Friday, 25 November 2011

A Certain Wolfish Charm by Lydia Dare

Title: A Certain Wolfish Charm
Author: Lydia Dare
Series: Westfield Wolves (book #1)
Next in series: Tall, Dark and Wolfish

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: Simon Westfield, the Duke of Blackmoor, is rich, powerful and devastatingly handsome but he has a secret that causes him to keep women at arm’s length. That is until Lily Rutledge arrives on his doorstep to ask for help with her nephew whose behavior is becoming increasingly wild and inexplicable. Can Simon withstand the call of his own nature or will he give in to the desire he feels for Lily?

Review: A successful amalgamation of my two of my favorite genres - historical and paranormal romance.

The writing flows smoothly and the pages almost turn themselves. The story is completely charming and the characters engaging.

The main characters have a captivating chemistry and make a wonderful couple. Simon is a typical alpha who finds it difficult to control is true nature and keeps himself at a distance out of fear. Lily is strong willed and stubborn but with a sweet and loving nature.

I found the dynamic between the secondary characters, Simon’s brother Will and Lily’s friend Prisca, to be particularly compelling and look forward to reading their book.

Overall, this is an extremely entertaining read for lovers of light and sexy romances.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Title: Romancing Mister Bridgerton
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: The Bridgertons (book #4)
Previous in series: An Offer from A Gentleman
Next in series: To Sir Phillip, with Love

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: Penelope Featherington has been in love with Colin Bridgerton for most of her life but has always known that her adoration is unrequited. Nevertheless, upon returning from a trip abroad, Colin discovers that Penelope is not what or who she seems and that she may just be the greatest threat to his sanity or perhaps the girl of his dreams…

Review: The Bridgerton books are definitely one of the best historical romance series. It is impossible to put the books down once you start so be prepared to spend a few hours without food when reading this one.

Penelope and Colin are my favorite couple. Don’t get me wrong, the characters in the other books are absolutely charming and I have my favorites – Simon in The Duke and I, and Kate in The Viscount who Loved Me but Colin and Penelope whose relationship grows from acquaintance to friendship to love is simply the best.

Penelope’s character appealed to me on many levels. She is intelligent, courageous, dignified and witty. Colin is a complete charmer but can be very obtuse at times. He takes his time realizing just how perfect Penelope is and is caught completely by surprise when he falls in love with her. The way in which he deals with his emotions and with Penelope’s secret is so touching.

As always, Quinn’s writing is excellent and the secondary characters are well fleshed out and supply some of the funniest moments, particularly, Colin’s youngest sister, Hyacinth. Her book should be a scream.

On a side note: readers learn the identity of the elusive Lady Whistledown in this book and I'm so glad that my guess turned out to be the right one.

In sum, don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing, sighing and crying when reading this book.

An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn

Title: An Offer from A Gentleman 
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: The Bridgertons (book #3) 
Previous in series: The Viscount Who Loved Me
Next in series: Romancing Mister Bridgerton

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: The illegitimate daughter of an Earl, Sophie Beckett is forced to work in her own home as an unpaid slave to her father’s malicious widow. One night, Sophie defies her stepmother, attends Lady Bridgerton’s masquerade ball and catches the attention of Benedict Bridgeton. Benedict will do anything to find the mysterious lady in silver but she seems to have disappeared without a trace. Soon after, he finds himself attracted to a lowly housemaid who makes him feel alive and dream of a future. But can he live without the woman who captured his heart…

Review: Cinderella is one of my all time favorite fairy tale and this is one of the most heartwarming adaptations.

Sophie and Benedict are a lovely couple and their story is very sweet and romantic. Benedict makes very minor appearances in the previous two books so he is more or less a clean slate and the reader has the opportunity to learn more about him. He is a very gallant hero although he does seem to be a bit single-minded in his immediate love for and desire to locate a complete stranger. Sophie is a very spirited heroine and holds her ground with Benedict but doesn’t seem able to do the same with her stepmother. This may be due to her lack of self-confidence with regard to her status in society. While Araminta is shoved off her rather high pedestal and put in her place at the end, I do wish she had gotten more of a comeuppance.

Quinn’s writing style is immersing and she incorporates wit and humor so well into her story telling. The plot is a little predictable but in a good way, and I appreciated the slight social critique regarding the class divide and the fact that servants are barely noticeable and often treated as less than human.

Overall, the Bridgerton series is immensely entertaining and this installment is no exception. I find myself completely addicted and seem to be reading the books back to back (very unusual for me).

Friday, 11 November 2011

Living Nightmare by Shannon K. Butcher

Title: Living Nightmare
Author: Shannon K. Butcher
Series: The Sentinel Wars (book #4)
Previous in series: Running Scared
Next in series: Blood Hunt

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: Nika Madison has been trapped in a nightmare for nine years but now she is slowly coming out of it and has one goal – to save her younger sister from the monstrous Synestryn holding her captive. Unfortunately, Nika’s psychic connection to her sister is fading and only one person has power to help Nika re-forge that bond: Madoc, a Sentinel Warrior with a bare lifemark who wants nothing to do with Nika.

Review: Amazing read that keeps you turning the pages!

As in the previous books, the overall story arc continues to develop and there are some surprising twists and turns. There is a large cast of characters to keep track of, but each has a compelling personality and story that grabs you and won’t let go.

Nika and Madoc are both tortured and damaged but find themselves irrevocably drawn to each other. Their chemistry is simply mesmerizing and they share some of the most romantic moments in the series. Madoc is hanging on to his humanity and honor by a thread, and is terrified of the danger that he poses to others, especially Nika. He tries to keep himself at a distance but finds it difficult to fight against the temptation that she poses. Nika is stubborn and determined with a strength of will and capacity for love that makes her impossible to resist.

Overall, an exciting and action packed story but be forewarned that there are several dark and disturbing scenes that may make some readers uncomfortable. The next book is Logan’s and I am looking forward to seeing things from a Sanguinar's perspective.

Mallory's Oracle by Carol O'Connell

Title: Mallory’s Oracle
Author: Carol O’Connell
Series: Kathleen Mallory (book #1)
Next in series: The Man Who Cast Two Shadows

My rating: 2 Stars

Synopsis: Kathleen Mallory began life as a thief on the streets of New York City until she was taken in my detective Louis Mankowitz and his wife. Now a police sergeant with an expertise in computer crimes, Mallory must investigate a particularly difficult homicide – the murder of her adoptive father – which is linked to the deaths of several elderly and wealthy women.

Review: I really wanted to like this book but failed in almost every respect. The writing is elliptical and convoluted with too many narrative threads that are difficult to follow and never seem to form a cohesive whole.

None of the characters is particularly likeable, especially the heroine who is a borderline sociopath. Her characterization is too reminiscent of the hero in the television show Dexter, which I stopped watching after three episodes because it is impossible for me to identify with a serial killer no matter how noble his intentions.

The serial killer plot is intriguing and has potential but the paucity of clues makes it virtually impossible for readers to figure it out for themselves. Moreover, the irrelevant subplots involving magicians, mediums and séances add nothing to the suspense, and detract from the murder mystery. In addition, while the identity of the murderer is ultimately revealed, the explanations for his actions are vague and imprecise.

Overall, the disagreeable characters, the excessive number of superfluous conversations and the lack of action make this a difficult book to trudge through. I do, however, recommend another of O'Connell's books - The Judas Child.

Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost

Title: Eternal Kiss of Darkness
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Series: Night Huntress World (book #2)
Previous in series: First Drop of Crimson

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: Kira Graceling is a private investigator struggling to make ends meet until the night she is thrust into a nightmarish world of vampires and ghouls. Stumbling across the scene of a horrific attack, Kira risks her life to save a stranger only to discover that he is a vampire. Mencheres, a Master vampire, is both shocked and intrigued by the fearless human who braves death to rescue him, and must soon return the favor in order to defeat his oldest enemy and save the woman he craves more than life.

Review: It took me quite a while to get into this book, which only livens up in the last 100 pages. The plot is completely unoriginal and the relationship between the primary characters lacks sizzle and steam.

Yes, Mencheres is powerful, enigmatic and sexy but aren't all vampires these days. Moreover, he spends an inordinate amount of time lamenting the loss of his visions and wallowing in self-pity. Kira is a strong and likeable character but she is far too accepting of her sudden transition into vampirism.

The secondary characters are more engaging, particularly Vlad, who will apparently be getting his own series soon. It is a pity that Ian does not make an appearance in this book as his wit and sarcasm are sorely missed.

While the Night Huntress World is well developed and the internal rules of the vampire community are interesting and unique, it was difficult to become completely immersed in the story and I felt no emotional attachment to the characters. As this was not a problem in First Drop of Crimson, I can only assume that the writing in this book was not up to scratch.

On a final note, there were some aspects of the story that appealed to the literary analyst in me, namely, the symbolism of Kira's name, the ritualistic elements toward the end and the historical background to Mencheres and Radjadef's past.

If Frost decided to publish another book in the series, I will probably read it.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Seduction & Scandal by Charlotte Featherstone

Title: Seduction & Scandal
Author: Charlotte Featherstone
Series: The Brethren Guardians (book #1)
Next in series: Pride & Passion

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: Growing up as the result of a scandalous affair, Isabella Fairmont knows what poverty is and vows never to succumb to the lure of passion. Isabella’s dreams of a proper marriage are thwarted once the enigmatic Earl of Black begins to pursue her. A man with a mysterious past and dangerous secrets, Lord Black is obsessed with Isabella and will do anything to protect her even as he attempts to seduce her.

Review: An immensely entertaining read.

The intricate plot revolving around sacred Templar relics and a mysterious adversary seeking power and immortality is extremely compelling. The elements of masonic lodges, séances in cemeteries, secret messages and Death as a Byronesque hero may be somewhat melodramatic but ultimately contribute to the dark and Gothic atmosphere of the story.

The writing is well-paced and easy to follow through the twists and turns of the story. My one small nitpick is that the excerpts from Isabella’s journal are distracting and do not really contribute to Lord Black’s characterization or his developing relationship with Isabella.

Lord Black is simply incredible - dark, brooding and so sexy – he fulfills every one of my tortured hero criteria. Isabella is a sweet heroine and while she does struggle with her feelings for Black, she never allows him to dominate her. Unfortunately, her characterization is not always inconsistent (she is supposedly a sturdy Yorkshire lass but suffers from debilitating headaches and swoons from fright). Black and Isabella have a sizzling chemistry and the seductions scenes are wonderfully sensual and steamy.

The secondary characters are also well developed with their own distinct motivations and personalities. The undercurrents of tension in the relationships of Adrian & Lucy and Iain & Elizabeth, are particularly intriguing and will apparently be explored in future installments.

Even though Black and Isabella's story is resolved satisfactorily in this book, readers are left with numerous unanswered questions regarding the conspiracy subplot. The author promises to address these in the sequel, and I look forward to finding out what happens in the rest of the series.

Standing in the Shadows by Shannon McKenna

Title: Standing in the Shadows
Author: Shannon McKenna
Series: McCloud Brothers (book #2)
Previous in series: Behind Closed Doors
Next in series: Out of Control

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Former FBI agent, Connor McCloud has been in love with Erin Riggs for years. Unfortunately, he is responsible for putting Erin’s corrupt father in prison and knows that he can never have her. Now an enemy from their past has returned and Connor must put his feelings aside in order to protect Erin from a devious killer bent on revenge…

Review: Standing in the Shadows is closely related to the first book in the series, Behind Closed Doors, so it is important to read the books in order for the backstory to make sense.

The buildup to Erin and Connor’s relationship is sexy and intense. Their doubts and insecurities about each other contribute to their unfolding chemistry. However, they seem to lose momentum once they get together and their connection is reduced to little more than steamy sex. Thankfully, the story picks up again in the last few chapters and they turn out to be a lovely couple.

Connor is a typical alpha male with the need to dominate (even though he does have his sensitive moments). He can be overbearing at times but Erin has a definite backbone and is quite capable of putting him in his place, which leads to some explosive encounters.

The plot is clever and the climax of the story plays out well and has some exhilarating moments. There are, however, some illogical circumstances and points that are not followed through. For example, Novak tries to undermine Barbara Riggs’s sanity but no one seems to realize that he is doing the same to Connor. In addition, Connor asks Seth to check up on Mrs. Riggs’s television but the latter never puts in an appearance.

The secondary characters are interesting and well developed from the seriously disturbed yet ingenious villain and his female sidekick (who turns out to be the most compelling character of all) to the geeky boy in love with Erin’s sister.  

Overall, this book is an improvement on the first but it is not the best example of the romantic suspense genre. Nevertheless, I’m curious enough about the secondary cast to continue reading the series.  

Friday, 4 November 2011

Running Scared by Shannon K. Butcher

Title: Running Scared
Author: Shannon K. Butcher
Series: The Sentinel Wars (book #3)
Previous in series: Finding the Lost
Next in series: Living Nightmare

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Lexi Johns has been raised to believe that the Sentinel Warriors are a dangerous threat and will do anything to rescue her best friend from them. Zach is a Sentinel with only one goal: to convince Lexi that her destiny is intertwined with his and that she is the only one with the ability to channel the power that can destroy him.

Review: Intricate and detailed world building combined with an intense plot that contains one or two shocking revelations and some spine tingling moments. One of the best aspects of this series is that the female characters play an important role in the battle against evil. They are not merely damsels in distress in need of rescue.

Zach and Lexi’s romance is fantastic and their relationship builds and grows on every page. Lexi’s intentions are pure but she is a little naïve regarding the consequences of her actions. Moreover, her trust issues make it difficult to let others in and she struggles not only with attraction to Zach but also with the growing awareness that her entire belief system has been based on lies. Zach is an admirable hero with infinite patience and acceptance of Lexi’s distrust.

The story is a complex amalgamation of several subplots including Lexi’s strategy for rescuing Helen, the Sanguinars’ secret plans to save their people, a spy within the Sentinel compound, and a race of princely beings who have been visiting earth, not to mention the monstrous Synestryn who have their own agenda for the planet. Some of these are resolved in this book and others will have to wait for subsequent installments.  

There are numerous secondary characters but all are well-developed and interesting. The most compelling are Madoc and Nika whose intense connection is just spellbinding and I can’t wait to read their book next.  

The Sentinel Wars is an engrossing series. It is, however, necessary to read the books in order otherwise it is virtually impossible to understand what is going on in the overall story arc.

Don't Tell by Karen Rose

Title: Don’t Tell
Author: Karen Rose
Series: Romantic Suspense Series (book #1)
Next in series: Have You Seen Her?

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: The victim of horrendous abuse at the hands of her police officer husband, Gracie Winters saved her own life and that of her young son by staging their deaths. Nine years later, Gracie has reinvented herself as Caroline Stewart and is on the verge of falling in love and trusting a man again. But Caroline’s past is about to catch up with her and the threat could cost not only her newfound relationship but her very life.

Review: The suspense is excellent and makes this a worthwhile read. However, the romance is a little bland and the primary characters can be aggravating at times.

Rose does an incredible job imparting the feelings of terror, anguish and shame associated with domestic abuse. While the scenes are brutally realistic and difficult to read about, they grab the reader by the throat and make it easy to empathize with the heroine and her amazing courage and determination. They also emphasize the danger posed by the villain, who is enough to make your skin crawl.

In general, Max and Caroline are likeable characters with good chemistry but they also tended to rub me the wrong way. Max is too quick to anger and wallow in self-pity, and Caroline tends to jump to conclusions. Moreover, their arguments become tedious after a while and contribute nothing to their relationship. The secondary characters are far more engaging, especially Max’s brother, Caroline best friend and the agent investigating the case. All of these characters have books of their own in the series and I look forward to reading their stories.

Rose’s writing is fast-paced and compelling, and the action sequence at the end is exciting. The plot of is reminiscent of the film Sleeping with the Enemy with Julia Roberts. So if you are a fan of the movie you will definitely enjoy this book.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Third Circle by Amanda Quick

Title: The Third Circle
Author: Amanda Quick
Series: Arcane Society (book #4)
Previous in series: Sizzle & Burn
Next in series: Running Hot
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

My Synopsis: After stumbling across a corpse, Leona Hewitt and Thaddeus Ware discover that they are both seeking the same paranormal artifact – the Aurora Crystal. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones and must soon work together in order to thwart the machinations of a crazed scientist, a monstrous serial killer and a power hungry aristocrat.

My Review: In general, the premise behind the Arcane Society series is intriguing and the books are light and entertaining. Nevertheless, I find myself enjoying the contemporary installments more than the historical.

Leona is a spirited and independent heroine and Thaddeus is a lonely and semi-tortured hero. Unfortunately, their romance is subdued and had very little development beyond the fact that they meet and feel they share a profound connection. Moreover, Amanda Quick’s signature wit and banter is also missing from their relationship.

The suspense plot is unremarkable and even mundane. There are a few tense moments, such as Thaddeus’s encounter with the serial killer and Leona’s abduction, but these ultimately fizzle out. The only interesting aspects revolve around the additional information provided on the Jones family history and the establishment of organizations that appear in the contemporary books in the series.

Overall, The Third Circle is a relatively satisfying read especially for those who are working their way through the series. Hopefully, the next installment will be more substantial.