Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kathryn Smith - A Seductive Offer

A proposal of marriage she could not refuse...
Lord Braven has saved Rachel Ashton’s life twice, it seems – when he snatched her from the icy Yorkshire river… and when he offered to marry her. Now the desperate miss will be rid forever of the repulsive husband-to-be horrid stepfather has “ sold” her to. But though both agree their marriage is in name only, Rachel finds she cannot dismiss her burning need to taste the sweet kiss of her dashing benefactor.

A passion they could not resist...
Having a real wife is unthinkable, since Braven must never love again. And as long as this sham marriage is not consummated, his heart will remain safe – and his secret can go untold. But the exquisite beauty tempts the haunted lord unmercifully with her deep lavender eyes and sensuous full lips. How can he resist this most perilous desire, when his heart swears it would be more dangerous still to deny himself the ecstasy true love?

A Seductive Offer is the first part in the Friends trilogy, it takes place in Yorkshire in the Regency period, but that is the only thing about this story that is really Regency, the time period. Kathryn Smith, as always, writes fluent plotlines and her writing is easy to read but I have to be honest, as much as I love her Ryland Brothers series and her paranormal series Brotherhood of Blood, this story could not hold my attention and it was quite a struggle to finish the book.

The main plotline is about domestic violence, Rachel’s stepfather is the violent type and her mother often has to suffer for it. Rachel is desperate to find a way out for her mother and herself, her mother claims she married again for Rachel’s sake so they could have a good life. But they would have been better off if her mother had taken a job as a seamstress then living with a wife beating bastard. Though I know that women in that time period had not much influence, the mother is so passive and resigned to her faith, it made me want to scream. Somehow Rachel irritated the hell out of me, yes she is courageous and bold and she tries to fix things, but she could have done something to help herself and her mother so much more previously.

The other plotline is Braven’s guilt. The death of his best friend’s sister haunts him, he feels guilty, feels that he could have prevented it. So he drinks himself thoroughly plastered day in, day out so he won’t feel anything. He does this throughout the story and I kept waiting for him to man up, yes he does take charge of things again and he stands up to the evil and wicked stepfather but for the story it is too little and too late. He marries Rachel so he can help her and her mother and because it is time for him to get married. But with Rachel’s mother always in the picture there is hardly any romance going on, the old saying two is a party but three is a crowd certainly applies here.

Julian and Gabriel are Braven’s best friends and they both have their own story in part two and three of this trilogy. They have come to visit Braven and soon I caught myself that I was much more interested in reading their stories than in finishing this one. Although Rachel tries in her own way to make something of her life, Braven‘s character is just to washed out to enjoy. Perhaps it is just me but I did not like the whole domestic violence plotline, it wasn’t fleshed out well enough for my taste and the end of the story was almost an anticlimax.

So does that mean this is a bad story? No. It just did not charm me, it just went on and on without grabbing me. I like my heroes to be strong or that they undergo a certain change that makes them grow strong, I missed that in this story. But I am certainly not discouraged to read the other two stories in this trilogy for I know Kathryn Smith writes great stories, only A Seductive Offer could not enchant me.

2,5 stars

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bella Andre - Red Hot Reunion

Ten years ago Emma Holden was an upper class, proper and good girl. In college, she and Jason Roberts were complete opposites but also very much in love. But her parents never liked Jason, for he did not belong to the upper class and therefore was not fit to date their daughter. Dutiful Emma, who always wanted to please her parents, was swayed to dump Jason for a respectable but tedious jock from their own social class, leaving Jason behind with a broken heart.

Now ten years later Jason is a famous celebrity, he has his own cooking TV show and has been voted sexiest bachelor of the year twice, so he can get any woman he wants. He is living a fast and grand life but it is still Emma who occupies his heart. He wants revenge for what she did to him, he is determined to go to the college reunion Emma has organized, meet her and make her fall in love with him all over again, make her crave him and then leave her heartbroken the same way he was all those years ago.

But Emma is not a good girl anymore, ten years and a divorce later she realizes she has not lived at all. Now she ready to participate in every erotic adventure that Jason throws at her, stirring up their passion to unknown and unexplored heights. Now who is making who fall in love all over again…?

The characters of Bella Andre’s story Red Hot Reunion demanded my full attention in an one-sitting read. Just like in Take Me, Bella Andre writes about daily life and creates situations that are very obvious. It is always fun to read something that isn’t far-fetched and that could actually happen to you, it makes you feel connected to the story right away. She keeps her characters “normal” and her stories are always fast-paced, effortless to read and real page turners.

Emma Holden has lived her whole life the way her parents have dictated. She has been on a diet like forever just because her mother likes thin people. Now she is divorced and for the first time in her life she realizes that she has become a replica of her mother. Even her house is decorated the same as her mother’s house. All the important decisions in her life have been made for her. But no more, for the first time in her life she stands up against her parents and do things she wants to do. And she wants Jason, letting him go was the biggest mistake of her life for he makes her feel alive and she hasn’t felt alive since the day she left him.

Jason Roberts is a self-made man, from scratch he has build an entire cooking empire. He is rich, good-looking and nice, women adore him, in short he is on top of the world. But the wound Emma inflicted all those years ago is still there, the fact that he wasn’t good enough for her or her parents. He has tried to ignore his feelings for her for ten long years, burying himself in his work. He realizes he needs closure, but when he sees Emma again all his old feelings come rushing back. Their encounters are hot and sizzling but while Emma tries to clean the slate and wants to start over again in more ways than one, Jason can’t get passed his hurt and still wants to lash out.

As secondary characters you will meet Emma’s parents. It is clear that Emma’s mother wears the breeches at the parental home, her father has nothing to say. Emma’s parents, especially her mother, are cold and only care about keeping up appearances. Emma’s parents and her ex-husband Steven give a good insight on why Emma has become the person she now hates. Kate is Emma’s best friend and also the complete opposite of Emma, she is in total control of her life. Rocco works for Jason but is also a close friend and he acts as Jason’s conscience. The plot is simple and fluent, it is all about love, betrayal, forgiveness and getting back in control of one’s life.

Jason to Emma and vice versa:

“Who are you?” “The same girl you knew back in college.” “No way. The girl I knew never would have fallen to her knees to throat me.” “Funny, seemed like you liked it to me,” she found herself able to tease. “Hell yes I liked it, he replied.

With lovely characters and heart pounding sex scenes Bella Andre has written yet another sizzling, hot winner. Red Hot Reunion makes you crave for your own college reunion! Bella Andre’s books are as addictive as chocolate, it takes just one bite to make you crave for more. She has become one of my favorite erotica authors and I can’t wait to read her Bad Boys of Football series.

4 stars

Saturday, October 18, 2008

J.R. Ward - The BDB - An Insider's Guide - BDB Series

Novella Father Mine

Zsadist (Z) has a hard time getting used to being a father. He actually ignores his daughter and he is not doing well in the mental department, his past is haunting him again and he has nightmares. Bella has tried over and over again to reach out to Z but she just can’t reach him and wonders if their love is strong enough to survive. She has her own after-pregnancy-insecurities to deal with but knows that Nalla’s well-being has to come first, so she gives Z an ultimatum, either he cleans up his act or she and Nalla will be leaving…

This 81 pages long novella takes place approximately two months after Nalla’s birth and Phury’s story Lover Enshrined. It basically covers the problems Bella and Z have as a couple getting used to family life. Of course with Z’s past and his shame for it, this is not so easy. The interactions between Bella and Z are intense and full of emotion. The romance radiates from the pages and all the brothers show their faces in this story.

The plotline is simple, the brothers, the lessers and the relationship of Bella and Z. Once again I was completely wrapped up in that special vibe I remembered from the first three books, that same vibe that made me fall in love with the BDB series in the first place. It is brilliantly written and it is a remarkable example of Ward’s romantic writing skills, because we already know that she outshines in writing unique plotlines. This short novella left me completely satisfied and not once did I have the feeling it was too short, but yes it did leave me hungry for more.

An Insider's Guide

In the Brotherhood Dossiers Ward explains from her point of view how each of the six books were realized and why and how she wrote the things she did, it is really very interesting to read. The personal questions and the interviews with the brothers are funny and gave me many light bulb moments. For example did you know that Wrath is into fly-fishing, Rhage practices yoga, Butch builds rocket models and Phury paints them?

The deleted scenes are truly an addition to this Insider’s Guide, it is regretful that some of the scenes did not make the final cut but Ward explains clearly why they did not end up in the book. Although there is one romantic scene between Cormia and Phury that would have made up for a lot of the romance that I did miss in Lover Enshrined. But like Ward explained, it did not really fit in the timeline of the book, but all these scenes are great to read.

This guide also contains the Slices of Life and the brothers on the board interactions, now some will say that this is old stuff that they already read on Ward’s forum. True, but… Ward’s forum is huge and then the interactions are interrupted with all those enthusiastic posts from the cellies. I like it that I don’t have to search for them on the board and that they are now on paper and not interrupted. Besides you never know if they stay on Ward’s board forever… I enjoyed reading them and yes the BDB-vibe was overwhelming!

The interview with Ward is hilarious, she did not have to say anything because Rhage and Butch completely took over and then, of course, the other brothers had to step in as well, yeah the interview is full of sexy bickering alpha males. There is also a heartbreaking interview with Tohr and Wellsie, the signs of the Old Language, Ward’s favorite quotes from the books and some other fun stuff.

So if you don’t mind reading some stuff that was already posted on Ward’s forum, An Insider’s Guide is a great read. Father Mine is a great short story and the deleted scenes are a great addition. It is great to read how Ward’s point of view is on certain scenes and to have all those little facts neatly organized on paper. Very important to point out is that this guide is very readable and hilarious, it belongs in your Black Dagger Brotherhood selection of books. The bonding scent of the BDB is all over this book, creating that special, addictive vibe that wraps around you like a warm blanket, it will entertain you for many hours, just read it!

4 stars

Friday, October 17, 2008

Alexandra Benedict - Too Scandalous to Wed - Too Trilogy 2

Unwilling to taint any woman with the terrible secret hidden in his heart, Sebastian, Viscount Ravenswood, has sworn never to marry. Luckily, whimsical Henrietta Ashby was never much of a temptation for the devilishly handsome rogue – until now. Suddenly, Henrietta has learned to seduce him with a bewitching charm… and clandestine midnight kisses.

Henrietta would go to any lengths to catch the eye of the man she’s long loved from afar – even seeking the help of the most notorious courtesan in England! But as Sebastian’s secret follows them from the ballroom to the boudoir, and his diabolical enemy plots revenge, will Henrietta risk her life to offer him a passionate redemption… or will he prove to be too scandalous to wed?

This is part two in Alexandra Benedict’s Too trilogy, the heroine of this story, Henry, we already met briefly in part one of this trilogy. Alexandra Benedict has written another classic, historical romance full of passion, danger and entanglements. What hallmarks her writing is that it is very laid-back to read, her storyline is always fluent and her characters are appealing and very well fleshed out.

Henrietta (Henry) Ashby has had an unusual childhood, her father raised her as a boy and calls her Henry, since he only has daughters and no sons. Therefore he has allowed her many more liberties than his other daughters and that is also the reason that she is still not married. Well, that and the fact that she has been in love with the Viscount of Ravenswood for as long as she can remember, but he only sees her as his sister-in-law. She is headstrong, opinionated, loyal to her friends and family, she knows what she wants and she is very smart. Now the Viscount has returned from his journey abroad she is determined to lure the hero of her dreams in her passionate embrace. She is fierce but also innocent and she soon discovers that the real world is not as romantic as she thought.

Sebastian, Viscount of Ravenswood, has always been fond of the Ashby family, he is also very much aware of the fact that Henry is smitten by him. So he went abroad for a couple of months hoping that on his return she would be married and settled, but he has no such luck and now she somehow looks different but he seems to be the only one who has noticed, all of the sudden little, innocent Henry turns out to be quite a temptation. Sebastian’s heart is black and he is a real rogue at least that is what he believes. He does not believe in a blissful marriage for his parents did not give a good example. He knows that his brother will produce an heir so he shakes off his responsibilities as a Viscount and he indulges in all the vices he can think of, he drinks excessively, has many amorous adventures at the Hellfire Club and completely ignores the rules of society. But losing Henry’s admiration hurts more than he thought and now he wants it back.

Sebastian’s brother Peter and the whole Ashby family make a great addition to the story, they all love Henry and Sebastian very much and you can feel their solidarity. Of course there is always a villain in a story and this one is quite deranged. But most of the space on the pages is filled with Henry and Sebastian’s relationship. You will see their characters grow, Henry’s change from an innocent girl into young woman and Sebastian’s belief that he truly can be a gentleman and not just a rogue and that he is worthy of true love. Henry gives Sebastian a run for his money in the seduction department and she drives him crazy with her stubbornness, so much that he, the rogue, seeks advice from a courtesan to win her back.

Henry to Sebastian:

“I am afraid we’re in a terrible fix.” Sebastian followed her gaze- and his heart shuddered at the sight of the mistletoe. “My lord, I do believe I owe you a kiss.”

“But you and I are friends”, she said next, eyes slanted in demure innocence. “And it wouldn’t do a’ tall if I kissed you on the lips… instead I will kiss you where you’ve never been kissed before.”

Alexandra Benedicts knows how to throw you into ecstasies with her stories and she provides you with a warm, classic but refreshing love story that will steal your heart. Curl up at the couch with Too Scandalous to Wed and you will disappear into the regency realm and enjoy many hours of first-class reading!

4 stars

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sophia Nash - A Dangerous Beauty

Rosamunde Baird has lost everything and has no choice but to accept an invitation to spend a season with a dowager duchess and her clandestine Ladies Club. Determined to stay in the shadows and live quietly, she has sworn never again to come face to face with adventure and temptation, two things that brought her ruin years ago. But then the Duke of Helston dangles before her the very things she craves most…

Mysterious Luc St. Aubyn has a much-deserved reputation for exuding blistering passion at night and frost in the morning after. What demons drive this audacious war hero to hide secrets about the dowager’s club and his devilish dictionary? When he’s blindsided by his reactions to a virtuous siren, he has no choice but to reveal all during a scandal that will doom them… or save them, if only they dare to believe in love.

Sometimes while reading a story, you just instantly know that you have a new favorite among the many books you have read. Well, here I thought I was just going to read another nice regency story, I was wrong, this story blew me away. Yes, it is very much regency, all the principle ingredients are present, a roguish duke, a lady in distress, lots of gossip and of course as always the upper level of London’s society, the ton. But it is the unique combination of characters, plotlines and the brilliant and fluent writing of Sophia Nash that gives this story an unique and refreshing vibe that exceeded my expectations.

Rosamunde Baird is not the typical virginal, innocent regency heroine we all have grown accustomed to. As a young girl of 17 she was seen kissing Henry St. Aubyn, her father who had placed her on a pedestal did not want to listen to her explanation. To avoid scandal they were forced to marry, but Rosamunde knew that Henry did not love her so she escaped with another man and married him. After her father disowned her, her darling husband turned into a dictator who controlled her every move, when he perished he left her penniless. The only one who supported her, was her sister Sylvia.

Rosamunde who used to be a passionate, vibrant young lady full of life changed into a submissive, obeying person. She withdrew herself from society who already shunned her and vowed to live a quiet life together with her sister Sylvia who stood by her. But underneath this quiet fa├žade she is still that passionate, vibrant and strong young lady who needs her father’s love and acceptance of society. Now she is about to be kicked out of her home and she has no choice then to keep her head high, face the rejection of the ton and accept the invitation from the same family that caused her downfall so many years ago…

Luc St. Aubyn is the kind of man you drool over, he bears the emotional scars of his upbringing. The dukes in his family were all first-class dictators and his father was no exception. He loves books and likes to write, but his passion for books was quelled by his father. He joined the navy just to provoke his father, never thought he would end up being the Duke of Helston, for both his father and his older brother Henry passed away. His greatest fear is to become like his father, therefore he has vowed to never marry or get involved with a woman other then on an one-night-stand-basis. Except he forgets all his intentions when it comes to Rosamunde.

He dotes on his grandmother Ata, the duchess dowager. Ata is a very strong character in this story, she is cunning, social and a real matchmaker, this old lady will steal your heart and she is as important as Luc and Rosamunde for this story. She has found happiness late in life after the dictatorship of her husband and son ended. She has made it her mission to help other widows find happiness again or peace of mind. Luc fulfills all her wishes but she doesn’t know that they are on the verge of bankruptcy.

Luc to Ata and vice versa:

“Give me that. You ‘ve never limped a day in your life.” “I carry it to keep gentlemen away from the ladies in my club. Do I need to remind you that Mrs. Baird is recently bereaved?’ “Bereaved? Don’t you mean relieved?”

The love between Ata and Luc manifest itself in the sarcastic and cynical bickering, it is hilarious. They both use humor and sarcasm to deal with everyday life and they value people for their character not their title. It is them against-the-rest-of-the-ton and they bend the rules of society and get away with it. The interactions between Rosamunde and Luc mirror their personalities, they simmer and grow more intense with every page you turn but always have this mocking undertone.

The cast of secondary characters is fantastic, the ladies of the widow club are charming and I am sure we will meet them again in their own story. Sophia Nash is also great in outlining the ton and all their gossiping and prejudices. There are many characters in this story, for example Rosamunde’s family, and they all enrich it, they give you a good insight how society worked in the regency period and how fragile a woman’s reputation was, once it was lost it could not be retrieved.

I love the way Sophia Nash writes. It is fluent, easy to read and utterly compelling. The plot is uncomplicated but still surprising. Rosamunde, Luc and Ata have to face the prejudices of society, the persistent gossips, rejection and a mysterious disease. On top of this all Luc and Rosamunde have to deal with their impossible attraction to one another and they are trying against all odds to restore Rosamunde’s rightful place in society. But the one thing that makes this story special is the sarcastic humor that you can find on almost every page, it keeps the story playful to read and makes you laugh out loud.

A Dangerous Beauty is one of those stories that you will cherish forever and will read over and over again. Sophia Nash’s unique writing combined with fantastic and well fleshed out characters, a compelling plot and hilarious humor will keep you spellbound to the very end. I loved and devoured every page! I am eager to find what the future holds for the other members of the widow club.

5 stars

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Lisa Marie Rice - Dangerous Lover

Caroline Lake has been down on her luck for the last couple of years. After her parents died in a car accident she found out that there was no money left due to bad investments of her father. Now she only has her bookstore and her parental home, the last is in desperate need of renovation. To boost her income she takes in boarders but even that is not working. Until on Christmas Eve a tall, dark and dangerous man enters her bookstore and wants to rent a room. Against her better judgment she agrees and he turns out to be the perfect boarder and … lover. For the first time in years she feels happy and carefree. But Jack is too good to be true for he is not who he claims to be and danger follows him wherever he goes…

Jack has spent years in the army and the security business to serve his surrogate father. Now that his father has departed this life and he has taken care of some business that went terribly wrong Jack is free to pursue his own dreams. He has sold his father’s company and is therefore a rich man, he heads to a little town called Summerville to find the one woman he has dreamt of for the last twelve years. The one woman who was nice to him when they were teens and who doesn’t even remember him. He finds Caroline easily and they have this immediate connection with one another. But the enemy is closing in and Jack is about to lose Caroline forever for she is his weak point…

Dangerous Lover is the first book that I have read from Lisa Marie Rice and all I can say is WOW! From page one this book held me captive right to the very end. Lisa Marie Rice’s writing is easy, accessible and it reads like clockwork.

The main storyline tells you the romantic part, the relationship between Caroline and Jack. Caroline could use a break from her money problems, once she was an upper class girl now she struggles to make her monthly payments to the bank but she is always willing to help other people. Jack wants nothing more than to take away Caroline’s problems and love her, to make her his as he has dreamt of for so long. But he is not completely honest with her about his past and it does not take long before Caroline starts to doubt him.

The second storyline provides you with the suspense part of the book. Jack’s former colleague Vince Deaver is coming to town and it is not a social call. He is malicious and a real soldier, he will stop at nothing to get want he wants and he wants Jack’s head on a platter. Your imagination will run riot for Miss Rice is capable to vividly describe every little detail, the love scenes are heated and moreover she knows how to outline her characters to perfection. Caroline’s character is sympathetic, Vince will send shivers down your spine but it is the way she has described Jack. This tall, muscular soldier will make your head spin!

There are not many supporting characters in this story, the most important one is Sanders. He is Caroline’s ex-boyfriend. He is the typical rich guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he is used to getting his way and doesn’t know the meaning of the word “no”.

Miss Rice does a great job in building up the suspense, you know Vince is coming, you know Jack should watch his back, you just keep flipping the pages waiting for disaster to happen. The only thing that annoyed me and almost literally gave me a cold shower was the end, it is very abrupt and left me unsatisfied. For me, the story is not finished for I am dying to know if Caroline and Jack fare well, therefore an epilogue would have been most welcome.

All I can say is that I enjoyed this story very much, except for the end. Miss Rice knows how to portray her men and Jack has become one of my favorite heroes. Now that Lisa Marie Rice lured me into her world full of suspense, romance and irresistible men, I am eager to read Dangerous Secrets and once again get swept of my feet.

4 stars