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.