Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts

Title: Midnight Bayou
Author: Nora Roberts

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: November 26, 2002
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515133973
ISBN-13: 9780515133974

Declan Fitzgerald had always been the family maverick, but even he couldn't understand his impulse to buy a dilapidated mansion on the outskirts of New Orleans. All he knew was that ever since he first saw Manet Hall, he'd been enchanted—and obsessed-with it. So when the opportunity to buy the house comes up, Declan jumps at the chance to live out a dream.

Determined to restore Manet Hall to its former splendor, Declan begins the daunting renovation room by room, relying on his own labor and skills. But the days spent in total isolation in the empty house take a toll. He is seeing visions of days from a century past, and experiencing sensations of terror and nearly unbearable grief-sensations not his own, but those of a stranger. Local legend has it that the house is haunted, and with every passing day Declan's belief in the ghostly presence grows.

Only the companionship of alluring Angelina Simone can distract him from the mysterious happenings in the house, but Angelina too has her own surprising connection to Manet Hall—a connection that will help Declan uncover a secret that's been buried for a hundred years.

My rating:

On a whim, Declan Fitzgerald had bought a rundown plantation house on the outskirts of New Orleans. Something drew him to it, and now that he has it, he's determined to restore it to its former glory.

But soon the house and the possibility of it being haunted, isn't the only thing occupying Dec's mind. A woman has taken root in there, a woman as indelibly connected to the old house as Declan himself.

A nice, entertaining, gripping, bitter-sweet read of lost love, hatred, murder, betrayal, reincarnation, and forgiveness.

I loved Declan, I love all Nora Roberts's heroes, really, there's just something about them, but I didn't really connect to Lena; she remained a mystery to me until the very end, I simply didn't get her and her motivations. There was humor, there was drama, there was fear and the slight after taste of danger, there were friends and family, a couple of ghosts, and a love in need of forgiveness spanning a century.
Yes, the added paranormal element was an added bonus that kept things lively and interesting as the romance fizzled out on me.

Also, I saw the TV-movie version of this book and kept waiting for the big final showdown between good and evil in that nighmarish attic...And when it didn't come, and I got the mellow, meh-ish ending instead, I was rather disappointed.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review: The Reef by Nora Roberts

Title: The Reef
Author: Nora Roberts

Read copy: Paperback
Published: September 1, 2009
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425231844
ISBN-13: 9780425231845

Marine archaeologist Tate Beaumont has a passion for treasure-hunting. Over the years, she and her father have uncovered many fabulous riches, but one treasure has always eluded them: Angelique's Curse—a jeweled amulet heavy with history, dark with legend, and tainted with blood. In order to find this precious artifact, the Beaumonts reluctantly form a partnership with salvagers Buck and Matthew Lassiter.

Having to share this dream is more than Tate can bear, but she has little choice. As the Beaumonts and Lassiters pool their resources to locate Angelique's Curse, the Caribbean waters thicken and darken with shadowy deceptions and hidden threats. Their partnership is placed in jeopardy when Matthew refuses to share information—including the truth behind his father's mysterious death several years earlier. For now, Tate and Matthew continue their uneasy alliance—until danger and desire begin to rise to the surface...

My rating:

Eight years ago, when she was twenty and full of optimism and naivete, Tate Beaumont gave her heart to Matthew Lassiter, the man she met searching for wrecks in the Caribbean, only for him to throw that heart back to her, broken.

Now, a respectable marine archeologist, Tate hates to see her parents being charmed by Matthew and his uncle once more, in their pursuit of the elusive gem Matthew's father gave his life for, Angelique's Curse. Despite what Matthew's uncle might think, there is no curse, but what people bring onto themselves by being foolish.

But there is someone, beside Matthew's uncle, who believe the legend and myth of the mysterious necklace. Someone who's determined to do anything to possess it, someone who's already killed once...

First: the blurb is beyond deceiving. Second: Nora Roberts is at her best when she's mixing and matching her genres. She's incomparable when it comes to just the perfect amount of romance, drama, and suspense...And characterization. I love her heroines with all their issues, their stubbornness, their independence, and their hidden vulnerabilities that only the right man can put to rest and cherish at the same time. And yes, Nora Roberts can write just the right man for the job, with his easy-going façade that hides strangely-layered depths and a core of steel. Some call her heroes Betas, I call them Alphas in disguise. Yes, her stories are always centered around the heroine, true, but every heroine needs a hero to walk beside her, or stand in front of her when needed.

And this novel is no different. Both Tate and Matthew were complicated, deeply-layered, deeply-scarred creatures that somehow perfectly complimented each other in every way. They shared a past—as I started reading and discovered Tate is only twenty, I feared I'd be disappointed with both the hero and heroine barely in their adulthood, but I should not have fretted or doubted—a past the reader is privy to, beside all the (good or bad, depends on the point of view) decisions they'd made. And it was that past that shaped them, turned them into who they were in the present, and who they'd become in the future.
Yes, they each had their share of issues, problems, and demons, and yes, they needed to confront all those issues and talk them through (it took a while)...But it was all those layers, and issues, and problems, and their shared past that made them real, realistic, not only figments of a writer's imagination, and not merely fictional characters.
I loved them together, and I loved them apart. They both had agency outside of their romance, they were separate entities, driving the plot and story forward, either individually or as a couple.
And the rest of the supporting cast, few as they were, were an entity themselves, adding layers and depth to an already full-bodied, engaging story.

The suspense was spot-on, the villain nicely evil and just the right amount of crazy, the added pinch of paranormal hitting just the right spot, the writing amazing, with the images of underwater life and hidden treasures vivid and enthralling, making the reader believe he/she was there alongside the treasure-hunting party, and the pacing wonderful, although not entirely "spotless".

A truly wonderful story.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Review: National Security by Marc Cameron

Title: National Security
Series: Jericho Quinn
Author: Marc Cameron
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Pinacle
ISBN: 0786024941
ISBN-13: 9780786024940

When Terrorism Goes Viral, One Man Goes Ballistic.

They can strike anytime, anywhere. A public landmark. A suburban shopping mall. And now, the human body itself. Three Middle Eastern terrorists have been injected with a biological weapon, human time bombs unleashed on American soil. They are prepared to die. To spread their disease. To annihilate millions. If America hopes to fight this enemy from within, we need a new kind of weapon. Meet Special Agent Jericho Quinn. Air Force veteran. Champion boxer. Trained assassin. Hand-picked for a new global task force that, officially, does not exist, Quinn answers only to the Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. President himself.

His methods are as simple, and as brutal, as his codename.

The Hammer.

My rating:

This one had a good premise and a pretty decent idea of a hero, unfortunately it lacked in delivery, and the whole thing quickly (too quickly) fizzled off.

It actually reminded me a lot of Forsyth's Kill List I read a couple of years ago, with the premise, the hero, the mission. Maybe it reminded me too much of it, actually, and I expected the same flawless delivery, pacing, and characterization, only to end up bored and dissatisfied.

Slow, dull and rehashed with not even a spark of originality...Or maybe I simply wasn't in the mood of a thriller.

Review: Lessons Learned by Nora Roberts

Title: Lessons Learned
Series: Great Chefs
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: October 19,2015
Publisher: Silhouette

Coordinating the publicity tour for Italy's most famous—and most adorable—chef was just the kind of assignment Juliet relished. Carlo Franconi could gather a crowd just by smiling, and watching him prepare a meal was like witnessing a lesson in passionate lovemaking. By the time the tour was over, Juliet planned to have Carlo packaged as the world's sexiest chef. Women everywhere would fantasize about him preparing an intimate meal for two.

But Juliet hadn't counted on being part of the dinner plans. Candlelight, pasta and romance…Carlo distracted her with his charms, setting his romantic recipes simmering in her heart.

My rating:

Juliet Trent has one mission, and one mission only, help Carlo Franconi promote his new cookbook. That's it. Keep it clean, keep it simple, keep it professional...And keep the Italian hottie from working his charm on her...Easier said than done.

This was yet another disappointment in the romance department. And since it was a straight-up romance, no suspense or murder in sight, it was a full-on disappointment.

I didn't care about the characters, I didn't buy the romance; everything was too convenient, and while I did buy the attraction, I didn't see the love—not even in the end.
The pacing was horrid, the story too long, dull, and uneventful...Quite a waste of time.

Review: Summer Desserts by Nora Roberts

Title: Summer Desserts
Series: Great Chefs
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: October 19, 2015
Publisher: Silhouette

Could a cordon bleu chef be a junk-food addict? The more Blake Cocharan learned about Summer Lyndon, dessert chef extraordinaire, the more intrigued he became—and the more determined he was to hire her. Blake wanted the Best, and Summer looked extremely good to him. Her superb credentials were icing on the cake.

Summer was accustomed to traveling around the world, creating the perfect ending to perfect meals. But Blake had a unique appeal. Summer found herself responding to the challenge, both professionally...and personally...For the first time, Summer was planning a meal from start to finish—and creating a perfect ending all her own.

My rating:

Blake Cocharan III is planning on upgrading the restaurant in his family's hotel in Philly. And he wants the best for the job. And best doesn't come better than Summer Lyndon, world-renowned dessert chef with a penchant for perfection. As he gets to know her, that's not the only thing that draws Blake in like moth to a flame, but it'll take time and patience to convince her to give them a chance...

I hated the heroine.

I could easily stop there, because she ruined the story for me. She didn't struck me as quirky with her love of junk food, she just annoyed me. I couldn't stand her, her reasons not to want a relationship weren't that valid and/or believable (she just wanted to have the last word, I guess, and she always wanted to be the winner), and because I didn't like her, I couldn't understand what the hero saw in her, which ended up with me not buying the romance for one single second.

I liked her mother, though, and the hero (poor soul), and his parents...Everything else held the "taint of Summer".

Friday, January 27, 2017

Review: Hidden Riches by Nora Roberts

Title: Hidden Riches
Author: Nora Roberts

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515152951
ISBN-13: 9780515152951

Dora Conroy has a passion for antiques—and any other rarities she can acquire for her quaint Philadelphia shop. A seasoned dealer, she knows all the tricks of the trade. But she is unprepared for the deadly consequences when she purchases a few curiosities at an auction—and unknowingly brings home a priceless cache that makes her the target of an international criminal. Entwined in a reckless chase, Dora turns to her new neighbor, Jed Skimmerhorn, a cop who’s turned in his badge—and whose desire for lovely Dora puts him back in the line of fire. Fighting their attraction while falling in love, they find that hidden riches can have a most ordinary façade. And that possession can be a lethal obsession...

My rating:

Isadora "Dora" Conroy has had a good couple of days. She's gotten lucky at an auction in Virginia, bringing home quite a loot, and she has a new tenant across the hall, the surly, brooding, mouthwateringly handsome Jedidiah "Jed" Skimmerhorn. Her dear father would certainly say Fate is smiling upon her. Especially since her new neighbor is a cop that's recently turned in his badge and there's been a strange string of occurrences from B&E into her shop to one of her clients ending up in a hospital thanks to a robber...Certainly that has nothing to do with her latest auction haul. Right?

A good little story with a nice role reversal compared to the more recent NR reads where it's usually the heroine that's the surly, jaded type and the hero a happy-go-lucky chap. In this one it was the hero that was jaded, and the heroine the happy one determined to bring him out of his shell. The humor, the snark, and the one-liners were the usual fare (and one of my favorite thing when I pick up a NR book).

While I found the role-reversal refreshing, and the characters wonderful as always, I couldn't help but think Jed was a tad too surly and snarly, and the "act" dragged on for too long, resulting in a typical Romancelandia near-death twist that finally got him to pull him out of his funk. This trope is tired, and I dislike it on principle, and I was surprised and disappointed to find it in a NR story, but I guess it was written in the early days. ;)

The pacing was also problematic, with story dragging in places, never really picking up enough speed in others. I don't know whether the length had something to do with it, or the aforementioned "hero problem"...Or maybe it was the fact the villain and his motives were all out in the open from the start never offering much of a surprise, intrigue, mystery, and/or suspense.

Still, an enjoyable, and entertaining read.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Review: All the Pretty Faces & All the Dead Girls by Rita Herron

Title: All the Pretty Faces
Series: Graveyard Falls
Author: Rita Herron
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: March 29, 2016
Publisher: Montlake

Josie DuKane is on shaky ground. Having narrowly escaped the notorious Bride Killer, she penned a tell-all memoir that dug up a town’s dark past. Now the book is being made into a movie, and Josie must visit the very place that will trigger an avalanche of unwanted memories—Graveyard Falls. On the heels of her arrival, she receives a gruesome photograph of a dead woman with talon marks carved into her face. And worse, Josie just might be the next victim.

Torn between guilt, justice, and revenge, Special Agent Dane Hamrick will do anything to find the man who brutally murdered his sister. When he realizes the recent tragedies in Graveyard Falls bear an uncanny resemblance to her death, he volunteers to spearhead the investigation. But doing so means teaming up with Josie.

Nothing prepares him for the feelings the beautiful, tough woman evokes. As the body count rises and the suspect pool widens, Josie and Dane must put aside their growing attraction to run down the killer who devastated both their lives.

A killer who seems determined to destroy all the pretty faces...

Title: All the Dead Girls
Series: Graveyard Falls
Author: Rita Herron
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: November 22, 2016
Publisher: Montlake

When a violent storm hits Graveyard Falls, it unearths the unimaginable: skeletons of teenage girls, each dressed in white and holding a candle. It’s clear to FBI agent Beth Fields that this is the work of a long-standing killer—but could it be the one she escaped years ago? She has no memory of the man who held her captive and murdered her friend. But even though someone was jailed for the crime, she’s always feared that the real killer is still out there…waiting and watching.

Ian Kimball never believed his stepfather was guilty of Beth’s kidnapping or the slaying of two local girls. Now Graveyard Falls’s sheriff, he’s determined to catch the true perpetrator. And when more young women go missing, he realizes he needs Beth’s help. She is nothing like Ian expected, and everything he desires. But if they have any hope of finally ending the killer’s reign of terror, Beth and Ian will need to put everything aside, including their past, their mistrust, and their growing attraction...

My rating: My rating:

***copy of All the Dead Girls provided by publisher through NetGalley***

Forgettable characters and plots that simply didn't pull me in. I didn't care about the villain, the victims, the suspense, the main characters and their supposed "romance", the villain's motive...I didn't care about any of it.

They both started off so slow, it was a chore getting through the first couple of chapters, and despite hating not finishing things, I have to draw the line somewhere. When reading becomes a chore instead of an enjoyment, you're in trouble.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Review: All the Beautiful Brides by Rita Herron

Title: All the Beautiful Brides
Series: Graveyard Falls
Author: Rita Herron
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: September 15, 2015
Publisher: Montlake

A young woman lies dead at the bottom of a waterfall, dressed in a wedding gown with a rose stem jammed down her throat. And in the small town of Graveyard Falls, the horrifying vision stirs a long-ago nightmare back to life.

FBI Special Agent Cal Coulter gets called in to investigate the murder, which bears a terrifying resemblance to a series of killings committed thirty years ago: three teenage girls were found dead at the waterfall’s base, all bearing rose stems in their throats. The high school football star was convicted and imprisoned for those murders, so now Cal suspects that the real killer is still out there.

Now, the body count is rising again. The monster’s sights are set on counselor Mona Monroe, Cal’s best friend’s widow...and the woman he’s always loved. Can Cal stop the killer before Mona becomes the next victim?

My rating:

A girl is found dead at the bottom of the falls near the aptly named town of Graveyard Falls. A girl in a hand-made wedding dress, a garter wrapped tightly around her neck, and a rose stem lodged down her throat. It's the rose stem that strikes fear in the hearts of the population of the small town, because it reminds them all of a triple murder committed by one of their own thirty years ago. But the murderer is still in jail...So who killed this young woman? And why?

I couldn't really get into the story, I speed-read parts of it, skimmed the rest, and couldn't wait for it to end. I decided not to DNF it, because, hey, it might redeem itself somewhere along the way...Alas, it didn't happen.

The hero was a blank for me, anyone would've sufficed as far as I'm concerned, since I've already forgotten about him. Same about the heroine, but she did remain in my memory a little longer because of her naivete and stupidity regarding everything in her life (from her husband to her family and in the end Cal), I couldn't care less about the villain and his motives, same about the villain from thirty years back...

Come to think of it, there wasn't a single thing about this book that I appreciated or even remotely liked. Utterly forgettable.

Review: Hunt the Dawn by Abbie Roads

Title: Hunt the Dawn
Series: Fatal Dreams
Author: Abbie Roads
Read copy: eBook
Published: December 6, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 1492639222
ISBN-13: 9781492639220

Out of darkness and danger

You can't hide your secrets from Lathan Montgomery—he can read your darkest memories. And while his special abilities are invaluable in the FBI's hunt for a serial killer, he has no way to avoid the pain that brings him. Until he is drawn to courageous, down-on-her-luck Evanee Brown and finds himself able to offer her something he's never offered another human being: himself.

Dawns a unique and powerful love

Nightmares are nothing new to Evanee Brown. But once she meets Lathan, they plummet into the realm of the macabre. Murder victims are reaching from beyond the grave to give Evanee evidence that could help Lathan bring a terrifying killer to justice. Together, they could forge an indomitable partnership to thwart violence, abuse, and death—if they survive the forces that seek to tear them apart.

My rating:

DNF @ 11%

Because it's the same as the previous book in this series...Boy is screwed up because of his unusual ability, boy finds girl who makes the unusual ability bearable, boy saves girl from abuse/torture/take-your-pick, insta-attraction blooms, girl dreams of murder...

The only difference is the obvious "tactile" proof resulting from Evanee's dreams, Lathan's ability being different from Xander's, and Lathan lacking Xander's snarkiness.

Otherwise, this one was following the template set by the first one. Didn't grab my attention, didn't keep my attention, so I moved on.

Review: Race the Darkness by Abbie Roads

Title: Race the Darkness
Series: Fatal Dreams
Author: Abbie Roads
Read copy: eBook
Published: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 1492639192
ISBN-13: 9781492639190

Her voice haunts his thoughts; her whispers fill his days, but when he discovers the woman of his dreams is
real, he'll race the clock to save her before she's lost to him forever

Scarred by lightning, burdened with a power that gives him no peace, criminal investigator Xander Stone struggles to maintain his sanity against the voice that haunts him day and night-the voice of a woman begging him to save her.

Isleen Walker has long since given up hope of escape from the nightmare of captivity and torture that is draining her life, her mind, and her soul. Except...there is the man in her feverish dreams, a strangely beautiful man who beckons her to freedom. And when he comes,
if he comes, it will take all their combined fury and faith to overcome a madman bent on fulfilling a deadly prophecy.

My rating:

Ever since he's been struck by lightning ten years ago, Xander Stone hears better. So much better in fact, he can hear other people's thoughts. And for the past couple of years, he's been hearing a woman's voice in his head, but, since he doesn't know her and she's nowhere near him, she must be a hallucination...Until he goes for a drive one night, and finds her at Death's door, tortured, starved, and beaten.

Isleen has been dreaming about Xander since she can remember. Those dreams were the only thing keeping her sane, and alive in the midst of torture and pain she's been enduring for what seems forever. But if she thinks that now that her knight in shining armor has saved her, she's truly free, truly safe, and truly secure, she needs to think twice, because evil has the knack of sticking around...

This book started off great. The premise, with the hero having acute hearing and being also able to read thoughts, and the tortured heroine with some sort of connection to the hero, was great, I loved Xander and his snarkiness, I thought, this is just right up my alley...Until it quickly took a wrong turn and never got back on course.

I don't know what to make of it. It read like the author had no idea which genre to pick, so she went with everything, ending up in a jumble that wasn't a romance, wasn't a good paranormal, and wasn't a good suspense. Sometimes mixing and matching is a good thing, and sometimes it isn't.
There was just too much going on, too many plot-elements and devices, until the story (and its characters) were all over the place. For example: was the "other woman" drama really necessary to the plot? What did it bring to the table beside the drama, and an additional excuse for the heroine to come across as naive and stupid? Or what about the heroine's dreams? Those also looked like a redundant plot-device, since the whole kidnapping and torture motive could've easily be solved by making the villain as crazy as he already was, but keeping the whole story more in the confines of suspense instead of going down the woo-woo/religious-fanatic lane.

Speaking of woo-woo, the connection between the hero and heroine qualifies. And although paranormals are usually all about the woo-woo, this insta-attraction, insta-trust, insta-love, and all around healing powers of the connection struck me as a little too convenient, leaving the confines of paranormal and going into the fantasy realm. I know we're talking about fiction, here, and no one expects much realism in romance novels, especially those in the paranormal genre, but everything has its boundaries. This one effectively went over each and every one of them.

The romance wasn't convincing, the "connection" too convenient, the paranormal aspects too much out there (and too many of them), and the suspense left much to be desired since everything was so easily solved thanks to the aforementioned convenient "connection" between Isleen and Xander.

Overblown, overcomplicated, and disappointing.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Review: Savage Sacrifice by Ellis Leigh

Title: Savage Sacrifice
Series: The Devil's Dires
Author: Ellis Leigh
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: January 17, 2017
Publisher: Kinship Press

There's no escaping a Dire Wolf on the hunt...

Dire Wolf Phego has a history. One that haunts him and holds him back in ways even he doesn’t want to admit. A mission for one of his brothers bring changes, though, and he’s going to have to figure out how to deal with his past if he’s ever going to have a future.

Michaela likes to be needed. As the doctor of her pack, she’s used to being called out at all hours to assist on everything from accidents to baby deliveries. When an old friend is the one calling, she’ll do anything to help, including putting up with a cranky, standoffish oaf of a man who can’t seem to make up his mind on what he wants from her...if anything.

One soldier fighting demons from his past and his present, one woman doing all she can to save those she cares about, and a shadow that inches closer every day. In the world of the Dire Wolves, time off from missions should be calm and easy. But when ghosts come calling, Phego will have to decide if hanging on to his past is worth giving up his future.

One soldier, one chance at forever.

My rating:

A few months after their mating, Thaus has to leave Ariel for an important mission, and the only one he trusts to protect his mate and their unborn child, is his Dire "brother", Phego. Phego who, despite his trust issues, accepts, since he owes Thaus his life...And Ariel is the only Dire mate he's taken quickly and easily, his best friend.

The problem is, the woman is close to birth, and he'd be damned if he helped deliver the baby, so he has no choice but to accept Ariel calling her friend and midwife, Michaela, for help. Michaela who happens to be an Omega, Michaela who travels with an unwanted bodyguard, Michaela who is Phego's mate.

But Phego has too many trust issues to accept being mated easily...And even if he wanted to push those issues aside, there's something stalking them in the woods. So now Phego has to protect his brother's mate and unborn child, all the while fighting his most basic instincts of taking what is rightfully his.

But is Michaela really a dream come true, something he never expected of having for himself, a gift from Fate...or is Fate playing a cruel joke on him, determined to ruin him once and for all?

Compared to the rest of the series, this book left me wanting. There was the requisite attraction-at-first-sight, reluctance to get close to the woman until the passion got out of control, the remote setting, a woman in need of protection, something dark and deadly stalking in the woods...But somehow it all failed to deliver.

I didn't feel the connection to the leading couple (probably because Phego only appeared in one book before his own, and didn't get the time to really "know" him, which makes me leery of the next book in the series about Deus, who also only made his appearance in this one), the whole mating thing left much to be desired, there was too much going on to actually make the two of them connect together as a couple, and the danger left me cold. There was no ominous feel, no sense of urgency as the danger lurked closer and closer, and the big reveal didn't pack a punch, didn't bring the shock and surprise it was probably supposed to.
Also the whole revelation that maybe, just maybe, the Dires weren't alone came across as a cheap and easy plot device, that hopefully won't be used to perpetuate the series.

I was glad for Thaus and Ariel, and although the epilogue offered a cute little insight into Phego and Michaela's relationship post mating, I felt the story was definitely too short as far as their "romance" was concerned.

Review: Hidden Currents by Christine Feehan

Title: Hidden Currents
Series: Drake Sisters
Author: Christine Feehan
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: June 30, 2009
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515146471
ISBN-13: 9780515146479

From afar, Sheriff Jackson Deveau has always loved Elle Drake, the youngest telepath of seven sisters. After a long time away she’s finally returning home to the small coastal village of Sea Haven. But someone has been following Elle, someone who doesn’t want her to make it back. And when Elle fails to arrive, her disappearance strikes fear in the hearts of everyone who loves her. Now it’s left to Jackson to uncover the mystery of Elle’s vanishing, and rescue her from an unseen danger. But Sea Haven is no longer safe for anyone, and it’ll take the powers of all the Drake sisters and their men to survive the coming storm.…

My rating:

Elle Drake's been in love with Jackson Deveau, deputy sheriff of Sea Haven, since before she met him. And when she did meet him, she knew he was her destiny, the one man to help her continue her family's legacy...But in the end he rejected her, and she left, to go lick her wounds the only way she knew how—by helping others.

On her latest undercover assignment, she met someone who is perfect for her, someone who would never reject her...But she discovers that perfection is only a mask a little too late...And never makes it home.

Jackson Deveau pushed Elle away because he knew he wasn't worthy of her legacy...And because she'd wanted him to change into what she thought was the perfect picture to go with the legacy. But Jackson knows he's not perfect, he's never been, and what's been done to him had prevented had changed him into something he himself fears sometimes. But he loves her, he's always loved her. How could he not? She's his complete opposite, gentle, caring, loving, beautiful, with a loving family, and a heart of gold. He'd feared he'd taint her spirit by being with her, but he's beyond caring now that she's gone.

He's determined to get her back no matter the cost. And get her back, he would, even if he had to walk to Hell and back. But even as he fulfills the promise, they both have a long road ahead of them...

I admit I was a bit leery of this book thanks to all the reviews both on GoodReads and on Amazon, but in the end this one turned out to be a wonderful, a little heartbreaking, and quite a bittersweet story, and provided a perfect ending to this series.

The scenes everybody so complained about (the first couple of chapters in the book) weren't as "bad" as we've all been warned. They were necessary to the story, to Elle's growth, maturing, change, and understanding of self, and their execution was extremely tasteful. Ms Feehan succeeded in conveying the right amount of sorrow, terror, and pain Elle's been through without descending into gory details.
These scenes were also instrumental in Elle's fundamental understanding of Jackson's character and what he's been through. Sure, she'd been there with him, sharing his mind as he'd been tortured as a prisoner of war, but until she went through pretty much the same torture, she didn't understand him, not completely, not the way he needed to be understood. And that was evident throughout the series, whenever these two had a scene together. Elle simply didn't get him, and because she didn't get him, his silences, his brooding, his deep-rooted need for violence, she pulled a childish act and went undercover...And almost lost herself.

Did she suffer? Yes. Did she come back a changed woman? Yes. But she also came back with a new vein of steel underneath, the steel Jackson himself helped hone during the recovery process.
They both suffered through it all, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and both Jackson and Elle came out of the ordeal tougher, their connection stronger than ever.

And this is what I love most about Christine Feehan's writing. Her ability to convey strong emotions in her stories, her penchant for putting her characters through hell (both literally and figuratively) and make them come out on the other side stronger, more determined, more mature, changed, but still remaining the same deep down where it counts...All without having to subject the reader to all the gory details. After all, this isn't a horror story or a thriller, but a romance with all the trimmings, including the requisite happy ending.

I loved the dynamic of the characters, the sisterly devotion, the friendship between the men, how they were all determined to keep Jackson out of jail and end the evil together.
Speaking of evil, the villain was the weakest link in this book for me. Not because of his villainy, he was appropriately evil and insane, but because of his seeming omnipotence. I don't know whether it was written as a sort of analogy; because of what he'd put her through Elle though he was so very powerful, capable of striking from great distance at everything she held dear, and that's exactly what he was, but I felt his powers were a bit of an overkill, a plot-device to bring it all full-circle, to need the full power of all the Drake sisters and their chosen mates to vanquish.

Speaking of which, it was lovely to revisit the couples from previous books, and see them still holding strong, the women still teasing their mates and the men still unrepentant over their overprotective ways.
And the ending was just perfect with all the gifts to the next generation, the ever-changing, people-eating house preparing itself for the next generation, and the wind visiting each couple, showing glimpses of their happiness, before rushing back toward the sea.

P.S. Also, this book, though finishing the Drake era, provided a nice intro into the Prakenskii brothers era, with Ilya's brother making an appearance, resulting to be in the same profession as his younger brother. His story is next in line, following his escape from the boat, in Water Bound.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Review: Turbulent Sea by Christine Feehan

Title: Turbulent Sea
Series: Drake Sisters
Author: Christine Feehan
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: July 29, 2008
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515145068
ISBN-13: 9780515145069

The star: Joley Drake was born with a legacy of unexpected magical gifts, but it was the gift of singing that made her an overnight sensation—a rock and roll goddess trapped by fame, fortune, and ambition. Heated by the flush of success, Joley could have any man she wanted. But there’s only man who can give her what she really needs.

The bodyguard: Ilya Prakenskii, cool, inscrutable, dangerously sexy, and working in the shadow of his infamous reputation—that of a secret Russian hit man on the payroll of a notorious mobster. He’s the last man Joley should get close to, yet when her life is threatened on tour she has nowhere left to turn. But in the seductive safe keep of Ilya’s embrace, is Joley really as secure as she imagines?

My rating:

Joley Drake, rock star sensation, has been growing a little fed up with her life of late. Despite the carefree picture she paints of herself, she craves for normality and a life away from the limelight. She hides her true feelings from everyone, including her sisters, but she cannot hide them—or herself—from the one man she knows should keep her distance from.

Ilya Prakenskii is a man of many secrets and Joley is one of them. When he first heard her voice, she brought light into his barren world of darkness and shadows. And when he saw her for the first time (in Oceans of Fire), he's known she was his destiny.

When someone starts to send Joley warnings in the form of murdered members of her crew, she has no one to turn to but Ilya. Ilya with his mesmerizing voice, hypnotic eyes, dark aura, and an inexplicable power over her senses. Ilya, whose song merges with hers in a perfect harmony. But as she seeks his protection, is she really safe, or has she given her heart and soul to a man who would destroy her?

I have one word for this book. FINALLY!

After years of waiting and speculating just what might be brewing between these two, we finally got our answers. And those answers are scorching hot!

A leading man just doesn't get better than Ilya Prakenskii. An impassive face that hides deep turmoil, icy veneer over a white-hot volcano. And the fact that we don't really know whose side he's on merely ads to his allure. We, despite the clues and hints dropped in the previous books, are as clueless as his true nature (not his intentions toward Joley, those couldn't be more clear ^_^) and motivations as Joley is. And, as Joley, we're unable to resist him, no matter the darkness, no matter the shadiness, no matter anything and everything.
No wonder they all say girls are attracted to the bad boy. Well, yeah, it must be the nurturing gene. We can't help but see a lost boy underneath the facade and we want to help, want to heal, just like Joley wanted to help and heal the little boy she sometimes glimpsed (literally) in Ilya.

And although this was supposed to be her book, she paled in comparison to her Russian hottie. He stole the show (he did that in every scene he appeared in this series, and merely took her along for the ride.
To be honest, I didn't really understand the girl. Which makes sense, since she didn't get herself either. She had no idea what she really wanted, making her jump all over the place. She'd spent most of the book brooding about the fact she was attracted to bad, dominant guys, knowing she could never be with someone kind and gentle, because she'd be the one to stomp all over the poor guy. She was attracted to domineering guys, apparently it had something to do with the dark secrets in her soul, which were never explored (or if they were and it was simply the fact she wanted someone to take charge of her in bed, the secret was beyond lame), while hating them for their domineering ways all the same. She kept pushing Ilya away for only one valid reason (she didn't know if he was bad or not, while feeling he wasn't evil), and plenty of idiotic ones that had nothing to do with him and everything to do with her, while throwing herself at him all the time, sulking if he rejected her because he wanted everything and not just a part of her.

While I can say I empathized with her a little, and her reluctance was understandable to a point, her erratic behavior where Ilya was concerned quickly grew old and repetitive. Although the issue was resolved somewhere in the middle thanks to some finger-burning pages of sex (ooh, boy!), and the second time a little later, also thanks to some finger-burning pages of sex (ooh, boy!).

I loved the destined mark, and the "hand-thing" should definitely be put on the pro side of the list, seeing how handy it was working both ways. ;) And I adored the little twist in the end with Ilya's bloodline and legacy. Lovely, funny, and sweet.
And the ending, with the Drake house recognizing him and welcoming him home, offering a home to someone who's never had one...Juts plain heart-melting.

Yet, there were problems...Quite big ones. As much as I loved this story for its growing relationship and romance between Ilya and Joley, these two people made for each other, yet so very much alike, they tried to keep some little part of themselves separate and failed miserably, I cannot overlook the somewhat absurd plot-moving devices and sub-plots this book offered us. They were missing girls, a murder, a battle for supremacy between criminal clans, a crazy stalker with a penchant for broken bottles, and a gay head of the Russian mafia.
I just kept rolling my eyes at all the fillers and red-herrings. Yes, I understand Joley had to be in danger for Ilya to be with her as her bodyguard, but still. Was that the best Ms Feehan could come up with. Compared to the previous books, some of the plot elements were rather laughable. But maybe that's just me.

The action scenes were superb, though, as always.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Review: Safe Harbor by Christine Feehan

Title: Safe Harbor
Series: Drake Sisters
Author: Christine Feehan
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: June 26, 2007
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515143189
ISBN-13: 9780515143188

One of seven daughters in a line of extraordinary women, Hannah Drake has been the elusive object of affection for Jonas Harrington for as long at the young man can remember. If only the stunning super-model was driven by a passion other than her career. But Jonas isn t the only one with desires for Hannah.

From the shadows has emerged a vengeful figure who stalks the beauty with one terrifying purpose: to strip her of all she is and destroy her. Only one man was destined as her protection. Now, out of a storm of danger, Jonas must guide the woman he loves from a sinister darkness that threatens not only Hannah, but the entire Drake family.

My rating:

Hannah Drake’s been in love with Jonas Harrington since...forever. But since the tall, dark and handsome sheriff can’t seem to lay off the insults and his overbearing attitude, she prefers to keep her mouth shut and continue loving him from afar.

Jonas Harrington’s been a part of the Drake family since he was little. And that’s how long he’s known Hannah Drake was the one. But first her elusiveness and then his dangerous lifestyle kept him away...Until now.
After barely escaping the Grim Reaper for the second time in weeks, Jonas can no longer keep his heart shut off, he’s decided to leave the moonlighting crime-fighting job behind and win Hannah’s heart forever... And she doesn't seem to object to the plan.

But both their lives are shattered by a brutal attack that leaves Hannah at death’s door. She slowly starts gluing the pieces of her life and heart back together, trying to keep Jonas at arm’s length, but he isn’t budging. They’ve shared their bodies, minds and souls, and he’ll be damned if he lets her get away again. But a dark and deadly enemy has different plans...

Although the pacing dragged slightly somewhere in the middle and the plot didn’t make much sense until the end (who would hate Hannah so much to want to destroy her completely?)—which was probably the point—this was a great read. Even better than the first time around.

We finally got the resolution to the “slow-burn” romance between Hannah and Jonas that’s been building since the beginning of the series (although Hannah has been a bit bratty at the start), and Hannah and Jonas are my second favorite couple in this series. The perfect example of “kindergarten love”, if you ask me. Boy likes girl, but doesn’t want to show it, so he teases her. Girl likes boy right back, but he’s mean to her, so she retaliates.

I loved Jonas with all his gruffness, over-protectiveness, arrogance and chest-thumping. He was who he was, didn’t offer any apologies, determined to protect everybody from everything (in Hannah’s case even from himself). But behind all the rage, pain, and torment, there was this deep, endless well of love for those he called family and friends, and for the one woman who could bring him peace. The one woman who could soothe him.
Hannah took a little time to understand, because of how her character was written...Beautiful yet insecure with her body image, low on self-esteem with panic attacks always imminent. It was tough understanding her and her reasons and motivations for wanting to do anything, even go against herself and her nature, to please others, but once she started growing into her true self (thanks to the attack and Jonas’s help after it), I finally got to know her and love her. In the end, I got the impression, her character was written the way it was, so the reader couldn’t really understand and relate to her at the beginning because that wasn’t who Hannah Drake truly was. Only Jonas understood her, only Jonas saw the true her, and only Jonas could help her understand herself, help the reader understand her.

They were cute and sweet and funny, and so in love at the beginning, I wanted to clap my hands in glee. Then, with all that happened to Hannah, that love could’ve shattered, but instead simply grew stronger (as they both did throughout the series and their own book), and I couldn’t help but cheer every time Jonas refused to be pushed away, and every time Hannah got a bit of her life, strength and resilience back...And every time either of them refused to back down and be bullied by her sisters.

The sisters were the major problem for me in this story. They were supposed to know everything about each other, read each other at will, and yet it took Jonas to open their eyes about Hannah, her nature, her problems and their own mistakes with her, how it was Jonas the one who knew Hannah best.
I hated how her sisters pitied her...I know they felt sorry for her, who wouldn’t, but instead of protecting her, offering her solace, being there for her, they merely drowned her in their own emotions, as if it was all about them, and never about Hannah. This “selfishness” was rectified somewhere in the middle, but still, the bitter aftertaste remained.

And now, to my favorite couple in this series...

“Perhaps it is as simple as Hannah’s sister is marrying one of the few men in the world I call friend.” His gaze strayed to where Joley stood rigid against the wall. “Or perhaps I wanted to see, one more time, whether the reason I can no longer sleep at night is worth it.”

I loved the small interlude (okay, there were two, but the first was the best) with Ilya Prakenskii in the middle of this story. That first scene finally gave us the first tangible proof as to what Ilya’s role in the series was, what the connection with Joley was.
The incident was a leftover from the previous book, Dangerous Tides, and it gave us a huge insight into the psyche (and heart) of the presumed hit-man (although the men already suspect what his involvement with the Russian mobster might truly entail). This short, intense, extremely revealing scene was a great preview of what his (and Joley’s) book will bring.

Back to the book at hand...Even with some seriously thrilling suspense and a few wonderfully gripping action scenes, this book was all about self-discovery and self-appreciation. It took an attack on her life to shake Hannah into reevaluating her life and priorities and make her see who she really is and what she wants from life.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: Dangerous Tides by Christine Feehan

Title: Dangerous Tides
Series: Drake Sisters
Author: Christine Feehan
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: June 27, 2006
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515141542
ISBN-13: 9780515141542

Dr. Libby Drake is sensible and practical. To her more adventurous sisters, she’s always been the “good girl”. Certainly not the kind to attract the attention of a genius like Ty Derrick—until a tragic accident leaves the handsome biochemist at her mercy.

Acting on her uncanny ability to heal, she stirs in the reawakened Ty his own long-suppressed desires for the woman who saved his life. But he’s not the only man with designs on Libby Drake. Her miraculous and selfless power has also captured the attention of a dangerously influential admirer. He’s pursuing the elementally gifted beauty for his own wicked purpose. And he’s willing to go to deadly lengths to make it happen.

My rating:

Libby Drake, fourth of the seven Drake sisters, is the compassionate one, a doctor with a heart of gold, unable to say no to anyone. She can’t seem to be able to say no even to people who are vegetating in their hospital beds, more dead than alive, with their brain resembling scrambled eggs.

Well, that’s Tyson “Ty” Derrick for you. The daredevil genius researcher slash firefighter’s harness had failed while he was trying to save a teenager, and he ended up in the hospital without hope of making it through the night.

Libby goes against everything she’s been taught, risking her life and that of her sisters when she attempts to save Ty, but she does it and survives to live to tell the tale. But the two might not survive to the end of the book, since obviously there’s someone who is adamant at keeping them apart at all cost.

This fourth installment in the Drake Sisters series was quite a disappointment.

I disliked the hero. He was a jackass most of the time, preaching from his high horse, deeming everybody beneath him, thinking he could say anything he wanted because he was a genius. I couldn’t stand him most of the time, although his inability or unwillingness to believe what the Drakes could do and his constant searching for a logical explanation to it was refreshing...But it got stale pretty fast, and even as he turned into a believer, I didn’t buy it.
Because I disliked the hero, I didn’t particularly care much for the heroine either, because he allowed the jackass to walk all over her because she liked him, he was hot, and she thought, bless her heart, he was lonely. The guy called her brainwashed, an idiot, claiming her entire family were charlatans...and what does she do? She forgives him. Just like that, without argument, without several smacks to the head. I lost all respect I might have had for her the moment it first happened. She was a doormat to a jerk with a high IQ and a hot bod. Bleh.

Their dialogues were also a major turn off. There was too much data, “science-talk” and info-dumps to make the dialogues and the subsequent romance between the two very believable.
Their chemistry was non-existent, probably because I didn’t like any of them. They seemed too bland to make the “thing” between them believable. There was more chemistry, more spark, more heat in that one scene between Hannah and Jonas at the beginning of the book as they were discussing kisses. Now, that was hot!

I liked the suspense sub-plot, though. Intriguing and mysterious, keeping us guessing until the very end who was the real bad guy. It was the resolution to the plot that was lacking, though. I felt Ms Feehan didn’t deliver as well as she could and the explanation and the motive for the dastardly deeds came out of the left field, and seemed a little off to me.

Maybe not the worst in the series, but definitely one of them.