Monday, December 2, 2013

This Week's Retro Review: "The Blonde Bomb Tech" by Lara Santiago

Commitment-phobic bomb technician, Sabrina Morgan, flies unexpectedly into the arms of firefighter, Jake Donovan, seconds before a bomb explodes. This was her first failure, and in Jake's sizzling embrace, Sabrina is grateful for his comfort in helping her hide her secret fear of explosions.

Jake falls in love with the passionate but emotionally wounded Sabrina. He thinks she is perfect for him. Also, who better than a bomb technician will understand and support his dangerous career as a firefighter?

Looking to settle down and start a big family like the one he grew up in, Jake pursues Sabrina, who can't tell him her other big secret: she can't have children. Sabrina negotiates a tenuous affair with Jake as she tries to stop a serial bomber from detonating any more bombs in their small city outside of Boston. Her enemy's ultimate goal is to kill her for surviving a tragedy in her past.

OK, friends, this is a Gem of a Find published in 2007 and only recently discovered when I was looking at the long list of novels this author had written.  She is one of my favorites and one that I have found can be trusted to treat her characters with respect, to "unpack" their issues in a kind and generous way that helps the reader to see into their inner thoughts and feelings without letting the internal monologue overcome the story.  Jake and Sabrina are, IMHO, iconic in that they are people who have tasted of both the good and the not-s0-good of human experience.  Both have made some important decisions about life and about how they see their futures playing out.  Yet their almost explosive encounter following a failed attempt at disarming a bomb changes everything for both of them.

This is also a story about secrets, about their power to overcome good common sense, about their ability to pollute life decisions to such an extent that people often walk a very destructive path rather than risk the kind of wounds the past has wrought.  For Sabrina, left an orphan and never adopted--repeatedly rejected by prospective adoptive parents--hope had died a long and protracted death, the kind of hope that she thought she had in her grasp at last when she and her fiance had planned their future together.  Then she was told she couldn't conceive, and both her hope for her future and her fiance took a "powder."  No wonder she saw more gray than gold in the years that lay before her.  Add in the fact that her parents had died a fiery death in the midst of a bomb explosion and you know that fear was the foundation for all the thoughts and decisions that guided this woman's life.

Now Jake was a man who knew upfront that he loved and never intended to leave his dangerous profession.  But being a firefighter had not played out well with the women he had formed long-term relationships with in the past.  Now he wants a marriage and lots and lots of kids and he is absolutely dead set to get Sabrina into the wedding dress and the OB ward at the local hospital as quickly as possible.  Oops . . . another secret to deal with.

This romance novel also has an insidious mystery running through it, one that is rooted in Sabrina's past and will ultimately play out in ways that could not only mean the end of her life but changing everything she believed about life, the future, and herself.

All in all it is a delightful but compelling read, one that is certainly filled with the hot loving Ms Santiago writes so well, but it also interweaves the mystery with the romance and successfully keeps the reader right on the edge of the chair.  This is one of those books that one is strongly tempted to read the last chapter when only half-way through the book.  It's beautifully crafted and edited.  It's the kind of book that doesn't go stale and will continue to entertain readers who discover it.  I strongly recommend that you check it out.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Baby, It's Cold Outside . . . But I've Found Something to Warm My Heart

Now lest anyone think that we here in "sub-tropical" Southern Middle Tennessee are battling the elements of snow and hail, rest assured that the graphic to your left is only meant as a metaphor for the fact that even here in the lush and gorgeous Cumberland Gap area of Tennessee is in the grip of a cold spell.  Burrrrrrr . . . it's cold outside, Baby!  Try 28 degrees at 4:00 PM.  That's pretty extreme for around here.  

But as advertised, I had something that brought the warmth to my heart that only something truly "free" can do:  Book Bub.  Yep, that's right, Book Bub.  It's a web site that offers temporary deals on published books of all kinds -- you can let them know your preferences -- and you can get them either free or at a seriously reduced price with most of the books going for 99 cents.  I, of course, being the recipient of both German and Celtic spend-as-little-as-possible genes, go mostly for the free ones although I have been known to cave for those 99 cent deals.  Most of the books can be downloaded right to your Kindle if you are an Amazon subscriber or Kindle owner or can be downloaded to the computer and transferred to your e-reader from there.  So check out the website and go for it.  I get emails with book deals almost every day of the week and have gotten some spectacular books out of it so far and I've only had the site available to me for about a month.  Just had to share it with my friends.
There's one more thing that warms my heart as well, and I think this is even more important -- Thanksgiving Day.  Of all the non-religious holidays it is my favorite for several reasons.

1)  It's so uniquely American.  So rooted in our history, it speaks to me as history so often does.  Perhaps that's why when I began reading romance novels so many years ago I started with historical romance.  This is my way of affirming my own history as a part of this great nation and being a part of the flow of history as it has come down to me and my generation.

2)  It is a day that takes me out of myself in a very special way.  It reminds me to give thanks for the bountiful life I have even with the long list of bills I pay and the financial demands that I face every month.  Yet I know so many who would love to lead the life I have and to be surrounded by kids and grandkids and special friends and so many opportunities to enjoy life I have.  

So I say a heart-felt "Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving Day 2013" to all my friends and followers.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Solitary Vacation on the Beach . . . or . . . Falling in Love With the Rich Guy: "Saltwater Kises" by Krista Lake

When small-town girl Emma LaRue won a vacation to an exclusive tropical island, a last minute cancellation meant she would be going by herself. Shy and studious, she never had time to fall in love, and often wondered if she was just meant to be alone. However, that all changed when a handsome stranger literally walked into her life while on the beach and sparks began to fly.

New York's most eligible billionaire bachelor Jack Saunders thought this vacation would be the perfect escape, one last hurrah, before taking full control of his father's company. When an innocent Emma didn't recognize him, he figured that he might get a chance to have a vacation from being rich. He didn't tell her about the cars, the yacht, or the penthouse. All he did was let her fall in love with him.

Soon, Jack found that he was the one falling in love with Emma. When they enjoy a fantasy marriage ceremony on the beach, they thought it was a bit of harmless fun before returning to their normal lives. A bittersweet goodbye was supposed to be the end of their perfect vacation romance, but when photos of the ceremony were leaked to the press, everything changed.

Feeling lied to and thrust into a world of wealth and privilege, Emma must choose between following her dreams or following her heart. Will she be content at being nothing more than the billionaire's wife, or will she return to her normal life with only memories of saltwater kisses?

Billionaire love stories are "in" right now and so it is sort of a smorgasbord out there as to which one will catch your attention.  Of course, I always look for the free ones so of course I found this one on Amazon.  I have to say that I was somewhat astonished at all the low ratings by a number of reviewers--I have to really hate a novel in order to give it a "1" rating.   So after reading some of those reviews I have to admit that I read this book with something of a jaundiced eye.  

Well, let me tell you, I found the novel to be absolutely charming.  It was indeed a story about a woman who had won a vacation on a tropical island and who ended up going alone when her sister got sick at the last minute.  It was indeed the setting for a fling with a really hot hunk who happened to be walking on the beach when she gave CPR to a near drowning victim and it was indeed the setting in which Emma and Jack found that their attraction turned into a hot and heavy vacation fling.  The difference?  They decided to have some fun and go through a mock wedding ceremony, never dreaming that the whole thing had been photographed by Jack's spurned lover who then promptly sold the photos to a gossip rag magazine.  

I found Jack and Emma's story to be compelling because there were some surprises and some twists and turns to the story that I found unexpected.  One of those was the fact that they got caught up in real life with the media promoting their "marriage" as if it were the real thing.  That they still burned for one another was never in question.  But now there was a whole new set of challenges that they never intended to face.  They fully expected to never encounter one another after leaving their vacation haven.  In fact, Emma was totally astonished to find out that her "no name" lover was indeed a billionaire who had just taken over as CEO of an international oil and gas consortium.  High society intrudes which isn't unexpected, but then it was interesting when Jack's parents intruded.  It was as if Emma was a visitor from another planet.  Yet their story kept on and it was to the author's credit that it all came out in the wast, although I found the ending to be far different than I thought it would be.

This isn't the greatest romance novel I have ever read, but I found it to be well written, the story flowed well, I thought the characters were interesting and while I thought Jack's personality a bit grating as he seemed almost to be two different people, yet that just added another dimension to the story and certainly a bit of mystery as to how Emma was going to navigate within this slice of human experience that was so foreign to her.  After all, what's a nice girl from Iowa doing in the CEO's office and especially when she felt as if she were masquerading as a billionaire's wife?

So I happily give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5 as it was completely enjoyable and one that I found fully worthy of the time it took to read.  The book was released in mid-2013 and I am looking forward to the next book in this series.

One Year Later: "A Cold Creek Surprise" by RaeAnne Thayne

Hardened rancher Ridge Bowman has long told himself he has no need for love;  just work and his little girl are enough to get him through. But when his cleaning lady,  Sarah Whitmore, gets injured on his staircase, well, of course he has to invite her to spend the holidays with him. It's only the responsible thing to do.

Only, Sarah isn't really there to work on his house. She came bearing precious artwork belonging to Ridge's late mother, and possibly a secret that could devastate them both. But as Christmas draws closer, so does Ridge and Sarah convinces herself that she will tell him what she knows as soon as the holiday is over. She might be the key to his past if only he could be a part of her future.

The Cold Creek series by this author has embraced several families in this small out-of-the-way part of the Northwest and the latest stories have returned to the Bowman family, one that has been gifted with great love but continues to be decimated by the unsolved murders of their parents.  This novel takes up right where the previous book ends, with Ridge, the oldest of the brothers and keeper of the family ranch, left with the wedding and reception mess.   His sister has arranged for a cleaning service to come in and restore order.  It is that expectation that causes Ridge to assume that Sarah Whitman is at his door for that very purpose.  Little does he realize that she is the bearer of gifts in the form of one of their favorite paintings done by their now-deceased mother and one that had been stolen in the home invasion robbery/murder eleven years ago.  

This is a novel about a man who has tasted the bitterness of romantic disappointment but who has experienced deep love and enrichment in the relationship he enjoys with his young daughter.  Yet Ridge is lonely--lonely and fearful all at the same time.  He tried once and his daughter's mother hated the ranch and eventually hated him.  She walked away from their daughter without a backward glance when the baby was only a few months old.  Little wonder that he is not even remotely contemplating the possibility of any kind of love relationship in his future other than possibly a brief fling.

This novel is also the story of a young woman who has only recently discovered that her mob-boss dad, a man long estranged from her and her mother, has left his messes for her to clean up after his recent death and who discovers that her brother (murdered himself only a few days after the robbery/murder at the Bowman ranch) was one of the thieves.  How does she bring back the family paintings that are so treasured?  How does she even face Ridge and all his siblings with the pain and sorrow they have harbored, knowing that their anger and hurt will be focused on her?    As novels go, this is a significant crisis and one that is woven throughout the story, complicating the growing attachment between Ridge and Sarah as Sarah recuperates from her injuries sustained from a fall down a flight of stairs.    Of course I think we know there will be a HEA but how it all comes to a head and is resolved makes for darn good reading and once again solidified my contention that Ms Thayne is one of those writers that is simply too good a writer to be believed.  Her characters live to the extent that they almost jump off the page with the raw edge of reality mixed in with the deep feelings that make her stories so intense.

This was a delightful read and one that I hope you'll make a point of reading for yourself.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Friday, November 8, 2013

This Week's Retro Review: "To Command and Collar" by Cherise Sinclair

Determined to find the human traffickers preying on Shadowlands’ submissives, Master Raoul gets himself invited to a small slave auction. Once informed, the FBI orders him to reject the limited choices so the slavers will invite him to the big auction. To Raoul’s shock, one of the slaves is the kidnapped friend of a Shadowlands sub. She has a scarred body…and an unbroken spirit. He can’t leave her behind. Ruining the FBI’s carefully laid plans, he buys her.

Kimberly’s freedom has come at a devastating price: the other women are still slaves. An FBI raid is their only hope for rescue. Desperate to help the Feds locate the big auction, she agrees to pose as Master Raoul’s slave. Wearing a collar again is terrifying, but under the powerful dominant’s care, Kim starts to heal and then to blossom. This is what she’s been drawn to—and fled from—her entire life.

She escaped the slavers who captured her body—can she escape the master who’s captured her heart?

I think that Cherise Sinclair's BDSM series, Masters of Shadowlands, is some of the best romance literature in that genre and one that is intentional written to present a set of stories based on the kind of power exchanges that may be kinky but are definitely involving good people who are honest and caring and who may need the kink to meet their own needs but who have not left behind the "normal" involvement in contemporary society.  

However, Books 5 and 6 are probably the most difficult to read to date as they involve the efforts of Shadowlands owner and master to cooperate with the FBI in dismantling the Harvest Association, an international organization for the purpose of kidnapping and selling women "on order" by unprincipled individuals who think nothing of indulging truly evil urges at the cost of the dignity and often the lives of women living the BDSM lifestyle in one degree or another.  This book is about the recovery of one such woman, the friend of Gabi, the heroine of Book 5, and a highly intelligent, well-educated woman who has owned up to needing a "side helping" of kink to meet her personal needs.  As she is rescued and brought into the home of one of the Shadowlands masters, Kim must reclaim her sense of self, re-learn how to relate to a man in a healthy way and reclaim that part of herself that has been soiled and corrupted by the Overseer and his minions.  

Once again Ms Sinclair creates a BDSM master who is Hispanic and highly successful in his architectural engineering business, a man who has lost much due to the prejudice and lack of understanding of his own family and yet whose gentle spirit is enclosed in the mind, body and spirit of an Alpha-male.  His insightful handling of this very damaged woman is difficult to read but is a story that bears telling and is one that highlights the many positive ways that well-orchestrated BDSM scenes can bring healing into the experience of those who are open to and need these kinds of relationships.   There are scenes early in the book that will be distress-inducing.  But by the same token they need to be read as we who live in what most people would consider the "normal" world are seldom exposed to the dark and dirty underbelly of the sex trade.  There are definitely purient books "out there" but this novel seeks to tell the story without the gratuitous elements or that sense of being a voyeur.  Most of all it is a novel that is really about redemption and reclamation of the life of a really fine woman who needs to become whole.

There is no doubt that BDSM is not for everyone and certainly novels based on that lifestyle are not for everyone either.  But in a world where barriers are being dismantled in society, there is a place for understanding and acceptance, especially when stories are written by authors who want people needing this way of relating to be safe and involved with caring and authentic practitioners.

And as always, all of Sinclair's books are written with that deft touch which only the best authors bring to their work.  The stories flow, and for those who have read all the books in this series from the first, they will also be meeting and greeting characters from past novels who continue to grow in their relationships and who continue to form this close knit family of people connected by mutual respect and a level of acceptance that embraces all kinds of people who need all kinds of ways of relating.  I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: Friday Afternoon by Sylvia Ryan

Before kids and the responsibility of life, Levi and I shared a spontaneous, erotic, and deliciously deviant marriage. Years transformed what we had into something comfortable and worn. It hurts me to think his desire for me has cooled. I miss that look of his. Slightly evil and totally hot, like he wanted to devour me. Haven’t seen it in ages.

When I first married Mia, she submitted to every one of my erotic needs. Then came the children. With little complaint, I abandoned my pursuit of kink, content to be married to a beautiful, intelligent woman who’s a great mother to our twins. Out of the blue, Mia confesses she misses the intimacy in our marriage, misses the sex. After this enticing revelation, my plan to reconnect with her unfolds.

In our secret, kinky, Friday afternoon meetings I’m going to give her everything she wants and take everything I need. Will this be the answer to fixing our marriage?

Those of us who have put in some significant time working on a marriage complete with job stresses, kids, and such will resonate with this short novel that is told in the first person by both Mia and Levi.  Both have been feeling the "cooling trend" in their marriage even though both are deeply in love with one another.  Here is a novel that puts BDSM into the context of literally recharging a relationship that may be kinky for many but which was grounded in the D/s dynamic and which had become exceedingly vanilla.  

The concept of "making a date" with one's spouse has been touted often by marriage counselors and psychologists as one way to recharge a relationship where both spouses have taken one another for granted, most often because that is the way things work when two people live together for years, become used to one another's habits and ways of doing things, or when the business of raising children takes over the dynamic of a home.  And while raising the kids is certainly one of the most important tasks any couple can take on, keeping one's own personal relationship is, IMHO, foundational to keeping the kids safe, their future secure in a home where mom and dad know they are each cherished by the other.

This story outlines how one couple decided to put the "wow" back into their sex life and brought back the excitement of being in love with each other.  It is beautifully told, and by going back and forth between Mia and Levi, the author gives readers the viewpoint of both the dominant and the submissive partner.  This kind of solution won't work for everyone, but it is a story that brings the BDSM ingredient into the mix and while it is mild in many ways, it works for these two.

This is a read that won't take up a big chunk of time but it is a very romantic love story and I think it will be a good experience for most lovers of romance fiction.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Oldie But Goody: "A Cold Creek Noel" by RaeAnne Thayne

Caidy Bowman had been the apple of her family's eye—until a devastating tragedy forced her to hide from the world. She was used to devoting her time to the animals on her family's ranch. Then widower Ben Caldwell and his two adorable children arrived in Pine Gulch, and suddenly, Caidy wanted more than a life in the shadows….As the town's new vet, Ben needed a place to stay for the holidays—and for his family to heal from their own loss. He absolutely wasn't looking for love again! But Caidy Bowman's sparkling green eyes and sweet smile touched Ben's broken heart, giving him hope for a new future. Their future—if he could convince the beautiful cowgirl that Christmas was a time for new beginnings….

Released in November, 2012, this continuation of Ms Thayne's Cowboys of Cold Creek series is a delightful holiday novel which brings readers a wonderful love story.   This small Idaho town  has been featured in 10 previous stories highlighting various families in the community and giving all of us a peek into the workings of a small Western community.  There is a particular poignancy in the stories that have featured the Bowman family.  Over a decade earlier their beloved parents  were murdered during a home invasion robbery, one that had been planned to occur during the family's absence.  As it happened, the parents and their daughter, Caidy, were home because Caidy was sick.  Mrs. Bowman had become a well-known artist and it was for the purpose of stealing her paintings that the robbery was planned and carried out.  

Now, 12 years later, the entire family labors under the burden of the memory of this horrible experience when happened just a few days before Christmas.   It is especially difficult for Caidy who heard the entire crime being committed.  She has longed for a way to move beyond the hurtful memories, to find a way to replace the grief with a new joy.  As it happens, a new veterinarian is in town and together with his two young children, he begins to impact Caidy's life in unexpected ways.

This is truly the classic love story and yet it is not adversarial in nature but yet there is a good amount of tension between the main characters.  It's never easy to move forward.  For Caidy it means that she will have to let go of the pain and grief of that horrific day.  For Ben it will mean letting go of his anger at his dead wife, a woman who never really accepted her diabetic condition and its limitations and who insisted on getting pregnant a third time, a decision that ultimately cost her the rest of her life, her husband the loss of his spouse, and his children the loss of their mother.   At the core of this story lies the healing power of love and the redemptive power of faith and hope.

I downloaded this ARC a year ago and I just "found" it again on my Kindle recently.  I fell in love with the story to the extent that I went back and read a couple of the early novels in this series.  I know it's a year already since release, but I have a strong belief that such positive powerful stories never grow old.   I know it can be found in libraries and is on sale on several websites.    It's a really lovely holiday story and I think you'll find it worth reading.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Book Review: Lying in Your Arms by Leslie Kelly

Madison Reid's engagement is a sham. Her movie-star fiance  is actually her childhood friend who's gay. When he decides he can't keep living a lie, Madison ends things by leaking a salacious story about a hot if fictional affair. Now surrounded by swarms of news-hungry paparazzi, Madison escapes to the beauty of Costa Rica until things cool down.

Firefighter Leo Santori is on his honeymoon.  Alone.   Still torn up about losing his fiance to another guy, Leo isn't expecting anything from Costa Rica. That is, until Madison steps into his world, rocks it and then lights it on fire. The heat between them is undeniable and irresistible. But when Madison's scandalous past catches up with them, will it extinguish the flames or will they both end up burned?N

If you like hot sensual contemporary romance, I'm not sure it gets any better than Leslie Kelly.  Several years ago I read one of her books and the gritty writing style, the overt sexuality and sensuality of her characters along with an irrepressible sense of humor served to "hook" me for the foreseeable future.   Now we meet two more of her fun and entertaining characters, both of whom find themselves in unusual circumstances and both of whom are "running away" in a sense from the realities of normal life.  To be sure, Madison's relationship with her longtime best friend under the guise of an engagement is anything but normal.  But in the Hollywood world of "normal" it wasn't anything out of the ordinary.  Yet her life is being blitzed by the media and Costa Rica seems a good alternative.  For Leo it is also a haven as he deals with the betrayal of the woman he fully expected to marry.   Their resulting affair really lights up the pages in the way that only Leslie Kelly seems to be able to do.  It is one of the reasons that I have always like her writing:  she just tells it like it is.

This is a short novel that will engage you with its sharp and edgy writing, with characters who are different than often appear in novels, with Ms Kelly's appealing blend of sensuality and humor.  (Through the years and reading a number of her stories she has written some of the funniest conversations I have ever read).   All in all, it is a fun and entertaining read and one that is balanced between fun and deep emotion as readers deal with Leo's broken heart and Madison's fears for the future.  It's not a book that will take up immense amounts of time.  It will be a nice read to turn to when you don't particularly want to delve into something that is a much heavier reading effort.  Do yourself a favor:  enjoy this one and I hope it is as nice an experience for you as it was for me.  I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Book Review: Wounded Heroes Boxed Set: They're Hard to Handle and Hard to Love

Favorite Romance Themes™: WOUNDED HEROES is a boxed set of five complete novels from some of today’s most exciting authors -- at an irresistible price!

He’s a loner and a lost soul, the man who keeps to the shadows. He may have believed in love once, but not anymore. Whether his scars are physical or emotional, he’s hurting and vulnerable and in need of redemption—but to get it, he’ll need a Beauty with enough courage to tame the Beast. This boxed set features five full-length romance novels with wounded heroes.

I recently found this boxed set on one of the romance ebook sites at a sale price and couldn't resist--fine full-length novels at a nothing price:  what's not to like?   But these novels are not for the faint of heart.  Each one is about a man who has old wounds of heart or emotions or body and spirit, all tangled up in hopes for the future and disappointments from the past.  These are tough stories and there were times I almost felt overwhelmed by the depth of despair as well as the sense that there was no hope for any of these guys to find some peace in a loving relationship.  Yet all five stories have HEA endings and though it is difficult to get to that place, somehow the patience of genuine caring people and a loving significant other makes the ultimate difference.

Twenty-two years after coming home from Vietnam, Paul Tremaine is determined to erect a memorial to the comrades he left behind. Bonnie Hudson, the widow of a famous antiwar activist, doesn’t want to see that war glorified. Both Bonnie and Paul are survivors of a painful past. Can love heal their scars so they can make peace with that past and face the future together?

Both main characters in this story are struggling with difficulties from the past.  For Paul there is the memory of trauma in Viet Nam and the determination to keep his promise to fallen comrades.  For Bonnie it is the memory of her anti-war activist husband who died while continuing his public struggle against a war he hated.  Now she is almost tied to a shrine set up in her living room but that haloed place takes a beating when some unhappy truths begin to surface.  These two have a tough time finding common ground--a Viet Nam vet up against a woman who is absolutely anti-war.  It makes for good reading and some very tense encounters that are often made even worse by the presence of Bonnie's teen son.   The context is the late 80's so readers will have to adjust their historical memories on this one.

Waiting For You
In Waiting For You, tough cop Joe Moretti meets the love of his life, Dana Devlin, on his brother’s dating website. Little does he know she’s harboring a very big secret, one that almost destroys their relationship. Joe must find a way to prevent that secret, and his own personal ghosts, from ruining their chance together.

This is a poignant love story that links two people with a heap of emotional baggage.  JoeyD, as he is known on his brother's dating site, meets Dana and when finally meeting her face-to-face, learns that she is wheel chair bound for the rest of her life.  Her stellar ballet career was cut prematurely short by a crush injury which has crippled her from the knees down.  What she doesn't know is that Joe's dad died from ALS when Joe was 10 years old, and the memories of his dad's time in a wheel chair, the helplessness of both his dad as well as his own feelings of anger and helplessness have never been addressed.  Now these two people are trying to find common ground, a way to trust one another after keeping facts from each other, and deciding if the stresses of being together are really worth it.  It's a very emotional story with lots of ups and downs.  I felt for both of them and this writer really addressed the difficulties of disabilities in a very forthright way.  I really appreciated this story a lot.

Silken Threads
Graeham Fox comes to London to rescue his overlord’s daughter from her abusive husband, in return for which he is promised her sister’s hand in marriage and a vast estate—quite a prize for a landless soldier who’s never had a home of his own. Attacked and disabled by a broken leg, he rents a room in the humble home of Joanna Chapman, a silk merchant’s widow. Joanna, having learned not to trust handsome, charming devils like Graeham, lets him think her husband is still alive in order to keep him at a distance. Mindful of his mission—and the promised reward—Graeham struggles to resist his feelings for Joanna, but the white-hot desire simmering between them cannot be denied. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Silken Threads was honored with Romance Writers of America’s RITA® Award for Best Long Historical Romance.

This was perhaps the most difficult story of the five for me.  It was a full-length historical novel set in the 11th century when the Norman invasion and the Battle of Hastings in 1066 was not far past.  It is a look at the difficulties of women in that time, their presence in society but without any value of their own.  It is a story about trust and about the ties that bind human to human, lover to lover, friend to friend.  It is about loyalty and being faithful to one's commitments.  I found there were some passages that went long on discussions I didn't think added substantively to the story, but the fact that it won a RWA RITA award shows how much I know about those things.  The main characters were delightful--Joanna was a woman whose marriage at age 15 turned out to be an emotional hoax while for Graeham, the possibility of becoming something more than a bastard and a military servant made his attraction to Joanna a great difficulty.  Lots going on in this novel and even with the action taking place nearly a millenium past, loving someone and the problems between lovers never get old.

Texas Refuge
Seeking peace after nearly dying in a failed attempt to save his sister, the last thing former Houston detective Quinn Marshall wants is another woman to watch over, but his rugged Texas ranch is the ideal hiding place for soap opera star Lorie Chandler, who has already lost her husband to an obsessed fan. When the madman finds them, Quinn's sole focus is on keeping Lorie safe, even though his success will mean that he will have to give her up to a life where he cannot belong.

He's a retired Houston, Texas cop with psychic abilities he refused to acknowledge, and she's an Emmy winning daytime drama actress with a five-year-old son and a stalker who  may have already killed her husband.    The tensions that surround any stalker story are here but they are amplified by the inner struggle Quinn endures because his logical cop brain can't own up to his heritage  as an empath.  Their time spent at Quinn's ranch in Texas provides a setting where their love can grow and Quinn's relationship with Lorie's young son blossoms.  The exchanges between this young boy and the adult characters in the story are delightful.  Quinn's great-aunt, Tia Consuela, is also one of the background characters but her presence is far more important than the amount of dialogue given her would indicate.  It's really about two people who manage to find themselves and each other under very difficult circumstances and while having to wade through Quinn's guilt over the death of his sister.  The tension never lets up in this one.

The More I See
Cutting horse trainer Cody Gentry was riding high until he lost his eyesight in a freak accident. He hopes eye surgery will repair the damage to his eyesight. But just in case, his father hires guide dog trainer, Lyssa McElhannon, to help pull him out of depression. Lyssa didn't expect to fall in love or have Cody open her eyes to see there was a whole lot of living she’d been missing out on.

It's no secret that I like cowboy stories and found this one to be a very intense read.  It is a little on the short side, but the main characters are gritty and intense.  It is always difficult when a person as active as Cody--cutting horse trainer extraordinaire and championship holder--loses his eyesight while saving another young and foolish ranch hand who was unwisely mixing chemicals.  Cody's descent into depression, his refusal to accept help, his determination to be stubborn in his isolation are the backdrop against which this story plays out.  Lyssa is a woman who experienced blindness for twenty years of her life but was given a second chance because of modern surgical procedures.  Now she trains seeing-eye dogs and has brought one for Cody.  He patience is quite bountiful but even Lyssa gets fed up.  It's a story that will tug at the reader's heartstrings when Cody takes his first horseback ride, remembering the trail so well and trusting in his steady and trustworthy mount who has taken him the cutting horse championships in the past.   The story is very emotional and there are times when the reader will wonder if these two are going to manage to have their own HEA.

This Boxed Set is one of a number of collections that were recently made available on Amazon and other ebook sellers online for one 99 cents.  Such a deal.  I found all the stories to be really good reads and while I had my favorites (I think the story about the cop and the ballet primadonna was my number 1), all of them were very good reads.  I gave the set a rating of 4 stars on Goodreads and I think a rating of 4 out of 5 is where I am going to stay.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sharing a New Author to Me: Joan Swan,author of a new series: Covert Affairs.

Author Joan Swan says of her own personal history:
I was never a star English student or a Literature buff, but I’ve always had a creative soul and an active imagination. Writing was a natural culmination of those two talents.
I write what I like to read: romantic suspense. I write for entertainment and escape–the same reasons I love to read. I prefer real-life language, so you’ll find profanity in my work when it fits the character. I prefer open-door sex, so my love scenes are typically hot and steamy. And because my stories involve suspense, you’ll often find violence, mystery and an inside look at the intricate world of forensics. Occasionally, I like to dabble in the lighter side of paranormal as well.
I am agented by the fabulous Paige Wheeler, founding partner of Folio Literary Management in New York. My debut novel, FEVER, releases from Kensington Brava in April 2012. Book 2 in the series, BLAZE, releases fall 2012. My editor at Kensington is the wonderful Alicia Condon, Editorial Director for Brava.
A triple RWA Golden Heart finalist as well as a double Daphne Du Maurier finalist, I am a lover of craft and closet-hoarder of writing craft how-to books.
In my day job, I work as a sonographer at UCSF Medical Center, a location with an intensity that makes me slightly insane…which works well with the writer in me. Not to mention all the character material I have access to–and I’m not talking about the patients (well…mostly).
I have been married twenty years to my own personal hero, a veteran firefighter, we have two beautiful daughters and are blessed to live in the heart of wine country on the gorgeous Central Coast of California.
Please feel free to email me with questions and comments at:
joan AT joanswan DOT com.
Intimate Enemies by Joan Swan, Book 1 of the Covert Affairs series
She is on a quest for answers; answers that could just get her killed.

Six months after the mysterious yacht explosion that killed Cassie Christo’s mother and stepbrother, authorities still have no answers to the cause. Searching for closure, Cassie returns to her childhood home on the Pacific Coast of Baja, Mexico, where she launches her own investigation into the accident. She never expected to find an adversary in the man who had once touched her heart with kindness in her darkest moment.

Rio’s been fantasizing about reconnecting with Cassie for months. But not here and sure as hell not now. As an undercover agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he’s working the biggest sting operation in all of northern Mexico, and he definitely doesn’t have time for the wild attraction he feels for Cassie.

Not only is his cover on the line, so is his heart. Because as the end of a yearlong operation draws closer, Rio knows if he tells Cassie the truth about who and what he is, it won’t only jeopardize his mission, it may result in him losing her forever. And if he doesn’t, his lies and deception could get them both killed.
First Temptation by Joan Swan, Book 1.5 of the Covert Affairs series
Counterterrorist agent Taft Walker knows the Mexican cartel smuggling game. But posing as part owner of an adult store to ferret out the newest tunnel into the US is a first. So is Zoe Brooks, his partner, new to undercover and a sex-toy virgin. Taft’s up for the sexy challenge. At least until he sees the real Zoe beneath her tough fa├žade and realizes, for the first time in his life, he’ll have to risk his heart to win.

After the death of a teammate, Border Patrol Agent Zoe Brooks is ready to get off the front lines. She’s willing to tolerate a swaggering partner like Taft for a chance to work investigations with ICE. But she’s not prepared for the way he understands her deepest, sexiest desires. Or the fact that she’ll have to break her own rules to grab hold of the passion she’s always wanted.
This series as well as this author first came to my attention when reading one of the book packs that are being offered by Amazon entitled Wicked Firsts, a collection of novels and novellas that are all good reading.  The first book in this series was released in mid-2012 and then the follow-up novella that not only told the story of a new couple involved in undercover law enforcement against the Mexican gangs and drug cartels, but also completed the story of Rio and Cassie, the main characters in Book 1.  Both these books are multi-layered in their story lines, both are built around  the pain and anger that is part and parcel of the the evils of power struggles, drug wars, the acquisition of millions of dollars from the sex trade, transporting women to brothels throughout the world, transporting illegals after taking massive amounts of money these people have literally spent their lives saving.  In this context these romantic encounters occur and they make darn good stories. 
Filled with danger, sizzle and the kind of suspense that keeps reader glued to the page, both these stories are will written, bring characters to life that are realistic, edgy and frightening in their presentation.  The reader will feel the anger, the greed that drives men to murder and the conscience-less actions that would put women in slavery if they pose a challenge to gaining another inch of territory in the power struggle, stand in the way of gaining that next half-million dollars, and so forth.  Ms Swan has told stories that cause readers to deal realistically with the life-threatening danger undercover law enforcement officers live with, the particular skills and ways of dealing with criminals that can change their lives and remove them from what most of us would consider a normal life with normal relationships.  Yet love intrudes, sometimes in a wonderful way and sometimes with mind-crushing results.   
Ms Swan's next book in this series is due to be released Spring, 2014, and I, for one, will be delighted when it becomes available.  
An additional word:  Amazon continues to make some spectacular collections of romance novels available for only 99 cents.  Now is a good time to become acquainted with new authors or indulge in an orgy of good reading from authors long favored.  Don't miss this chance to enjoy some fine writing and some darn good stories.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt . . ." Thank You, Tennessee Ernie Ford -- I couldn't have said it better myself!

Yep . . . that's right!  The big BD has come and gone and this year was unusual to say the least.  I was literally stuck at the laptop and 2200 miles away from home, back in Southern California for a church-related meeting, and yes, it went the entire day.

Now I am finished with that and looking forward to an evening with my kids and grandkids before boarding yet another plane (I hate flying) to wind my way back to Southern Middle Tennessee.  On the way here last Thursday I got to sit in the middle between two others on both legs of the flight.  I guess the airplane seating lottery ordained that it was my turn to be the "sardine."  I had to extend my time in So. Calif. and the airline wanted $373 to change my reservation.  I went to another airline and just booked a one-way ticket for a hundred dollars less.  What a rip-off!

Just five days back in the sunny Southland and already I notice how much dryer my skin is.  Southern Middle Tennessee is considered sub-tropical and one can almost hear the grass grow with all the rain.  Hubby reported that it had rained for three solid days and even in the middle of August, when the thermometer is usually climbing upward at an alarming rate, it is now so cool that the air conditioner hadn't come on for three days.  Weird!  I don't like grass that is so long in one week that it looks like a hay field when it's mowed, but I sure don't mind not having my skin feel so dry that it is flaking off my body.  So I guess one takes the good with the bad.

So amid the dull and boring meeting, my phone buzzed and my kids called and wished my good birthday wishes.  Friends wished me good wishes on Facebook, and hubby said he missed me.  So really, when you come right down to it, it was a good birthday after all.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: Catchin' Up With The Folks . . . "Short Rides" by Lorelei James

I don't think there is any doubt that those of us who are unapologetic fans of Lorelei James' "Rough Rider" series are delighted when our author keeps us posted on the goings-on in the McKay clan and with their various relational branches of the family.  I also am convinced that all who really love this series have their favorites and I think it likely that Ms James has been listening to her fans when she decided to write this anthology of stories that will bring her readers up-to-date with Cam McKay, the Glanzer family (Chassie West and her two hunky husbands), and Keely McKay Donohue.  Each of these families grabbed the interest and the imaginations of readers and while many of the subsequent novels have advanced readers' knowledge of the increasing size of the McKay clan, it's also more than welcome to have some specific time and space given to characters who have been especially dear to our hearts.

Cam McKay is a man who has been severely injured as a result of his service in the Iraqi Conflict and yet has worked through lots of his issues with the help and support of his intrepid spouse, the delightful Domini and her wonderful sense of humor, her knowledge of the world, and her incredible patience with Cam as he continues to struggle with his PTSD issues.  Here he has encountered one of the worst crime scenes ever to be seen in Sundance, Wyoming, with its small town life and its deep sense of family and friendship.  Dealing with the crime itself, dealing with the fact that it was two people he had known nearly forever, dealing with the recriminations and grief of the victims' families throws Cam into a tailspin, all on Valentine's Day.  And as if that isn't enough, it's all happening while Domini and his six kids are planning a romping good evening to surprise their dad who they are prepared to crown "King of Hearts."  It's a warm and wonderful story that is built around the core of a terrible tragedy--warm and wonderful because of Domini's care and unconditional love and the patience and love of his kids in the face of his terrible sadness.  Terrible because it brings back all the nightmares, the sense of hopelessness, the survivor guilt that had been far less of a problem in recent years.  Yet this short story is a lesson in the power of patience and love to bring light into darkness and to how there is no statute of limitations on the power of love to heal wounds.

Chassie West Glanzer and her hunky husbands Edgard and Trevor have a whole different set of troubles landing on their doorstep.  Trevor and Chassie are set to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary as well as their eighth anniversary as a triad since Edgard became a permanent part of  their relationship.  Now they have three children and the bigotry of an extremely conservative community rears its head in the form of bullying at their son's grade school.  A first grader handling epithets against his family for their "perverted" lifestyle is way beyond acceptable and on the eve of a special get-away weekend, these three loving and very dedicated parents must face the task of explaining the actions of those who would seek to make this little six year old boy feel bad about the love shared by his folks.  This story is very much focused on how these three deal with this challenge, but it is also about how they celebrate their love, how it has grown and matured in their years together, and how they are looking to the future together.  Ms James never backs away from the tough stuff here. While I don't include spoilers, I will give you a clue that this novella has included one of the finest incidents in all of this series--what it really means to care about and support those we love.   It's a tremendous part of this anthology and not to be missed.

Lastly, there is Keely McKay Donahue, caught in the throes of pregnancy hormones, dealing with her high-powered handsome and type A personality husband.  After four years of marriage it is a well-known fact that these two have figured out that make-up sex is absolutely the best.  And it's a good thing, because they know how to mix it up as well.  They most definitely have their own particular dynamic, and even as they work through the issues of pregnancy successfully, there is the new challenge of what it means to be parents to lots of kids in a very short span of time.  Yet again there is the factor of family loyalty, of knowing that in spite of everything that has happened in the past, in spite of the fact that Jack still thinks Keely's dad hasn't really accepted him, there is that sense of "circling the wagons" when potential tragedy is making an appearance in Keely and Jack's life and both of them have to face the possibilities that their lives may never be the same.

All in all, this is a wonderful book and one that I was not initially aware was even "out there."  But I found it on Amazon and am delighted to have experienced it.  Also made me want to go back and re-read some of the original stories about these special people.  This book has been out since April, 2013, but it is worth the time and effort to enjoy.  Don't miss it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Don't Miss These Great Buys at!!

That's right!  Now a series of collections -- full length novels in bundles -- are available at for just 99 cents per collection!  Don't know how long these will last, but I just found them myself and didn't hesitate to buy them.. All were including works by authors I have come to appreciate in the romance fiction genre and even though some were released months ago, they were books I hadn't read and which piqued my interest.

Novels by Patricia Ryan,
                Julie Kinner
                Shelley Thacker
                Kathryn Shay
               Julianne McLean

All are full-length works and the collection was released July 17, 2013.

This collection contains full-length works by
               Lexi Blake
               Marie Harte
               Cari Quinn
               Carrie Ann Ryan
               Jayne Rylon

It, too, is a 99 cent bargain.  Some of the stories are familiar to me, but I couldn't resist getting the collection as I hadn't read four of the five books.  A bargain at any price!

Included are the novels by

            Cynthia Wright
            Patricia McLinn
            Patricia Ryan
            Judith Arnold

This collection was just released last week on July 17th.

This collection is FREE bundle of novels by author Melissa F. Hart in gratitude for the support of her faithful readers.  It was released in March, 2013 and has had enthusiastic reception.  It remains the best bargain on the page and has received good reviews.

Included in this collection are novels from
            Emilie Richards
            Judith Arnold
            Patricia McLinn
            Patricia Ryan
            Kathryn Ryan

All are novels around favorite romance themes and while the collection contains books by some of the same authors as other collections, it is a great bargain and all are well respected romance writers.

Just go to, write romance collections in the search window, and you will not only find these but many others that are also available for 99 cents, some free collections by authors who are releasing bundles, and others that are significantly reduced over the individual book price.    It's a great "steal" for summer reading and even though I don't know when the "sale" will end, I had to make all of you aware of this literary windfall.     Happy reading!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

"The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" (Yeah, Right!!) OR "Rainy Days And Mondays Always Get Me Down"

We're talking about RAIN and MORE RAIN this past week!  And here's this gal -- Me -- sitting in Southern Middle Tennessee which, by the way, is classified by weather people as "sub-tropical" and we have been enduring rain everyday for a week.  The big problem is that I haven't had to sit through a soggy July 4th in 35 years, coming from the High Desert of Southern California.  And now I am sitting in this soggy, sauna-like environment and it is just totally strange.

It was also very strange that there were no parades, not many fireworks, although there were tons of fireworks stands along major roads and boulevards in our town and those nearby.  But while we were waiting for them to go off, it was just quiet.  I think we heard more on Friday and Saturday than actually on July 4th.  Now we aren't talking about a polite little sprinkle that comes and goes.  I am talking about heavy rain that is coming straight down for several hours with a break of about 90 minutes, and then several hours more of heavy rain.  No wind most of the time.  I was surprised when I went to the upstairs bedrooms to find out that there was not rain coming in through open windows.  Just straight down non-stop.  Of course the grass and the plants and trees love it.  But I am sitting by my front window looking at the grass growing--it is almost something you can see happening with this much rain--and knowing that I won't be able to get out there and mow for another day.  And what's the forecast::  FOUR MORE DAYS OF RAIN.

The old-timers in our neighborhood tell me that we should be having 90 degree, 90 % humidity days by now.  That's really the only good thing about heavy clouds.  It does keep the temperature down.  But today it rained for about an hour and THEN the sun came out.  Instant sauna!

Oh . . . by the way . . . I can definitely report that I have learned a dozen new treatments for mosquito bites--and I am using them all.    It's Monday and it's raining, so it's a true "downer."  But, thank heavens, the air conditioner works.  We pull about 10-12 gallons of water out of the inside atmosphere everyday.  I'm hoping that at some time in the next few months, something magical will occur and I'll get used to this.  I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Arrgghh!! I HATE Serial Novels!! Why Do I Keep Reading Them?

Yes!  You Heard It Here!!  I HATE Serialized novels, and yet it seems that I keep ending up with them.  I'm not talking about those series of stories that are made up of stand alone novels.  Those are good and we have all enjoyed those to a fault.  But full length novels that aren't anything more than a part of a much larger story??  Much too much like real life for me.  I want my HEA and I want it NOW!  Yet I keep on getting sucked into these books that leave me hanging.

One in particular has gotten me really exercised over this issue.  I found this initial story on All Romance eBooks and bought it -- it seemed like a good story and it was only 99 cents.  Good deal, right? From a literary stand point, no way.  It got me hooked on Sebastian and Sophia's story, and by the time I was done I knew the story wouldn't turn me loose.  Sebastian Lock is a man that Sophia discovered when a mysterious door in the back of a seedy bar yielded to her curiosity.  She found a whole different world beyond that door--plush surroundings, a very upscale cocktail party going one with expensively dressed women and wildly gorgeous men, all of whom were obviously wealthy, prosperous, and having a very good time.  Nothing kinky at first glance, but there were other mysterious doors that Sophia didn't venture to open that night.  As she was nervously nursing her drink at the bar, a suave and beautifully dressed man began a conversation with her.  Yet Sophia managed to extricate herself from that scene, little realizing that she had become the focus of this powerful man's interest and he was not going to let her slip through his fingers.  This was a novella that starts the reader on the journey with Sophia as she is courted, in a manner of speaking, but a man who is willing to pay $400 to her law firm for one hour of her time in order to convince her to begin seeing him.  Yet when she tried to get to know him he retreats behind a wall of secrets, generalized responses to her questions, enigmatic statements about his business ventures, etc.

The second novel in this serial novel is even more frustrating because it lures the reader even deeper into Sebastian and Sophia's relationship, one that seems to be on a sure footing and moving forward for a time and then seems to stall.  At a social event to which she was invited, Sophia meets one of Sebastian's business associates--another bachelor who is handsome and obviously well-heeled--and yet his words to Sophia are a warning not to get attached because Sebastian will never stay with her long-term.  He will leave her behind like he has every woman in his life since his failed relationship with his fiance.  Now the reader must keep in mind that Sophia is an attorney with the kind of curiosity that lawyers need and use to solve riddles and resolve legal issues and find answers when no one else has the patience to keep looking.  It is this curiosity that got Sophia involved with Sebastian in the first place, and it is that same curious streak that keeps forcing her into areas of Sebastian's life where he clearly doesn't want her.  It is when this kind of fact-finding mission that seems to precipitate the major stall in their relationship and one that brings the reader to the cliff-hanging final paragraph in this portion of their story.  Argh!!  So frustrating!  I almost threw the eReader across the room.  Would have, too, if it hadn't been for the fact that I like the device a lot and have lots of books on it.

Yet my final word on this for now is that author Maya Cross has written a wonderful story, one that is so fascinating that it was literally impossible to put it down.  There was that underlying tension that was inescapable:  that Sebastian was hiding some pretty heavy-duty stuff, yet he wanted in the worst way to have Sophia in his life.  The "come here, get away" style Sebastian had for dealing with Sophia was a part of the frustration of reading this novel.  Sometimes he was endearing, tender, and so very caring for Sophia and her concerns.  Other times he was distant, cold, unfeeling, and seemingly out for the physical satisfaction he found in her bed.  Yet the reader has this hunch that there is much, much more to this story and that is what really hooks the reader.  And for someone like me who loves a good mystery anyway, I was a goner.

I will indeed continue on with this story.  I'm stuck in every sense of the word.  Just don't assume that I like it.  I have also come to the conclusion that I am my own worst enemy.  Always a sucker for a good story!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

They May Be Really Bad Boys, but Baby, They're Really Good Men . . . New Series by Melissa Schroeder

He's visiting a military buddy in a medical rehab facility, a man who is in the throes of a lot of pain, right at that point in the rehab process where it would be so easy to just forget about ever getting well.  It's just too painful!  Enter a hardnosed, bratty, brash, and bossy physical therapist whose indomitable spirit is packed into the most attractive "package" that Leonardo Santini has ever seen.  And so begins the saga of these two unlikely lovers, both of whom have seen the worst and the best of the military life and neither of whom are really in the market for anything permanent in their lives that has to do with love and romance.

Author Melissa Schroeder has become known in the literary romance fiction genre as one who brings the various aspects of military experience into her sizzling romances.  As a military "brat" she is well equipped to flavor her stories with the realities of being a member of a branch of the armed services, the challenges to personal relationship, the hurt and destruction that seems to characterize many stillborn relationships that go "south" because of distance and long absences.  This four-piece series of novellas has brought the Santini family to readers, four brothers who are all serving in one of the military branches, and all four still single.  They all love their folks, they are deeply committed as brothers to one another and share that deep allegiance to country, but none have taken the time or perhaps have not been willing to open themselves up to the challenges of being in a love relationship that will be tested strenuously by absence and distance.

These are not the first of Schroeder's work that I have read and reviewed.  She is one of those authors whose work almost automatically ends up on my reader--when I see her name I just buy it.  Without fail the reader will heat up noticably, and all her stuff is full of zing and sizzle and romance that keeps the reader riveted to each page.  No matter how long her pieces, they are never long enough.  Her characters are people who are strong and independent individuals, experiencing life with all its warts and bunions, dealing with hurts that are common to us all, but trying to find a way to keep balance in their lives.  She writes about unapologetic alpha males, many of whom are living within a version of the BDSM lifestyle, who are not reluctant to make a case for being in charge in the bedroom, but who treat women with respect that is often "over the top."  I find these men to be interesting in that they are not afraid of being who they are, willing to allow a woman to be who she is, but who have a very definite sense of how it's going to be between them and their lovers/partners.  That's just who they are.  Perhaps it's Schroeder's own upbringing among authoritarian types where she witnessed the best and the worst that comes when men are given that kind of authority over others.  I know that the six years that hubby was in the Army certainly taught me the difference.

Each of these novellas stands alone yet the reader can get a bit of continuation in the lives of the brothers featured in previous stories as the series moves along.  I found book one to be very intense and book two to be somewhat less so.  But looking back on them, I think the intensity level has as much to do with the characters' own personality, their style of relating to others.  Leonardo and Gianni are more outgoing than Marco who even within the family framework was the "quiet" brother.  Gianni is the youngest and his sense of self, though just as developed, is still more of a work-in-progress kind of thing.  It shows up as such in the way he woos his lady.  The final novella,  Vincente, in now available and I have only just downloaded it.  Vince is the oldest brother and sort of the "last man standing" among the four.  Yet his love interest has been long in coming to him so his story has been the last to be told.

Lastly, the covers on these books are definitely drool-worthy.  I know we all recognize the usual poses on many of the romance novels we read, but these are very attention getting and what female reader wouldn't just like to sit and gaze, eh?  There may be snow on the mountain top but there is still fire deep down inside, or so I have been told.

Don't hesitate to invest in these novellas.  I don't think I would have bought them if it hadn't been for the fact that I just happen to really like this author.  But in the end, I'm glad to have read them and I wanted to share them with you.