Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Releases - July 2010

More books that caught our eyes! Seriously, when are we going to have enough time to read them all?

But maybe you can help us! Stay tuned for contest details!


Monday, June 28, 2010

Coming Soon...

Let's talk romance!

This blog is totally dedicated to the romance genre--be it paranormal, historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, erotic...As long as it's romance, we'll talk about it here!

Our first post is coming soon...

Friday, June 25, 2010

If You're Hooked...

For lovers of the BDB series, I just learned that the 9th book will be titled Lover Unleashed, featuring Manny and V's twin sister Payne. And we'll be seeing more of V!!!! Yay!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

REVIEW: Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward

ISBN 9780451222350
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 5
Genre: Paranormal Romance
(c) October 2007, Signet Book
J.R. Ward's website 

Rating: 5 stars 

"One of the best books, if not the best, in the BDB series!"

Vishous, the hard, cold-hearted brother, met his match in Dr. Jane Whitcomb, human surgeon, when he was brought into the hospital for a gunshot wound. His instincts just kept on screaming "mine" whenever he looked at Jane. However, his destiny could not include her, for he was destined to be the Primale of the Chosen, a worthy endeavor that would see him filling the ranks of the Brotherhood for the war against the lessers.

J.R. Ward pens a moving story of love and sacrifice. There isn't much about the lessers here (yay!), but a lot of romance between V and Jane. Though more would be great. :) As in previous books, some of the pages was also devoted to John Matthew's progress (he's got his transition here!) and laying the foundation for the next book, Phury's story in Lover Enshrined.

I have to admit that I didn't feel anything for V in the first three books and I didn't like him much in Lover Revealed. If you feel the same way, give him a chance! Here, we learned so much more about V--his horrendous childhood in his father's war camp, the negligence of his mother, his horrible background and past that shaped him to be the man that he is. And we see his vulnerability and insecurity where Jane was concerned, and that scene where he made her some hot chocolate at her apartment before leaving her ("he didn't know what to say, but he knew what to do") just about made me cry. In V, we saw how a bonded male cared for his female and it would make every female reader yearned. I know I did.

And Jane. Jane is just so precious with the way she accepted V and stood on his side. I like her doctor-take-charge attitude and the fact that she has purpose and ambition and how she was able to find a way to reconcile the two with V's life in the end. I like the matter-of-fact way she accepted V's proclivities (BDSM) and how she matched him in every aspect of his life. I did raise an eyebrow at how fast Jane wholeheartedly accepted BDSM, even though she's never experienced it. Considering also that her sex life consisted of two past lovers who were not satisfactory at all in the bedroom. Or elsewhere.

I'm glad Ms Ward put a closure on the possibilities between Butch and V, otherwise people will just keep on wondering, not to mention Butch and Marissa. Since this is fiction, I like my HEA's neat and tidy. :)

Regarding the ending, I have to admit to feeling a little out-of-sorts, because I thought V wasn't getting the real deal like the other Brothers. But on second thought, it's the best possible ending for V (a vamp who lived long years) and Jane (a human with limited life span), because at least, as my friend said, this way they're together forever. And I think V was okay with it because it meant he would have Jane with him for always, as opposed to not having Jane. And as he said, "it's the new reality" and they're learning to deal with it. It made me think how life doesn't always turn out the way you want it to. Compromises and sacrifices have to be made along the way. What you have to decide though is what are the things that are important to you, that you absolutely cannot live without? Once you have those, the rest are just a bonus. I think V and Jane have learned that.

Like Z and Bella (Lover Awakened), I didn't want to let go of V and Jane when the story ended. I hope (hope hope hope) there would be more stories of V and Jane in the succeeding books. And, as someone once said, when she found herself thinking of the characters long after she has closed the book, she knew it deserved the highest recommendation. I couldn't agree more with this book.

Friday, June 18, 2010

REVIEW: Flyboy by Karen Foley

ISBN 9780373793570
Genre: Contemporary Romance
(c) October 2007, Harlequin Blaze
Karen Foley's website

Rating: 4 stars

Available at Book Depository (print).

"Hot and sexy! Love your hero in uniform? This is the book for you!"

Sedona Stewart was flabbergasted when she learned through a quirk of fate that sexual prowess is the basis of promotion at her company. For that, she has to join an exclusive men's sex club. No wonder she hadn't been promoted in the five years she's worked there, despite overtimes and being careful not to mix business with pleasure on out-of-town trips.

I have to admit. The back summary cover intrigued me enough to pick up this book and I wasn't disappointed. True, not much titillating club goings-on can be found here, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the heroine was a highly principled individual who wouldn't think of being promoted through such sordid means. But lest I give you the impression that she's a starched and stiff goody-goody, let me assure you that she's not. Moreover, though she was rightfully scared, she was able to pluck up the guts to help the FBI bring down the club. I have to admire Sedona for going after the guy she's been hankering for all along--luscious hunk Lieutenant Commander Angel Torres, the pilot assigned to test fly the jets.

Okay, I don't quite like the name Angel for the hero, but that's a personal bias. From his first appearance, Angel left me in no doubt that he's a man (though I still don't like the name by the end of the story). I love his fits of jealousy (not the last one, though), and he does have issues of trust, due to not knowing the heroine as much as he should and being blinded by his own feelings of betrayal and hurt. But he's a pilot! The last points makes him very irresistible (what is it about men in uniforms?), not to mention I like my heroes with flaws and vulnerabilities. Oh and must care for the heroine and forsake all other women since meeting her, of course.

There's a suspense part that's interwoven into the storyline and I have to say it's nicely done without overshadowing the romance. Although the part where the villain's identity was revealed was awkward and not realistic at all. The way he acted in that last scene, insisting on talking to Sedona and all, jarred me out of a nice suspension of disbelief that I've been maintaining. It's almost as if he wants to be found out, which is kinda weird, because a villain's greatest thrill is to create the most havoc while achieving what he wants and getting away with it.

That said, these are merely minor flaws/irritants and didn't hamper my enjoyment of the story.

Available at Book Depository (print).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

REVIEW: Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward

ISBN 9780749938222
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 4
Genre: Paranormal Romance
(c) May 2007, Little Brown Book Group
J.R. Ward's website

Rating: 3 stars

Available in Book Depository (print).

"Another daring and original installment in the Brotherhood series!"

Butch O'Neal was a human who'd fallen in with the Brotherhood, owing to a vision that Vishous had of him early on in the series. Though he ate and lived with the brothers, he stayed on the sidelines when the brothers were fighting, because he was human and fragile. This chafed at him. So, when he had the opportunity, he risked his life to save a civilian vampire. As a result, he was captured by the lessers and worked over by the Omega and something changed within him.

One good thing about it though is that the misunderstandings between him and Marissa over the previous books were cleared up, but love is only the beginning of their problems.

J.R. Ward continues to surprise me with her in-depth character portrayal and her courage to write stories that push the traditional boundaries. I like how the war between the Brotherhood and the Lessening Society is escalating, and how the events in the previous books contribute to the atmosphere in the next. She introduced a new romantic element that was hinted at, though never fully expressed, which is maybe a sign that she's testing the waters and also a foreshadowing of the kind of relationship she may want to tackle later on. That said, this book can stand alone, as the main characters' past is explained or a short background given.

In the last two books, Butch came across as a parasite, the way he lived off the Brothers, even to using branded stuff. I never did find out why Butch took to it like fish to water, after the not-exactly-poor-but-not-rich-either life that he had. Maybe because Marissa's clothes are all branded stuff? Anyway, it's heartening to see he also had this same realization in this book and that he wanted to work for his keep. I guess he wanted a sense of worth, as he looked how his life had been and ached for a fresh start. I came to like Butch in this story. He's such a romantic, something I wouldn't have expected. He goes all sappy over Marissa. LOL

Actually, I like his devotion to Marissa, his fierce possessiveness and protection over her, his courage, his willing to risk all for the chance to be with her for longer than a human lifetime. He is enough to make a woman melt. Most of all, I like his loyalty to the Brothers. Despite all the flaws that he sees in himself, he is, as Marissa said, "a male of worth".

Marissa is different from the previous heroine. She is beautiful and born to wealth and privilege, a part of vampire aristocracy, yet lonely and in a way, an outcast from her own people. Her experiences over the years with men had made her insecure about herself and her own sexuality. I find her reactions to Butch's lovemaking heartbreaking. I can also understand her fear that Butch would be hurt in a fight with the lessers and be taken from her, leaving her alone once again and without a mate, without someone who loves her for what she is. But the insecurities and the fear, when displayed over and over and over again became a touch irritating. I felt that she's clipping Butch's wings, making him less of a man and that she should grow up and be less selfish. That is not to say she doesn't have good qualities. She cares about her own people, especially the abused and those less fortunate than herself. Marissa is a flawed character that most of us can identify with (who among us don't suffer from occasional insecurities, especially where our bodies are concerned, and want our loved ones to be safe?) and she probably arouses negative feelings in us because we see parts of us in her. She did grow over the course of the book though, so we also have hope. :) She acquitted herself marvelously toward the end, especially the girl power she displayed in the council.

Another thing I like is Butch's and V's relationship--best friends, beloved brothers (though there seems to be something more on V's end). V really touched me, the way he yearned to have something like what Butch has with Marissa. And he's all agony over his loss of vision, too, and the way he glowed all over, not just his hand. He seems to have a terrible past, and I'm really looking forward to read Lover Unbound.

I also like the portrayal here that love isn't all sweet and chocolates and a bed of roses. No, in its real and truest form, love is messy, it hurts, it makes you do crazy, irrational things, yet it also brings warmth, it makes you strong and it also brings out the nobility of the human/vampire spirit (makes you want to protect the people you love even at great cost to yourself). In the end, when you look back at the ups and downs, the joys and the tears, you're gonna say, "It's all worth it."

One thing I wished the author would tackle is the relationship between the shellans. I mean, we see how the Brothers relate to each other, how they trust and depend on one another, but it would be nice to see the women, brought to live with the Brotherhood because of their hellrens, interact and be the support network to each other (just like the Brothers are for each other) while their men are out fighting. Or be involved in some project together that would benefit the race. Else, what do they do when their men are away keeping the race safe?

Available in Book Depository (print).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

REVIEW: Love is in the Heir by Kathryn Caskie

ISBN 9780446616102
Genre: Historical Romance
(c) July 2006
Kathryn Caskie's website

Rating: 3 stars

Available in Book Depository (print).

"Laugh-out-loud funny"

The Earl of Devonsfield is in need of an heir, and his nearest relations are twins Garnet and Griffin St. Albans. Because the order of birth wasn't determined, the earl didn't know which brother to name heir. He therefore came upon a brilliant plan, which is that the brother who was the first to marry a lady of quality would be named heir. However, they have to keep this a secret, else the earldom may be in danger of being reverted to the Crown and the earl didn't want this to happen.

What ensued was a comedy of errors as Garnet (the rakish brother) posed as Griffin some of the times to help the latter win the lady of his heart.

There were some laugh-out loud moments in this story, ensuing from the two brothers' different personalities. I daresay I've read only a few heroes like Griffin--someone who is gentle and kind and thoughtful and most importantly, isn't a rake. Any romance reader can tell you that historical romances, especially in the Regency era, abound with rakish heroes.

Interestingly, our heroine Hannah Chillton is one very sharp lady, as she is able to differentiate between the two brothers, though she didn't know it at the time. She has too much pride as well and didn't like being humiliated. (Well, who does?) But suffice it to say, she learned a very important lesson about pride and love.

The story took on expected twists and turns, but the execution and writing made the story a delight to read. Also, if you're the uber-romantic and like to have most of the secondary characters with their own love matches, this is the book for you. As for me, I can't abide it. I mean, what are the chances? The exact mechanics of the brothers' courtship were also not explained clearly at the start, which caused for confusion on my part as to the need for the ruse. For once, I'd also like to see a hero who does not end up a viscount or an earl or a duke, not because he gave up the position, but because, well, that's just how the die rolls.

Available in Book Depository (print).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

REVIEW: The Initiation of Isabella by Jenna Ives

ISBN 978-1-60504-761-4
Series: Binding Ties anthology
Genre: Erotic Romance, BDSM
(c) September 2009, Samhain Publishing
Jenna Ives' website

Rating: 4 stars

Available in Samhain Publishing (ebook), Fictionwise (ebook).

"Delightful and sinfully erotic"

Jenna Ives weaves a delightful, sinfully erotic story of light bondage and sensuous punishment with enough romance to make you sigh in bliss and wishful thinking.

As part of her initiation into the Sigma Iomega Nu sorority, Isabella Tallin was to wait for someone to pick her up on the corner of Main and Elm streets at eight in the evening. As luck would have it, owner of Fantasies Fulfilled Logan Summers mistook her for his client, and though Isabella tried to clarify things, enough coincidences and misunderstandings abound that Isabella thought Logan was supposed to bring her to where her initiation rites was to be held while Logan thought she was his client. Needless to say, decadent activities ensued.

First off, I like Isabella. She's fun and adventurous and smart. Though she's attracted to Logan, she wasn't blinded by this and she tried to make sure (as far as she was able, even to dropping a name) that the man picking her up was part of her initiation. Only when she was sure did she drive off with him.

Although, I do have to stretch my suspension of disbelief a bit, because I have to say that in this day and age, one really cannot be too careful. What if Logan wasn't who he was? Well, he wasn't her initiation, that was for sure, but what if he was an evil man? I think, though initiation rites are shrouded in mystery and rely heavily on the "no questions" rule, the identity of the man or person who's going to bring you to the place should be made known. That said, his identity should be verified against his driver's license or something before she drives off with him. That is what I would do, paranoid person that I am. Of course, if Isabella did that, the story would've stopped right there, because the game would've been up. Logan would've known Isabella wasn't his client, and we wouldn't have this delicious story. (Or maybe we still would, if Logan looked her up later.)

The story mainly detailed the four fantasy scenarios that Logan's client had contracted his company for, and which he dished out to Isabella. For Isabella, who had a boring life, boring boyfriend and who didn't even know if she wanted to study law like her mother, she was at first horrified when she found out she'd blundered, then as Logan started to caress and arouse her (and she could do nothing to escape it because she was blindfolded and bound and gagged as per the client's request), she decided she wanted what he was giving her, aided by the fact that she was attracted to him. She wanted adventure and excitement, even if just for this night.

Logan is a true romantic. Though he owned the company, this is the first time he participated because he believed sex should be more than just two bodies coming together. Where else have you read of a hero who has that mindset? But because he was intrigued and wanted to know what kind of woman would request for four fantasies in one night, he decided to be the main man for this contract. (Apparently, the application was done online or whatever, because he didn't get to see the woman who contracted his services.) And as he performed each scenario, somehow, he was also bonding with her, not just physically, but emotionally.

The BDSM part is light and so, this story is suited to beginning readers in this genre. There is a bit of a menage at the end, but this story is mainly about Logan and Isabella. 

Available in Samhain Publishing (ebook), Fictionwise (ebook).

Monday, June 14, 2010

DNF: Three Historicals

My favorite genre, yet even I couldn't stand some of the books.

First of all, I love Mary Balogh. I devoured her Bedwyn series even the off-shoot "Simply" series. I've also read Irresistible, one of her older works where the hero fell in love with his friend's widow. I thought it was good. However, try as I might, I couldn't get into Dark Angel, another older work which was reprinted together with Lord Carew's Bride. I thought the story, especially the beginning, dragged, maybe due to overdescription of settings and the heroine, Jennifer Winwood, didn't catch my imagination at all.

Julia Quinn is a favorite of mine for her humor and ability to make me laugh out loud. Unfortunately, I don't know what happened with this book, which seems to be missing the trademark Julia Quinn humor that I greatly suspect it's not written by her at all! Gasp! Or maybe I was used to her ballroom-gracing heroines that I had a hard time accepting Grace Eversleigh, companion to the grandmother of the duke.

Jack, the hero, didn't endear himself to me at all. I admit to being more intrigued with Thomas (the displaced duke) and his romance with Amelia (the woman betrothed to the duke). And so, my complaint: Why does the hero always have to end up the duke (or marquis or earl)? Couldn't he have remained a mere mister, since that is what he and the heroine wanted anyway?

I also have this nasty habit of reading the ending, so I saw that after Jack became the duke, the dowager duchess was sent to live in a far corner of the estate, because of her formidable and unreasonable temper. Thomas, though he didn't have much affection for his grandmother, still went to visit her sometimes. (I sincerely think he should have been the duke.) Whereas Jack even told Grace she didn't have to visit the dowager duchess anymore, though she did once a month. I think it's safe to say that Jack didn't even visit his grandmother at all. Which led me to the question: Why? Why did he dislike her so? If not for her, he wouldn't have been the duke. Maybe that was the reason? Or maybe there's something that concerns his father? For as I had said, I didn't read the middle part of the book, so maybe that's where the juicy meat is hiding. But like the other books, didn't care to read to find out.

Kathryn Caskie is a new-to-me author. I liked Love Is In the Heir. I thought it has humor and an original hero. However, How to Engage an Earl didn't engage me at all. After reaching the part where Anne Royle got betrothed to the earl (fairly early in the book), I realized I didn't care enough about Anne or the hero to read further. Anne seemed to be one of the daughters from the secret union of the Prince Regent and a Catholic woman, and they were searching for some document to prove (or disprove) it, but I'm not so sure exactly what and I didn't care to find out.

It's really sad when a book makes me apathetic this way. Must be the weather or my lousy choice in books that I picked up three DNF's in a period of one week.

Friday, June 11, 2010

REVIEW: Crystal Genie by Opal Carew

ISBN 978-1-60310-479-1
Genre: Erotic Romance
(c) June 2010, Red Sage Publishing
Opal Carew's website

Rating: 4 stars

Available in Red Sage Publishing (ebook)

"A lovely and original retelling of the story of the magic lamp!"

Celeste discovered a genie in the crystal quartz stone that she bought, but not just any genie, but a gorgeous hunk of a man. Zurvan, the genie, was trapped in the stone for 30 centuries by another djinn, a woman, who wanted Zurvan's love and when she couldn't get it, punished him by imprisoning him in the stone and forcing him to grant each master (the one who called him out of the stone) three wishes...

Sound familiar? Crystal Genie has its basis on Aladdin's story, but that's as far as it goes. Opal Carew wrote a highly original short story that would leave you hot and bothered and make you think about what love truly is.

And no, the extremely hot and wonderful sex wasn't part of the wishes. It was freely given by Zurvan who ached for Celeste, having gone without a woman for three thousand years. And in the process, they discovered something wonderful about each other, something that I couldn't say because it would be a spoiler. All I can say is that love makes everything worth it, whatever the outcome, and the end came with a twist that would make you smile, although it did raise up a question in my mind because it was a bit inconsistent with some of the other facts. (You can email me at silverwinters1(@)gmail(.)com if you want to know what it is or to discuss the story in detail, with spoilers. LOL)

Available in Red Sage Publishing (ebook)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

REVIEW: Sex by the Numbers by Marie Donovan

ISBN 9780373794072
Genre: Contemporary Romance
(c) June 2008, Harlequin Blaze
Marie Donovan's website 

Rating:  5 stars

Available in Book Depository (print).

"Very romantic and a joy to read!"

I'm currently on a Harlequin Blaze craze, so here's my next one.

Former stripper turned accountant, Keeley Davis was hired to conduct a fraud examination at a friend's company, but in order not to sound the alarm to the culprit, who might know her, she sexed up her image in her position as the personal secretary to Dane Weiss, who was hired for the same purpose. From the start, when Dane first saw her in her frumpy attire, the two had the hots for each other and working closely as they did only made sure they could do nothing but give in to their attraction.

This book is a joy to read, being well-written, and Ms. Donovan's voice is engaging and fun and sexy, with humor appearing in several places in the book. The same can be described for her characters and their attitudes toward sex and life. No sexually repressed/falsely modest heroine here. Hey, it's a Blaze after all, and moreover, Keeley was a former stripper.

Oh, regarding that Blaze comment. It's been my impression that Blaze stories are hot, well, way hotter than a Presents or Superromance, for example. But I guess I've made the mistake of thinking the story's not so much romantic as sexy. Well, this book is both romantic and sexy.
Back to Keeley, she wormed her way into my heart and you can really feel her chemistry with Dane. Their relationship is how I imagined a true love relationship is like--lovers taking joy in each other's presence.

Dane is also one sweet and romantic hero. Many times during the story, I find myself wishing I was in Keeley's shoes! The things he, guaranteed to make a woman feel cherished and wanted. How could you not love a guy who said something like this to you: "You've haunted my dreams since we met, and I wake up to find reality even better."

I also love her cast of supporting characters, notably Lacey and Dane's mom. Lacey, Keeley's sister, is down-to-earth and sensible. I especially like the scene wherein she talked some sense into Keeley. However, I like Dane's mom even better. Though she only had two lines in the entire story and appeared only toward the ending, I love her warmth and ready acceptance of the girls. Wish I have a mother-in-law like that!

Harlequin category romances had always been a hit or miss with me. Blaze romances are more often than not, misses than hits. So I'm very happy to have discovered three Blaze authors whose romances--the characters, the plot, the sexiness, oh I should say the entire package--resonate with me. You all know about my Sarah Mayberry craze and now there's Marie Donovan. There's also Karen Foley, whose story, Flyboy, I also enjoyed a lot (review coming). I don't have auto-buy authors, but these three certainly made it to my "authors whose backlist I have to glom while waiting for new releases". LOL

Available in Book Depository (print).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

REVIEW: My Lady's Pleasure by Alice Gaines

ISBN 978-1-60310-469-2
Series: Three Kinds of Wicked anthology
Genre: Erotic Romance, Historical Romance, Menage a Trois
(c) May 2010, Red Sage Publishing

Rating: 4 stars

Available in Red Sage Publishing (ebook).

"Hot, sweet and very romantic. Perfect love story to curl up with on a rainy day."

When Viking invaders overran Castle Randmead, Lady Josalyn had no choice but to surrender, not if she wanted to save what remained of her people. She didn't want to be attracted to the Viking leader Ulric, but he affected her in ways she thought only her ideal English prince would. To secure the holdings and the people's approval, Ulric sought to marry Josalyn, but he knew from the moment he set eyes on her, he's also attracted to her and wanted her in his bed.

But Josalyn was shy, a virgin and from her actions, showed that she wasn't particularly predisposed toward Ulric. Hence, when a traveling bard Trey offered his services with potions that would help Ulric win his bride in exchange for the pleasure of joining their marriage bed, Ulric couldn't refuse...

This story is part of the Three Kinds of Wicked anthology, where Trey, as part of his punishment, had to travel through time uniting lovers before he could be reunited with his own love, Sage. Though we see things from Trey's point of view only at the end, that part was written so well that I really feel for him, the hope that must sustain him in order to have the energy to go on making love matches for other people while his own love languished elsewhere. And though he gets to particpate in menages with the couples in all the stories in the anthology, I feel he is not happy and that he'd rather be with his love. (Yay! I just received the conclusion of this anthology, which is Trey's story in my inbox! Thanks to Red Sage for the review copy, and of course, to Carole who forwarded it to me.)

Josalyn is a true lady of the castle and we can see this in her relationship with her people and the way they looked up to her. No wonder Ulric sought to win her, but being a straightforward Viking, he didn't know how to woo her with romance. Yet, I feel she's a good match for Ulric, because when Trey tried to court her with romantic gestures, her reactions were very pragmatic, very like Ulric. Though she may think she wants romance, what she really wants is Ulric himself.

For all his brash ways, Ulric is rather sweet, especially when he displays his uncertainty with regards to his wife. He's also the perfect husband in that he sought to give his wife whatever she wants, to make her happy. So, when he thought she wants romance, he gave her Trey and his courtly ways. Now, who wouldn't want a hero like that? Two men to give you all the attention you need. Yum. The climactic scene toward the end was rather heartwrenching at the start for him, but it left him in no doubt who his wife really wants.

Alice Gaines writes a hot yet sweet historical romance about two people who fell in love and were right for each other, but needed to take a detour that would open their eyes to what they really want.

Available in Red Sage Publishing (ebook).

Note: This review copy is provided courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, June 4, 2010

REVIEW: Below the Belt by Sarah Mayberry

ISBN 9780373794089
Genre: Contemporary Romance
(c) June 2008, Harlequin Blaze
Sarah Mayberry's website

Rating: 4 stars

Buy Link: Book Depository

"Intense, heat-ratcheting romance with a dash of humor"

Jamie Sawyer wanted to erase the shame that her father had brought upon their family name, and to do that, she wanted to train under the best boxing trainer: Cooper Fitzgerald. However, Cooper wasn't in the market for women boxers and he wouldn't take her on. She had proved to him that she got talent and power. But most of all, he was drawn to her because of something else that sizzled between them...

Jamie is strong, determined and stubborn, and she needs a man like Cooper to handle her. Cooper knows his stuff and he also knows when to pick his battles, especially against a stubborn woman like Jamie. I love watching their interaction--it's fascinating and the chemistry fairly sizzled between them. Ms. Mayberry certainly knew how to write and depict the sexual tension between the characters and there were lots of it. Needless to say, their sex scenes, when they happened, were hot. Scorching. Needs ice.

I also love the characters' internal monologue, which was interspersed with humor. For example, when Cooper found himself inappropriately sporting a hard-on: Maybe if he got a really good muscle burn going (he was doing some tricep pushdowns), he could stop behaving like a life support system for a hard-on.

As boxing is a fairly unfamiliar sport to me, I also love reading about it. No info bashing, for which I'm very thankful. I still cannot understand why people would be fascinated by it (my brother is, for example), but I can appreciate that as boxers, the characters had the drive and the passion for it. You can tell that they really love the sport.

I like the way the stakes were upped for Jamie each step of the way. I like that she's smart and determined and she knows what she wants (I believe I've said that some paragraphs ago), however, there was one part where she behaves irrationally (for me) and which some readers might say is TSTL. In fact, I don't quite understand still why she did it, and the explanation offered by Cooper later on didn't quite cut it for me. Basically, Jamie took on a fight with someone who is way more experienced than she, the fight offer made by a publicist who was banking on her famous name (due to her father) to draw the crowds (and which made Cooper thought the fight would become a media circus). She also didn't want to listen to Cooper or her grandfather or her friend, who made reasonable suggestions. If it weren't for Cooper coming through for her at the end, she would've lost that fight. I don't just believe that, but I know that.

I realized why Ms. Mayberry had that publicist made the fight offer, which in my opinion is realistic. She had to move the story forward to its conclusion. I just don't quite agree with Jamie's decision. Yes, I know she's set her heart on being the title champion and redeeming their name, but I thought she's also more sensible than her actions made her seem.

Despite that, this is a good read, if you're looking for a category romance.

Buy Link (paper): Book Depository

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

REVIEW: Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews

ISBN 978-1-60504-574-0
Genre: Romantic Science Fiction
(c) 2009, Samhain Publishing
Ilona Andrews' website

Rating: 5 stars

Buy Link (ebook): Samhain Publishing, Fictionwise

For many years, Meli Galdes serves as her family's "unofficial" assassin, and she is a very good one at that. Her family's last assignment for her was to do away with Celino Carvanna, the man who has hurt her in the past.

When Celino saw her, he didn't remember her from the awkward girl he knew from before. All he was aware of was being captivated by her, and he would do anything to possess her.

I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend, and I'm glad I did.

Though Ilona Andrews introduced a new world in this short read, the setting wasn't hard to understand, perhaps because it was patterned after the Mafia of our world, but it's more than that. The author gave just the right amount of description in order to help the readers understand the Kinsmen world, and she did it without info dumping or sounding tedious.

I also like her characters, especially Meli who is the quintessential strong woman, and who rose from the ashes of her vulnerability and past pain without turning hard, enabling me to sympathize with her. I like that Meli didn't immediately fly into Celino's arms when he declared his feelings for her, as had happened in so many books I have read in the past. To the end, Meli was her own woman, forged in the fire of her experiences and the situations life—or people—has dealt her. I have long wanted to read a heroine who's strong like Meli and this story didn't disappoint. I was expecting a twist, but when it came, I was still caught by surprise. It was brilliant and oh-so-right for this story. Get this book, and you won't be sorry. Suffice it to say, I'm looking forward to more books in the Kinsmen world.

Buy Link (ebook): Samhain Publishing, Fictionwise

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

REVIEW: The Defender by Cara Summers

ISBN 978-0-263-86212-6
Series: The Angelis brothers, Book 3
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
(c) 2007, Harlequin Blaze
Cara Summers' website

Rating: 2 stars

Buy Link: Book Depository

"Fell a little short in romance and suspense"

When Sadie Oliver's sister disappeared and her brother, heavily injured, became a suspect in a murder, she had no choice but to turn to Theo Angelis for help, whom she'd been attracted to for some time. Sparks fly between them as Sadie disguised herself as one of Theo's interns and she worked with him to solve the mysteries surrounding her family.

It was only when I read the author's note that I realized this book was part of a trilogy and it's the third book! I think it's clever of the author to spin out three stories from one single event, though it's been done by other authors as well. For those who want to know, it's not necessary to read the other books to get the whole story on this one, though it may help to keep the storyline and the characters clear.

The story started out with promise for me (I love Aunt Cass's prologue, which I think is aimed at setting up the atmosphere--suspense with the hope of making you care for what's gonna happen to the hero), but sad to say, the story spiraled downward as I read on.

I get the feeling that the author was aiming the sex scenes to be hot, but it fell a little short, especially when I didn't get the characters' urgency for it that first time. It's not like they've been pining for each other or teasing the other for so long. Maybe the sex was brought forward because well, after all, it's Blaze? Also, I think the story would've been more enjoyable if the sexual tension could be ramped higher. As it was, I think there's not much tension before the characters got down and dirty.

The mystery was also rather confusing, with the lack of names and accurate descriptions (coz Sadie didn't see the faces in the dim light) and going only by the number of shots fired. If I'd wanted to really be clear about this, I would've read it twice (or maybe thrice), but I didn't want to bother. After all, it's a Blaze book, not Intrigue. But if you're finicky about this type of thing, you may be a little bit frustrated. And it didn't get better.

Some things would've been better if it had been showed rather than told, such as the car chase with Theo's passenger car ending up wrecked. I thought that'd be good for a suspense moment from Theo's POV and his extreme relief that Sadie didn't go with him, but since he was only helping out, perhaps this scene was featured in one of the other books.

I also thought the moment when Sadie was taken hostage up on the roof would be full of tension, but the writing was rather flat. So, don't read this for the suspense and maybe I was wrong to expect it, since, as I've said, this isn't Intrigue but Blaze.

Buy Link: Book Depository
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