Monday, November 15, 2010

Arc review: Christina Crooks - Hands On

Hands On
Christina Crooks
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-60928-246-2
Length: Category
Format: ebook
Publication Date: November 16, 2010
Ebook received by author for review


Want to make Fate laugh? Try telling her who’s in charge.

Talented, down-on-her-luck puppeteer Ginnie Anderson’s life seems destined to fall down around her ears. Much like the rented bungalow that’s just collapsed in a heavy rainstorm, endangering her precious collection of marionettes.

Her livelihood in need of protection and repair, she can’t refuse her landlord’s offer of temporary shelter in his magnificent home. Under his roof, though, she finds her hard-won grasp on her independence slipping—and herself falling into his arms.

The hallmark of Harry Sharpe's business success: he never makes the same mistake twice, particularly when it comes to manipulative women. So why is Ginnie, who pulls strings for a living, like a siren’s song in his blood? It’s best to put temptation as far out of reach as possible.

Yet when Ginnie’s past threatens to destroy the life she’s built for herself, Harry must decide which is more important. Holding tight to his sense of self preservation, or letting go to capture Ginnie’s fragile heart—before it breaks into a thousand pieces.

My review:

Ginny Anderson is determined to start her life over; she has left her controlling ex and rented a charming, little bungalow. She has a new job and wants to make a career as a puppeteer, then her charming yet desperate-in-need-of-repair bungalow collapses in a heavy rainstorm and she has no other choice than to accept the offer of her landlord, Harry, to move in with him temporary. She falls hard and fast for Harry even when he tells her he isn’t looking for a relationship, she is setting herself up for more heartache yet she can’t help herself.

Not so long ago Harry Barrett Sharpe was a well-known real estate tycoon, but after his manipulating ex-fiancée tried to ruin him and destroyed his reputation, he retired from the public eye and now lives a solitary-minded life. He lost all faith in women and vowed to never get involved with a woman again, and then fate throws Ginny in his life. Ginny is a puppeteer and literally pulls at strings for a living. She turns Harry’s life upside down and gets under his skin yet his self preservation won’t allow Ginny to capture his heart, now Harry has to make a choice.

Hands On is a short novella of 125 pages and I have said it before in other reviews of short stories; me and short stories are usually not a good combination, the reason why I wanted to read this story was the blurb, I found the fact that Ginny was a puppeteer intriguing and different. Unfortunately Hands On and I are not a good combination somehow; it did not work for me on various levels. I did not have a connection with the main characters and I did not buy into the story completely.

Ginny Anderson is a puppeteer who has left her controlling ex to start her life over again and make it on her own. Determined to be herself from now on instead of how others (her mother and ex) like her to be she has accepted a job elsewhere. The timid and meek girl is gone. I can understand that she feels free to be herself for the very first time in her life and to do whatever she wants but it takes Ginny only one afternoon to fall head over heels for Harry, she reminded me of a giggling teenager with a crush. The giggling teen act irritated me throughout the story; however I did like her devotion and passion for her work as a puppeteer. But I could not reconcile her actions with her past therefore I did not feel a connection with Ginny.

And I felt the same thing with Harry; I could not connect with him. He is a successful businessman and a recluse thanks to his ex-fiancée who destroyed his reputation. But he immediately offers Ginny to move in with him temporarily, mostly because he is her landlord and feels guilty but he had other options to act rightly. He is an honest, hard-working man but emotionally damaged by his past. Yet I could not reconcile his actions with his past either and therefore I never bought into this story completely.

The whole story centers on Harry and Ginny’s relationship. Hands On is a classic love story about two people finding true love, but it felt so rushed to me and therefore at times unbelievable. To me the story’s Achilles heel is that the characters were contradictive and therefore not well-balanced. Hands On fails to reach its full potential because it is only 125 pages and therefore it is not explored in depth enough.

But I loved the grand finale when Harry and Ginny finally get things right. Christina Crooks’ writing is witty, smooth and captivating, and in spite of its shortcomings, Hands On is still an enjoyable, fast read.

3 stars

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Victoria Dahl - A Little Bit Wild

Victoria Dahl - A Little Bit Wild

Paperback: 329 pages
Zebra Books published by Kensington Publishing Corp.
ISBN-13: 978-1-4201-0483-7
ISBN-10: 1-4201-0483-7
Genre: Historical Romance
Book: stand-alone
Main Characters: Jude Bertrand & Marissa York


He Is Not What She Had In Mind.

Jude Bertrand is not an excellent dancer. Nor does he wear the most fashionable coats. But when Marissa York's brother approaches him, desperate to preserve Marissa's tenuous reputation, Jude does prove heroic enough to offer to marry the girl. In fact, the union should more than make up for his lack of social graces-and his own scandalous past...

But Minds Change...

Marissa knows that betrothal to the son of a duke-even one as raw and masculine as Jude-will save her from ruin, but that doesn't mean she's happy about it. Soon, though, she finds that Jude has a surprisingly gentle touch-and plans to use it to persuade Marissa that their wedding day cannot come soon enough...

Although I have several books of Victoria Dahl on my shelf A Little Bit Wild is my first acquaintance with Dahl’s work but it won’t be my last. I had no problem in finishing this story in one sitting, Dahl’s typical style of wit had me flipping the pages and I could not stop. A Little Bit Wild is not your average historical romance novel; it is as the title says a little bit wild and unconventional. Jude and Marissa, the main characters, break every rule the stiff Victorian society has laid on them.

This story takes place in England in 1847 and Dahl literally drops us in the middle of a scandal. Marissa York comes from a respectable, noble family but scandal always seems to find her family. She gets caught red-handed by her brother while making love, her reputation is ruined. There is only one solution to fix her reputation and avoid scandal, Marissa must marry and fast. Only Marissa has no intention of getting married and especially not to the guy who took her virginity. But her brother is relentless, so when Jude Bertrand, a friend of the family and house guest, offers to marry her she has no choice but to agree for the time being. Jude is raw, muscular and anything but graceful, he is everything she is not looking for in a man but she soon finds out that Jude has a very pleasant touch…

Jude Bertrand, born out of wedlock, is the acknowledged son of a duke; he has always liked Marissa York, even though she never really noticed him. He has often seen her eyes linger on elegant young men he still considers to be boys not men. He is also the only one who noticed that Marissa is full of passion and she desperately tries to contain it. She is different than the other ladies and her streak of wildness turns him on, he plans to use it to his advantage and show Marissa that she really doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life with a graceful young lad but that she needs a real man like him who knows exactly what she needs…

This story is even-paced and character-driven. It is a journey of soul searching, a heroine who claims to be a proper lady but is really a bit wicked and an illegitimate son who wants to be truly accepted for the man he really is and not just as the acknowledged son of a duke. Marissa is headstrong, feisty and outspoken but also a bit spoiled, shallow and naïf. She likes to flirt and seduce men to kiss her; she does not realize that she is restless and bored with her life as it is. Jude is honorable, loyal and strong. He is coarse-featured, broad shouldered with a wide face that looks hewn from stone. He has masculine features and an unrelenting height; he looks more like a blacksmith than a gentleman. He likes to provoke Marissa into very unladylike conversations.

I love the way their relationship unfolds, their witty, bold and naughty conversations vibrate from the pages. They really are perfectly fitted for one another. Their emotions and passion spice up the story even further. There are not many secondary characters in this story, but the ones that caught my eye were Marissa’s brothers. Also a bit unconventional, they are known for their bad temper, their bickering and the way Dahl describes the occurrings in the York's family home reminded me by fits and starts of a slapstick, really hilarious. But the brothers mean well and will do anything to protect their little sister and family name. Edward, who is the head of the family obviously runs his family with a not so firm hand and Aidan is the tortured one, now he is the one I would love to see in his own story.

The plot thickens a bit when the family gets blackmailed and Marissa’s escapades are about to become public knowledge. Although you can see the blackmail coming from a mile away the blackmailer comes from an unexpected corner. There were also a few things that irked me about this story, although Marissa is a very adventurous and untamable lady, she really gets a lot of freedom. In those days ladies were not left alone with a man without a chaperone, but Marissa has done so several times, she pretty much goes her own way, Jude even spent time in her room. For such a smart lady she does not really seem to care for her reputation. At some point she even drinks brandy, but a lady was not allowed to drink hard liquor in those days. These things were “not done” at that time and a respectable family like Marissa’s would not have allowed that. Also modesty and propriety demanded in those days that a pregnant woman of the gentry who is already showing remained confined, she certainly would not have openly received three men no matter how urgent the matter was. So even though Jude, Marissa and the York family are a bit unconventional for those days these things irked me a bit.

But I did enjoy A Little Bit Wild very much, it is a refreshing story. The dialogues sparkle with wit and both Marissa as Jude are penned down so vividly that they jump of the pages. A Little Bit Wild is refreshingly different and wickedly witty read.

3,5 stars

Monday, September 20, 2010

Vicki Lewis Thompson - Claimed!

Vicki Lewis Thompson

Part 3 in the Sons of Chance Series
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 0-373-79560-2 / 978-0-373-79560-4
Publisher: Harlequin Blaze
Release: August 2010
Book origin: e-copy provided by publisher for review


Following a dream brought Josie Keller to Shoshone, Wyoming. Following her heart brought her plenty of great sex with good-time cowboy Jack Chance! She was head over heels for him. until he left her.

Stay with one woman? Not a chance! Then why does Jack miss Josie like crazy? Had their relationship been more than just incredible sex?

Little do Josie and Jack know that a plan's afoot to get them back in the saddle.together. And once there, it's not long before they're burning up the bedsheets again!

But the past is never far away. Before it catches up with them, Jack has to decide if he's going to stake his claim on Josie, or lose her forever..

When Josie Keller fell in love with Wyoming and decided to move there, she bought a bar, the Spirits and Spurs, and worked hard to make it a success. She met Jack and fell head over heels in love with him, thought he was the one. With Jack Josie had lost all her inhibitions, she felt alive and beautiful. But after 6 months of blistering sex and bliss Jack had walked away, leaving her heartbroken and alone.

Up to ten months ago Jack Chance had a good life; he loved his work at his father’s ranch and could not keep his hands off his girlfriend Josie, spending every free moment he had with her. But everything changed when Jack’s father died in an accident. Riddled with guilt, Jack ended his relationship with Josie and as the eldest son he was left in charge of running the ranch, a job he never wanted.

His father’s death still weighs heavily on his broad shoulders when fate brings Jack and Josie together once more. Jack’s brother is getting married on horseback and Josie is the maid of honour. There is just one little problem, Josie can’t ride and needs riding lessons, Jack happens to be the right person to teach her. It does not take them long to stir up their passion again but this time Josie demands much more from him than just mind-blowing sex and Jack is not sure he can give Josie what she seeks…

Claimed is part 3 in the Sons of Chance series by Vicki Lewis Thompson. Claimed is playful and reads like clockwork. Miss Thompson does an excellent job in taking us on a journey to a typical little town in the middle of the country side. Both Jack and Josie are loveable characters and all the ingredients were there to create a powerful love story, yet I found something was lacking. This story lacked emotion, it did not sweep me off my feet and though I found Claimed an enjoyable read the story missed depth.

Jack obviously has some issues with his past, his mother left when he was a toddler. Now many years later he still is not able to call his stepmother mom, he calls her Sarah while he knows this pains her. He always has to be the one to end things; he never lets anyone come close because he never shares his emotions or his thoughts.

Josie is a really nice and social character, works hard but was really hurt when Jack ended what they had, saying their relationship was just sex nothing more. When Jack returns in her life she vows to keep her distance, yet one look at his fabulous body during their first riding lesson and she surrenders to her passion for him. This while she knows he has not changed a bit.

After all that has happened, Jack and Josie just pick up their sexual relationship. I loved the sex scenes; they were passionate, hot, playful and witty. But I do not understand that Josie surrenders so easily knowing that Jack hasn’t changed. That does not mean that Jack is a complete jerk, he is an honorable and sexy man, he just does not handle things with Josie very well. When she realises that Jack still has the same issues and refuses to open his heart for her, she forces his hand, either he opens his heart for her or she walks.

Then almost in the blink of an eye Jack changes, in a grand gesture at his brother’s wedding he shows Josie he can change and declares his love for her. And though the gesture was romantic and beautiful it did not convince me, it was too abrupt. For me, the story line was too weak, because it is only about Jack and Josie's relationship, it might have worked better for me if the characters were fleshed out better, now it missed depth and emotion.

So for me Claimed was a fast-paced, easy and enjoyable read that entertained me for several hours but it did not grab me emotionally, yet it piqued my interest enough to want to read the stories of Jack's brothers.

3,5 stars

Friday, August 6, 2010

Susan Fox - Love Unexpectedly

At thirty-one, Kat Fallon's luck with men shows no sign of improving. But when she asks her best friend Nav Bharani to be her date at her younger sister's wedding in Vancouver, she has no idea that she's about to get on board the most surprising ride of her life. . .

Nav has been secretly in love with Kat ever since he moved in next door. When she reveals that she loves taking train rides, especially the meeting-strangers part, Nav devises a plan to win Kat's heart. On every leg of her trip to Vancouver, he shows up disguised as a different sexy stranger. Stunned by Nav's daring, Kat finds herself succumbing to his inventive transformations. But what starts out as an innocent adventure soon becomes much more for Kat as she is forced to choose between her long-held fantasies of the perfect mate--and the prospect of something far more real.

The Wild Ride To Love series is about three sisters traveling home for their kid-sister’s wedding. In part one Sex Drive (published under the pen name Susan Lyons), Theresa Fallon flies home for the wedding and finds true love in the arms of Damien Black. I fell hard and fast for Damien and the way he seduced Theresa. Therefore I could not wait to continue my ride with Theresa’s sister Kat in Love Unexpectedly, who prefers trains over planes to get home. Could her journey by train equally mesmerize me the way Theresa’s journey did? The answer is yes for train trips are sexy too! From page one Kat pulled me along on her journey and nothing could deter me from reaching my final destination: the last page of Love Unexpectedly.

This story begins in the basement laundry room of Kat’s apartment building, where she pours her heart out to her neighbor and best buddy Nav Bharani. Kat is happy for her baby sister but she is also green with envy that sis is getting married while she also longs for marriage and kids, yet she somehow jinxes every single one of her relationships. She picks her men poorly and Nav wonders if she ever is going to open her eyes and realize that her Mr. Right is standing right in front of her. He has been in love with Kat from the moment they met, but Kat has stuck him in the buddy trap. He is her best friend; she has never had a best friend before and won’t risk her relationship with him. Then out of the blue Kat asks Nav to be her date at her sister’s wedding and to pretend he is her boyfriend. Now he sees his chance, since Kat hates to fly she is going to take the train home and what better way to show her who her perfect mate is and make her his girlfriend for real while spending time together as strangers on the train…

Love Unexpectedly is an even-paced and character-driven story. Both Kat and Nav have to take a long look in the mirror and make some changes if they ever going to be truly happy with themselves and in a relationship. Kat is the PR director of a luxurious hotel; she is beautiful, creative and has great organizational skills. She is social and outgoing and yet she has no high self-esteem, she thinks herself boring and average. Therefore she dates men who are the complete opposite of her and they are of course completely wrong for her.

Nav Bharani is a photographer, he is basically a nice guy who could look a lot better but he does not care about his appearance. He is laidback, a good listener and likes to date, but the only reason he dates a lot is to get over his love for Kat. His parents do not approve of his career, they wanted him to take over the family business and agree to an arranged marriage. Their culture and way of living collides in every way with the way Nav wants to live his life, Nav loves his parents but their relationship is uneasy. He is determined to make it on his own as a successful photographer.

I liked Nav from the start but he stole my heart when he fully revamps his looks and surprises Kat on the train playing the “stranger”. Together they play their little game and they come to see each other in a different light. Kat discovers that though she and Nav have been neighbors for many years she really doesn’t know that much about him. The more she gets to know him the more she wants him but she desperately clings to Nav as her best friend, she does not want to lose her best friend. But the “sexy stranger” is lean, muscular, and has an awesome butt, he is drop dead gorgeous and soon Kat longs for more. They have many in-depth conversations and their journey really is one intense ride of self-reflection. Nav discovers that he likes to look well groomed and that his aversion to keep up appearances has to do with his parents constant strive for perfection. Kat also learns that she dated exciting guys with good looks but no substance to boost her self-esteem.

Just as in Sex Drive every chapter is told either from Kat’s point of view, or Nav’s. This gives you a good insight in Kat’s confusion for having feelings for her best friend and Nav’s determination to conquer Kat’s heart for good. I love that their in-depth conversations together with the casual chats they have with other travelers on the train are meaningful and provide them with many insights about themselves and each other. Both Damien and Nav have given Teresa and Kat a fresh perspective on their family. It is obvious that though all sisters have a warm affection for each other they also experienced their childhood differently, they have issues and insecurities and therefore drifted apart. Now little by little they find their way back to one another.

The dialogues in this story are so down-to-earth and easy to relate to, they keep the story dynamic and interesting. The sexual tension between Kat and Nav is very erotic and comes to a full eruption on the train, at the same time I could feel Kat’s confusion and Nav’s frustration and I liked the way their friendship develops into something more, with each page I turned their characters grew more profound.

With Love Unexpectedly Susan Fox took me on an emotional rollercoaster ride, with amazingly well rounded characters, intriguing dialogues and seductive passion she kept me on the edge of my seat!

4 stars

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Paula Quinn - Ravished By A Highlander

So far Paula Quinn has five books to her name, and I devoured each one of them. She instantly became one of my favorite authors in the historical genre. Her beautiful, fluent and authentic-to-the-time-period writing has never failed to enchant me and got me hooked on her stories. I fell head over heels in love with Callum MacGregor and his clan after reading Laird of the Mist and A Highlander Never Surrenders, so I wondered if my high expectations for their successor could be met.

Ravished By A Highlander is the first part in the Children of the Mist series, which introduces the next generation of the MacGregor clan. It starts approximately 30 years after Laird of the Mist, the political climate has changed and Callum MacGregor leads his clan in peace, they are no longer outlaws. But the clan is surrounded by many different enemies and Callum must navigate his clan through a minefield of political intrigues to maintain this fragile peace. Against this setting we meet Callum’s son Robert (Rob) MacGregor.

Rob MacGregor is the firstborn son of Callum MacGregor, the mighty and notorious laird of the MacGregor clan. He is on his way to the coronation of England’s new king when a little detour lands him in the middle of an ugly attack. Although it is not his fight he intervenes and saves the mysterious Lady Davina from a burning abbey. As a man of honor he is determined to deliver this lass to safety, but when he discovers Davina’s secret he knows immediately she is a threat to him and his clan. Still he cannot let her go; his heart is consumed with a passion he cannot deny. Now he has to choose between his heart and his duty.

From the day she was born Davina Montgomery has been kept under lock and key for her own protection and safety. Her true identity can never be revealed, her only friends and companions are the nuns and the men who have sworn an oath to protect her. She knows that one day the enemy will find her, due to betrayal that day comes much sooner than expected. Her rescue comes from an unexpected corner and soon she falls under the spell of her rescuer and his men. But can she truly trust them and dare she risk it to put this fierce but gentle Highlander and his clan in so much danger?

Ravished By A Highlander is off and running in the first chapter and never lets up, as always Paula Quinn’s fluent writing immediately took me back in time to the Scottish Highlands of 1685. It is obvious that Quinn has done profound research of the time period for she effortlessly mixes historical facts with fiction into a powerful, beautiful and passionate story. The pages are also filled with smart-mouthed, intense, passionate conversations that kept me on the edge of my seat and I could almost hear the Scottish burr of the MacGregors roll off the pages.

All his life Rob has been prepped to one day follow in his father’s impressive footsteps and together with his father he works hard to ensure the clan’s prosperity. He is a natural born leader, loyal to the bone, honorable, fierce but also gentle, he works hard and always does the right thing. He never ever goes against the wishes of this father, but for once he wants something for him alone, follow his heart instead of duty. He is every woman’s dream warrior come true, this is the way Paula Quinn describes him:

“Rob MacGregor was unholy for certain, with a sinewy, broad chest feathered with dark hair and a belly carved in small, tight squares. The most sinful of all though was the sensual V curve of muscles below his low hanging plaid.”

Davina has lived a sheltered life so far. She is a petite beauty and has resigned herself with her fate; she exists but does not really live. The only knowledge she has from the world outside her window comes from books. She is strong, loving, still full of hope despite her hopeless situation and protective of the people she cares for. Rob wants to gain her trust since he already guessed her secret and Davina just wants a taste of real life. Slowly their relationship blossoms into something more meaningful. Their attraction and passion for one another cannot be denied though they try really hard, it pulled at my heartstrings for nothing good can come from it. Rob goes against everything his father taught him about protecting the clan by keeping Davina at his side and now he has to face his father’s wrath, but the urge to claim her as his own is overpowering. Davina knows what she has to do if her identity is discovered but till then she holds on to every blissful moment she can get. Paula Quinn beautifully pens down their passion and attraction for one another, it jumps of the pages with a scalding heat and urged me to read on.

And though I was all emotionally wrapped up in Rob’s and Davina’s dilemma I could not escape the plethora of the secondary cast of characters. Paula Quinn made my heart beat faster by having Rob’s brothers, his cousins and the siblings of Graham Grant parade throughout the story. Will, Finn, Connor, Colin, Tristan, they made my mouth water and their bickering made me laugh out loud. Since this series is not called Children of the Mist for nothing I hope to see them all get their own story for Paula Quinn’s background characters are scorching hot warriors.

So did Paula Quinn meet the high expectations I had for Ravished By A Highlander? Yes she did, for once again I devoured every word on every page. Paula Quinn really is one of the best historical romance authors out there, she never fails to touch my heart with her stories and her characters. There is not a thing I did not like about this book! She beautifully penned down a rich, layered and authentic story by combining historical facts, well-rounded characters, passion and suspense perfect to a tee. The next generation of MacGregors is hot and sexy and knocking on every romance reader’s door, ready to be discovered! Their interactions are heart rendering, Rob is every woman’s dream warrior, strong, raw, fierce and sexy! Tristan’s story is up next and I can’t wait to read what this rogue is up too!

Ravished By A Highlander is packed with history, drama, hot Scottish highlanders, wit and passion. Utterly irresistible!

4,5 stars

Although not necessary, for your reading pleasure you might like to read Laird of the Mist and A Highlander Never Surrenders too, these are the stories of the parents of the Children of the Mist.

Paula Quinn's next story in the Children of the Mist series will be Seduced By A Highlander.

Paula Quinn
Seduced By A Highlander
Part 2 Children of the Mist Series

Publisher: Forever
ISBN: 978-0446552370
Releasedate: 31 August 2010



Tristan MacGregor is famed throughout the Highlands as a silver-tongued seducer and an unrepentant rogue. Bold and charming, he’s dallied with many women, yet none as beguiling and mysterious as the lass he steals a kiss from at the king’s court. Little does he know this beauty is one of his clan’s greatest enemies.


Isobel Fergusson has despised the bloodthirsty MacGregors ever since they murdered her father. When she learns the handsome stranger who melted her resistance is a MacGregor, she vows to forget him. But Tristan means to possess her at any cost and Isobel’s body turns traitor at his touch. Can a man she’s sworn to hate be the only one she can ever love?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lisa Marie Wilkinson - Stolen Promise

“At the Lowara Gypsy Camp outside Windsor, England, in 1806, a young woman will lose her independence in a common marriage market transaction. Jade knows she is promised to Dimitri, a possessive abuser.

When her father sends her to the arms of another man, Jade finds only slight consolation . . . until she encounters her intended. Evan Dark is a half-Gypsy gentleman—nothing like Dimitri. Caught in a battle between tribes, Jade is a piece of property, the ideal runaway bride. In order to escape Dimitri’s clutches, she sails for Charleston with Evan as his indentured servant. But, engaged to another woman as part of a plantation merger in South Carolina, Evan’s affiliation with Jade can never be more than professional.

Evan must choose between fulfilling his obligation to marry his betrothed or accept his overpowering passion for Jade, a woman his matchmaking Gypsy grandfather deemed the perfect Romany wife. In nineteenth-century America, where insincere tradition meets old money and arranged matrimony in upper-crust society, Evan faces the most difficult decision of his life: Remain loyal to the fiancée he holds in commitment . . . or be true to the lover he holds in his heart.”

Stolen Promise is the second novel of Lisa Marie Wilkinson and from page one it demanded my full attention for this story takes off full steam ahead! Lisa Marie Wilkinson threw me back in time to the early 1800’s, with a great eye for historical detail she took me on a touching journey to the Romany culture with its many beliefs and customs and the every-day-plantation-life of the crème de la crème of Charleston’s society.

With Evan Dark Lisa Marie Wilkinson created a classic hero, he is strong, honourable, dutiful and reliable. As the heir to a large plantation he is used to give orders, but when he finds out his real father was a gypsy he sails to England to discover his roots and learn more about his Roma background. He meets his grandfather who insists he takes a Romany wife from another tribe so an alliance between the tribes can be made. As a man of honour, Evan friendly declines the offer and intends to leave for America where his fiancée and duties are waiting for him, and then he runs into Jade.

Jade is a beautiful, strong, young woman who is trapped in the traditions of the Romany culture. A Romany woman has no rights; she obeys and accepts her fate. Jade has known for a long time she is supposed to marry Dimitri, an abuser. But she refuses to accept this; she wants a better life for herself and her younger sister, away from everything that has to do with her own culture. So she runs away, gets into trouble and Evan saves her. He insists on taking her back to her camp.

On the way back to the camp Evan and Jade experience several charged, breathless moments of undeniable attraction. It also becomes clear that Jade has lived an isolated life in the gypsy camp; she knows little of life outside the camp. Trouble always seem to find her. But she is a real survivor, she is smart and spirited. The gypsies have their own traditions and law, and when they blackmail Evan to uphold the arranged marriage, he has no choice than to play along so he can escape later. After all, a gypsy marriage has no value outside the gypsy world. He is very angry when he finds out that it is Jade who he has to marry, he is convinced she has entrapped him. But he also cares and worries for Jade, he does not like to leave her with Dimitri, so when she makes him an offer to be his indentured servant if he takes her and her sister with him to America he cannot refuse.

And so their fate stays entangled, Evan takes Jade and her sister to South Carolina. Now both sisters have to learn to live in Evan’s world. Evan is a true gentleman, he is very protective of Jade and her sister. Their smouldering attraction keeps growing although both know it can never be more. But Evan starts to have doubts about his upcoming marriage, due to Jade he starts to see his fiancée in a different light. He does not voice his thoughts out loud because he knows his duties; he is expected to marry his fiancée Glorianna so that their two plantations can merge. But he cannot overlook certain things that Glorianna has done or deny his passion for Jade and the way she makes him feel either. He is torn between his duty and his heart.

Wilkinson’s writing is laid-back and smooth, the combination of the romance, suspense, characters and the pace of the story see to it that the story is perfectly in balance. I like it that Jade and Evan meet each other early on in the story so you see their attraction for one another slowly grow into something more meaningful. Both Jade and Evan’s characters are well-rounded; it is very clear what makes them tick. I also enjoyed learning more about the Romany culture, Lisa Marie Wilkinson vividly depicts the gypsy’s way of life and their traditions, and this provides you with a better insight into the gypsy world.

The supporting cast of characters is a mishmash of a charming kid brother, a loyal sister, a brother without a backbone and one malicious viper. All play their own part and add depth to the story. I especially liked his younger brother Patrick, although he is the youngest, he knows exactly how Evan feels and tries many times to push Evan on the right track. The dialogues are witty, full of humour and leap off the pages, especially the ones between Jade and Evan and Evan and his brother Patrick.


“What did you do?” “I placed a curse on him.” Jade replied. “You cursed him with the recipe for hedgehog soup?” ““He should have learn to speak Romanes”, Jade said with a shrug.”

With Stolen Promise Lisa Marie Wilkinson delivered a romantic but fast-paced story set against the backdrop of the gypsy world and the Southern hospitality of South Carolina. It is fluently written and researched with profound characters. This warm, dynamic and spirited story will keep you reading until the very last page!

4 stars

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fire in His Eyes - Stella & Audra Price

Once upon a time dragons and demons peacefully shared this earth with ignorant humans. But all of this changed when the dragons sided with the Ice King against the Fire King. The Ice King lost the battle and the Fire King vented his rage by ordering the extinction of all dragons, only a few dragons escaped his wrath and went into hiding.

Char is a fire dragon who lives in hiding with five other dragons. But lately he is fed up with being in hiding all the time, he wants to start living again. A beautiful woman has caught his eye and he wants to claim her as his own. There is just one problem, this beautiful woman happens to be a demon. How will she react when she finds out he is a dragon, will she betray him or love him? Not to mention that his actions will endanger the lives of his friends...

Get ready for a fire dragon with attitude!

Stella and Audra Price have created a wonderful new world full of demons and a few dragons. They have managed to bring this world to live with feisty characters. You will fall in love with the dragon family home the moment you meet them. Char is the macho guy/dragon who falls head over heals in love with Alcyone. She is a demon who wants nothing more than someone to love. The characterisation of the secondary characters is excellent and makes you eager for more. The dialogues are funny and witty.

Alcyone to Char and vice versa:

“The thought turns you on, dragon? Me and another woman?” “Honestly? The thought of you and me turns me on more.”

Although I really loved this new world that the ladies Price created I found in general that the story was lacking a little depth, especially the first part of the story. The background information of this new world was too succinct and the relationship between Char and Alcyone should have been explored in depth to make it more believable. But this novella is just 171 pages long and my only complaint is that this story has so much potential, that I wanted it to be a full length story.

Stella and Audra Price have created their own unique world and I will definitely want to read more about this charming dragon family, so I am looking forward to read the next fast paced story in this series!

3,5 stars

Friday, March 5, 2010

Hot Cover Alert!

Don't know about you gals, but I think this cover is hot! And I love it that the concept of the cover is the same as the first two in this series. 

Title: Hot Finish
Author(s): Erin McCarthy
ISBN: 0-425-23594-7 / 978-0-425-23594-2 (USA edition)
Publisher: Berkley
Releasedate: August 3, 2010

Hot Finish by Erin McCarthy is the third part in her Fast Track series, it is Ryder's and Suzanne's story. It will be released on August 3, 2010. I so heart this series that the wait for Hot Finish is pure torture!!! Ryder and Suzanne already share a history together and there were some hilarious scenes between them in the previous two parts, like the pie incident!

Here is the blurb:

Not all marriages last forever…

Suzanne Jefferson is broke, which is why she’s given up charity work for wedding planning. Fortunately, she has a high-profile client—and best of all, he’s paid in advance. There are just two teensy problems: The bride is a bona fide bridezilla, and Suzanne’s ex-husband is the best man. At least she thought he was her ex-husband…

But this one might...

Two years after their marriage fell apart, stock car race driver Ryder Jefferson still can’t stop thinking about Suzanne. Which is why he isn’t too upset that, due to a glitch, the two are still technically married. Now he’s imagining easing Suzanne’s woes by satisfying her needs in the bedroom. After all, that’s the one room they never argued in. Besides, with wedding bells ringing all around them, Ryder is wondering if—even though they’d quit the race a few laps too early—they can still come on strong with a big, romantic finish...

And let us not forget the previous two hot covers!

Let's start with the cover and the story that made me fall in love with stock car drivers! Flat-Out Sexy.

She met him at the racetrack…

…which was the last place Tamara Briggs wanted to find a man. Even a deeply intriguing, seductively sexy man like Elec Monroe. Tamara is a single mother now after losing her daredevil husband in an accident – and she’s not about to get involved with another driver and put her kids or herself, through that again. Besides, Elec is young enough to be her… younger brother.

Now things are moving a little too fast…

But he sure does get her heart racing. And after she is tricked into a blind date with him, Tamara gives in to her passion. Things screech to a halt, though, when he asks to meet her children. Whatever happened to wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am? Suddenly Tamara has to decide how big a risk she’s willing to take to experience the thrilling, terrifying power of true love…”

And part two in this fast-paced series is Hard and Fast!

An experiment in romance…

New to Charlotte, North Carolina, stock car racing country, graduate student Imogen Wilson meets Ty McCordle, a driver who inexplicably has her pulse racing. After an encounter at the track with a woman whose main goal in life is to marry a driver, Imogen realizes she’s hit on the perfect topic for her sociology thesis. If she follows the rules on how to get a man, can she steer her way into the hearts of the drivers and establish their dating- and mating-patterns?

… that’s testing the limits of passion.

Although sexy and reckless Ty is the ideal test subject, Imogen knows she can’t pursue him for the sake of science. Yet he’s the one who’s chasing after her, and Imogen realizes that she actually wants to be caught. A Southern gentleman like Ty won’t disappoint – he will satisfy her curiosity and make all the risks worthwhile…”

My reviews for the two previous parts in the Fast Track series:

And the good news is that more books are planned in the series!

To visit Erin McCarthy's website, click here.

But for now I am waiting impatiently for Hot Finish, august 3 cannot come soon enough for me.

Happy reading everyone!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Moira Rogers - Crossroads

Derek Gabriel comes from a family with physic gifts but had no powers himself until a rogue wolf stripped him of his humanity and changed him into a shapeshifter two years ago. He has no pure bloodlines, meaning he is no shifter by birth, so he is considered a second-class citizen within the shapeshifters community. Derek is not totally in control of his newfound abilities; it makes him insecure and prevents him to fully live his life. He has been in love with Nicole Peyton for a long time, long before his change, but she belongs to the upper class of the shapeshifter’s community and this stops him from asking her out on a date.

Nicole Peyton belongs to the crème de la crème of the werewolf society. Her father is the alpha (leader) of the Conclave and she is supposed to follow in his footsteps but she has no interest to be part of the political scheming of the Conclave and flees to New Orleans to build a different life for herself. She owns a bar and has surrounded herself with a group of loyal friends. She has fallen in love with Derek when she first set eyes on him but he seems to be immune for her charm. Just when she and Derek are finally about to make out and admit their feelings for one another, her twin sister Michelle shows up bringing a truckload of trouble with her. Nicole now has to go back and take her responsibility as daughter of the Conclave’s alpha to help her sister and find a way to keep Derek out of harm’s way.

After reading Crux I was totally in love with the new world and the characters that Moira Rogers created, so I could not wait to return to the loyal pack of friends in New Orleans to read on in this series. Luckily I did not have to wait very long to plunge back into this series because I received Crossroads to review. Crossroads continues where Crux ends and just like with Crux it did not take me more than half a page to be fully absorbed in this story.

One of the reasons Crossroads is an addictive read is Moira Rogers’ writing, it is smooth and fast-paced, full of thorny and witty dialogues between the characters. I especially liked Alec’s snappy remarks and the way the others yank his chain so I was happy to hear that Alec’s story is up next. Another reason why your eyes are glued to the pages is the characters. Most of them we met in Crux, I just love this bunch of close friends, I want to know more about them and see them all get their own HEA’s in their own story. This combined with the fast-paced action that starts almost immediately from page one makes it impossible to put the book down.

The strong attraction between Derek and Nicole was already simmering in Crux and now comes to a full blaze, as a couple I liked them even better than Jackson and Mackenzie. I was afraid that Derek’s character would be snowed under because Nicole is very much alpha, but Derek stands his ground excellent. Nicole might be alpha material but she is also very feminine, nice and she is loyal to the bone when it comes to her friends and family. Derek and Nicole are surrounded by their friends, all of them add something to this story, I loved meeting Jackson and Mackenzie again and learned a little more about Kat and Andrew. Interesting to see how things are going to develop for Andrew, but first I want to read Alec’s story, his story is the one I now am waiting for impatiently.

The suspense in this story comes from Nicole’s sister Michelle and her lover Aaron. They have done something to upset the Conclave. I am not going into details, don’t want to giveaway too much of the story. The archaic Conclave practically rules the shapeshifter’s society, they strongly hold on to their customs, rules and hierarchical structure. It is very difficult to accomplish change, because change means that members of the Conclave have to relinquish some of their power and most members only want to obtain more power and stop at nothing to achieve this.

Although I was captivated by the Conclave and Michelle’s problems I could not help but feel that this dominated the story more than it should. To me it somehow felt that Derek and Nicole’s romance did not appear clearly while in Crux Jackson and Mackenzie’s romance did. Also I missed Marcus in this part, my heart cried out for him and I want to know if he gets his HEA. But the end was very strong and emotional; Derek proves he is a worthy partner for Nicole but not without risking everything. Another character who emotionally risks everything is Luciano, he helps Michelle but that story is not finished, I suspect we will see more of them in the next part, I certainly hope so.

Crossroads has plenty of suspense and steamy interactions between Derek and Nicole. It is a fast-paced, emotional and action-packed read! Crossroads will keep you reading until the very last page!

4 stars

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Susan Lyons - Sex On The Beach

The Story

An exotic wedding turns into an erotic escape for three unlikely couples who find lust – and maybe even love – on the white sands of Belize. Get ready to get wet!

War of the Sexes

When wedding planner Sarah McCann learns that the groom’s best friend, Free Lafontaine, intends to save his pal from the mistake of marriage, it’s an all-out war between the sexes. Turns out, the prize could be much more than either of them expected, and this war just might have two winners.

Sex With The Proper Stranger

Model Tamiko Sato comes to the wedding as arm-candy for the groom’s deep-in-the-closet uncle. What’s she to do when resort manager Ric Nunez proves far too tempting? Ric might be the man who can help her heal the wounds left by past abuse, and open her heart to love.

Sexy Eyes

Giovanna Moncrieff and her ex, James, mix as well as Italian olive oil and English tonic water. How-embarrassing and -exciting!- to find that their passion for each other still burns hot and heavy. Is it possible to find true love the second time around?”

First of all let me start by saying that I am not a big fan of short stories and anthologies, although it is a great way to taste the writing of a “new” author, for me those short stories always feel rushed and they usually lack depth, somehow they just don’t work for me. But the blurb grabbed my attention and I liked Susan Lyons previous book Sex Drive very much so I decided to give it a go. And to my surprise I loved it, for Sex On The Beach is a captivating read.

Susan Lyons is a gifted writer, not only does her writing read very smooth and pleasant, she knows how to write a great romance with scorching hot love scenes in a beautiful setting. Her stories are light-hearted at first sight yet always have a deeper meaning when you read carefully. She also has a knack for creating characters you instantly like and root for, not to mention that her male characters truly are very hot.

One of reasons I liked Sex On The Beach is that it is not a compilation of separate stories, there is an overarching storyline, the wedding of Danny Trent and Bella Moncrieff. The three stories show us the events that occur in the last week before the wedding day, only we get to experience them from different points of view. Susan Lyons has skillfully connected these three stories, it feels and read as one story; still every story has its own unique vibe and issues to deal with.

Both the leading characters as the bride and groom come with emotional baggage, their past and insecurities influence their every-day-life, their actions and decisions. Throughout these stories you can see all characters grow, heal, learn from their past and accept what they cannot change. They all grow to be better and whole persons in the end.

In “War of the Sexes” Sarah and Free have total different points of view about marriage due to what they experienced as kids. While Sarah strongly believes in marriage and true love, Free does not believe that mankind was made to be monogamous; he is a no-strings-attached kind of man. But they both cannot deny the strong, immediate attraction between them or the hot sex they have. And one of them seriously has to change his/hers point of view when it comes to making a serious commitment.

“Sex With The Proper Stranger” has a complete different vibe; it addresses issues as accepting yourself as you are, trust, healing and profound friendship. Zane and Tamiko are very good friends but no couple. Zane is this macho writer who has to protect his tough image, but he is really gay. Tamiko is a model. Zane encourage Tamiko to have a fling with Ric, the owner of the resort. Tamiko was abused in her past and has to provide for her mother and younger sister. She is attracted to Ric and he is the perfect man for her, gentle and patient. He helps her to start the healing process and shows her she is more than just a pretty face. But Ric also has issues to deal with; he is divorced and he takes care of his daughter. He lives in Belize and Tamiko in New York so there really is no future for them. At the same time Tamiko is trying to convince Zane to come out of the closet to be with his one true love. This story really pulled at my heartstrings.

Finally “Sexy Eyes” made me smile, Giovanna and James were once married. They are the parents of the bride but they do not get along at all. Giovanna is outgoing, exotic and sexy. She is always dressed perfect to a tee. James is a history professor at a university with no sense for fashion at all. He is introverted and focused on his work. They are polar opposites. Now they forced to get along for their daughter’s sake and once again their passion flares up. But can they overcome their past? I love the humor and the verbal sparring in this story.

Important side characters are Ellie and Bill, an elderly couple; they come to the resort every year to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They have the kind of relationship everyone is looking for, true love and an unbreakable connection. Ellie and Bill have these casual chats with all characters, providing them with great views.

Susan Lyons has delivered three witty, warm and passionate romances. Her characters are real and profound, her stories read like clockwork and the sex is sizzling and tropical! Sex On the Beach is romance at its best; it will heat up every fiber in your body!

4 stars

Friday, January 29, 2010

Joely Sue Burkhart - The Rose of Shanhasson

The Rose of Shanhasson
The Blood and Shadow Series
252 pages
Availabe in ebook and Trade Size PB
Publisher: Drollerie Press
ISBN: 978-0-9798081-9-7

Genre: Fantasy Romance
Main characters: Shannari, Rhaekhar & Gregar
Book origin: book given by author

When Joely Sue Burkhart asked if anyone was interested in reading and reviewing the Rose of Shanhasson I raised my hand immediately, I liked the blurb but I forgot this tiny little thing… out of all genres, fantasy is my least favorite one. And although this story is labeled as a fantasy romance (and I heart romance), I avoid this genre as much as possible. I dread the extensive world-building and lengthy descriptions of everything and nothing that slows down the pace of the story. It is just not my thing. And when I read the first line of the book “Blessed Lady Above, why have you forsaken me?” I had this misgiving that I would be in trouble with this one.

But no! This story blew me away almost from the start. How to write a review of the Rose of Shanhasson when my heart still throbs? How to write a review that will do this story justice? Joely Sue Burkhart has created a different, unique world with different realms; each upholds their own traditions and have their own rituals. A world where everything revolves around political intrigues, power and hidden agendas. In this world I met Shannari, the last daughter of the Blessed Lady, heir to the Rose Crown and High Throne, Rhaekhar, warlord and Khul of the Nine Camps of the Sha’ Kae and Gregar the Shadowed Blood and former Death Rider. Joely Sue Burkhart does not need lengthy descriptions to introduce the reader to the fantasy world of the Blood and Shadow series, gradually the characters introduce themselves and their realms.

As last daughter of the Blessed Lady, Shannari is destined to wear the Rose Crown and to be the next High Queen of the Green Lands if she can restore her crippled magic. She dreams of uniting the Green Lands, they are now scattered and political intrigues run rampant. If she fails or dies a dark prophesy awaits her people, then Lygon, Lord of Darkness will be free again to rule the world. Shannari is surrounded by enemies; she seeks an alliance with other realms to help her people. But the other realms have their own agenda’s and no one is willing to help her. She is engaged to Prince Theo; he wants the High Throne for himself, he won’t share it and sees her as a threat. Over the years he has send many assassins to kill her, so far all have failed.

Shannari is one of the three key-characters in this story; we follow her on her trying journey to fulfill her destiny. She is persistent and loyal to her duties and destiny. But shadows hang all about her, a sign of great evil. She stands her ground in the crisscross of political scheming and battle in a world that is dominated by men. She has learned the hard way not to trust anyone but herself and was betrayed by the man she once loved, consequently she has given up on love, she thinks people who believe in love are fools. But the Blessed Lady has provided a way to help Shannari accomplish her destiny, although she does not know it.

It is here that Rhaekhar and his Blood enter the story at page ten. This is also the moment that my mouth went dry and my heart started to throb, for Joely Sue Burkhart knows how to create drop dead gorgeous men with honor, rituals and traditions. This is how she describes Rhaekhar:

“The warlord stared back at her, his golden gaze strangely intense. His long brown hair was intricately braided at each temple, heavy with colored beads and rings. The only clothing he wore was a green cloth wrapped about his hips, leaving his legs from mid-thigh completely bare. His immense chest gleamed like polished bronze in the sunlight crisscrossed with white scars. In fact, his entire body bore such fine lines, all except his chiseled face. Bands of gold, leather and horsehair encircled his biceps. A broadsword nearly as long as she was tall hung across his back, thankfully sheathed.”
With details like this Joely Sue Burkhart kept my eyes glued to the pages.

Rhaekhar is the Khul of the Nine Camps of the Sha’Kae, he has come with his men and Blood to the Green Lands because of a vision he had as a young lad. The Great Wind Stallion promised him he would have a love like no other, the Rose of Shanhasson (Shannari). He came to collect what is his and won’t leave without her. He defeated Shannari in battle and now she is honor bound to go with him. But all of the Nine Camps of Sha’Kae are scheming for more power, and bringing an outlander to their Camps might just split the Sha’Kae asunder.

Rhaekhar is cold, calm and controlled in battle, he always has a grip on his emotions. He believes in all those things that Shannari does not, love, trust and loyalty. Shannari is Rhaekhar’s Na’lanna (beloved); they share this bond that allows them to share their hearts and minds through blood. The more blood they share the stronger the bond. And though Shannari fights Rhaekhar every step of the way she cannot deny the strong, instant chemistry between them.

The third key-character is Gregar; he is one of the nine Blood. The Blood have sworn their lives to Rhaekhar to protect him. They share a blood bond by sacrificing blood; they considered this a great honor. Each one has a special gift, Gregar can wrap the cold Shadow of Death about himself and disappear, he also used to be a Death Rider. He does not get along with Rhaekhar’s nearest Blood Varne, they are constantly at each other’s throats and are very competitive. Their bickering is intense but also hilarious. As a Death Rider he has this compelling urge to sacrifice Shannari’s blood to their God Vulkar because he feels drawn to the shadows that hang about her, as Rhaekhar’s Blood he feels the need to honor and protect her, therefore he is constantly at war with himself, and his growing feelings for her do not help either. This dark-haired warrior is wicked, has a sharp tongue but is loyal to the bone to both Rhaekhar and Shannari. He is a complicated, mysterious character and there is still so much more to unravel.

Quote Gregar:

“If Khul or I ever offer blood, you will taste it, without question or hesitation. Any time, any place, no matter who watches.”

“It will honor us greatly, Shannari. Everyone in Camp will recognize such a great honor. Tasting blood is not a thing of darkness here, but of honor.”

Joely Sue Burkhart beautifully pens down the beginning of a triangular love affair. First of all Rhaekhar has to conquer Shannari’s heart and trust which is almost like an mission impossible, except that for Rhaekhar nothing is impossible. Then by accident or fate Gregar and Shannari create their own blood bond, Shannari is not ready to accept that she now has a bond with two men, she feels guilty towards Rhaekhar. But both men give Shannari the space to discover things on her own, helping her to accept the things as they are. The bond the two men have with Shannari only grows stronger from chapter to chapter. The romance and sexual tension radiates from the pages, the love scenes between Rhaekhar and Shannari are hotter than hot, the chemistry between Shannari and Gregar smolders and with each page it grows till Shannari can no longer deny the deep bond the three of them share.

While I was all wrapped up in the erotic entanglement of Shannari and her two warriors, the rituals and traditions of the Sha’Kae, I almost forgot the dirty battle for the High Throne. Shannari’s journey to fulfill her destiny has faded a bit into the background but many characters connected to her destiny pass in review. Shannari’s father, the king, is not a very strong leader, he means well but makes the wrong choices, yet his heart is in the right place. The Duke of Pella is a dangerous man, he is only looking for ways to gain more power and to enrich himself. But it is Prince Theo who raises the hair on my neck, he is a real pervert but more to the point he is used as an instrument by the Lord of Darkness to release evil. So at the end of the book the battle for the High Throne has only just begun and many questions are still unanswered, making me want to devour the second part in this trilogy, The Road to Shanhasson on the spot.

Joely Sue Burkhart creates a rich and layered story by interlacing different elements like world-building, characterization, fantasy, suspense and romance perfect to a tee. I love her writing, it is fast-paced, smooth and easy to picture. It is like watching a movie. Her jump-off-the-pages characters are profound and her warriors addictive. The darkness and shadows of evil are perfectly mirrored in the characters that are corrupted by power. The storylines are fresh and original and I loved the traditions and blood rituals of the Sha’Kae, but perhaps they do not fit within everyone’s comfort zone. The provocative erotic scenes raised my blood pressure to the max; there really is not a thing in this book that I did not like!

It has been a while that a story took me by surprise and left me breathless, but Joely Sue Burkhart did it. The Rose of Shanhasson is intense, erotic, dark and addictive from start to finish, a perfect read!

5 stars

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Moira Rogers - Crux

To find her destiny, she must trust him with her life - and her heart.

Jackson Holt makes a decent living as a private investigator in New Orleans, home of one of the largest underground supernatural populations in the United States. He and his partners have never met a case they couldn't crack until a local bar owner asks him to do a little digging on her newest hire.

New Orleans is the fourth destination in as many months for Mackenzie Brooks, a woman on the run from a deranged stalker. After all, any man who shows up on her doorstep claiming to be her destined lover has more than a few screws loose. But crazy doesn't explain why he always finds her no matter how far she runs.

When her well-meaning boss puts a PI on her case, Mackenzie comes face to face with the incredible truth: magic is real, and whatever spell has kept her hidden and separate from the paranormal world is rapidly deteriorating.

With time running out, she has no choice but to trust Jackson as he struggles to uncover the truth of her past - and her destiny.”

Mackenzie Brooks lived a normal “human” life until she met Marcus Foster and his rogues. He stalks her and goes on and on about being chosen for a higher purpose. She has no clue what he is on about but knows she is in danger, so she does the only thing she can do, she flees. She ends up working as a barmaid in New Orleans; she is scared, lonely and trusts no one. Nicole Peyton, Mackenzie’s new boss, knows something is going on with her new barmaid so she asks her good friend Jackson Holt, a private investigator, to check her out. Jackson and Mackenzie share this instant attraction for one another. Just when Mackenzie thinks that maybe she has found a new place where she could settle down and start over, Marcus and his men find her again and they make it clear that they stop at nothing to get what they came for. Mackenzie has no choice than to trust Jackson, Nicole and her other new made friends, soon she discovers that magic and shape shifters really do exist and that she is not as human as she thought she was...

When Moira Rogers asked on Twitter if anyone wanted to review Crux I did not hesitate. Crux is the first part in her new Southern Arcana series and I really liked the blurb. Immediately I got pulled into the story, Moira Rogers writing is very fluent and easygoing. I like the way the story unfolds, at first the story is slow-paced, together with Mackenzie we discover a whole new world full of magic and shape shifters. Rogers does not overwhelm you with an extensive world-building; all the information you need is interlaced in the dialogues between the characters and the characters themselves. Page after page, with Mackenzie you will learn more about this new, wonderful world and immerse even deeper into this story. When Marcus appears on the scene and the reasons behind his stalking Mackenzie are known, the story becomes fast-paced and is packed to the rafters with action.

It turns out that Mackenzie is a cougar shifter, cougar shifters are very rare. She did not know she was one because of a spell. I like the way Mackenzie changes, she is scared and alone, she always had the feeling she did not fit in until she met Nicole, Jackson and the others. She feels right at home with them. When she finds out she is a shifter certain things from her past fall into place and slowly she grows into this self-confident, whole, young woman. Of course Jackson is there to help her every step of the way. Now what to say about Jackson? He is my kind of hero! He is easy-going, gentle, loyal to his friends, he is good at his job, easy on the eyes and can cook. What more can a girl ask for? Moira Rogers made me fall in love with him right from the start.

The love scenes are hot, passionate and sexy. I had my doubts about the attraction between Jackson and Mackenzie at first, to me it felt a bit rushed, a little too much too soon. That changed when the speed of the story changed, certain pieces fell into place and it all made sense. Another thing that makes Crux such a great read is the humor, the bantering between the characters, I loved it, it made the characters even more appealing and it made the story even more fun to read.

The cast of secondary characters is fascinating. Nicole, Derek, Alec, Kat, Michelle and Marcus, you will love them instantly. They are all different, they all have their own unique voice and background, I was rooting for all of them, yes even for Marcus. They are so supportive and friendly to Mackenzie, a woman they hardly know yet warmly welcome in their midst immediately. Of course the person they are up against is really powerful and creepy, he stops at nothing to achieve his goal; I disliked him from the start. I can understand his motives but in trying to achieve them he became ruthless.

So what else to say about Crux? It is an addictive read from start to finish. For me it is a combination of things. First of all, Moira Rogers writing is very smooth; before I knew it I was halfway through the book. The world Moira Rogers has created is refreshing, new and does stand out in the crowd of the many other paranormal series. I love the characters and the way they develop, they truly are a charming group. Miss Rogers is quite a tease because I picked up certain undercurrents between the characters, very interesting to read and it makes you eager to learn more about them. And I love the storyline and the pace of the story, the romance and the action are perfectly in balance, the end totally satisfied me and at the same time I wanted more because I did not want to leave this world. Now I have this fascination for the other characters, I need to know their stories!

Crux is titillating, witty and packed to the rafters with sexy and unforgettable characters. So if you like shape shifters, romance and magic Crux is a must read!

4 stars

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lori Brighton - Wild Heart

After his parents were brutally murdered, Leo Roberts raised himself in the jungle of India. His family in England thought he was dead, but now he is back and he is next in line for the family title. His stay in India did not teach him to be a fine and cultured gentleman, he is the complete opposite, his manners appear to be more animal than human. To be ready for the title his grandfather has hired a governess, Ella Finch, to tutor him in the manners and mores of his class. In the past Leo has chased away every employee his grandfather had hired to make him more civil for they did not fit in with his hidden agenda but he finds Ella captivating and lets her stay. This innocent governess messes with his head, she is a sweet distraction he cannot use for he needs to stay focused on his goal…

After her sudden dismissal as a companion for Lady Buckley’s daughters, Ella Finch has no choice then to accept a post as a governess. She is in shock when she finds out that she will not be tutoring a lovely young boy, but a handsome, virile and very wild man. Somehow she knows that he will not hurt her and she is determined to help him take his place in society, after all, his grandfather is paying her a king’s ransom to educate him. This might be her only chance to gain her freedom and independence. But she soon finds out that there is more to Leo than meets the eye, he fascinates her. In no time he stirs up all these feelings inside her, make her do things she normally would not do, she craves him body, mind and soul. For the first time in her life she really feels free…

With Wild Heart Lori Brighton has made a grand debut in the world of romance. It is an impressive debut, I found myself captivated by her characters, and the storyline was so addictive that once I started I couldn’t stop. I felt this compelling need to understand Leo and Ella better and needed to know how they would fare, therefore I could not put the book down. The story is refreshing, unique and has this dark and mysterious vibe. Wild Heart is marketed as a historical paranormal romance, but the paranormal aspect of this story is confined to Ella’s special gift. Although, towards the end there are certain developments in the arc storyline that have some paranormal aspects.Lori Brighton’s writing is easy, smooth and rich in detail.

The setting for this story is the estate of Leo’s grandfather and I could easily picture every inch of this lovely estate. The fabulous characters come alive and tear themselves from the pages thanks to Lori’s writing. At the start of this story Leo is quite an enigma, in public he appears to be daft. He hardly speaks and his manners are nonexistent. He is exactly what society expects him to be after years of solitude in the jungle, an animal. This is precisely what he wants them to think, but under this façade there is also this artistic, gentle and honest man who has to deal with his inner turmoil for he has suffered greatly and therefore has a very dark side that makes him unreadable for others. He has only come back to seek the truth, he needs answers and closure otherwise the past will never set him free. Leo truly radiates from the pages, he is a very strong character and I fell head over heels in love with him.

Now Ella’s background is completely different, she was raised in an orphanage after her uncle never returned from his trip. Now she is a governess who has to tame the beast inside this handsome, older man and make him acceptable for society. Her whole life has revolved around others; she wants to be free of the responsibility to everyone but herself. Although she appears to be a meek person she really has a strong spirit, she is persistent yet nice and likeable. Leo makes her less stiff; he makes her bend the rules of society a little so she actually has some fun. The attraction between them is instant, it smolders a long time before it finally erupts. Their sex is hot, loving and sensual. The development of their characters and romance is stunning and it vibrates throughout the book. It moved me and pulled at all my heartstrings.

I was so wrapped up in their romance that I almost forgot the darker side of this story.The first part of Wild Heart revolves around the relationship between Leo and Ella, then the pace of the story accelerates as the suspense plotline develops and dominates the last part of the story. It is a captivating and surprising plotline, interlacing the paranormal aspects with the suspense and the romance. The end is satisfying and took me by surprise. I did not expect this ending and it was quite shocking to be so surprised. The secondary characters are interesting, the villains are bad to the bone and the true friends of Ella and Leo are loyal and interesting, all these characters spice up the story but the spotlight stays mainly on Ella and Leo.

Lori Brighton could not have written a better or more impressive debut. Wild Heart is seductive, dark and mysterious. The romance is scorching hot, the characters are well-developed and appealing, and the suspense is captivating, fresh and surprising. Wild Heart is a must-read for every romance reader out there.

4,5 stars

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a happy, loving

and healthy 2010!

May all your dreams come true.