Friday, 16 December 2011

Black Ice by Anne Stuart

Title: Black Ice
Author: Anne Stuart
Series: Ice (book #1)
Next in series: Cold As Ice

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: Chloe Underwood is an underpaid translator living in Paris who wishes for a little excitement in her life. When she is offered the opportunity of a lifetime to translate a business meeting, Chloe soon realizes that one should be careful of what they wish for as the businessmen turn out to be deadly arms dealers, and she is forced to go on the run with a dangerous yet seductive stranger who may or may not kill her at any moment.

Review: A good premise that has a James Bond feel to it. The characters are interesting but the execution is poor.

Although Sebastian is a ruthless and sadistic anti-hero, you cannot stop yourself from falling in love with him in the same way that Chloe does. Chloe is exceedingly naïve, which may turn some readers off but for me her naiveté strikes just the right cord. Nevertheless, it is not clear why he falls in love with her and their relationship is far-fetched. Yes, they have great chemistry, but is that really true love?

The plot is good but is implausible and unrealistic at times. What self-respecting arms dealer would allow a complete stranger in on a deal? The story also focuses on some dark and sinister issues such as torture and so-called good guys crossing the line because the “ends justify the means”.

The main problem with this book is the writing, which is choppy and has sudden transitions that make it difficult to follow the sequence of events. Moreover, the ending is very abrupt and the reader is left with an unsatisfied feeling. As this is the first book in a series, perhaps we will learn more about Chloe and Sebastian’s relationship in the next installment.

Despite the improbable plot elements and the writing issues, I've heard such great things about the rest of the series and have decided to give it a chance. So I will be reading the next book.

Seduction of a Highland Lass by Maya Banks

Title: Seduction of a Highland Lass
Author: Maya Banks
Series: McCabe Trilogy (book #2)
Previous in series: In Bed with a Highlander
Next in series: Never Love a Highlander

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: Fiercely loyal to his brothers and clan, Alaric McCabe is prepared to marry in order to cement the future of his people. But after being ambushed and left for dead, Alaric is saved by beautiful and courageous Keeley McDonald and finds it increasingly difficult to put aside his feelings for her. Betrayed by those she loved and trusted, Keeley has finally found the family she deserves but can she survive if Alaric chooses duty over love?

Review: A truly lovely sequel. The story is sexy and heartwarming, and the characters are very appealing.

While I enjoy romances in which the hero and heroine are constantly fighting their attraction to each other, it is refreshing to read one in which the couple acknowledge their connection and the conflict is external to their relationship. Alaric is bound by his duty but never denies that he loves Keeley, and she is aware of his oath, accepts it and is willing to sacrifice for him. While this is a little annoying, it is also noble and consistent with their characterization. Alaric and Keeley’s romance is intense and their scenes together are sensual and steamy.

The forbidden love storyline is passionate, emotional and entertaining. It never feels forced or implausible, and readers should be prepared to cry all over the pages at the end, I know that I did.

Rionna and Caelen’s book is next. She is fast shaping up to be a kick butt heroine and he is my favorite type of hero – dark, brooding and tortured. Their relationship should be explosive and I’m really looking forward to it.

Inferno's Kiss by Monica Burns

Title: Inferno’s Kiss
Author: Monica Burns
Series: The Order of the Sicari (book #3)
Previous in series: Assassin’s Heart

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: As the heir to the Sicari Lords, Dante Condellaire is willing to make any sacrifice to be a good leader until the moment he meets Cleopatra Vorenus and his willpower is tested beyond its limits. Cleo is a fierce assassin for the Order but has always seen herself as an outsider. Now with Dante, Cleo feels she may have finally found a place to belong, but can she fit into his world, and can they overcome the threats to their happiness both from within and without.

Review: This is a highly entertaining series and I hope that it continues. I’m actually surprised that there hasn’t been more hype about it.

Cleo is a tough, no-nonsense woman who has been hurt in the past and must learn to trust again. Dante is very much in control of his actions and emotions, and finds it difficult to cope with the new and intense feelings that he experiences with Cleo. They are an amazing couple who has incredible sexual tension and explosive chemistry. Their ability to communicate with and without words adds another intense layer to their relationship and marks them as unique among the couples in the series. The side story of Marcus and Atia's steamy reconciliation is also compelling and enjoyable.

The overall plot is interesting but it lacks the twists and turns that characterized the other installments in the series. The ideas behind the Tyet of Isis and the search for Alexander’s potion are not developed any further, which is unfortunate, and the identity of the traitor within the Order is obvious early on. Moreover, when the villain from book #2 gets his comeuppance, it is not as impressive and satisfying as it could have been.

In sum, Inferno’s Kiss has everything one needs in a paranormal romance – well-developed characters, sizzling romance, gripping action scenes and an intelligent plot. The series should be read in order so that readers can gain a complete understanding of Burns’s exceptional world and the characters that populate it.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Deeper than Midnight by Lara Adrian

Title: Deeper than Midnight
Author: Lara Adrian
Series: Midnight Breed (book #9)
Previous in series: Taken by Midnight
Next in series: Darker than Midnight

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: At the age of 18, Corinne Bishop’s life was shattered when she was kidnapped and subjected to horrifying experiments at the hands of the monstrous Breed known as Dragos. Now that she has been rescued, Corinne only want to return home and get on with her life. Accompanied by the most enigmatic of the warriors of the Order, Hunter, Corrine arrives home only to discover that things are not as they appear and that her life and heart may be in even more danger than before.

Review: Wow! What an intense ride

Hunter and Corinne are a great couple. They are both terribly scarred and have so much to overcome in order to love and trust again. The development of their relationship is slow but consistent with their characterization, and even though it is not as steamy as in previous books, it is just as romantic and perhaps even more so.

Hunter has always been one of my favorite characters with his hard and harsh exterior but his softness and need to protect others on the inside. This is never more apparent than in his interaction with Corrine. For her part, Corrine is an amazing woman with an inner strength that defies all logic. I love the fact that Hunter finds a mate who is worthy and accepting of him and vice versa.

More details are provided with regard to Chase’s mental and physical deterioration. He has always been an ambiguous character, and while one cannot help but feel for what he has suffered, he is also a jerk and wallows too much in self-pity. It will be interesting to see what happens in his book, and I have no doubt that he will redeem himself and get his own HEA.

In terms of the writing, the first half of the book progresses more slowly - possibly because the parts with Chase descending into Bloodlust distract from the development of Hunter and Corrine's story - but the second half is intense with excellent action scenes and exciting revelations.

The book ends on a small cliffhanger and I am very happy that I don’t have to wait too long for the next installment.

Taken by Midnight by Lara Adrian

Title: Taken by Midnight
Author: Lara Adrian
Series: Midnight Breed (book #8)
Previous in series: Shades of Midnight
Next in series: Deeper than Midnight

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: After being attacked by the Ancient, Jenna Darrow finds herself struggling to understand the changes going on around and inside her. Not only must she come to terms with the changes occurring within her own body and with the existence of vampires in the world but also with her inexplicable attraction to Brock, a Breed warrior who has the power either to heal or destroy her heart forever…

Review: The last two books in the series have been hit or miss for me (Ashes was a miss but Shades was an amazing hit). Unfortunately, Taken by Midnight is more miss than hit, although there are some highlights such as the continuing story of the battle against Dragos and the search for the missing Breedmates. I really enjoyed the fact that the women of the Order take an active role in the story and are not merely window dressing.

Another positive aspect is the information provided regarding Hunter, the cold and logical warrior who has fascinated me from book 5, and Chase who seems to be coping with some serious issues. I am eagerly awaiting their stories.

The romance is the most disappointing aspect of the book because, even though Jenna and Brock are interesting as individual characters, their relationship lacks the chemistry and intensity of connection that characterizes the other couples in the series. While you cannot help but sympathize with Jenna’s suffering, it is difficult to completely identify with someone who is completely immersed in their pain and guilt to the extent that they have almost lost the will to live. Brock, on the other hand, is an amazing hero, loving, patient and protective but his attraction to Jenna didn’t mesh with me.

Overall, the writing flows and the action scenes are excellent. However, many questions remain unanswered regarding Jenna’s transformation and I hope that details will be forthcoming in the next installments.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Rules of Engagement by Christina Dodd

Title: Rules of Engagement
Author: Christina Dodd
Series: Governess Brides
Previous in series: Rules of Surrender
Next in series: Rules of Attraction

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: Devon Matthewes, Earl of Kerrich, is in trouble with the Queen who views his rakish ways as an affront. To restore himself into her good graces, Kerrich decides to adopt an orphan and hire a dowdy governess who will not be tempted by his charms. Little does he know that behind Pamela Lockhart’s plain exterior is hidden a magnificent beauty with a mind and a tongue of her own. It would seem that the Earl has met his match…

Review: Absolutely loved this book ... great characters and a clever plot.

The story is well-written and reminded me of one of my favorite childhood movies – Annie, about an orphan girl adopted by a wealthy millionaire. The subplot revolving around the counterfeiting of bank notes adds a suspenseful touch to the romance.

With her scalding tongue, fierce devotion to the little orphan Beth and her high spirits, Pamela is a truly engaging heroine and Devon, despite his rakish way, is both gorgeous and vulnerable in his own way. The chemistry and witty banter are the highlight of the book.

Rules of Engagement is an enchanting and enjoyable book with some decidedly funny moments (“a full moon on a foggy night”). It is highly recommended for lovers of light and sweet historical romances.

The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen

Title: The Apprentice
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Series: Rizzoli & Isles (book #2)
Previous in series: The Surgeon
Next in series: The Sinner

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: It is another hot summer in Boston, and a sadistic serial killer is on the loose again. Detective Jane Rizzoli is drawn into the case as the murders are reminiscent of Warren Hoyt’s rampage, and she forced not only to deal with a secretive FBI Agent but must also confront her worst fears when Hoyt escapes custody and joins forces with the city’s newest monster.

Review: An excellent sequel.

The plot is well-written, fast-paced and suspenseful. However, there are several disturbing scenes that require a strong stomach. Moreover, a number of sections of the story are told from Warren Hoyt’s perspective which adds to the tense and creepy atmosphere.

Rizzoli is an incredible character. She is tough and hard as nails but comes across as so real and compelling that it is difficult not to identify with her. The secondary characters are also intriguing and some series regulars make their first appearance including Maura Isles, Agent Gabriel Dean and Vince Korsak.

On a side note, this is the book that the pilot episode of the TV series Rizzoli & Isles is based on. There are many differences between the show and the book, the most significant being that Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles are merely acquaintances in the book and not fast friends. As such, readers coming to the book from the series may be disappointed.

In sum, this book is thoroughly entertaining and I wholeheartedly recommend it for those who enjoy mysteries and thrillers with a touch of forensics.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Night Play
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Series: Dark Hunters (book #5)
Previous in series: Kiss of the Night
Next in series: Seize the Night

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Deadly and tortured, Vane Kattalakis is a Were-Hunter with the ability to transform into a wolf. Pursued by his enemies, Vane is not looking for love and is staggered to learn that the Fates have marked Bride McTierney, a human woman, as his mate. Bride has been hurt in the past and Vane must work his way past her insecurities to convince her that she can trust him not only with her life but with her heart as well.

**Note**: This is book six in the Dark Hunter series but the first book to explore the world of the Were-Hunters and is this respect it provides many new and interesting details, especially regarding the distinction between the Arcadians and Katagaria.

Review: Vane and Bride are a sweet and likeable couple, and their romance is engaging. Nevertheless, Bride’s preoccupation with her physical size, while understandable, becomes tiresome after a while, especially considering the fact that Vane could not care less and sees her as sexy and voluptuous. Vane is gorgeous both inside and out, and he is among my favorite characters in the series.

While the plot is predictable and clichéd, the book has some great laugh-out-loud dialogue and exceptional secondary characters (gotta love Ash and Simi, Valerius and Otto) that more than make up for it. The contrast between Vane and Fury’s characterization is another highlight of the story.

Backstory and world building are Kenyon's strong suit and Night Play is no exception. The writing flows and the descriptions are detailed and intriguing even if her characters are a little too good to be true.

I am slowly working my way through this series and enjoying every minute. I do suggest that the books be read in order so as not to miss out on any of the interesting tidbits.

Tall, Dark & Wolfish by Lydia Dare

Title: Tall, Dark and Wolfish
Author: Lydia Dare
Series: Westfield Wolves (book #2)
Previous in series: A Certain Wolfish Charm
Next in series: The Wolf next Door

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: Benjamin Westfield has a little problem…his ability to transform into his Lycan form has vanished and he feels compelled to seek out a witch who can heal him and restore his inner beast. However, when Ben finds the beautiful Elspeth Campbell, she is not what he expects and he finds himself wanting more than just her healing arts…

Review: A good premise and a sweet romance but not as compelling as the first book in the series.

Ellie and Ben are a cute couple and have great interaction and dialogue but their chemistry is more subdued. Ellie is engaging and spirited, and Ben is gorgeous, protective and sympathetic but can be obtuse at times.

The main plot is very straightforward with no real conflict, which results in a light and easy read. The inclusion of several subplots makes for some interesting side stories and excellent characterization of secondary characters. Caitrin, one of the witches in Elli’s coven, is particularly well developed and is also the heroine in book #4 of the series.

The writing flows and the story is well-paced. Nevertheless, the frequent use of Scottish dialect, i.e., lots of “ye” instead of “you”, “ken” instead of “know” and “doona” instead of “do not”, was a little distracting at the beginning. It’s been a while since I read a book with this type of accent and it took me a while to get used to it again.

In sum, a charming and amusing read for when you are in the mood for something lighter. Will and Prisca’s book is next and I’m really looking forward to it.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare

Title: Unlawful Contact
Author: Pamela Clare
Series: I-Team (book #3)
Previous in series: Hard Evidence 
Next in series: Naked Edge

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: While looking into the disappearance of a young woman, investigative journalist, Sophie Alton, is led to the girl’s brother, a convicted killer who uses her to escape from prison. Little does she know that the convict is someone from her own past and the two are about to embark on a perilous journey toward truth and passion.

Review: Intense, romantic and steamy.

One of Pamela Clare's strenghts is her ability to write about controversial and intriguing issues and this book is no different. The plot centers on the abuse suffered by female prisoners while incarcerated and even though the story is not as disturbing as in Hard Evidence, and the identity of the villain can be guessed quite early on, the story is gripping and action packed. It had me spellbound from the very first words of the prologue and on the edge of my seat until the absolute end.

Characterization is another one of Clare's amazing skills. Sophie and Hunt are an outstanding couple. Sophie's belief in Hunt and her willingness to sacrifice herself makes her one of my favorite heroines. Hunt is an amazing hero (tortured just like I love them). His honor in the face of immense suffering is incredible and his love for Sophie is simply breathtaking.

I enjoyed catching up with some of the characters from the previous books and can’t wait to read the next one.

In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks

Title: In Bed with a Highlander
Author: Maya Banks
Series: McCabe Trilogy (book #1)
Next in series: Seduction of a Highland Lass

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: The illegitimate daughter of a King, Mairin Stuart is nothing but a pawn to most men. When she is forced to marry the powerful and enigmatic Ewan McCabe, Mairin is fears that her worst nightmare may have come true. However, as they grow closer and danger lurks around every corner, Ewan and Mairin are surprised to discover that she is not only the salvation of his clan but also the woman who conquers his heart.

Review: An enjoyable story with engaging characters.

The characters are the strong point in the book. Mairin is feisty and adorable and, despite his bluster, Ewan is sexy, sweet and possessive of those he loves. They have great chemistry and their dialogue is very appealing.

The secondary characters are intriguing, especially Ewan’s youngest brother, Caelen, who develops very quickly into my favorite – tortured - type of hero. Mairin’s interaction with Ewan’s son, Crispen, and the other women of the clan provide some exceedingly funny and memorable moments. Finally, the villain is suitable nasty and makes you want to cringe.

The plot is the weak point, however, as it is predictable and lacks originality. The climax feels rushed and events are tied up a little too neatly at the end. Nevertheless, the action is well-paced and the narrative flows nicely.

Overall, this is an entertaining historical romance, which I can easily recommend for those with a passion for highlanders. Personally, I am looking forward to reading the next book.