Wednesday, March 31, 2010

So . . . What's In The Ole Book Bag This Week?

Well, it is "hump" day as the Los Angeles work force is fond of saying about Wednesday, and I have chosen Wednesdays to peruse the old Book Bag to see what I have read since last week and what's on the horizon.

First, I am excited to be downloading some free books from Harlequin and All Looks like some of them are short stories and some novellas, but heck, they are romance and they are begging to be read. And the price is certainly right. Several of these books are short and can be read very quickly. And all that I have right of these publishers are ebooks.

I also just finished Naked Dragon by Annette Blair for a review on The Book Binge. I also finished His Favorite Mistress by Tracy Anne Warren and that review is below. I am starting to read Vivian Arend's third Granite Lake Wolves book that was just released. I just received a whole box of books from my daughter -- some of my favorite authors so I have piles and piles to start on. I have to own up to the fact that the ebooks are so handy and so easy to read. I find that I am almost always awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night and that is when the ebook reader is perfect -- don't have to turn on the light in order to read. Makes hubby much happier! I have listed the ebooks I have read since last week -- just for the heck of it and just to keep a running tab of what is getting read.

Of the Harlequin books:

Slow Hands by Leslie Kelley
Irresistible Forces by Brenda Jackson
Stranded With a Spy by Merline Lovelace
Baby Bonanza by Maureen Child

This being the week before Easter has really slowed me down -- lots to do and about three days when I really need about 30 hours everyday to get stuff done. So I think once Easter is past the pace of other obligations will slow and the reading pace will pick up.

Happy Easter to you all . . .

Monday, March 29, 2010

Romance Lives Even in Troubled Marriages . . .

I have now read two of Tracy Anne Warren's "Mistresses" series and have enjoyed them all. I love historical romances -- in fact, there was a time when just about the only romantic fiction I read was historical in nature, preferably from the Regency period. Obviously I have branched out considerably since then, but I still harbor that particular love of historical romance that has been with me from my earliest years. I have already reviewed some of Warren's books here and on Book Binge and I just wanted to share this one with you. Some folks have not cared for this particular book, stating that they thought it was formulaic and predictable. That was not my take on this book and I will happily share my thoughts here.

Vivacious Gabriella St. George is penniless yet proud. Thanks to the benevolence of a generous relative, she gets a chance for a new life in London, never dreaming it will entangle her in a sensual battle of wills with an irresistable rogue who doesn't believe in love. With one scorching caress, Anthony Black invites Gabriella to share his bed. But she wants his heart and his name, so the determined beauty embarks on a daring game to win both.

Firmly committed to the pleasures of bachelorhood, Tony Black, Duke of Wyvern, has no intention of offereing to any woman more than shared moments of erotic delight. But Gabriella tests his mettle, undermines his resolve, and cracks the ice around his heart with each sweet smile, teasing glance and rapturous kiss. Suddenly a man who relishes only carnal pleasure must confront the unexpected: a passion that may lead to everlasting love.

In the interest of fairness, the hero is once again an experienced and probably a jaded gentleman who has come to view love as an unnecessary complication in a life that is well ordered and comfortable. But Tony's view of love is shaped, not be a surfeit of willing women, but by the rejection of a mother who is more determined to protect her physical charms from the ravages of time, who cares more for her current lover, than for the son who had lost his one friend in the world, his father. Sent away to boarding school just days after his father's death, Tony Black learned well that loving is risky and often receives nothing in return. His absence from his home extended for six years. Now he is viewed as one of the ton's most accomplished rakes, and the hostesses and mothers of hopeful debutantes have essentially removed him from their lists of possible husbands. He is a loyal friend to those he truly likes, begins and ends his affairs with a style honed with long experience, and enjoys his wrinkle-proof life.

Gabriella St. George, on the other hand, is a young 17-year-old girl who is driven by rage and a desire for vengence against one of Tony's friends and thus comes under the censure of Tony himself. However, once Gabriella learns that the man she has loved, who acknowledged her as his daughter but who had used her and her actress mother woefully and repeatedly over the years, was a dishonorable man who took what he wanted without thought of the consequences, was a murder and philanderer, and who ultimately broke her mother's heart she had to rethink her anger and leave behind her plans for revenge. The very man who was the object of her rage turns out to be her best friend -- her uncle -- and who now offers her sanctuary and a home, opportunities to become accepted by society, and possibly make a good future for herself with a good marriage.

As is often the case, there is quite a range in ages between these two, but that was often the case in 19th century society marriages. It accounts for the large numbers of young, marriageable widows that floated around the edges of London society and who were often the objects of passion by those men looking for satisfaction outside loveless marriages.

As was also often true, Tony and Gabriella's marriage became endangered because of her determination that her marriage would be founded on true affection and not just on a wild passion. It is also another case of a man who had been greatly wounded early in life and who not only found it almost impossible to conceive of loving anyone but couldn't even tolerate the word. This was not as unusual as it may seem to contemporary readers, and Tony believed that his passion for Gabriella, his care and provision for her would be sufficient to bind her to him. Who needed love?

Warren has given us what I think is a somewhat different story here -- of course we have the great disagreement and series of misunderstandings that are often part and parcel of historical fiction, but these two enter into an agreement wherein Gabriella, living in her own townhouse in London, becomes her husband's de facto mistress. Gabriella's body welcomes his advances; her heart despairs of ever reaching his heart. She even welcomes the stated purpose of their conjugal exchanges being the procreation of an heir. At least she would have his child if she could not have his love. It is a curious set of circumstances.

I liked this book a lot. I love Warren's writing style, her gentle wit and her strong characters. I like Gabriella who represents so many women who were left without resources on the outside edges of society and who must make her own way in the world. I like the continued involvement of characters who appeared in other Warren novels as a way of expanding one's awareness of their life and experiences. I sometimes get a bit weary of the "grand upset" that seems to be the conflict in so many historical romance plots, but I enjoy stories that seem to accept that such breakdowns in relationships occur and must be resolved. Warren seems to be able to help that happen in creative ways. I like all the romance, the joy that Gabriella finds in her relationship with Tony, even though she knows that he has treated her regardfor him as unimportant.

There's lots to like in this book, and it is one of those historical romances that rolls along and keeps on keeping on, and of course there is the warm fuzzies at the conclusion. A good read and another good Warren effort. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A New Week Is Here . . .

Well, it's early Sunday morning and even though my day is loaded with stuff to do, people to see, places to go, I have already gotten started on some new books. I discovered that Vivian Arend's third book Granite Lake Wolf series is out now and I downloaded it yesterday. Can't wait to read it. Also finished Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare (very good book which I will review shortly), and have now started His Favorite Mistress by Tracy Anne Warren, one of my favorite authors. I have also had another Marta Parry book as well as Queen of Dragons by Shana Abe on my night stand to start. I'm going to go for those two later in the week, although Easter week poses some challenges for me personally so I'll have to see if I have some midnight hours to indulge the ole love of books.

Visited DIK (Desert Island Keepers) yesterday and got in on the book give-away they were having. Found some great reviews -- it is a very fun website and hope all of you are followers or are at least visiting it regularly. I am also a regular at The Book Binge and several others. As a "newbie" at this blog thing I am discovering so many great reading and book sites. As followers come my way I am delighted to discover their own websites and I am finding that time truly flies when you are having fun.

Have a great week, everyone . . .

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bucked by Cat Johnson

Oh, the lure of the ride, the passion of the rodeo, the lifestyle of the cowboy -- Cat Johnson captures it all in this second book in her series, Studs in Spurs.

Continuing the story of Mustang Jackson, lately winner of the "Rookie of the Year" award and free-wheeling participant in the "love em and leave em" club that is the rodeo circuit, Johnson has written a fast-paced and very readable novel. Mustang's real name is Michael, and after suffering a serious injury riding one of hell's own bulls, he returns home where he again encounters a girl from his past, the sister of one of his early conquests. Sage has grown up and is now in possession of a body and personality that gets attention wherever she goes. But Mustang is a lost soul at this point, wondering if his rodeo career is over, chafing under the burden of a father with impossible expectations and who thinks being a rodeo cowboy is a trash life, and needing money badly.

Mustang's former partner and best friend Slade along with Jenna Block, a novelist from New York, again make a significant appearance in this book. Of course they are Mustang's connection to his lifestyle and are formerly his partners in a hot and sexy threesome.

Cat Johnson again writes with a deft hand as she looks into the thoughts of a young man who needs to grow up, who needs to begin to see himself as a person of worth in his own right, and who wants more than anything to be seen as worthy of the girl he has now come to love. In many respects this is a tender and heart-wrenching tale, bringing two people together who want one another in the depths of their hearts, but must bridge the gap between culture, age, experience, and trust.

In some respects I think this is a better book than Unridden, Cat Johnson's first in this series. It is a study in the rodeo lifestyle that may have gotten lost to the hot threesome in the first book, but which now emerges as a way of living that must be chosen in spite of the conflicts that are a part of this transcient lifestyle and work environment. Again, like the first book, this is not a heavy read. But it is a thoughtful book and I think it will be a good one for true romance fans. I give this book a 4.25 rating out of 5.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shin Splints, Anyone?

Yes, that's right -- shin splints that have finally arrived following the 2-mile hike at the Muir Woods outside of San Francisco. In all my life I have never experienced this particular difficulty and I can tell you that I would have preferred to have missed out!! Just another indication that I am truly "out of shape" (in more ways that that, to be sure). So I spent the day with my nose in a book -- Friday is usually my "day off" but because of my aching legs I took Thursday this week. I was also a bit fatigued due to all the driving during the early part of this week -- I forget how tiring it is to get in the car and go, go, go.

So in deference to the ole shins, I read Christine Warren's Wolf at the Door (The Others #1). I had finished her Fantasy Fix series recently so moved on to this book. I seem to like staying with an author's work if I like it, and I do like Warren's style of writing and her evident sense of humor. In fact, she seems to have a very dry wit that comes through in many of her characters.
I am definitely going back and re-reading this book. Not because I think it is one of Warren's best, but because as I read so quickly, there is just a lot in this book about the politics of the world of Others that is involved, fascinating, and not easy to assimilate when speed reading. I like books with this kind of depth, but they require just a bit concentration and I just didn't feel well enough to put out that kind of mental energy.
I can say without equivocation that this is a very well-written novel, with strong characters, interesting interaction between the main personalities, some new characters who are interesting and purely evil, a broader look-see into the politics of the Council of Others, and on and on. Of course there is sizzling romance and once again Warren brings two species together as mates--that indefinable something that "clicks" between two individuals and seems to remove attraction to all others. I find it fascinating that werefolk can manage to find a "mate-for-life" and be consumed and satisfied with such a choice, but humans still struggle with finding one who will with whom to be content. (Just a little side comment, don't you know.) As has been common in Warren's stories, the relationships in families are not always easy, and I think she may be telling us that even in the world of Others there are still those push-pull kinds of interactions between parents/children, siblings, etc. that are uneasy, difficult, are at the very least, burdensome.
Warren has certainly put a lot into this first book of a series and I think those who enjoy the world of the Others and paranormal romance in general will find this to be a fascinating read. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What's in the Ole Book Bag This Week?

Been traveling as you all know from the blog entries, but that doesn't stop the reading by any means. Took some along with me as well as my eReader with an updated load of goodies. So now is the list of books that I have been nose-deep in since last week:

Unridden by Cat Johnson
Four Love by Riley Ashford
Lover's Talisman by Ashleigh Raine
Rode Hard, Put Up Wet by Lorelei James
Christine Warren's Paranormal "Ellora Cave" books -- Fur Factor Books 1-6
Re-read Laid Bare by Cerise Deland to review for Book Binge
Mate of the Wolf by Karen Whiddon
Acting on Impulse by Ashleigh Raine

It has been a "shape-shifter/vampire week for the most part. Love those werefolk! Lots of good writing and some surprising twists in some of the stories. Hope it has been a good reading week for all of you. I am starting on Christine Warren's Novels of the Others--Wolf At The Door. Looks like another great read. Have a great reading week!!

On The Road Again . . . Winding our Way Home

After two scintilating days in San Francisco, we are now winding our way down Highyway 101 toward home. The weather has been absolutely perfect -- about 72 degrees during the day and in the hi9h 40's at night. Very little fog and the skies are that wonderful clear blue that shines through when the smog has decided to take a short vacation. Yesterday we spent several hours at the Muir Woods Redwood grove which is about 11 miles north of the Golden Gate in Marin County. The drive was windy and gorgeous, and believe it or not, all of us -- yes, me and the old hubby, as well as our 14 year old granddaughter took the TWO MILE HIKE through the entire grove. I can even walk today, too! The smells were wonderful: the beautiful aromas of redwood and the cool, damp, earth. People were all around us but there was very little noise. Everyone was just intimidated by those awesome living things, some of which were here when Leif Erikson landed on our continent.

We then drove through Golden Gate Park -- and I emphasize "drive through" since the City of SF has never seen fit to even make the slightest effort to provide any kind of parking. They love the tourists and have tourist taxes and fees up to wherever, but parking is not even an option. We were very disappointed and it was really the only "downer" of the entire trip. The cherry blossoms were glorious and we were pleased that we were at least able to enjoy them from the car windows.

Yesterday's lunch at Pier 39 was scrumtious -- we ate seafood, of course. The Pier Market is just the absolute best. We don't eat at some of the restaurants where I went with my folks many years ago -- the quality just isn't very good anymore. But the Pier Market is great and I had a Combination Seafood Louie (named after the chef that invented the dressing) that was as big as Rhode Island and covered with crab and bay shrimp (those are the little ones as compared to the Pacific prawns that are huge.) We didn't even go for supper that evening -- we were all still too full.

And of course, who could not enjoy the cable cars and seeing all the sights as one is careening down the hills -- certainly not at high speed, but the angle is very good for getting to know the person sitting next to you. We met people from about four different countries on just one trip over Nob Hill. The chocolate at Ghiradelli Square is still as yummy as ever, and the singing waiter was a kick. We all had ice cream for lunch that day.

On our way down the coast yesterday, just south of Half Moon Bay, we found a new Taco Bell -- I know, very ordinary, except this one was right out on the beach and it was a really great view. Lots of folks were sitting at the tables out on the deck -- it was getting a little breezy for us, but the tide was coming in and it was fun to watch the surfers.

We'll be home this evening and back to the Wednesday evening routine. San Francisco is a great way to begin the week!! Until next time . . .

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Journey Back in Time . . . A Commander's Desire . . . by Jennette Green

This is one of those novels that takes the reader back into the dark ages -- the 8th century in the Celtic Tradition, when power and land were the commodities that occupied the efforts of the aristocracy, and survival was the watch word of the masses. It is a time of treachery and negotiation, brash, seemingly uncaring, loveless, and fraught with fear. Blood flowed easily and freely, and physical strength was more necessary on the battlefield than during most historical periods. The underlying emotions of revenge and betrayal seem to color this novel from the first. But that was the way of it in these times.
Striving to find an opportunity to kill the man she believes murdered her older brother, Princess Elwytha offers herself as the bride of her Clan's sworn enemy. She and her living brother have hatched a scheme to overthrow their enemy's kingdom as well as accomplish their vengeful goal, but in the process she is slated to become the bride of the Prince's general, almost always referred to as "The Commander" rather than by his given name of Gilead. He is a large, gruff man who has been been badly injured and scarred, but is surprisingly gentle with the Princess, even though she is haughty, insulting, and accusing him of being her brother's murderer. Over time she begins to regret her plan to betray him and to ultimately participate in her brother's treacherous plan. She would be totally surprised if she knew that he had fallen in love with her at first sight.
There is passion and color, suspense and betrayal, friendship and loyalty, love and hate all wrapped up in this tale set in the Dark Ages. Green is a very accomplished writer and her knowledge of this time is evident on every page. Not only does the reader become involved in the story, but this is one of those books that teaches as much history as it delights with the spinning of a romantic story. The characters are well-developed and the plot moves forward steadily -- no hang-ups or delays as the story procedes toward the surprising ending. This is a really, really good book, and if you like romance in the context of ancient history, you will find lots to like in this book. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 rating.

San Francisco is a beautiful as ever . . . and I have my eReader along for the ride!

Can't even imagine what it would be like to go somewhere without the ole eReader. I got all fixed up with a new crop of ebooks and I should be set for a few days at least. At first the old hubby was a little puzzled about the blogging thing and writing reviews and such, but I think he is beginning to realize that it is something that I find enjoyable and something of a challenge. So now he is asking more about the books and " . . . which one are you reviewing now??"

We are driving up and down the beautiful hills and dales of San Fran -- the Golden Gate Park with the Japanese Tea Garden is absolutely beautiful!! One cannot even describe the beauty of the Japanese Cherry Blossoms this time of year. The floral clock has been redone from when I was a kid and visiting with my grandparents, but it is just as beautiful now as then. We are on our way to the Muir Woods Redwoods -- some of those trees are over 1,000 years old. It is humbling, to say the least. Wish all of you could be with us! Tomorrow we wind our way home down Highway 101 -- El Camino Real, or the King's Highway. We'll drive through ancients stands of eucalyptus trees, pass by some of those wonderful old Spanish missions, glimpse the ocean from time to time, and start inland when we reach Ventura. For me it is a trip down memory lane; for our granddaughter I hope it will be a new and cherished memory. Until next time . . .

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Novellas are Fun Too!! -- Acting On Impulse -- by Ashleigh Raine

Still visiting in San Francisco, but thought to do this before I left. It's the stuff of fantasies that haunt dreams and plague day dreams -- more than most people want to admit. Whether or not anyone has a "hunk" in their real life, their are hunks in our fantasies. So here's a story that maybe some wouldn't mind living out . . .

Short can be good -- as illustrated in this "novella" about a single mom, Samantha, who's best friend is connected to the Hollywood entertainment industry. Agreeing to go along to a party with the "beautiful" people, Samantha finds herself bored and feeling totally out of place. She is a normal woman in a very petite size and yet because of all the Underweight, seemingly anoxeic actresses at a party in the Hollywood Hills, Samantha steps outside the rear of the mansion in order to call her little girl with her daily bedtime story. That was her only objective.

As the call was ending she encounters Connor, a well-known actor who is on the verge of leaving the party, (who she doesn't recognize) having had his fill of shallow people and fake body parts -- upper body parts -- well, boobs if you must -- when he spies Samantha and realizes that she is truly one of the most beautiful women he has ever laid eyes on. Lush, normal, simply dressed, he overhears the end of her story to her daughter and is enchanted that someone who is obviously functioning with a different set of priorities is even at this party. Their subsequent conversation begins to make Samantha aware that this gorgeous man is different, too. He is sensitive, funny, genuine, and exuding that male "come hither" pheremone that is making her aware that she has had a very long, dry spell where love is concerned. This is so out of her normal comfort zone, but wonder of wonders, she considers and takes the risk.

We are all faced with risks and relationships are some of the riskiest choices each person has to make. So many really turn out badly, but many don't. Sam is willing to have this one night of encounter with a man who really seems to want her. The next few minutes together could easily light up that Hollywood Hills garden. In fact, the entire episode is caught on tape by a photographer hiding in one of the trees.

Samantha goes back to her life as owner of a growing bakery business. She mourns the loss of her sexy partner, but she moves on. for her it was just one night of fantasy come true. This is a fun book that has romance galore and a happy ending to boot. It is full of sizzling hot love, fun conversations, and some Hollywood paparazzi as well. Short, to the point, but fun to read. I would be very surprised if you didn't like it. I give this book a 4 our of 5 rating.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Off to See the City By the Bay . . .

Well, hubby and I are off with one of our granddaughters to visit San Francisco for two days . . . and I don't intend to leave my heart there either. I need it to live, and at my age, every day is a victory! We plan to see the Wharf, Ghirardelli Square and of course, sample the chocolate, visit Pier 39 so granddaughter can watch the sea lions, do the boat trip around the San Francisco Bay, drive down the Crookedest Street -- Lombard Street --, see Coit Tower (shaped like a fire hose nozzle), ride the Cable Cars and the BART, drive down Hightway 1 past the Cliff House on to Half Moon Bay where my grandmother, aunt & uncle once lived, have tea at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, visit the Muir Woods Redwoods (about an hour north of San Francisco), and drive past -- you will notice I said "drive past"-- San Quentin State Prison--lots of stuff crammed into two days. But I have been nose deep in books, as always, and one of the ebooks I recently read was a fun book in the Erotica category. Thought some of you might enjoy this, or have already read it. Anyway, Here goes . . .
Romance author, Jenna Block, has been informed by her agent that her usual genre of "contemporary romance" novels are no longer welcome. In fact, the book she has just completed will not even be submitted to the publisher as her agent believes the market has changed and other kinds of romance novels are more popular and more likely to sell. Jenna, a native New Yorker, is taken aback by this sudden turn of events, knowing that her career and her livelihood are on the line. So she decides, in spite of knowing nothing about them, to write a romance novel based on the cowboy/rodeo scene.
Jenna watches a rodeo competition on TV and sees the bull riders in Kansas City. Hearing that the rodeo was next due in Oklahoma City, she decides to travel there and attempt to interview some of the participants to learn the lingo and get sufficient background to attempt to write a romance from that perspective. She turns up in the stands and is immediately spotted by Mustang Jackson, one-time Rookie of the Year, and a bull rider who is a true chick magnet on the circuit. He and his best friend Slade, #3 in the world, are known for their bedroom action but Slade is getting very weary of a different body in their bed, especially since lately they seem to have no memorable face or, in some instances, they don't even know the girl's name. Something about Jenna piques their interest and they immediately formulate a plan to "get to know her."
Get ready for some interesting dialogue, some hot menage sex with these three, and watching a jaded cowboy like Slade begin to discover that he can fall in love and not only that, he wants to. Mustang is another matter. He is still very happy to have a different girl in his bed every night. Nevertheless, Slade is his best friend and he wants him to be happy. The friendship between these two is part of the interest in this tale since it appears that these men are very different but their love of rodeo and their long acquaintance keeps them bonded. It is almost like they are family to one another.
This is a fun love story with all the heat one could want. There are lots of interesting characters in this story and some nice action in the rodeo arena as well. Jenna's journey of discovery about a world of which she has been blithely unaware before now forms the background but she not only learns much about the rodeo world and the life of "buckle bunnies," but she also makes some interesting discoveries about herself.
This is not going to be the greatest book you will ever read, but it is certainly a fun one. And if you like erotica and cowboys and threesomes, you will find it all here. I give this novel a 3.75 out of 5 rating.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Time to Leave the Old West Behind --

Time to move on, as lovely and readable Beth Williamson's books are, the series has come to an end and it is time to move on to some of my other favorites. Below you will find my review of one of Tracy Anne Warren's books, The Accidental Mistress. It is a part of a series of "mistresses" stories that she is publishing and all are set in the early 19th century. They are readable and fun, lots of good writing and enjoyable characters. This particular book will delight historical romance fans so here goes . . . The Accidental Mistress.

To escape an arranged marriage, spirited Lily Bainbridge has staged her own death and, disguised as a boy, fled to London and a life of freedom. Yet her plans to masquerade as an independent widow are thwarted by an encounter with a powerful and dangerously attractive marquis who wants to make her his mistress. Lily is afraid that if she gives him her innocence, he'll steal her heart.

Having agreed to a marriage of convenience to honor his family duty, Ethan Anderton, the Marquis of Vessey, has no intention of abandoning his rakish ways. Then fate intervenes in the guise of an impetuous young lady==a woman bold enough to scheme her way to London, who tempts him with her mystery and sensuality. Kiss after kiss, caress after tender caress, Ethan vows to discover all of Lily's hidden secrets. For beneath the layers of her clever ruse lies a burning passion that will ignite a tempestuous love neither of them can deny.

Written a a part of a series, Tracy Anne Warren has once again delighted historical romance fans with a lively tale that is sure to keep any reader's interest. Full of fun, the usual antics of the haut ton, the faint but persistent suspense surrounding Lily's death -- does she pull it off or is she found out? -- and the rather laid back personality and lifestyle of the Marquis all combine to carry the story on and make it almost impossible to lay down. Of course there are those who are fine and upstanding citizens and who populate the various social "doings" of the London Season. There are the handsome gentlemen and the bunglers who are hoping for a sporting chance to secure a manageable and beautiful bride. As a "widow" Lily is not required to have a chaperone at any of the balls, soirees, or evenings at the Opera, but she is required to have a male escort to any of the social gatherings. The ins and outs of 19th century London society never fail to puzzle those of us who are the offspring of democracy, and the rules of male/female interaction, while seemingly ironclad and inviolable, are set aside regularly by those who find a way. Quiet trips to a darkened garden, women in a unbelievable state of undress, and the suspicions of the inveterate gossips make for a comedy all of its own.
I find Warrens characters to be truly interesting people. She has a way of building a story around characters that have the ring of authenticity about them, people who could be our next door neighbors if it weren't for their wealth or snobbery. Yet they are warm and caring about those for whom they are responsible. They take their social life seriously for it is, indeed, a way of life. But they are clearly bred and taught to care for those who have a stake in their properties and whose very livelihood depend on the self-discipline of kind overlords. It is not a way of life we truly understand and it is well that it has faded away, but it is sure fun to explore in such a setting as this novel.
I like Lily a lot!! She is a woman ahead of her times who has determined that she must make her own way. She is willing to take the risk of loving, but she is not willing to sacrifice her own independence to do so. She has learned the hard way that those who misuse and abuse women are not going to be a part of her life if she can help it. He grandfather's legacy makes such a life possible for her.
I like the Marquis -- he is typical of the aristocrats of his time, but having the title foisted on him by the deaths of his two older brothers, has taken the time and energy to learn his responsibilities and to take on the care of his tenants as serious business. I am always drawn to men who are not threatened by their gentler urges, who care deeply for those who are defenceless and who strive to be caring and helpful even when it is inconvenient. Ethan is such a man and his meeting with Lily initially begins a phase of his life that will change the course of his life's journey. Not all is sugar and roses here. There is conflict as there must be in any good story, but it is never allowed to stop the flow of the story or prevent the sequence of events form moving forward. Only the best storytellers manage that well. Warren is one of those.
I hope you will read this book. It is a tale well-told, full of color as well as the ebb and flow of the British aristocracy. If you are a historical romance fan, you will really like this book. I give this novel a 5 out of 5 rating.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This Week In the Book Bag

I have been reading and reading -- my hubby says: "Are you reading AGAIN??" And of course, I am. But as I cruise through books at 100 mph, I have gone through quite a few this past seven days. I'll just make a little list and let you know that included are some books that I would not have probably picked up if it had not been for my "muse" -- my daughter. But I got her started reading many years ago with shelves of Harlequin romances -- you know, the thin paperbacks that could be read in 90 minutes or less -- and now she is pushing me in some new directions.

Of course I love Tracy Anne Warren and have finished the Byron Family Series with these two books:

Four Dukes and a Devil, & At The Duke's Pleasure
Also . . .
Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men & Nice Girls Don't Live Forever, both by Molly Harper (I reviewed these for The Book Binge.)

Then there was . . .
Somebody Killed His Editor by Josh Lanyon (reviewed on my daughter's blog)
Kiss Me Deadly by Michele Hauf
Mate of the Wolf by Karen Whiddon
A Very Special Delivery by Lisa Goodnight
Dancing In The Moonlight by RaeAnne Thayne
Speed Dating by Nancy Warren
Price of Passion by Susan Napier

I am currently in the process of reading
A Commander's Desire by Jennette Green
The Favorite Mistress by Tracy Anne Warren
The Accidental Mistress by Tracy Anne Warren

I have several books due to be read for guest reviews I am supposed to do for The Book Binge so I need to get started on those as well.

I have discovered once again that reading is just about my favorite passtime, and I just adore eBooks. When I was recently on a professional two-week trip, I was saved the extra suitcase because of the 35+ books on my eReader. Ain't technology grand?

Hope all of you who visit are having a great St. Patrick's Day and all of you have your noses in a truly great read!! Until Next Time . . .

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Present -- a Beth Williamson Short Story

Through a series of emails with the author Beth Williamson, I received a copy of a short story -- a Christmas ebook-- that she wrote at the behest of her publisher. Because it was sent as a pdf file, I do not have a picture for you, but suffice it to say, I was delighted to receive it as I had expressed disappointment in not having a novel that told us Ethan and Bonita's story. However, this little vignette is delightful and beautifully written.

Written as a peek into the life of Ethan Malloy following the death of his wife Bonita, it takes place on Christmas Eve, the second anniversary of her death. The marriage of these two people had been the longest of the Malloy siblings but without any children. Bonita's illness had begun a year or two before her death and not only had it literally consumed her physically, but her subsequent death has evidently overcome Ethan to the point that even two years later he cannot move past his grief. Now as a new Christmas Eve storm is approaching, he again finds himself motionless with grief at his wife's grave for what may have been hours. He realizes that he must begin the trek home or be caught in one of those Wyoming blizzards. He is not sure what is numbing him more -- his grief of long standing or the deep cold and blinding snow.

Meanwhile, Isabelle Carmichael, newly hired housekeeper for a neighbor of Ethan's, has lost her horse, carriage and all her belongings through a series of mishaps. She walks forward seeking some sort of shelter and comes upon a house with the beckoning rays of a lantern. She finds shelter and warmth within, little realizing that this is Ethan's home.

Ethan finds Ms Carmichael within his home, and accuses her of lying when she reports the light in the window -- he had left the house dark, and the warmth of a beautiful fire -- he had no such fire burning when he left. However, after striking sparks off one another with some truly delightful repartee, they begin to realize the crazy but irrefutable possibility that they had each been brought to this meeting by a force of love, the caring and guidance of the spirit of Bonita. Subsequent events deepen this perception, and from this comes the beginning of a new future for both Isabelle and Ethan.

It is a lovely tale of Christmas reclamation and taps into the belief that so many of us carry within that those we love who have gone before us are still interested in us and their love is still journeying with us as we live our lives. I am so grateful for having been able to read this story. I am sure that any of you who desire to do so may receive it from the author by emailing her at

Past Christmas holidays have come and gone, but let us all hope that the beauty of love and the spirit of Christmas remains with us throughout all our days. Until next time . . .

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hell for Leather -- Malloy Family Spin-Off -- by Beth Williamson

In addition to telling the stories of the various members of the Malloy Family of Cheshire, Wyoming, author Beth Williamson has turned her spotlight once again on a character that played a prominent role in Trevor & Adelaide Malloy's romance.

Several months before the beginning of this story, Adelaide Burns (Malloy) had her life threatened by the appearance of a gun-for-hire named Kincaid who had been brought to Cheyenne in order to kill her(as told in Williamson's Malloy Family novel, The Gift). Her arch enemy was attempting to hire him, but Kincaid, for some reason, would have nothing to do with the scheme. In fact, he seemed to want to throw himself into any plan that would defeat the efforts of the owner of the Silver Spittoon. In the course of the story, Kincaid became friends with Trevor Malloy's brother Brett and agreed to return with him to Cheshire where he became Brett's righthand man on the Square One Ranch. However, after the best four months of his life, Kincaid realized that his past as a gunman was putting his only friend in danger, and he left Cheshire in an effort to begin a new life.

This book tells the story of how Kincaid "died" and became Cade Brody. The guns were buried, the past was hopefully put aside, and into Eustace, New Mexico, rode a lone stranger who had purchased a small property about two hours out of town. Brody's senses were immediately assaulted by the Widow Edmonds who, together with her sister, owned and operated the general store. Following that initial meeting, their attraction grows through a series of events so that they become sexually involved. It is a very small town, so their affair does not go unnoticed, and rather than exist as an invisible resident hidden in the area surrounding Eustace, Cade Brody's name is on everyone's lips as well as unanswered speculation about who he might be, why he was in that area, and what he was really all about. This is NOT how he had planned to live!

This is a quiet and sensitive story of redemption. It is about discovering the power of respect, friendship, and love; it is about the possibility of leaving the darkness and shadows of the past and making an act of will which will cause one to walk into the light. It is about overcoming the harsh realities of lives that are forged in the crucible of hate and prejudice, making positives out of almost overwhelming negatives. It seems each of the characters which exist within Eustace are carrying burdens of past hurts and protecting inward holes created by loss.

I think you will like Cade Brody and resonate with his need to find something worth living for. I think you will be touched with the plight of Jeremiah and Bernice, both "accidental" births and who have been left to grow up nearly by themselves. I think each reader will recognize themselves in one or more of these characters -- the very short person who acts as the town doctor; the injured and scarred sister whose fears keep her powerless and hidden; the saloon owner who has come through incredible personal tragedy but doesn't seem to be able to move on; the mill owner who burns for the young widow and refuses to accept her decision to remain unwed; the mill worker whose own demons short-circuit his desires to be a true father to his son; you will cheer on the gutsy widow who is not fooled by the grumpy, seemingly cruel stranger whose fear of intimacy almost negates the love that is blooming between them.

This is not necessarily the strongest story Ms Williamson has written about these characters, but I think it is one of the most poignant. Unlike the Malloy Family Series there is not the strong overt presence of family; yet it is here in the open acceptance of the saloon owner and his mother who become family to a homeless child. There are not overt instances of strong bonds here, but underneath the surface are the evidences that friendship and caring can and do overcome the wounds of the past. Somehow in a community that seems completely disconnected, this new-life seeking gunman finds a home, a sense of place, and a path that can finally put to "death" the emptiness and failure of the past.

I think Williamson fans will like this book. I think those who have never read one of her books will like this book also. I think my greatest factor in liking this story is the very fact that to my way of perceiving, every character is broken in some fashion and together they manage to stumble along in their living and find some positive reasons to keep on keeping on. I give this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Legacy -- Malloy Family #7 -- by Beth Williamson

Beth Williamson's saga of the Malloy family now moves on into the second generation. Noah Calhoun, adopted son of Tyler Calhoun and Nicole Malloy Calhoun has now left his parents' Bounty Ranch and has made his own way in the world for three years. Believing that his carelessness has put his dad's life in danger, Noah cannot go home, and has had only sporadic contact with his family. He misses them terribly, and his three years as a drifter has been fraught with nights sobering up in various jails, days on end of unremitting hunger, working odd jobs to put a few dollars in his pocket, and trying to find his own place in the world. Noah is a very flawed human being: born to a woman who was cook and servant to evil Owen Hoffman, hewas himself subject to Hoffman's sexual perversions for two years; he was rescued by Nicky and Tyler following Owen's death. At the age of 15 years he was literally unable to trust another person, but was grateful for the Calhoun's love and care. Slowly he came to think of them as his true family and was engulfed in the massive Malloy clan. It is their acceptance of him in spite of all he was and had experienced that has given him a new understanding of himself and a confidence that he has what it takes to be a real man in his world.
Noah was taught by the Malloys that all people have worth, and as one who had learned that first-hand, he is unwilling--no, unable to tolerate mistreatment of another person, no matter their lot in life. Because he stepped in and prevented further abuse of two saloon girls by drunken cowhands, he is offered the sheriff's job in Chanceville, Wyoming, a sleepy little town that appears to be homey and friendly, but which is in the throes of a battle between sheepherders and cattle ranchers. Before two or three days are done as the new sheriff, Noah's life becomes complicated and he is forced to use the skills and lessons his adoptive parents have tried to teach him over the past ten years.
Further complication comes in the form of Rosalyn Benedict, a homeless waif whose mother was hung by a town mob ten years earlier, who has been systematically ignored and avoided because of what she reminds the townspeople. Befriended by Noah who is immediately taken with her forthright ways and speech, her irrascible independance, and her non-negotiable determination not to be a "charity" case, Rosalyn worms her way into Noah's mind and heart, even when she is unaware that she is doing so. Before too many days have elapsed, Noah is putting both his heart and his job on the line for this winsome lass.
The quiet but persistant evil that drives the sheep/cattle conflict unfolds throughout the story even as the love between Noah and Rosalyn grows. Noah sees so many characteristics in this young woman that remind him of his go-getter, no-nonsense mother and that is part of her attraction. One of the aspects of this story that I am particularly fond of is the strong and gutsy women who populate this story: Rosalyn herself, Nicky who enters the story later on, Elsa the restaurant owner who recognizes the injustices done to both Rosalyn and her mother, and Marina, the owner of the town saloon who would have loved to have snagged Noah's heart, but who becomes one of his best friends and greatest supporters. As a result of the support and ingenuity of these great women, the support of his parents and the loyalty of his uncles, Noah is able to not only become the sheriff of this community in more than name, but he has also found both an emotional and geographical home for his wandering heart.
I have never really been a fan of Western tales and have only read them when required to do so in school. However, Williamson has written stories that are engaging and daring, has dealt with social issues and flawed people, has given readers stories of redemption and romance, and has brought the Old West to life in word pictures that resonate with reality. This entire series is a great read, and I hope that more people will discover this fantastic family -- those magnificent Malloys. I give this book a 4.75 out of 5 rating.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Tribute -- Malloy Family #6 -- by Beth Williamson

It has been said that it is ". . . better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all." Brett Malloy, a quiet, internal, reticent man who typifies the "strong, silent type" of Western hero, no longer believes this. Having won a broken down, falling down ranch from one of the old-timers in Cheshire, Wyoming, Brett is now starting his own ranch and comes to the conclusion that he needs a wife. He is envious of his siblings and their burgeoning families, but most of all he is lonely. However, there is only one woman he wants and only one woman who truly exists for him: the town doctor. Alexandra and Brett have history and it is a hurtful one.
How many of us can look back on our "first love", perhaps someone we met in high school and for whom we developed a significant crush. Some of those teen relationships ended in friendship and quiet realization that people move on and grow up. Some are meant to continue on to adulthood and don't. Some end in terrible hurt. Such was the relationship with Brett and Alex. He loves her still and mourns the 12 years since their relationship ended so quickly, almost as if they stopped existing for one another. But Alex is back, serving as the town doctor because her dad has retired as the community physician. Determined to win her back, Brett begins his assault on Alex's dislike of him and her stated mindset to have nothing whatsoever to do with him.
Assisted by his somewhat new friend Kincaid, a former gun-for-hire, Brett continues to rebuild the ranch and to resist the attempts of a wealthy and self-centered neighbor to take over not only his property but his woman as well. King Dawson is one of those characters that often pops up in stories of the Old West--a person who has always had too much money and too much given to him without any effort on his part. He has a core of evil that permeates everything he owns and everything he does. Together with his hired "army" of mercenaries, he commits murder and fraud, all to gain that to which he has no right. Alex and Brett survive the attacks and in the midst of injury and destruction, begin to own up to their continued love for one another. Their relationship grows in spite of all that Dawson does to destroy them and their future.
I especially like the thought that seems to run through all these stories: that people are not throw-away creatures, that lives can be redeemed through love and caring, that family and its ups and downs are the salvation of all of us. Kincaid is a case in point: a person who has killed for money but who recognizes that what the Malloys represent is what he wants. He exits the story by actually seeking to "kill" Kincaid -- by becoming someone else who has not earned his living over the carcasses of his victims, who is now wanting to breathe the air of caring and kindness. I also appreciate the fact that Brett is brought out of himself in this tale. He is learning that loving is about giving as well as receiving, that communicating is the stuff of which loving relationships are made. Alex's love and her enthusiasm for living fill his heart, heal his insecurities, and make a new man of him.
I think Williamson is so adept at the writing task and she helps us identify with these characters so far removed from us in time, but so relevant to people who have lived throughout history. Their struggles become our struggles and are people who project the thoughts and concerns that face people today. I hope you will read these Malloy Family stories and come to appreciate them as individuals who could have just as easily lived in today's world as they did in 19th century Wyoming. I give this book a 4.5 out of 5 rating.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Gift -- Malloy Family #5 -- by Beth Williamson

Trevor Malloy is a unique and gifted human being who glories in his ability to charm the ladies and who works as hard at getting people to like him as he does at his parents' ranch. He is a "silver-tongued devil" -- a term that has been used repeatedly about him. He loves women, any kind of woman is a pleasure to him and when he sees someone he likes, he spares no effort to charm them into his bed. He is also a demon of a poker player. There is one very large problem, however: Trevor's extra-curricular activities are beginning to impinge on his ranching responsibilities and his brothers and his dad are beginning to chafe from his long absences, his hangovers, and what appears to be a growing irresponsibility. Feeling sorry for himself at all this "persecution," Trevor packs up his saddlebags and leaves home.

Trevor's will-o-the-wisp lifestyle comes to a crashing halt when he encounters Adelaide Burns, a championship quality poker player and owner of Cheyenne's own Last Chance Saloon. Almost before he knows it, Trevor is in debt to Adelaide for $5,000 and she insists that he work off the debt as her employee at the saloon. He believes that he will be indentured to her for over a year. He finds that he is now doing "women's work" and for the first time in his life he begins to respect the mountains of dishes, pots and pans, laundry, cleaning, scrubbing, and household chores that his mother has endured in past years. He is also attracted to his boss, for Adelaide has a full head of stunning red hair and a voluptuous figure to go with it. This ladies' man has met his match!

As is true in all of Williamson's stories, there is a conflict of massive proportion--the owner of the Silver Spittoon, Adelaide's competitor in the saloon world, is bound and determined to run her out of business and to run her out of town. Of course, Trevor is drawn into the fray because of his growing attraction to Adelaide as well as his growing attachment to all the people of the Last Chance, a rather motley crew who have become family to each other. As one who understands the concept of family, Trevor easily becomes a part of this configuration.

The story is classic in many ways and there are not too many twists and turns here, but it is a very interesting book and not at all a waste of time. The relationship between the main characters is spicey and sometimes bawdy, but the growing love between them is winsome and sensitive. There are a few surprises and Williamson always contrives to bring some of those into her story. There are iconic characters here: the grumpy and muscle-bound bartender who is really trying to find a "place" called home, the scowling cook who is really mother to them all, the hired gun Kincaid, who will figure in several of the coming stories, and the various townsfolk who form the backdrop of the story. All are delightful in their own way and Williamson has taken the time to give us characters that have dimension and depth. Most of all, it is a story of how a gifted and caring man finally grows into his maturity and discovers the joys of living as a whole person. The Malloy family makes their appearance and affirms once again that their love for one another is enduring and able to be sustained, no matter the circumstances. I give this novel at 4.5 rating out of 5.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Treasure -- Malloy Family #4 -- by Beth Williamson

This is the 4th in the Malloy family series and I think it just keeps on getting gooder and gooder!! The Malloy men are rockin sockin men of the Old West with muscles that are hardened by endless days of hard work and ranching demands, a vocabulary that would make a sailor blush, hearts that are as big as the state of Wyoming, and loyalty to family and friends that seems to be able to endure almost any challenge.

Ray Malloy is the oldest of the seven Malloy offspring and as the oldest sibling seems to take very seriously the responsibility to look out for his brothers and his sister Nicole. Life has not been good to him. He does not seem to have the easy charm of his brother Trevor or the endless sense of humor of Jack. In fact, he is not easy to be with and seems to be more reticent and quiet--except, that is, for his ever-present scowl and frown, a facial appearance that seems to never go away.

Ray had the misfortune of falling "in lust" with Regina Goodson, daughter of the owners of the General Store, a spoiled beauty that could charm the paint off a building, but who has no desire to be responsible or who has never had to grow up. As a result of their brief affair Regina finds that she is pregnant and Ray, always being willing to "do the right thing" marries her and brings her to live with him and his parents on their ranch. The pregnancy reveals Regina for the vacuous and empty person she really is, and two weeks after the birth of their daughter, Regina disappears. The extra complication which now becomes apparent is that one look at the baby affirms that the child could never have been Ray's, but he falls deeply in love with his baby daughter Melody. For the next five years he is faithful in caring for her and letting her know that she is the child of his heart.

However, all is not well with Melody. She is now five years old and as wild as the creatures who inhabit the hills around her grandparents' ranch. Knowing that Melody needs education and some consistent discipline, Ray hires Lillian Wickham, a 27 year old single lady from New York, who has been raised in an ophanage run by Catholic sisters, whose Mother Superior is a close childhood friend of Ray's mother. Lillian has been hired a number of times as governess by families in New York but has been dismissed each time because of her inherant clumsiness. She is truly an accident looking for a place to happen!! But Ray is desperate--he has searched for over a year to find someone who could be a governess to Melody and a cook/housekeeper for his ranch, and he hires Lillian, sight unseen. When Ray meets Lillian's train he is struck almost dumb at her graceful appearance, her petite form, and thinks that he should send her packing before he even thinks twice. However, they go on to the ranch and begin their story together.

Melody continues to be a problem but throughout the burgeoning relationship between Ray and Lillian there is a slow thaw in Melody's heart toward this unique woman who has experienced many of the emotional ups and downs that have already made Melody's life difficult.

There is romance here, to be sure, and deep love, friendship, and loyalty as the Malloys must band together to save one of their own from the depths of degradation in the bowels of old San Francisco. Lillian's gentle loving brings smiles to Ray's face for the first time in years. For this she is deeply prized and Ray's family embraces her in a way that gives her a family for the first time in her life.

Williamson has done such a great job of writing with grace and has brought the reader into the hearts and minds of the characters. I am also struck with her willingness to deal with the social ills that afflicted so many during the expansion of the Old West, with the realities of early death and abandoned children, with the horror of child enslavement and the hurts caused by the opium traffikers. I think you will like Lillian, a woman who was subjected to the worst that life could bring into the life of a child, but who has triumphed because of the care of the nuns and a deep determination to be a good person in spite of everything. I think you will like Ray in spite of his grumpy ways. Who would not love to be treasured as is Melody, and who will not like to see the "treasure" that grows and blooms as these two people become indipensible to one another as their acceptance of one another heals their hearts. I think you will like the suspense as well. This is a very good read and well worth the time. I give this book a rating of 4.75 out of 5.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Discovery of Series

Having just returned to some serious fiction reading in the past few months, I must confess that I am liking the series of novels that are now available in a variety of genres and which make it possible to explore characters and contexts to a far greater degree than was done before. I have been wracking my mind and for the life of me I cannot remember that such a writing phenomenon was true in former years -- I am talking about lots of years ago. Decades ago when I first began reading Harlequins and similar fiction, it just wasn't possible to find your favorite characters living on in multiple situations and settings. Now the current crop of writers are focused very heavily on doing so. I have to say that I like that.

There are some books that, when I come to the end, I am really disappointed that they do not go on. Even some fiction with it's boundaries in the historical aspects of the stories are often disappointing in this way. I know that there is one book that I have re-read for over 50 years and every time I come to the end I am wanting to know more about the main characters and what happened to them and to their families. Reading a series can be very fulfilling in that way.

However, writing a series can also be a real challenge for an author. Such a writing task requires great application to detail, a very good memory, good editing, and a consistency in the story-telling. All of us have read the first or second books in a series and have been disappointed by subsequent novels. It seems that some authors just find this difficult to do well. Perhaps that is why some of us have our favorites: these authors have met the challenge and some of them have done so multiple times. I am currently posting reviews for the Malloy Family series from Beth Williamson. I think she has done very well in this series of stories and am hoping to read more of her work. Perhaps you can comment on series which have, in your opinion, have or have not met the challenges. Until next time . . .

The Reward -- Malloy Family #3 -- by Beth Williamson

Ms Williamson continues on with the saga of the Malloy family but brings us the story of one of the characters who float around the edge of the first two stories--the experience of a bandito named Hermono.
As the bastard son of a Spanish land owner in Texas, Malcolm Ross de Zarza returns from his 15 years as one who has lived outside the law and is the quintessential Mexican bandit. However, his mother is Scottish and was greatly loved by his father, but as a woman without wealth and without "connections" socially, Alejandro Zarza did not marry her. While he gloried in his oldest son Malcolm, he took a Spanish aristocrat as his wife and from this time on, Malcolm's life was one of pain and disappointment. His father cowtows to his Spanish bride and her son, and he does not own up to the empty and evil nature that is at the core of both his wife and her son. Finally, Malcolm is driven away from his own home and his mother disappears soon after.

Now Malcolm has returned to find his oldest friend a widow and owner of a the neighboring ranch to his father. His half-brother is in charge of his father's holdings as Alejandro is fighting for his life. Malcolm's stepmother and half-brother are also working with those who hate his widow-friend in order to drive her into bankruptcy so they can take her land. The railroad is laying new lines and they want the wealth that will come from selling the land to the government.

Leigh is a woman who has grown up with Malcolm--her parents were also employees at the Zarza spread and during their childhood, she and Malcolm became best friends. They also began to experience a budding adolescent "crush" for one another up until the time that Malcolm was driven away. Now, 15 years later, Leigh is a widow, trying to overcome the prejudice of her foreman again a woman running a ranch, working endlessly to prove that she can prosper in the ranching world. A series of small disasters have continued to plague her and her spread, and with the re-appearance of Malcolm she is beginning to realize that the Zarza family is behind these happenings.

I liked this story a great deal but don't think this is the strongest of the Malloy series. It does, however, expand the story of Hermano, a Mexican Bandido who befriends Nicky in her travels and who takes her under his wing as a surrogate sister. He is, in his own way, a man of honor who is now well and truly weary of the life he has been living, but his reputation and his contacts through the years makes it possible for him to continue to assist his friends, both in Texas and in Wyoming. I think Williamson did well to bring us Malcolm's story, to give us some insight into who he really was, as he will continue to waft in and out of the Malloy family story for many pages to come. And be prepared to see the Malloys continue to be people who stand by their friends as well as each other. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Prize -- Malloy Family #2 -- by Beth Williamson

Jack Malloy is the youngest child of the Malloy clan, an artistic, part-time rancher who really finds his greatest joy in creating furniture and sculptures out of wood. But beneath his kind and humorous exterior resides a terrible memory, a secret that has been awakened by the revelation of Owen Hoffman's evil. Because of the newly activated memories, he hasn't slept the night through for nearly six months, waking sick and hung-over every night because of the nightmare as well as the effects of his use of alcohol to somehow blank out the awfulness that just doesn't seem to want to go away.

Featured prominently in these nightly horrors is Rebecca Connor, a woman who had been kidnapped, raped and terrorized by Owen and his cohorts and who has returned to Wyoming to assist Tyler in preparing his home to welcome his and Nicky's first-born child. Rebecca is a professional seamstress and one of Nicky's closest friends, and her journey to Wyoming for this labor of love brings her once again into Jack's real-life experience as he has come to the Bounty Ranch to assist Tyler in expanding their small ranch house to make room for the baby.

Somehow he has forgotten that Rebecca has gone through the tortures of the damned as well, and this bond between them is renewed, so much so that he cannot fight the attraction he feels for this tiny, unobtrusive woman who, in spite of her diminutive size is determined to carry her share of the ranching load and to be a true partner in the tasks that all must share in their daily lives.

Through the challenges of a horrible Wyoming winter, family difficulties, cougar attacks, the return of some of the brutes who were involved in Rebecca's imprisonment at the hands of Owen Hoffman, the discovery of genuine affection, and the joy of greeting Nicky & Tyler's twin babies, the relationship between Jack and Rebecca grows and matures. Williamson again writes a story of family loyalty and surprising friendship that is breathtaking in its scope and it is sometimes as surprising to the reader as it is to the main characters.

I continue to be captivated by these characters and by the on-going saga of this family. They each have their own problems, and in Jack's case, he discovers the depth of care that comes when people love each other to the exclusion of all else. The various members of this clan appear and disappear throughout these stories in such a way that the main story is never diluted but only enhanced. Each tale leaves one hungry for the next "installment" and Williamson's writing never seems to get old. I give this book a 4.5 out of 5 rating.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Bounty -- Malloy Family #1 -- Beth Williamson

Oh my!! Those Malloy Men!! Beth Williamson has written a series about several members of the Malloy Family of Cheshire, Wyoming, set in the 19th century American West. And as usual, Ms Williamson has managed to bring these characters alive through her gifted writing skills and has made these people seem, at one time, normal and caring people who are trying to live their lives and raise their families with all the grace and patience we all need, and on the other hand, makes them all larger than life.

Nicole Malloy is the "baby" of the family with six brothers, one of whom is her twin. Forced into an engagement with landowner Owen Hoffman, a man who Nicole (Nicky) despises and about whom floats an aura of evil, Nicole is determined to abort the engagement and reveal Owen's evil. However, she is unprepared for her discovery of the true nature of his perversion and in the process her twin brother Logan is murdered. Seeking to pin the death of Logan and his brother on Nicky, Owen swears out a warrant for her arrest and hires bounty hunter Tyler Calhoun to bring her back for $3,000 and offers double that amount if she is brought back alive.

Tyler is one of those strong, silent, mysterious men of the old West. He has been a successful bounty hunter for 12 years and is considered the best of the lot. He thinks that finding a woman is about a 2-week task and is surprised that it takes three months to find Nicky and take her into custody. She has successfully alluded the authorities for three years. In the process of returning her to Cheshire, Tyler begins to doubt Nicky's guilt even as he is becoming more and more attracted to her.

There are twists and turns, fun and romance in this first of the Malloy series. The multilayered characters, the complexities of the plot and the underlying family dynamics are the stuff of which wonderful novels are made. Throughout this book one is rooting for Nicky, and in spite of being a big, bad, rough, seeminly heartless bounty hunter, Tyler Calhoun will win your heart before it is all over.

I think Ms Williamson has done some of her best writing about this family. They are regular people but there is an undeniable bond of affection and loyalty that binds them together--the kind of caring and grace that we want to experience in our own relationships. There are the usual characters -- the bad guys -- and they are iconic in nature--just what we would expect in the stories of the Old West. But they are not used in such a way that they cause the action and movement of the story to bog down. I really liked this book -- Nicky is a devil-may-care kind of woman who knows her own skills, is comfortable in her own skin, and is not afraid to be up front about who she is. Tyler is a person who will never be cowed by a female, that is, until he comes squarely up against a born and bred woman of Wyoming who isn't intimidated by anyone.

If you like strong characters and very readable stories, you will enjoy this book! I give this novel 4.75 out of 5 rating.