Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: Living on the Edge by Shannon K. Butcher

Title: Living on the Edge
Series: Edge
Author: Shannon K. Butcher
Read copy: eBook
Published: March 1, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN: 1101477423
ISBN-13: 9781101477427

After a devastating injury, Lucas Ramsay knows he's finished as a soldier.But when the general who saved his life asks him for a favor, he says yes. All Lucas has to do is keep the general's daughter from getting on a plane to Colombia—which is easier said than done...

Independent to the core, Sloane Gideon is a member of the Edge-a group of mercenaries for hire. But she's not on the clock for this mission. Her best friend is being held by a vicious drug lord, and Sloane must rescue her—no matter how many handsome ex-soldiers her father sends to dissuade her.

With little choice, Lucas tracks Sloane to Colombia-where she reluctantly allows him to aid her in her search. But as they grow closer to the target, they grow closer to each other. And before the battle is over, both will have to decide just what they are willing to fight for...

My rating:

I believe it’s safe to say Ms. Butcher is an expert in creating bitchy heroines that can overshadow a plot in the blink of an eye. Not that there was a very interesting plot in this one. Coupled with a bitchy heroine (headstrong and proud is good until that fine line toward annoying bitch-land is crossed), a hero that had tall, dark and brooding in the jungle down to a T (despite some pretty deep insight he didn’t have much going on, if you ask me), jumping from place to place and POV to POV, a convoluted “mystery”, and some daddy issues that could’ve been resolved years ago if the heroine wasn’t such a bitch.

This first in the series will also be the last one for me.



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: Broken by Shiloh Walker

Title: Broken
Series: Rafferty
Author: Shiloh Walker
Read copy: eBook
Published: March 2, 2010
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN: 1101185732
ISBN-13: 9781101185735

Quinn Rafferty is working as a bounty hunter for a private detective agency in St. Louis when a new neighbor catches his eye. He's drawn to her-but he has his own soul to mend before he can worry about anyone else.

Sarah McElyea is on the run, but not for the usual reasons a woman goes on the lam. She has a plan for her future. And as much as she finds herself attracted to her gruff, tough neighbor, she can't risk telling him the secrets she's hiding.

But Quinn must get closer to Sarah when she turns out to be the target of his new missing persons case, and both Quinn and Sarah will have to expose their true feelings-as well as their fragile hearts-if their love is to survive.

My rating:

Hmmm. To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. Because after “meeting” Quinn in Fragile, I was really looking forward to his story. I bet it would be great, gripping, intense, very Quinn-like. Because, well, it’s Quinn.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Sure, I got a good dose of Quinn and Quinn-ness, but there wasn’t that much dwelling on his past, the army, the Elena incident, his bond with his twin. Instead I got a helping of an annoying heroine (a SW first for me). She was hiding something and wondering about it, coupled with those little flashbacks from her past was intriguing, providing a great little mystery. Sara was strong, resilient, smart etc.

Until Quinn discovered everything, and she did a complete about face and turned into a surly, whiny little bitch. She felt betrayed, she was angry, she was hurt that he didn’t trust her, didn’t believe her, jumped at his own conclusions. But she never stopped for a second to realize he didn’t have a choice in the matter. She didn’t give him a choice. She lied, she tried to run from him, she didn’t trust him. He wanted her to trust him. He wanted her to tell him the truth. He wanted to help her. And she wouldn’t let him, because he wounded her tender sensibilities by not believing her.

Sheesh, I really hate heroines like those. They can effectively ruin a book for me. And Sara succeeded in doing that in the second half of this book.

While the story was well-written, nicely-paced, and the plot strong, I just couldn’t get past that “little” hurdle with Sara. And the ending, though good, didn’t redeem her.



Monday, March 28, 2011

Review: Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

Title: Practice Makes Perfect
Author: Julie James

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: March 3, 2009
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425226743
ISBN-13: 9780425226742

When it comes to the laws of attraction, there are no rules The battle between the sexes is about to make these two lawyers hot under the collar. Opposites collide when two lawyers try to make partner at the same firm. Payton Kendall is a feminist to the bone. Cocky J.D. Jameson was born privileged. But when they're asked to join forces on a major case, they gain a newfound awareness of each other's personal assets. The partnership spot will be offered to only one of them, though. The competition heats up. Sparks fly. Let the games begin.

My rating:

Whew. I finally got around to reading this. And now that I’m done, I’m really, really sorry for not reading it sooner. Damn! Maybe it wasn’t as “funny” (I mean the LOL moments) as Just the Sexiest Man Alive, but it was still one of the best contemporary romances / romantic comedies I’ve read in last few years.

I loved Payton and J.D., and their mutual antics. Very kindergarten, if-he-pulls-your-braids-it-means-he-really-really-likes-you, extremely childish at times, somewhat over the top at moments (the coffee on suit and the heel incident), but still, you could feel the underlying (sexual) tension between these two. And the banter, the banter, when they managed to burry the proverbial axe for a few moments, was absolutely fantastic.

“Why don’t you look around this firm sometime—everyone here is just like you, J.D. White with a penis.”


Not being in the law field, I sometimes puzzled over the partner-race the two were in, I admit to not understanding the importance of it all, but it provided both the comedic angle and some pretty good insight into the psyches of our hero and heroine.
He was a rich-boy, asshole with slightly chauvinistic tendencies, she was a prissy, feminist vegetarian, and for some reason they worked. Worked splendidly in war-more, worked splendidly in truce-mode, worked splendidly (together) in work-mode, and worked splendidly in “amorous”-mode. I just loved these two to bits.
Along with the rest of the supporting cast, from her quirky mother, to his filthy-rich parents, their two best friends, her secretary, and the major client. This motley crew of characters clicked perfectly, bringing all the necessary nuances to the story. Wonderfully done.

Speaking of the motley crew cast of characters. J.D.’s best friend and an anonymous cab driver provided my absolute favorite scene in the book with the Pride and Prejudice reference and apropos tea discussion.

show/hide spoiler
“Does our fair Ms. Kendall truly loathe the arrogant Mr. Jameson as she so ardently proclaims, or is it all just a charade to cover more amorous feelings for a man she reluctantly admires?”
Up front, the cabdriver snorted loudly. He appeared to be enjoying the show.

“Psych 101 again?” J.D. asked.

Tyler shook his head. “Lit 305: Eighteenth-Century Women’s Fiction.” He caught J.D.’s look and quickly defended himself. “What? I took it because of the girls in the class. Anyway, I see a bit of a P and P dynamic going on between you and Payton.”

J.D. didn’t think he wanted to know. Really. But he asked anyway. “P and P?

Tyler shot him a look, appalled. “Uh, hello—Pride and Prejudice?” His tone said only a cretin wouldn’t know this.

“Oh right, P and P,” J.D. said. “You know, Tyler, you might want to pick up your balls—I think they just fell right off when you said that.”

Up front, the cabdriver let out a good snicker.

Tyler shook his head. “Laugh if you want, but let me tell you something: women go crazy for that book. And even crazier for men who have read it. If I plan to bring a girl back to my place, I might just so happen to leave a copy of it sitting out on my coffee table and, let’s just say, hijinks frequently ensue. And you know what? It’s not a bad bit of storytelling. I like to put on a nice pot of Earl Grey tea, maybe a slice of almond biscotti, and—yeah, that’s fine, keep right on laughing, buddy, but I bet I’ve gotten laid more recently than you.”

“Hey—not that I’m not thoroughly amused at the thought of your little tea cozy and you wrapped up in a blanket reading your book—”

“I didn’t say there was a blanket.” Tyler paused. “Fine. Sometimes there may be a blanket.”

“—but my question is, were you going anywhere with this, or is it just some sort of weird sharing moment?”

Tyler had to think. “Where was I going with this . . . ?” He snapped his fingers. “Oh, yeah—Pride and Prejudice. Women and the whole Darcy complex. For Payton, that’s you.”

“I thought Darcy was the asshole.”

Tyler smiled fondly. “You know, he really kind of is.”

“Great pep talk, Tyler. Thanks.”

“But he doesn’t stay the asshole,” Tyler said. “See, you just don’t understand women the way I do, J.D. They want it all: a career, apple martinis, financial independence, great shoes; but at the same time—and this they’ll never admit— they are drawn to patriarchal men who are dominant and controlling. That’s the essence of the Darcy complex. He may be an asshole, but he’s an asshole that gets the girl in the end.”

J.D. rolled his eyes. This entire conversation was just so ridiculous.
But still.

“And how does he accomplish that?” he asked.

“Oh, it gets a little complicated,” Tyler said. “See, Lizzie has this troublesome younger sister who runs off with the guy she originally thought she liked—wait, back up—to really understand, I should start with the visit to Pemberley, because it actually starts with the aunt and uncle, see—her uncle loves to fish and Darcy asks—”

J.D. held up his hand, very, very sorry he asked. “The short version please. We’re already at your stop.”

Tyler looked out the window and saw that the cab had indeed pulled up in front of his building. He turned back to J.D. “Okay. The short version, the very short version: he gets the girl by being nice to her.”

J.D. waited. “That’s it? He’s nice to her? That’s so . . .lame.”

“Look, if you want to win Payton over—”

J.D. stopped him right there. “Hey, we’re only speaking in hypotheticals, okay? I haven’t decided that I want to win anyone over.”

“Oh. Then my advice is that you should start there. Figure out what you want.” With that, Tyler got out of the cab and darted through the rain into his building.

Great. Thanks for the help. J.D. gave the cabdriver his address. He stared out the window as the taxi made its way the six blocks to his building. When they arrived, J.D. reached through the divider and handed the cabdriver a twenty and told him to keep the change.

The driver turned around. “Hey—your friend back there was giving you some pretty strange advice.” Around fortyish and wearing a ragged flannel shirt and a Sox cap that had seen far better days, the guy had one of the thickest Chicago accents J.D. had ever heard. “He seemed a little off the wall, if you know what I mean. I don’t think I’d listen to him if I were you.”

J.D. grinned. “I’ll take that under advisement.” He opened the door to the cab and stepped out.

“Because everybody knows that Darcy doesn’t win Lizzie over just by being nice.”

J.D. stopped. He looked back over his shoulder.

The driver rested his arm on the divider. His rolled-up sleeve revealed a tattoo of a black scorpion that covered his entire forearm. “See, it’s all about the Grand Gesture. That’s how you get the girl.”

“Thank you,” J.D. managed to say.

The driver shrugged. “No prob-lem. Frankly, it sounded like you could use all the help you can get.”

He put the cab into gear.

“And listen—tell your friend to try English Breakfast next time. It’s a little more robust. Earl Grey is really more of a Sense and Sensibility kind of tea.”


Hillarious.

It’s the scenes like those, the amazing characterization, the general comedic feel, and all-in-all good plots that I love about Julie James' books.

Now I really have to read the next two.



Review: Fragile by Shiloh Walker

Title: Fragile
Series: Rafferty
Author: Shiloh Walker
Read copy: eBook
Published: February 3, 2009
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN: 1440687056
ISBN-13: 9781440687051

Six years after trading in his combat gear for hospital scrubs, Luke Rafferty is faced with things just as heartbreaking as those on the battlefield. The abused children being brought in by the pretty redheaded social worker tug at his soul like nothing he's ever known.

For Devon Manning, being a social worker is a rewarding job, but also a constant reminder of her own troubled youth. Devon takes everything one day at a time-unable to form a relationship with anyone except the children she rescues.

When Luke meets Devon, he thinks he might have found what he's been looking for, but in order to get the life he wants, Luke has to break through Devon's emotional barriers and make her realize that his healing touch might be just the complication her life needs…

My rating:

In my years of reading I haven’t stumbled upon an author that could really beat Shiloh Walker in portraying tortured, abused, scarred, screwed-up characters. She’s a master at that. And even greater a master in making the reader empathize with those characters without their “whining” getting annoying. I know, the sympathy comes natural, but sometimes, sometimes you get the feeling these people are so used to their private pity-party that they don’t want to change. But please, don’t hold this statement against me.

Well, in SW world, I never think that. She portrays rounded, well-developed characters with amazing back-stories that let you glimpse into their life, understand what happened to them, sympathize with them, and admire them for their strength and courage to rise above it all and become better people.

And Fragile was no different. Devon was no different. Luke, though not really an abused character, was no different.

The story was well-paced, gripping, sweet and tender, suspenseful, pretty scary at times, and very well-written. That said, I cannot help but feel it all went on for a tad too long. One scare averted, that should’ve been the end of it, and the “psychotic” finale didn’t provide the cherry on the cake. It just felt too much, much over-done (with all the psychedelic “warfare”), and somehow out of tune with the whole story. Not to mention I really didn’t get the “revenge motive”. Sure, the guy was nuts, but still...

Maybe cutting out the scare in the middle (with yet another out-of-the-left-field motive), the finale would’ve worked best. As it was, I wasn’t really convinced and it sure started to read like a soap-opera screenplay.

But, apart from the messy second half, this book was pretty much better than what someone else writing about tortured, abused, scarred, screwed-up characters would’ve come up with.



Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: To the Limit by Cindy Gerard

Title: To the Limit
Series: Bodyguard
Author: Cindy Gerard
Read copy: eBook
Published: April 1, 2007
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 1429904585
ISBN-13: 9781429904582

HER RULES: NEVER DOUBT YOUR INSTINCTS...

Please come...and hurry. The frantic message was for securities specialist Eve Garrett, left by her friend, Tiffany, the missing teenage daughter of Florida's most reclusive multi-billionaire, Jeremy Clayborne. However, the only thing Eve found on the stormy midnight rendezvous was a nameless, faceless attacker who left her for dead. But the biggest knockout was yet to come...

NEVER TRUST THE BAD BOYS...

Mac McCain, the arrogantly sexy beach bum who seduced and abandoned Eve years ago is back. Now he's a P.I. hired by Clayborne's own camp to find Tiffany, a party girl on a party run. With two attempts on Eve's life, Mac has reason to suspect it's something more sinister.

AND NEVER SAY NEVER.

Where the search is taking Eve and Mac is into the dark secrets of the rich and famous, into the menacing shadow of a killer playing by his own rules, and into the heart of a sizzling desire re-ignited by the danger that threatens to claim them both.

My rating:

After a so-so start, I really hoped this series would pick up pace, especially since the blurb promised a kick-ass heroine. Well, Eve was kick-ass, but she was also annoying as hell.

I hate it when authors cannot create some exciting tension between the leads without resorting to the almost-nonexistent-for-so-much-use and cheep ploy as the "big misunderstanding". And I hate it even more when they let that misunderstanding fester and fester and go on ad infinitum, gobbling up the rest of the story.

Because the "big misunderstanding" used in this instance was so overdone it was pitiful. Do you really expect me to believe a strong, resilient, self-made, ex-Secret Service woman would hold a grudge for fourteen years against the man who took her virginity and then never called her again? It's been (only) ten years for me and if I met the guy on the street I wouldn't even recognize him. But that's real life for you. In real life I don't even remember his name, he was Dutch, I think. And even that's pretty much TMI for those reading this review.

As I said, that's what happens in real life. In Romancelandia I'd have a voodoo doll stashed in my apartment full of needles, wishing the pox on the poor soul.

I loved the hero, though. He was quirky, funny, truly a triple-A, and probably something along the lines of faccia da schiaffi as the Italians would put it. But I loved him to bits. Pity he got the annoying end of the stick in the heroine department.

Again, kudos for the mystery, though the reader is again left without the pertinent clues and the big reveal comes with a huge "huh" factor. And the Tiffany scenes were redundant if you ask me, put in to stretch the (almost) nonexistent plot for a couple more pages.

A disappointing excuse for a book, if you ask me.



Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: To the Edge by Cindy Gerard

Title: To the Edge
Series: Bodyguard
Author: Cindy Gerard
Read copy: eBook
Published: April 1, 2007
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 1429904577
ISBN-13: 9781429904575

The daughter of a wealthy businessman, Jillian Kincaid grew up with bodyguards shadowing her every move - and she hated it. Now a successful journalist and TV anchorwoman, she refuses to let another hired thug follow her around. Not even when she begins to receive terrifying death threats. Not even when the bodyguard is the darkly handsome Nolan Garrett...

Trained in Special Ops, Nolan Garrett has been hired by Jillian's father to keep her out of danger. But it's clear from the start that Jillian isn't going to make his job easy. Far from the spoiled princess he expected, Jillian is tough, independent, sexy and fighting him every step of the way.

My rating:

After four sweet, "uncomplicated" contemporaries without a single dead body I needed something to get me back on track with my second-favorite genre. Judging from the reviews, I thought I found the perfect author and series to do the job. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be.

This book suffers severely from three major book illnesses - firstbookinaseriesitis, annoyingheroineitis and annoyinheroitis.
While the first one could be ignored, because I was intrigued by the "world-building" and the staff and (future) going-ons at E.D.E.N Inc., the other two were a bit too much to overcome.
At first it was the heroine that went on my nerves with her childish tantrum-throwing behavior when she didn't get what she wanted, her denial, her general attitude. Then, just as she finally became a worthy heroine, it's the hero that does the annoy-fest. I love me a brooding guy as much as the next girl, but Nolan went overboard with his poor-peasant-me 'tude. Sure, he had some issues, sure, he was entitled to a good guilt-trip, but enough's enough.

The only redeeming quality—and I'm not talking about the ending—was the mystery. I thought I had it all figured out, rolled my eyes at Nolan for barking up the wrong tree, and then realized, though I wasn't barking up the same one as him, I too was wrong.
The downside of that? No one could've been right, because we were given no clues as to the real villain's identity. It came straight out of the left field.

Though my expectations weren't that high, I can safely say this was a bit of a letdown.



Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Title: Happy Ever After
Series: Bride Quartet
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: Paperback
Published: November 2, 2010
Publisher: Berkley Trade
ISBN: 0425236757
ISBN-13: 9780425236758

Parker Brown turned the quartet's childhood game of Wedding Day into their dream jobs. And now she's the face of Vows—the one who meets every bride's demands; keeps every event on schedule; and brings Emma's romantic flowers, Laurel's delicious treats, and Mac's stunning photgraphy together in one glorious package. She knows how to make dreams come true...

Mechanic Malcom Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker Brown—with her mile-long legs—is no exception. But as a good friend to Parker's brother, Mal knows that moving from minor flirtation to major hookup is a serious step.

Now man has rattled Parker in a long time, but the motorcycle-riding, raven-haired Mal seems to have a knack for it. His passionate kissess always catch her oof guard, much like her growing feelings for him. Parker's business risks have always paid off, but now she'll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart.

My rating:

And another great Bride Quartet book to close the series. Despite it didn't quite meet my high expectations (the sparkage between Mal and Parker in the previous books somehow mellowed down), I still loved it from beginning to end.

I think this was the book with the most perfect blend of romance and friendship of the series. While there was a bigger emphasis on friendship in Vision in White and Bed of Roses and with Savor the Moment more romance-oriented, this one struck just the right "bargain" between the two. Parker wasn't as mushy as Mac and Emma, and not as tough as Laurel, so the balance was rather perfect.

What bothered me the most was Mal. Where did the rather sensible guy from the end of Savor the Moment go? Sure, I loved his take-charge attitude, his scorching passion for Parker, his bad-boy-biker persona, but I expected more "opennes" from the aforementioned rather-sensible-guy. Instead, in typical male fashion, he kept it all inside, refusing to discuss anything remotely close to home, and in doing so pushed all the wrong buttons with Parker and then sulked when she told him to take a hike. Men!

Also, the big "climax" had much to be desired. Sure, it was completely in character with both Mal and Parker, but I truly expected more oomph.

Oh, well. I told you my expectations were pretty high with this book. Sill, I'm not disappointed. I hoped to say that this was my favorite book of the series, that Mal was my favorite hero of the series, but Del definitely stole the show.

Still, this was an amazing book with great mixture of romance and friendship, I loved the familial feel of the entire series, but this was truly topped it off with everyone nicely paired up.

And the ending...the girls have really come full circle. Beautiful, funny, sexy, romantic, friendly...A wonderful ending to a wonderful series.



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

Title: Savor the Moment
Series: Bride Quartet
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: Paperback
Published: April 27, 2010
Publisher: Berkley Trade
ISBN: 0425233685
ISBN-13: 9780425233689

Wedding baker Laurel McBane is surrounded by romance working at Vows wedding planning company with her best friends Parker, Emma, and Mac. But she's too low-key to appreciate all the luxuries that their clients seem to long for. What she does appreciate is a strong, intelligent man, a man just like Parker's older brother Delaney, on whom she's had a mega-crush since childhood.

But some infatuations last longer than others, and Laurel is convinced that the Ivy League lawyer is still out of her reach. Plus, Del is too protective of Laurel to ever cross the line with her-or so she thinks. When Laurel's quicksilver moods get the better of her-leading to an angry, hot, all-together mind-blowing kiss with Del-she'll have to quiet the doubts in her mind to turn a moment of passion into forever...

My rating:

And yet another Nora Roberts winner in this amazing series. And this time, though it still revolved around the friendship between Mac, Emma, Laurel and Parker, the story was mostly about the romance between life-long friends. Yes, you’d think it was pretty much the same as in Bed of Roses, between Emma and Jack, but the thing is, Laurel and Del, Parker’s older brother have known (and been friends) each other for her entire life. So the switch held much more danger and possible obstacles. For them both, but mostly inside their little “tribe”.

So the same fears and worries as with Emma and Jack were there, but much more augmented, because of that long(er) friendship.

But it was beautifully done, if you ask me, much better than in Bed of Roses, especially since the hero (Del) had no obvious and well-known commitment issues Jack had. He was much more laid back and relaxed when it came to his “thing” with Laurel and he had no compunction in stating his love for her, since everybody knew he loved her. Pity, that, since the words held no “special meaning” being said so many times before, no wonder she was skeptical and a little skittish.

And that is the biggest problem I had with Laurel. It didn’t overly bother me, since I understood her reservations, but still, sometimes she came off as a bit too impulsive in her judgment. And too stubborn to listen...or talk about what bothered her. But, her love for Del was there, and I forgave her. ;)

Now, onto the less-friendship-more-romance thingy. Well, it’s true. Sure, the girls were still tight as ever, they talked, they laughed, they cried, they ribbed each other, but there was that much appreciated lack of “friendly intervention” at the end, that was present in both previous novels, and an especial “burden” in Bed of Roses. First, it was because Laurel was more reserved by nature, preferring to solve her problems on her own and second, there was no big rift between her and Del to demand an intervention in the first place. Sure, she made a mess with her stubbornness and refusal to listen, but it was quickly resolved.

And who resolved it? Del, of course. Who’s become my favorite hero in this series a few pages into this story. Who wouldn’t want a guy like Del? Who wouldn’t love a guy like Del? He was (over)protective, self-assured, caring, loving, tender, funny, sexy (my mouth watered reading the pond scene), and romantic (the awwwwww-factor in the ending was all him).

I love my girls (the Quartet) and I love Carter and Jack, but Del is by far my favorite.

I’m sure he’ll fall into second place today, as I start reading Happy Ever After, because there’s just something about Malcolm Kavanaugh that “inspires” me. I cannot wait to read about him and Parker. If the sparkage these two produced in Savor the Moment is any indication, the fireworks will go through the roof when it’s their turn. Can’t wait! *happy squeal*

Well, this series is shaping to be my favorite (short) series I’ve read in my life. Romantic, funny, sexy, sensual, light-weight, emotion-engaging...A truly awesome read.



Monday, March 21, 2011

Review: Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts

Title: Bed of Roses
Series: Bride Quartet
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: Paperback
Published: October 27, 2009
Publisher: Berkley Trade
ISBN: 0425230074
ISBN-13: 9780425230077

As little girls MacKensie, Emma, Laurel, and Parker spent hours acting out their perfect make believe "I do" moments. Years later their fantasies become reality when they start their own wedding planning company to make every woman's dream day come true. With perfect flowers, delicious desserts, and joyful moments captured on film, Nora Roberts's Bride Quartet shares each woman's emotionally magical journey to romance.

In Bed of Roses, florist Emma Grant is finding career success with her friends at Vows wedding planning company, and her love life appears to be thriving. Though men swarm around her, she still hasn't found Mr. Right. And the last place she's looking is right under her nose.

But that's just where Jack Cooke is. He's so close to the women of Vows that he's practically family, but the architect has begun to admit to himself that his feelings for Emma have developed into much more than friendship. When Emma returns his passion-kiss for blistering kiss-they must trust in their history...and in their hearts.

My rating:

As I said in my review for Vision in White, Nora Roberts never fails to entertain me. What, does she have a special gene or something? Is she a writing mutant? What’s with her novels that always deliver where I’m concerned?

Because with Bed of Roses she once again succeeded. This series is more than a contemporary romance, there’s a little of chick-lit in it as well, but especially it’s an ode to female friendship. One of those strong, resilient friendships that last a lifetime. Mac, Emma, Laurel and Parker are such friends and it’s always a pleasure and a hoot to read about them and their bond.

An added plus, we didn’t get to read only about female friendship, but male friendship as well, and discovered how different they are. As NR mentioned in one conversation between Jack and Emma, girls like to eat chocolate when upset, while men punch each other in the face. “It’s the nature of the beasts.” I loved the interaction between Del and Jack, and now that Carter’s firmly in the picture, I was glad to see him come out of his shell and open up a little more around these two (and the girls).

That said, this was also a romance. And what a romance. It’s always difficult to start considering one of your friends for a potential lover, and we all know the whys of that. Would you be able to get back to where you were if (when) the relationship implodes? How will others around you react, especially if you both come from a tight circle of close friends? Could it even work? Should you give it a try? Are you brave enough to give it a try and fight for what you want?
These are all questions rolling around Emma and Jack’s minds at the beginning of this book. Sure, once the passion is upon you, you throw caution to the wind, and hope you get lucky. And that’s what these two did. And it worked. Sort of. Despite Emma’s über-romantic nature (which started to grate after a while, I’ll admit) and Jack’s reservations (which were rather plausible and believable, making me root for him throughout the story).

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And I rooted for him in the end as well, when Ms. Roberts made her female lead pull a stunt that utterly annoyed me. She knew what Jack was like, they’ve been going out for months, a little longer and he’d mellow, I’m sure. Yet she—deliberately, might I add—crossed the boundaries of their relationship, despite knowing (and seeing the mood he was in), so she could throw a completely childish tantrum, storm off, and vow never to see him again, without giving him a chance to talk to her, reason with her.
And what did her friends do? They sided with her. What?! For all the maturity they exhibited in their business, there wasn’t one of them ballsy enough to sit Emma down, look her in the eye, and tell her she overreacted? Because she did, and she knew it the morning after, once she thought it through. But did the “girlfriends” try to reason with her? Nope. They let her mope, they let her rage, they barred Jack’s entrance to their property “until Emma was ready”. Sheesh. Talk about drama queens.

And what does the guy do? He has a chat with his best friend, that doesn’t punch him in the face, but gives him pretty sound advice, he has a chat with his “undercover agent” a.k.a. Carter, then makes up his mind about the depth of his feelings (which he knew pretty much from the get-go, but didn’t dare put a name to them), and goes on a crawl-and-grovel campaign. Which I didn’t like, because of what I listed in the previous paragraph, but that’s just me.


Sexy, sweet, romantic, with a few LOL moments, a lot of female bonding, and some more insight into the wedding-planning business, this was yet another keeper in this four-book series.
I loved the few sneak peeks into the relationships of the next two books, but while I’m really looking forward to Laurel and Del’s story, it’s Mal and Parker’s book that’s keeping me on the edge of my seat. Really apropos to make it the last one.



Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: Vision in White by Nora Roberts

Title: Vision in White
Series: Bride Quartet
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: Paperback
Published: April 28, 2009
Publisher: Berkley Trade
ISBN: 0425227510
ISBN-13: 9780425227510

After years of throwing make-believe weddings in the backyard, flowers, photography, desserts, and details are what these women do best: a guaranteed perfect, beautiful day full of memories to last the rest of your life.

With bridal magazine covers to her credit, Mackensie “Mac” Elliot is most at home behind the camera — ready to capture the happy moments she never experienced while growing up. Her father replaced his first family with a second, and now her mother, moving on to yet another man, begs Mac for attention and money. Mac's foundation is jostled again moments before an important wedding planning meeting when she bumps into the bride-to-be's brother…an encounter that has them both seeing stars.

Carter Maguire is definitely not her type: he's stable, and he's safe. He's even an English teacher at their high school alma mater. There's something about him that makes Mac think a casual fling is just what she needs to take her mind off dealing with bride-zillas and screening her mother's phone calls. But a casual fling can turn into something more when you least expect it. And with the help of her three best friends — and business partners — Mac must learn how to make her own happy memories…

My rating:

I can always count on Nora Roberts to keep me entertained. Be it with a romantic suspense contribution (the recently read Night Tales series) or a straight contemporary (the book I'm reviewing at the moment).

Because Vision in White delivered on the promise in the blurb and then some. I absolutely loved it, its "friendship" angle and its "romance" angle. And the characters, oh, the characters were simply amazing. I couldn't help but love the four girls, I can't wait for Jake and Del to have bigger roles, I'm impatiently waiting for the mechanic to step into the picture, loved the brides, hated the heroine's mother (who didn't?), and I fell for Dr. Maguire (the hero, FYI) the instant he smacked into a wall. I fell for his battleship-sized feet, his klutziness, his cute little quirks, his shyness, and a complete about-face from his everyday persona he showed in the bedroom (*lusty grin*). I know I shouldn't say this about a guy, but he was just so utterly adorable. There's no other word I could use for Carter. Adorable, that's him.

This book didn't make run the whole gamut of emotions, but some (and appropriate facial expressions) were there. I cried a little at the sweet and tender descriptions of Mac's photos and weddings, I gritted my teeth and rolled my eyes each time Linda (and then Corrinda) stepped into the picture, I kept my fingers crossed whenever Carter and Mac were together, I wanted to yell at Mac for being so spineless (at the beginning) and so stubborn (throughout the rest of the book) to try and sabotage the vest thing that could've happened to her, I LOLed at the little zingers she shot around, at the banter between girlfriends, at the wedding biz acronyms, and at the one-liners.

This wasn't a suspense romance, a police procedural or a murder mystery. Nope, this was a straightforward, lightweight (despite some minor issues due to the "patsy gene" the H/h exhibited), cute, sweet, sexy, sensual (I love how NR writes her sex scenes!), romantic, friendly, funny little contemporary romantic comedy.

Definitely a keeper and highly recommended!



Friday, March 18, 2011

Review: Tell It To The Marines (anthology) by Amy J. Fetzer

Title: Tell It To The Marines
Author: Amy J. Fetzer

Read copy: Paperback
Published: December 1, 2004
Publisher: Kensington
ISBN: 0758208081
ISBN-13: 9780758208088

The few. The proud. The very, very hot. What woman doesn’t love a man in—or out of—uniform? Join one of romance’s hottest new stars, Amy J. Fetzer, as she serves up some of the hunkiest heroes ever to leave boot camp in three stories so deliciously sexy, you’ll want to enlist now…

Tell It To The Marines contains 3 short stories by Amy Fetzer:

1. Hot Conflict

Rule number one for “How to Throw a Wedding”: Don’t get kidnapped. Rule number two? Don’t let your rescuer be DJ McAllister, as in tall, dark, and secretive with a bod to die for. As in the man who pushed wedding planner Mary Grace Heyward away once and left her heartbroken for, um, well forever. But now that they’re running for their lives (so that’s what it takes to get a man to commit!), the looks DJ’s giving her tell another story, one that’s making her very, very warm. And Mary Grace’s mission is clear: Indulge the hot Marine’s every fantasy and secure a victory of the everlasting kind…

2. Hot Landing Zone

The mission went bad, really bad. And Jake Mackenzie blames Dr. Katherine Collier, the egghead scientist his team was rescuing from terrorists. If she’d just obeyed his orders they wouldn’t be stranded—alone—on a remote island with no way off. But hell, Jake’s a Marine. He’ll improvise, adapt, and overcome…as long as the drop-dead gorgeous Katherine stops accidentally setting off his booby traps, prancing around in what’s left of her clothing, and driving him wild with desire. Protecting her is his sworn duty, and the lady seems to have some specific requests in that area…

3. Hot Target

Rick Cahill’s got his orders: Drop into the Amazon and pick up American Peace Corp volunteer Sam Previn. Who knew Sam was actually Samantha, a beautiful redhead with a temper to match? And who knew the Colombian drug cartels would be after them? On the run in the jungle, searching secluded spots for shelter, Rick has to remind himself that Sam is off-limits, no matter how it unhinges him every time her skin brushes his. But when the savvy Sam starts speaking in military abbreviations and can load a sidearm without looking, it’s clear she’s something special—and just Rick’s type…

My rating:

In Hot Conflict childhood friends, running for their lives in Panama, finally decide (after 18 years!) to screw their friendship—literally.

It was good, but not that good. Somehow the story “leaked” around the edges. No (plausible) explanation was given as to why they never tried to sort their feelings before. He was a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, she was a pampered little princess (that never stopped people before!), he pushed her into the arms of the wrong man (idiot!), she married said wrong man (idiot!...and that also never stopped anyone before!), the wrong man died three years ago, but they still stayed apart...Why does it always take a rescue mission in the middle of the jungle for people to actually have a meaningful conversation?!


In Hot Landing Zone a female scientist, instead of following her rescuer's orders, jeopardizes the whole mission to rescue a bunch of papers.

Another story I didn't "feel". They were both annoying, she with her "smartness", he with his "brooding". I just wanted for them to get laid, get rescued and be done with it. Well, it happened in that order. The last chapter also didn't do it for me. Sure, the lust was there (they were stranded!), but I didn't feel the love.


In Hot Target 5 Marines are sent into the Amazon jungle to extract a Peace Corps volunteer. An attack on the getaway chopper leaves one of those Marines stranded in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by dope cookers, trying to keep the volunteer alive, though she doesn't seem to need that much help.

Finally I felt the love. This was by far the strongest story in this anthology. Both Sam (despite her initial stubbornness) and Rick were likable characters, nice and "normal", and though the attraction blazed hot almost from the get-go, there was also something else there. And it came through in the story. The whole buildup, the escape, the pursuit, the almost death experience, it all worked in painting a picture of a love-blossoming-in-the-middle-of-the-jungle. I even understood Sam's reservations in telling Rick who she really was.
And the last chapter? LOVED it.

2x 3 stars
1x 4 stars