), too stubborn, too proud, too much of everything for me to really like her and actually root for her to get her HEA with that gorgeous hunk of a coworker. At times I actually doubted she actually deserved the guy.
Gotta love Jacob. Pretty much the only consistent character in this story. He was true to himself from beginning to end, and boy was I happy for the dude when he reaped his just reward.
Thankfully, Amanda came around in the end (Yay!), realizing what the curse was really about (curse, right!), moved on from her huge issues (all thanks to Jacob the Hottie), and in the process helped the two stuck ghosts to move on as well.

So, if the heroine weren’t such an issue-filled bitch at the beginning, I’d give this one 5 stars, because it was a great read (once I got used to her) and that dash of paranormal merely added an extra level of goodness to the whole picture.
Good, sexy, funky read – 4 stars (despite the heroine).

P.S. I wouldn’t mind reading more about Amanda and Jacob’s boss Patrick. That matchmaker of a man deserves to get some of his own medicine. In a good sense, of course. ;)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Review: Bravo, Tango, Cowboy by Joanna Wayne

Title: Bravo, Tango, Cowboy
Author: Joanna Wayne

Read copy: eBook
Published: November 1, 2009
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 142684316X
ISBN-13: 9781426843167

Former navy SEAL Hawk Taylor never knew fear—until he met Alonsa Salatoya. Her young daughter had been kidnapped, and after two years the trail had grown cold. Hawk was certain he'd find the girl, but the sensual woman with a fragile heart scared him. She made the Texas loner yearn to belong where he never could—in her life and her bed.

Exhuming long-buried clues led only to dead ends—until the kidnapper turned his sights on Alonsa. Now, with a taste of fear, Hawk knew what he had to do: find the child, keep Alonsa alive and then walk away from the one woman he'd never be able to forget....

My rating:

Two years ago, Alonsa Salatoya's four-year-old daughter had been kidnapped, and there still are no clues of what happened to her. Or if she's even alive anymore.

Former SEAL Hawk Taylor comes to Dobbins, Texas to work for a former frogman, and is immediately taken with Alonsa's plight. He would help her find her daughter. But what makes him think he will succeed, when even the FBI had failed?

This was a book with an awesome premise (someone kidnapped a child two years ago, but still torments the mother with creepy phone calls), a great hero (who can resist a former SEAL, even with the emotional baggage?), great tension, wonderful suspense, a jilted ex-lover slash FBI agent, a dead husband slash FBI agent, great secondary character cast, and a really creepy villain.

The bad part was the heroine and since she was the leading female, she pretty much ruined the story. Her character was all over the place, the author couldn't seem to decide just what to do with her, she was a sexy mama so the hero could drool after her, she was a preoccupied mother so the female audience could identify with her, she was overprotective so she could draw everybody nuts, she was strong, she was weak, she jumped to conclusions, even after two years she continued grasping at straws, despite Hawk's warnings this couldn't be solved overnight she continuously built hope only to be trampled down...Sheesh. Someone strap the chick down, please! Or, easier solution, change the heroine.

The heroine singlehandedly succeeded in ruining what could've otherwise been a great read. Disappointing.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Review: His Wanted Woman by Linda Turner

Title: His Wanted Woman
Author: Linda Turner

Read copy: eBook
Published: November 1, 2009
Publisher: Silhouette
ISBN: 1426843143
ISBN-13: 9781426843143

Special agent Patrick O'Reilly was determined not to let Mackenzie Sloan's good looks sway him from his task. The woman's innocent persona didn't mean she wasn't involved in illegal activities. And after keeping track of her day—and night—for weeks, he'd almost convinced himself his interest was all part of his job.

When the case placed Mackenzie in danger, he could no longer deny his duty had turned to desire. He'd lay down his own life to protect this woman. But laying down his embattled heart might be the truest test of his resolve.

My rating:

Mackenzie Sloan, running her father’s antique shop after his death, is pleasantly surprised when her shop door opens and a customer not pushing sixty enters. The customer actually looks more to be in his thirties, with dark hair and laughing green eyes. And the stud muffin, Patrick O’Reilly, is even a history major. Yum! The pleasure of the encounter is gone when he reveals to be a Special Agent for the National Archives and accuses her father of stealing the Archive documents and her of selling them on eBay. She did sell them, but she had no idea they were stolen. And her father was not a thief!

Set on proving her and her father’s innocence, Mac quickly accomplishes that feat when her shop is broken into the next day and her father’s receipts of purchase are stolen. Now, Patrick is finally convinced of her innocence, but still adamant in continuing his investigation. And Mac is more than willing to help.

This was a light-weight, sweet, quickie of a read with a seasonal background of D.C. just before Christmas. The characters were nicely-developed, utterly likable and though carting huge emotional scars and baggage that made them just more realistic and didn’t impede them from actually seeking comfort in each other (no matter Patrick’s misgivings).

The plot was well thought out, the pacing steady and the story flowed effortlessly. The suspense, though with absolutely no mortal peril, or huge action scenes, was still gripping, piggybacking on the investigation into the stolen antiques.

The few side stories (Mac’s painful memories, Patrick’s former marriage, Mac’s friend’s pregnancy, Patrick’s matchmaking mother) released some of the "tension", giving this story a few more dimensions, and the romance was built just right, slowly escalating and morphing. The only thing that bothered me was my reaction to the one-on-one (love) scenes between Mac and Patrick. They weren’t blink-and-you-miss-it, but I found myself somehow drifting away, until it was over. I guess they just weren’t written and worded "right" and always snuck by me. I didn’t realize they’ve actually kissed until the next chapter when they couldn’t stop thinking about it. Oops.

That little hiccup aside, this was a wonderful story with two great characters (I absolutely loved Patrick), wonderful dialogs, great family and friends, and an intriguing case involving stolen items from the American history.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: Trusting a Stranger by Kerry Connor

Title: Trusting a Stranger
Author: Kerry Connor

Read copy: eBook
Published: November 1, 2009
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426843194
ISBN-13: 9781426843198

Luke Hubbard never claimed to have a soft spot for damsels in distress. But the moment he set eyes on Karina Fedorova, a mysterious beauty with assassins on her trail, turning her away was impossible. And a marriage of convenience the only way he could guarantee her safety.

Keeping one step ahead of the men who thought Karina's secrets were worth dying for, Luke found himself forgetting their nuptials were just an act. Because the way his blood stirred around this stranger couldn't be faked, and her vulnerability simply made him want to carry her to their marital bed and claim her as his own. However, keeping his libido in check was crucial to Karina's survival...and the only way to prevent Luke from repeating the tragic mistakes of his past.

My rating:

Karina Fedrova needs a husband. Widowed for only a few months, courtesy of a Russian millionaire with strong connections to the mafia, she's escaped to the US, but her savior, her godfather, is now dead as well, and she is being deported.

Her godfather's son, Viktor, thinks of a cunning plan. She would marry his friend, Luke Hubbard, for the Green Card. The only problem might be to convince Luke to go through with the plan, but thanks to his past, he agrees, though with some reservations, and Karina finds herself married again. To a stranger she has to trust with her life.

It was strange seeing a lawyer as the hero of a story that involves (though remotely) the Russian mafia. A lawyer just doesn't seem "equipped" to deal with such unscrupulous people. He's a lawyer for Pete's sake. Karina would need someone with training and some serious firepower. But she had to do with a lawyer. And he actually did a pretty good job in protecting her. He even had a gun. And he taught her to use it without shooting her own foot. Admirable.

He wasn't so admirable in other aspects. The reason for his coldness, for his hiding his feelings was explained and I have to agree the guy was totally jinxed, but no matter what, he was too much a cold jackass for me to really like him.
While Karina was his total opposite. She's been through a lot, I could say as much as him, she was in fatal danger, and it did leave her dejected and resigned, but she didn't lose her will of life like Luke did. And she told him that, made him see what a mistake he was making...And he still continued being a cold jackass.

The suspense saved this story. The buildup was wonderfully done, with the criminals lurking in the shadows and the danger getting closer and closer. The finale was gripping, heart-pounding, and a total surprise coming from the left field.

Overall, this was a solid story, with a major suspense plot (that was incredibly well done), a little less major romance (I just didn't see the chemistry), but the lack of it didn't bother me, with a well-drawn heroine and a surprising jackass hero (usually it's the hero that keeps the thing afloat, but unfortunately this one almost bombed the entire story).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Review: Blackout at Christmas by Beth Cornelison, Sharron McClellan, Jennifer Morey

Title: Blackout at Christmas
Author: Beth Cornelison, Sharron McClellan, Jennifer Morey

Read copy: eBook
Published: November 1, 2009
Publisher: Silhouette
ISBN: 1426843127
ISBN-13: 9781426843129

During a Christmas Eve blizzard in Seattle, three couples find themselves in a citywide blackout...
When their car skids off the road, the best man and bridesmaid are snowbound. While struggling to stay warm, they spend long hours getting to know each other in the most intimate ways....

Stranded with the Bridesmaid by Beth Cornelison
When their car skids off the road, the best man and bridesmaid are snowbound. While struggling to stay warm, they spend long hours getting to know each other in the most intimate ways....

Santa Under Cover by Sharron McClellan
On a trip to see Santa at the mall, the lights go out and a child goes missing. To stay alive, this couple must outsmart the Christmas bandits holding them hostage.

Kiss Me on Christmas by Jennifer Morey
Stuck at a coffee shop during the blackout, a man and a woman must share a hotel room for the night. Will this pair of opposites discover what they've been missing?

My rating:

Three couples are stranded in the blackout caused by the strongest snow storm in the last twenty years that’s enveloped Seattle.

In the first story Ellen is on the way to her sister’s wedding when the airport is locked down. She’s just about to rent a car when the power goes down. Luckily for her, the last car was rented to her sister’s future-husband’s best man. Unfortunately more than his best-man duty, Zack is concentrating on convincing his friend not to marry. On their way to Spokane, they slide off the road trying to avoid the eight "reindeer" and are forced to spend the night in a freezing car.

The second story is set in a Seattle shopping mall where Gwyn takes three kids from the shelter her sister works for to see Santa. She’s surprised when the Santa on duty is really a very hot Santa – a police officer under cover tries to prevent a robbery in a jewelry store.
When the power goes out one of the kids, scared of the monsters lurking in the dark, runs and hides, right in the jewelry store where the robbery is already under way. Gwyn runs after him and Nick has no other option but to join her as a hostage.

In the third novella coffee-shop owner Shanna, disillusioned with men who seek online to find dates, is in for a huge surprise when Kane, a regular that constantly brings his on-line acquired dates to her coffee shop for their first date, offers to take her home in his Hummer when the blizzard turns ferocious. Without a generator she packs a few of her belongings, grabs her cocker Scotch and joins Kane in his hotel room – strictly as a good-deed recipient. But the two soon learn they have more in common than their love for coffee.

This was a sweet, Cristmassy anthology featuring three cute, sweet, sometimes sexy stories, with the first of the bunch being the best, the second a little less, and the third, the worst in the bunch (but still sweet enough not to stink).

Since they were novella-lengths, some suspension of disbelief is needed, since the couples all fall head over heels for each other in a span of a few hours. But the Christmas atmosphere, likable and rather well-developed characters, a snow-blizzard induced blackout and a romantic display of northern lights make up for the length, making this anthology a pleasant and feel-good read.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review: Bodyguard Under the Mistletoe by Cassie Miles

Title: Bodyguard Under the Mistletoe
Series: Christmas at the Carlisles
Author: Cassie Miles
Read copy: eBook
Published: November 1, 2009
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426843208
ISBN-13: 9781426843204

Bodyguard Jesse Longbridge had been shot while trying to stop a kidnapping at the Carlisle Ranch. He swore he'd track the enemy to the ends of the earth. And his path led him to Fiona Grant's door.

The young widow only had one thing on her Christmas list: keeping her daughter safe from the chaos of the investigation next door. So when a body was discovered on her property, Fiona jumped at Jesse's offer to stay for the holidays. He had a stoic face, but honest, caring eyes. And no matter how she ached to feel his toned and chiseled arms around her, she needed the protection that only a man like Jesse could provide....

My rating:

Trying to prevent Nicole Carlisle from being kidnapped, Jesse Longbridge had been shot and spent the last three days in a coma. Upon awakening, he learns that Nicole’s kidnappers have been identified, but are still at large, the ransom of one mill has been paid and the money disappeared, Nicole is alive and well and left her husband after demanding a divorce, and the FBI, since there was no crime, called off the search parties.

Nicole’s sister-in-law isn’t satisfied with those answers and Jesse has to agree. Nicole is still his employer, and until he hears the words directly from her he won’t rest until he finds her. And the ransom money.
But the Carlisles aren’t the only ones looking for the money. A rift between the kidnappers forced one of them to hide the money, and the most likely place was the Widow Grant’s house.

Living alone with her daughter, Fiona Grant never thought about protecting them until the night she heard two men argue in front of her door. The next day she sees a shadow lurking around her house and seeks help. The first one to come to her rescue is Jesse, the man who had once saved her husband’s life. And when the two find a dead body on her property, both are convinced Fiona and her daughter are not safe by themselves.

Taking on the pro-bono job of her bodyguard, Jesse moves in. But will he be able to protect them so soon after almost losing his life, when the man that shot him is gunning for Fiona next? Will they find the money? And what exactly happened the night Nicole was freed, met her husband alone, and demanded a divorce?

This is the second book in what appears a trilogy about the goings on at the Carlisle ranch, and while it doesn’t reach the appeal of the first book, it is still an awesome sequel. It takes on where Colorado Abduction ended, with Jesse Longbridge waking up from his coma and wanting to continue where he left off—saving Nicole Carlisle.

The story flowed naturally, smoothly transitioning from one story to the next. Though the romance took a rather back seat to all the action, the suspense and the mystery of the investigation to uncover the truth of what happened compensated very well.

Jesse and Fiona were wonderful characters, fully formed, with some emotional baggage (on Fiona’s side because she was a widow and on Jesse’s side because she had loved another man before him), but it didn’t slow the pace down, it didn’t dilute the intensity of the narration, but only added to the appeal of their budding love story.
I love it how Ms. Miles is able to develop a story, convey all the necessary emotions and feelings, without falling into the abyss of emotional scarring almost too deep to overcome. I’ve noticed (and applauded) it in Colorado Abduction and this "style" became even more apparent in Bodyguard Under the Mistletoe.

Carolyn and J.D. were recurring characters in this book as well, giving us a few precious glimpses of how they progressed from their (a little unconventional) HEA in the previous book.

But what really caught my attention (actually held it from the first book) was the main plot – the arc coursing through the trilogy. The kidnapping had seemed to be resolved, but this book tore everything at the seams. The suspense was gripping, the mystery intriguing, and the final twist a huge surprise. I sure didn’t see that one coming to the very end. Kudos to the author for succeeding in carrying a simple kidnapping plot through two books without losing the reader’s attention. I can’t wait to read the conclusion of this wonderful trilogy.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review: Zero Control by Lori Wilde

Title: Zero Control
Author: Lori Wilde

Read copy: eBook
Published: November 1, 2009
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426842678
ISBN-13: 9781426842672

Live it up—literary style! Guests are whisked away to Great Britain for two weeks of luxury adventure, history and plenty of naughty possibilities! Whether it's an illicit tower tryst, a romantic boat ride or even some hot dungeon action, your pleasure is our concern....

But both executive assistant Roxie Stanley and undercover security agent Dougal Lockhart have their own motives for this vacation. Except that sex—mind-meltingly great sex—is the only thing either can think about. It's forbidden. It's tantalizingly irresistible. And they're losing control...over and over and over!

My rating:

Dougal Lockhart has a secret. He's in England on a mission. In the guise of a tour guide, he's determined who is sabotaging the Eros Airlines tours and resorts. The owner of the company has been receiving threatening notes, but it is still to be determined whether they're just pranks or someone really has nefarious intentions.

And he might have just found someone with an agenda. The last woman boarding the plane back on American soil. She definitely doesn't belong on the Romance of Britannia tour with its erotic undertone of love throughout the ages. She's too innocent looking, too shy, too fairy-tale like...But Dougal knows she also has a secret. Could this fragile-looking creature that sends his blood pumping each time he looks at her truly be a saboteur?

Roxanne Stanley has a secret. She's in England on a mission. She's taken this tour as a corporate spy to report everything she sees and hears to her boss who's more than interested in Eros Airlines's erotic take on vacationing. Though spying is against her moral code, Roxie must do this in order to get a promotion, because she'll be damned before her sister Stacy drops out of college because they cannot afford the tuition.
There's just a little hitch to Roxie's plan. The gorgeous hunk in Shakespeare in Love attire complete with tight leather pants and bedroom eyes.

Despite they both harbor secrets, despite Dougal's suspicions, and despite the fact he's signed an effing morality clause that prevents him from "fraternizing" with the guests, these two soon discover they cannot keep their hands off each other. And they're bound for a truly hot vacation, but what will they do when the truth finally comes out?

Whoa! Someone get me a fan, something cold to drink and a bucket full of ice, because this one was a scorcher.

Not much of a story there (the conflict was resolved quickly, the saboteur has not been found yet, but the final little twist was a surprise), but it strangely didn't bother me. I usually dislike stories with too many sex scenes in them, but this book was fun. And the author did manage to squeeze some vital information about the characters to make them believable and likable in between all the "action".

Also, this book was rather daring for a Blaze. Not erotica per se, but closer than others in its category. We had role-playing (complete with period clothing), mild bondage in a castle dungeon, a one-sided climax in a bell-tower, semi-public sex on a river bend, etc. Actually but two of their encounters were somewhere they could be easily spotted, only adding to the excitement.
Yep, as I said. A scorcher.

A great story to spend a rainy afternoon reading. It sure will keep you warm. ;)

P.S. Since the saboteur hasn't been caught in the end and the final note promises more shenanigans, I really wouldn't mind reading more. Especially since Dougal has three friends that also went undercover for Eros Airlines.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Review: Below Deck by Dorien Kelly

Title: Below Deck
Series: Mediterranean Nights
Author: Dorien Kelly
Read copy: eBook
Published: November 1, 2007
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426808518
ISBN-13: 9781426808517

Not everything is aboveboard...

When Mei Lin Wang met young radical social activist Wei Chan she knew it was fate. She didn't know that less than three years later she would be left widowed with a newborn son after a suspicious illness claimed Wei's life.

Now, still convinced of their shared destiny, Lin is determined to avenge Wei and continue his work, but she must also protect her son from those responsible for her husband's death.

For months Lin has secreted her son below deck on the cruise ship Alexandra's Dream, under cover of her job. It's turned into a game of hide-and-seek with the ship's security officer, Gideon Dayan, whose interest is piqued by the mystery that surrounds her.

But through his attraction, Gideon sees his own haunted past when he looks at Lin...and she can't let her past go. Will they finally be able to face the future...together?

My rating:

Mei Lin Wang is using the cruise ship Alexandra's Dream as a hiding place. She's escaped China after her husband's death and giving birth to their son. The little boy she's keeping in her stateroom in complete secret. Her late husband was a human rights activist and the Chinese government would do anything to get their hands on both Lin and her son.

But Mei Lin has run out of luck. In her attempts at blending into the background and being inconspicuous, she's roused the interest of the ship's Chief of Security, a Mossad agent on leave, Gideon Dayan. And what starts as a simple ship romance, soon blossoms into something more while the danger to Lin and little Wei draws inexorably closer with each day.

Yes. For the last (6) book in this twelve-book miniseries that is (apparently) set in the Med - in the end it's clear Alexandra's Dream has sailed toward the Caribbean (though how can there still be a Mediterranean Nights series in the Caribbean eludes me), this one packed quite a punch.
The pacing was excellent, the hero and heroine wonderful characters, both with acutely painful pasts (though I'm partial to Gideon myself, probably because his past was more detailedly described, but mostly because he was such a sweet softy for a seasoned Mossad agent), the chemistry and attraction between them was tangible, and the reluctance they felt before embarking on their "journey" understandable and believable. There was even a breath of suspense thrown into the mix (though I could've done without the Ariana Bennet angle - she has her own story later on).

Somewhere in the middle of the story, it all went downhill. All thanks to the heroine. While in the beginning she came across as strong, resilient, determined to do what it takes for her child to survive, in the middle of the book that woman was gone and in her place was a stubborn, blind, obtuse and selfish woman who didn't listen to reason when it slapped her in the face, and almost lost the best thing that ever happened to her - Gideon.
The guy tried everything to talk some sense into her, he told her of his past, of the woman he'd lost to the foolish ideals of martyrdom, but Lin would not be deterred. God, the woman turned out to be obnoxious.

That about face is what lowered the rating for this book. If she "remained in character", or hopefully realized her folly a little sooner, without the enormous push by Gideon, the rating would've been higher and I would've enjoyed this story much better. Still, one of the best so far.

I'm taking a breather from this series, I will pick up the next six books when I get past the crazy notion of the Mediterranean in the Caribbean Sea.