Saturday, September 29, 2012

Which Will It Be? Friend or Lover or Both? "Fool for Love" by Marie Force

Joe Cantrell, owner of the Gansett Island Ferry Company, has been in love with Janey McCarthy for as long as he can remember. At the same time, Janey has been dating or engaged to doctor-in-training David Lawrence. When things go horribly wrong between David and Janey, she calls her “fifth brother” Joe, one of the few people in her close circle who lives on the mainland. Janey decides a few days with Joe is just what she needs before she goes home to the island to face her parents and family with the news of her broken engagement. It was bad enough for Joe loving Janey from afar, but having her in his house is pure torture. Will he take advantage of this opportunity to show her what they could have together? And what will Joe’s best friend and Janey’s protective older brother Mac have to say about it?

Second in the "McCarthys of Gansett Island" series, this novel tells the story of the youngest McCarthy sibling, the "baby sister" and the young woman who has been patiently and systematically building her life and future around the hopes and dreams and plans of her fiance, doctor-to-be David Lawrence.  She is shocked, however, when she makes a surprise visit to her man--on the occasion of a special anniversary of their engagement--and finds that he is having an energetic romp with someone else in his apartment and subsequently tries to convince her that it was just a little "stress relief" for an overworked medical resident.  Janey has to face the fact that the relationship has been over for a long time, that she has put her dreams on hold for David, and now she is at emotional loose ends.  It is here that Joe Cantrell, close friend of her brothers--a fifth brother, if you will--and owner of the Gansett Island Ferry company steps in as "shoulder to cry on."  Little does Janey realize that Joe has been in love with her for years, has just been nursing his broken heart as he sees her planning a life with her doctor.

This is a compelling love story that is complicated by the fact that Janey's view of Joe has always been one of deep friendship as a sort-of sibling to him.  Now she begins to pick up on the sparks of his deep and long time love for her, sees Joe in a different light, and has to analyze her attachment to David, her own sense of deep disappointment over putting her own dreams on "hold" and how her future is going to play out.  Add in the fact that Joe and her brothers have been close for years and you have the added stresses of working out how to deal with all those feelings.

Perhaps the deeper "story behind the story" here is that we often get involved in emotional entanglements that we think are one thing--romantic love leading to marriage--when in truth the relationship can't sustain that kind of longevity.  In Janey's case she had taken so  much for granted, the relationship had to bear the burden of long absences between her and David, and the deeply buried disappointments she carried inside of her over putting her future on hold in favor of David's plans.  There are some surprises in this novel that keep the reader wondering what will happen next, but through it all runs the strands and bonds of deep family connection, this family's connection to the island itself, and the small but vibrant community of year round residents that make up Gansett Island.  It's a compelling love story that is a stand alone novel, but reading book one will give the reader greater understanding of the dynamics that enrich and spice up this love story.

Released in mid-2011, this book is a wonderful piece of romance fiction and is worthy of being read and enjoyed.  I hope you will give it a look.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Live, Love, and Laugh . . . "Opposites Attract" by Cat Johnson

A three-part lighthearted romp through the intertwining lives of six people who learn that in spite of everything you have to remember to live, love and laugh to be happy.

 Taking A Leap: Bradley Morgan is the quintessential computer geek and nice guy, through and through. The only problem is that in his opinion, nice guys almost always finish last when it comes to hot women like his sexy co-worker Alyssa Jones. But things change after Alyssa finds her boyfriend cheating. Suddenly, nice guys like Brad don't look so bad. So when Brad agrees to ghostwrite the sex scenes for a romance novel as a favor for desperate client Maria White and asks for Alyssa's help after hours, she agrees wholeheartedly and things really start to heat up. Brad and Alyssa learn you should never judge a book by its cover, and that sometimes love requires a leap of faith.

 Light My Fire: Amy Gerald's life is filled with whirlwind romance. Unfortunately, it's all on the pages of the romance novels she publishes. That is until she volunteers to cat-sit for her author friend Maria and meets Troy O'Donnell, the hunky fireman who lives next door. The problem is, this commitment-phobic consummate bachelor is far more willing to run into a burning building than allow love into his life. Troy will grasp at any excuse, even the ridiculous assumption that Amy is a lesbian, just to avoid his growing feelings for her. Amid a comedy of errors and misunderstandings, which includes Troy's first hilarious visit to a gay bar, Amy manages to light Troy's fire, but can she also conquer his fears? 

Second Time Around: Antonio Sanchez thought that at 32 his life was all mapped out--wife, kids, career...until some major bumps in theroad radically alter his course and send him careening right into the path of newly divorced Maddie Morgan. Suddenly thrust back into single life, Antonio moves back in with his old-fashioned parents and has to learn to juggle his kids, his job at the firehouse, and his role as Best Man for his newly engaged best friend Troy, all in addition to facing his unquenchable desire for Maddie. Throw in a slew of matchmaking friends and relatives, led by Maria whose apartment appears to be the Bermuda Triangle for lost lovers, and Antonio and Maddie discover just how complicated things can get. Can the pair prove that love really is better the second time around?

I hadn't read a Cat Johnson work for some time when I came across this book and decided that I need a "fix" for my Cat Johnson yen.  She has been one of my favorites for a long time and I am delighted to find this trilogy of short stories that was first released in 2007 and has now been updated and re-releasedin 2011.  

Unlike some anthologies, these stories are not only linked by theme but also are connected through the friendships and professional associations of the characters.  While each story has its own focus, all of these people seem to be stuck in some way in their personal lives, either by their own self-awareness and their sense of being "less than" or are caught in a life situation that can get complicated and often overwhelming.  

In the first story you have a young man whose self-image as a "geek" has kept him from reaching out, of exploring his relational possibilities.    Fear of being rejected for who he is, for his interests that he doesn't think would be of much interest to a sexy woman have kept him locked into a single and lonely life.  Fear can do that.  But the author sets him up in a situation that allows him to explore his sexuality in a way that gives him hiddenness while putting him in contact with a woman in such a way that both he and Alyssa discover that it is always a mistake to judge someone by external appearance or occupation. 

Story Two highlights the problem of a man who would rather eat glass than get involved in a committed relationship.  All of us know someone who has had a bad experience or whose exposure to the experiences of pals has convinced him that staying single, footloose and fancy free is really the best way to live.  Troy does indeed carry his fears a bit far, but in truth, this is a very insightful look at the way some people get stuck when down deep they really want to move forward with their lives.

The Third Story is a common enough situation, especially when 57% of American marriages end in divorce.  (For hubby and me, even at the darkest and most difficult times in our marriage, it seemed easier to "fix" the marriage problems than face the complications and difficulties a divorce would bring.)  And as it was with Anthony, life gets complicated very quickly when one does not pay attention to one's relationships and allows one's partner to become distanced.  Anthony really wasn't prepared for the single life, didn't see that divorce coming at all.  And like so many who really don't want to be alone, he found that moving on with his life was more difficult than he ever dreamed it could be.  

All these stories are fun love stories and in characteristic Cat Johnson fashion  are filled with love and under-the-covers kind of "getting it on."  But there is a deeper set of truths in these stories that make this a fun book to read on the one hand, and on the other it is a fictional look at real life problems that plague many male-female relationships.    It's a book that is well worth taking another look at and one that will be entertaining as well as thought-provoking.  I think you will enjoy it, especially if you have read other Cat Johnson books.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Damage Done When Safe, Sane, and Consensual Aren't Observed . . . "Slave: Finding Anna, Book I"

Stephan has lived the lifestyle of a Dominant for five years. After several rebellious teenage years, it gave him the stability and control he had been seeking after his parent’s death.

As president of a not-for-profit foundation, he knows what his future holds and what he wants out of life. All that changes when a simple lunch with his college friend and Mentor, Darren, leads him to buying a slave.

Thrust into a situation he never thought he’d be in, Stephan can’t walk away. He is compelled to help this girl in the only way he knows how.

Brianna knows only one thing, she is a slave. She has nothing. She is nothing.  Can Stephan help Brianna realize that she is much more than just a Slave?

Human trafficking is a blight on the planet Earth and is one of the most lucrative businesses alive today.  Thousands of human beings are kidnapped and sold into slavery in the United States every year,  most of whom are transported to locations outside the U. S. and are never seen or heard of again.  They disappear into a private "slave collection," brothels of varying degrees of degradation, or when they are no longer able to "perform" are driven on to the streets of a foreign country or abandoned to die of terminal illness or severe damage.  The hero in this story knew all this, wanted nothing to do with human sex trade practices.  But when he found out that a young girl was being kept as a "slave" by a known sadist, a man the BDSM community had less than a good opinion of, Stephan took matters into his own hands, "bought" this young girl, barely 18 years of age, and brought her into his home with the intent of trying to give her a life back and undo the damage done to her.  She was called Brianna by her "master" and all who knew her in the BDSM context.  When a long-time friend recognized her on one of her infrequent outings with Stephan, he called her "Anna" as that is what she had been called throughout her life with her mother and then living with the dad that betrayed her trust.

This is really not about BDSM practice between a Dom and sub so much as it is about the dastardly effects to a beautiful young woman sold to a sadist without boundaries or conscience, and who is now merely a shell of a human being.  Stephan is certainly a Dom and knows his way around a D/s relationship.  But this new challenge of literally rebuilding a human being who has been so destroyed by a lifestyle he loves is a totally new thing for him.  His compassion and his growing awareness of her, his insight into what is going through her mind whenever he speaks even the most insignificant words to her, his desire to see her reclaim her total humanity is the core of this story.  While the novel focuses on Brianna as the victim who is rescued, the novel also highlights the growth that Stephan experiences as he searches for ways to give Brianna back a sense of self while using her "training" to get her to cooperate with the simple rules he wants for her--things like texting him hourly as a way of getting her not to become obsessed with her worries about whether she is pleasing him.  Since she sees him as her new "master" she is obedient and he can work with that sense of obedience to get her to do things she needs to do to care for herself, to read again, to begin cooking (something she really loved to do), to go outside the home to shop as a way of getting her back into society.  

All in all this is a compelling and very emotional book.  I have read a few reviews that criticize the character of Brianna because she seems to fall back into destructive behavior so often.  Well . . . anyone who has ever been around anyone who has been subjected to pain and torture as a means of behavior modification (veterans will understand this) knows that it is almost always a matter of "one step forward, two steps backward" with many flashbacks and periods of remembered terror.  Stephan was a man of conscience and I was amazed at his patience and the way he developed consistent routines to put Brianna at ease so that she could begin building trust in another human being.  Even though his emotional attachment grew into love and desire, he was a man who controlled himself for her sake and because he recognized her fragile condition and cared more about her than achieving his selfish goals.  

This is an amazing book and one that I think needed to be written.  I found it on Net Galley and although it was originally released in 2011, it is now being re-released.  It is a wonderful story and the first in a trilogy about Stephan and Brianna's relationship.  I hope you'll think seriously about reading this novel.  I give it a 4.25 out of 5.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Requiem Eterna et Lux Perpetua . . . September 11 thoughts

At the site of the World Trade Center, eight of the 16 acres have been converted into a memorial to remind visitors of the past and give hope to the future. The memorial is continuing to grow but currently includes twin pools in the place where the Twin Towers once stood, with the names of every person who died in the terrorist attacks inscribed in bronze. The museum is a growing collection of photos, video, materials and artifacts from that fateful 9-11 day.

There is no doubt in my own mind that this day, like December 7, 1941, is, in the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, " . . . a day that shall live in infamy."  It is almost impossible to believe that it has been 11 years since that awful day, and as I have been watching some of the 9/11 documentaries about people who managed to get out of the towers and testimonies from families whose loved ones died, both in New York as well as in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, I am struck anew at how much grieving is still going on in our country over this terrible catastrophy.  I have also thought often about those individuals who left home that morning, perhaps there was a family disagreement, a fight with one of the kids over homework or going to a friend's house, perhaps a husband and wife who were having problems or who had hurtful words over money or mothers-in-law or their unpredictable teenage kids.  I think often that these people have an additional burden to bear--knowing that the last words spoken between them and their loved one(s) was in anger or frustration.

It is another reminder that none of us knows what will come upon us, where we will find ourselves, what may happen that is both positive or negative each day.  We start out feeling pretty good about stuff, but by the time we "lay it down" that night we are so glad that particular day is over.  But I think September 11, 2001, is another graphic reminder--as if all of us hasn't already had way too many of those--that we daren't leave our spouses, our kids, those who are important to us without a word of praise, of encouragement, of love, of a sense that they are truly as important to us as we know in our hearts.  I have gone to so many funerals where families have been "stuck" because of not being given just one more chance to tell their loved one that they were loved and cherished.  

This day is also another reminder how quickly such catastrophic events begin to fade into our longterm memory.  The week the towers and the Pentagon were attacked and the plane went down in a pasture in Pennsylvania, families were getting together, community groups gathered in public parks, churches, synagogues and all kinds of worship centers were filled with people whose hearts were stunned, whose minds still couldn't even imagine such a thing occurring.  Yet here we are over a decade later, and the day passes without a whole lot of notice by thousands who are going on about their day.  Hopefully many of us paused for a moment of holy remembrance, of sending good thoughts and perhaps prayers toward those whose hearts are still grieving at some level, some worse than others.  And I want to end this with the ages old prayer that has been quoted in both word and music in honor of those whose lives were lost that day:

Eternal rest grant them, O Lord, 
And perpetual light shine upon them.
In your mercy bring them into the glory of your presence.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Strange Things Happen When You Step Off the Curb . . . "Maid for Love by Marie Force

Maddie Chester is determined to leave her hometown of Gansett Island, a place that has brought her only bad memories and ugly rumors. Then she’s knocked off her bike on the way to her housekeeping job at McCarthy’s Resort Hotel by Gansett’s “favorite son,” Mac McCarthy. He’s back in town to help his father with preparations to sell the family resort and has no intention of staying long. When Mac accidentally sends Maddie flying over the handlebars, badly injuring her, he moves in to nurse her back to health and help care for her young son. He soon realizes his plans for a hit-and-run visit to the island are in serious jeopardy, and he just may be “maid” for love.

Author Marie Force is well know to romance suspense readers through her recent "Fatal . . ." series about a Washington, D.C. detective who fell in love with a United States senator.  Such good stories and by the way . . . the fifth story in that series is due late in 2012.

Anyway, this particular novel is the first in an absolutely wonderful series about a fictional island off the Rhode Island coast that is patterned after Block Island.  It's premier family is the McCarthy Family and all the stories are built around the experiences with members of that family or their close friends, all of whom are important to the life, commerce, and community sharing of Gansett Island.  This first book is the story of oldest son Mac, a man who is a more than successful Florida resident, who has returned to the island due to his doctor's concern over recent panic attacks caused by high stress.  It is during one of his sashays through the town that he steps off the curb without looking at oncoming traffic, and is mowed down by Maddie Chester, riding her bicycle to work as a maid at the McCarthy Hotel.  

Maddie is a person who has been dubbed a "fallen woman" and has lived with years with a reputation as an "easy" woman every since high school.  That she is now the mother of a baby out of wedlock has only cemented that reputation in the minds of most of Gansett Island's residents.  But as Mac McCarthy picks himself up off the pavement, he realizes that Maddie is much more seriously injured and being a man of honor, declares that he is going to take care of her until she can return to her life.  This is not a decision that is well received by Ms Chester at all, but that doesn't deter Mac.  And thus, their relationship begins.Truth be told,  Mac has been "knocked off his nine pins" by Maddie and as a man who has never been in love or who has ever believed in "love at first sight," he is completely overwhelmed by his response to this woman who wants absolutely nothing to do with him.  And adding insult to injury, it appears that everything Mac tries to do for Maddie only makes people believe even worse about her.

This is a story about family and the bonds that manage to stretch and hold even when tested by life's most strident challenges.  Mac's family have always believed Maddie's poor reputation the same as most of the island's residents.  In fact, the head of housekeeping at McCarthy's Hotel has always given Maddie the worst rooms to clean and she has always done her job without complaint, knowing that nothing will change.  Imagine the chagrin of Mac's mother, owner of the hotel as well as the chagrin of the head of housekeeping when Mac himself shows up to cover Maddie's shift and discovers the crap they have been shoveling at her.  

This is also about a very honorable man who falls in love and allows nothing to defame the name and reputation of his lady love.  He is a man who also falls in love with her infant son, becomes a babysitter extraordinaire, manages to finally convince others in the community through some creative planning that Maddie has been unjustly labeled.  Watching this part of the story unfold is especially heart-warming.

This is indeed a beautiful love story and Ms Force writes about these characters with great skill and sensitivity.  We all know people like Mac and Maddie and we "recognize" others in this community--some really fine and some not so fine.  We are introduced to Maddie's sister and some of her friends who are quietly supporting her with their friendship even though the majority of people believe the worst.  We meet Mac's family, his brothers and sister, and you will most probably come to adore Mac's dad who is known as Big Mac and whose open heart and accepting spirit have set the tone for all the people in his family and that of those with whom he works.

This is a wonderful novel that was released in April, 2011,  and I was hooked from the first.  I promptly bought every single book in the series and am waiting impatiently for the next book to come out in the Fall, 2012.  Each book continues the story of several individuals and couples in addition to those whose love story is being highlighted.  It is one of those novels that latches on to the imagination in such a way that the reader wants to experience the life of this island community first hand.  Once you read this first novel, you will know why it has achieved such acclaim and is such a favorite.  And best of all, right now it is a freebie at
I think you will really be glad you put this one on your eReader.  I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Reno Wedding With Baggage . . . "No Holds Barred" by Jaydyn Chelcee

Rimrock—Home of the Montana men and the women who tame them.

Professional horse trainer Kaycee Spencer decides to relocate when she becomes the target of an insane stalker. She chooses remote Rimrock, Montana where no one can find her.

Jace Remington, co-owner of the Dancing Star Ranch, refuses to allow women around his thoroughbreds—females are nothing but trouble with a capital ‘T’—that is, until he meets Kaycee Spencer, a woman who crashes into his peaceful life with trouble close on her heels. 

Set against the backdrop of the rugged mountains of Montana, Kaycee and Jace discover that if they are going to survive the vicious serial killer stalking Kaycee, they will have to learn to trust each other.   No Holds Barred, a roller-coaster ride of murder, romance, and the discovery that love just might conquer all.

This second novel in the Montana Men series was first released in 2008 and has now been re-released by Secret Cravings Publishing and is a doozy.  There is a sick stalker/serial killer who wants Kaycee and will do and has done unspeakable things to get her just so he can abuse, molest, and ultimately kill her.  In the Arms of Danger began this series and told the story of Sheriff Danger Blackstone and his love relationship with Lacey Weston who eventually became his wife.  There story continues on here as part of the back story, but this is Kaycee and Jace's story, two strong people who have been overwhelmed by life in many ways and whose encounter in Duel Remington's casino in Reno, Nevada, ends up being hot, erotic, and capped off with a marriage license.  That's just the beginning of the "road to true love" that is loaded with potholes, not the least of which is Jace's stepmother, a woman who is perverted in her own special way, and with Kaycee's brother Taylor, a man who has been severely injured in an auto accident with Kaycee driving.  You can imagine the dynamic between that brother/sister combo.

This is a story that is filled with high emotion, sexual hijinks, old wounds from family abuse, a stalker/serial killer whose sickness seems to continually escalate, secondary figures who become more important as the story moves along, and the pain of hurting lovers and the loss of people who become more important in death than they did in life.  There is deep sadness here as well as hope and deep family loyalty.  This is a novel that may be set in the beauty of Montana, have the potential for being a wonderful love story, but which is tainted and colored with greed, distrust,  and anger.  The novel is intense in a gritty and edgy way, with the story moving from character to character, scene to scene, all of it in such a way that the reader wonders what else can happen and will the bad guy really manage to do harm to so many people.  It is a cliff hanger of sorts and is filled with suspense that will surely carry over into the following novels.  This writer was new to me before I found Book One but I have been enthralled with both the first two books and can't wait to read the next three.  It's a book that suspense romance fans will enjoy, but be prepared:  you will be hooked.  I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.