Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: Lover Mine by J. R. Ward

Well, would you believe . . . J. R. Ward has done it again . . . given us one more of those absolutely splendiforous novels of the vampire Brotherhood that has kept fantasy/vampire literature fans enthralled through the seven previous novels. And unlike some other series that are perfectly good--great, in fact, each of these novels is really substantive both in length and in content. This latest addition to the saga is no different--it not only expands and enlarges John Matthew's story, but it also recaps and re-introduces some of the other Brothers so that this book could be a stand-alone novel. I have read all the others and have been waiting for this book for quite some time. I have to say, right up front, that I was not disappointed.

The secret is out . . . Darius is back, living again through John Matthew who thinks of Darius as his father. He is the adopted son of Tohrment, who was taken under Darius' wing when he was a boy. We learn of this history as a secondary, sort of back story in the form of a diary that John Matthew is reading. Tohr is still recovering from the traumatic death of his mate, a death that certainly had my jaw dropping and one that kept Tohr out of the story lines for several novels. Here he is in the process of rebuilding his strength in order to once again take his place with the Brotherhood. John Matthew is also still dealing with his anger and frustration left alone after the death of his adopted mother--a death that he believes drove Tohr to abandon him. Together with his two best friends and guards, John Matthew is seeking some kind of peace after the disappearance of Xhex, former assassin/guard for Revhenge and a woman who has captured his heart, a woman who is about as easy to love as a porcupine.

This is a complicated story that is made even more involved as it tells Darius and Tohrment's story in the diary while also expanding the relationship between Blaylok and Qhinn, a best-friend kind of friendship that is gradually becoming more and more difficult to maintain as Blay's love and attraction to Qhinn becomes more apparent along with Qhinn's unwillingness to own up to reciprocating Blay's love. I hope their story is on the way. Meanwhile, Xhex is missing, having been abducted by John's old enemy, Lash, a young man who was changed into a Lesser by the Omega, the Prince of hell and who is now seeking to destroy the Brothers however he may, John Matthew especially.

J. R. Ward certainly has her own style and it is full of raunchy language and overt sexuality. Yet in the midst of all that is the tenderness of John's desire to protect and nurture a woman who has never known what it was to feel accepted for who she is. John understands her sense of being outside looking in, as he has felt that way from the beginning. However, every time it appears he is getting close to her, Xhex finds a way to shuck him like a bad skin and leave him hurting. Even so, he has come to believe she is his mate and will bring her back from wherever she may be, if only to know that she is alive.

This book is filled with the strong and noble as well as those who live to perpetrate evil on others. And while it is filled with questions that don't appear to have any answers, it also answers questions that have been posed in the previous books. It even includes more of the story of the Scribe Virgin and the uneasy relationship between Her and the Chosen who live to serve the Brotherhood. There are twists and turns that have come to be the hallmark of Ward's writing and there are surprises galore. There were a few "jaw-droppers" in this story, just as was the case in almost every one of the previous books.

So Ward fans, this is your kind of book. And even as you are coming to the end of this novel I can guarantee that you will be looking forward to the next. I think this is one of the best in the series.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: Coyote's Mate by Lora Leigh

Anya Kobrin was only sixteen when she first came to Del-Rey Delgado--the genetically altered rebel known as the Coyote Ghost. For six years they plotted to rescue Coyote women being held in Anya's father's laboratory. As Anya grew into a woman, she and Del-Rey grew close, but on the day of the rescue he broke his promise and shot her father.
Filled with rage over this betrayal, Anya discovers an even stronger emotion is consuming her mind and body--the animalistic desire known as Mating Heat. Though Del-Rey feels it with the same intensity, Anya questions whether she can forgive him and trust him again. As they stealthily maneuver to bring the freed Breeds to safety, one question remains supreme: Can Anya and Del-Rey survive their own heat?
I really don't know what Lora Leigh does to make these Breeds novels so enticing, but they just keep on grabbing our attention and shoving our reading noses into these pages. In so many ways the plots are not really different--a Breed male finds his mate--she may or may not be a Breed herself--there are barriers of one sort or another to their mating--they gradually resolve these barriers and their feelings--they live happily (or sort of happily) ever after. Yet, in spite of the plot similarity, these stories seem to have an intrinsic life of their own that makes each one just different enough that they are enjoyable and continually interesting.
Certainly, Del-Rey is just a rough and tumble guy that is very set in his ways, has some rather curious attitudes toward his animal breed and the way his kind are allowed to act, and he has a very checkered moral code that Anya can't seem to get past and which she constantly challenges. That he is "taken" with her from the very first is evident. That he has his own ideas of how this particular rescue is to be worked out--one that is quite different from Anya's--is also evident. His reasons for doing things seem quite convoluted at times. And those reasons and those actions continue to erect barriers between him and Anya, barriers that are so significant that for the first time ever, a mate has requested Breed Council permission to live officially apart from her mate. Boy, are there trust issues between these two!!
I think this story is exactly what it advertises: the story of Coyote's mate, Anya. It is the chronicle, in a sense, of her growth into herself, her acceptance of their differences, her willingness to love him even when he hurts her down to the core by denying their mate status, his denial of her leadership capabilities and her organizational genius, as well as her never-dying hope that they can be equals in leading their pack. Yet Coyote seems unable to look beyond his limited understanding of what a Coya really can be, all in the mistaken idea that by denying her place at his side he is protecting her. Only when her life is truly in danger, not only from their common enemies but from his own pack members does he recognize that he must grow as well.
I think this is a very emotional story and I found myself really becoming involved with Anya and her anxieties and hurts. To have her put down in such a way at one point was terribly hurtful and I admit that I felt that hurt in my own gut. None of us like to feel that the person we love with all our hearts doesn't share that level of respect that will enable that love to survive. It came across very overtly in this story.
So if you have read some of Leigh's Breeds series but not this book, please get a copy at your bookstore or library. It is worth the time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Comment: Getting "Stuck" on Certain Authors

Just a quick few lines that I have been pondering for some time.

I think we all get stuck on certain authors. I was never more aware of this than the last trip I made to our local Used Book Store in Palmdale, CA -- The Little Book Bug Bookstore -- when I was looking for some books by my usual favorite authors. Guess what: they weren't there. They are favorite authors of lots of other people, and as I stood by those shelves looking at the other books being offered, I became aware of how limited my "favorite author" list really was.

I know I definitely have my literary comfort zones. There are just some kinds of books I don't like nearly as well as others. But by virtue of my reviewing hobby, I have read sci-fi (which I would never have chosen on my own) and lots of paranormal romance (which has gradually become more and more a favorite of mine) and I see my tastes changing and my comfort zones expanding. Now that has not always been an easy transition. Expanding comfort zones is sort of like doing a new exercise: you use muscles you had forgotten you had. Mental expansion is very much like that, and I don't enjoy it anymore than the next person. But I have learned that not to allow new ideas and new ways of enjoying the world of fiction is to miss out on so much creativity that is absolutely mind-boggling in its scope and beauty.

Those of us who review and have book blogs certainly have to appreciate the creativity of the authors whose books we read. And I think we have to be creative in expressing our feelings about those books. I have come to believe that if I don't keep on opening myself to new genres and greater exposure to some kinds of books I have previously avoided, then I limit my own ability to be creative. I have to admit that I have read some books that have been very oblique in their message. As I try to get my mind around what their story is relating, I find that mental stretching very satisfying. And at my age, the ability to do any kind of stretching is a victory.

So here is a question I am posing: How have each of us expanded our literary comfort zones in the past months or years?

I would love to hear your responses.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: Now and Forever A Love Story by Jean C. Joachim

This is the inaugural fictional work of Ms Joachim who is a published author in the non-fiction field. It is a story of a hurting, grieving young woman who has lost her best friend and fiance in the war in the Middle East. He had been her friend and support during the dark days after her parents' death when she was sixteen. Their friendship had grown into love and they were planning to be married after this final deployment overseas, a tour of duty from which he never returned.
Now Callie Richards is 26 years old, having grieved for two long and lonely years, and she has decided that she needs to complete her post-graduate education at a New York university. Taking part of the insurance money she had received from Kyle's estate, she embarks on what she hopes will be a new start in her life. She is really broke, barely has enough money to live and only if she misses a few meals during the week. She takes a part-time job in the university's administrative office where she comes in contact with the two academic deans and the president of the school. One of those deans is Mac Caldwell, a 34-year-old divorced father of a toddler who is also lonely and discouraged about the sad state of things with his personal life.

Mac's first marriage had occurred when his girlfriend became pregnant and Mac felt compelled to marry her. Now they are divorced and she is difficult to deal with over the custody issues. She has taken to dropping off their son a day early, causing considerable difficulty for Mac with his work load, academic appointments, and class schedule. Callie offers to babysit in light of her former work experience in daycare centers and private babysitting. When this situation becomes a weekly thing, Mac and Callie become friends and eventually lovers.

It is now that Callie faces the need to let Kyle go and move on, and in Mac she believes she has found the man who can fill her heart and her life. Mac is a man who finds it difficult to express his feelings but he comes to know that Callie is a woman who has depth, maturity, and a compassionate heart. He knows that no matter what her former relationships may have been, he cannot even imagine his life without her. Her relationship with his son is also evidence of her ability to open her heart to anyone, even a child who is not her own.

This is a very nice novel that is really the "biography" of a relationship, one that began with pain and disappointment for both Callie and Mac but which blossomed into passion and love. It is also a novel that has a suspense strand as Callie and Mac both get involved in trying to solve the mystery of who is bringing drugs onto the campus. There are some surprises--actually big surprises--in the resolution of this mystery. There are definitely some significant stresses on Callie and Mac's marriage that involve the ex-wife, custody issues over Mac's son, some residual concerns on Mac's part over Callie's former love, the stress of Callie's class projects as she seeks to finish her master's degree, and the pressure that is upon Mac to fulfill his administrative responsbilities; but that is all part of this story of a relationship. Only in fairy tales do love relationships go smoothly. It is also a story of how both Callie and Mac must make some important personal decisions about how they will open themselves to one another, grow in their relationship, and allow room for each to be who they are. There is kindness, friendship, genuine caring and authentic loving here--the kind that is capable of withstanding the ups and downs that two people must endure as they are finding that easy place with one another.

I liked the people in this story--other than the bad guy's, of course. They were real and could have easily inhabited a modern university. They sounded very much like people we all know. Certainly the circle of support they formed around Callie as she was growing into her role as Mac's wife -- the Dean's wife role -- was quite profound. They weren't "other-worldly" but were the kind of friends and supporters we would all like to have.

This is the kind of love story that I like to read on a cool winter night here in So. California, wrapped in my grandmother's afghan and sitting in front of the fire. It is full of warm fuzzies and good feelings and may even remind some of us of our own experiences. That, IMHO, is a really good read. I give this novel a 4 out of 5 rating.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: Second Chance Brides by Vicki McDonough

This is a delightful historical novel set in the tiny town of Lookout, Texas, about 20 years after the Civil War. It was a time when the expansion of the American West was taking its toll on women and children to a far greater extent than on men. It was a the time of the mail-order bride, and the two main characters in this novel were just that, having been wooed into coming to Texas but under false pretenses. But the man they understood was to be their husband (neither woman knew about the other initially) was now going to marry his long-time love. The Corbett brothers had written and entices Leah and Shannon to Lookout, believing that this would push their cousin Luke into finally marrying. Now these women were stranded with no job and no marriage prospects, being supported by the Corbetts until they could find husbands or move on.

Leah was more than willing to leave Missouri after learning that her father had "sold" her to an elderly man. She had been involved in helping her mother raise her 10 siblings, being the oldest, and she just had to get away.

Shannon was a lovely Irish girl who had come to America with her parents because this was her father's dream. Not long after arriving both her parents had dies in one of the 19th century influenza epidemics. She was alone, without any family in a foreign country, and having a home, a husband, and possibly children of her own was something she had long desired. Perhaps this was her opportunity.

This story centers around the efforts of each of these women to move on with their lives. Shannon secures a job with the very brothers who brought her to Texas, tending to their office and doing their bookkeeping. Yet she is so lonely and the man with whom she has fallen in love doesn't appear to return her affection. She must decide whether she will accept someone else's offer of marriage or go elsewhere, perhaps to Dallas.

Leah is at her wits end. Unlike Shannon she has no job and there doesn't appear to be any job prospects for her in Lookout. She is attracted to the local livery owner, but is this the direction her life should take? Even when it appears that this is the one with whom she will spend the rest of her days, true love definitely doesn't run smooth.

This is a beautiful love story for each of these women, but each woman's experience is marked by worry over the future, courage to face the unknown, and finally hope. Each has a personal faith that is the foundation of their lives which sustains them through some very tough times. Were it not for their faith and their belief that God had brought them to Lookout for a reason, each would have been awash in depression and discouragement. It is a story of friendship and caring, community and sharing in the difficult days of the Old West. In the midst of fire, injury, sickness, and tornadoes, the people of that time struggled and carved out a life for themselves. It embraces the values of live that are seen as the bedrock of the American culture. There is also a lovely side story that involves the daughter of the local marshall, her adventures with her friends, and the lessons she learns through those experiences.

This is a gentle story that is taken right out of the pages of the history books. Lovers of romance fiction and especially of the Old West will especially like this novel. All in all, I think it was a very good read and one that quite enjoyable. I am going to be sure and get this book for my granddaughter. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Do Over by Mari Carr

Oh my, oh my, get out your hankies on this one! This is a very emotional novel that will warm your heart, stroke your libido, and keep you enthralled. Now I have to own up to being a confirmed Mari Carr fan and have read and reviewed a number of her books, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to read this one. I had read the publisher's blurb so was somewhat prepared for the gist of the story. I was not prepared for how much it would affect me or how much I would relate to this beautiful story.

Consider a couple now having been married for 25 years, their children now both in college, and they have made a good life together. They have raised their kids, they are financially settled and are facing their coming years together. Only the scenario has changed. They are very used to one another and while they are still in love and are still lovers, they have settled into a predictable pattern in their relationship. They know each other very well.

Now they are coming up that Silver Anniversary celebration and they are not exactly floating in cash--two children in college is definitely a drain on the family resources. But surprise, surprise--this husband has some creativity in his bones and he has chosen to demonstrate it on this occasion. Together with an album filled with pictures that chronicle their romantic history--from their first date to the present--they re-visit their old haunts and relive each occasion that was important in their courtship and marriage. There are some surprises along the way and those surprises introduce them to some previously undiscovered depths to their passion and their love for one another.

This book is filled with memories, joy and remembrance, celebrating the past and the present, loving and passion, discoveries that tap into long hidden urges that give their relationship new life and meaning. It is the kind of story that taps into our own romantic memories, but reminds the reader that a trip down memory lane doesn't necessarily mean the same ole, same old. It can be the start of something that is new and delightful in a relationship that has been built successfully on authentic regard, friendship and love, but which needs to expand and branch out into new ways of expressing that love.

I would further comment that this is not just what some would call "chick-lit." It is a look at a man who has been hard-working all his life, a man's man in the truest sense, who loves his wife and kids, who seeks to the best he can be at his craft, but who has not usually taken the time and made the effort to express his deepest thoughts. In the letters Troy has written to Faith (that accompany each picture in their memory album) he has expressed his feelings in a way that would make any man proud and any woman delighted to receive. Together this couple could be a model for those who are in a relationship that is truly loving and enduring but needs to be jump-started into new vistas of romantic discovery.

So get out your book-buying budget and tweak those numbers so you can buy this book. I don't think you will be disappointed. (You might want to buy an extra box of tissues as well.) I give this book a rating of 5 out of 5.

This book was released 4 October 2010/

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: Dawn's Awakening by Lora Leigh

The runt of the Council lab Breeds, Dawn Daniels has endured years of torture by her Pride brother and the Council soldiers. Finally freed from her torment, she is now a Breed Enforcer in control of her own life. Then she is assigned to protect the one man who is destined to be her mate--and realizes it's far too easy to lose total control.

One of the Breeds'
most important supporters, Seth Lawrence has spent years trying to forget Dawn, knowing that her lost innocence has made it impossible for her to get close to anyone. But suddenly neither of them can find the strength to fight the overwhelming passion between them. At least, until the most brutal tormenter from Dawn's past reappears and threatens to destroy their newfound love--and their lives.

This is Book #14 in Lora Leigh's Breeds Series, and like all the preceeding books is full of pathos, edgey with emotion and remembered pain, and tons and tons of political, military, and emotional conflict. Dawn's "brother", Callan Lyons has watched over her since his earliest days of knowing Dawn. He had been transferred to her Council lab and had immediately taken this "runt" of the Breeds under his wing. After they escaped and were able to establish Sanctuary as a safe haven for the feline breeds, Callan did all he could to insulate Dawn from her memories of being raped and tortured repeatedly, drugged in order to induce mating heat, and having her sense of self systematically attacked by no less than her Pride brother, Dayan.

During her first year at Sanctuary, Dawn was introduced to Seth Lawrence, CEO of Lawrence Industries and the biggest financial supporter of the Breeds' efforts to establish their own communities. She was terrified of any man but especially of Seth as she perceived his attraction to her and his desire to establish a relationship with him. One brief kiss, and the Mating Heat was upon them both. Even so, Seth allowed Callan to convince him that he needed to stay away from Dawn until she could conquer her fears and come to peace with her past. Now ten years later, Callan assigns Dawn to protect Seth whose life is now being threatened because of his support of the Breeds. But before she departs Sanctuary, Callan tells her that Seth has now "beaten" the Mating Heat, that he is no longer her mate, and that he is on the verge of marrying another. In spite of her pain and upset, Dawn goes forward with her assignment. And, as it is often said, the story goes on from there.

This is a very intense read. Of all the Breeds, whether canine of feline, this story seems to be the one filled most with the horrors of what was done to all the Breeds while held captive in the Council labs. That Dawn is unable to truly remember everything may seem a grace, but keeping those memories blocked also keeps her from grieving and from moving on. Now she has caught the scent of someone she vaguely remembers but she can't remember where. Little does she know it is the man who tormented her almost continually for years, who has now determined that he will once again enslave her to his perversion. Her terror, her anger, her disappointment and sense of betrayal are almost palpable. Ms Leigh writes of these emotions and the characters affected by them very powerfully, not overwhelming the story with internal dialogue by any means, but using a wonderful efficiency of words portrays what these characters are feeling.

This story is about pain--remembered and forgotten, about betrayal and disappointment, about love lost and regained, about loyalty and trust, love of family even when that love seems misdirected. It is also a continuation of several of the other stories highlighted in previous books in this series, as Ms Leigh has chosen to keep the reader involved with their ongoing personal histories as a part of the back story of each succeeding novel. I like that a lot. Most of all, the relationship between Dawn and Seth is very intense as he demonstrates that his love for her is equal to the challenges of what lies in their immediate futures as well as helping her deal with the past. I think my most favorite indicator of his love for her is that everywhere he traveled in the ten years they were apart--when he specifically thought of her and when surrounded by the scents of a particular place, he would commission a soap maker to produce products that would carry that unique scent so that he could hopefully share that with her in the future. Now there's a really romantic guy!

So even though this book was written a few years ago, I think it is worth reading or re-visiting. This is one of those books that might just involve getting the old crying tissue box out and keeping it handy. I give this book a rating of 4.75 out of 5.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: Second Chances by Lauren Dane

Writer Lauren Dane has given us a novel about a woman who has returned to her hometown after a decade of finding herself, emerging as a whole person, recovering from her mother's imposed image of her, developing her skills as a writer of note, and re-establishing her life after a painful break-up with her ex who had betrayed her. Now Rori is becoming re-acquainted with old friends, enjoying sibling togetherness with her sister, her brother-in-law, and her nephews, and even hooking up with a guy or two who would not have even given her a second look ten years earlier. Her dream date Jude, a guy who had been one of the few who had even bothered to get to know her in years past and about whom she had fantasized for years, latches on to her immediately, and their connection is hot and intense. But Jude likes to play the field, surrounding him with lots of women--even telling Rori up front that he was seeing other girls. But after some uncomfortable encounters with Jude's other interests, Rori decides that she just can't be in any kind of relationship with him. For a time their friendship was even in doubt.

On the same night Rori jetisons Jude from her life and from her bed, she meets the brother of one of her old friends, Zach Helm, a good-looking, caring, intense, and dominant young man who believes almost immediately that he has met "his woman." He introduces Rori to the BDSM lifestyle in the bedroom, and she discovers that this new kind of relating answers some long-standing questions about her deepest, darkest needs and urges. Their relationship grows into love and they eventually marry about a year after they meet. Jude is devastated because he knows he has lost Rori, the woman for whom he has been searching for years, completely due to his immaturity and foolishness. Not having Rori causes him to face himself and to grow up, and he knows that he will always love her. However, he is willing to have her friendship and Zach's as well if he can't have her love.

This story is about love lost and won, joy and disappointment, grieving and renewal. The characters are real and believable. It is full of friendship, family, and fun. Rori has become a woman who is comfortable in her own skin, enjoying the BDSM and the way it fulfills her, but not reluctant to set some boundaries that are necessary to her self-perception. She even takes on her own mother lovingly, declaring her independence from parental judment and criticism that has oppressed her for years. Zach and Jude are both strong, dominant, Alpha kind of guys, men of honor and great depth, not afraid for someone to see gentleness as well as strength. And you have to love her sister Kelly, who with her husband Mac, form a circle of support and acceptance that keeps Rori balanced and whole. In so many ways and on so many levels this novel is about a journey of discovery for Rori, Zach and Jude. Each discovers important aspects about themselves as they grow into really wonderful people, accepting the limits of their relationships with one another, respecting those boundaries.

Romance fans will find this novel truly satisfying--lots of hot loving and warm fuzzies. There are emotional ups and downs galore, twists and turns in the storyline that keep the reader moving on to the next page. I couldn't put it down--read it all in one sitting. Ms Dane has demonstrated considerable flare in putting this work together--good plot, interesting storyline, strong characters that the reader can relate to, a great ending, and enough surprises to keep any reader's interest. It is the stuff of which good fiction is made. All in all, it is a terrific read. I give this novel a 4.5 out of 5.

Second Chances will be released by Carina Press in November, 2010.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Review: Touch of Temptation by Ryannon Byrd

Introduced in Edge of Hunger, Book One in the Primal Instincts series, Kellan Scott was your quintessential bad boy then. While he is still bad where it counts, he has finally grown up and is attempting to be the hero readers have always known he could be. Now the gorgeous shape-shifter is taking control of his life, trying to move beyond thoughtless living and moving from mess to another mess. He is now willing to do absolutely anything for the passionate little witch who has stolen his heart, and who is now awakening the passions of the possessive wolf who lives within him.

Cloe Harcourt has struggled all her life, intentionally living alone and away from people, trying to keep her unusual powers over other people's emotions in check, never trusting that any man could love her for herself. That is, until her mesmerizing rescuer awakens a craving for his touch. Their all-consuming passion is their most effective weapon against their sadistic captor. But Kellan's greatest challenge may be to convince Chloe that he is worthy of her undying love, or die in the process.

Ryannon Byrd has established herself as a writer of note in several literary fiction genre's and this sixth book in her Primal Instincts features characters that have walked through the five previous books. This is a world of vampires, Death Walkers, shape-shifters, witches--of territories and Wastelands and sadistic individuals who want to capture the special abilities of gifted persons to use in their push for absolute power. Thus Chloe Harcourt has been taken prisoner. She is a witch who has newly awakened powers, whose family has lived under an ancient curse that has bound her powers, making it nearly impossible for her to live around others. She has now gradually discovering her sexual powers are expanding as another entity who lives within her has become more powerful, one which needs regular feedings of blood--the Merrick--and which can give her great physical strength.

Kellan Scott has been in love with Chloe since he saw her picture, almost struck dumb by her pristine beauty. His wolf has been nearly out of control in believing that Chloe is his mate. Kellan's long personal history of liasons with all the wrong people at the wrong time have made his new efforts to do right suspect to those who know him well. Yet he is determined to prove his new-found maturity, and he is determined to find and rescue Chloe. He must travel the
Wastelands, using all his keen senses and all he had learned about living to succeed. The journey is fraught with danger and Kellan encounters life-threatening difficulties, having been poisoned by a vampired bite. Yet while he has his strength he is bent on bringing Chloe to freedom.

This is, in many ways, a suspense and action thriller, paired with a tender and winsome love story. Chloe needs what Kellan has to offer--his blood and his sexual energy--but he wants her love to be his even as he belongs to her. He refuses to mark her because he believes he is slowly dying from the progressive effects of the vampire poison. He is even willing to go after Chloe's captor at the cost of his own life, believing that his former life choices have made him unworthy of Chloe's love and a life with her.

This story embraces a bad boy who finally grows up, one who finally becomes willing to take responsibility for his choices and who wants to do what is right for those he loves, even if it means he must give his life to do so. It is the story of a lonely lady who must face her own power, make some decisions about how she is willing to live out her future, and learn to accept the loving presence of friends and family in her life. It is also the story of an uneasy truce between species who have been formerly at odds, who now share a common enemy and must learn to fight side by side to win the day. There is family loyalty, betrayal, wounds and hurt, disappointment, and great heroism in this tale and the reader meets some strong characters that are good people. The bad guys are here, too, yet all are metaphors for all that we have come to know about the timeless battle between good and evil.

Romance fiction fans and paranormal readers will all find good reading here. Ms Byrd has a wonderful way with words and she has used her considerable talent to write an engaging tale that will keep the reader involved from start to finish. I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.
This novel is scheduled for release in November, 2010.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: Bachelor Unleashed by Brenda Jackson

This latest novel from the pen of acclaimed writer Brenda Jackson is due for release in November, 2010. Ms Jackson has over 70 titles to her credit and has proven that her writing expertise and creativity have not waned over the years.

This is a wonderful love story about two well-educated, highly intelligent and personable people who have been severly wounded in the "Love Wars." Each had given their full love and devotion to a person who was unworthy and both had decided that they would never again allow themselves to be placed in such a hurtful situation. So now Xavier Kane and Farrah Langley have been in a torrid love affair having met through mutual friends. Both of them have made a point of finding physical satisfaction in brief affairs in the past. However, their affair has gone on for nearly a year and Farrah has now decided to call it quits. She was beginning to feel way too comfortable with Xavier, even to the point of thinking about him more than she wanted to, looking forward to his visits more than she wanted to, and beginning to fear that the walls around her heart were in danger of weakening. Xavier accepted her decision, even though he didn't necessarily agree with it. He knew that she had been terribly hurt by a husband who was unfaithful and who had a child with someone else while denying her the child she wanted. He wanted her to have complete control over her personal life so he acquiesed.

Six months later they literally and physically bumped into each other in a New York City shop. Both of them were there on business. Just those few minutes made them realize that their mutual attraction hadn't lessened, and over the next several days they had more than ample opportunity to realize the truth that they still might want to resume their affair. What Farrah didn't realize is that Xavier wanted more than just an extended affair with her and he was determined to get the whole package, marriage included.

My sense is that as erotic as their encounters may be, these two people are learning the futility of trying to keep their emotions out of the intimacy equation. The betrayal of their trust with their ex's kept them apart and their insistence on keeping their relationship purely physical was becoming more difficult to maintain. Farrah was being reminded often by her best friend that she was unfairly judging all men by her ex-husband. And Xavier was becoming aware that his feelings for Farrah--just the pure truth that he missed her--were beyond the need for an occasional tryst.

Ms Jackson has written a story that surely resonates with all those who have loved and lost, especially by being betrayed by the person they trusted the most. Those kinds of wounds don't heal quickly and often don't heal well. The fear of being re-injured can be quite overwhelming and it seems that's the case with both these people, especially Farrah. This is a novel about loving and trusting, about hurt and betrayal, about fear of the future as well as the fear of being close to another human being. Yet throughout this story there is the sense that both Xavier and Farrah really want to move beyond being stuck in this emotional impasse. Their attachment to each other, in spite of six months apart, seems to testify to this.

So, romance fiction fans, here's a great story for you. I think you'll like both these good people because they are real, human, flawed as are all of us, authentic in sharing their feelings at times and not sharing them at others. It is a novel that will keep your interest and perhaps encourage all of us to work very hard to be faithful to those we love. It is just a very, very good read! I give this novel a rating of 4.75 out of 5.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: The Promise by Brenda Joyce

Historical fiction has always been my first literary love. In the days when I had a house full of grade school kids, I would inform the family that a certain day would be "Mom's Reading Day." With kids in school and the evening meal in the oven, I would retreat behind my bedroom door with a stack of historical novellas--short, easy to read, and a feast for my mind and a wonderful way to "check out" for a few hours from the mother grind.

My interest started with the classics of Georgette Heyer, Jean Plaidy,Anya Seton and others. But later on I had a subscription to Harlequin Books and was delighted when I received short but interesting historical novels--just what I needed for my reading days and for those few "reading" moments I allowed myself each night before turning out the light.

My delight in historical romances has never faded. As anyone who visits this blog regularly realizes, my fictional feast has grown to include many other kinds of romance fiction, non-fiction books, and will eventually include some philosophical treatises and possibly some family/self-help books. But the book in question right now is one more delight in my long love affair with historical romance. It is the latest in the De Warenne family saga and is one of those books that helps fill in the gaps that are often appear in love stories, periods of time when critical happenings in the romantic history of a couple just seem to get left out. Thus it is with Alexi and Elysse De Warenne. Parts of their story is told in other novels in this series, but this particular book details their personal encounters, all the way from their childhood, through their six year estrangement, and the renewal of their marriage.

There are relationships that just seem destined to play out and to endure, no matter the circumstances. It would seem that Alexi & Elysse's friendship began when they were mere children, each fascinated with the other, connected by friendship and affection which remained as they grew into their adolescence and beyond. Elysse was the pampered darling of her parents, easily one of the most beautiful women in Ireland and certainly one of the most sought after of all the debutantes of her time. That she was an accomplished flirt was a given. That her heart had always belonged to Alexi was probably not as evident to her as it was to everyone else, but it was true. He always knew that she belonged to him and had even entertained serious thoughts that she would one day be his wife. That is, until he discovered sex, and then he determined that no one woman would ever tie him down or prevent him from enjoying all the women he pleased. Likewise, Elysse believed that it was her right to flirt with every male in sight. She was confused by her responses to Alexi but never considered him a serious suitor. He was just a best friend. Clearly, their future path was in serious danger.

Matters came to a head when Elysse insisted on flirting with a close friend and shipmate of Alexi's who he had brought home to meet his family following a two year absence as captain of his own ship. William Montgomery was his friend, his shipping pilot, but he was also an opportunist who was more than responsive to Elysse's beauty and was led on by her flirting. Against the warnings of Alexi that his friend was not "a gentleman," she allowed Montgomery to take her for a moonlight stroll that turned ugly. Disheveled, distraught and afraid, Alexi rescues Elysse from Montgomery's unwanted attentions, but the encounter becomes an argument which becomes a fight which results in Montgomery's death. Her reputation ruined, Alexi offers to marry her to protect her, but the circumstances are less than fortuitous for their marriage. Angered at her part in the whole debacle and feeling guilty at his own part in the death of his friend, Alexi leaves on a sailing voyage the night of their wedding, refusing to return for six years.

Six years later he returns the hero of the China trading and shipping industry and holder of the speed record. He has a well-earned reputation as having a mistress in every port which he doesn't deny. After all, his marriage is in name only. He feels justified having heard reports that his wife has had her share of lovers in his absence, that she is one of London's most dazzling hostesses and living as an independent woman in every way. Little did Alexi know that his wafe was still a virgin and had remained faithful to him. She refused to get an annulment because she didn't want anyone to know that their marriage had never been consummated.

This is the story of two passionate, really good people who are caught in the throes of a romantic tragedy that just never seems to get any better. Their attraction to one another cannot be denied. Their anger and hurt over the past seems insurmountable. This is a very emotional story, one that certainly held me in its thrall. There were times I wasn't sure they would ever be able to find their way back to one another. This tale is of a love which grows out of deep friendship but which is wounded almost beyond repair. It is a story which is built around the idea that the human spirit can endure almost anything when hope is not dead. But there were occasions when hope, friendship, and possibly love were doomed. It is a story of strength and fidelity, perhaps mishandled and misunderstood, but there all the same. And in the final analysis, Alexi and Elysse had to look deeply into themselves and decide who and what were really important to each of them. Like all good fiction, there is a lesson for the reader and one that can speak to the futility of jeolousy and anger, miscommunication and a refusal to see beyond one's own hurt pride. Love can find a way, but sometimes people make that discovery very difficult.

The De Warenne family is quite large and the novels written about their individual stories have come to result in a significant number of books over the years. Yet it is to Ms Joyce's credit that the energy and vitality in each novel has not diminished throughout the series. Such energy is never easy to sustain. This latest story is well written and is also a historical feast in reference to the development of the shipping trade in England. While the characters and specific companies involved may be fictional, the historical context is not. It is one of the reasons that I appreciate good historical romances. They are fun to read but they are a really great way to learn a lot of history.

So be sure and latch on to this book. It is a great read for romance fans and will please the history fans as well. I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Review: Her Best Friend's Lover by Shiloh Walker

There are times in everyone's life when each person comes face to face with something they want that they can't have. For me it is an XJ-6 Jaguar sedan and a brand new Macintosh I-Book. For others it will obviously be other things, but the most difficult situation a person encounters is when the "something" one wants is a person--their presence in one's life, their love and loving. So it is with the two main characters in this early story from Shiloh Walker's creative mind.

Dale is a published author who is a great guy, loves women, and who never has any trouble getting a steady stream of them to fall for him and fall into his bed. Yet while he is making love to them, he is envisioning an old love from his home town, a girl who only dated him a few times in order to make the guy she really wanted jeolous. He has been living next door to his best friend Lauren, an artist whose paintings had gained national and international fame. For five years they had been best friends and Lauren had watched the steady stream of women in and out of Dale's life with interest and dismay. You see, the "something" she wanted and couldn't have was Dale. She had been one of those girls in high school that just didn't seem interested in the boys in her classes. She didn't seem much interested in men in general. Not that she didn't date, but she was more interested in her art and in making sure that her life was carefully under control.

These two very creative and interesting people were indeed best friends who sniped at each other about the romantic shambles each saw in the life of the other. Neither seemed to make any headway with the other--Dale couldn't seem to give up his obsession with the old love interest Nikki, and Lauren knew that no one would do for her except Dale. So she kept him in the "friend" category carefully and with some emotional distance between them, while Dale chafed under her accurate and perceptive analysis of his profligate lifestyle. He was constantly trying to "fix her up" with guys he knew, believing that she was lonely and needed romance in her life. She was and she did, but she didn't want it from anyone other than Dale. That is, until one night, when Dale had once again found out that the old love interest was again pregnant, another proof that she was well and truly married to the man she wanted--and not to him. Having consumed a fair share of beers and a goodly amount of whiskey, he is drunk and bawdy and irreverant when Lauren comes to the door to apologize for a "fight" they had a week earlier. For the first time ever, Dale "sees" her sexually and unbeknownst to him in his inebriated state, he takes her virginity while shouting Nikki's name. He does not even remember their encounter later, so Lauren does not tell him that he is the father of the child she is now carrying.

This is a love story in the truest sense of the word--two lonely and emotionally scarred people, both seeking to avoid the hurts of the past, both needing to love and be loved. Both Dale and Lauren are on a journey of discovery that will eventually force them to face their past and to make some important decisions about the present. Each must decide not only if they have faith in their growing relationship but whether they have faith in themselves.

This novel, like all Shiloh Walker's stories, challenges the reader to look deeper than the obvious. We all have secrets but how do we handle those? Do we share them with those we love? Do we trust them enough to let them see us as we are, or do we screen them out for fear of being rejected? These are the core questions I think this novel poses. And even though I know that Ms Walker likes the HEA as much as the next author, sometimes getting there is painful, just as life's reality can be painful. Fictional Happily-Ever-After's are often easier to obtain, and life can dish out some fairly overwhelming realities. We don't plan for them, or perhaps we don't realize that we are setting ourselves up for the let-downs that come. And perhaps that is the other core truth that is operative in this story. Dale and Lauren were both honorable people, but their difficulties were not so much the result of normal relational wear and tear. Both had what we now call "issues" that kept intruding into a relationship that needed to be open, honest, and filled with trust. Is that not the way we should all live? Risky? Yes, absolutely. But there are no for-sure kinds of relationships in real life. These fictional characters remind us to give up the fear and embrace the hope that comes when someone is brave enough to say, out loud: "I love you."

This novel is well-written and the story moves along beautifully. It engages the reader's attention from the first paragraph and keeps one "hooked" until the very end. I know that I kept wondering how these two could be getting along so well--there had to be trouble on the horizon. And there was. How they weathered the storms is a great part of this tale.

Ms Walker has given romance fans many stories to celebrate and embrace. As one of her early works she shows the promise that we all now see continually fulfilled in her recent publications. It is another reason to go back and enjoy what came early on. It is a reminder that really good love stories never get old. I give this story a 4.75 rating out of 5.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Week in Review: OMG . . . I Can't Believe I Have All Those Books!!

Lots and lots of reading this week, not unlike most of my weeks for the past nine months or so. But this week was unusual in that I had to catalogue all the books I had waiting to be read for review -- and that's not even counting the books that I read on my own for this blog and for my own enjoyment. Don't get me wrong. I actually tend to enjoy almost all the books I have waiting to be reviewed for The Book Binge. Lots of new authors but some that are also on the Favorites list, too. Some of those have gone on the "To Be Re-read" shelf and I have a number of ebooks that are on the re-read list as well. I'm not sure I will accept new books for weeks and weeks and weeks . . . well, maybe when I see what is coming toward me I might change my mind on that(LOL). I just can't seem to resist a new book . . . just like the girl in the musical "Oklahoma" -- "I'm just a girl who can't say no!" Why do I get the feeling she wasn't talking about books?

One of the things I have decided this week is to be sure to post some reviews on this blog of the early books of some of my favorite authors as well as display book covers of books that are newly released and are scheduled to be released this fall. My next review for this blog will be a book that was one of Shilow Walkers earliest--and then I hope to be reading one of her latest. I have a bias against the way so many romance fans seem to miss out on some of the early work of romance authors. I suppose there is a belief that as the writing expertise grows, so grows the quality. And that is not an unrealistic expectation. But I have also read some "first novels" that are so spectacular that they still knock my literary socks off. So if you come across a book review on this blog of a work that has some age on it, don't be surprised. I will also continue to include books that are recent, possibly new releases, and try to preserve a good mix between the two.

Until next time . . .

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: Nothing Personal by Jaci Burton

Arranged marriages were far more common in centuries past but were even more common in the early 20th century. It is not often that one comes across an arranged marriage, or at least one that the participants will be honest about. I wonder sometimes if there are more high society marriages that are "arranged" in some way to preserve social standing or family fortunes. Anyway, Jaci Burton has come up with a novel that is certainly contemporary in its setting and very modern in its scope. The characters are taken right out of corporate America and the ramifications have their impact in a modern boardroom.

Wanting to insure that his playboy grandson married and settled down, Ryan McKay's grandfather had put a caveat in his will that stated that Ryan must marry and father a child in one year or lose controlling interest in the family corporation, one which owned some of the largest hotels in Las Vegas. With five hours to go, Ryan's fiance changed her mind--she didn't want a pregnancy to ruin her cover girl figure--Ryan was back to square one and facing turning over the family corporation to his cousin, a man who cared far more about the power than about sustaining the viability of the company and insuring the livelihood for hundreds of people. Turning to his ever-dependable adminstrative assistant, Faith Brewer, McKay proposes marriage and our story begins.

Now Faith was one of those kinds of women whose mothers constantly imprint their minds with the notion that they are plain--dull, just another woman to blend in with the masses, unnoticeable and better off that way. So imagine her chagrin or better yet, her astonishment when Ryan McKay asks her to "help" him out with his problem by marrying him. A emergency business proposition, a solution to the McKay difficulties--nothing personal. Living together, sleeping together, making a baby together, and then divorce after one year. Could she do it? Could she take a chance on venturing into this emotional mine field? In just a few hours Faith was transformed into a fairy princess complete with the designer wedding gown and a wedding ring to die for. But it was just business -- nothing personal. Perhaps the greatest surprise in store for Ryan was that Faith was prepared to truly be his wife, even though she knew it was only for one year. Marriage meant something to her, not for the purpose of preserving a family corporation. And the child? Ryan was prepared to sign away all rights to "her" child. He didn't want a family. So the journey of discovery for both of them begins.

This is a beautiful romance novel that embraces the best and the worst in people, love won and love lost, rapture, ecstacy, and disappointment. It is living the high life with money as no object while facing the emptiness that conterfeit relationship brings. In the midst of this is that simple but stalwart woman, Faith, and her determination that no matter how bloodied she may ultimately be, she would be strong for herself and for her child, a little one that would be loved and would never feel alone like she had felt all her childhood.

Of course, it is a love story with the incomparable stamp of the Burton writing expertise. The plot is probably not all that unique, but somehow the story stands on its own, filled with all the stuff that keeps a reader glued to the pages. This story was published several years ago, but like so many good stories, deserves to be read or revisited. It is my hope that more romance fans will discover this book. I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.