Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: Witch/Vamp/Were (Huntingdawn Series #2) by Anne Douglas

Shaun, the girl with the Goth clothes and make-up, the inveterate seeker after truth where vampires and ghosts are concerned, is once again on a crusade to prove that these paranormal life-forms really exist. He best friend Pearl was "accidentally" turned into a Were-bear and is expecting twin "cubs," and so proof that Werewolves et al is now off the "crusadea" list. Her "keeper" happens to be the Alpha of the Huntingdawn Pack, Rob Dedriekson, and he is tired of her insistent presence in Pack meetings, Pack affairs, and everything else in his life. Yet he feels a sense of protection that puzzles him.

Now he is going to "scare" Shaun into leaving her search for truth behind by bringing his real 400 year old vampire friend, Jakov Pieter, into a situation that is calculated to drive Shaun back to some sense of human normalcy. Little does either he or Jakov realize that the night they are stalking Shaun in the cemtery will be as life-changing for them as it will be for her.

Funny dialogue, colorful characters, cute story, interesting plot--all are a carry-over from book one in this series and seem to be characteristic of Douglas' writing style. The interaction between these three is adversarial, sexy, impatient, and driven by an ancient prophecy that seems to be coming true, thanks to them. So get this book and have a fun time reading, especially if you enjoy good paranormal romance, some romping sex, an a bit of menage de trois. I give this book a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Review: Accidentally Were Huntingdawn Series #1) by Anne Douglas

Paranormal romances can take the reader all over the place and can be pretty "out there" sometimes. This first in a two-book series about two best friends is kind of "sneaky" in that it really starts out just like a regular romance novel and then, once it gets going, has some really interesting aspects that are quite unexpected.

Pearl is a 31-year-old single gal who has been raised in the upper eschelons of society, who thinks manners and proper dress and fashion--appropriate to the occasion--are as much a part of a person as their thoughts or their voice. But just once in her life -- one fateful night--Pearl lets herself go, really gets plastered, goes home with a guy for a one-night-stand, and reappears at the doorstep of her best friend accompanied by every canine in her friend's neighborhood. She is also sporting several "love-bites" that seem to have the shape and form of canine bites. She is flustered, bedraggled, and really scared of all the dogs that seem to want to crawl all over her.

Pearl's best friend is Shaun, one of the community's Goth-kids and one who has been on a nearly life-long crusade to prove that werewolves, vampires, and ghosts really exist. She is delighted to see her starchy friend in the "after-glow" of a wild night out, but she is truly concerned about the angry bites that show on Pearl's neck, inspite of her attempt to cover them with a high-neck blouse. Shaun suggests that Pearl visit the clinic run by her next-door neighbor, Rex, a local veterinarian/General Practitioner in the hopes that he can diagnose the true nature of the bites.

Little did Pearl know that Dr. Rex will catch her scent, go nearly stark raving crazy in almost no time at all, close his clinic for the day, drag Pearl to a cabin in the woods, and declare that she is his "mate" -- the mate of a Were-bear.

From this point on, the story gets crazy and funny, and takes the reader in some very unexpected directions. You will meet members of the Huntingdawn Pack and its Alpha, Rob Dedriekson, you'll get a better insight into Shaun and what makes her tick, and you will watch as Pearl slowly but surely begins the changes that will make her life far more adventuresome, all with her consent.

Anne Douglas has written a winsome tale that is cute, full of sparkling dialogue, romping sex and the combined energy of a tornado and a hurricane all wrapped into one as you watch Pearl and Rex "work it out." For paranormal romance fans, this will be a delightful read. I give this story a 4.25 out of 5 rating.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Wednesday Ole Book Bag Plus One . . .

Well, once again I have slipped up and missed a Wednesday posting. There is an old saying that declares: While we're making plans, life happens. And so it would appear in my case. Just a simple slip of the knife, and my typing was done for the day. I was fixing lunch for hubby when the knife slipped -- I haven't cut myself for years -- and the tip of my left index finger was gone, and so was my willingness to type anymore yesterday. In fact, I didn't get it to stop bleeding for about seven hours -- one of those pesky little capillaries just didn't want to close up. Not to be gross about it, but I am barely tapping the keys today, but wanted to keep faith with anyone who was interested in stopping by on the usual cruise around cyperspace.

I'm continuing to do a bunch of reviews for The Book Binge on the short stories and novellas from Ellora's Cave Publishing. Not hard work nor do any of them take very much time to read. However, I stopped long enough to take up some "print" novels and got through those this week also.

So here's the list . . .

From Ellora's Cave:
Coyote Home by Rhian Cahill
Like Bunnies by Cindy Spencer Pape
Nice Girl Naughty by Jan Springer
Nothing But Sex by Fran Lee
Quest For Love by Jean Hart Stewart
Enchanted Palette by Brigit Zahara
Edge of Moonlight by Stephanie Julian
Dreamscaper's Desire by Lani Aames

Other eBooks:
A Bite of Magick by Ryannon Byrd
Alpha Romeos by Ryannon Byrd
Illusions by Ann Jacobs
Witch Vamp Were by Ann Douglas
Wicked Garden: Menage & More by Lorelei James
Pacific Breeze Hotel by Josie A. Okuly
Young Stud by Ruth D. Kerce
The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole
The Price of Pleasure by Kresley Cole
Letters to a Secret Lover by Toni Blake

Print Novels:
Pleasures of A Dark Prince by Kresley Cole
Brighter Than The Sun by Julia Quinn
Everthing And the Moon by Julia Quinn

Hoping to Read in the Coming Days:
Tempted By A Warrior by Amanda Scott
Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas
Lavender Morning by Jude Deveraux

Actually, I am going more for the historicals again after wading around Ellora's Cave for the past few weeks. There are some paranormals that I have had on the list and just haven't gotten to, so those are on the horizon as well. Good think I speed read . . .

Here's hoping that your reads continue to be interesting, informative, and fun. Rather than the grindstone, keep that ole nose in a book!

Review: Provocative in Pearls -- by Madeline Hunter

Their marriage was arranged but their desire wasn't . . .
After two years, Grayson Bridlington, the Earl of Hawkeswell, has found his missing bride, Verity Thompson. Coerced into marrying Hawkeswell by her duplicitous cousin, Verity fled London on her wedding to reside with friends in the country. Now the couple must make the most of their arranged marriage, even if it means dealing with a shared desire . . .
Verity Thompson is the daughter of an industrialist who died when she was only half grown, and her care and guardianship was given into the hand of a cousin and his wife, people who were greedy and ambitious, who resented Verity's inheriting her father's business and his money. They treated her with disdain and cruelty and even when arranging a marriage with the Earl of Hawkeswell, an aristocrat of ancient lineage but little fortune to maintain his properties and to support his family, they essentially blackmailed her into the marriage by threatening some of her closest friends with loss of home and hearth. Following the marriage ceremony, Verity learns that her cousin has not been true to his oath and has carried out the heinous acts anyway out of shear cruelty. Since the "bargain" has been violated, Verity ran from the marriage, intending to apply for annulment and to present a financial "deal" to the Earl which would give him some of her trust fund in perpetuity while retaining her independence and influence over her father's industrial legacy.
The Earl of Hawkesville was indeed a consummate aristocrat, but his interest in Verity's money was not something out of the ordinary, but was not for the maintenance of his rich lifestyle so much as it was for the preservation of his properties and the livelihood of those families who had depended on his family for generations. Because they had never found Verity's body, she was never declared dead, so the Earl had never received any portion of Verity's fortune. He has made no bones about his reasons for marrying, and even after finding Verity alive and living with friends in Middlesex, he is unwilling to allow annulment in any form. His growing desire for her and for the consummation of the marriage continues to wreck havoc with even his more philanthropic urges to grant Verity her independence. As he uncovers the truth of her cousin's cruelty, as he becomes more and more informed about her cousin's greed and ambition that was working against the long-term prosperity of her father's business, Hawkewell begins to realize that Verity is important to him for herself as well as one who cares deeply for her father's employees and for the well-being of her childhood friends who had extended the only kindness she had known in her lonely growing-up years.
Madeline Hunter is a truly experienced writer who has a gift for telling a good story. This is the second in a series, and while I am only just now reading the first book, Ravishing in Red, this is not a difficult series to begin reading out of sequence. The characters are believable and their presence in the story is balanced and in proportion to the other persons in the tale. Hawkeswell is a very interesting character--a man who knows his place in society but who has moved past the wildness of his early youth and takes seriously the responsibilities his title and holdings are placing on him. He feels deeply that the families who depend on him for their welfare are being made to suffer because of the bad behavior of his father and grandfather, and wants to change the direction of his life and theirs for the foreseeable future. He shows great patience with Verity, even as he seeks to change her opinion of him. His attempts to expose the perfidy of her cousin is the mark of a man who values his own honor and reputation. Under his sharp exterior lies the heart of a kind and loving man.
Verity becomes more and more likable for me as the story unfolds. At first I thought of her as just a stubborn and intractable young woman, set and determined to do "her own thing" and convinced that no person of aristocratic bent could be interested in her for any reason other than her money. She insists that Hawkeswell was in on the "con" that got her into the marriage in the first place. However, as Hawkeswell consistently and patiently refuses to allow her to run, is caring and concerned for her welfare, allows her to travel to her old home and be with her long-time friends, and acquiesces to her need to help other young women who have been misused and abused, Verity begins to experience a change in attitude toward her husband, seeing beneath his rather gruff exterior, owning up to her own rather hefty physical response to his masculinity, and ultimately allows the marriage to be consummated. There is still lots to learn about each other as their marriage moves toward a loving relationship.
I like Hunter's writing and I liked this book. It is written in the classic Regency style, but there is a freshness here that is almost always present in Hunter's writing. Several of Verity's friends have considerable presence in this story and will have their own stories in the future. Lovers of historical romantic fiction will find lots to like in this series and in this book in particular. I give this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Review: One Dependable Man (The McBrides of Texas, Book I) by Rita Thedford

Get out your fan and prepare to sweat and pant right along with Sunny in this steamy tale of a woman tired of being let down by the men in her life. The forecast calls for searing days and blazing nights when sexy, determined Matt McBride saunters into Happy's Homestyle Diner and begins serving the special of the day while proving to Sunny that he IS one hell of a dependable man . . . in more ways than you can imagine. If only HE were on the menu!

Author Rita Thedford is new to me, but I found this ebook online and decided to read it. I'm glad I did. It is a fun story and well worth the price, time and effort to put this on my eReader and make it a part of my eLibrary.

Matt McBride, second son of the ranching McBrides of Texas, driving his shiny, black, "bad boy" pick-up into the parking lot/truck stop called Happy's Homestyle Diner, stirs up a cloud of dust--but then again, that's always the way during a west Texas drought. He is tall, dark and handsome, polite, careful, with shoulders so wide that they barely clear a normal doorjam. He is faced with a difficult dilemma: how does he tell the work-weary sister of Happy Forester that her diner, her life investment of work and money, has been sold out from under her by her brother to pay his gambling debts--and sold to Matt. Matt has a debt to settle as well: Happy was the man that saved his life several years back when Matt was gang-attacked on a dark street in Dallas. He has heard so many stories about Sunny: how she has been faithful to this family enterprise at the cost of her personal life and almost everything else she has ever had. Happy knows well that he has let her down, just like their father did. But he is too selfish and weak to do anything else. Now that Happy is dead, Sunny thinks the diner is hers. Matt doesn't know how to tell her otherwise. Yet Matt has been raised by a father that told him that a man faces his problems and responsibilities head on--never running, never whining. In addition, Matt has heard so much about Sunny that he is just a little bit infatuated with her. So from the time he walks into the diner and see Sunny in the flesh, tired and worn though she may be, he is smitten. He had never had any trouble charming the ladies--" . . . his mama always said he was handsome as sin and just as full of the devil."

Sunny Forester is a west Texas woman: tough, hard working and independent. She has carried the burden of the family truck stop since she was in her teens. With her father's death and her brothers abandonment, Sunny has come to believe that there is NOT ONE MAN upon whom she can rely. And her personal experience is all she has. So she works hard, pinches pennies, pays her bills, and pours her lifeblood and energy into a diner that is, for lack of a better term, falling down around her ears, and she feels overwhelmed and helpless to prevent it. Matt comes in with a proposition: in payment to a debt to her brother, he is in town for several weeks and he will work at the diner--help out, serve, repair, do whatever without pay. Sunny is suspicious but Matt gives her enough information about his relationship with her brother that she allows him to proceed. The longer he is in this situation, however, the worse his problem. How does he tell her that he is the new owner? And the better he knows Sunny and the closer he gets to her as a friend, how does he get her to accept him as the man in her life?

Ms Thedford has written a love story that is full of real, believable people. She has set up the classic conflict from the first page, and even though this is a full-length novel, she makes the development of the plot interesting. There is also a genuine bad guy: a stalker that is bent on taking Sunny either for himself or doing away with her before anyone else gets her. There is the tension between the growing attachment between Sunny and Matt over against the truth of Matt's relationship to the diner--that Sunny doesn't own it anymore. There are the ongoing difficulties with Sunny's pride, her disillusionment with humans of the male persuasion, and her belief that her life will never go anywhere except to work, sleep, and then work some more.

In the course of the story the reader meets the old cook--tough and loyal, good at what he does, the rock solid foundation upon which Sunny's business rests. You meet three old ladies who are willing to work as part-time waitresses to supplement their social security income, who have "been around" and are very comfortable with themselves and others. You will meet Matt's parents who are still very much in love with one another after all this time and who are the models of what a solid, genuine, caring human being should be. You'll meet the oldest brother briefly, a former law enforcement officer and a grieving and hurting widower who just can't seem to get past his wife's death, and you'll meet Matt's wild, winsome, brash, rockem, sockem sister who is as tall as most men, can ride and rope with the best of them, carries a pistol and knows how to use it, and is so beautiful the ranch hands can hardly do their work when she is around.

I have to own up to clicking with Sunny and her weariness. Having been in food service in my younger years I know how bone tired one can get with the endless hours of work, the employment problems, dealing with customers, and putting up with the fact that one really has no personal life outside the restaurant. I feel for her! But I also like the fact that she is gutsy and willing, eventually, to move into dangerous territory--giving a relationship with Matt a try.

I like Matt a whole bunch--where was he when I was young? He is such a solid and balanced man, not full of himself, willing to do grunt work and wipe down tables and serve coffee and fix the grill and close up when Sunny is so tired she probably couldn't find the lock on the back door. He loves his mama and respects his daddy--he's not afraid to hug his brother and clear the table after supper. Gosh, what a find!! He just strikes me as being an all-round nice guy that sees a woman who makes him come alive, respects and admires her for all the right reasons and he want her in his life.

Now I have one bone to pick with the publishers: The cover is dreadful!!!!! With all the bare-chested gorgeous males one encounters in the romance paperback scene, why couldn't there have been a beautiful, tanned, bare-chested male, complete with well-worn jeans, a thumb hooked in his front pocket, chewing on a piece of straw, with a dusty Stetson pulled down over his brow? I don't know what this cover is all about! Oh well . . . perhaps this is one book where the heat is in the pages of the story and not on the cover. It has not always been so in some books I have read.

I think you'll like this story. It is about bigger-than-life people in some ways, (they say everything is bigger and better in Texas), but it is also about ordinary people problems, too. If you like a really good love story, you'll like this book. I hope Ms Thedford is planning to give us Book II soon if she hasn't already. I give this book a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Shelley Laurenston is one of those authors that is new to me and courtesy of my daughter is now populating my book shelf. She is an author that obviously has a head full of humor and creativity and her books reflect that wonderful mix. This is the first of the Magnus Pack series and it is a challenging read, to put it mildly.

Theew is a war going on -- a war between the werewolves and Cat Nation. And in this little Texas town, Zach Sheridan, the Alpha of the Magnus Pack is seeking a woman who is the daughter whose mother was supposedly killed by a Were-lion, and whose grandmother has kept her ignorant of her ancestry, her own latent were-abilities, and her own worth as an individual. She is now living in a Texas town that has more werewolves living there than none-were humans. Her protector, Marraec as he is called, is the Alpha and he is owner of a motorcycle business where Sara works. But that is not where Zach meets Sara. With his pack riding into town as a biker group, Zack, Conall, and his other pack members wander into the local bar where Sara's best friend Miki is bartender, and where her other best friend Angelina Santiago is "holding court" as the owner of a high-style fashion boutique and as style queen of Texas (to here her tell it). There are two problems here: Zach is instantly attracted to Sara in a personal, fall- in-lust-way, and Sara is bombed on tequila, a beverage which is the worst drink on the planet for her. Sara drunk is way different than Sara sober, and it is a shock to find her demure, shy, "hidden" and taciturn in Marraec's bike shop the next few days when on that night in the bar she was all over Zach proclaiming he was her "pretty man" and declaring: "I think I love him."

Demure Sara is sporting a bad scar on her face which has always convinced her that she is unlovely and will live out her life alone. She is also crippled due to injuries received at the same time she received her scar--when the lion attack on her and her mother resulted in her mother's death. Feeling like a total loser, Sara does find encouragement and a measure of emotional stability in the sisterhood that she has with Miki and Angelina. Loud, brash, argumentative, irreverent,cynical, and anti-authoritarian, these three keep the reader in stitches. They can argue over just about anything, and some arguments have been known to continue for days. They are all way too bright for their own good.

This is a complicated plot--there is the love story (a very bumpy journey for Zach and Sara), the on-going war between the werewolves and the were-lions, both of whom want Sara for their own reasons (the werewolves want to claim her and her abilities while the were-lions want to finish the attack on her mother years earlier and which Sara survived), the protectiveness of the town toward Sara, as well as the sworn loyalty of her friends to help her find some happiness and to protect her as much from herself as from others.

Laurenston knows how to surprise the reader with brash language and warm fuzzies. Under all the volume and swearing is a friendship that is stronger than a mother's love between these three friends, and while they are all so very different, they are all bound together by a mutual need to find a sense of family and acceptance. There were times I was deeply touched, and at the same time I couldn't stop laughing. Miki is way too smart and knows what buttons to push when her friends need some extra encouragement to be genuine bad-asses when they are in danger. Angelina, with her warm olive skin, her long legs that never end, and her five-inch killer high heels is often very effective in distracting the "enemy" so that Sara and Miki get in their shots. Most generals don't wage war as effectively as these three manage to protect those they love.

I think this was a worthy first in a series book. It is always more difficult to set up a series and introduce the major players that will inhabit future novels. I think this book as done an OK job, although it was a bit of a challenge at first to keep all the players straight. I found, though, that making the effort paid off big-time later on in the book.

Lovers of Laurenston's writing will like this book. Lovers of paranormal romance will like this book. And all of us who treasure good writing and great humor and warm family and friendship will like this book a lot. I give this book a 4.25 out of 5 rating.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's Wednesday -- What's In The Ole Book Bag?

Well -- I finally found a graphic for this weekly column -- I wanted to find an actual book bag and found one that sort of says the way I feel. It has been a busy week in lots of ways and mostly I have been reading and reviewing Ellora's Cave ebooks for The Book Binge. Some of those reviews will show up on this blog either having not been used by The Book Binge or are posted after they run there. Why not get double good out of that writing? Or so it seems to me. I also have a stack of all kinds of other stuff that I have been reading and will need to get to, some are already published and some are new books that are due for publication in the near future.

Here are the Ellora's Cave ebooks I read this past seven days:
Black Seduction -- Lorie O'Clare
Bound By Sunlight -- KB Alan
Carnal Healing -- Virgbinia Reede
Dark Angel -- GA Hauser (started this last week and haven't finished it yet)
Dreamscaper Desires -- Lani Aames
Driven -- Jayne Rylon
Edge if Moonlight -- Stephanie Julian
Nice Girl Naughty -- Jan Springer

Other eBooks I have been reading:
Go Fetch -- Shelley Laurenston
Here Kitty Kitty -- Shelley Laurenston
Pack Territory/Were Chronicles 3 -- Crissy Smith

Books I am hoping to get to this coming week:
The Triumph of Deborah -- Eva Etzioni-Halevy (I really love stories about strong women)
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake -- Sarah MacLean (have seen reviews of this but
have not gotten around to reading it yet)
Eyes of Crow -- Jeri Smith-Ready

So there it is -- the efforts of one week and the hopes for another. I really do go through the bags and boxes of books in my room, and I just kind of gravitate toward one or the other. Not a very organized way to do things but that's just what has always worked for me. I have been pushing myself to read some new kinds of books and new themes. I read a BDSM ebook this past week -- it's not really "me" but then there's no hurt in reading something once. I have to say it wasn't as offensive as I had thought it would be. Maybe I'll review it for this blog down the road a piece . . .
Good reading to all in the days ahead -- and if you "nose" out any really great books, leave a note and share. Can anyone every have too many good books?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Man of Her Dreams -- by Paige Warren

Sienna Blake is a beautiful, Rubenesque, single gal who loves life, who has come to Southern California to be near the ocean and the sunshine, who loves walking on the beach, and who is almost too lonely to even think about it. She is convinced that the reason it has been so long since she has had a date -- eons since she has had a sexual encounter -- is due to her curves and generous proportions. Her best friend Robert, a straight man who truly loves her as a friend, tries to build up her self-esteem and confidence, and wants her to find someone who will really help her to be honest about the winsome and enticing qualities she could bring to any relationship.

Logan Drake is a multi-millionaire book store chain owner who lives just down the beach from Sienna and has been the object of her erotic dreams off and on for a long time. She is unaware that he is an almost-neighbor. She has a degree in library science, works as a reference librarian in the local library, and as such is a book nut. Because of this she has been in a number of Logan's book stores, everyone being decorated with a different international theme. On a moonlit night, after a lonely evening with a romance DVD and a half-gallon of chocolate ice cream, Sienna ventures onto the beach for a quiet walk, believing that she will most likely be the only one there. Wrong! Logan is walking toward her and their encounter is quiet because Sienna is tongue-tied and Logan is nearly struck dumb with her quiet beauty. He wants to see her again but walks away hoping for another future opportunity.

Friend Robert arranges to take Sienna to the latest Logan Drake story opening, completely unaware that she and Logan have met. When Logan saw Sienna in his new store, he takes the opportunity to ask her to dinner, and their romance is launched.

This is not you terribly complicated love story. Logan is well known throughout the So. California celebrity world, but he is so taken with Sienna's easy way, her body which is not the usual fashion model skin and bones, and her open honesty about her feelings and about life in general. It is obvious that she is not out to impress him, that her responses to him are genuine and not calculated to ensnare him. He can't believe his good fortune. This story is about the emergence of a truly beautiful woman who has been castigated and worn down by a society that values Size 2 and not real women. I love the part where Logan has the thought that he would love to smash his fist into the faces of the men Sienna has dated, the ones who have made her feel fat and inadequate.

This is a story that celebrates real women--all of us who spend most of our lives sorrowing over our normal proportions and striving to lose that illusive 10 pounds that is going to make us desirable and sexy. Sienna learns, as must we all, that there are lots of people who love us for ourselves. Robert, her dearest friend, is her protector, her confidant, the man who loves women and knows what men love, too. He is there to help her find the most flattering outfits for her dates, encourages her when her self-doubts nearly upend the relationship with Logan, realizes that he could easily become sexually attracted to Sienna if he didn't treasure their friendship as he does. What a neat guy!!

And I love Logan! He's a man who finds what he wants and is not influenced by the social perspective that has been so unkind to women like Sienna. He stands up for her, protects her from catty women who would like Logan for themselves and are hurtful to "the competition"--emotional predators who want Logan for money and prestige and the joy of the conquest. Logan will have none of it. I like to believe there are real people who are genuine and caring in this way.

This is a fun read and worth the time. It is romantic, fun, warm, with its share of those great erotic encounters that make us all glow. This is the kind of book I like to read curled up in my favorite chair and know that when I get done I can say to myself: "I really liked that book!" I give this book a 3.75 out of 5.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Review: The Soldier's Woman by Megan Ziese -- A Novella

In today's world environment where the United States is at war on two fronts in the world and where there are constant incidents of terrorism through the world, this story of The Soldier's Woman is a contemporary romance with a theme which resonates on many levels, not the least of which is the grief so many families are experiencing these days, as well as the sense of lives cut short and futures made null and void.

One such mother has sought to find a creative way to overcome the terrible loss of her only son. Having donated some of his sperm to a local sperm bank, Nigel's mother has found a career woman, a person of great personal and professional independence, who has agreed to be artificially inseminated with her son's sperm and bring her grandchildren into the world. Sera started her own business when she was 20 years old and it has now grown into a highly successful enterprise. She is ready for a family but is not ready for the involvement of a man in her life. The opportunity to be pregnant and to become a mother with only her and the grandmother to be involved with her babies sounds like the perfect circumstance and she is ready and willing to enter into this arrangement.

Nigel's mother is a caring and loving person who is delighted to be available to babysit while Sera is involved in running her business. In this way she is able to assuage her loss and fill her life with the grandchildren Nigel's death could have prevented from ever being born. There is only one problem: Nigel isn't dead, and after only three months of her pregnancy gone, Sera is introduced to the father of her babies (she is carrying twins). From this point on the story is somewhat a classic romance -- Sera is not open to Nigel's presence but understands that now that he is alive and back, he does have a right to be involved in her care and the planning of the babies' future. Nigel finds himself drawn to Sera but is not very successful in getting her to be more open to his bid for friendship, much less anything more romantic.

This is a cute story and a fun read, but I do think there is some deeper value here. There are probably many families who would love to be able to do just what Nigel's mother has done: make possible the continuation of his life and his presence in the world through the birth of his children. It is using contemporary science creatively, and as such, is a very gentle story of one woman's way of handling the death of her son. That he did not die is, of course, a classic romance novel complication, but Ziese is a very adept writer and handles the situation in what I think is a believable and realistic manner. I think this theme is an important one, and I would have liked the story to be a bit longer, more well-developed, and given the length which allows a greater friendship between Sera and Nigel before they became lovers. All in all I really liked it and will probably read it again. (I read some of these so fast that I almost have to go back and re-read in order to really get more out of the story.) All things considered, I give this novella a rating of 3.75 out of 5.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Bodacious Blogging Book Reviewers Award

Can you believe it??? I am the recipient of the Bodacious Blogging Book Reviewers Award. Many thanks to Tracy and Tracy's Place for thinking of me and being a regular visitor to my blog. What an honor! I am going to be nominating five recipients who I think have done a great job and who have been an inspiration to me.

For all you recipients: Here's how it works:

1.Leave a comment on the post you were nominated on.
2.Then copy and paste the post and add it to your own blog. Make a list of the last 5 books you read and pass the award on to 5 other bloggers.
3.Please also identify the blog from which you got the award and don't forget to tell them they have a blog award!

And NOW . . . this auspicious award goes to some of my favorite blogs . . .

Jill D. at Romance Rookie
Michele & Leslie at Arm Load of Books
Congratulations, my friends!! You have been an inspiration to me and I have learned and enjoyed as I have visited your blogs. Thanks for being there!!

The last five books that I have read are:

Review: Pack Enforcer by Crissy Smith -- A Short Story

This is another in Crissy Smith's series called "The Were Chronicles" and is a delightful short story. Since beginning to read paranormal romance about a year ago (and I never really thought I would like the vampire/shapeshifter/werewolf/were-whatever kind of stories), I have found that Smith's stories are as good as any I have read. They are definitely a part of the erotic genre, but then I have found that most werewolf-based novels & stories have lots of that content -- wolves really don't appear to have the sexual hang-ups that most humans do

Anyway, there have been killings of werewolf females throughout the country, and Emily Black is a werewolf female living on her own as she seeks to finish her university education. She is summoned by her Alpha to return to pack territory in the belief that she will not be targeted. So far no females have been attacked on their pack territory.

Cain is the pack enforcer and is dispatched to retrieve Emily from her distant home. There has been an attraction between Emily & Cain since long before Emily reached adulthood, and when she did, there was one encounter that almost got out of control. Since that time, Cain managed to ignore Emily who then managed to convince her Alpha to allow her to go off pack territory to go to the university. She assured him that if he called her home, she would be willing to come at his beck and call. So now the call has come and Cain, of all people, has been sent for her. It is an uncomfortable meeting, as both Cain and Emily are fully aware that the feelings they discovered in that encounter years before have not lessened to any degree. In spite of his outward dismissal of Emily, his actions still tell her that he is jeolous of any potential suitors for her favors.

Smith has crafted a tale that not only included the uneasy and bumpy progress of Emily & Cain's relationship, but there is also the conflict over who might be attacking Were females, a serious breach of Pack Law, not only in the human realm, but because all pack females are protected beyond any other pack members. To have this continued criminal activity is to engage all the packs throughout the country. Smith crams lots of action into this story to make it interesting almost to the nail-biting stage. This like all of her stories that I have read, have literary worth as well as emotional content to satisfy most readers.

There are lots of folks who do not necessarily like short stories. But I find that those which are well-written are just as satisfying as longer, more complicated novels. And as one who just likes to read--period--(I used to read the cereal boxes while I was eating breakfast) I like all forms of fiction, especially those that are written by authors who know how to tell a very good story.

So I recommend this as a worthy continuation of her Were Chronicles, and give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

Review: Set the Dark on Fire by Jill Sorenson

Shay Phillips know her way around Dark Canyon. She's handy with a gun and can track a wild animal with the best of them. It's humans who usually give her the most trouble. And with a hormonally charged teenage brother to raise-- and an admitted weakness for the wrong kind of man -- Shay's got more than her share of challenges. Then there's the matter of murder. As an expert on mountain lions, Shay is skeptical when a local prostitute turns up mauled without a drop of blood near the body.

Now, together with the town's newly arrived sheriff, Luke Meza, a Las Vegas city boy with his own dark secrets, Shay must search for a killer in a dangerous valley filled with angry ex-lovers, unfaithful spouses, and poisonous snakes. But when suspicion falls on her own brother, and her attraction to Luke rages into a full-on erotic affair, can Shay quell the fires inside herself long enough to uncover the truth?

This novel is set in the mountainous areas of San Diego County in Southern California, an area that boasts one of the largest number of Native American reservations in the United States. It is settled and civilized in one way, but there has always been a wildness to this area. The heroine of this novel is a person who has had every opportunity to go elsewhere, to take all that she has learned and her excellent classroom education and degrees to another location, but she was born and raised in this country and that is where she wants to stay. Shay's family situation is less that ideal: her father is somewhere in Texas, having left the family long ago. Her mother is dead, having hanged herself a number of years earlier. Only she and her 17 year old brother are left, and her brother appears to be caught in the throes of the growing-up crisis that seems to be especially difficult for teenage boys.

Now we meet the newly arrived interim sheriff, Luke Meza, who was born on the Pala Reservation, but because of his parent's divorce, was only on the reservation during his summer vacations, while living in Las Vegas with his mother and stepfather the remainder of the year. He has left Las Vegas after nearly losing his life as a law enforcement officer who has managed to really upset several highly placed and powerful mob bosses. Coming to Shay's small town seemed like a good idea. Luke finds out that small towns don't necessarily mean simple living. The death of the town prostitute--seemingly after being mauled by a lion -- along with all the interpersonal garbage that seems to swirl around the "persons of interest" make this story a mystery/suspense/romance novel that is capable of capturing the reader's interest and holding on to it until the finish. Shay is a rockem sockem, live-life-to-the-fullest kind of gal, whose occasional interaction with an old boyfriend (who happens to be married) are a source of shame for her. Yet she is determined that her place in the world gives her worth and she wants her brother to find his stride and move on to become the man she knows he is capable of becoming. Luke, on the other hand, is a man who has been judged unfairly all his life because he was deemed a "half breed" and has decided that being open and outgoing is a recipe for insult and rejection. So you have Shay and her willy-nilly ways butting up against Luke's rigidity, and you have the perverbial literary sky lighting up with the sparks. That they are incredibly attracted to each other seems, at times, to be besides the point.

This is not a simple boy-meets-girl story. Shay and Luke's relationship is complicated and about as comfortable as sitting on a cactus. Sorenson has also written the brother's story as a concurrent tale that adds to the tension--his attempt to come of age sexually, his confusion as he tries to build a relationship with his girl, his curious and unexplained and continuing resentment and anger with Shay. Now add in the investigation into the death of the town prostitute which eventually becomes a homicide investigation, and you have a riveting and engaging novel. The characters are so very realistic -- those of us who live in So. California and who have resided in areas near where this fictional town in located can testify that Sorenson has populated her novel with authentic characters, the kind you could easily expect to meet on any of the little towns that exist throughout this part of the country. They are iconic characters as well -- the sheriff's deputy who is sullen and resentful -- a real jerk in so many ways; Shay's old boyfriend who has steadfastly refused to grow up and either hurts or damages every person whose life he touches; the faithful single Hispanic dad, father of the girl Shay's brother has come to love, who is trying to raise his children to be good people and who is overwhelmed most of the time; Shay's friends who love her for who she is but want her to find some joy in her own personal existence. All are the kinds of people one would find in almost any Western town.

This is a very good book -- multi-layered in its plot and full of interesting people. There are twists and turns that are surprising and in sufficent quantity to keep any ready happy. It will be a book that I believe most readers will find worth the time and effort. Sorenson is a very good writer and her work deserves our attention. I give this book a rating of 4.50 out of 5.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review: Second to None by Ryannon Byrd -- A Novella

For eight long years, Jason Hawkes had bided his time, waiting for the chance to snare Remy Frost for his own. When fate finally delivers a panting, wide-eyed Remy right into his arms, he intends to never let her go. His objective: to convince the wary redhead that he wants her forever. And lucky for Remy, this ex-soldier is ready to play "down and dirty" to get what he wants.

The fact that this story is a novella could be off-putting for some, but I have been reading a number of them recently, many from Ellora's Cave Publications, and this is true to their genre in that it is a sizzle, sizzle, sizzle kind of story.

Remy was only 19 years old when Jason Hawkes first entered her life. Jason was best friends with Remy's brother, Connor, and was several years into his military career. As a Special Ops, undercover kind of soldier, he was out of contact with his family and friends for long periods and therefore felt that in spite of his deep reaction and, actually almost instant love, for Remy, he was not free to begin a relationship with her or to encourage her attraction to him. After one blistering kiss, he literally walked out of her life, with no further contact for a year.

Remy was shattered by this treatment which appeared to be the premier "brush-off" and in the few encounters they had in the next eight years, Jason's apparent disinterest convinced her that her hope for any future between them was unrealistic.

Now, Jason and Connor have completed their military service and are running a security business. For ten months Jason has been trying to re-ignite the almost still-born contact between him and Remy, but she has successfully stymied his efforts and avoided nearly every opportunity for encounter. Until . . . her car breaks down near the bar where she knows her brother hangs out, and she has to run to find him, late at night, in a part of town that is not necessarily where a single woman wants to be found alone. As she races into the bar, she literally crashes into Jason Hawkes who is built like the side of a brick silo, and as he keeps her from falling by wrapping his arms completely around her small frame, he literally refuses to let her go until somehow they talk, yell, bicker, angrily exchange feelings and words so they can get past the huge divide that has grown up between them.

This is a simple plot and not many characters. But the author is very good at what she does and she writes a story that is not only engaging in the telling, but I think she has managed an emotional hook as well. Somehow you begin to feel that Jason is a man who tried to do the right thing and yet it just didn't turn out the way he hoped. He knows it is time now to make his move -- he is now a civilian and ready to settle down, and Remy is finished with her college and has developed a business of her own as a graphic artist. Yet the hurt and the anger stand between them and as you proceed through this story, one cannot help but begin routing for these two -- that somehow they can get through all the fears and frustrations.

I found this to be a fun read and one that was thoroughly enjoyable. Lots of skin and stuff -- of course -- but there is love here and genuine hoping for the kind of bonding that keeps two people not only in love but loving their lives together. Jason is an alpha male to the core, but he is not afraid to be vulnerable if it means that Remy can accept his love and his need for her in his life on a "forever" basis. Remy is a go-getter, but she is a woman who, though she has tried to move on with her life, has never found a way to expunge Jason from her heart. Is this not the quintessential love story? I think so, and I think it the reason that such a simple plot works. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's in the Ole Book Bag this Wednesday?

Hard to believe it is Wednesday again already and as always I am surrounded with print books as well as a plethora of eBooks that I am reading and reviewing for The Book Binge. As always it is a fun variety -- paranormal, erotica, historical . . . whatever anyone throughs through the door, and to make matters even more interesting, I also brought home another bag 0' books from my daughter. Must be the "mother's day" effect. BTW, hope all you moms had a great day this past Sunday and were able to spend some quality time with some, if not all, your offspring. Two of mine are way far away in Missouri and Alabama, but it was a good day and I heard from almost all my grandkids as well. So here's what got read this past week:

From Ellora's Cave (for the Book Binge)
Beautiful Stranger by Katalina Leon
First Knight by Delilah Devlin
Hot on Her Tail by Ruth D. Kerce
Kidnapping the Groom by Desiree Holt & Allie Standifer
Roped and Branded by KyAn Waters
Rough Edges by Ashlynn Pierce
Undercover Heat by Judy Mays

Also some other shorts:
Pack Enforcer by Crissy Smith
Man of Her Dreams by Paige Warren
Exposed by Megan Ziese
Coming Back by M. King
The Homecoming by Patricia Pellicane
Soldier's Woman by Megan Zeise

Some longer ebooks:
Pack Challenge by Shelley Laurenston
Summer Storm by Marilyn Lee

Actual Print Books:
Velvet Haven by Sophie Renwick (The Book Binge)
Set The Dark On Fire by Jill Sorenson
Sinful Surrender by Beverley Kendall

Soooooo . . . it has been pretty much an eBook week. Even with hubby pretty much recovered from the heart surgery, there are still doctor visits and waiting rooms which then brings our the ole eReader. Hope you are all enjoying the coming of Spring, all the wonderful books that are coming off the press, as well as tons and tons of wonderful books already "out there" that make all our eyes light up and our perverbial literary mouths water.

Have a wonderful week and may your days be filled with satisfying reads.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review: The Truth About Lord Stoneville -- by Sabrina Jeffries

In the two decades since the death of his parents, Oliver Sharpe, Marquess of Stoneville, has survived the scandal surrounding that fateful night by living as an unrepentant rakehell. And with his grandmother vowing to disinherit him if he doesn't settle down and wed, he plans to fulfill the bargain in true Sharpe stylle--by bringing home a fake fiancee from a brothel! But his scheme is derailed when he rescues an American beauty in a bad situation instead. Maria Butterfield and her cousin are seeking the whereabouts of her erstwhile fiance who left Massachusetts a number of months ago and has been missing, no word of his comings or goings, and no answers to her letters. This, however, does not stop Oliver from getting what he wants: her, in his bed. His rebellious masquerade may call his grandmother's bluff, but it's soon made all too clear that he is in danger of falling in love--a love that tempts him to be a hellion no more.

Oliver Sharpe was a gentle, caring, hurting, wounded man who had convinced himself that he was a rogue like his profligate father, who had no conscience, no morals, no honor, and who was unable to either give or receive love. Yet his deep attachment to his grandmother, Mrs Hetty Plumtree, widow and owner of Plumtree Brewery, as well has his constant caring and oversight of his four siblings gave the lie to those convictions that Oliver used to keep distance between himself and any other human beings. He drank and wenched his way through the weeks and years until his grandmother said "Enough!!" and essentially gave all five of the Sharpe siblings the glad and happy word that their life of ease was to end in twelve months if all five of them were not married and on their way to being settled with spouse, children, hearth, and home. Not only would they all have to do without her financial support, they would all end up at Halstead Hall, the family estate, which could hardly support itself, much less the five of them.

So Oliver begins his search for a whore who would be paid to be his fake fiancee for two weeks. It was his hope that he would so upset his grandmother that she would abandon her edict. In a separate but very humorous set of circumstances, Maria Butterfield and her cousin Frederick Dunse (can you even believe that name?) find themselves in dire circumstances, facing hard time for thievery unless the Marquess of Stoneville intercedes. He is not prepared to do this (and all this action takes place in his favorite brothel--how Maria and Frederick get there is a hoot) unless Maria agrees to play the part of the fake fiancee. She has no choice but to agree, and he finds her a dreadful dress, bought, no doubt, from one of the hookers, and he takes her home to introduce her as his dearly beloved to his grandma and all the family. Now this particular grandmother is not as harmless as she looks. She is clever and conniving (in the best possible sense of the word) and determined not only to bring Oliver to his marital knees, but to also find a woman who will begin to believe in him and help him move past the horror that has changed him from a dutiful son at age 16 to the rogue he is now. The progress of this novel as both the grandmother and Oliver's siblings begin to recognize the growing attachment between Oliver and Maria is funny, grand, and an excessively good read.

Jeffries has written some wonderful books, and this is the beginning of a series about each of these five siblings. She has used her considerable writing skills to create the character of Oliver in poignant language, fleshing him out to be a person who wants desperately to believe in himself but he is so afraid to do so. After all, didn't his own mother proclaim that he was a disgrace to the family? Maria is a woman to make all American women proud, especially if one understands the world in which she was raised. The reader will encounter each of these people throughout the story and at the end will have a wonderful sense of family that is deep, broad, generous and caring. The missing fiancee wafts in and out, but throughout there are some surprises with some twists and turns that keep the reader's interest and propel one on to the next page. I know that at the end of this story I was quite anxious to read the few pages that were the teaser for Lord Jarrett's story, the next novel in this series.

This is a grand historical romance in the truest sense of the word and any lover of this genre will come to appreciate the story, the characters, and the historical surroundings that give this novel its depth and context. And Jeffries' fans will find this a worthy addition to her growing body of work.

I give this book a rating of 4.75 out of 5.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wednesday at The Ole Book Place -- What's in the Ole Book Bag?

I have missed this Wednesday post for a couple of weeks -- just like a blogging "newbie" to not yet be in the routine. Also had some upheavals at my house (see past posts) so am just now getting back into the swing of things. This past week as been quite a reading week -- just wanted to be sure I caught up with stuff for The Book Binge reviews -- quite a stack of books waiting for consideration -- as well as some that I have garnered at the bookstore and from my daughter's book shelf. She is the perverbial "Fountain of Pleasure" when it comes to satisfying my constant need and desire for more books. My hubby was really delighted to see the bag o'books I returned to her on Monday, but his face dropped visibly when he recognized that the stack in our bedroom was still of considerable size. Oh well . . . "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, with books or no books . . ." The marriage journey can be fraught with "ups and downs" don't you know!

I have listed just some of the books I have read in the past few days.

Ravishing in Red -- Madeline Hunter (for The Book Binge review which has now been posted)
Provocative in Pearls -- Madeline Hunter (another Book Binge review project)
Desire Me -- Robyn DeHart (a Book Binge book not yet reviewed -- will get that done soon)
Sons of Destiny -- Jean Johnson -- Books 4 through 8
Master of the Night -- Angela Knight -- books 3-5
Passionate Pleasures -- Bertrice Small (for The Book Binge Review)
The Dark Tide -- Josh Lanyon (review to come soon on this blog)

I've just started Velvet Haven -- Sophie Renwick
Brighter Than The Sun -- Julia Quinn
Everything And The Moon -- Julia Quinn
Set The Dark on Fire -- Jull Sorenson
Three Alarm Tenant -- Charlotte McClain
Cry of the Wolf -- Christine Warren

So it appears that I will have good stuff to read for a few days. Stop back by -- let me know what your nose is sniffing out book-wise. Always delighted to have you visit . . .

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Key -- by Lynsay Sands -- A Review

Iliana Wildwood would do anything to escape from the depraved baron who sought her lands -- including marrying a barbarian. Fleeing to the Highlands, Iliana was wedded to Duncan, lair of Dunbar Castle. Certainly there was something about the virile warrior that made her weak in the knees--but something stank in the state of Scotland, and Iliana would not trust anyone until she' done something about it.

Determined therefore to resist her bandsome husband, Iliana found a way to keep her secrets safe. Employing a chastity belt, the spirited beauty managed to thwart the thane's advances. But then her husband changed his tactics and began a sensual assault that sent her intentions up in smoke. And as the air cleared, Iliana found that it had been her heart she had locked away, and that this stubborn Scot had finally found . . . The Key.

There are few of us today that would consider going too many days without a shower or bath, and often I have thought that most people who revere the ancient historical contexts of romantic fiction forget that bathing was not even thought of as a common activity in the "olden days." Most people are unaware that the reason that June is Wedding Month is because in the Dark & Middle Ages, this was the occasion for the second bath of the year. The groom and bride smelled relatively clean for a while.

So it goes with our hero and heroine, a prim and proper English lady who has agreed to marry a Scottish laird in order to escape from her stepfather, his greed for her inheritance, and abusive ways. However, she finds that her bridegroom is dirty and smells to high heaven, and refuses to bathe before his scheduled July bath time. So it has always been and so it will be. Iliana steadfastly refuses to allow her bridegroom anywhere near her until he is not nearly so pungent, and encases herself in a chastity belt, hiding the key (in plain sight, don't you know), and proceeds to let everyone think that the marriage has been consummated. Her father-in-law adores her (he later falls in lust and love with Iliana's mother), the household comes to love her, and her frustrated husband rants and raves because of his wife's stubborn withholding of his conjugal rights.

It is a funny story in many ways but there is some trouble afoot with political difficulties and greedy landowners. There is tenderness and caring, surprising respect for women in this laird's house, and in many ways and on many levels Iliana brings this family alive and back together. She is a woman of strong temperament who knows her own mind, creative, inventive, and able to bring out the best in those around her. She ultimately earns the respect of her whole household, but the budding relationship with her husband is the crux of the story and is truly the delight of this tale.

Lynsay Sands is a very good writer and she does another great job here. Well written, great historical research, flamboyant and unique characters -- what's not to like? I give this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sons of Destiny -- The Series -- by Jean Johnson

Needless to say, this is a "playing catch-up" week after having my hubby's health crisis last week and having to keep an eye on his recovery this week. But I did finish the Jean Johnson series as well as do about four or five reviews for The Book Binge, some of these books I just read and some reviews I hadn't written yet. So instead of doing eight reviews for this series I am just going to do a synopsis of each book. The Series is built around a family of brothers -- four sets of twins, none of them identical as far as I can tell, who are all mages but who have been exiled from their own country because of a 1,000 year old prophecy that would tie them to a great disaster that would occur if the oldest brother were to marry. Because he is fearful of marrying and all women have been prohibited from coming to the island on penalty of death, none of the brothers hold any hope for a happy future. Thus they were exiled on an island with minimal resources, left to die (or so their enemies hoped), without any women or other family. The stories are the accounts of how each brother fulfilled his destiny and the prophesy.

Book 1 -- The Sword: Saber, the oldest of the brothers, is known for his swordsmanship as well as his magical crafting of weapons. He is fearful of marrying because of the prophesied disaster that is believed will envelope the entire nation and homeland. However, in the midst of this solitary life an
American, Kelly Doyle, literally drops out of the sky. (Actually, the 8th brother who has been given the post of Matchmaker in the prophesy has found her and brought her to their island of Nighfall. The rockem sockem relationship that grows up between this formidable eldest son and the intrepid, brash, "no one is going to tell me what to do" American girl is funny and a delightful romance.
Book 2 -- Wolf: Saber's twin brother, Wolfer, is tall, muscular, a shape shifter, and one who moves about the island more in his wolf shape than any other although he is also a very good horse. He is hungry for his own mate -- a girl he met during his childhood and about whom he dreams. Little does he know that she has managed to leave the virtual enslavement of her family in order to come to Nightfall Island. This big, tall, muscular giant is as gentle as can be and adores Alys, in fact he has always been in love with her. This is a gentle and delightful romance between two gentle and caring people.

Book 3 -- The Master: Dominor, third born and oldest of the second set of twins is one of the most powerful mages in the family, but he is kidnapped by an invading army who is seeking to expand their empire and wants to take over Nightfall Island. He is taken to their country, sold as a slave, and is purchased by one of their mages, Serina who is Guardian of the Fountain, and who desires a man who can assist her to rectify an 800 year old magic "accident" that requires that they conceive a magic child together. Serina and Dominor muddle along together until they do indeed discover their deep affection for each other, conceive their child at the appropriate time (although Dominor does not realize that is his task until almost the last minute), and end up back on Nightfall Island. This is kind of an odd story, but several of the characters will show up in future books.

Book 4 -- The Song: Evanor, Dominor's twin, has been gifted with a magic voice, one which requires no amplification and to which his magic is tied. He is also the Lord Chamberlain of the new Kingdom of Nightfall and takes his household responsibilities very seriously. However, in the attack that resulted in his twin's abduction, Evanor lost his voice and thus, his magic. Mariel, a healer in the land where Dominor was taken and a surrogate sister to Serina, agrees to come to the Nighfall Island as Healer, and to attempt to regenerate Evanor's vocal chords. She brings her son with her and this couple ultimately come together to form the first complete family on the Island in over 200 years. It is a delightful story -- gentle, quiet, but sensual and caring.

Book 5-- The Cat: Two sisters who have been hounded and whose lives have been threatened by mages in their homeland are shipwrecked and ultimately land on Nightfall Island. As the series goes, this is wife number 5 & 6. However, this book is about the coupling of Trevan and Mara. Trevan is also a shifter -- he calls himself a "spell-shifter". Mara is a true shapeshifter, a prickly and snooty personality, a princess in her homeland who has run into exile to protect her sister. She ultimately finds a home in Nightfall, but her relationship with Trevan is fraught with difficulties, and this lady has trust issues. She resists Trevan's adv advances so that he shifts to a large, beautiful tabby cat who invades her private rooms and even sleeps in that shape with her. There is a lot to like in this book.

Book 6 -- The Storm: Trevan's twin Rydan is perhaps the "darkest" character in the family. An empath that struggles to handle the emotions of others as well as his own, he has separated himself from his brothers by sleeping when they are awake and doing his magical crafts during the night hours. Mara's sister Rora is drawn to this recluse as she, too, is an empath and comes to understand the pain that is a part of Rydan's everyday life. The first part of this book is nearly the same as the previous one, only from the other sister's point of view. I did not like that and skimmed a great deal of it. I thought their story was worthy of more creativity. Yet the gentle insistence of Rora in refusing to allow Rydan to remain "hidden" is a lovely romance and there are some surprises here as well.

Book 7 -- The Flame: The fourth and final set of twins is made up of Koranen and Morganen. Koranen is a Pyromancer, a mage that can produce fire, but who has not been able to form any relationship with a woman because his internal temperature rises when he becomes passionate to the point that he blisters the skin of his partner. He knows that his six older brothers have now found their mates and he knows that the only humans with whom he can mate are Aquamancers--those who can pull water from the atmosphere and from objects around them. Four single women come from an undersea city, knowing that they will possibly be courted by Koranen. This is the closest to "internet dating" these ancients come, but it is really sort of a fun book. There are lots of other things going on in this "kingdom" and sometimes they take over the story, but it is good to know that Koranen and his oddball mate find each other under very unusual and surprising circumstances.

Book 8 -- The Mage: The youngest son, Morganen, has been charged with finding mates for all his brothers before he can find his own bride. However, for months he has been in touch with Queen Kelly's best friend, Hope, and after waiting so long, he is able to bring her to Nightfall Island. There are some surprises here, not the least of which is a secret that Hope has not revealed until she arrives. Morg is a powerful mage and his brothers are not even aware of how powerful he really is. But he is kind and caring, patiently assisting his brothers toward their own happiness as he waits for his day.

I enjoyed the series as a whole, but I have to admit to skimming quite a bit toward the last. I think each book had some very good writing displayed and the ideas were quite inventive, but the later books got into some political and military stuff that just detracted from the personal stories to a greater degree that I liked. Personal preference, I am sure, but I didn't enjoy some of the books as much as others. Queen Kelly was a kick! She used her American ingenuity and her knowledge of technology to bring some inventive things into this alternate universe. She insisted on equality, courtesy, and good manners. She was a person who stood up for what was right, who ruled with power and authority even though initially she was the only person on the island who had no magical power. She had a very hard time giving up chocolate. All these brothers struck me as being "gentle giants" in a way, all of whom have had to learn to be patient under difficult circumstances and who have had to develop some fairly awesome coping skills.
All in all, these were good stories, although some would have not read the entire series. I tend to just "keep on keeping on." Even as as much as I liked some of the books, I give the series a rating of 3.75 out of 5.