Sunday, March 20, 2011


On a whim, I moved this entire blog over to my Wordpress account. Not sure why - maybe just to see if I could, and I could and I did.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

China Rose by Marsha Canham ***

Sigh. A burst bubble. This is the lowest rating I have given a Marsha Canham book!

Oh, there was some swashbuckling, and talk of ships. But it was mostly a rather odd tale of 3 brothers. China Rose is the heroine, pledged by her late father to marry the eldest brother, Ranulf Cross. She arrives 2 weeks before the wedding, a country miss not at all sure why she is betrothed to this gentleman. He and his 2 younger brothers don't seem to get along at all - the middle one, Justin, is usually at sea; Eugene, the youngest, just seems to sort of fade into the background. The brothers have a terrible family secret: their father went down with a ship bound for France, seemingly a traitor, and the family fortune was lost.

Well, nothing was as it seemed, and really, the oldest and youngest brothers were really quite madmen and unpleasant in the extreme. Silly China Rose runs off with Justin, but that seemed out of the blue to me. There were even hints that maybe Justin wasn't actually related to Ranulf and Eugene, but that thread was never followed.

I just never got into it - I found all three brothers pretty unlikeable and China herself paled in comparison to Canham's other heroines. blah. But I didn't dislike it, so 3 stars it is.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bound by the Heart by Marsha Canham ****

I really liked this book, but when I compare it to her books I've given 5 stars, it doesn't quite make it to that. It's hard to be even slightly objective when giving stars to books - I sorta go with my gut. I really liked it, maybe even loved it but... hesitate to give it the same 5 stars as others she wrote!

In this swash-buckling, bodice-ripping American privateer meets British heroine who takes his breath and heart away tale, the privateer is Morgan Wade. Well, that's not his real name - he stopped using his father's name (Granville? I think). He rescues Summer and Michael Cambridge, both children of the current governor of Bridgetown in the Caribbean when their ship sinks during a wild storm (think: hurricane). Summer will do anything to save Michael, but she's haughty and stands up to Captain Wade, assuming he will ransom them. Wade actually plans to return them, but must stop at his piratey hideaway to fix the ship.

Summer is engaged to a British Naval officer who has a severe case of bloodlust for Wade. Ah, this was the first time Canham has shut the door on a love scene - right before Wade sends the Cambridge children back, he takes Summer into his arms and disappears into her bed chamber. Then we are back in Bridgetown, where Summer and Winfield get married. However... Winfield KNOWS what really happened.

Now for the ROMANCE READER ALERT: she has a Secret Baby who turns out to be Wade's; Winfield KNOWS again; Wade secrets the secret baby away to lure Summer back to him because, dammit, he's a Besotted Pirate; Summer goes, intending to take the baby back and go back to Winfield; but she doesn't. And Adultery Occurs.

Then there's a major pirate chase-about, lots of pirate and British Navy deaths, Michael stows away to join Summer; Wade finally gets to face off against the awful, wife-beating Winfield and almost dies but is saved by his half-brother and best friend, and the rest of them lived happily ever after. 4 stars. PS it's possible Winfield became clam fodder.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Penelope and Prince Charming by Jennifer Ashley **

I really enjoyed Jennifer Ashley's The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie and so downloaded to my Kindle app another Ashley book, either for cheap or for free. It's so unlike Madness that I had to consult Fantastic Fiction to be sure it was the same author and not just similar names.

OK, I get the whole "fairy tale" part, what with Prince Charming and all. There's even a fictional country where Prince Charming is Prince. And there's a prophecy that he will find the Nvengarian Princess in some small village in England, wearing the Nvengarian ring and lo and behold, there's Penelope's mother with the ring. Of course, she's too old for Charming (whatever his name is -lots of odd Nvengarian names) so she passes the ring on to practical Penelope. And of course, Penelope resists his charms because she's sooo so practical except when she is not resisting and they are boinking like bunnies ALMOST because if they do it before the Nvengarian rituals, they might break the prophecy.

I did read the whole story but sheesh, it was pretty silly and nothing like the prose and emotions in Madness. 2 stars.

The Wind and The Sea by Marsha Canham *****

I do love me some swashbucklin' Marsha Canham pirate romance! And this one is classic - non-stop wind in the hair, pirate-heroine as fierce as the gentleman hero, salt crusted secondary characters, lots of violence and courage and spies and tussling between the sheets - arrrrr!

Courtney passes as young boy Curt until Adrian, the British lieutenant hero, rips her bodice, er, man's shirt to reveal - whoops! - creamy flesh. Courtney's father and his partner are thought caught and hung on the Barbary Coast, but Courtney feels they are still alive and she must avenge the wrongs done to them by these British pigs, well, at least except for when she's tussling between the sheets with her avowed enemy and captor, Tall Blonde and Handsome Adrian of Virginia.

There's so much spying and intrigue - an alleged spy amongst the pirates who sold them out the to British, an alleged spy amongst the Brits who is selling them out to the pirates, the Arabs, the French and anyone else who will pay a little coin for government secrets. There's some misdirection - was the second lieutenant the spy, or just bragging? And the code word Seawolf - could Courtney's father have been the traitor?

Wow - Canham really evokes Errol Flynn movies she imagines with her prose, surrounding you with the howling wind and salty sea air and lust and death and intrigue and... It's definitely bodice-ripping, 5 star entertainment!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt ****

This is book 2 in the Maiden Lane series - Hoyt seems to thrive on series. I liked it - really - but having come off of reading 3 Julie James contemporary romances in a row this weekend, it wasn't nearly as much fun.

In this one, Lady Hero Batten (Hero?) is the heroine who is promised to Lord Mandeville. She meets his notorious brother Griffin at their engagement ball, where Griffin is banging some other woman. And go figure, she ends up with Griffin. Well, it's a sort of complicated tale, with the Maiden Lane Home for unfortunate orphans in the background, and there's gin distillers and informants and Hero's brother trying to arrest all the distillers, and Griffin IS a distiller.

The one thing that sorta irritated me about the story was how easy Hero was - I mean, considering she was raised as the sister of a Duke, you'd a thought she could resist a man at least once, but no, she was boinking like a bunny every time she got near Griffin, including at a ball. But there you have it, it's how Hoyt saw the story. I also thought it wrapped up rather neatly, really too neatly, all things considered, but I still enjoyed it and decided to go with 4 stars rather than 3. I dunno, I use my gut to decide these things.

I'm stuck now - no more books to read, and still 1 1/2 hours left in the boring audiobook I've sworn to complete... I can't believe I got books from PBS and Amazon and read them all.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Lot Like Love by Julie James *****

Help! Either I have no life or I read/skim too fast - two Julie James books in one day! Truth is, both - I don't have a life and I loved these books so much, I couldn't read fast enough!!

This one is related to Something About You by characters, making it Book #2 in a series of sorts - the hero and heroine from the first book playing minor character roles. Plus, YAY! there is an excerpt from Book #3 and the hero is Kyle! Oh wait, plot:

No lawyers! ::Shock:: Hero is FBI undercover agent Nick McCall, masquerading as Nick Stanton, aka Tall, Dark and Smoldering date of heiress and wine store owner Jordan Rhodes. It's slightly complicated: Jordan's twin brother Kyle shut down Twitter with a DoS attack and is now in prison as a result; FBI needs to get into a classy party that Jordan is invited to, so they offer to reduce Kyle's sentence if she lets an FBI agent accompany her. And it's related to the plot of Book #1 with original bad guy Roberto Martino, now behind bars.

The H/H don't know each other before she is brought into the FBI, so they don't have a We Hate Each Other history, but they manage to annoy each other a little anyway. She's the daughter of a man who made it big in the computer industry - as in, Billionaire - while he's from a slightly lower class Brooklyn background, so there is the element of Not Exactly Made for Each Other.

And Ms. James is ramping up the heat in her books big time. Big. Time. Jordan and Nick start out with sexual innuendos early on, and the chemistry is thick and there is no pussy-footing around. She paints a really terrific character portrait - both characters are smart, sassy and well developed by her prose. It's funny to me that I can sorta see them and experience what they are feeling from their thoughts, but I don't actually have faces for them. But I like them both very much!

She's also ramping up the suspense/thriller plot - not that the reader doesn't know who the bad guys are, they do - but still, having the bad guys get badder does also ramp up the adrenaline while reading. I like it! No, I love it! 5 stars

Something About You by Julie James *****

Something about Julie James' books... They're like mini-oreos, I just keep popping them in my mouth and enjoying! When I started this one, I thought maybe I should space them out. After all, how many lawyer-heroines could I read about in a row? A lot, apparently!

This one has a lawyer heroine (Assistant US Attorney) and an FBI hero - and once again, they are mortal enemies. Rightly so - since she put the kibosh on a case he had spent 2 years undercover on, and then he called her rude names on national tv. Now they're flung back together after she hears a murder in the hotel room next door.

This one had a more serious, thriller-ish spin to it since she is a witness to a crime. Even so, James' trademark humor (yeah, 3 books in) was there - keeping me pinned to the futon, turning pages to get it all in, laughing and on the edge of my seat, as much as one can be on a futon. Even with lawyer-heroines and we-hate-each-other similarities in the plotlines, the stories are all different - not even related by characters.

Can't wait til they come out in audio - and I really can't wait for the dreadful Balogh/Flosnik audiobook I'm trying to finish to be over. It's been almost 2 weeks of misery because I can't bring myself to spend large chunks of time listening to Flosnik's iceberg narration and Balogh's interminable introspective questions... waaaah.

Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James *****

What a fun read this was! I decided not to wait to see if it came out in audio, like the first book "Just the Sexiest Man Alive", and got the next 3 books from Amazon. (long wait lists on PBS!)

This plot pits 2 lawyers, associates in their firm, against each other. Payton and J.D. joined the firm at the same time (I had no idea this was called a Class or Year, like school, in law firms - how odd). Now they are told that only 1 of them will be made partner because of cutbacks.

From the first day they met, they established a rivalry when something Payton said to J.D. was interpreted as an insult, and they've spent 8 years hating one another and playing tricks and otherwise trying to trip up the other. Payton was raised by a single hippie vegan mom, and Payton herself is vegetarian and liberal; J.D. comes from Old Money, Republican and traditional in every way. Of course, the chemistry between them is so electric it's funny that everyone but them is aware of it. Payton is set up with blind date Chase, the Perfect Man, so like her that she always feels comfortable with him - but not chemistry.

James puts them in the most hysterical spots - I found myself laughing out loud several times. And she builds the tension slowly, so slowly, that it takes almost to the end of the book before you even get a glimmer of hope they'll resolve their differences. I kept wondering how they would pull the relationship together in light of the threat that one of them would have to leave the firm, and I loved the resolution! OK, maybe those "realists" will say it would never happen that way in real life - let them eat cake and stop reading romantic comedy! 5 stars

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fair Play by Deirdre Martin ****

This is the 2nd book in the NY Blades series, and I'm enjoying it pretty much. She doesn't use the humor of Rachel Gibson (another hockey-romance-series author), just the light chick-lit-ish style of contemporary romance. In this one, Janna's best friend Theresa is the heroine. Theresa is Italian-American-Brooklyn-born-and-raised, and feels she has escaped to Manhattan and left that lifestyle behind. Her parents want her to marry a nice Italian-American-Brooklyn boy and live down the block; she wants to restrict her Brooklyn time to her monthly Sunday lunch visit.

Michael Dante was also featured in the first book, as one of the Blades. He and Theresa met at a bar where she also met one of the other team members who subsequently assaulted Theresa and almost raped her. It caused some tension in book 1, since Theresa and Janna were roommates. In book 2 it continues to cause tension and trauma for Theresa, who hasn't dated since that incident. Michael has had a crush on her since the first meeting, and tries to wear her down and agree to go out with him. He even knows her parents - yeah, he's Italian-American-Brooklyn and lives down the block. But she can't get past the shadow of the near-rape when she gets close to him, so she pushes him away.

It was an entertaining read, not too overly emotional or anything, despite the seriousness of her state of mind. There's also a side story of a big company trying to buy out Janna and Theresa's small business that had a fairly predictable ending. I'm enjoying the series so far, nothing great, but good writing and enjoyable stories.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Body Check by Deirdre Martin ****

Martin is a new-to-me author whose work has been favorably compared to some of my favorites, usually Susan Andersen and Rachel Gibson. This series is the mythical NY Blades hockey team, and their captain Ty Gallagher is the first hero in book #1, Body Check.

Janna MacNeil is his worthy opponent/heroine - a hot shot, persistent terrier of a PR person, hired to help make the Blades team seem a little more respectable in the eyes of the media.

I liked Martin's style pretty well, although there were a couple of eye-roll moments for me (which I just overlooked) in the way the characters thought and reacted. Of course, at first Ty wants to just ignore her, but she gives him her "I'm going to be the pebble in your shoe, the annoying song you just can't get out of your head" speech, and she proceeds to do that all through the book. They bicker bicker bicker then...

I find myself looking at page numbers when the first intimate scene comes up - I figure around 100 pages into the book is reasonable for them to meet and develop a relationship. I think this one was right on target at page 97. There were a couple of plotlines that I had seen before - her family played a big part in the story, including a younger brother who idolizes the hockey captain, and sisters she always felt outshined her. All in all, a solid 4 star book by the end.

Mercy by Julie Garwood, ****

The second book in the Buchanan-Renard series, this one features Justice Dept attorney Theo Buchanan and brilliant backwater surgeon Michelle Renard. Another of those backwater-bayou Louisiana towns is the setting.

Buchanan is in New Orleans giving a speech when his appendix ruptures, and speech-attendee Dr Renard rushes him to the hospital and saves his life. When her father asks him to come to Bowen, Louisiana to go fishing, he is intrigued with Michelle enough to take him up on it.

That's merely the setup for the romance behind the thriller. As it turns out, Michelle was supposed to have received some very damning evidence against 4 white-collar thieves in a special delivery envelope, but dropped the envelope unopened in the hospital to attend to an emergency. The thieves hired Monk, a hitman, to get the envelope and take her out before she could turn the evidence over to the police. They didn't count on a Justice dept employee and his FBI friend Noah Clayborne to be in Bowen with Michelle and her father as well.

I found it to be a fairly exciting and entertaining read - I knew who (most of) the characters were, so there wasn't really a mystery. And Theo was pretty much one of my favorite types of characters, the besotted hero. 4 stars.

Speaking of Audiobooks 2011 Challenge

Here is the page with the categories.

As of Feb. 27, I have completed 6.

  • Pick an audiobook that received a DIK grade at AAR in print format.
    Summer At Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs, read by Julia Gibson
  • Tempt yourself to find a series that grabs hold and won’t let go by listening to the first in a series.
    I started The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig, read by Kate Reading, and it's wonderful! I'm already on book 4.
  • Listen to a book recommended in a previous Speaking of Audiobooks column (and following discussion). All columns and following discussions include a significant number of recommendations but two columns stand out – Favorites and Romance Audio Bests by Author
  • Listen to a new-to-you author.
    Thigh High by Christina Dodd, read by Natalie Ross

  • Listen to a romance sub-genre you usually avoid. Do you find yourself listening to the same type of book? Challenge your tired old preferences and discover a whole new world.

  • Listen to a romance book released in 2011. Watch our monthly new release columns for suggestions.

  • Listen to an abridged audiobook. Abridged doesn’t have to mean cut up with favorite passages missing.
  • Listen to an audiobook that has been languishing in your to-be-listened (TBL) pile. Whether your TBL pile consists on CDs on your shelf, downloads on your MP3 player, or a book you have on your library list – just do it.

  • Relisten to a favorite book. Relistening to favorites is not only an affordable audio option, it is also a great way to while away the time.

  • Give a less-than-favorite narrator a second chance.
    I've been giving Anne Flosnik chance after chance on the Balogh series - her romance readings are just not doing it for me. Grrrr.

  • Share in your listening – listen to a book someone else chooses for you. Ask for suggestions in any Speaking of Audiobooks column or check the thread we have going over at our Romance Audiobook message board at AAR.

  • Borrow a book from a friend or your library.
    Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas, read by Tanya Eby
  • Listen to a new-to-you narrator.
    Amanda Ronconi, reading Trouble In High Heels by Christina Dodd

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig *****

The Deception of the Emerald Ring (Pink Carnation, #3)The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am soooo loving this series! It's a romp - it's a chick lit wrapper around a historical romance - it's brilliantly performed by Kate Reading - and it's a nice long series!

In this one, we have Jeff, who was Richard's (the Purple Gentian) colleague in France when Richard met his heroine, Amy. When Jeff returned to England, he fell head over heels smitten for his love, Mary Alsworthy. In fact, he began to write (dreadful) poetry non-stop in the second book in the series.

In this, book 3, he and Mary plan to elope. Ok, Mary says "We elope or else". He receives an important missive right when he needs to pick her up, so he sends his coachman to get her. Mary's younger sister, Lettie - the logical one, the one who keeps the family from debtor's prison - finds out and tries to stop them to keep them from further ruining the Alsworthy family's reputation.

Only, in a manner that works best in romantic comedy, the driver sees Lettie coming to give Jeff a piece of her mind, thinks it's Mary, and throws her in the carriage which is soon met by Jeff, who pulls her into a heart-stopping kiss. Unfortunately, Mary had figured out that she needed to be compromised to be sure he didn't back out, so she apparently arranged for witnesses - and that compromised Lettie instead!

Meanwhile, Eloise, in current time, goes on a blind date where she sees Colin for the first time since they parted at his country estate...

If I didn't have so much fun with this book, with the whole series, I might quibble about the plotline of Lettie and Jeff falling in love so quickly, with Jeff forgetting Mary right away, and Lettie admitting that she had a crush on Jeff and maybe she was in the wrong of it to have gone out to stop the elopement. That part didn't exactly work for me. It just was a minor disappointment.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr ****

Wow, this is getting to be a very long series! This is number 12 in the Virgin River series, and I've read all but 1 so far. (OK, I dnfed one too.) I liked this one above average - 4 stars - but none of them have quite matched the first one, Virgin River, for me.

In this one we have 2 sort of newcomers to Virgin River - Colin Riordan, whose brothers Luke, Sean and Aiden have lived in Virgin River and are now married to the women they met here. (Jack says it's something in the water.) Colin is recently recovered from his helicopter crash, his addiction to pain meds and a short stint in jail for illegal drugs.

Heroine Jillian Matlock returns to Virgin River where she spent a vacation week a year ago. She's come to lick her wounds from a bad experience at work: she had an affair with a co-worker who then sued the company for her sexual harrassment of him. She's always been driven, ambitious, corporate, and she finds it hard to slow down and smell the roses - but she soon realizes she can slow down enough to GROW the roses. She is able to transfer her work ethic to gardening, and takes it on like a Corporate CEO, tilling, planting, weeding an organic garden as part of a business plan to sell produce to 5 star restaurants.

As with all of the books, there are always other characters - wrapping up the previous book's couple with a wedding or a child or something, bringing in Jack and Mel and Preacher, and introducing another back story. In this case, the secondary couple isn't another love match, but the result of one: a young fellow claiming to be Jack's love child from 25 years before.

And without even reading the blurb for book #13, I picked up on it right away: Jill's sister Kelly is going to fall for the newest resident with a surly teenaged daughter.

The books are pretty dang predictable, beyond the obvious HEA for the Main Couple, but she writes so well that I just sit there and pretend I'm another of the gossipy Virgin River residents, listening to someone talk about what's going on in Virgin River today. Gotta go, I'm meeting the gang for poker at Jack's Bar tonight...

A Rake's Guide To Seduction by Caroline Linden ****

This is the third in the series about the Reece family, and the heroine is Celia Reece, half sister to twins David and Marcus of the previous books. Celia is having her Season in London to find a husband.

Hero Anthony Hamilton is a childhood friend of the Reece brothers, and has now made a reputation for himself as a complete rake. Partly it's true, and partly it's a myth based on Anthony's having business dealings with several women - widowed and married - that are mistaken as amorous trysts. He has to do this because his father has cut him off. However, when he meets Celia again as a young woman, he decides he wants to woo her - too late, though, because she has already become betrothed.

Blah, blah, Celia is unhappy with her husband, 3 years go by, the husband catches pneumonia and dies, and she spends one more year in mourning. So - 4 years later...

She comes back into society, and Anthony is still there, having now made his own fortune and wanting to woo her. But her brothers and her mother are dead-set against it, him being a rake and all.

OK, OK, my review makes it sound as if I didn't like it - actually, I've read another book and now can't recall my thoughts on this one except I recall liking it pretty well (like just shy of 4 stars?). I really need to write these right after I read it!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs ****

Summer At Willow Lake (Lakeshore Chronicles, #1)Summer At Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first in the Lakeshore Chronicles, which I started on book 5 or so (Marrying Daisy Bellamy). I liked that one enough to start at the beginning.

Wiggs writes in the style of Robyn Carr and Barbara Delinsky - romance that borders on women's fiction in that, while there is a Main Couple, there are so many family members and friends that the story is woven around a community more than a couple. Small town citizens and extended families come together around a central theme, and the Heroine and Hero are a part of that larger picture. The different stories in the series continue to build on the community created, just as Carr does in Virgin River, and Delinsky did with Lake News.

The narrator was Julia Gibson - a narrator that had the bad luck of following Anna Fields/Kate Fleming in Susan Elizabeth Phillips' books. She's not bad - she manages to read the narrative well enough, and do passable male characters. She has a pleasant voice - she's just not an audiobook superstar like Fields, or Davina Porter, or Barbara Rosenblat. That hasn't kept her from having an impressive list of works, however.

Oh, I liked her voice ok, and the story was entertaining. I imagine I'll eventually read the whole series too - 4 stars.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas ****

Christmas Eve in Friday HarborChristmas Eve in Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am fully convinced that I only like Lisa Kleypas' voice in contemporaries. I have tried 7 or 8 or so of her historicals, both in print and audio, and found them to be pretty run-of-the-mill, but I liked the Travis series and I liked this little cupcake of a book too.

The narrator is Tanya Eby, who has an impressive number of books on Audible even though I can't say for sure I've heard her before. She's good - she manages to give each character a distinctive voice and personality, and she reads the narrative parts well too. That sorta reads as a kind of "and she's nice too" - I guess what I mean is, while she's no Davina Porter or Barbara Rosenblat, whose talents rival the wonderful authors they read, she's a very capable and easy to listen to narrator.

The story is short - around a 4 hour listen, about half of what I expect a regular book to be - which is why I say "cupcake". It's a plot I've read before: heroine runs a toy shop, hero is a single parent. Still, between Kleypas and Eby, I admit I teared up more than once during the story. Not only is there a cute little kid, but there's an ugly dog too! (Jennifer Crusie, your plot was stolen!!) If you're in the mood for short and sweet, get this one and Bob's yer uncle!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Trouble With Valentine's Day by Rachel Gibson *****

I know I've done more re-reads of this books since 2008, but for my own Valentine to myself, I stayed in bed and read this book today. Pure indulgence and lots of fun!

My original review from June 19, 2008:

I am so relieved to say I loved this book! This is my second Rachel Gibson book, the first being the AAR Top 100 See Jane Score. I liked See Jane Score ok, but not that much and definitely not "Top 100". I felt like it was a Susan Andersen-wannabe without the sass and smarts. The Trouble With Valentine's Day has sass and smarts to burn - and it's damn funny too!

Heroine Kate has just left her job and her life in Las Vegas to move in temporarily with her grandfather Stanley in Gospel, Idaho. Her grandmother died 2 years ago, and Stanley has been depressed. He's running the small town grocery he and Melba ran for decades, and it seemed a good opportunity for Kate to help out. Well, she's helping herself out too - after a string of bad relationships and a really bad experience on the job, she's feeling a little rudderless. She had to stop for the night at a ski resort on the way because of the weather. It's Valentine's Day, she's alone at the bar feeling a little blue and a little in her cups when a good looking guy sits next to her and orders a beer.

What the heck. She's always fantasized about picking up a hunky guy in a bar - what could it hurt? She'll never see him again anyway. She makes her move.

Rob is on a ski trip with buddies, and left the slopes early because of his knee. Rob's a former Seattle Chinooks hockey player who had an accident - but not on the ice. He was married, has a 2 year old daughter, and, well, he sorta played around too. On an out of town trip, he picked up a rink bunny who turned out to be psycho - and she hunted him down and shot him. He almost died and it ruined his knee, his hockey career and his marriage. To recuperate from his illness and get out of Seattle, he moves to Gospel, Idaho, where his mother lives. She's a nurse and helps him with his physical therapy. And while he's there, he vows never to pick up strange women for sex again.

He goes into the bar at the resort, sits next to a good looking woman and orders a beer. And wouldn't you know it, she propositions him. WTF? He tells her flat out he doesn't sleep with women he meets in bars and leaves as quickly as possible.

Well, Kate is mortified - crushed - horrified - embarrassed. But, she figures she'll never see him again anyway - that is, until she's working in Stanley's store one day, and he calls her over to meet the guy who runs the sporting goods store across the street - Rob.

Rob plays it cool and pretends they haven't met - and she is confused but relieved. OK, maybe it was dark in the bar or he was drunker than even she was.

Gentlemen, start your engines because now we have the makings of 2 people trying to avoid the inevitable: the chemistry of love! Kate is outspoken and liberal in a small town where it takes decades to be considered a native, and gets tongues wagging with her talk and her attempts to change the little grocery. She's also wary of the feelings she has - she knows she's always drawn to the Bad Boy/Mr Wrong type, and resists as much as humanly possible.

Rob is also attracted to her, but has the additional complications of his ex-wife, always hinting at reconciliation, and his daughter. As well as that issue of not sleeping with women who might turn out to be psychos. In fact, he hasn't dated any woman that anyone in town knows of, which starts some speculation about his sexual preferences, which turns into a rumor that he's gay - inadvertently started by Kate!

It's funny and touching too - I really felt Kate's insecurities and as well as her need to stand on her own two feet. Rob feeds her insecurities too, with his conflicting messages - he makes it clear she turns him on and then he makes it doubly clear he has no intention of acting on it. While I understood his point of view, I felt Kate's reaction to his messages. I hurt with her.

Eventually, with many ups and downs, they manage to come to a truce of sorts, which mainly means now they can act on their desires. But Rob is no closer to forging a true relationship with Kate - he's pretending they have a Friends With Benefits type thing going on. Once that topic is brought up, in front of the ex-wife who makes a surprise visit, Kate is out the door, broken hearted and ready to flee. This is the part where I felt the most like I was being dragged over rocks, along with Kate's heart. There's a secondary romance in the book - Rob's mother and Kate's grandfather - which forces them together again, and forces Rob's hand as well. Come on Rob, it's time to put up or shut up!!

I found Gibson's writing in this book wonderful and touching and funny and true. 5 stars.

The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig *****

The Masque of the Black Tulip (Pink Carnation, #2)The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again, I'm totally enthralled with the work of Willig read by Kate Reading, this one being book 2 in the Pink Carnation series. It appears that each of the books has a historical-romance-within-the-story that is neatly tied up by the end, while the wrapper, the contemporary story of Eloise, is left open and unresolved.

In this one, the Purple Gentian - now unmasked - is happily married, while his best friend Miles and his younger sister Henrietta are showing a tendre for each other. Miles is tasked by the War Office with doing some espionage to help find a French spy in England, and Henrietta has been sent a note from Jane to do the same. As they each try to figure out the identity, they end up thrown together - and compromised - and are quickly married off.

In this book, it's as if Willig discovered alliteration, which uses to great effect - over and over - throughout the book. Once again, I laughed and groaned at silly but clever references, well-done puns and hysterical situations. And once again, at the end is a note about historical accuracies and inaccuracies which I think well cover all those crazy nay-sayers on Audible (which are really mostly on book 1).

The Lady Most Likely... by three authors ****

This was a joint effort by three authors - Connie Brockway, Julia Quinn and Eloisa James. Since I like all three authors, I was prepared to like it - and I did. It is a piece of Regencey fluff, with the story of three couples brought together by one man's search for the mother of his "heir and spare".

Hugh Dunne, Earl of something-or-other, has had a close call with death and decides it's time to settle down and get married. His married sister puts together a list of eligible ladies, inviting him and the ladies and some others to a house party so that he can choose, woo and propose, and get on with his love of horses.

Of course, with Julia Quinn involved, you know it will be funny, so there are several comic turns as two of the ladies get snatched up by Hugh's best friends. Each of the three men find love not in unexpected places, but right under their very noses - two of them with women they have known all their lives.

It made for an entertaining read, although it was hard to keep track of who was whom when I was just reading a few pages every night before falling asleep! Still, I'm giving it 4 stars for fun.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig *****

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation, #1)The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a lark! I haven't laughed this much with an audiobook since - well, ever! The writing is witty, the narration is incredible and anyone who quibbles about [clears throat, and using stentorian tones, says] "historical inaccuracies" - well, devil take them! It's fiction! and it's funny as hell!

It's a story-within-a-story, so there's a wrapper of contemporary, wherein an American scholar, Eloise, is researching her dissertation about British spies during the Napoleonic era. As she reads the documents about the spies, the story slips into 1803, where Amy Balcourt is trying to become a member of the League of the Purple Gentian, the, ahem, fictional successor to The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Narrator Kate Reading is a marvel - she manages to slip from American Emily into the Regency British and French and back with supreme ease. Her inspired acting - complete with various sounds - made this wonderful story a treat!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley *****

I really loved this book - the "madness" is what we call Asperger's Syndrome today, a condition which is similar to autism, without the difficulty with language and intellectual development.

Unfortunately for me, I waited too long to write my thoughts about it - so I'll just leave it with 5 stars.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Touch of Fire by Linda Howard ***

This is an older Linda Howard, now out on Audiobook, narrated by Natalie Ross. I liked Natalie Ross as narrator, but the story itself never really rose above "just ok". It's a western, where the heroine, Annie, is a doctor in a small Western mining town - the only place that would have a woman doctor in post-Civil War America. Rafe McCae is on the lam, being hunted by several bounty hunters, when he's injured. He goes to Doc Parker, and he ends up kidnapping her and taking her hostage - sorta. She doesn't really go willingly, and he is sorta mean to her, but it turns out he's really a lawyer from New York City ("git a rope") who is being pursued to cover a governmental scandal. It was ok - not great, not bad.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Money, Honey by Susan Sey ****

Finally finished this - it may have been the only print book in January (actually it was the fourth, but who's counting?)! I have been knitting so much and listening to audiobooks well into the night, so that by the time I go to bed I'm too tired to read more than a few pages, and that makes it hard to keep up with the story.

This is a contemporary Good Girl Cop/Bad Boy Thief romantic suspense - the heroine is FBI Special Agent Liz Brynn, a by-the-book woman who met up with Patrick O'Connor years back when he turned himself in to save his sister. Patrick came from a long line of thieves - all in the family - and to keep from going to jail, spent some time working for the FBI as an informant to Liz. He's back - several years later - and it's not clear to Liz or the FBI whether it's really to help his sister with a counterfeiting problem or to hook up with an old crime buddy and pull another heist. The FBI reels him in to help on the counterfeiting scheme, hoping to catch him with the other bad guy as well.

The old sparks between Liz and Patrick are back - and Patrick pushes Liz hard to give in. Except when she does, he's suspicious. Is she using him or does she really want him?

There's a slight taste of Eve Dallas and Roarke here (In Death): Liz is the polyester-suit wearing hardass, and Patrick the rich and debonair former thief. Sey's writing is almost old-time-film-noir, with Liz as the private eye and Patrick the femme fatale. Everything seems fast paced, and exaggerated - "fury buzzed in her ears like a swarm of killer bees" "Self-disgust dripped cold and slippery into her gut", and Patrick calls her "Liz. Darling." every time he speaks to her. I could imagine it being narrated by a Humphrey Bogart style voice.

I liked it pretty well, 4 stars, and I think I'd have liked it even better if I got to read it in 3 or 4 sittings instead of 20 pages a night for 2 weeks!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Days of Gold by Jude Deveraux ***

Days of Gold (Edilean, #2)Days of Gold by Jude Deveraux

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm giving this 3 stars as in "I liked it" but not more than 3 stars. However, the narration by Davina Porter was definitely 5 stars! In fact, she may have saved the book for me. I'm a sort of on-again, off-again Jude Deveraux follower - I love some of her books, and hate some. I did not particularly like A Knight in Shining Armor.

This one starts in 1766 Scotland, with a young, orphaned British heiress living with an uncle who won a Scottish keep in a game of cards with the original laird. Edelean finds herself in a number of scrapes - falling in love with a young British fellow who tries to scam her fortune; her uncle tries to marry her off to one of his old cronies, again for the fortune. She ends up being smuggled out of Scotland with her gold and the most recent laird, Angus MacTern, and the two of them cross the ocean disguised as man and wife, with false names.

Once in America, more - well, misunderstandings, some standard Deveraux story twists, a stint in the army for Angus, more scrapes for Edelean who finally creates her own business. Truly, with Davina Porter reading the story, I'm convinced it was much more likable than if I had read it in print. Her wonderful Scots accents and warm British accents are so delightful (and having listened to literally dozens of hours of her voice I feel I can say that!). I'll say this: Deveraux is no Gabaldon!

Still, it was an enjoyable (enough) listen.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Trouble in High Heels by Christina Dodd ****

Trouble in High Heels (Fortune Hunter)Trouble in High Heels by Christina Dodd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fun romp! It's the first in the Fortune Hunter series, and I read #3 first, and found it just ok. The genre must be suspenseful romantic comedy because it had moments of each.

Brandi had just moved to Chicago - in the winter - to be closer to her fiance Alan. She also just got a job with a prestigious law firm in Chicago, which she would start in just a few days. While having trouble getting settled in, what with frozen water pipes and a mistake in her furniture order, she received a call from Alan: he'd just gotten married in Las Vegas. In revenge, she pawned the engagement ring and spent it all on getting ready for a big charity ball she would now be attending alone. The revenge plan: pick up a man and spend the night forgetting all about Alan.

Roberto was that man: an Italian count rumored to be an international jewel thief. He was perfect except for one small detail she learned on her first day at work: she was his lawyer.

The narrator is Amanda Ronconi, a new-to-me narrator with 19 listings at I liked her regular reading voice and her female characters a lot, her male voices and especially her Italian-accented male voices somewhat less. The gravelly/throaty voices and not-very-authentic foreign accents didn't work for me very well.

I think this story has the absolute best grovel scene I've ever read, and the last 20 minutes or so were pretty funny as I imagined what the scene looked like.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips*****

Call Me IrresistibleCall Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved it! I was very happy with the new narrator, Shannon Cochran, too - she almost rises to the level of Kate Fleming/Anna Fields, and although I haven't done a re-listen to the earlier books in a while, I felt like her voices were close enough to the originals.

This is Ted and Meg's book, although when you start, it's Lucy Jorik from First Lady as the bride. Lucy's best friend Meg seems to be the only one who can tell that Lucy and Ted aren't the love-match everyone thinks, and encourages Lucy to follow her heart. Lucy does exactly that - jilting Ted at the altar! Of course, Meg is such a blunt screw-up that she ends up taking the blame, which everyone in Wynette, including Ted, heaps on her. Meg, whose parents have cut off the money to force her to take responsibility, realizes she's stuck there with no money, forced to work at whatever she can find and live out of her car until she can repay the hotel. Over the next several weeks, Meg experiences what Ted's mother Francesca did in her own story (Fancy Pants) - the growth of self-esteem from doing a job well.

It really was such fun to revisit all the citizens of Wynette and the original stories - I was almost disappointed when Lady Emma was mentioned reading Beatrix Potter because I expected her to be reading Daphne The Bunny books! Of course, that was a completely different series, but then how did Glitter Baby, What I Did For Love and First Lady get into the golf series??

I did have the slightest quibble with Cochran's narration - I mean, really I liked it a LOT, and I felt like she followed in Anna Fields' footsteps well. I even thought she sounded a little bit like SEP herself, having heard her in online videos. There were some passages that seemed to drone on and on that she could have livened up somewhat, but overall her voice suited the story well. I'm not sure if I had read the other stories right before this that her other characters would have fared all that well - hearing them sound different might not have worked, but they did seem to match well enough what was in my head.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Let Sleeping Rogues Lie by Sabrina Jeffries ***

Got this in audiobook for a "mini review" for the Speaking of Audiobooks at AAR. Didn't like it any better in audio - narrated by Justin Eyre, who I did like. What follows in my original review here from April 2009:

I can't believe I read this one out of order!! It's actually #4 in the series after Beware A Scot's Revenge which I read last.

This one was just average/mediocre - the whole setup/premise was a little too contrived for my taste. First, the prim schoolteacher and the rake are the protagonists - (yawn) - and the prim schoolteacher has a dark secret she cannot reveal about her father, and wants to use the rake to get the resolution, so she arranges for him teach Rake Lessons at the school (this is the School For Heiresses series) to prove he can be a responsible guardian. Yes, if you are thinking "WTF?" like I was, then we agree on the premise: it's inane. It's something about his being desperate to be the guardian of his niece to protect her from his aunt - so desperate, he'll teach the lessons; meanwhile, Ms Prim Schoolteacher is also desperate, hence her convincing Mrs. Harris to allow his niece to attend if he'll prove he's responsible.

Because of her so-called "dark secret", she pretty much lies throughout to the rake - and yet she expects him to be honorable?? Once she finally gets what she wants - well, whatever, it sorta became The Big Misunderstanding - meanwhile, he's immediately attracted to her like he has never been before to any other woman, in spite of his reputation and vast experience. Doesn't that get old after a while? So he has to have her, whatever it takes and...

Jeffries writes an enjoyable enough story but this one pushed my "so what" buttons, hence the 3 stars.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thigh High by Christina Dodd ***

This is another of my "mini review" books I did for AAR's Speaking of Audiobooks - it was just a 3 star listen, but the first in the series was better - Trouble in High Heels - so I do plan to read the others. The review:

Thigh High by Christina Dodd

Narrated by Natalie Ross

When Jeremiah “Mac” MacNaught goes undercover in New Orleans for the bank he owns, he’s got a major lust-on for his bank’s employee Nessa Dahl but he’s also convinced she’s behind the annual Mardi Gras robberies, something he finds detestable. Nessa is working hard to help her eccentric great-aunts get out of debt, which is hard to do when her immediate boss is almost as difficult to work for as the bank’s owner. She’s assisting Mac (in disguise as the insurance inspector) in solving the robberies.

I rate narrator Natalie Ross a cut above run-of-the-mill, and her southern accents are generally good. I really enjoyed her narration of a Linda Howard favorite, After the Night, also set in Louisiana. She articulates Thigh High’s characters with age and gender-appropriate voices, even if I do have a quibble with some pronunciations and out-of-place or overdone local accents (I lived in south Louisiana). But these aren’t just characters, they are Characters. That being said, when a narrator is faced with the aunts from Arsenic and Old Lace, how else could she go about creating them in audio?

Christina Dodd is a new-to-me author and I wondered if her style in writing this Romantic Suspense was intended to be beyond-quirky comedy, or more like Linda Howard, whose realistically drawn characters are often in extremely humorous situations. I did laugh out loud a few times, but generally, the story veered sharply away from realism with the antics of heroine Nessa’s aunts. Was it comedy or tragedy? Suspense or allegory? Even after it was over, I couldn’t make up my mind. But the combination of intermittent humor with stock characters, love scenes that seemed without sufficient motivation, and a creepy villain not associated with any of the ongoing conflicts had me confused and kept this story from rising above a C for story.

Narration: B

What A Rogue Desires by Caroline Linden *****

I love a Besotted Hero!! And finally, a book in the series that makes me glad I glommed it.

This particular hero is the Evil Twin from What A Gentleman Wants, David Reece. In that book, he is the very epitome of a rake, spending his fortune on debauchery and drunkeness, leading his friends astray at every turn, and ending up being tended by a virtuous vicar's widow in a small town when his carriage is overturned during a race and his leg is severely broken. Even then, when he seems to be on the verge of a Come To Jesus moment, he -well, what is the opposite of repents? and plays a dastardly joke on the widow and his identical twin, the Duke of Exeter. Of course, in Romancelandia, all is well and the duke and the widow have a HEA.

In this one, the Come To Jesus moment revisits him, and he is tasked with keeping the family business going (you know, whatever it is dukes have to do) while his brother and new wife tour the Continent on their honeymoon. But Linden doesn't reform David quickly - he is sorely tested in the first days when his horse goes lame, delaying his return to London and putting him in harm's way. The public transport he is forced to take is robbed, and the signet ring his brother had made for him stolen. The ring is a sort of talisman for him, the symbol of his adulthood and the responsibilities he knows he should shoulder, and he does everything he can to get it back.

The first order of business is to grab the thief, which in this case turns out to be our lovely heroine, Vivian. Linden builds a credible background for her as the half-Irish orphan raised as a Dickensian pickpocket, now in the company of highwaymen. On impulse, David virtually kidnaps her and holds her captive, trying to bully the information about his ring out of her.

This is where the beauty of the story unfolds - he has finally met his match, which isn't so uncommon a theme in romance. What makes it unique is the journey - and this is where authors can shine or can follow the lemmings into the sea. Linden shines in creating a believable relationship - a woman wary of the power David holds, both physically and as a "gentleman" of the ton; a man determined to show everyone he can be as responsible as his brother, but who fails and fails in this at every turn. She has them slowly (well, not really that slowly but at least not overnight!) come to know each other as human beings, and during this process David falls head over heels in love, becoming ever the besotted hero. The small things that bring joy to Vivian become important to him and he wants nothing more to continue to bring her joy.

Even the final conflict works very well into the story - it comes from moments laid out earlier in the book, even in the previous book, that fall into place. I didn't feel "where did that come from?" when it happened, neither did I feel "I saw that one coming 5 miles away".

I finished this at 3 am this morning, big old grin on my face but too tired to jump up and write a review. Now here it is. 5 stars!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Seducing An Angel by Mary Balogh ***

Seducing an Angel (Huxtable)Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Listening to Flosnik read Balogh about the Huxtables is getting on my last nerve. Between the plodding, metronome-timed-sounding narration and the (author's) characters' annoying habit of waaaaay-too much introspection in the form of multiple questions in a row and over-analyzing what-ifs, I've had it up to here [imagine my holding my hand at top of head level] with this combination!

This, the 4th in the 5-book series, is Stephen's story, and he is the angel in question, and the seductress is an alleged axe murderess. He's rather goody-two-shoes and wishy-washy, all in all; she's a widow (remember the axe murder part?) who needs a protector. She sets her sights on him as the one...

Balogh describes the heroine's seductress voice as her "velvet voice" and Flosnik developed an even more annoying tone for that, if you can believe it. But Stephen (hero) and Cassandra (heroine) seem to be fated to be together. Her alleged murder-by-axe is really the most ton-shocking behavior of the 4 siblings, out-doing even the fellow who jilted his bride on the wedding day by running away with her sister-in-law. But things are never quite what they seem, are they?

I think Flosnik has either improved some since book 1, and even there she was not quite as annoying as her Lowell and Garwood medievals, or I am getting slightly accustomed to her plodding, metronome speaking tempo. However, there were still long portions that I talked out loud to her and Balogh: Stop it!

I'm still wondering if it's because I have to listen to Flosnik read it or if Balogh has got a very overdone, tiring way of using character's inner monologue to really beat a dead horse every several pages or so. The character thinks: perhaps I should have worn the red dress. If I had worn the red dress, then he would have seen me and I wouldn't have had to search him out. But perhaps it would have been better for him not to see me, so wearing the gray dress was the better way. Unless wearing the gray dress was what caused her to run into me, so perhaps I shouldn't have worn the gray dress, and should have worn the red dress instead. But perhaps the green dress....

(no, it was never about a dress, but it does go on and on and ON AND ON ad nauseum .)

And questions: Did he think of me? Was it just me imagining him thinking of me? Or was he just looking out the window? And if he was just looking out the window, does he ever think of me? Or could I be fooling myself that he thinks of me?


I did, I spoke outloud to the audiobook: "NO NOT AGAIN!" I would say when this happened for the umpteenth time. The ending was ok - it almost made me give it a half star more.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What A Woman Needs by Caroline Linden ***

I actually finished this last night, and now - sheesh - cannot remember much of it. To be honest, it took a long time to read it, a few pages in bed every night for days and days, so I guess it wasn't that great. This is, I believe, Linden's first book, not in the series I started over xmas.

On reading the book blurb, I'm now remembering: Stuart Drake (the hero) has been cut off from funds by his father, who thinks him a ne'er-do-well because of some gossip that got out of hand. Instead of trying to straighten that out, he decides to purchase an estate that will earn money. Unfortunately, he has a mortgage payment to make before the farm brings in any cash, so he decides he will try to marry a rich heiress to tide him over. He is, after all, a gentleman, and will inherit once the old man kicks over, and he's good looking and all that. He's something of a catch. He's almost got one reeled in, except that her guardian aunt - ancient beast that she is - doesn't approve.

Then he meets said ancient beast.

Charlotte (the heroine) is now the only family left for Susan, even though she doesn't consider herself much of a role model. When she was young, she was seduced by an older man and when found, her father sent her packing. She never returned home, traveled Europe, married an Italian, and basically lived a rather decadent life for a woman who is actually only about 30. Now that her older brother has died and left his daughter an orphan, she wants to turn over a new leaf and raise her right - and keep her away from fortune-hunting libertines like Stuart Drake!

The she meets said Stuart Drake.

Well, there's some immediate attraction followed by righteous anger, and young Susan's hopes to marry Stuart are dashed. Then Susan leaves a note that she has run away to get married, but it isn't with Stuart. So Charlotte and Stuart end up joining forces to find her, and well, it's a different plot for me but somehow either because I was too tired to read much at one time or because it wasn't that interesting, I just took too long to finish it. I would open the book at night and try to remember what the story was and who the characters were (I ended up going back several pages one night) before I took up reading from where I left off. There was quite a lot going on - if Susan eloped, with whom?? and if not, was she abducted? and a sort of confusing side plot of why Stuart's father really cut him off, and an Italian opera singer, and some fake antiquities, and...

3 stars, not bad, just not that great either

Sunday, January 9, 2011

At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh ***

At Last Comes Love (Huxtable Quintet, #3)At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 3 of the Huxtable Quintet series, on audio, all narrated by Anne Flosnik. What did I think?

I think Flosnik has picked up a little speed in her narration, which makes it eminently more listenable, and there weren't as many scenes for her to be overly emotional (excepting Duncan's mama, who was always emotional). Without the breathy emotional scenes, it wasn't as irritating as Book 2 where she embarrassed me by..., well, read my review.

I think Flosnik's narration has not enhanced the experience of this series, and I wonder if I had read it, if I might have enjoyed it more. But it's too late - now I have her voice in my head.

I think the introduction of domestic violence and sexual depravity into the story might have given it more depth and emotion except I felt inured, and I think that's associated with hearing Flosnik read it. Jo Goodman uses these in pretty much every story, and she still manages to evoke an emotional response in me every time.

I think the gossip-forced-marriage conceit has run its course in this series - surely not everyone in the family will be forced to marry someone they just met and do not even particularly like. Or maybe they will. The 5th book is about cousin Con, where there's apparently a mystery to solve (I think it's Why Does Elliott hate Con?), which I hope makes it a different and potentially better story.

I think I'd rather hear Barbara Rosenblat or Davina Porter read the last 2. Alas, it is not to be. 3 stars all around - not awful but not great.

BELOW IS MY ORIGINAL REVIEW before I went over to Goodreads and wrote my smaller review:

I'm still wondering if Flosnik's funny accent thing she does might be coloring my experience in this series. I have liked other Balogh stories but in this one - well, if the heroines don't stop going on and on and on and ON about the same damn things over and over, I'm just gonna have to whoop one of them! This time it's Margaret, the oldest Huxtable, who keeps thinking and saying "But it's all my fault because I was the one who lied...", over and OVER AND O V E R . grrrr. So many times I found myself actually talking out loud to the characters!

This was another of those "there's a scandal that forces them to marry" conceits, just like the last one in the series. In addition, Margaret's own true love from 12 years ago returned, widowed, and was interested in her and she even admits she might still be in love with him. But does she give him a chance? NO! Really! We are to be led to the conclusion that he was never the right one for her, but meanwhile I kept thinking, she could at least talk to him. She decides to lie to him, which is really where the "over and over" stuff starts - she keeps reminding everyone and his dog that because she lied to Crispin, it was all her fault that Lord Sheringford ended up the focus of gossip that forced them to marry.

Once again, Flosnik's voice comes into question, because then Sheringford and Margaret get into these long-winded preachy conversations that seemed so unrealistic that I let my mind wander so I didn't keep talking to them - out loud, fer chrissake. Would I have felt differently about the prose if I just let the words go in through my eyes to my brain, instead of filtering them through Flosnik's odd voice into my ears?

Ah, a plot: Margaret lies to Crispin to keep from looking pathetic, saying she has a fiance. She actually thinks she'll accept old whatshisname's proposal this year, except guess what: whatshisname got tired of waiting for her, and nabbed another eligible woman. Now Margaret, truly on the shelf at 30, is desperate for a fiance. She runs from the ballroom and smacks right into Duncan, Earl of Sheringford, who is also desperate to marry so he can keep from getting cut off from his funds. He jokingly/seriously says to her: shall we dance, and then get married and live happily ever after? And she accepts.

Oh, wait, then she finds out about his past: 5 years ago he jilted a woman and ran off with that woman's sister-in-law the day of the wedding, living with her in sin until she died 4 months ago. Then, blah blah blah, yada yada yada, we have to have several dozen pages of conflict where Margaret can't decide if she will actually marry Duncan, stringing him along. Of course, there's a perfectly plausible reason why he did what he did - but it would be a spoiler to tell it.

They get married (as you knew they would), there's more conflict, then HEA. 3 stars.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips: EXCERPT

OK, I am SO looking forward to this! The narration of Chapter One is EXCELLENT - her tone is just right for SEP's voice, and the characters are wonderful! This is Ted Beaudine and Meg Koranda's story - with Lucy Jorik as a secondary character.

January 18...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Then Comes Seduction by Mary Balogh ***

Then Comes Seduction (Huxtable Quintet, #2)Then Comes Seduction by Mary Balogh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm conflicted about this book. I wrote a longer review on my blog. Basically, narrator Anne Flosnik is finally starting to read at a normal pace (yay!) but also showed signs of being too involved. She embarrassed me during the wedding night consummation scene!! And not because it was that hot, mind you - it was because she got as involved as our heroine supposedly did! I don't mind hearing a hot love scene narrated well, but I do mind feeling like I'm eavesdropping on a private moment.

Beyond the narration, though, the storyline had me confused and frustrated. I kept waiting for our lovely heroine to develop some backbone and stand up to the hero for his rakehell ways, and when she finally (sort of) did, it was too little, too late, and the narrator got so emotional I felt the need to pass her a tissue.

My basic conflict about the series is this: would I have enjoyed it more if I had read it? I just can't decide if Flosnik's narration changes the way the story unfolds or not. I never felt the development of love between the protagonists.

And yet, I didn't hate it, so it gets stuck in 3 star hell - mediocre, ok, liked it well enough, yawn.

(what follows is my first pass on reviewing it, only in this blog:)

I'm just not sure what to make of this book. Let me make a list...

Good: Flosnik read faster. She wasn't nearly as plodding and, well, obnoxious, as in other books I've heard her narrate. That made for a much, much better listen.

Bad: She really got into the emotions of the characters. Frankly, I thought she was going to fake an orgasm during the wedding night consummation scene. And I wanted to pass her a handkerchief when Katherine started wailing in the woods, she seemed so upset herself.

That leads me to the next part of my review. Was this plot hard to follow or what? First, we have the drunken rake, making a completely ridiculous wager about our heroine, Katherine. Second, we have Katherine, a completely green naif, just wandering into the dark woods alone with him and letting him almost slide into home base in a matter of minutes. She thinks maybe she has missed out on love because she hasn't allowed herself to feel danger. This makes me think she goes willingly into the dark with said rake (our hero, Jasper). Nope, she was just too naive and stupid to make sense of what she was doing. He decides at the last minute, completely out of character and for no reason that I can make any sense of at all, to throw the wager and lose, leaving her gasping for release and practically begging him to keep going.

Now, I thought, she will become the clever heroine and make him want her. Nope. They are separate for 3 years.

OK, NOW there will be a reason for them to actually fall in love. They flirt a little, and just when you think they will start to fall in love BAM! Spoiler? A ninny of a character somehow creates a scandal which brings about their having to marry, even though now she hates him. Or something.

Was this meandering storyline because of the narration, or was it actually a meandering storyline?

Now they are married, and on the wedding night - where the poor narrator got so involved I was almost embarrassed - another wager creeps in, and they agree to remain celibate after The First Consummation as part of the wager. (WTF?) I just want to mention that, considering she was still (technically) a virgin, not much was made of it - like, uh, the stuff you think of with virgins. And despite his love-making technique of a couple of kisses then The Main Course, she got quite involved (or at least the narrator did). The next time they make love - her second time, 3 or 4 weeks later - she is a practiced rider, if you get my drift. (shakes head) Again, not much in the way of foreplay for this rakehell. Just git 'er done. Yee haw.

Plot: rake almost ravishes innocent heroine, but doesn't; 3 years go by, and they meet again; no one, including either of them, knows why they continue to be seen together but dang if that doesn't make a scandal, which produces a forced marriage; heroine spouts a lot of long winded psychobabble about why he is like he is; there's some whiny, mean distant relatives involved that create additional conflict; the book ends without any real resolution of that storyline, but the hero and heroine have each professed love (and are already married). The End.

In spite of my snarky review, I didn't hate it. I just didn't really love it, and when it ended, I thought: wait a minute, what about CHARLOTTE? (maybe I fell asleep and missed that resolution) So, 3 stars, and it has occurred to me that maybe I should speed up the player for the next book to really get Flosnik's storytelling going at a clip.

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh ***

First Comes Marriage (Huxtable Quintet, #1)First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm listening to the Huxtable Quintet series in order, so that I can do an actual review of the new release of #5. I've liked the handful of Baloghs I've read to date, but have mixed feelings about narrator Anne Flosnik, so I approached this task with not a little trepidation.

As a setup for a series, there was a lot of introduction to do - meet all of the Huxtables, and probably some of their future mates, although the first book deals with Vanessa, the widowed middle daughter, and Elliott, Viscount something-or-other in line for a dukedom. We learn that the 4 Huxtable siblings have been living in near poverty in a small village, and that the youngest, Stephen, has become an earl much to the surprise of everyone. Apparently the Huxtable grandfather was estranged from his family and no one ever thought Stephen might be in line for the title. Elliott is the guardian of the Stephen as the new earl.

Flosnik's narration wasn't nearly as off-putting as some of her Julie Garwood and Elizabeth Lowell medievals, thank gawd, but somehow I kept wondering if I might have enjoyed reading in print more. She has a sort of plodding way of narrating, almost as if someone has asked her to slow down, or read by metronome. She did use different voices for the characters, with her Margaret/eldest daughter voice being the low gravelly voice of a much older woman, and even Vanessa's voice pitched too low for being all of 24. The story itself, in the midst of changing the Huxtable way of life and meeting everyone, had very little in the way of actual conflict - it's a marriage of convenience that takes a long time to develop into a HEA, and not a particularly convincing one at that.

At least Flosnik didn't do that awful, dramatic dragging out of final syllables like she does in Garwood and Lowell - whew! Still, 3 stars - ok, not great, that's for both the story and the narration.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Marry Me by Jo Goodman ***

Goodman is one of my very favorite authors, and her A Season To Be Sinful is one of my all-time favorite books, so she's an auto-buy for me. Luckily, this time it was a free download on Kindle that I read on my iPhone!

Goodman's American Western historicals have a different feel about the prose that doesn't touch me the way her Regencies (and other European time periods) do - the characters don't seem to be as richly or deeply drawn. This one follows Never Love A Lawman, and includes Wyatt and Rachel from the story. (I looked for my review but apparently didn't write one, although I rated it 5 stars in Bookpedia.) Cole Monroe is a big city doctor in charge of his teenaged sister Whitley when she sends an application letter under his name to Reidsville, Colorado. Reidsville is looking for a doctor, and Whitley is determined that Cole needs to leave the hospital where he is working under the man who would have been his father-in-law if the engagement hadn't been broken.

As the new doctor, Cole goes around to the "outliers" to make their acquaintance and let them know he's available if they need medical help. The opening of the story introduces the reader to the ne'er-do-well Abbot family with 3 no-good sons, one of who still lives at home with the old man. As it turns out, the youngest son, Runt Abbot - from a family of actors - has been acting all this time and has the entire town fooled, since he's a she: Rhyne. Cole discovers this when he finds her hemorrhaging during a miscarriage.

After that big and well-placed surprise is revealed, it gets purty predictable: he has to take her in to recuperate, and then she stays on as Whitley's mentor and the housekeeper and then... boy meets girl, blah blah. Since the title is MARRY ME, I sorta expected it to take longer to convince her to marry him - but by 2/3 of the way in, they're married. Then the real conflict is played out - something foreshadowed earlier, where Rhyne's father becomes even more of a villain than he was for beating her til she miscarried. (Goodman's heroines often have abusive pasts.)

So - it was ok, nothing earth shattering, didn't move me or make me laugh the way her other books have. Cole, like Wyatt in NLAL, is a beta hero, content to let Rhyne take her time and realize their shared passion. I was entertained, nothing more. 3 stars.