Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This Jungle Is REALLY Scary! "Daring" by Dee Davis


Lara thought working a world away would heal her. Yet volunteering to treat the sick and injured in revolution-torn central Africa can't stop the shattering memories of losing the man she loved. A night with sexy security officer Rafe Winters seems the perfect temporary escape-until insurgents attack her clinic and Rafe becomes her only way to survive . . .

Rafe knows all too well that this beautiful young doctor is the insurgents' real target: Her knowledge of America's espionage system makes her a valuable prize. Helping her flee jeopardizes his hidden agenda-but her unexpected trust in him sparks a desire to protect her that he can't ignore. Now as their merciless pursuers close in, Rafe and Lara's only chance for escape will put everything they've sworn to protect-and their newfound love-on the line . . .

This is a compact and action filled novella that is really and "in between" story in a larger series of novels. As I have not previously read any of this series I was delighted that I could get the gist of this story as a stand alone work. Even though I am not usually a fan of novellas, this story is so well written that with a lesser number of pages the author has crafted a story that brings characters to life, makes the love scenes come alive, and the action and danger quiver with suspense and emotion. Even full-length novels don't manage that always.

Lara's deep hurt is at the core of this story as she has tried to heal her own wound by caring for the hurting and wounded in a part of Africa that is being torn apart by civil war and armed conflict. There are always quite a cast of characters in any situation such as Lara found herself, not the least of which are the mercenaries, the soldiers of fortune, the adventurers, the greedy, the disenchanted with life in general. Rafe was one of those men who was affable and fun but who gave off waves that broadcast his self-interest. His primary concern was himself, or so it seemed. Lara needed involvement with him like she needed another hole in her head. Yet Rafe's charisma, his sex appeal, his aura of danger and devil-may-care attitude lured her into a night of passion, an encounter that made her aware that she really couldn't live all the rest of her life without love.

However, Rafe is not all he appears to be, and Lara also has forgotten that as a former medical officer with a governmental agency, she is ripe for the picking by those who want her knowledge of the American espionage system. As they fled the clinic's attackers, Lara and Rafe are put in an emotional and physical pressure cooker, one that will separate the real from the fake, reality from what is hoped for. And what is really at stake is Lara's ability to trust and Rafe's innate integrity.

This is a beautifully written work that will keep the reader on edge and delight lovers of action and suspense. I think I will be going back and reading the novels in this longer series. If they are as good as this novella, then they will be a great reading experience, to be sure.

This novella was released by Grand Central Publishing on 01 July 2011.

Monday, August 29, 2011

He's Not Going To Break My Heart Again!! Her Kilt-Clad Rogue by Julie Moffett

Englishwoman Genevieve Fitzsimmons never expected she'd return to the wilds of Scotland. And she certainly didn't expect to become governess to the son of Connor Douglas, the man with whom she shared her first kiss and her first heartbreak. The man who still intrigues her…

For Connor, duty means everything. Years ago, it forced him to break Genevieve's heart and marry another woman—one who made him miserable. Now a widower at odds with his son, he's determined to put his heart first.

As Connor and Genevieve begin to find their way toward a future together, they can't escape the past. Someone is bent upon revenge against Connor and his feelings for Genevieve make her the perfect target.

In this newly revised novel released by Carina Press, lovers of historical romance will encounter the unlikely situation of an English governess being hired by a Scottish laird. The political relations between England and Scotland were never easy, sometimes worse than others. In this short novel the heroine is known to Connor Douglas, the clan laird, a man recently widowed and trying to raise a resentful and rebellious son by himself unsuccessfully. But as is so often the case, behind the obvious reasons for hiring Miss Genevieve Fitzsimmons, there is far more to the story and it is that "back story" and personal history between these two that is the setting for this historical romance. Because romance it is--frustrated and heart-breaking though it may be. On Connor's side, he has endured a marriage that was arranged for him at his birth. That it was massively unhappy is evident by his wife's suicide--a happening for which Connor is blamed by some. On Genevieve's side, there is the long, ten-year history of having been forgotten, rejected, left with nothing but broken promises, and a determination that even though she is destitute and must accept this position, she will NOT allow Connor to break her heart once again. Ten years earlier they had spent several weeks together at her grandfather's English estate--Connor's father and Genevieve's grandfather were business associates--and both had declared their love for one another. Yet Connor returned to Scotland and married another. She'll teach his son, save some money, and then she'll be out of there!!

As always this story is shrouded in the prejudices of the Scottish against the English and this is most evident in the son's attitude toward Genevieve right from the start. But this lady is thick-skinned and basically a loving and compassionate woman who recognizes the sadness in this boy, the loss of his mother, the constant attempt to win his father's rare approval, and his intrinsic loneliness. She manages to win over others in the household as well as finding a way to get along with Connor, a man who mystifies her, whose rather cool reception puzzles and hurts, and even the housekeeper who seems to genuinely like her. Through it all she guards her heart while trying to find the truth of Connor's wife's suicide. Enter another Scottish beauty who is obviously trolling for a husband and whose sights are set on Connor. The story is an interesting insight into the politics of courtship as it was in that century.

Amid all the ups and downs, the kindnesses and misunderstandings, the welcoming demeanor of some and the overt rejection of others, Genevieve's story and her hopes and disappointments of the past and for the future form the core of the story. Her growing connection to Connor' s son and his father are the truly grand parts of the book. That she is resented by the hopeful bride-to-be is right up front. But hidden behind the scenes is an enemy who will put her life in serious danger in the hopes of bringing life-long misery and sadness into Connor's life as retribution for his wife's unhappiness and subsequent death.

There's lots going on in this short novel but it is a very well written story and the author has used an economy of words that is a testimony of her writing skill. I did not get the sense that the resolution of the crisis was hurried or that the story was brought to an abrupt ending. I had a sense that the characters were well developed and the revelation of the enemy was a complete surprise. I love a well-guarded secret! I also appreciated the good grammar, good editing, and the obvious care in preparing the manuscript for publishing. So all in all, this was a fine reading experience and one I was delighted to experience. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

This book was released by Carina Press on 01 August 2011.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What's A Girl To Do? Casting Call for Love by Melodee Aaron

Erotica and Sex has been in the news ever since it started years ago and Roland Westwood is about to make a movie that will blow all pornography away showing erotica in a different way. Roland is determined to show that his movies, especially his next one Destiny will be completely different from porn. The problem is there is no one that meets his expectation of what the leading character of the whole series Elektra should be like has come forward to audition. Just when he’s about to give up an angel comes his way, blowing his breath away and for the first time making him feel love for the first time. As a man in love for the first time, Roland is determined to not let romance interfere with his movie business. Or can he?

This is it; the big break Valerie has worked hard for. The problem is it is for an erotica movie. She’s worked in a couple small parts like movies and commercials so this one is kind of freaking her out . She knows that if she lands this job her name will bring success if only she can get past the sex scenes. What she didn’t count on was the attraction to its director. Valerie knows it looks wrong to have a romance with him only because of their age difference. People talk and they’re definitely talking like she is a gold digger and slept her way into the lead. How can she prove to everyone that she is the right person, and how can she prove to Roland that her love is real?

I received a request to read and review this book and was surprised to see that it had been published four years ago. In doing some research, I found that this author has a number of books to her credit and even though she is new to me, has developed a following among romance fans. So reading this book was something of a stretch in that its subject was right at the edge of the adult movie industry, highlighting a film maker in Roland Westwood, a movie mogul who had come up through the ranks of the adult movie world, made it big, and was now planning to film a series of films that were completely in a different direction. Still rated NC-17 and shown only in specific adult theatres, Roland wanted to film stories--real scripts that told a story, that had plot and story line and literary substance, yet erotic and graphic sex. Yet the sex was not the thing; the story was the thing.

Into this situation comes a young actress that has experienced a small amount of success in stage productions, small film parts and commercials. Yet now her finances were exhausted to the point that she was living in her car and that was about to be repossessed. Together with her faithful cat as a companion, Valerie was making the rounds, following up every lead given her by her agent, and still finding that unless she agreed to sleep with the casting directors, her auditions were curiously lost. She almost didn't show up for the auditions at Midnight Interludes Studios. But the reality of her personal situation forced her to take a chance. She found out that Mr. Westwood never slept with potential employees but was a man who treated all the actors with respect and professionalism. What she hadn't anticipated was the electric reaction both she and Roland experienced the first time they shook hands.

This story is filled with a cast of characters that is as varied as Hollywood and as challenging as any group of human beings can be. When Roland found out about the repossession threat and the fact that Valerie was homeless, he immediately loaned her the funds to get her car out of hock, tried to find her weekend accommodations, and ended up taking her home to his San Bernardino mansion when not hotel rooms were to be found. His staff treated her with kindness and she found Roland to be a gentleman. He never expressed any inappropriate intentions toward her. Yet their attraction continued to grow and eventually they became lovers.

This story is really an inside look at the dynamics between people during the making of a film, the stresses that are an ever-present factor in keeping actors focused, film crews coordinated, support services in place and available as needed, and managing the personal issues that can often rupture a good shoot. The envy and mean-spirited words that were directed toward Valerie when her relationship with Roland became known were hurtful and threatened the future of the project. Valerie proved to be a balanced, mature young woman in her responses, in the way she handled her relationship with Roland and with the other actors, and her innate kindness and generosity even toward those who would do her harm personally and professionally. She ended up making some friends out of those who appeared to be her enemies initially.

The love story between Roland and Valerie is a warm and winsome one, filled with kindness, gentle caring, authentic respect and affection, and, of course, steamy sexual encounters. Yet it is delightful to watch this man, aged 46, who discovers love for the first time in his life, and who ultimately has to decide if the opinion of society about the 20 year difference in age will decide his future. As Roland's love keeps surrounding Valerie, she blossoms as a woman, and as Roland makes professional possibilities available to her, previously undiscovered talents are made evident such as Valerie's ability to sense the right actor for parts in an uncanny way. That she never demands any kudos because of her relationship with Roland is a testimony to the inner integrity that makes her who she is and makes it possible for Roland to come to trust her and their love for each other. This kind of trust is also a new experience for him. The reader watches him relax and allow himself some joy in his life perhaps at a whole new level.

I found this novel to be extremely interesting and one that had all the ingredients of a love story, an expose on the movie-making industry from one studio's point of reference, and a lesson on how to handle a room full of egos. Any one of these factors would make this a good book, but having all three definitely made this a very satisfying reading experience. And in the final analysis, this was a wonderful treasure to uncover amid all the new publications that are appearing daily. I give this book a 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ooooooo! Book Sales!! Be Still My Foolish Heart!!

Yes, a Book Sale, and if you were born with the "Book Buying Gene" as I was, then your heart speeds up and your hands start sweating, and your skin starts tingling with ripples of excitement running up and down your body. Sounds erotic, I know, but really, it's simply that known and well-loved response to the words "Book Sale."

All Romance eBooks newsletter reports that three publishers are having fabulous sales right now and they appear to be worth checking out.

First, Samhain Publishing is presently offering a 30% discount on books until 31 August. I have to be honest and report that I am not sure if this is on
all their titles or on selected books, but it's worth checking out. Some of my favorite authors' books are published by this publisher and I am delighted to have a sale that helps ease the assault on my pocketbook. I think there is a California discount department store who asks: "Why pay full price?" My sentiments exactly!! If you have been lusting after something located at Samhain, you might want to check this sale out.

Second, Breathless Press is a new publishing entity that has only been offering books for a couple of years. I think their 25% discount on all their titles is in celebration of their second anniversary and one worth looking at. I have read and reviewed some of their books and as always, the quality of the story is more dependent on the author. But I think their romance titles are consistent with others offered by most romance fiction publishers.

The discount isn't over the top, but let's face it: 25% is 25% and with the price of books nowadays, not insignificant. All Romance eBooks carries quite a number of their titles as does Fictionwise, Books a Million, and several other ebook vendors. I have no doubt that many of you know more about this publishing house than I do, but my exposure to the authors and books I have read have all pretty much been fine.

Lastly, Ellora's Cave is offering a fabulous cache of sale ebooks now known as "The Vault" which features books on sale from 50 cents to 1.50 and some of those are also 50% off. I have visited The Vault and found some surprising treasures. Some were books I would have never dreamed would be put on sale and was delighted to pick them up as such a discount. A number are ebooks that were published some years ago and are being taken out of the full priced line-up. I have been delighted to find work by some of my favorite authors that I would have missed.

Is it my imagination, or is Ellora's Cave far more prone to publish novellas? If not, I apologize, but with my current feeling that most novellas are too expensive anyway, I was delighted to find that some of the novellas I refused to buy at full price are now available for less than a dollar. Even found some full-length novels that had a few years on them available for less than a dollar.

So, my friends, I know it is the end of the month, and if you are like me, that means less book dollars available. But at some of these prices, I think I am going to hunt around for a hidden slush fund in the old family budget and see what I can come up with. Even if you don't buy much, I just love to scroll through the books and see what's there. I like 99 cent stores and second hand stores, too. Happy shopping!!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Groan!! Another Birthday Whether I like It Or Not!!

Yes, my birthday was this past week and while I still, in the secret places on the inside of me, still look forward to being wished well, I also dread the reality of another year added on to the old bones and that sense that "time marches on" that just keeps getting stronger every year.

But the best parts of this year's birthday observance was two-fold: 1) I was really blown away by all the thoughtful remembrances that were expressed on Facebook by friends, relatives, and past students, some of whom I haven't seen for over 30 years. I was shocked to say the least. Made me remember them again and our times shared, but it also helped me to feel that the time invested in their education and development as persons was not lost. (Teachers often get that feeling.)

2) My two kids that live locally, along with "chipping in" from my two daughters that live in other localities, gave me a very nice birthday dinner out. Along with all the fun and sharing that goes on with kids, kids-in-law, spouse, and grandkids, they presented me with a beautiful 3rd generation Kindle 3G with a cover the color of my birthstone--the peridot. What fun, and even though they teased me lots about staying up all the rest of the night to load books onto the Kindle, I really didn't do that. However, I did spend some quality hours loading some ebooks I already had in my document file that I know I want to keep at the ready--the Kindle is reported to hold 3,500 book--but to also download the latest batch of Net Galley books I had chosen for reviewing. I am still learning my way around the download process and all its mysteries and still trying to find ways of doing it quickly. I guess it's a matter of learning the steps and doing them often enough that they become second nature.

Last, I can't help the nostalgia that inevitably creeps over my spirit when I look back on my life and realize all the places I have visited, the rather substantial number of localities where I lived during my life, and the friends I made there, some of whom I have never seen again. Would you believe, I was even thinking about a couple of old boyfriends, still picturing them as I knew them, and experiencing the shock when I realized how old they would be now, and wondering what they were doing and where they are. Not wanting to "hook up" again, mind you. But they were both really nice guys and were very good friends and we shared lots of good times together. Like lots of my past girlfriends and college friends, they were important at a certain time in my life. I guess birthdays just bring on that kind of remembering. I happens every year.

To all my followers and visitors who celebrate August birthdays, "Happy Birthday" and many, many more!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Clash of the Cultures: "The First" by Saadia Ahmed

Reena Jamil doesn’t do taboo. She’s a simple girl from a conservative Pakistani family who wants nothing more than for her to settle down and marry a nice Pakistani guy. But, unknown to her family, she falls for a white guy - something that would shock her parents. Deeply in love, yet torn over her familial duty, Reena must decide whether to pick love over obligation.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Sofia Azeem, is facing her own romantic struggles. She’s in love with her best friend from high school - but the feeling’s not mutual. Or is it?

Reena and Sofia each have soul searching to do. Should Reena choose the man she loves or accept a guy her parents would approve? Should Sofia wait for her feelings to be reciprocated or should she move on? Will each woman get a happy ending?

Its premise is a clash of cultures but The First is also a story about relationships, friendship, love, marriage, new beginnings, and most importantly, a story of hope. Saadia Ahmed’s unique cultural perspective makes this romance novella a fun and insightful read.

The transition from student to productive adult is never easy and each year there are college seniors who must face the real world where they will be absorbed into the work force, using their talents and expensive education, or find that the time and energy they expended on one college major is of little use when needing to earn a living. Add in the pressures on women especially, throughout the world, regardless of culture or tradition, to marry and become mothers. Here in the United States that pressure is more subtle but it is still very much present. In the case of the main character in this novella, Reena's conservative, traditional Pakistani parents believed that was her main calling in life.

This story is really about two Pakistani girls--Reena and Sophia--both wanting a productive life, both wanting to know genuine love in their futures, and both facing the demands of their families. Reena's first love was a young man who was not Pakistani and not Muslim, a college senior like her, and a person with whom she fell in love as he did with her. He had introduced her to his family but Reena did not reciprocate, knowing that her family would not accept him as suitable for her to marry. She also refused to be sexually intimate with him, believing that if he really loved her he would be willing to wait until they were wed. Brian's decision to break up with Reena was based on his awareness of their cultural differences and his disappointment that their relationship was not moving forward on more intimate terms. As Reena grieved deeply, Brian's roommate--a Pakistani man who acknowledged being attracted to her for a long time--comforted her and was instrumental in setting up a meeting with their families. It was during this gathering that Raheel proposed and Reena believed that her future was secured and destined to be spent with a man who loved her.

Several years later it became apparent that Raheel's attitude toward Reena had changed in that he seemed to be reverting more and more to the traditional view that a wife should stay at home and raise their children. When Reena failed to conceive, they sought medical advice and found out that she was infertile and it wasn't long before their marriage came to an end, partly because of Raheel's growing disregard for her, but also because Raheel's mother campaigned for a divorce so he could marry someone who would give him children.

All during Reena's life experiences, her best friend Sophia had been having her struggles. During her college years she had been separated from the young man she believed she loved but who appeared not to reciprocate her feelings. Should she just give up and look elsewhere? In a last ditch attempt to find out, Sophia posted a video in the internet, directed at her young man, declaring that he was the only one for her. Imagine her surprise when he shows up at her home, declaring his love for her and desire to marry her, and they begin their life together. However, marriage is not a smooth road for Sophia either. Wanting a baby so badly, Sophia allows herself to become pregnant without really talking this decision over with her husband. There are some rocky days during her pregnancy because he is understandably negative about this development in their life together, but when their daughter was born, Sophia and her husband realized how special this new life was and rejoiced in her birth.

It is not my intent to re-tell the whole story, but suffice it to say that this is a story about love, friendship, heartache, disappointment, old loves, new beginnings, and life's surprises. It is also about the ongoing struggle many immigrant individuals experience as they must assimilate their old way of life with the new culture in which they live in America--the degree of that assimilization varies from culture to culture and person to person. In Reena's case she decided to remain in the United States rather than return to a more conservative way of living, knowing that if she even returned for a visit she would not have been allowed to return to the States. This is a first writing effort and the author's writing style and ability are certainly very readable and will only improve with time and experience. This novella is an insider's view of life for two Pakistani women and the challenges they face as they move into the adult world within a foreign culture. I think the novella format just a little too brief for the story this author wished to tell--I had the feeling that she was having to skim over the top of Reena and Sophia's stories. There was sort of a "bare bones" quality to the narrative that I would have liked to see expanded and enriched with fuller character development and dialogue.

I was delighted to read and review this initial literary offering by this author and am looking forward to reading what she writes in the future as she matures in her writing style and story telling skills. And here's to remembering our "first love" and all that relationship meant to each of us. It will always be a very special time in my life and one that is the kind of memory we like to re-visit from time to time. I give this novella a rating of 3.5 out of 5.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Will I Ever Find A Way To Stop Hurting? "The Healing" by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Seek a fresh start with Amish widower Samuel Fisher as he journeys from Lancaster County to Bluegrass Country, hoping to find a balm for the grief he’s carried with him. Will this single father, burdened by yesterday’s memories, discover a new and perhaps better life in Kentucky, the land of tomorrow? Esther Beiler, who helps watch Samuel’s children, develops a crush on Samuel and a true affection for his kids. Can she win his heart, or has she already lost it to an English woman? How will God untangle star-crossed lovers when jealousies and misconceptions threaten to tear them apart?

Set in Western Pennsylvania and Kentucky, this second novel in the "Kentucky Brothers" series picks up the saga of one family--actually a blended family of sisters and brothers as they deal with the crises of living. The story of Titus Fisher was told in the first novel The Journey wherein he found a way of beginning a new phase of his life by accepting the invitation of friends and relatives to move to Kentucky to an Amish community where he could find work and get away from his home community where memories of a disastrous failed romance were almost more than he could bear. At the end of that first book, Titus' brother Samuel had just found his pregnant wife Elsie dead after she fell down the basement stairs. She was pregnant with their fifth child.

Samuel is a deeply spiritual man whose love for his wife was all-encompassing. He is a very good provider and loves his children dearly, but now that Elsie and their unborn child is dead, he is finding it almost impossible to remember the grief of his children for their mother as his sense of loss overwhelms him. He is aware of and grateful for the support, prayers, and expressions of caring from his Amish community. But everywhere he looks he sees reminders of Elsie and his heart feels like it is being repeatedly assaulted with her loss. He decides to accept the invitation of his brother Titus to move to Kentucky over the objections of his parents and close friends. He can't remain where Elsie's memory is always staring him in the face.

Esther Beiler is a woman who first makes her appearance in The Journey as a woman Titus was initially interested in as a possible wife. But it soon became apparent that they just didn't suit, and Esther's heart remained untouched. Now her parents have moved back to Pennsylvania and she is left behind to care for their house and to find work after the sale of her parents' store. And opportunity to care for Samuel's children opens up and she is delighted. She has longed for a home of her own and children to care for, and being with Samuel's brood has filled an empty space in her heart. Even though she is aware of Samuel's deep grief, she sees in him so many qualities she wants in a life partner and before she knows it, her heart is engaged.

As always, Ms Brunstetter's books give the reader a genuine taste of life, but life through the context of the Amish faith and lifestyle. Simple though their way of life may be, it is still real life with real people whose faith sustains them and guides them directly in their choices and decisions. Both Samuel and Esther are forthright in their desire to have their lives testify to living according to what they believe to be God's will for them. And it is inspirational to see them struggling to make sense of life crises that are all too common and yet, their constant faith in a loving God keeps them grounded. Samuel is like so many who have lost spouses who are deeply loved--can finding a new love be a form of betrayal to the spouse now gone? He must come to a new understanding that human beings can never promise "forever" as we have no control over the future and only God can claim "forever" as a quality of life.

This is a warm and wonderful story of love that is lost, grief that must be endured, lives that must move on, caring and loving that can never afford to wane, and the healing power of prayer, support, friends, family, and one's devotion and faith in God. Interwoven in Samuel and Esther's story is the continuation of Titus and Suzanne's courtship as Samuel's needs and concerns almost overwhelm their relationship and place some significant pressures on their future life together.

No matter what one's faith practice or belief, these stories set within the Amish context are so very readable, wonderfully entertaining, filled with graceful and loving people, and instructive as to an alternate way of approaching life's dilemmas. They are the kind of stories we can proudly give to your teens and know that there is still real living involved without the dark and negative approach to problem-solving. Add in the fact that this author has been engaging the interest of readers for years with over 85 published novels and you have a novel that is well worth the time and effort to read, is instructive and entertaining, and leaves the reader--me, anyway, feeling like I deeply satisfied. I highly recommend this book and give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

This novel is due to be released 01 September 2011.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Are You Playing Me or the Game? "The Game of Love" by Jeanette Murray

It isn't football season in America, but already we are hearing all kinds of rumblings of contract problems and such between owners and players. One would think that those player-millionaires could come to some agreement with those owner-billionaires, especially when so many people in the United States are struggling just to keep their cars and their houses. Yet those pro athletes have their unique problems and their lives after the NFL are often quite different than what they anticipated. Here is a story that involves a hero who has left the pro ranks to return home to coach his high school football team. Meeting and managing his attraction to the new tennis coach (our heroine) may still turn out to be his most challenging gridiron experience yet.

Chris St. James is ready for normal. After walking away from her pro tennis career and a toxic relationship with a star hockey player, she's starting a new life as a teacher and tennis coach in a small town. Now all she needs is an average guy to share it with.

Brett Wallace is no average guy. Forced to retire from the NFL after an injury—and suddenly single after being dumped by his status-conscious wife—he's returned to his hometown to coach the varsity football team. Wary of women interested only in his celebrity, Brett finds Chris's indifference to his former career refreshing.

The last thing Chris needs is to get involved with another pro athlete, but she can't deny the sparks that fly between them. So she agrees to a purely physical, no-strings-attached affair. But the rules of the game change when she falls for him…

There is no getting around the fact that Christ St. John had a really gi-normous chip on her shoulder that effectively kept her distanced from just about everyone at the school where she was the new tennis coach, except the girls she was coaching. There it seemed that she had an inspired connection with them which seems to have been born out of her own experience. She wanted them to have fun, a vital ingredient missing in her own experience growing up with parents who were set on her being a top ten in the world tennis pro. That she never made that ranking served to create a very hefty chasm between her and her parents, even as she was learning to live her own life and fight off the efforts of her parents to draw her back into pro sports and back into a relationship with a man who had used and abused her the entire time they were together.

Brett Wallace was a fine athlete and was esteemed, not only for his past NFL playing prowess but also for his good work with the local football team. That his team garnered most of the resources the school set aside for team sports was an irritant Chris St. John couldn't seem to get her head around, and it was on that initial battle field that she and Brett locked horns. He was prepared to move on but his attraction to her just seemed to grow and in spite of her bad experience with her ex and her determination to stay away from pro athletes, Chris recognized that her attraction to the handsome football coach was out of the ordinary for her and certainly unexpected.

I think this story highlights the unique "hang-ups" that pro athletes develop because of the extreme attitude of adoration our culture has heaped on them, the maddening frenzy of the sports media, the easy availability of sports "camp followers" who simply want the bragging rights for having had sex with a pro athlete, and the false set of values that living in the lap of luxury and celebrity can manufacture. Both Chris and Brett had their share of wounds that grew out of their involvement with professional sports. For Chris, she became the emotional punching bag and media arm candy for a self-absorbed tennis pro, sacrificing her self-esteem and her career to his ambitions. Brett met and married during his NFL playing days, but his wife's idea of enjoying the fruits of her husband's labors in the fast lane of city living just weren't going to materialize in his little home town. She had not qualms about bidding him adieu and moving on. Both Chris and Brett had to rebuild their lives alone while licking their wounds. This is often more difficult than many realize and to those who have not experienced this, may seem childish and unnecessary. But wounds are wounds, and while it is easy to say: "Get over it and over yourself," in Chris's case, there was more going on in the baggage from the past that she was carrying.

That all being said, I was just a little impatient at their inability to communicate honestly regarding their fears and hang-ups, especially when their relationship had reached the level it had by the time the crisis occurs. No one wants to put the cabosh on a good thing, but both had already had experiences that should have taught them that being honest and up front early on can more often than not prevent the kind of misunderstandings that stood to torpedo their relationship. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story and even though I get tired of adversarial exchanges between the main characters, Brett and Chris didn't drag out their discord to ridiculous lengths and I was very glad about that. I like people to get along, and when authors bring discord into their stories I can understand the reasons most of the time. Often it all just seems so childish. In this case, Chris was a truly damaged woman trying to recoup her sense of self so I gave her a good bit more slack in that department.

This is a very readable and enjoyable romance novel and another offering by Carina Press. I found it kept my interest and the narrative moved me steadily through the story. I have not previously read any other writing by this author, but after reading this novel am going to look for additional titles to read in the future. If you like a good love story with some professional sports thrown in, then you will like this novel. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

This novel will be released by Carina Press on 29 August 2011.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are You Sure You Have The Right Girl? "Viper's Kiss" by Shannon Curtis

Librarian Maggie Kincaid yearns for excitement—but being accused of espionage is not what she had in mind. Wanted by the police, the FBI and the criminal element, Maggie goes on the run—and runs straight into sexy Luke Fletcher. Unfortunately, when Luke pulls out the handcuffs, it's not because he has something kinky in mind...

Security expert Luke is intent on seeing the murderous spy known only as Viper brought to justice. The un-spy-like behaviour of his fugitive makes him suspect he's apprehended the wrong woman. Just as they give in to lust, new evidence convinces Luke that Maggie's not as innocent as she claims to be.

Devastated by Luke's inability to trust her, Maggie runs again. She's determined to clear her name, and if that means tracking down a notorious spy even Interpol can't seem to locate, then that's exactly what she'll do.

In a world where terrorism is rife, it is no surprise that authors have made that venue a part of a new and riveting novel published by Carina Press. Author Shannon Curtis has crafted a novel that embraces a very different kind of love story with the edgy and suspenseful story of a university librarian who is smart, sassy, and trying to keep her life together in the face of her mother's terminal cancer and the overwhelming costs of meeting those medical challenges. It is a complete shock when she is arrested and accused of espionage and a few other crimes, taken cuffed and humiliated out of the university library by the Seattle police. She is then abducted from those detectives (who are murdered in the wreckage of their police car), abused and beaten by her new captors, until somehow she is able to escape through some McGiver-sorts of ingenuity. However, the FBI then nabs her, and it is here that she meets an agent whose personality and his killer physique begin to make an impression on her libido, in spite of her difficult circumstances.

This story is about trust, about the inadequacies of so-called eye witness identification, a problem that is even a difficulty among law enforcement, and one which snagged Maggie Kincaid to the degree that she could never convince her captors completely. Even though she found that she had given her heart to her captor--she was a bit worried about Stockholm Syndrome--even his ability to trust was not immune to an incorrect interpretation to the "intelligence" they were receiving about this international terrorist known as "Viper."

This is a story that will keep the reader on pins and needles all the way through. There are surprises throughout the text so there is no "getting comfortable" when the reader thinks the clues have presented a solution. No such easy solution is available and even when it seems that all will be well, havoc breaks out once again. It just keeps on getting "better and better."

So if you like a romance that is woven throughout with a suspense espionage terrorist theme, then you will love this new novel. I have not encountered this author previously, but I loved the book, enjoyed the writing style, and would be delighted to read another book from this author. I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

This novel was released in July 2011 by Carina Press.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Short vs Long: The Story Is The Thing . . . Musings on The Kinds Of Books I Like To Read

Well, the first week in August is almost past, and I was thinking about some things that keep popping up as I read and review books, not only for this blog but one or two other blogs. I suppose these come under the rubric of "pet peeves" but actually that is only a part of it. So as I get the old book bag out and look at what is there, I realize that I am still facing some of these issues.

Short stories and novellas: I have never really liked short stories!! Years ago when I first began my love affair with books, I decided that short stories may have been fine for the author but they just didn't please me at all. Too short. Too little information about the subjects, characters, protagonists, etc. And it always seemed that the stories ended before I was ready to have them end. I have to admit that that opinion hasn't changed very much. Now I realize that short stories are not easy to write, that they do indeed pose a particular problem of the brief format that challenges a writer to be concise, efficient with word use, etc. Yet, it still seems that most short stories don't finish the story. It seems that just as I am really getting into the story, figuring out what the characters are doing, what kind of people they may be, the story ends. It may be a piece of brilliant writing, but somehow I am almost left unsatisfied.

A novella is a bit better--there are a significant number of additional pages and most of the time the stories are more fully expanded, the plot and story line more fully developed, and the crisis has more pages to play out. Yet there is often a sense that I need to know more, get to know the characters better, and really get involved in their experience. This is especially true when the writing is really good, when the characters really jump off the pages, when the action of the story is such that the reader--me--feels almost totally absorbed in the story. So it would appear that these feelings about the length of a literary piece are more about me than the format--it is just my own difficulty when I want books and stories to keep on going.

The cost of novellas and short stories: Here we are touching a sore point with me. I know that publishers need to make a profit and authors need to get paid for their work. That is the way the system works and I certainly support that wholeheartedly. My beef is that with the advent of electronic books, publishers have greatly reduced costs--not printing, paper, binding, and distribution costs like when print books are involved. Just press a button, make sure the credit card goes through, and the online purchase is over. Yet when a publisher charges the same price for a novella (15,000-25,000 words) that they do for a print novel I find in a store, I get a bit irritated. I started with some series from a particular publisher and realized that each segment of that series was only a novella. So I have finished those series but have refused to spend that kind of money since then. I don't know if others have these same issues, but I buy lots of books and find myself insisting more and more on value as well as wanting the latest book from writers.

Anthologies: I never used to read anthologies. In a number of cases, I read the part written by a favorite author and found that the others stories in the collection just didn't seem to resonate with me at the same level or intensity. I have to confess that such has not been my recent experience. I have found several anthologies recently that have been a total joy and I have really liked all the stories. Perhaps I am mellowing in my old age, but I find that I am more open to reading collections that contain writings by authors I have not previously read. It also may have something to do with the fact that I have read and reviewed novels by new authors and have discovered some who really "push my buttons." So, in the final analysis, anthologies may not be quite so bad or unwelcome as in previous times.

Novels and Super Novels: Now you're talking!! Give me a book with lots of pages, lots of information about the context, lots of time to allow me as the reader to get to "know" the characters, to get the situation and crisis in the book straight in my mind, and to feel that I have had a chance to really enter into the world the book is presenting. My applause to authors who allow their imaginations create worlds, localities, situations that may be fictional but are unusual in more than one way. Perhaps that is why I like paranormal romance. Futuristic fiction is another matter--often the worlds are so complicated that I have to use lots of time and energy keeping the localities straight and then I seem to lose the story.

The bottom line: I really love to read and consume an amazing number of books and such. I just thought I would vent a little--hope you don't mind.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Cop and the Psychic: "Soul Deep" by Jenny Penn

Two people, destined to be lovers, destined to die.

Abigail Wize knows the past, knows the future, but can she convince Tucker before it?s too late?

Tucker Simpson is a hard man, a cynical cop and he?s not interested in any psychic?s visions. More than willing to die to catch a murderer, Tucker isn?t about to risk his heart and time is running out.

Short stories are generally "not my thing" but once in a while one comes along that blows my doors off and I felt I really wanted to share it with all of you. I am a non-stop fan of Jenny Penn, and while I usually gravitate toward her full-length novels, I decided to go with this short story and I am ever so glad I did.

The psychic could not only read into the future but she had a unique gift to read the past--past lives, that is. And because of this she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, as far as the police were concerned. Her explanations played out like a "cock and bull" story, and a hardened, cynical detective like Tucker wasn't buying it. What he was "buying" was Abigail's beauty, her sexy body, and his response to both. And while in law enforcement circles Tucker's method of "interrogation" would not play well, this is fiction, after all.

Abigail certainly had few if any problems with Tucker's methods--she loved to be dominated by a sexy Alpha male, and yet, in the bottom of her heart, she knew what was coming and her joy in these love affair was tinged with the knowledge that they were playing out the same scenario that they had lived out in several past lives. Tucker wasn't listening to her warnings now anymore than he did in ancient Scotland, during the American Civil War, during World War II, etc. Tucker can't seem to get enough of Abigail, even though he eventually comes to believe that she has no part in criminal activity. She knows when their week together ends. She knows what Tucker is going to walk into.

This is a compelling and entertaining short read that is chock full of romance, suspense, some psychic phenomenon, and tantalizing flashes of their past together. In typical Penn fashion, this story forces the reader to intellectually "stay awake" so that one doesn't miss any tidbit that is important. When the format is so brief, there's lots that is stuffed into a very small space. If you haven't read any of Jenny Penn's paranormals or her erotic contemporary romance, you owe yourself that treat. And this is a great way to be introduced to her writing. I give this short story a rating of 4 out of 5, simply because of its length rather than any other negative factor. Sure would have liked to read this story in an expanded version.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Three Is Definitely NOT A Crowd: "Sold" by Elizabeth Raines

Lyrianna Seebré steals black market vaccinations from a drug kingpin to aid dying children. Captured in a raid, she’s wrongfully convicted and sentenced to forty years of hard labor. Upon arrival at the penal colony, she’s selected to be auctioned off to the male settlers of the newly colonized ocean planet, Pagonna. What is she willing to sacrifice for her freedom?

Settlers Carter Verdel and Brandon Hunt have created successful water-pod and island farms on Pagonna. The only thing missing from their lives is a woman. Able to afford only one concubine even when they pool their funds, they attend the annual auction, hoping to find someone to share their beds—and perhaps even their lives.

The men purchase Lyrianna, but can they overcome her resentment and win her love? And when the kingpin comes to Pagonna, seeking revenge against Lyrianna, can Carter and Brandon protect her?

Let me state, up front, that Sci-Fi is just not my usual segment of romance literature. I find that I get confused and lost in the complicated names, fictional planets, odd-ball solar systems, etc. that wonderfully creative authors manage to concoct. I just can't keep it all straight. "But what to my wandering eye should appear . . . " but a futuristic erotic romance novel that isn't cluttered up with all the aforementioned stuff. Book Four in the "Wicked Missions" series, Ms Raines has told a beautiful love story that is clearly a menage relationship but which isn't bogged down with contextual difficulties, at least for non-Sci-fi type readers like me.

My first thought while reading this book was that no matter how far into the future we project ourselves, we just can't seem to escape the bad guys. It would appear that Greed rears its ugly head no matter how advanced the technological world becomes and people like Lyrianna are there to try to reverse the damage these unscrupulous people do. For her trouble, she is arrested, accused of crimes she hasn't committed--admittedly she stole, but she stole from the thieves, but that doesn't seem to contribute to her innocence. Instead, she is not allowed to mount a defense, sent to a prison far out in space, knowing she will be truly old and truly gray when released, providing she even survives. Somehow, so kind of positive Fate intervenes and upon her arrival at the prison, she is shunted off instead to be auctioned off as a "concubine" for men who have come to Pagonna to make a living, but because of the very few women present on the planet, have gone without female companionship for a very long time.

We meet Carter and Brandon, two men who have settled in Pagonna as island and water-pod farmers, meeting their sexual needs as lovers, but both knowing that they need a woman to complete their "family." If no other way is open to them, they must buy a woman at the auction. They are so far from the city where the auction is held that it takes many hours to travel there. Pooling their funds, they are able to only buy one female, and it is during the auction that Lyrianna catches their eye, primarily because she comes across as a strong-minded, not-easily-tamed female, the kind of woman many men present had little interest in acquiring. Carter was intrigued. It would take a strong-minded, inventive person to survive in the isolation in which he and Brandon lived. And so, Lyrianna comes to live with them, resenting this turn of events in her life, and prepared to resent and make miserable the men who have bought her.

Perhaps the main reason this novel "clicked" with me is because it is more about the relationship than about the futuristic surroundings. Certainly the story would be significantly different if in another setting, but when all is said and done, it is the relationship between Carter, Lyrianna, and Brandon that make this story shine and which give it the drive that makes it compelling and one that holds the reader's interest. There is no doubt that these two men were prepared to woo her to their way of life, convince her to let go of her resentment of her situation, honor their agreements with her for the future, and enjoy her favors as long as they could. What none of the three planned on was how different, how expanded, how enriched their lives would be by this new family configuration. The innate goodness of these two men, their genuine care for each other and for Lyrianna effectively cut through her anger and resentment. Their willingness to make efforts to notify her family of her whereabouts was another factor in convincing her that they were good people.

Readers will find here a story that is truly a love story, and sci-fi fans will find satisfaction in the futuristic context. The bottom line is that this is an erotic story and won't bore anyone. It is full of hot loving, some action-packed scenes which could certainly become "nail-biters" for some, and a bit of mystery at how this will all work out for these three people. They are all three aware that their relationship initially has time limits. But can they pull off "forever" or is that what any of them want? This story is beautifully written, with characters that are clearly defined and strong enough to stand on their own, a heroine who knows how to kick butt with the best of them, and strong men who are willing pull up stakes, carve out a new life for themselves, and even risk bringing an unknown woman into their home--one who, as far as they knew, was a criminal. Gutsy to the max!! Readers will be hooked from page one, and I know I read it all in one sitting. So don't miss this one. The other stories in this series are equally fine. I give this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You Don't Seem Anxious To Marry Me: "Never A Bride" by Amelia Grey

Her name is on everyone’s lips…

When he left for America six years ago, the handsome Viscount Stonehurst never suspected that he would return home to England to find his lovely fiancée embroiled in the scandal of the decade. The woman he planned on making his wife has been kissing every man in London…except him!

But scandal doesn’t matter in search of the truth…

Engaged and then abandoned, Mirabella Wittingham is determined to find the man who drove her cousin to suicide, even if it means ruining her reputation and disgracing herself in the process…When her plans go awry, Mirabella has no choice but to turn to her long-lost fiancé for help. But can she trust the man who deserted her so many years ago, or is he destined to fail her yet again?

This is a fun historical romance from Sourcebooks that is a re-issue of a novel that was originally published in 2001. As is often the case the crisis in the story is caused by an infraction against the ironclad social rules that governed polite society in Regency England, when men could pretty much do whatever they chose, and women were considered tarnished, fallen, soiled, unmarriagable if caught in an innocent kiss, walked about in broad daylight without a chaperone, or allowed anyone of the male persuasion to glimpse their ankles. Sort of lopsided, eh? Well, our heroine is tired of waiting for an absentee fiancee--six years is a long time to wait for the man who agreed to marry her but has been long overdue in claiming his bride.

As in all really good stories, there are a couple of story themes in this novel. One is the question of whether Mirabella and her fiancee will ever marry, whether they will even remain engaged, and what would happen if the engagement would be called off. Second, there is the personal determination Mirabella has to find the man who has compromised her best friend and who walked away from her when she was pregnant and without support or family to stand by her. The issues in this book become critical when these two story lines collide--Lord Stonehurst turns up at a ball without informing Mirabella or her father that he has returned from America and it just so happens that he catches Mirabella in the arms of another unmarried gentleman. What Lord Stonehurst does not know is that she is trying to find a man with a prominent scar on his neck, one of the very few clues that her best friend has given in her journal to the identity to the man her friend calls Prince Charming. By kissing a man and running her finger inside his cravat during the kiss, she could feel the raised ridge of the scar. Unfortunately, Lord Stonehurst doesn't even want to hear that explanation.

This is such a delightful novel that brings in all the usual ingredients of Regency historicals yet all are merged together to make a fun story. It is not an unusual plot, but the characters that Ms Grey has created have the sense of being unique even in a social situation that forms the context of all Regency romance. Of course, Lord Stonehurst finds that his father has handled the family finances poorly so there is the need for money. Thus, he will have to find another fiancee who has money. Even though Mirabella is absolutely enchanting, is probably the first aristocratic woman he has responded to with anything more than respect, her indiscretions and her penchant for kissing gentlemen makes her unacceptable to him to be his future countess. Eventually, Mirabella has no alternative but to confess the reason for her all the kissing, thus involving Lord Stonehurst in the search for the man with the scar on his neck.

I liked Mirabella because she was proper in most aspects but not afraid to make her opinions known and to speak frankly about her issues and feelings. She also had an extraordinary sense of holding her own in difficult circumstances, a complete rejection of the usual weeping miss kind of response to upsetting news, and a woman whose loyalty to her father and to her friends did not evaporate under pressure.

Lord Stonehurst was an unusual man in that he had the "pluck" to step outside London, outside English society even, go to America and work hard--manual labor--to build his own fortune instead of hoping for or depending on his family inheritance. Thus, even though he was prone to take the "normal" stance regarding Mirabella's unwise actions, there was a part of him that was willing to find another resolution to the dilemmas that faced them both. He was a man of kindness and sensitivity who was willing to allow Mirabella to break the news of her indiscretions to her father herself instead of marching in and acting the disappointed bridegroom.

And I liked the fact that this was a romance within a mystery, with a hidden protagonist and a search for a scoundrel who had hurt a woman who was victimized. It is a very readable story and put together so well that it is one of those books which make it easy to lose track of time. I doubt if many current romance readers have read this story before, so now is a great time to pick up this fun entertaining novel and spend some time with a good book. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What Have We All Been Doing This Summer?

Can you believe it? It's August already, and the summer is slipping away quickly. I got a shock yesterday when I my two youngest granddaughters told me that they were starting school in about 15 or 16 days. Where did the summer go?

Of course, those of us who live in more temperate climates have more extended warm seasons than those in the Northern portions of the United States. Even so, there are still the confines of school dates, vacation allowances at work, $$$$ to buy the plane tickets, rent the hotel, pay for the gas, reserve the camping space, etc. For our family that was far more the issue than time.

Our summer has been a bit different--we took a train trip in March which combined some time with one of our daughters who lives in Missouri with a week I took connected with my job. Since hubby and I usually travel by train is was a good time to travel as the trains weren't quite so crowded. With the economy as it is, and with gas prices what they are, train travel is looking much more attractive, especially to families and for those who buy the train pass for a specific period of time rather than for a specific destination. We are planning a trip, hopefully, in September, but we are still working on that.

So far we have been just hanging out at home, participating in a few backyard barbecue gatherings with friends, celebrating July 4th with a big church activity during the community parade, and just trying to stay cool. Thankfully, we haven't had to battle the high heat we usually have with HIGH HUMIDITY which used to almost make me physically ill it was so oppressive--I was raised in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. So I appreciate the low humidity of the So. Calif. High Desert, although I don't like the dry winters and the occasional drought. Can't have it all, I guess.

So what are you planning or what have you done? Trying to get in some quick weekends or camping outings before school starts? Why not "chime in" and share some of your summer activities.