Friday, September 19, 2008

Michelle Styles - An Impulsive Debutante

Lottie Charlton is eager to have her first season; her family expects her to marry well, preferably someone with a title. Social appearances mean everything to Lottie and her mother. Then at an assembly she meets the fascinating Tristan again and out on the terrace he kisses her passionately. They get caught in the act and to avoid a scandal she must marry him, unfortunately he is just a mere Mr., cousin to Lord Thorngrafton. She is determined to use his connection to Lord Thorngrafton to improve their social status, but he is not interested in improving his social status and he gives her an iron band as a wedding ring! On their homeward journey she learns that social status is really not so important and that her husband means a lot to her. Only then she discovers that Tristan is not who he claims to be…

After the death of his uncle and a long stay abroad, Tristan Dyvelston is back on English soil. He is now Lord Thorngrafton and has an one-track mind, to rebuild the family estate and make it prosper again. It turns out quite differently than he had planned and thanks to his own actions he is now married to Lottie, who covets a title and her social status. Due to a misunderstanding she doesn’t know that he has a title and he does not undeceive her. He wants to find out if she can truly love him and not just for his title, so he pretends to be without a lot of means. But his deceit weighs heavily upon him for Lottie turns out to be everything he ever looked for in a wife…

The first chapter of this book kicks off with a pleasant, sometimes brusque conversation between Tristan and Lottie at a graveyard. It immediately grabs your attention and it sets the tone for the rest of the story. Michelle Styles writing is easy and compelling to read, her characters are fleshed out well and as always she has an eye for accurate, historical details. She does not overwhelm you with lots of supporting characters and difficult storylines. She keeps it straight and light to read and makes sure that at all times the romance takes precedence.

That does not mean that her stories are shallow or common, Michelle Styles gives her stories depth by making her characters undergo changes and grow stronger throughout the story. The hero of this story, Tristan, has his past to deal with. He does not want to end up as his uncle and is determined to restore the family estate and name. But he tips the scales with his scheming and deceit when trying to find out if Lottie truly loves him and not his title, and so almost end up as his uncle. Still, it is simple to see where he is coming from and therefore it is easy to connect with him. He is a very likable guy.

Lottie Charlton is the typical result of her mother’s upbringing. She is always busy with improving her social status and appears to be shallow. It takes a rude wake-up call from Tristan for her to grasp that there are more important things in life than her social status. For the first time she sees beyond her nose and realizes that she is not a better person just because she is wealthy. She also possesses a great inner-strength for she easy accepts all the drastic changes in her life, tries to make the most of things and she is always attentive.

The character development of the main characters is the pivot on which this book hinges, therefore the interactions between Lottie and Tristan are crucial for the story. Their interactions are energetic, passionate and powerful. The secondary characters really stand back, you will meet Lottie’s family at the beginning and at the end of the story, the same goes for her friends. This story is really all about Lottie’s and Tristan’s relationship.

Once again, Michelle Styles has written a solid, uplifting romance. This story is so easy and light to read, once you start you can’t stop. It is an emotional laden romance with captivating characters, witty and brisk dialogues and a fluently written plot. It is a great read for everyone out there who enjoys a good historical!

4 stars

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bella Andre - Take Me - Carson Brothers 1

Secretly, Lily Ellis has always been in love with Travis Carson. But the twin-brother of her best friend Luke has always ignored and rejected her for she does not have the perfect size. Now her beautiful sister and fashion designer has persuaded her to model a plus-size dress, the dress is gorgeous and makes her feel beautiful as she walks confidently down the catwalk. Searching in the crowd for Luke to support her, she finds Travis instead. During a hot and steamy night all her dreams and fantasies come true, but she realizes that if she truly wants to win his heart she has to beat him at his own game by protecting her feelings. The perfect opportunity comes along when a business deal takes them to romantic Italy and the passionate cat-and-mouse game begins…

Doing his brother a favor and taking his place to watch and support Lily when she walks down the runway is in his opinion a waste of his time, but when Travis sees this stunning beauty walking down the catwalk he immediately knows he has to have her. After a wild and amazing night he wakes up alone, he can’t believe Lily just left after what they shared. She wasn’t supposed to leave first, he is supposed to be the one to leave first! He wants to see her again, he can’t stop thinking about her, but he is not in the habit of chasing women. So he comes up with a proposal she cannot refuse. What better way than to spend a few days alone with Lily in Italy under the cloak of doing business to satisfy his lust and get her out of his system..

This is the first book I have read from the hand of Bella Andre and it was quite an addictive read, I could not put the book down until I knew if this story would have a happily ever after. Bella Andre writes a fluent storyline filled with every-day situations and female insecurities. Her characters are so real that they could actually live next door to you and that is exactly why this book keeps you hypnotized and glued to your chair.

Lilly Ellis is a big girl, her weight makes her insecure and she lacks of self-confidence. Without even knowing it, her weight influences many of the important decisions she has made in her life. She dreams of having her own business as an interior designer but clings to her crappy job at a furniture shop. Why? Because it is safe and familiar. She prefers to be the grey mouse in the crowd, unnoticed, so she doesn’t get hurt by biting words and gets rejected.

Travis Carson is everything a woman wants in a man. Handsome, successful, a little arrogant and very muscular and sexy. Everything he wants he gets, it all comes natural to him. But there isn’t one woman that has actually touched his heart, he hides his feelings behind this thick wall of arrogance. Travis and Lily make a charming couple, they are intense, sometimes a little naughty and they create a sensual fire-works right from page one.

As important supporting characters you will meet Janica and Luke. Janica is the “petite” younger sister of Lilly, she is a fashion designer and Lilly’s most fierce protector. She will do anything to see Lily happy and more self-assured. Luke is a doctor and Lily’s best friend, he is the spitting image of Travis, only nicer. He loves his brother but he really does not understand his brother’s “attitude” problem. All of Bella Andre’s characters are compelling and entrancing, it is so easy to connect with them. They make this book such a great read.

Lilly to herself during a dinner:

“Why can men eat as much as they want? Why do I always worry about eating in public? Who am I trying to impress? Travis? He’ll never be impressed by me, so why am I depriving myself of the best food I’ve ever seen?”

The plot is easy and fluent, it speaks of love, trust and confidence. It is about two people who need to come to grips with certain aspects of their lives. They need to overcome several obstacles and as it turns out it is not Travis but Lily who needs to learn and deal with the fact that the biggest obstacle in her life is herself.

Take Me from Bella Andre is a great read! The characters are delicious and yes, Lily and Travis have stolen my heart. The plot is very recognizable and it is so easy to connect to this story that it is guaranteed an one-sitting read. Bella Andre has left me craving for more, so needless to say that from now on Bella Andre is a regular dish on my reading menu!

4,5 stars

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Jean Johnson - The Storm - Sons of Destiny Series 6

The Sixth Son shall draw the line:
Shun the day and rule the night
Your reign’s end shall come at light
When Dawn steals into your hall
Bride of Storm shall be your fall

Eight brothers, born in four sets of twins, two years apart to the day – they fulfill the Curse of the Eight Prophecies. Though no longer trapped in exile, their growing family faces new problems. Now the sixthborn son must find a way to trust his Destined Bride…

Out of the eight brothers, Rydan is the only one who does not embrace his destiny. He is determined to fight his prophecy with might and main. So when he is asleep in his most shielded haven of refuge and awakes with a start, he is shocked to find himself on top of a real woman, Rora. He kicks her out of his refuge and brings her to his twin, convinced that she is his destined woman. Only then he discovers that not one but two women have arrived at Nightfall and that Rora is his bride to be. Bent on not fulfilling his prophecy he retreats to his refuge but she keeps seeking him out and so much the worse, he can’t get her out of his head. But fulfillment of his prophecy means he loses everything he worked so hard for and he can’t let that happen…

Together with her sister, Rora has fled her homeland to protect her secret. She has unusual strong powers and other mages will do anything to control them. Her powers have guided her and her sister Mara to Nightfall. When she meets Rydan under very passionate circumstances, their attraction is immediate. Her powers show her what the others cannot see, namely Rydan’s secret. She sees what torments the handsome mage and why he lives as a recluse, away from his family. If only she can persuade him to trust her and let her help him before his secret destroys him. Ironically it turns out that he is also the only one who can help her with her secret…

Right from the start of this series the two brothers who caught my eye immediately were Rydan and Morganen. Rydan’s story is part 6 in the series and it was a long wait before I could read his story and ease my curiosity. So the second the book fell on my doormat I plunged into the story, eager to discover if Jean Johnson could come up to my high expectations. The answer? Yes she did and in my opinion she has surpassed herself with The Storm!

With this story all the pieces of the puzzle regarding Rydan fall into place. Rydan is the most complicated and tormented brother of the eight, he cannot be in the company of his family for long for his inner beast will not tolerate it, causing him unbearable pain. Therefore he lives like a recluse, shuns the daylight and is very lonely. He does not give his trust easily for he has learnt the hard way that most people cannot be trusted. But underneath all this pain there is a real, honorable and gentle man who needs someone to love him and help him domesticate his beast.

Rora carries a Font of her own inside her, this is very rare and it gives her immense powers. Therefore she can See aura’s and Feel emotions. She is tired of getting away from mages who covet her powers, she wants to start over and live a normal life and unlike her sister she does not want to hide behind the walls of her homeland’s customs. She is kind and gentle and she takes things as they are, she does not dwell on the past.

Romance reigns supreme, for the greater part of this story takes place in Rydan’s haven of refuge, the romance between Rydan and Rora is touching, innocent, sensual and well-developed. I adored them as a couple, their love scenes were spine tingling. Rora is just perfect for Rydan. I like the way the plot always takes unexpected turns, this time the emphasis is on the magical fountains. As always Jean Johnson’s world building is detailed, Rydan’s underground refuge is sketched to perfection and the magic fountains come to life thanks to a very vivid description.

But most of all I love the interactions between all the brothers and their wives, the bickering between the brothers, always trying to outdo one another, the collision of characters and the matchmaking schemes of Morganen.

Rora to Rydan and vice versa:

“Now, what is your favorite color? Black?” “Green, actually.” “I wear black to annoy Dominor. It is a very difficult color to clean without having it fade, or stain anything else that may be washed at the same time with it…and I look intimidating in it.”

“I like it when you laugh. You Look like a flower in a bloom, with all those happy colors streaming out of you. And your voice… I like how deep it is.” “Very few men like being compared to a flower, woman,” he groused.

The Storm is absolutely my favorite part in this series so far. It is the perfect mix of a touching romance, a mysterious hero, plenty of banter and a magical and dazzling world. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I am counting the days till Koranen’s story hit the shelves so I can get my regular fix of delicious twins!

4,5 stars

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Julia London - The Book of Scandal - Scandalous 1

The Earl of Lindsey, Nathan Grey, is also called Libertine Lindsey for he lives a flippant live in the country. When he hears rumors, involving his estranged wife Evelyn, that could destroy the good name of the Lindsey’s, he immediately takes action. He travels to London to remove his wife far away from all the gossip. When he finally lays his eyes on her after three years of separation he is in shock. The young and meek girl he once knew as his wife is now a bold and breathtaking woman. Against her will Nathan takes her home and there the painful past rushes back into their memories to haunt them both. Still, his stunning wife also invokes a passion inside him that he had long forgotten. He is determined to win her back and to protect her against the gossip, but he has no clue how vicious and fatally those rumors really are…

Lady Evelyn Lindsey has not a word to say for herself when out of the blue her estranged husband shows up and forces her to leave London on account of some gossip. She swears to him that the rumors are not true, nevertheless he won’t listen to her. He wants to save their marriage, well, if he thinks she is going to make this easy for him after all the rumors she has heard about him, he is seriously mistaken. She is going to fight him with might and main for their marriage is over. But Evelyn had forgotten how attractive Nathan is and how charming he can be. As danger stalks them she can do nothing else but to rely on Nathan and he turns out to be simply irresistible…

Sometimes all you need in a superb, fast-paced story is a little danger and a strong hero and heroine. The Book of Scandal by Julia London is such a book. From the moment you start to read this story it haunts you and will not let go until you finished it. This story will take you on a long, emotional rollercoaster ride from the first to the very last page!

The stunning plot of this story is based on true historical facts, namely the marital woes of the Prince and Princess of Wales back in 1795 and the threat of the Princess of Wales to publish royal secrets. Julia London interlaces these facts with a powerful romance, an emotional loss and a stunning conspiracy. Her skillful writing will make sure that you are lost in the pages and keeps the story flowing and pleasant to read.

The main couple who will take you on this gripping journey are Evelyn and Nathan. Nathan is definitely not who he appears to be at the surface, he is not the rogue everyone seems to think he is. That is just a façade, he really is a honorable and kind man. He is very much in love with his wife, he just does not realize it. Evelyn lived a sheltered life and used to be meek and naïf, she has learned by bitter experience that life is not always fair and has grown into a beautiful, self-confident lady. Their interactions are steamy and shimmering and the pages are filled with wit, bickering and humor.

This story also shows you how shaky the foundation of a basically good relationship can be without communication. After the death of their son Evelyn had shut herself off from everyone, she is not able to reach out to Nathan. Nathan deals with his grief in his own specific way. After they have been separated and both grown stronger you see the change in them, because now they are able to communicate and be completely honest with one another.

The secondary cast of characters is very colorful and well-developed. They give this story more depth. These characters give us an insight how society worked back then and how most of them only looked out for themselves. How they are most willing to believe vicious rumors without giving them a second thought. As it should be, the main focus of this story is on Evelyn, Nathan and the skilful written plot. The only thing that was a bit vexing was the end. I would have preferred a short epilogue at the end to round things off better.

Julia London provides you with an emotionally charged tale that is peppered with spine-tingling passion, well-defined and charming characters and a masterfully written plot. Curl up with The Book of Scandal for it will touch your heart and fire your emotions.

4 stars