Thursday, November 28, 2013

Baby, It's Cold Outside . . . But I've Found Something to Warm My Heart

Now lest anyone think that we here in "sub-tropical" Southern Middle Tennessee are battling the elements of snow and hail, rest assured that the graphic to your left is only meant as a metaphor for the fact that even here in the lush and gorgeous Cumberland Gap area of Tennessee is in the grip of a cold spell.  Burrrrrrr . . . it's cold outside, Baby!  Try 28 degrees at 4:00 PM.  That's pretty extreme for around here.  

But as advertised, I had something that brought the warmth to my heart that only something truly "free" can do:  Book Bub.  Yep, that's right, Book Bub.  It's a web site that offers temporary deals on published books of all kinds -- you can let them know your preferences -- and you can get them either free or at a seriously reduced price with most of the books going for 99 cents.  I, of course, being the recipient of both German and Celtic spend-as-little-as-possible genes, go mostly for the free ones although I have been known to cave for those 99 cent deals.  Most of the books can be downloaded right to your Kindle if you are an Amazon subscriber or Kindle owner or can be downloaded to the computer and transferred to your e-reader from there.  So check out the website and go for it.  I get emails with book deals almost every day of the week and have gotten some spectacular books out of it so far and I've only had the site available to me for about a month.  Just had to share it with my friends.
There's one more thing that warms my heart as well, and I think this is even more important -- Thanksgiving Day.  Of all the non-religious holidays it is my favorite for several reasons.

1)  It's so uniquely American.  So rooted in our history, it speaks to me as history so often does.  Perhaps that's why when I began reading romance novels so many years ago I started with historical romance.  This is my way of affirming my own history as a part of this great nation and being a part of the flow of history as it has come down to me and my generation.

2)  It is a day that takes me out of myself in a very special way.  It reminds me to give thanks for the bountiful life I have even with the long list of bills I pay and the financial demands that I face every month.  Yet I know so many who would love to lead the life I have and to be surrounded by kids and grandkids and special friends and so many opportunities to enjoy life I have.  

So I say a heart-felt "Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving Day 2013" to all my friends and followers.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Solitary Vacation on the Beach . . . or . . . Falling in Love With the Rich Guy: "Saltwater Kises" by Krista Lake

When small-town girl Emma LaRue won a vacation to an exclusive tropical island, a last minute cancellation meant she would be going by herself. Shy and studious, she never had time to fall in love, and often wondered if she was just meant to be alone. However, that all changed when a handsome stranger literally walked into her life while on the beach and sparks began to fly.

New York's most eligible billionaire bachelor Jack Saunders thought this vacation would be the perfect escape, one last hurrah, before taking full control of his father's company. When an innocent Emma didn't recognize him, he figured that he might get a chance to have a vacation from being rich. He didn't tell her about the cars, the yacht, or the penthouse. All he did was let her fall in love with him.

Soon, Jack found that he was the one falling in love with Emma. When they enjoy a fantasy marriage ceremony on the beach, they thought it was a bit of harmless fun before returning to their normal lives. A bittersweet goodbye was supposed to be the end of their perfect vacation romance, but when photos of the ceremony were leaked to the press, everything changed.

Feeling lied to and thrust into a world of wealth and privilege, Emma must choose between following her dreams or following her heart. Will she be content at being nothing more than the billionaire's wife, or will she return to her normal life with only memories of saltwater kisses?

Billionaire love stories are "in" right now and so it is sort of a smorgasbord out there as to which one will catch your attention.  Of course, I always look for the free ones so of course I found this one on Amazon.  I have to say that I was somewhat astonished at all the low ratings by a number of reviewers--I have to really hate a novel in order to give it a "1" rating.   So after reading some of those reviews I have to admit that I read this book with something of a jaundiced eye.  

Well, let me tell you, I found the novel to be absolutely charming.  It was indeed a story about a woman who had won a vacation on a tropical island and who ended up going alone when her sister got sick at the last minute.  It was indeed the setting for a fling with a really hot hunk who happened to be walking on the beach when she gave CPR to a near drowning victim and it was indeed the setting in which Emma and Jack found that their attraction turned into a hot and heavy vacation fling.  The difference?  They decided to have some fun and go through a mock wedding ceremony, never dreaming that the whole thing had been photographed by Jack's spurned lover who then promptly sold the photos to a gossip rag magazine.  

I found Jack and Emma's story to be compelling because there were some surprises and some twists and turns to the story that I found unexpected.  One of those was the fact that they got caught up in real life with the media promoting their "marriage" as if it were the real thing.  That they still burned for one another was never in question.  But now there was a whole new set of challenges that they never intended to face.  They fully expected to never encounter one another after leaving their vacation haven.  In fact, Emma was totally astonished to find out that her "no name" lover was indeed a billionaire who had just taken over as CEO of an international oil and gas consortium.  High society intrudes which isn't unexpected, but then it was interesting when Jack's parents intruded.  It was as if Emma was a visitor from another planet.  Yet their story kept on and it was to the author's credit that it all came out in the wast, although I found the ending to be far different than I thought it would be.

This isn't the greatest romance novel I have ever read, but I found it to be well written, the story flowed well, I thought the characters were interesting and while I thought Jack's personality a bit grating as he seemed almost to be two different people, yet that just added another dimension to the story and certainly a bit of mystery as to how Emma was going to navigate within this slice of human experience that was so foreign to her.  After all, what's a nice girl from Iowa doing in the CEO's office and especially when she felt as if she were masquerading as a billionaire's wife?

So I happily give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5 as it was completely enjoyable and one that I found fully worthy of the time it took to read.  The book was released in mid-2013 and I am looking forward to the next book in this series.

One Year Later: "A Cold Creek Surprise" by RaeAnne Thayne

Hardened rancher Ridge Bowman has long told himself he has no need for love;  just work and his little girl are enough to get him through. But when his cleaning lady,  Sarah Whitmore, gets injured on his staircase, well, of course he has to invite her to spend the holidays with him. It's only the responsible thing to do.

Only, Sarah isn't really there to work on his house. She came bearing precious artwork belonging to Ridge's late mother, and possibly a secret that could devastate them both. But as Christmas draws closer, so does Ridge and Sarah convinces herself that she will tell him what she knows as soon as the holiday is over. She might be the key to his past if only he could be a part of her future.

The Cold Creek series by this author has embraced several families in this small out-of-the-way part of the Northwest and the latest stories have returned to the Bowman family, one that has been gifted with great love but continues to be decimated by the unsolved murders of their parents.  This novel takes up right where the previous book ends, with Ridge, the oldest of the brothers and keeper of the family ranch, left with the wedding and reception mess.   His sister has arranged for a cleaning service to come in and restore order.  It is that expectation that causes Ridge to assume that Sarah Whitman is at his door for that very purpose.  Little does he realize that she is the bearer of gifts in the form of one of their favorite paintings done by their now-deceased mother and one that had been stolen in the home invasion robbery/murder eleven years ago.  

This is a novel about a man who has tasted the bitterness of romantic disappointment but who has experienced deep love and enrichment in the relationship he enjoys with his young daughter.  Yet Ridge is lonely--lonely and fearful all at the same time.  He tried once and his daughter's mother hated the ranch and eventually hated him.  She walked away from their daughter without a backward glance when the baby was only a few months old.  Little wonder that he is not even remotely contemplating the possibility of any kind of love relationship in his future other than possibly a brief fling.

This novel is also the story of a young woman who has only recently discovered that her mob-boss dad, a man long estranged from her and her mother, has left his messes for her to clean up after his recent death and who discovers that her brother (murdered himself only a few days after the robbery/murder at the Bowman ranch) was one of the thieves.  How does she bring back the family paintings that are so treasured?  How does she even face Ridge and all his siblings with the pain and sorrow they have harbored, knowing that their anger and hurt will be focused on her?    As novels go, this is a significant crisis and one that is woven throughout the story, complicating the growing attachment between Ridge and Sarah as Sarah recuperates from her injuries sustained from a fall down a flight of stairs.    Of course I think we know there will be a HEA but how it all comes to a head and is resolved makes for darn good reading and once again solidified my contention that Ms Thayne is one of those writers that is simply too good a writer to be believed.  Her characters live to the extent that they almost jump off the page with the raw edge of reality mixed in with the deep feelings that make her stories so intense.

This was a delightful read and one that I hope you'll make a point of reading for yourself.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Friday, November 8, 2013

This Week's Retro Review: "To Command and Collar" by Cherise Sinclair

Determined to find the human traffickers preying on Shadowlands’ submissives, Master Raoul gets himself invited to a small slave auction. Once informed, the FBI orders him to reject the limited choices so the slavers will invite him to the big auction. To Raoul’s shock, one of the slaves is the kidnapped friend of a Shadowlands sub. She has a scarred body…and an unbroken spirit. He can’t leave her behind. Ruining the FBI’s carefully laid plans, he buys her.

Kimberly’s freedom has come at a devastating price: the other women are still slaves. An FBI raid is their only hope for rescue. Desperate to help the Feds locate the big auction, she agrees to pose as Master Raoul’s slave. Wearing a collar again is terrifying, but under the powerful dominant’s care, Kim starts to heal and then to blossom. This is what she’s been drawn to—and fled from—her entire life.

She escaped the slavers who captured her body—can she escape the master who’s captured her heart?

I think that Cherise Sinclair's BDSM series, Masters of Shadowlands, is some of the best romance literature in that genre and one that is intentional written to present a set of stories based on the kind of power exchanges that may be kinky but are definitely involving good people who are honest and caring and who may need the kink to meet their own needs but who have not left behind the "normal" involvement in contemporary society.  

However, Books 5 and 6 are probably the most difficult to read to date as they involve the efforts of Shadowlands owner and master to cooperate with the FBI in dismantling the Harvest Association, an international organization for the purpose of kidnapping and selling women "on order" by unprincipled individuals who think nothing of indulging truly evil urges at the cost of the dignity and often the lives of women living the BDSM lifestyle in one degree or another.  This book is about the recovery of one such woman, the friend of Gabi, the heroine of Book 5, and a highly intelligent, well-educated woman who has owned up to needing a "side helping" of kink to meet her personal needs.  As she is rescued and brought into the home of one of the Shadowlands masters, Kim must reclaim her sense of self, re-learn how to relate to a man in a healthy way and reclaim that part of herself that has been soiled and corrupted by the Overseer and his minions.  

Once again Ms Sinclair creates a BDSM master who is Hispanic and highly successful in his architectural engineering business, a man who has lost much due to the prejudice and lack of understanding of his own family and yet whose gentle spirit is enclosed in the mind, body and spirit of an Alpha-male.  His insightful handling of this very damaged woman is difficult to read but is a story that bears telling and is one that highlights the many positive ways that well-orchestrated BDSM scenes can bring healing into the experience of those who are open to and need these kinds of relationships.   There are scenes early in the book that will be distress-inducing.  But by the same token they need to be read as we who live in what most people would consider the "normal" world are seldom exposed to the dark and dirty underbelly of the sex trade.  There are definitely purient books "out there" but this novel seeks to tell the story without the gratuitous elements or that sense of being a voyeur.  Most of all it is a novel that is really about redemption and reclamation of the life of a really fine woman who needs to become whole.

There is no doubt that BDSM is not for everyone and certainly novels based on that lifestyle are not for everyone either.  But in a world where barriers are being dismantled in society, there is a place for understanding and acceptance, especially when stories are written by authors who want people needing this way of relating to be safe and involved with caring and authentic practitioners.

And as always, all of Sinclair's books are written with that deft touch which only the best authors bring to their work.  The stories flow, and for those who have read all the books in this series from the first, they will also be meeting and greeting characters from past novels who continue to grow in their relationships and who continue to form this close knit family of people connected by mutual respect and a level of acceptance that embraces all kinds of people who need all kinds of ways of relating.  I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.