Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I May Have To Marry The Guy, But I'm Not Going To Let Him Have His Way . . . "How To Tame A Willful Wife" by Christy English

1. Forbid her from riding astride

2. Hide her dueling sword

3. Burn all her breeches and buy her silk drawers

4. Frisk her for hidden daggers

5. Don't get distracted while frisking her for hidden daggers...

Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, expects a biddable bride. A man of fiery passion tempered by the rigors of war into steely self-control, he demands obedience from his troops and his future wife. Regardless of how fetching she looks in breeches.

Promised to the Earl of Plump Pockets by her impoverished father, Caroline Montague is no simpering miss. She rides a war stallion named Hercules, fights with a blade, and can best most men with both bow and rifle. She finds Anthony autocratic, domineering, and...ridiculously gorgeous.  It's a charming re-telling of "The Taming of the Shrew" but in reality,who is taming whom?

She had always known she had to marry to save the family reputation from disaster over indebtedness. She had been trained to accept her fate as the daughter of an impoverished aristocrat, a man who had more than proven his worth in the Napoleonic Wars, but who had come home to empty coffers.  Now his closest friend was offering for his daughter and Caroline knew that her father was entrusting her future to a man he truly believed would hold her dear and treat her well.  What Caroline wasn't prepared for was having her heart engaged by the enchanting rogue or having to face his mistress of over 10 years.  Add in the almost insidious presence of the Viscount Carlyle who had ruined the earl's sister, and you have anger, tension, revenge and distress up to ying yang.

This historical romance begins as many others do with the arranged marriage of two people as a  .  Anthony was certainly attracted sexually to his bride and made no bones about that fact.  However, he was unprepared for the inroads to his heart that she made.  The biggest difficulty was her unwillingness to be a compliant and biddable bride, continuing on with her sword and knife training, her archery, and her insistence on riding out alone to visit tenants and visiting the local villages.  While she submits willingly in the bedroom, his autocratic commands on the other aspects of her life chafe and gradually cause a chasm in their marriage that doesn't appear to be able to be mended.  It is a delightful, saucy, sexy, carefully written and beautifully told story of a marriage between two very different people and two individuals who must reconcile their attraction to one another sexually with the demands of human relationship, the need for being partners in more than just bedroom antics, and the respect that must be present to keep balance in their marriage.

I really love historical romance and could read it non-stop.  I don't even mind that most of them follow a well-established format that is often quite predictable.  But when I encounter one that adds in the spice of the antics that drive the Countess Ravensbrook and which manage to slowly but surely enrapture her husband reluctantly, it is a novel that stands out as one most historical romance lovers will appreciate above and beyond the norm.  It was just recently released by Sourcebooks, Inc, and is one that I know begs to be read and enjoyed.  I highly recommend it as worthy of the time and effort of serious readers.  I'm very glad I had the opportunity to read and review it.  Please let me know if you have read it and what you thought.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Disappointment, Struggle, and Finally Love: "Bodywork" by Marie Harte

First of all, I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!  It is, by far, one of my most cherished American holidays.  I always think of the times when my mom and dad and my sister gathered for our Thanksgiving dinner together, so very far away from any of my relatives, and knowing that it was "just us." I think those are some of the occasions when my ties with my family became strongest.  There are so many people who are important to me--my four kids, my in-law children, my six grandkids, my friends who are like family to me, my many professional colleagues who make my life rich.  And for all of you who are "friends" and who stop in here . . . for you I am so very thankful that you share in my love of all things having to do with books.  Many blessings to you all on this special day!  And now for a look at a wonderful book . . .

Their first meeting could have been better. He ran into her and her hot coffee, and raced off with a burn and a snarl.

Their second meeting should have been better. He lay naked, face down on her massage table while she stared at him in horror. Being sexually attracted to Mr. Tall, Dark and Rude hadn't been on her agenda. She just wants him out of her massage clinic before he recognizes her or she says something obnoxious before jumping that sexy body. Not professional. Not at all.

But when Shelby Vanzant and Shane Collins meet again, the third time's the charm. Shane has found his match, a sexy, intelligent woman he can't stop thinking about. Shelby is scared, because she might grow to like this guy. The last guy she liked dumped her for someone hotter. She's willing to take a chance--maybe--if her flamboyant mother, Shane's macho best friend and his Casanova of a younger brother don't screw things up. With fate on their side, they might both have a shot at a love they'd stopped looking for.

Two hurting people--disillusioned by their disastrous ex's treatment of them and subsequent departures as cheating #@&*.    So hurt are they that even the thought of any kind of long-term relationship gives each of them the heebie jeebies.  So when they collide, then again meet at Shelby's therapeutic massage clinic, the last thing they manage will be any kind of connection that can develop into a dating arrangement.  Ultimately they give into their attraction but both agree that a "friends with benefits" kind of connection is best.  And to hear each of them tell it, the benefits are out of this world.

This is a novel that brings some very different people into close proximity with one another.  Shelby's mom and her business partner--a gay professional that "adopted" Shelby 30 years earlier--are very into Taro and and the like, reading auras and astrological signs and working behind the scenes to interfere any way they can.  Shane's folks manage to get into the scene as does Shane's younger brother, a 17 year old who makes more noise than sense and manages a fair amount of damage, all in the name of loving his brother and wanting to see him happy.  The progress of Shane and Shelby's romance is rocky and fun in many ways, trying so hard to keep the sex just sex and nothing more;  they work so hard to keep their friends and relatives at a distance and never quite manage that.  They work so hard to trust when neither really know how to do that anymore.  So this story has lots of very real anxieties, very real people who struggle with those feelings, and some very funny and "out there" others who keep the two main characters hopping and worrying and hoping that they can find some sense of satisfaction in life.

Marie Harte has written lots of books and I have read some of her paranormals and enjoyed them a lot.  This is one of the non-shifter books of hers that I have read and as a contemporary romance that is very erotic, I found it to be very entertaining and one that I am glad I didn't miss.  I would have if I had not been trolling through the Amazon lists one day and way the author's name.  Now I realize that she has written bags and bags of books I never knew were her's.  This book was released late in 2011 but it is a fun book and a grand way to begin her series.  It is now followed with the second book entitled Working Out and is a novel that feature's Shelby's best friend Maggie Doran and Shane's best Mac Jameson, both of whom figure prominently in this first novel.  In fact, both of these friends get heavily involved in trying to bring Shane and Shelby together, moving them beyond the "friends with benefits" into a genuine love relationship.

I hope you will look for this novel and enjoy it as much as I have.  I really could empathize with Shane and Shelby as they dealt with their fear of new relationships.  All of us have been greatly disappointed in people we thought were trustworthy and who have let us down, often very suddenly.  This is a story about real life, about real people who are very like people we may know.   Their struggles are very like those we may have experienced or know friends who have experienced similar upsets in their personal lives.   So there is that taint of reality that gives life and believability to a fictional story, especially one that is set in a very real context.  I am delighted to be able to share this book with you and hope you have an opportunity to read it in the future.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What happens when happily ever after meets reality? Susan and James Williams are drifting apart. After a devastating loss, their lives are thrown into further turmoil when a mysterious stone at a museum hurtles them back to the Old West. Their supernatural experience only intensifies the chasm between them, and when James realizes where they are, in a moment of anger, he pronounces that they were never married.

They go their separate ways, unsure of what this new world holds in store. James settles into a job as bartender. Befriended by local rancher Daniel Miller, Susan soon develops feelings for him. She’s torn between starting a new life in a new time and healing her marriage and returning to the twenty-first century.

Will the miraculous journey back in time help Susan and James reconcile, or has destiny set new roads for them to travel that lead them away from each other?

OMG, where do I begin?  I guess I should start out by saying that this is the fifth book in this series I have read and I think they just keep on getting better.  I first discovered Sandy James through a free read--the third novel in this series that spurred me on to getting books 1, 2, & 4.  I have to also admit that I resisted reading this novel because I have never really been a fan of time-travel, but I have always thought that Ms James' writing was above the norm so decided, tardy though it may be, to read Twist of Fate.  I am soooo glad that I did!

Like all the main characters in this series, Susan and James were deeply hurt, damaged in their emotions, damaged in their marriage, damaged in their view of their life as individuals as well as a couple.  They survived each day, often trying to recover from that day's emotional injuries--hurt words, thoughtless actions, sarcasm, seemingly disrespectful of one another.  Their hard and unfeeling exteriors hid hearts that were broken, bruised by the loss of their unborn child--a son they both looked forward to knowing, a child that would have brought new life, love, and laughter into their home.    Both were grieving deeply, yet neither one would share that grief because of harsh words and what seemed to the other to be a dismissal of their hurt.  Add in the factor of James' discontent with his job--a discontent that had gone on for years but a job he pursued out of responsibility for his family.  You have a boiling cauldron of unexpressed anger and hurt--the makings of a very potent rage.  Through a series of unforeseen happenings, a radical change of circumstances, and challenges to the strength of their marriage ties, Susan and James were forced to face themselves, their attitudes and actions toward one another, their willingness to think about the future without one another, and the challenge to face up to what was before them.

This novel is another example of this author's ability to go to the core of a relationship, to peel away the layers of time, of taking one another for granted, of the easy convenience of living together but of having become so used to one another that they had stopped "seeing" each other as partners, as lovers, as friends.    This is one of those novels that will keep you riveted to the page, that will make it possible for you to envision the people, the action, the surroundings, and even to feel keenly the emotions that were driving these two people apart.  It is a story that will hopefully cause every reader to examine their own relationships and consider what really are the qualities that bind two people together.  Perhaps the most compelling quality of this story is the personal reflection Susan and James must endure as they take a new look at themselves, as what makes them who they are, at how they can manage to survive as an individual in an alien environment and how they must choose actions that will impact their future.  

This is a compelling story, well-written with a story line that is moving steadily toward the crisis and resolution.  Ms James is a writer whose expertise shines through all her novels and are a joy to read just from a literary standpoint as well as for the entertaining content.   This book has been around for a while but it is one that shouldn't be missed.  If you have not read any of this series, the third novel is still available as a free read at Siren-Bookstrand and is a wonderful book as well.  Twist of Fate is one of those books a serious lover of romance fiction just shouldn't miss.  I give it a rating of 5 out of 5.

Friday, November 16, 2012

We Love Our Books, But There are Other Creative Arts Still Surviving the Technology Age!

Just thought I would share this with you all . . . I am inordinately proud of the work that my home church members and friends have done this year on the Potluck Quilt.  We make one of these every year for an annual raffle, and it is always a testimony to the creativity and survivorship of sewing arts.  Even some of the young people in our congregation have contributed a square.  Each person can choose whatever design they wish but they must all use the same color binding and backing.  I knit an afghan with the related colored yarn and that is the second prize.  The drawing is December 23.   I'll try to post a picture of that when it is done.  I have to get "cracking" on it, too.  Have been busy and lots to do with the year end approaching.  We sell raffle tickets for this quilt, but I just wanted you all to enjoy it with me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Saying Good-bye is Never Easy

 It's been a busy time with all of us on the verge of the holiday season -- getting everyone squared away for Thanksgiving, whose house is going to be Turkey Central, or who is going to cook what.  In the midst of all that comes the phone call:  my sister-in-law has died.

Marilyn was one of those really interesting individuals who wasn't always easy to read, who was married to my hubby's older and only brother, and who already had two daughters when we married.  Both she and my brother-in-law were graduates of the University of Iowa, she was a life-long educator and loved to teach first grade--truly a labor of love.  She was one of those women who always seemed to have the proper table decorations, the right kind of table settings for the occasion, the proper anything for any time.  She was quiet spoken, but when she did speak she had a very strong opinion to express.  Those of us who knew her could always tell when she thinned out her lips because we knew she had chosen to keep her thoughts to herself, even though those thoughts were pretty strong.

Her last years were very difficult.  My brother-in-law has been gone for 17 years and during that time Marilyn began suffering from several heart attacks and strokes.  About 10 years ago it seemed that she was going to be totally disabled by all she was suffering.  But true to her form, she kept fighting back and eventually was able to walk and talk almost normally.  Our last visit with her was such fun.  She remembered some wonderfully funny times, before I ever met my hubby, when she recalled times when he was bratty and acting like the "little" brother (he was in college at the time) that he truly was.  While he denied most of it, Marilyn certainly didn't let him off the hook.

She loved her kids, her grandkids and great grandkids--pictures of them were pasted all over her room.  She still loved carrot cake and lavender and purple flowers, and classical music.  She was a keyboard musician and had a very pleasant voice that she used more often than I realized.  Her last three weeks were dreadful, but her son told me that after her final stroke three weeks ago, she made up her mind that she had enough and refused to eat from that day on.  She literally clamped her lips shut and wouldn't budge.  How like her.

We grieve because she is the last of our family on that side in our generation.  We have lost a sister and friend and are so thankful that the hard and painful days are over.  Rest in peace.