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A Very Gothic Christmas (anthology)

The book contains two novellas.

After the Music by Christine Feehan

Synopsis (blurb): Terrified by mysterious threats, Jessica Fitzpatrick spirits away her twin wards, Tara and Trevor, to the remote island mansion of their estranged father, world-famous musician Dillon Wentworth. Ever since the fire that claimed his troubled wife’s life and left him horribly disfigured, Dillon has shut out the world. With Christmas approaching, the spark between him and Jessica might light the future, but there are those who shared Dillon’s wife’s love of the occult . . . and their evil machinations may plunge the family into darkness — unless a Christmas miracle occurs. . . .

Review: This was my first Feehan book not dealing with Carpathians and I don’t know whether I’m glad or sad to say that she hasn’t changed her ways. The heroine’s body is still soft and pliant and the hero is once more a predator – even if he comes in disguise of an ex-celebrity musician. In Feehan’s world, there is an order and you must adhere to it. Plenty of molten lava around as well, and she even managed to throw in a narrow ribcage, so nothing new here either.

I wouldn’t call the story Gothic, but there are some mysterious features on board. Hooded and cloaked figures looming in the dark, curious “accidents”, shadows from the past, a Gothic mansion on a remote storm-ridden island, it’s all there. The story dragged along though. Why, oh, why the couple waited for an eternity to follow their mutual attraction remains a mystery and annoyed me quite a bit. It was an ok read, the characters were nice and likeable, I just didn’t feel connected to them. However, for Feehan fans it is a must.

Lady of the Locket by Melanie George

Syopsis (blurb): The echoes of history and romance lure Rachel Hudson to Glengarren, the Scottish castle where her parents met many Christmases ago. But it is the portrait of fierce Highlander Duncan MacGregor that sparks an inexplicable yearning inside her. On a storm-tossed night, as lightning cracks across the castle’s turrets, Rachel finds herself face-to-face with MacGregor himself, astride a mighty stallion. Now, stepping into Rachel’s time — and her heart — the warrior from the past is pursued by an ancient, evil enemy. . . .

Review: This second story was a real treat. I have never read anything by Melanie George, but will definitely look for some of her books. You could literally feel the cold in that old Scottish castle and feel the mysterious atmosphere. The hero, Duncan MacGregor, was to die for, no wonder Rachel fell for him immediately. I personally like the soul mate theme, so the instantaneous connection between the two didn’t pose a problem for me.
I was somewhat dissatisfied with the end of the story. It turned out to be a real tear jerker (not bad in itself), but wasn’t resolved satisfactorily in my eyes. I don’t see how the author could have done it differently, but I just didn’t like it particularly anyway. It was a HEA of sorts, though.

I really liked the lyrics of the song that Duncan sang to Rachel and researched it on the net. The song was written in 1877 by Annie Fortescue Harrison with lyrics by Meta Orred. Thus it could have hardly been known by Duncan who died in Culloden in 1746. Admittedly the song fit wonderfully into the context, but inconsistencies like this could be avoided and just bother me in retrospect.

[rating:4]

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The heart breaker by Nicole Jordan

Synopsis: Sloan McCord needs a wife. Not for love but to take care of his infant daughter, to keep his household, to helm him campaigning and to warm his bed. Heather Ashford needs a husband to take care of her late father’s gambling debts. A friend of hers, Sloan’s sister in law, fixes them up and the deal is made. However, Heather falls deeply in love with Sloan who can’t accept this. He still loves his dead wife and is not interested in a new love and all its ramifications.

Review: OK, I loved the book, even though I can think of a lot of things that should have made me dislike it:

  • It starts with a sex scene which I hate. Sex without context does nothing for me. It turns out to be a dream of Sloan’s, but nevertheless.
  • Sloan is a real jerk. He thinks falling in love again is a betrayal to his wife (I can relate to that to an extent), but he sees no problem in sleeping with his new wife until the cows come home.
  • How he got a reputation to be a heart breaker I have no idea. He does seem to have some potential, but it hardly ever shows.
  • When drunk he makes Heather such an unspeakable offer, that I’d have left him for good – love or not.
  • Heather made him grovel way too little afterwards.
  • Heather was weak when it came to him. After their agreement not to touch each other again, it took virtually NOTHING to change her mind.

However, the story flowed smoothly for me and there were no stupid side plots that took attention from the main one. More than once I felt like taking Sloan and throttle him, but I liked him anyway. I loved the book, what can I say.

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Warrior by Cheryl Brooks

Synopsis: The story is about Tisana, the local witch, who gets a new patient. He is being brought in by Tisana’s ex, Rafe. His newly acquired slave is severely ill and he wants Tisana to nurse him back to health. The slave turns out to be a Zetithian, Leo, with whom Tisana falls in love pretty quickly – and vice versa. All would be good, if he didn’t belong to Rafe, who will come back and claim him again soon. When Rafe eventually comes back, he’s come for another reason though. He wants Tisana’s and Leo’s help in finding his two sons who have been kidnapped for unknown reasons. Together they get on their way on a rescue mission and at the same time on the mission to make Leo a free man once more.

Review: This is the second installment of Brooks’ Cat Star Chronicles after "Slave". I enjoyed the first book, but I enjoyed this one more, which was due to the heroine. Tisana wasn’t such a tough entrepreneur as Jacinth, which I preferred. The couple in the book was established pretty quickly, so there was not much angst on that part, but, of course, there was the problem of getting Leo out of the (virtual) clutches of Rafe’s wife, who wanted him for prestige reasons. That was dealt with not too early, but fairly easy I’d say, and from then on, it was all about rescuing the boys.

Usually I neither like books with children involved, nor with animals, but in this case I must make an exception. The children were marginal characters who served only as the reason for the mission in the first place. I don’t think they even uttered a word during the whole book. The animals on the other hand chatted nonstop, which was quite fun. Tisana has the psychic ability to converse with animals and that helped her a lot on her mission. The conversations between her and the various animals were quite amusing and added an entertaining touch.

The hero, Leo, was a good character, no uber-alpha, but a warrior and pretty self assured (not surprising considering his way with women, but I don’t want to give away anything). The heroine was compassionate, strong, down-to-earth. They were a perfect couple.

At the end the reader meets the couple from the previous book again, which was nice. However, Jacinth, and her business-like manner, in which she immediately wanted to take advantage of Tisana’s gift, really rubbed me the wrong way. Can’t she leave people alone for a minute, for crying out loud? She just met her and already proposes to make money out of her. She might be a space trader, but still, give it a little rest, won’t you?

Want to read more reviews?
This book has also been reviewed by Literary Escapism.

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Lord of Danger by Anne Stuart

Synopsis: "Lord of Danger" is the story of Alys and her sister Claire. Both are called to their half brother Richard the Fair’s castle where one of them is to be wedded to Richard’s advisor Simon de Navarre. Simon is feared by everybody. Due to his reputation of being a demon’s spawn and a Lord of the Dark Arts they call him "Grendel". When asked to choose between the two sisters he surprisingly chooses Alys, the somewhat drab but smart one, instead of Claire, the beauty. His plan to dispose of her in a convent as soon as she doesn’t suit his purpose any longer goes awry when he falls in love with her. And there is still Richard and his machinations to be considered…

Review: The books hasn’t been in my TBR pile for long, but I had been waiting to read it for a long while before I could finally get a copy. So my expectations were extremely high, additionally fuelled by the good reviews it got.

This was my second book by Anne Stuart and it will be my last. The book has a great story to tell and it was quite funny at times, but I just didn’t care for the way the story was executed.
I dislike books that deal with 2 romances in 1 and this is what Lord of Danger does. Claire’s love story takes up almost as much room as Alys’ and Simon’s – at least it felt like that for me.

Simon was a great hero, smart, strong, handsome and cunning and Alys a good heroine who doesn’t believe in Simon’s carefully crafted evil reputation. I liked that, but somehow the supposed tension between the two just didn’t show.
The scene on the parapet (two lovers meeting on the parapet in the midst of a thunder storm, you get it) that I had heard about beforehand was unexciting in spite of its potential and the ending, especially the last chapter, was rushed to the extreme. Simon’s "declaration of love", if you can even call it that, fit his character – I must give the author that – but was totally unsatisfying to a romance reader. For the real thing you had to revert to the secondary couple – not good!
Last, but not least, but this is a matter of preference, the love scenes were too tame for me. If the same story had been told by another writer, whose style is more to my taste, it would have been perfect, but as it is, it just wasn’t up my alley – at all.

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Shadow Prince by Terry Lynn Wilhelm

Synopsis: Ariel, a plastic surgeon, takes a job at a residential facility for people who need reconstructive surgery. One evening when she is out in spite of the curfew for patients and medical staff alike she meets a mysterious man, Jonah, who hides in the shadows. They become friends and slowly fall in love, even though Jonah never shows his face to Ariel.

Review: As a lover of Beauty and the Beast stories this was my kind of book. It becomes pretty clear from very early on who Jonah is, still, the reader is being left in the dark about his true story until late in the book. Ariel and Jonah spend a lot of time together on their daily outings in the evening, so there is plenty of time for them to get to know each other. Readers of romance books who need a lot of action, interfering relatives / well meaning friends, colleagues or other busybodies and misunderstandings between h/h that only get resolved on the last page of the book – be warned! No such thing in this book. There is no plot whatsoever apart from interaction between h/h and a bit of sleuthing (and that is already an exaggeration) on Ariel’s part to find out more about Jonah. A few patients and other medical staff thrown in for good measure and that’s it.
I like stories that center on the couple without a lot of distracting outside factors, so this was perfect for me.

The only thing that bothered me a bit was the very quick ending. I felt it was kind of rushed, as if the page count was up and it had to be squeezed in on the last four pages. But this is only a minor complaint which didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the book. For me it is a definite keeper.

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Lost Warriors by Rachel Lee

This is the first book I read for the winter challenge. The challenge was to “read a story that has a military or civil servant in it – any genre”.

Synopsis:

“Lost warriors” is part of Lee’s “Conard County” series.
Billy Joe Yuma has been suffering from PTSD for the last 20 years, since he came back from Vietnam. The heroine, Wendy, the daughter of the local sheriff, has been in love with him since she was 16 six years ago, but due to her age and his issues, Yuma kept rejecting her. Now she comes back into her home town to work as an emergency flight nurse and, as it happens, Yuma is the pilot of the emergency helicopter.

Review:

If you like tortured heroes, sensible and sensitive heroines, a good, but not overwhelming plot and no stupid misunderstandings between hero and heroine, then this is the book for you. The way Yuma and Wendy find to each other, how the hero deals with his issues and how the heroine helps him along is described beautifully. Also, the severe problems the hero has are not dealt with and discarded within a couple of days as is the case so often. The story seems just right all around.
This was my first book by Rachel Lee, but definitely not my last.

However, people who don’t like a large age difference between h/h might want to think twice about reading the story. Yuma is 20 years older than Wendy. If you decided not to read this book because of that age difference, you will miss out on a great story, though.

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“Wentworthiana” & more

It seems, Captain Wentworth isn’t as interesting as Darcy by far. Still, I managed to find a few books, plus a few of others featuring other heroes of Austen.

Amanda Grange:

  • Captain Wentworth’s Diary
  • Mr. Knightley’s Diary
  • Edmund Bertram’s Diary
  • Colonel Brandon’s Diary

Susan Kaye:

  • None But You (Frederick Wentworth, captain: book 1)
  • For You Alone (Frederick Wentworth, Captain: book 2)

Rachel Billington:

  • Emma & Knightley: Perfect Happiness in Highbury
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Fitzwilliam Darcy – you can’t get enough of him

I never knew how many books are out there dealing with Fitzwilliam Darcy – either as a bachelor or as a married man. Darcy seems to be the epitome of man, people just can’t let him rest. And after seeing Colin Firth as Darcy in the gorgeous BBC series, I can’t say I’m surprised.

I was looking up a Stephanie Barron book on Shelfari just before (the Jane Austen mystery series) and loads of other books turned up, one of them by a Carrie Bebris. I looked it up on amazon and was stunned to see all those other Darcy books around. There is even a name for that sort of book- Darcyiana

So, for future reference I’m compiling a little list here. If anyone has something to contribute, let me know.

Pamela Aidan:
(trilogy, same time as P&P)

  • An Assembly such as this
  • Duty and Desire
  • These three remain

Helen Halstead:
(sequel)

  • Mr. Darcy presents his bride

Linda Berdoll:
(sequel)

  • Mr. Darcy takes a wife (formerly self-published as "The Bar Sinister"), this was a DNF for me, I am sorry to say.
  • Darcy & Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley

Carrie Bebris:
(mystery series)

  • Pride and Prescience
  • Suspense and Sensibility
  • North by Northanger
  • The Matters at Mansfield

Phyllis Furley:
(sequel)

  • Darcys – Scenes from married life

Amanda Grange: 

  • Mr. Darcy’s Diary (re-telling of P&P from Darcy’s point of view)
  • Wickham’s Diary (ends where P&P starts)
  • Mr. Darcy, Vampyre (Mr. Darcy turns out to be a, you guessed it, vampire)

Maya Slater:
(re-telling of P&P from Darcy’s point of view)

  • Mr. Darcy’s Diary

Mary Street:
(re-telling of P&P from Darcy’s point of view)

  • The confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy

Jane Dawkins:
(sequel)

  • Letters from Pemberley
  • More letters from Pemberley

Rebecca Ann Collins:
(sequel)

  • The Pemberley Chronicles
  • The women of Pemberley
  • Netherfield Park Revisited
  • The Ladies of Longbourne
  • Mr. Darcy’s Daughter

C. Allyn Pierson:
(sequel)

  • And this is our life: Chronicles of the Darcy family

Marsha Altman:
(sequel)

  • The Darcys & the Bingleys

Elizabeth Newark:
(sequel)

  • The Darcys give a ball

Juliette Shapiro:
(sequel)

  • Mr. Darcy’s Decision

Diana Birchall:
(sequel)

  • Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma

D. A. Bonavia-Hunt:
(sequel)

  • Pemberley Shades

Regina Jeffers:
(re-telling of P&P from Darcy’s point of view)

  • Darcy’s Passions
  • Darcy’s Dreams (sequel)

Abigail Reynolds:
(variations of P&P – what could have been…)

  • From Lambton to Longbourn
  • The Last Man in the World
  • Without Reserve
  • By Force of Instinct
  • Impulse & Initiative

Kara Louise:
(re-telling in a different setting)

  • Pemberley’s Promise
  • Assumed Engagement (spin off with story going in another direction)
  • Assumed Obligation (sequel to Assumed Engagement)

Barbara Tiller Cole:

  • White Lies and Other Half Truths (not sure what exactly this is, but it seems to be sexy, LOL)

Marie Hogstrom:

  • Derbyshire (sequel)

That’s it for now. Next thing I’ll do, is collect some Wentworthiana (I’m sure there must be some out there)…

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Readers of Romance winter challenge 2008

I recently became a member of Shelfari and love it. As a passionate romance reader (I’m really getting into this now, LOL) I signed up for the Readers of Romance group and consequently signed up for the ROR winter challenge 2008. You are given some topics, authors or just fun criteria and then go and find a book to read that fits. We were given 15 items and within a couple of days I had my reading list ready. Oh, doesn’t that sound like a lot of fun?

Since I’m into paranormal stuff, I tried to fit as many PNR into it as possible, but had to put up with some regular romance as well.

You can find my list here.

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Serial Readers Challenge 2009

Beth, also known as the carpoolqueen, will start an interesting challenge in January 2009. I only discovered reading challenges recently and love the idea. A great way to read stuff out of your box (or make stuff that you want to read fit into a certain box that you are given, LOL).

So, the 2009 challenge is the serial readers challenge. No problem, I love reading series and I’ll find tons of new series to read or re-read old ones.  There are prizes to be had, but the real fun is the reading part of course.

I was thinking about what series I’d like to read and a few automatically come to my mind.

  • For the winter 2009 challenge (more about that later) I’m starting the Argenau series by Lynsay Sands. Don’t know whether I’ll like it, mabye it’ll be to humorous for me, but we’ll see.
  • Then I’m planning to read “Moon called” by Particia Briggs which might be the entry into her Mercy Thompson series.
  • Also for the winter challenge is “How to marry a millionaire vampire” which is the first book in Kerrelyn Sparks’ Love at Stake series. Maybe also to funny, but I’ll find out.
  • Plus, since Rhev’s book will be coming out next year and I HAVE to read it, I’ll definitely re-read all the BDB books before the release.

These are my ideas for now, but I’m sure I’ll come across a lot of others on the way.

My final list can be found here.