Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bound, Branded, & Brazen -- by Jaci Burton -- A Review

In the wilds of Oklahoma, three sisters ignite a hot date with destiny. Valery, Brea, and Jolene McMasters reunite on the family ranch that should have been called Bar Nothing . . .
Bound . . . Valerie left for the big city, and she kissed her foreman husband, Mason, good-bye, along with the best sex she'd ever had. Now, seeing him brings back sizzling memories. But their rekindled fire threatens t o burn them both.
Branded . . . Watching Gage wrangle untamed horses with a gentle but firm touch leaves Brea hot and bothered. But can she live out her fantasy with a man who might ask for more than she's willing to give?
Brazen . . . Ranch hand Walker Morgan can't afford to lose his job by getting too close to his new boss, Jolene--no matter how much she tempts him. But Jolene's prepared to make the first move, because what Jolene wants, Jolene gets. And she wants Walker!
Three sisters have gathered at the McMaster's ranch to bury their uncle, the man who has been running their father's ranch. Now these three are the inheritors of this property and must decide how their future and that of the ranch will intertwine. Each sister has been hurt by the early death of their parents and the insensitive manner their uncle managed not only their parents' ranch but their own growing up experiences. Each sister has fears and "issues" -- these used to be called "hang-ups" over losing so much so early. Valerie has left the ranch to pursue her education as a doctor. And now she returns having finished her schooling, the internship and residency, and has now been invited to join a prestigious medical practice. She is definitely "on her way" but meeting up with her ex reminds her that her reasons for their divorce may not be as cut and dried as she would like to believe. But the question remains: has her fears of being abandoned caused her to leave behind the one person who fills her heart like no one ever can?
Brea is the middle sister who has dealt with the emotional blows by retreating into her computer and her romance novels. Yet her heart and her body yearn to move away from the stories into the reality of genuine human encounter, especially with Gage. He's solid muscle, well-spoken, Alpha to the core, but full of respect for women and horses. He is, at heart, a gentleman, and Brea wants to know him better. Their subsequent encounters are full of sensuality and tenderness, demonstrating Gage's persistent efforts to bring Brea into a joyous celebration of herself as a whole person and a vibrant human being.
Jolene has been the sister that stayed on the ranch, was the side-kick to her uncle although he did not acknowledge her efforts or give her the credit due. She knows every square inch of the ranch and it is in her blood. It is her home and holds her heart. Yet Jolene is also yearning for something other than work. She has been exposed to the calm and efficient Walker Morgan for five years and she wants him. He, on the other hand, has steadfastly turned away from every hint, suggestion, opportunity, and overt invitation to become involved with Jolene for reasons only know to him. She was not willing to let the stand-off persist and thus she has placed herself squarely in Walker's path so that he can no longer avoid the attraction that has been simmering between them for five years. Walker is willing to be everything Jolene wants him to be to her, as long as it is on the QT -- just make sure no one knows about it. Jolene will have none of that and the sparks do indeed fly.
Jaci Burton is known for her vibrant sensual novels and she has done it again! She writes in such a way that these characters come alive and breathe. Their stories are reminiscent of so many who want to find loving and caring in authentic relationship. The interplay between the sisters is heart-wrenching at times and very funny at others. Regardless of their disagreements, there is love and mutual awareness of their common history, and while each sister has responded to that history in her own unique way, they are very aware that the solution to their concerns will influence them all.
I liked this book and felt that under all the overt sensuality lay the deeper questions of how people handle death, how one responds to emotional abandonment, and how all this influences the way each manages one's adult relationships. It is also about learning and growing beyond one's fears and that all-important issue of learning to take emotional risks. I give this book a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Review: The Hello Girl/Ex Marks the Spot -- by Merline Lovelace

A Love Worth Fighting for . . . a Marriage Worth Saving . . .

All that's standing in the way of the Dunbar's divorce is Brian Dunbar's unwillingness to sign the papers. And though his wife, Lieutenant colonel Ann Dunbar, loved him as madly as she did on the day of their wedding day eleven years earlier, their differences, intensified by the pressures of career and family, are irreconcilable . . . Or so she thinks.

When a long-lost file lands on Anne's desk, she learns some unexpected lessons about love and trust from the remarkable story of a World War I “Hello Girl” telephone operator. Marie Reynaud fought valiantly for love, a love memorialized in diary entries that transcended war and time. It was a love inspiring enough to save Anne's marriage.

Author Merline Lovelace is herself a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel and as such is well equipped to write about the stresses and pressures on marriages where one or both partners are in the military. This is another novel that seems to hang on a plot that is classic and often considered simplistic, but somehow Lovelace makes it work. Lt. Col. Anne Dunbar is bucking for full colonel and is working in the pressure cooker in Washington, D.C. She has filed for divorce from a husband who is equally set on achieving fame a nd fortune in one of the city's most prestigious law firms. Their goals seemed to mesh at first, but long absences during war and peace have diluted the passion as well as clouded the plans for the future, including plans to start a family. Yet Brian just can't seem to bring himself to sign those papers. Using whatever he can to force a face-to-face encounter with a woman he loves still, Brian and Anne agree to begin “dating” again. Somehow they must re-discover what it means to be friends as well as lovers and marriage partners.

Woven through this story, however, is the rare and beautiful entries contained in a World War I diary, the creation of one of the Army Signal Corp's “Hello Girls.” These women were recruited to be the overeseas switchboard operators that linked the officers at headquarters with the other war entities. In the midst of all this is Marie Reynaud, a woman who has volunteered to serve her country because the love of her life has died. Somehow she is hoping to continue his patriotic contribution in his stead. In the horror of war with its hurt and violence, Marie becomes acquainted with an Army flier who slowly but surely found a way into her heart. The grace-filled pages of that diary and its messages of hope and faith settled into Anne Dunbar's heart and mind and caused her to re-think her relationship with her husband.

This is a truly delightful story and is told with an eye to be truly romantic. Lovelace analyzes the stresses of this marriage and doesn't back away from the down side of being an active military officer. She also tells the whole truth about the kinds of hurts that come when two people who genuinely love one another allow ambition and career to sidetrack their relationship. It is a gentle story story well told. It is a great read and another Lovelace novel that is sure to please. I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

In this edition of Lovelace novels, the above story is coupled with a “bonus” book entitled “Ex Marks The Spot”, Lovelace's novel about a couple who have already divorced but both have still retained serious levels of affection for each other. Again, both partners have been in the military during the entire time of their relationship and the pressures of long absences and the desire for career advancment have ultimately brought these two into divorce court. The question is asked: “Can you still fall for the guy next door if you've already divorced him? And here you have the central premise upon which this novel is based.

Colonel Andrea Armstrong has essentially been “drummed out of the corp” because of an injury, one which may or may not be reversible, and which may truly end any hope for advancement to Brigadier General. Moving to Florida at the urging of her best friend, Andi finds that the house that she has rented is next door to her ex-husband who is still active in the military. Left at loose ends and sure she can only stroll the beaches and relax for so long, Andi begins to indulge her love of books and becomes determined to open her own book store. Slowly but surely her life and that of her ex-husband become intertwined and they each came to recognize that their regard, friendship and yes—love--had never died.

It is a delightful story that is not deep, but it is very pleasant and when I finished it I was aware of lots of warm fuzzies. I have lots of reactions to books, and most of them are positive, but every once in a while there comes along stories that are just plain easy to read and seem intent on finding the best in people. And who doesn't love a happy ending? Lovelace writes with a sure hand and her own experience shines through these characters. They have probably been in her mind and heart for many years. Having been an Army wife for six years, I met lots of folks similar to the characters in both these stories. It is great to share even these fictional experiences and know that in spite of all the difficulties of military family life, people can find one another a second time. I give this novel a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sorry for the Long Silence . . .

Just a quick note -- it has been several days since I have even been at the computer. Have a cazillion reviews to write and haven't been attending to those either. My hubby was suddenly taken to the hospital and had heart surgery -- very surprising, but absolutely necessary. In fact, it turns out that he was only days away from a heart attack, so I just was taken up with waiting rooms and such. Of course, I had a couple of paperbacks and my every present eReader with me, so I got through the long hours in OK shape. Now that hubby is home and doing well, I am back on the track and going to be posting some reviews. Hope you all had a good week and a restful weekend. It is good to be alive!!

Blessings to you all . . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Not Much Happening at the Ole Book Place

That's really the truth! Just haven't gotten to the computer for more than a quick look at the email box and then back to other stuff. I realized that I even missed The Ole Book Bag last Wednesday. Oh dopey me!! Have been reading up a storm along with some other stuff that just couldn't get put off any longer. Will be writing a bunch of reviews this afternoon after getting home from the office -- have some for the Book Place as well as some for Book Binge. There are a couple I just haven't been able to put down so the light stayed on until the Wee Hours of the Morning.

Hope you all have been continuing to keep your nose where it belongs . . . IN A BOOK, of course.

Good reads to all . . . Dr. J

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review: Kept by Carolyn Faulkner

This was an ebook that I downloaded -- a freebie from All, and it wasn't very long, probably could be considered a novella. However, I was intrigued by the very short blurb and so, considering the price, I went for it.
The story revolves around Trish Barton, a 37-year-old New Hampshire 5th grade school teacher who has recently lost her mother after an extended battle with illness. She is traveling to Tennessee to be with her cousin who is, in actuality, her best friend. She is hoping that this vacation from her home surroundings will put some distance between her and her grief and help her begin to rebuild her good humor and enjoyment of life.
Her cousin Maggie is waiting at the airport for her accompanied by her boss, Reed Douglas, a wealthy, single, gorgeous, tall/dark/handsome hunk with a kind and caring manner, beautiful Southern manners, a soft sexy voice, and an apparent willingness to somehow be a friend, at least by extension through her cousin, in spite of her tears and depression, at least initially. Reed is drawn to Trish in a way that mystifies him. His easy manner is also evident to Trish and even though she has not been attracted to anyone since her divorce three years earlier, she surprises herself because of some twinges of lust she discovers almost immediately.
Overhearing a conversation between Maggie and Trish, Reed begins to question Trish about an expressed fantasy to be "kept" by an older, wealthy man who would be a Sugar Daddy of sorts and who would keep her as a mistress. Because Reed is truly a dominant man (with some hidden darker tendencies), he presses her for her further thoughts about this and she plays along, thinking it was just conversation. In truth, Reed is more and more taken with Trish and ultimately proposes that they enter into such a relationship, complete with lawyers and agreements.
What Reed finds out is that Trish is not a grasping and greedy woman. She enters into this arrangement because she is genuinely attracted to Reed but succeeds in holding herself emotionally aloof, at least for a while. He finds it almost impossible to shower her with gifts or to do anything for her other than what they had agreed in the contract. She is pleasant and forthcoming with her favors, but she still struggles with her grief. Reed is discovering that it is not an easy thing to be a Sugar Daddy to this woman.
It is a cute story and I have to say that I like Trish--her inner strength, her absolute insistence on fairness, her refusal to be greedy, to hold Reed to their agreement, although she is slowly but surely becoming aware that she never wants to let this man out of her life. She begins to live in fear that he will someday put her aside. Reed is truly an alpha male and there are scenes of erotic spanking although I think it is kept to a very mild level. That isn't my thing, but it appears that it works between these two. He wants to be Trish's friend as well as her "employer" and ultimately finds that he can't even consider a future without her in it.
Faulkner writes a very good story which is not always easy in a shorter number of pages. I have read some authors' work where after hundreds of pages one cannot even then figure out what they are trying to say. One wonders how they were ever published. Not so with Faulkner. She is adept and a great word-smith. She carries the plot along. She manages to segue from one character to another and yet maintain the integrity of the story. In a word, she is a very good writer. As I have already said, I am not a big fan of erotic bondage/s & m, but in the context of this tale it is managed well. Erotica fans will probably like this story. I give it a rating of 3.75 out of 5.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: Once A Cowboy -- by Linda Warren

I have to own up that until recently I have really not been much of a fan of cowboys and their presence in American romance fiction. But having read quite a number of Beth Williamson's books set in the 19th century Old West, Lorelei James' and Cat Johnson's series on contemporary rodeo cowboys, I have to admit that I have become far more a fan that I had ever expected.
Linda Warren has given us a story that is built around a retired, world champion bull rider named Brodie Hayes and a private investigator and former policewoman named Alex Donovan and set in contemporary Dallas, Texas. Their lives are brought together when a Mrs. Helen Braxton who has seen photos of Brodie in the news and has come to believe that he is her son who was abducted from the newborn nursery two days after his birth, 40 years earlier. Alex takes this case with the intent of discreetly gaining Brodie's DNA and helping Mrs. Braxton get over her ill-placed obsession. Needless to say, the case doesn't quite work out that way.
Against the advice of her father & partner in the PI firm, Alex gradually becomes emotionally involved as she is drawn into the pain of both the Braxton family as their long-term grief and loss, and Brodie's horror at finding out that his mother had abducted him and taken him to Germany to live with his military father after the death of the real Brodie Hayes. Working through his disappointment and disillusionment, coupled with the death of the woman he thought to be his mother, Brodie must find out who he is and how he can move on into the future. He is not sure he can establish a relationship with the Braxtons after all this time, but his journey of discovery as well as his growing attachment to Alex and their romantic involvement are the substance of this story.
This is very nice romance novel and Linda Warren has populated this story with some very colorful characters that form a very interesting background to the Alex/Brodie story. Few of us can imagine a grandmother like Naddy, a father who growls and grumps more than he praises, but they are family to Alex and because of them she has grown into an independent and sensitive woman. I appreciated the fact that Warren kept the "inner conversations" to a readable minimum -- I really dislike books that go on and on and on -- while giving the reader sufficient information to develop both the characters and the plot. This is not an overly long novel but is a nice length and will do nicely for those who want a good story without a huge time commitment. I liked Brodie a lot, thought Alex handled her family with a great deal of wit and understanding, and was delighted to see how Brodie managed the challenges he faced.
Historically, Harlequin has been known as the source of lightweight romance novels. But in recent years they have been publishing some really great books and this is a very nice example of good writing and good reading. I think romance fans will like this book a lot. I give this book a rating of 3.75 out of 5.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: Hide in Plain Sight -- by Marta Perry

Marta Perry is one of those authors who have centered almost, if not all, of her stories around the geographical area in which she was raised. Set in rural Pennsylvania and involving both Amish and "English" characters, Perry tells stories that are inspirational as well as contemporary in scope and romantic in nature
This is one of her suspense novels with an on-going mystery involving "accidents" and incidents that seem to be aimed at preventing the opening of the Three Sisters Inn, a new Bed and Breakfast designed to bring an income to the Unger family -- a grandmother and her granddaughter Rachel. However, a hit-and-run accident puts Rachel, a trained cordon bleu chef, in the hospital with two broken legs. Her sister, a professional financial planner, comes from New York to be with their grandmother while Rachel is recuperating. She is not convinced that this B & B project is wise or can really be pulled off, so her participation in the preparations for the grand opening are less than enthusiastic.
This book is also the story of Andrea Hampton, the New York granddaughter, and Calvin Burke, a tenant at the Unger residence and a person who is not well-liked by some in the village. He is somewhat mysterious, having kept his personal background to himself even while he is establishing his business as a carpenter and furniture maker in the Amish style and tradition. Their instant dislike of each other upon Andrea's arrival due to her sister's accident is gradually overcome because they must join forces to prevent further harm to the Unger B & B project as well as protect Grandmother Unger. Little incidents and "accidents" that continue to happen stop looking like isolated occurrences. Andrea is victimized by being locked in a small closet where her claustrophobia escalates into panic. Add in some questionable characters from the town and from the Unger family past, and you have a ripper of a mystery. You also have a very quiet but persistent growing romance between Andrea and Cal.
I like Perry's writing -- it is quality and her stories are substantive. The topics in her books are of contemporary interest and are taken from real life. Real people can relate. This book is no exception. She has developed the plot well and builds up the mystery to its surprising conclusion. This is one of those books that is fun to read but holds the reader's interest. It is full of caring and family, dealing with the kinds of problems so many must face who have difficult childhoods and unresolved hurts. There are wonderful moments when the kindness that is part of the Amish communal tradition also come to the fore and make a lasting and positive impression. If you have not read one of Perry's stories I think you will like this. It is inspiring and a really good read. I give this book a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Review: She's No Faerie Princess -- Christine Warren

It is no secret, if you have lurked around the ole Book Place, that I really like Christine Warren's writing, and I really like her series on all sorts of shifters and Others, as she calls them. The publisher states that this is the second book in "The Others" series, but in reality it is a continuation of the Fur Fantasies and continues to develop the stories of and relationships between characters that have figured prominently in previous books.
Princess Fiona is not your ordinary Faerie Princess, obedient to her Aunt Mab who is the Queen of Faerie and who has effectively prohibited any citizen of that alternate world to visit the world of humans. Fiona is tired of court politics, tired of the pressure she is getting from her Aunt, weary of trying to fight off the suit of males who want her as their mate/lover because they perceive that she is the next in line to the Faerie court, and coming to the conclusion that she needs a VACATION!!! So she fights off the objections of a couple of her closest friends and makes her way through one of the forbidden gates, where she is immediately attacked and chased by a fiend and rescued by Tobias Walker, Beta of the Silverback Clan of werewolves in Manhattan.
Her presence in the human world is not welcomed as the negotiations between the Council of Others and the humans is not proceeding well, is tentative at best, and is now in danger because of Queen Mab's prohibition. The Council doesn't need Queen Mab to come down on them as has happened in the past. Fiona is also surprised to find out that her Uncle Dionnu, Queen Mab's ex, is at the negotiating table as a so-called ambassador from Faerie, a fact that has been kept secret from Queen Mab's court. So the plot thickens when unlikely deaths begin happening that are clearly fiendish in origin, and Fiona's life is in danger. Add to that Tobias Walker's almost uncontrollable attraction to Fiona -- he has found his life mate in her -- and you have another very readable and fascinating journey into the world of werewolves, werejaguars, demons, fiends, and a faerie Princess. Fiona is a mouthy dame, and added to the wit and satire of several other women who are regularly involved in Warren's scenarios, this tale is cute, funny, witty, satirical, and oh, so engaging.
Warren is a past master at the writing task and has done a very credible job of developing her characters and putting these tales together. She is one of a group of writers who seem to be able to keep a consistent quality in her series so that there is legitimate anticipation of her next novel. I do have to say that I thought Walker was a little gruff--perhaps for longer than necessary, but he does have a very unusual situation on his hands with demon Rule and the fiends. There are twists and turns here as the mystery unfolds of who is seeking to upend the negotiations between the Others and the humans. It is sort of the background story that provides the conflict in a really good plot.
Warren fans will like this book. It is not quite so political and involved as the previous book which I liked. I think I like this one better. I also liked Fiona's pluck -- she stands up to everyone -- and the fact that in spite of it all, she and Walker find common ground and a way to muddle along as they acknowledge one another as mates. It is a very nice read and will be a nice experience for readers who like the paranormal and Warren's werewolves. I give this book a 3.75 out of 5 rating.

Commentary: On the Merits of eReaders

I have been interested in the various discussions of the eReaders that are out on the market now. Of course there is the Kindle and the Nook and I think about five or six others. I have not had any experience with any of them except Fictionwise's eBookwise.

My daughter had one of these and she alerted me to a sale some weeks after being on our summer holiday. It was quite a revelation that I could cart a whole shelf full of books with me and eliminate almost an entire suitcase, because far be it for me to travel without significant numbers of books. I had lugged some books along and my daughter had some in her luggage, so it was nice to have that extra resource since I read fast and tend to plow through stacks of books, especially when on vacation. At the same time I observed that said daughter was happily unencumbered with said stacks of books as she was happily reading away, both day and night, with her eBookwise. So I simply had to get one!

Thus, I acquired said gadget sometime last fall, and when I journeyed to the Midwest on a professional trip in February I was able to take about 40 books with me, all safely stashed in the handy little gadget. When I compared the price of this helpful little appliance with some of the more well-known and popular eReaders, I was quite impressed that I had been able to get something that is probably just as handy -- perhaps without some of the "bells and whistles" of the more expensive models -- for a considerable reduction in payout.

I don't see many mentions of this Fictionwise appliance, so I thought I would bring it to the attention of anyone who might be lurking around the ole Book Place. I have to again mention that I really haven't compared the various products out there -- I just know that my inexpensive and handy eBookwise gadget keeps me reading and I can take it with me just about anywhere because it has an extensive battery life and is easy to load. The purchase of the eBookwise Librarian annually ($15) seems minimal considering all the use I get out of it.

So this is just an FYI -- thought I would bring this handy little gadget to everyone's attention.

Happy reading . . .

Review: Smooth Talking Stranger -- by Lisa Kleypas

He answers to no one . . .No one has ever truly touched Jack Travis' heart or soul until Ella Varner comes along. She appears one day on his doorstep with fury in her eyes and a baby in her arms. Her troubled sister is the mother and, according to Ella, Jack Travis is the father. But, when Ella demands that Jack take responsibility for the first time in his life, he ends up taking much more than that . . .
She trusts no one . . . Ella Varner is responsible and controlled. Her childhood has taught her that love is fleeting and best avoided. That is, until baby Luke appears on her doorstep after her reckless sister, Tara, abandons him. What Luke needs now is stability, and Ella's determined to do what is best for him.As her bond with Luke grows, Ella goes to Houston in search of the father. What she finds there will change her life forever . . .
Historical romance fans will recognize Lisa Kleypas as one of the past masters of the writing arts. She has thrilled us for years with her keen intellect, her ability to tell a darn good story, and her love of the historical novel art form. However, she has launched her readers into the world of the larger-than-life Travis family, and this present novel is the third in the series.
Into Jack's life comes this witty, seemingly sharp-tongued beauty whose rapid-fire responses and her no-nonsense approach to the matter at hand catches his attention. To Ella, Jack is beauty on the hoof but represents everything that is wrong with persons of the male persuasion. She has lived through her hair-brained mother's loves and live-ins, and she and her sister have become survivors of parental disregard as well as sexual abuse. No time in Ella's life for a playboy like Jack.
But the resolute and non-stop insistence of Ella that Jack clear himself through a paternity test begins to bring them together--at least geographically. When Ella's sister confirms Jack's assertion that they had never slept together, she relents and tries to look elsewhere for the baby's father, believing that her sister needs to confront him and bring him to heel financially. This story is somewhat a saga of Jack & Ella's growing friendship which began because of Baby Luke and whose presence and welfare appear to be the glue that holds them together, at least at first. Ultimately their relationship becomes personal and sexual, but Ella's awful mishandling by her self-centered mother keeps her bound to a set of presuppositions and persuasions about the nature of love and marriage and long-term commitment. Essentially they are not for her!!
Kleypas has done a magnificent job in dealing with contemporary issues that face many people today. The growing trend toward single parent families, the difficulties many have with long-term commitment, adult friendships with one's own parents -- whether they are even possible, and which is more dangerous: loving someone or refusing to love anyone?
The family dynamics in this novel are different, I am told, than in the first two books in this series. Yet the family is all there and while it focuses on Jack, the Travis clan are present as strong secondary characters and people who help Ella begin to re-assess the true nature of family and what it can mean as a support system. It is very heartening to see someone like Jack who has the "world on a string" begin to rearrange his priorities, decide who he wants in his life, open his heart to a helpless child, and grow and mature to meet the challenges of a permanent relationship. While Ella is strong and independent, she, too, needs to allow the old hurts to become a part of her past and not of her future.
This is a really good book! And while I have read the books in this series out of order, I am assured that this is not going to be detrimental to enjoying them and growing to respect and appreciate the members of the Travis family. I hope you all will read this book -- It's a great read. I give this book a rating of 4.75 out of 5

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Adam Faramond, Earl of Rothbury, needs to find a wife -- immediately -- or his beloved grandmother will leave him penniless. But Adam, an unrepentant rake, would reform for only one woman, the woman he's lusted after and loved for years. It's rather unfortunate, then, that Miss Charlotte Greene would never consent to be the blushing bride of a rogue, or so he think.
Charlotte believes that the earl, the only man whose touch leaves her treambling, would never want a woman like her. Weary of her wallflower ways, Charlotte decides that a friendship with the earl just might give her the excitement she desires. Keeping their true feelings hidden, she and Adam plan a sham ceremony to placate the dowager. But when the "marriage of convenience" takes an unexpected turn, will Charlotte and her wicked earl finally reveal their irresistible, unforgettable love--and delight in a life time of passion.
This is Olivia Parker's second Regency romance and is the sequel to At the Bride's Hunt Ball. It is lighthearted, fun, full of the color and romance that marked that period in English history, and Ms Parker's writing style is reminiscent of Georgette Heyer's wonderful, breezy, humorous story telling ways.
Charlotte Greene "lost" the bid for Lord Tristan Devine, the object of the Bride's Hunt Ball. He was a man who had captured her heart when she was a girl, having stepped in and rescued her and her mother after a very bad carriage accident. She was given reason to believe that Lord Tristan would choose her and when he broke her heart, she turned away, back to her reticent and hidden life at the edges of the dance floor and the crowds at the soirees. Yet, there is one person who seems to be a constant -- Lord Rothbury -- a man who stepped in and danced with her at the Bride's Hunt Ball when no one else would do so. What she doesn't know is that he had been nurturing an unrelenting love for her with a desire to possess her to match for six years. He has covered his tracks with proposals to various debutantes (who he was certain would turn down his proposal) and what would appear to be a very public obsession for Lady Rosalind Devine, the sister of the Duke of Wolverest, even though she has done all she could to dampen his ardor and been rebuffed by the Duke himself. It is all a sham which he perpetrates while trying to find a way to win Charlotte. So they agree to just be "friends" which will give them access to one another without any expectations. In fact, Charlotte's mother has given her strict orders to have nothing to do with Adam Faramonde because of his terrible reputation. In order to win her mother's permission for her "friendship" with Adam, Charlotte has told her mother that Adam was gay.
Like all good Regency romances this story twists and turns with funny old women, haughty society mavins, desperate debutantes, lots of chaperones--some of whom are good and some of whom are inattentive--while the men of the ton try to put off marrying as long as possible, and the jaded rakes sniff out attractive widows or wealthy and unhappy wives to seduce. It is a world unlike most of us know and perhaps that's why we enjoy books that are set in this context. One of the best characters in this novel is Adam's grandmother--a lovely, elderly, seemingly nutty French woman who married his grandfather and who speaks only French. She is tired of waiting for him to get his life in order and do the "right thing" which simply means that she wants grandchildren and she wants them NOW! Sometimes she appears to be completely aware of her situations and surroundings, and then she appears to be off in the clouds on other occasions. Charlotte's mother who sort of wafts in and out of the story is an older woman -- Charlotte was born when her parents were "older" -- and who struggles with her aching joints and bouts of arthritis. Because she takes laudanum, that day's version of opium, she has slept through much of Charlotte's life and certainly her London Season.
Regency romance fans will find lots to like in this book -- great story telling, really colorful characters, a fun plot, and that wonderful historical period that seems to grab our imagination and our love of all that makes historical romance such fun. Olivia Parker certainly has demonstrated great talent and this second of her books is every bit as good as the first. It's not overly long and very easy to read. I think you will all like it. I give this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Wednesday Plus One is Ole Book Bag Day . . . What's Coming Up?

It seems like Wednesday is really the best day for me to review what I have been reading as well as think about what's coming up. Sunday is always a real "ripper" at our house so I only get to the books late in the day. Monday is usually one of my "reading" days, Tuesday I have outside commitments and Wednesday can be a mixed bag -- so I writing this on Thursday this week. Had two of the granddaughters over for a day or two and that seems to get the usual routine upended. Love to have them -- they are a stitch, for sure, but just not the usual flow of events. So here's what has been flowing through the ole "reader" in the past few days:

Cade's Thanksgiving by Cia Leah
At the Bride Hunt Ball -- Olivia Parker (reviewed here just a couple of days ago)
To Wed a Wicked Earl -- Olivia Parker (will be posting a review of this soon)
Promise of Pleasure -- Cheryl Holt
Tempting the Marquess -- Sara Lindsey (these last two for reviews for The Book Binge)
The Granite Lake Wolves: Wolf Games -- Vivian Arend (REALLY love this series)
Leather & Lace: Branded (Short Story) -- Beth Williamson (I like just about everything Beth writes, no matter the genre)
Under the Covers -- Cat Johnson (Short Story)
Smooth Talking Stranger -- Lisa Kleypas (#3 in a contemporary series)
Shalador's Lady -- Anne Bishop (just keeps on getting better and better)
Strong, Silent Type: A Wild Ride Story -- Lorelei James ( a re-read -- I love those McKay men)

On the immediate horizon:

A Lady of Persuasion -- Tessa Dare (I've read the first two of this series and loved them)
Blue Diablo -- Ann Aguire
The Red Tent -- Anita Diamant (a very powerful novel about a little-known Biblical woman)
Bed of Roses -- Nora Roberts (the second in a series)
Adrian English Mysteries -- Josh Lanyon
Master of the NIght -- Angela Knight
She Ain't No Faerie Princess -- Christine Warren (A continuation of a wonderful series)
The Demon You Know -- Christine Warren (Just more good stuff in that series)

And I'm confident that I will find others that I will slip in between the above -- or substitute, or whatever.

Hope you are all having a wonderful "reading" week . . .

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Review: At the Bride Hunt Ball -- by Olivia Parker

Imagine being one of seven young debutantes chosen to participate/compete in a two-week long process, all for the purpose of winning a proposal from a young man who doesn't want to get married in the first place. It was the event of the London Season, and Lord Tristan Devine was the prize. His older brother had declared that he had no intention to ever marrying and therefore it was Lord Tristan's duty to marry and produce an heir so that the title and lineage would be secured. Miss Madelyn Haywood did not want to be included in the "game" and when it appeared she was to receive one of the coveted invitation, ran for her life. She would have found a way to turn down the invitation were it not for her concern over her best friend, Miss Charlotte Green. Thus Madelyn and Charlotte made their appearance with five others and the "games" began.

Lord Tristan was one of those young men who think that women are there for their unending pleasure and have no intention of preventing the young ladies of London and surrounding environs from being exposed to his physique and his technique as a lover. Only the pressure of his older brother, the Duke of Wolverest, is forcing him to "play along." When the two weeks are up, his chosen bride will be announced at the Bride's Hunt Ball. Madelyn does all she can to prevent any attachment between Lord Tristan and Charlotte, believing with all her being that Charlotte's infatuation with the young lord is ill-advised and likely to lead her to misery. Charlotte is truly a "wallflower" and believes this is her last chance at happiness. In the meantime, the duke is quite taken with Madelyn, but he is suspicious of her care and interference with Charlotte. His past experiences has siphoned off any trust that he might have in women in general. Only his sister, Lady Rosalind, has kept his faith and holds his trust.

By Olivia Parker's own admission, this is the beginning of a series of "light-hearted Regency romances." And that is just what this book is- light-hearted, fun, and easy to read. The setting in a country estate provides opportunities for a goodly number of characters to be woven into the story and taken out without much ado. The conflict is between the duke and Madelyn whose caring nature and actions are suspect, but who is drawn to the duke and he is attracted to her. There are some passages that are very comical and readers who enjoy doing so will have fun visualizing some of the scenarios. Madelyn is a klutz and gets into trouble which requires that the duke be "saving" her repeatedly. The attention of some of the "contestants" veres from Lord Tristan to the duke before all is said and done, and several contestants are told to leave. All the characters are multi-dimensional and well created. Madelyn is caught between her attraction for the duke, her worries over Charlotte's well-being, and her aunt's manipulations. It is altogether a busy cast of players and full of fun and good cheer.

Regency romance fans will enjoy this book as it is reminiscent of Georgette Heyer's style and story. It is a good read and won't take forever to get through it. I give this book a 4.25 out of 5 rating.

Easter Week is over --YEAH, and March Madness is Over -- YEAH . . .

Last week -- Holy Week at our house -- is now over and yesterday was a serious resting day!! But that means that I can now get into some heavy-duty reading after having so many distractions. I got through two books which I am reviewing for The Book Binge, read the second Tessa Dare book in the Goddess Series (reviewed below), the first and second in Olivia Parker's series entitled The Bride Hunt Ball and To Wed A Wicked Earl, -- not a bad haul for one day. It made it easier to get through the day without thinking about the aching back and the tired muscles from all the Easter extras.

AND . . . that infernal annual college basketball tournament it over, thank you very much. After being married to a sports FANATIC for all these years, it is still a relief to not have to read to the background noises of a championship basketball game. (My team lost by two points anyway.) So now I can concentrate on the really important things like books, books, and more books. The granddaughters are on Spring vacation and will be here for a day or two, so had to read while I had the day all to myself!

Tessa Dare has become one of those authors whose books seem to call out to me. Having begun my big-time reading binges with historical romances, it is not a great leap to realize that this genre still holds some real "pull" for my reading cravings. I reviewed the first of this Goddess series -- Goddess of the Hunt -- for The Book Binge and I really liked it. So I was able to get a copy of this second book and started out this week with it.

Sophia Jane Hathaway figured prominently in the first book -- Ms Dare set up her character very well there -- and as that story is ending, Sophia has disappeared, left her fiance and her family, walked out on the fru-fru haut ton wedding that was being planned, leaving a note that she has run off with her drawing master Gervaise. Truth to tell, no such person exists, and this second book begins with Sophia seeking passage on the Aphrodite, a Jamaican sailing vessel leaving England bound for Tortula in Jamaica. However, on this adventure she is known as Miss Jane Turner. She has managed to con the bank manager out of 500 pounds of her trust fund, strapped it to her body, and talked the owner of the Aphrodite into taking her aboard and transporting her, convincing him that she is a governess bound for a position with the Walthams, cousins to her friend Lucinda Waltham, Countess of Kendall. The ship owner, "Gray" Grayson, formerly a privateer during the Napoleonic Wars, has determined that he is becoming "legitimate" and is now beginning to live as a gentleman, having connections through his mother to the English aristocracy, and wanting a London Season for his sister Isabel Grayson.

Dare has set this story completely within the context of this voyage and all its challenges with weather and the problems of being the only woman aboard without a proper chaperone. Gray is a delightful character, multilayered and complex, with a history that might have been daunting to overcome if it were not for his inner strength. But like all humans, he fights with his past and his inner demons. Joss Grayson, captain of the ship is a solemn, withdrawn character, half-brother to Gray, widower, with the same father, but illegitimately conceived by a slave mother. He and Gray had sailed the Seven Seas as privateers, and this is his opportunity to captain a merchant vessel and to move forward after the death of his wife. The tension between the two brothers is an interesting part of the context and background that swirls around the developing attraction and relationship between Sophia and Gray.

Sophia wants a life that is not "proper" and ordered by a restrictive set of society rules. She is artistic, talented, hopeful, naive, passionate, and bound and determined to live her life in her own way. She is fully aware that by running off as she has done, without a proper chaperone, jilting a man of the ton and damaging her social reputation, she is no longer welcome in London Society and thus must find a way to move forward with her life. She is beautiful in that English Rose sort of way, and she is bone weary of being paraded and "put up for sale" by parents that are using her as an entre into the upper eschelons of English aristocratic social circles. She is only a few weeks away from reaching legal age when she will have full control over her trust fund, and she has chosen to set her own life course, secure in the knowledge that she will have the financial security of those 20,000 pounds sterling.

Lots of color in this story, lots of wonderful characters, lots of variants in pesonalities that give this tale its dimensions. Both Sophia and Gray are living just on the edge of polite society, but both are also so keenly aware of the other's penchant for wanting to make one's own rules in life. Gray has promised his brother that he will keep his hands to himself where Sophia is concerned but their attraction to one another is marked and felt by all aboard ship. There are the usual misunderstandings and miscommunications that seem to be particularly present in romance fiction -- these are not too extensive and do not bog down the story to any great degree. The sexual tension does increase at a steady rate and I think Dare manages that well. The twists and turns at the end are fascinating because they not only bring Sophia's story fully into the light in an interesting way, but Dare finds a way to set up the characters for the next book in her series very adroitly. This is, in my opinion, the mark of a writer that has truly learned one's craft.

I liked this book a great deal -- read it from start to finish and didn't have the urge to flip through bunches of pages as is sometimes the case. It is a very good, solid and well-written historical romance. I give this book a 4.25 out of 5 rating. Oh, and By The Way, if you would like a very good review of the third book in the series, be sure to stop by to (Tracy's Place) and check in on that and some of the other books she has read recently.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter is Here -- or nearly so --

Easter is one of those wonderful observances that seems to bring out the best in people. It is a time for getting together and enjoying friends and family. For those who have observed Lent and have denied themselves chocolate, they are putting up with watering mouths as the first taste of that chocolate egg draws near. There are so many symbols for Easter, many that came out of the European observance of the Spring Solstice -- bunnies, early blooming spring flowers, eggs, etc. For the Christian missionaries of 1500 years ago, these symbols were easily re-interpreted and they became religious symbols of the resurrection of Jesus. Yet, it is a time when people of all faiths or of no faith at all can come together and have a wonderful holiday. For many school children it is the beginning of a Spring vacation -- I know that I can still remember how welcome that week at Easter time was even in my day.

Let's take care of ourselves and those we love, letting this holiday be a time of refreshing of ourselves and our relationships. I know my family -- well the part of the family that still lives nearby -- will be gathering for a good lunch together. Some will have to leave early to travel, while others will linger. It's just one of those days.

Please, as I have said several times before, have a wonderful and blessed Easter Day. Who knows, I think I will find some time to read after everyone has gone home!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

In Honor of These Special Days . . .

Just a quick word -- this week before Easter is really busy, as I have already commented. In honor of the more inspirational tone of this week I am setting myself to ready a couple of Marta Perry's books: one is a freebie entitled Resless Hearts, set in the Pennsylvanie Dutch country that is Perry's home territory and which inspires so many of her stories. The other is the second in a series that I am reading in order to review it for The Book Binge. Parry has a delightful way of looking within her own personal cultural background and letting readers know more about what makes up that very unique Pennsylvania way of thinking and doing. I think most of her readers are fascinated with the keyhole insights she has provided for the Amish way of life. I know that when I was a kid my parents were often visiting friends and attending conferences in central Pennsylvania, and I was so taken with how different it felt--at least as a 10-12 year old I didn't know how else to express it. As my father's family are from the German Mennonite heritage, there was lots to see, hear, experience that seemed familiar although at the time I wasn't aware of the "why" or "wherefore."

I hope some of you will share if you have experienced some of Parry's writing. It is definitely gentle, inspiring, and calls to all our deeper instincts for caring and grace.

Also thanks to all of you who visit and comment . . . your presence and continuing support are greatly appreciated. I hope that our "conversation" grows and our love of books along with it!

Again . . . Happy Easter to you all!