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An interrupted tapestry by Madeline Hunter

Synopsis (from. M. Hunter’s site): The novella tells the story of Giselle, whose charming, spendthrift brother has been abducted and held for ransom. In desperation she turns to Andreas von Bremen, a merchant with the Hanseatic League who years ago had been a friend. As they try to save her brother, they rediscover their friendship. . .and much more.

Review: The story is part of "Tapestry", an anthology with four novellas. Originally I got the book because of Moning’s novella and didn’t even plan on reading this one. However, browsing through the book some German words caught my eye. I never saw German in a romance novel before, so, naturally, I became interested in the story after all.

The setting is quite interesting. The hero, Andreas von Bremen, is a wealthy German merchant belonging to the Hanseatic League being on business in London. The heroine is an English noblewoman who is impoverished. Very unusual, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a romance before where the Hanse was even mentioned. Not that I knew much about the Hanse when I started reading (I suck at German history), but the story got me into a bit of research. More to that in a second.

The romance was mainstream. A stupid, selfish, condescending brother to rescue, an impending engagement to cancel, a few angry merchants to placate, that was about it. The love scenes were more than tame, the connection between h/h was so so. All in all I expected much more from a good old German hero, don’t know why, based on my own experiences with German men, :-). I suppose I still have the stereotype of the virile Germanic hero in my mind.

The time in which the story took place was never mentioned explicitly, but Giselle’s father was disowned due to his involvement in a rebellion to overthrow Henry VII. Simon de Montford was executed in 1495 because of his help in that, so the time of the story must be at least a few years after that. By that time the Hanse was already on its decline, in London there existed already a lot of hostility against the members of the League. I’m not sure whether the respectful and even reverent behaviour of the London merchants towards Andreas is realistic. When I read the story I was oblivious to that, though, so I just took it for granted that everything was as it should be. Why the story isn’t set in a time that seems more probable, I don’t know. Why not, for example, set it around 1340, after Mortimer was hanged, his followers pursued, the Hanse was rising, ca. 20 years after the establishment of the London kontor. The whole story would have made much more sense.

An ok read, not to be re-read again.

[rating:2]

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Into the dreaming by Karen Marie Moning

Synopsis: Aspiring romance novelist Jane Sillee was completely in love with her fantasy man–the hot and strapping dark-haired Highlander who’d been coming to her in her dreams for years and inspired her sensual flights of literary fantasy.

But it was more than her imagination that conjured up the brilliantly woven tapestry sporting the spitting image of her magnificently arrogant warrior. It was more than a dream that transported her to medieval Scotland to break an evil spell. And it was more than she could handle when she found herself wrapped in the muscular arms of Aedan MacKinnon, who had his own fantasies to fulfill…

Review:

The novella is part of an anthology called "Tapestry". What I love about novellas is that there is no room to drag out the plot ad infinitum. This one didn’t disappoint.

This story was an absolute delight to read. Even considering what I said earlier in my post about names in novels, I have some preferences when it comes to hero’s names. If his name is Aidan (or any derivation) he can’t fail with me. It all started with "Phantom Lover" by Sherrilyn Kenyon, a novella in the anthology "Midnight Pleasures" and ever since I’m a sucker for any Aidan out there. Disclaimer: "Dark Gold" doesn’t count, I read that book before "Phantom Lover", so Aidan Savage doesn’t fall into the "Great Aidans" category. In fact I found him rather bland.

Jane was a heroine after my own heart. Not shilly shallying back and forth, but once she’s set her mind on Aedan – and that was before she even met him in person – she stuck to that. No matter how cool he was towards her, she knew why that was and never gave up. No silly misunderstandings or stupid banter came in between her and her man.

Another circumstance that sold me the story was the fact that Jane and Aedan met in their dreams before they met in real life. I just like that. A lot.

Aedan wasn’t as alpha as you probably would expect from some highlander story, but that was more down to the fact that he had no clue who he was, having been brainwashed for 500 years. Not surprising that the poor guy was a bit confused and only slowly came to his senses.

Even the brogue, that I usually don’t like too much, didn’t bother me. It all fit perfectly.

This was my first story ever by Karen Marie Moning and now I’m debating whether to read her Highlander series.

[rating:5]

Want to read more reviews? This story was also reviewed by Reading Adventures.

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Hearts eternal by Rebecca Goings

Synopsis: Cassie Chapman has just met the perfect man in the mysterious Laith Moreland. But there’s a catch: he’s a ghost. Not only that, he claims Cassie is the reincarnation of his one true love who died hundreds of years ago! As she begins to have visions of her past life, Cassie is flung into Laith’s world and realizes only she has the power to break his curse and make him mortal once again.

Lord Laith Moreland, the Third Duke of Crichton, is a ghost. He’s been searching for his true love, his shelmir, for centuries. Finally he has found her, born again in Cassie Chapman. They cannot deny the strong bond that is mysteriously between them.

But Laith isn’t the only one who’s found Cassie, and now they must stay one step ahead of Laith’s murderous twin brother, Jareth, who willingly cursed himself ages ago to find her reincarnated once again.

Review: The blurb on Samhain sounded promising, so I gave this novella a go. It is the first book in a series of two called Cursed Hearts. Soul mates, he searched for her for centuries, instant attraction and bond – it was all there, the basics were good.

I liked the way the story went medias in res without faffing about for page after page. The characters were likeable, the love scenes sensual, the villain evil, all would have been great if there hadn’t been some points that totally spoiled it.

Cassie often speaks "with a small voice" or alternatively "wails pathetically". Excuse me, I don’t want a heroine who wails pathetically. She might start crying at some point, but never, ever do I want her to wail pathetically. And a small voice isn’t anything desirable either.

S P O I L E R S ahead

Jareth, the villain and the hero’s twin brother, is thick as anything. He actually believes that Cassie gave up Laith because she suddenly loves Jareth, even though she was Laith’s soul mate. How gullible can you be, for heaven’s sake? Not at all like him, he is basically a mistrustful, revengeful guy, who would never fall for that.

A nice touch on the other hand was that finally somebody commented on the obsolete speech of the hero. When Laith informs him that Cassie is his betrothed, Peter replies: "Betrothed? No one gets betrothed any more!" Usually those heroes just walk around, look like a modern hunk, talk like a few hundred years ago and nobody even bats an eyelid.

Despite my misgivings I was tempted to get the second book "Hearts unbound" until I read the blurb. I have no clue who wrote that blurb, but it must be someone who hasn’t read the first book. It actually says: "Jareth Moreland has waited centuries for his lover to be reincarnated, but his reward isn’t the reunion he expected – it’s murder. He awakes to find his soul has been pulled back centuries into the past, to the very day in 1657 both his lover and his brother died and, in his grief, he became a vampire."

Huh? I must have misunderstood the first story from A-Z. Cassie was not his lover, she was his betrothed (here we go again) because he tricked her father into thinking he was the rightful heir to the title. She was Laith’s lover, Jareth’s older twin brother and the real Duke. Jareth was obsessed with her, but she didn’t give a toss about him.

In 1657 his brother and his lover died because of his machinations. Admittedly he didn’t want Cassie to day, that just happened because Jareth allied with someone he shouldn’t have trusted, but nevertheless he caused their deaths. And as far as his grief was concerned, not so sure about that either. Possibly he grieved for Cassie, but he certainly became a vampire because an evil witch cum vampire wanted him for all eternity to herself. So the whole blurb is false.

I went as far as reading the excerpt, and that gave me the rest. I don’t mind that Laith and Cassie were made soul mates by a witch and they acted accordingly. After all they had been lovers before that spell. But for a couple to get together ONLY because of a spell takes all the fun away. Clearly Jareth is appalled by the thought that he is bound to Jessica, but he still acts like a horny rabbit. Where has the so called love for Cassie gone? Out the window within seconds. Sorry, will have to give that one a pass.

[rating:2]

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How to marry a millionaire vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks

Synopsis (from amazon): So what if he’s a bit older and usually regards a human female as dinner, not a dinner date? Yes, Roman Draganesti is a vampire, but a vampire who lost one of his fangs sinking his teeth into something he shouldn’t have. Now he has one night to find a dentist before his natural healing abilities close the wound, leaving him a lop–sided eater for all eternity.

Things aren’t going well for Shanna Whelan either…After witnessing a gruesome murder by the Russian mafia, she’s next on their hit list. And her career as a dentist appears to be on a downward spiral because she’s afraid of blood. When Roman rescues her from an assassination attempt, she wonders if she’s found the one man who can keep her alive. Though the attraction between them is immediate and hot, can Shanna conquer her fear of blood to fix Roman’s fang? And if she does, what will prevent Roman from using his fangs on her…

Review: The time has arrived where I am ready to stop reading if a book doesn’t do it for me. I already started that approach with "Darling Jack" in which I skipped most of the book, but with "How to marry a millionaire vampire" I will finally take the plunge and just stop reading altogether. Not that the books isn’t entertaining. Actually some dialogue is quite funny, if you like flippant retorts, that don’t really add to the conversation. That is probably what is wrong with it.

First of all, the title of the book is misleading. It’s probably supposed to be a fluffy title, and it is, but I don’t see any connection between it and the story. Shanna has no idea that Roman is a vampire and has no intention of marrying one either. Roman is trying to hide his true nature from her. This is not surprising considering that the heroine comes over as self-righteous, bossy and set in her ways.

I like my vampires dark, broody and in control, but at the same time I hate them to be constantly complaining about their fate. A vampire master who loses one of his fangs while biting into a sex doll (or the vampire equivalent of it) and on top of that thinks he is an abomination just doesn’t fit into my little world.

The humorous tone of the book doesn’t match the storyline. Roman is dissatisfied with his life in general and has adversaries of his own, whereas Shanna, who is in the witness protection program, is being targeted by the Russian mafia, not really a force to be trifled with. I don’t see anything here that delivers food for merriment.

Then, where have I heard the bleak existence whine before? We all know this specific burden from every "Dark" book we have ever read. Just, in Roman’s case his existence doesn’t seem so bleak to me. He is stinking rich, has a sort of harem, dozens of underlings, he is the master of the largest coven in North America and can enjoy life as nobody else can.

What sealed the fate of this book was a kissing scene where Roman withdrew because of his fangs and his qualms about not being good enough for her, because he is a demon (yeah, now the old whine starts again). OK, I get the fang thing, but the reaction from Shanna was the equally old motto "I mustn’t get involved with a client anyway". And if I can’t stand one credo in a romance, this is it. Why ever not? Especially since in this case, Roman wasn’t a client strictly speaking. When he came to her she refused to repair his tooth and minutes later the Russians were on to them, and when she did repair his tooth later she did it under Roman’s compulsive magic and she had no idea what she was doing.

As far as I can tell the book is a good read for people who like their books fluffy and humorous. I, however, had no feelings at all for both main characters, they didn’t interest me in the least even after reading almost half of the book, so I just couldn’t be bothered reading on.

[rating:1]

Want to read more reviews?
This book was also reviewed at Literary Escapism.

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Romance Reading Challenge 2009

I just found this challenge, which is going to be a breeze, :-). The Romance Reading Challenge 2009 hosted by the bookworm.

rrc09small3 Read on for the rules:
1. Now, “Romance” isn’t limited to steamy Harlequin novels. There is a huge selection of books in this category such as contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense and paranormal romance to name a few. As long as the story has romantic love between the two main characters your selection will fit this challenge. The novels do not need to have a happy ending either, there can also be unrequited love.
2. Choose at least 5 novels read them between Jan 1st though Dec 31st 2009. You can change your choices at any time. Crossovers between other challenges are fine.
3. Read them at your own pace in 2009 then come here and post the link to your review(s).

I don’t see any problem here considering my current addiction to romance books. I’ll fill my list as I go along and will probably choose the best five I’ll find on my way.

You can find my list here.

This should be a lot of fun!

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Being with him by Jessica Inclán

Synopsis: Mila Adams has always known she was different. For as long as she can remember, she has had the ability to shift time, and who would believe that? Certainly not the obnoxious blind dates her mother keeps foisting off on her. But Mila can’t help feeling there’s someone out there for her, a soul mate who might understand her unique ability. And when she looks into the dark eyes of financial whiz Garrick McClellan, she can’t but feel her time has finally come.

Any man would lust after a beauty like Mila, but the moment Garrick touches her–feels her shifting time just as he can–he recognizes her as his partner in power. Their connection is immediate, passionate, raw, and beyond anything either has ever experienced. But who are they? What is this gift that joins them so intensely? Are there others like them? And why do they feel that time is running out?

Review: Mila and Garrick were a great couple. I like the concept of two people complementing each other. Those two did that to perfection, as did all the other couples involved. A very interesting thought, that without the other half the impressive powers you’ve got are rather useless. However, once you found your other half, you can do quite a bit together.

I liked the unique setting and how the abandoned ones helped themselves. Mila and Garrick together were able to figure out a good deal and once they were united with the others they accomplished a lot without relying on others. On the other hand the villains in the book are some powerful and evil, but pretty miserable, pitiable creatures. I could picture mankind somewhere in their place in the not too far future. Not a very nice prospect.

The whole story was told well, even though I would have liked a few more details about Cygiria. I suppose and hope a lot more will be explained in the oncoming books in the trilogy. I can’t wait to hear more about the situation at the moment, how Mila will find her sister and what will happen with Edan and his still missing double.

The secondary characters were all pretty amazing, too. One of my favourite couples were Porter and Stephanie. It is nice to see that Jessica Inclan didn’t only pair up people who understood each other 100% and were just perfect, but also a couple who really got on each others’ nerves. Still they couldn’t be without the other. Hopefully we will see them in future books, too, and maybe watch them as they grow together in a satisfying way.

From the title and the book cover I expected a novel that was much more on the erotic side than it actually was. Don’t get me wrong, the love scenes were sensual and extremely pleasant, but people who relish sex scene upon sex scene will be disappointed. There is a definite plot there and a lot of story to be told. I can’t wait to read its continuation.

[rating:4]

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Readers of Romance spring challenge 2009

The new spring challenge was posted recently. Looks like a lot of fun again… especially the trilogy will be a good thing. I can kill two birds with one stone here.

1. Read a Western (united States)- historical or contemporary

2. Read a book set in Scotland- historical or contemporary

“After the storm” by Jaid Black.  This will possibly also work for the erotic challenge.

3. Title contains Sun, Moon, or Stars (Moonlight, Starlight, etc, is ok!)

“Stardust of yesterday” by Lynn Kurland. I need to know what the fuss is all about. Most people are raving about it. It have yet to read Lynn Kurland, but a novella is still waiting for me in the “Tapestry” anthology.

4. Title contains Angel or Devil

5. Read any title by one of the first romance authors you ever read (or reread one of the first romance titles you ever read)

6. Title or Cover makes you think of Spring

7. Readers Choice

8. Select a book that has been marked favorite or 5 stars from another group member’s shelf.

“The bride finder” by Susan Carroll. Rated 5 stars by ancestorsearch (and others I think).

9. Read an AAR top 100 title (list on allaboutromance.com, AAR Top 100 group, and the AAR Top 100 blog)

“Winter garden” by Adele Ashworth. This list sucks in my eyes. The books I know I didn’t care for too much, but this book was on my wishlist for some time. It seems to have only a marginal plot, which suits me. So I’ll give it a go.

10. Title contains the word “Secret” or “Lie” in it

11. Read a title that was read and reviewed during the Winter Challenge

12. read a book with a Romeo and Juliet type theme (feuding family/clan/etc): H/H have to be on opposite sides of the feud

13. Read a trilogy (or 3 books from same series) Part 1

14. Read a trilogy (or 3 books from same series) Part 2

“The black dragon” by Allyson James. Also works for the serial challenge. Let us hope it is better than the first one.  Well, the hero certainly is.

15. Read a trilogy (or 3 books from same series) Part 3

edited 31.01.09
I’ll only go for 5 books this time. I have a huge pile to read and not much fits the challenge. So instead of falling behind hopelessly I’ll cut down on the challenge and read other stuff that fits other challenges or that just suits my fancy.

You can find my finished list here.

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Networking friends

I like book networking sites to a certain extent. It’s fun to browse and find new books, read reviews and meet people with similar tastes. It’s nice to see what your friends are reading, whether they think the same about books as you do. It’s a good way to discover new authors and possibly genres to read.

What I don’t like are the networking junkies whose sole purpose in life seems to be to accumulate as many "friends" as possible on any given networking site. I suppose those people believe that to have a lot of friends means they are very popular. Fine with me as long as those friend hoarders stay among themselves.

Recently they have come out and extended their feelers towards the innocent though. The innocent being me.

Without any possible reason they invite me to be their friend. I wonder why. Especially on a book networking site I would think that the taste in books is the main criteria to invite someone to be your friend. This is not always so.

The people I got the last few friend requests from had the following books in common with me:

On a shelf of hundreds of books they were:
1.
"Interview with the vampire" – a book almost everybody has read (especially Cruise and Pitt fans, who read the book in 1994)
"The Importance of Being Earnest" – a book almost everybody has read
"Wuthering Heights" – a book almost everybody has read
"Twilight" – a book almost every woman has read
Some Bill Bryson book – a book almost everybody has read

2.
"The Importance of Being Earnest" – see above
"The Alchemist" – a book almost everybody has at home, I’m not saying they have read it.

3.
"The Da Vinci Code" – a book everybody has read, even though, if they have read "Angels and Demons", there was no reason to. It’s the same book.
"Memoirs of a Geisha" – a book almost every woman has read (especially in or after 2005)

I don’t know what to make of this. Do those people really want to know what I’m reading right now? I can’t imagine. Do they think I want to know what they are reading right now? I don’t. If you want to be friends with people with whom you have only books like the above in common, why bother making friends at all? All you need to do is browse through the member list and look at everybody there. They would spare themselves the humiliation of being ignored and at the same time spare me a bad conscience.

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Gothic Dragon by Marie Treanor

Synopsis: Stuck in an uninteresting job and settled in a safe but vaguely unsatisfying relationship, the only bright spot in Esther’s life is her writing. She’s fascinated by colorful life of her ancestor Margaret Marsden, a nineteenth-century Gothic romance novelist. A woman who mysteriously disappeared without a trace.
A weekend away turns into a hunt for clues when Esther stumbles across Margaret’s lost novel, The Prince of Costanzo. Though desperate to read it, every time Esther opens the book, she falls asleep, and headlong into amazingly vivid dreams about Costanzo.
But in this dream world where war, magic and poisoning are commonplace, nothing is as it seems. Least of all the supposed villain of the novel, the enigmatic sorcerer Prince Drago. She finds herself kidnapped to his castle and subjected to a seductive interrogation that curls her toes. As their feelings for each other grow more powerful, she begins to wonder – is he the real villain, or a hero who only wants to save his kingdom? All she knows is that now that she’s had a taste of Costanzo – and Drago, her real life troubles seem insignificant.

Until they come crashing around her, threatening to cut her off from the man she loves. Forever.

Review: I like the idea of the reader to be sucked into a book. However, usually you’d expect her to experience the story described in that book. Here the story that Esther was transported into was quite different from the contents of the book. The explanation that was given as to why that was and how Esther could be drawn into the book in the first place was a bit far fetched and too complicated for my simple mind. But I’m a reader willing to overlook almost everything, from inconsistencies to illogical reasoning to incomprehensible explanations as to the why of the story, if only the story is good. And good it was.

The dreamlike, gothic atmosphere was quite compelling, you could picture Drago’s castle, the whole country Costanzo, its peasants, everything. It was like looking at one of those vivid paintings of some medieval scenery.
The fact that Drago, who was introduced as the super villain, turned out to be the hero was a nice touch here. He was as great a hero as you could wish for in a romance. Esther realistically didn’t fall for him the second she set eyes on him, but slowly came to care for him.
The real villains (there are some in either timeline) turned out to be quite villainous indeed and added the necessary suspense.

I’m a sucker for the “waited all my life for you” sort of story, so this was a really enjoyable read for me.

edit: There is a free short story available at The Samhellion called “Gothic Wolf”, which is a sort of sequel to “Gothic Dragon”, featuring Esther’s sister and Arturo.  Check it out!

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Dragon Heat by Allyson James

Synopsis (from amazon): Lisa Singleton has an unusual roommate-a fifty-foot dragon named Caleb who has glittering scales and a bad attitude. Little does she know that Caleb is actually a powerful warrior sent to protect her from those out to steal her magic and destroy the world. Or that Caleb can take the human form of a sexy hunk. Now, if he doesn’t stop distracting her with those gorgeous bedroom eyes, they may not have time to stop their enemies before all of existence is wiped out. At least Lisa and Caleb will have savoured every last minute.

Review: I usually don’t like books which feature more than one couple, since I think this distracts me from the main story. In this book, however, the second blooming romance (if it can be called that, after all Saba was enthralled with the black dragon through magic) was a blessing. Malcolm was a much more interesting character than Caleb. Whereas Caleb seemed insipid and one-dimensional, Malcolm showed more facets of personality and was altogether intriguing. Even though he was the villain in the piece, I was inclined to root for him and the rest of the world be damned (literally).

The love scenes between Caleb and Lisa were particularly uninspired. First they were constantly interrupted…how often do you "need to talk first" or can a cell phone ring? How bothersome! Then when they finally got together somehow the scenes always felt to me like some kind of intermezzo that was squeezed into the story, because, after all, it is classified as a romance. They were strangely unconnected to the story. I also didn’t feel tension between the two protagonists, even though it was said to be there constantly.

The last third of the book turned out to be quite enjoyable. Finally Lisa and Caleb stop blundering into situations. Finally it is revealed what on earth is going on here and what Lisa’s legacy is.
Still the fact remains that there wasn’t any particular connection between the main couple. The scene that satisfied me most in that respect is one between Saba and Malcolm in which he explains to her why he doesn’t want an emotional connection with her, her reaction to this and in turn again his reaction to hers.

Why Lisa left for the past even though she knew Donna would be coming soon is another thing that bothered me. She shouldn’t have done that, leaving the others exposed and she knew that. But she "had" to go for some reason. Well, yeah, the reason is that had she not gone the whole revenge plan of Donna’s would have been non-existent. Still, it didn’t make sense that she left knowing the situation at the time.

Conclusion: I didn’t care too much for this couple, but I’m totally intrigued with Saba and Malcolm. That is the reason why "The Black Dragon" is already sitting on my shelf. So I suppose I have to give Allyson James some credit after all.

One more word about the book cover. Really, does anybody think those covers will encourage people to buy those books? Can it get any cheesier than that? I have no idea where they dig out those guys, but please, spare us in the future. The cover on "Dragon Heat" might reflect Caleb in certain ways (I won’t go into great details here), but the cover of "The Black Dragon" is an insult to Malcolm’s character. I don’t need a hunk on a cover (and I mean hunk in it’s broadest sense) in order to imagine a hunk, after all.

[rating:3]

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Darling Jack by Mary McBride

One challenge of the winter challenge was to read a series like Harlequin or Silhouette. I had no idea that I already had planned a few of these – I only realized when they turned up – I had a look and decided to give Darling Jack a try. The blurb sounded interesting enough, especially since I’m also a fan of detective novels.

Synopsis: “Mad” (and gorgeous) Jack Hazard has returned from his mysterious vacation and he now needs a “wife” for his next case as Allan Pinkerton’s most renowned detective. Among Pinkerton’s file clerks is the young widow Anna Matlin, who prides herself on being as invisible as a mouse but suddenly finds herself packing to go with Jack. As she blossoms in both her detective and lover roles, Anna finds loving Jack complicated, not only because of his single-minded quest for revenge but also because of his desperate fight against alcoholism and a scarred childhood.

Review:  I didn’t read the whole book, so I might have missed some important stuff that would have turned the book around for me.
I didn’t like the story after all, it just didn’t catch my interest. I gave up after about one third, skipped over most parts, read the love scenes and the ending, so that at least I could be sure there was a HEA (I just have to know these things).

The whole convoluted story (or so it seemed to me from what I did read) was wasted on me. I also realized that I don’t have much time for alcoholic heros. Obviously this is one of the reasons I didn’t care for “The Rake” from Mary Jo Putney, even though everybody else loves it. The fact that Jack had been a victim of the female villain at an earlier point didn’t appeal to me either.

The characters were ok, and I liked the romance part, but somehow the whole story just didn’t work for me.

[rating:2]

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Names in novels

Recently there was a thread on an amazon forum about names in romance novels.
Does the name of the hero or the heroine make or break the book? A lot of people agreed to that, but admitted that if the story was compelling, it didn’t matter to them after all.

Why on earth would a name matter that much? OK, I admit that Harry has a point in this scene:

Harry Burns: With whom did you have this great sex?
Sally Albright: I’m not going to tell you that.
Harry Burns: Fine, don’t tell me.
Sally Albright: Shel Gordon.
Harry Burns: Shel? Sheldon? No, no, you did not have great sex with Sheldon.
Sally Albright: I did too.
Harry Burns: No you didn’t. A Sheldon can do your income taxes, if you need a root canal,
Sheldon’s your man… but humpin’ and pumpin’ is not Sheldon’s strong suit. It’s the name.
‘Do it to me Sheldon, you’re an animal Sheldon, ride me big Shel-don.’ Doesn’t work.

(from ~ When Harry met Sally )

But then again, if you do meet a Sheldon and he is a hunk, smart, everything you want him to be, would you dump him, because of his name? I think not.

So, anyway, if I came across a name that is truly insufferable (maybe something exotic that I don’t know how to pronounce) I’d just read over it and replace it with something else in my mind.

And as far as the "making a book" is concerned. If the story was horrible, even the most attractive name won’t be of any use. Would you struggle through a book just for the hero’s name? I wouldn’t.

Shakespeare gave us a great quote regarding this. Not that I’m reading Shakespeare nowadays, I found it at the quote garden.

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

~ Romeo and Juliet

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The Best of Jaid Black

Jaid Black is one of the noms de plume of Tina Engler, the founder of Ellora’s Cave. This should give any prospective reader an idea of what to expect.

"The Best of Jaid Black" consists of three novellas. I read only two, since the synopsis of the third didn’t interest me. So I’ll leave "The obsession" out of this.

Synopsis:

Tremors: Marie is on an extended holiday in Sweden. On the way back from a museum opening, where she had met a mysterious man who left her feeling uneasy, especially since she’s told that he was a murderer. She has a flat tyre and tries to make her way through the forest back to civilization. In that forest she meets the very man, Fredrik, again. He takes her to his home and basically forces her to stay with him for a week. After that week, he will allow her to leave, if she still wants to.

Vanished: Lynne is driving in a lonely mountain area, has an accident and is found by Jesse who takes her to his cabin and nurses her back to health. It turns out that Jesse is an escaped convict, imprisoned for some pretty gruesome crimes.

Review:

Tremors: I’m a big fan of cabin romance stories, so this one was right up my alley.

Well, the initial situation is a bit forced, since it doesn’t make any sense to anybody with a bit of common sense. If you drive along a lonely road and your car breaks down, if you have no idea where exactly you are, if you don’t know how far and what direction the next village/house/dwelling lies, if it is the middle of the night and you can’t see a thing, wouldn’t you just go back along the road you came from to get back to where you started? Well, Marie – in evening attire – decides to head straight into a forest on a path that looks hardly ever used.

S P O I L E R S:

If you were ready to overlook this and just take the story as it was, it was a really good read. Fredrik, whose reputation was far from pleasant, turned out to be a very nice bloke, if somewhat on the stalker side. The fact that he burnt Marie’s clothes in order to make her stay would have had me livid in real life, but in the story I just thought it was hilarious. Between him and Marie was a really good connection, they just clicked.

The fact that his status as a monster in human form was totally exaggerated didn’t come as a big surprise. Marie saw through that pretty quickly. And this is exactly why I couldn’t quite understand her reaction to when she found out that he had staged her car breakdown (how he did that was never explained) and her subsequent flight. At that stage of their relationship I would have addressed this directly with him instead of running away.

Apart from all those little flaws It was an enjoyable read. What made it even exotic were the few bits and pieces of Swedish that were thrown in. I have no idea whether they were authentic – I sure hope so, but I know from experience that when authors throw in German language bits into their stories they usually turn out to be false.

If you liked that story I recommend you also read "Secluded" by Lisa Marie Rice, a novella included in the Secrets anthology no. 9 from Red Sage.

Vanished: Another cabin romance. This time the heroine has an accident and is being rescued by an escaped convict who carries her to his cabin, even though he is in shackles, and brings her back to health. That alone should gave given her some idea about his personality, but it didn’t. He was in death row as a supposed serial killer of women and has set up camp in the lonely mountain cabin. When she thinks he wants to rape and kill her (an assumption not totally out of the blue, but nevertheless quite premature) she behaves in such a stupid way that you could only cringe in embarrassment. I have no idea how one would react in such a situation, but her behaviour was absolutely humiliating. I could have done without that.

After she finally got over that episode she was alright, though. Jesse turns out to be a nice guy as well and – of course – innocent.

The story was a good read.

Both novellas totally centered on the hero and heroine without any interference from others. I like those kinds of stories, so I was quite happy with them both. I had read one short story by her before. "Hunter’s oath" in the anthology "Playing easy to get" is a story set in the underground Viking world. I thought I’d give her another try and wasn’t disappointed.

[rating:3]

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I got the Butterfly Award from emeraldfire

Thanks so much, emeraldfire , for the award.

This is a meme award to be passed on.
The rules are:
1. Post the logo on your blog
2. Add link to the person who awarded it to you
3. Award up to 10 blogs
4. Add links to those blogs in your award post
5. Leave a message for awardee on their blog

OK, my candidates for the award are:

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Finding Home by Lauren Baker & Bonnie Dee

Synopsis: To further her so far unsuccessful career as a reporter Megan decides to write an article about the hustler scene. On her first night out she meets Mouth whom she is instantly attracted to. After he’s beaten up and robbed she decides to take him to her place to give him time to recuperate and maybe change his lifestyle.

Review: The story has a good plot and develops wonderfully.
Other than other erotic books it doesn’t plunge into gratuitous sex scenes without rhyme or reason right at the beginning. Instead Dee/Baker build up such incredible tension between Sean (Mouth’s real name) and Megan, it’s out of this world. The fact that Sean is still underage (if only by a few months), that Megan is older than him (if only in years, but certainly not in experience of life) and that she would be taking advantage of him lets her hesitate to act upon her feelings. He, in turn, thinks Megan has qualms because he was a prostitute. Besides, they both have to deal with the misgivings expressed by Megan’s friends and family. When they finally get together it is a relief for both, them and the reader.

This book is a very emotional and gritty read that draws you right in. I just had to know what’s going to happen next and how Megan and Sean would resolve the whole situation and couldn’t stop reading. It was extremely sensual, passionate and I was constantly rooting for Megan and Sean to overcome the prejudices and objections voiced by themselves and everybody around them.

The only thing that argues against the story is that the picture painted about life on the streets and the hustler scene is certainly not nearly as bad as it is in real life, but if you wanted to read something real about child prostitution you’d read “Christiane F” anyway and not an erotic romance.

This is definitely one of the best erotic romances I’ve read and I highly recommend it. If this is the first erotic romance you read then stop right here. All following books will fall short of your expectations.

[rating:5]

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Very short stories

In a post on Spreeblick I found a link to Wired and a number of very short stories. Based on a very short story in just six words by Hemingway a number of writers were asked to write some as well. Some of them are absolutely wonderful, some of them I don’t get at all, LOL.

For an avid romance reader the best one has to be the one by Margaret Atwood:

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.

Brilliant, isn’t it?

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Texas Glory by Lorraine Heath

Synopsis: Dallas Leigh is still looking for a wife. After he gave an annulment to Amelia so she could marry his brother Houston (see "Texas Destiny") he had hoped that he would find a wife who can give him a son among the women pouring into Leighton. However, women are scarce. It turns out his neighbors have a daughter they would willingly give to him in marriage in return for some land they were disputing over. Cordelia has lived an extremely sheltered life, never ventured outside the house and practically has no clue about life, except for caring for her father and brothers. Dallas has to win her trust and love before they can find true happiness.

Review: After reading "Texas Destiny" I already knew that Dallas would never be as wonderful a romance hero as Houston. The story sounded gripping enough, though. It sort of was, and then again, it wasn’t. Apart from his eagerness to have a son and heir Dallas is a perfectly good man who gives Cordelia all the freedom she wants, teaches her things she would have never dreamed of, gives her the possibility to realize her dreams and treats her like an equal (something she is not used to at all after living exclusively with her male relatives).
She adjusted to a certain extent to the new circumstances in her life and became quite entrepreneurial, but still she seems to be blind to her husband’s obvious affection, simply because he doesn’t express it verbally. Whatever he did for her she somehow appreciated but at the same time took for granted. This seems especially odd since until her marriage she lived in a house full of brutes who bossed her around without giving her any rights. Instead of being happy about the positive, albeit involuntary, change in her life she trembles from fear and longs to go back to her family. One would think that she’ll bend over backwards to stay with Dallas. Obviously she prefers a known evil to an unknown good.

It would seem that even a woman who has lived as secluded as she has, especially one who is a literate as she is, must have some notion about married life. Her innocence as to what Dallas felt during intercourse was unbelievable to me. Thank God Lorraine Heath did not drag this and other misunderstandings out for all eternity, but resolved them more or less speedily.
The whole story revolved around Cordelia’s misgivings about her supposed unfortunate situation and her fear inspiring husband. The lack of ability to communicate properly between h/h was almost painful.

Maybe my expectations after "Texas Destiny" were just too high, but "Texas Glory" certainly didn’t live up to them.

[rating:3]

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Votes of the paranormal romance forum on amazon

The PNR forum on amazon had several votes going on last year where people could vote for all sorts of books, series, etc. Obviously 68 people participated, which isn’t too bad (I wasn’t one of them). I’ll link the results here just for my own benefit, so I know what I might want to try out in the future.

The link is here: Votes PNR favorites 2008

Now my quick thoughts, so I will remember later:

[Urban Contemporary Fantasy Series]

That BDB won isn’t surprising at all. Immortals after dusk as a runner up is to me. I only read one book by KC and I hated it. I hated the hero, the heroine, the writing style, the Scottish brogue of the hero and – as the final nail in the coffin – the more than cheesy cover image. But that’s me, almost everyone else loves IAD. Series I definitely want to try out are the Dresden files and the Fever series.

[Favorite Dark Paranormal Book]

Lover Awakened isn’t a surprise either. I don’t see anything especially dark about Halfway to the Grave, and to even mention Circus of the Damned in the same context as romance novel is just out of it.

[Favorite Stand-Alone Paranormal Book]

Hm, Night Play is not a stand alone since it is no. 7 or so in the Dark Hunter series, even though it can be read as a stand alone, sort of. Dark Lover is the first one in a series, so I suppose you can read it on its own and then just stop – if you can, that is. But more than likely you will feel compelled to read on.

[Favorite Book of All Time]

Dark Lover is the winner here? I can’t believe that. It is a good book and the great start of a series, but that’s it. We’re talking favorite book of all time here. I couldn’t name one myself, but if I had to, Dark Lover would not be it.

[Favorite Hero In A Pnr Book]

Now, again, not astonishing, Zsadist won. Hm, I do like Zsadist, but I always wonder about what Bella and he actually talk about. Of course, you can probably say that about a lot of romance couples, but in his case that questions comes to my mind even quicker than with every other hero.

The other guys that were mentioned I don’t know really, except for Eric (would be my runner up), Valerius and Vane (would be among my top ten). MY favorite hero wasn’t even mentioned, that is what is really astonishing. I’m a V girl all over.

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1st in series challenge

OK, as if there weren’t already enough challenges to take I added a couple of more. The first one is the 1st in a series challenge. Since I’m already trying to start a few series for the SRC, that shouldn’t be too hard. I found the challenge over at J. Kaye’s Book Blog.

So, I don’t want to enter my 12 books right now, but I already created my list, which you can find here.

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White Lies by Linda Howard

Synopsis (blurb): Nothing could have prepared Jay Granger for the arrival of two FBI agents at her door — or for the news they brought. Her ex-husband, Steve, had been in a terrible accident that had left him gravely injured. The FBI needed Jay to confirm his identity.The man Jay finds lying in the hospital bed is almost unrecognizable. Almost. Exhausted and afraid, Jay tentatively declares that he is Steve Crossfield. But the man who awakens from the coma is not at all as Jay remembers her husband. And he remembers nothing of their life together. Suddenly nothing is familiar. Not his appearance, not the intensity of his nature, not the desire that flashes between them. Who is this man? And will the discovery of his identity shatter the passion they share?

Review: If you are willing to overlook the absurd plot this is an entertaining read. I never read anything by Linda Howard before, so I can’t say whether this is her usual formula or not, but to me it was quite enjoyable up to a certain point. After that I felt sorry for the hero, becauseI started to dislike the heroine (see spoiler below).

SPOILER:
I don’t really see any white lies here, though. I found it most disturbing that the heroine did not tell “Steve” right away when she found out that he is not her ex-husband. To leave someone suffering from amnesia believing that he is someone that he definitely is not, I don’t consider fibbing, but something quite serious. Her ludicrous reasoning behind her decision is intolerable. That whole charade could have continued if she had told only “Steve” himself. At least he would have known, but to everybody else he still could have been Steve. The idea that he would leave her behind is just as ridiculous. He was obviously already crazy about her and in order to keep this false identity up he would have had to stay with her anyway. At least she would have been honest with him. I didn’t like that at all.

[rating:4]

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My outlaw by Linda Lael Miller

Synopsis: Keighly sees Darby for the first time when they are both around seven. She sees him through a mirror in her grandmother’s home that has been built on the site of The Blue Garter, a saloon cum brothel in the 19th century. In the course of the following years they meet off and on and communicate on a basic level with the help of written mirrored messages. When Keighly inherits her grandmother’s home she investigates and finds out – among other things concerning her own destiny – that Darby has died in 1887, the year he is living in now. She is determined to find a way to cross over
to his time and possibly save him from his fate.

Review: Even though the book opens with a prologue, Linda Lael Miller cuts right to the chase. In the prologue she tells us about Keighly’s childhood, her first meeting with Darby up to the time when Keighly inherits her grandmother’s house. The first chapter starts about 10 years later when Keighly visits the town of Redemption, Nevada, again and the story starts to flow from here until the end without a boring or redundant part.
I don’t want to discuss the ins and outs of time travel, because I’m pretty certain people would come up with all sorts of objections to the time travel adventures of Keighly. She goes back and forth a few times (but not in as nearly a mind boggling way as Henry in TTTW) and changes her own and Darby’s history as she goes along at each time, but really, who cares? I’m not reading a paper on physics, but a romance, and am willing to cut the author some slack.
Miller describes the chemistry between Keighly and Darby beautifully. To me, the scenes when they were separated by the mirror were even more sensual than the times when they were actually together. They truly were meant for each other.
All the secondary characters were extremely likeable, if not downright crucial for the happy ending. The story was just perfect all around. There was a slight inconsistency towards the end, when it turned out that Redemption didn’t have a paramedic team and a few pages later it was supposed to have an excellent one, but, really, this was such a minor point and had no relevance to the story.
An absolutely charming read which will definitely stay on my keeper shelf.

[rating:5]