Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Dabney Grinnan

I loved romances when, back in the mid 70's, in junior high, I read every Barbara Cartland novel I could check out from the library. Then, thanks to a savvy babysitter, I got my hands on the hot stuff. To this day I can remember how astonishingly steamy I found Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love. I abandoned romance when I went to college and didn't pick one up again until 2007 when I got my first Kindle. Since then, I’ve read countless romances; loved many, liked more, hated some. Most of what I read is historical and contemporary romance, but I’m open to almost any genre. I like my books to have sizzle, wit, and plots that make sense. I’d take sexy over sweet any day. I’m a sucker for smart heroes and smart-mouthed heroines. When not reading or writing about reading, or wishing I could rule the world, I'm meddling in the lives of my kids--I have four, ages 17 to 21--, managing my husband's practice, doing bossy volunteer work, and hanging out with Dr. Feelgood.

Posts by Dabney Grinnan:

REVIEW:  Lady Anne’s Lover by Maggie Robinson

REVIEW: Lady Anne’s Lover by Maggie Robinson

Dear Ms. Robinson:

Lady Anne’s Lover is the first of your books I’ve read. It’s the third in your London List series but works fine as a stand-alone read. I enjoyed reading it although it left me a bit bemused. The mood of your book is light and humorous and yet your hero struggles with alcoholism, your heroine is on the run from her father who has been molesting her, a woman in the book has been raped and viciously murdered, and the villain responsible for that crime tries several times to kill again. You don’t belittle any of these issues as much as you treat them casually; there’s no angst, no gloom and doom in your prose. Lady’s Anne’s Lover worked for me but I can see other readers being distressed at its tone.

 Lady Anne's Lover by Maggie RobinsonNineteen year-old Lady Imaculata Anne Egremont, in a last-ditch attempt to escape her father (he both beats and attempts to rape her), has answered an ad in the back of the tabloid The London List placed by a Welshman who needs a housekeeper. Based on the ad, she assumes the man, Major Ripton-Jones, is an elderly gent who won’t notice her utter lack of housekeeping skills. When she arrives at his filthy home, Ripton Hall, she discovers that the Major is actually a one-armed man of 33, who spends virtually all his time plastered on gin. Imaculata, who has renamed herself Mrs. Anne Mont, doesn’t let this bother her. She needs to stay hidden from her father for the next two years at which point she can come into her inheritance and be free of his control.

Gareth, though three sheets to the wind, is taken aback when Anne introduces herself.

“Good afternoon,” Anne had said briskly, masking her surprise and keeping her chin high. She was bound to get a crick in her neck if she had to address him for any length of time.

“I believe Mi-uh, Mr. Ramsey from The London List sent word to you that I was coming.”

He looked down at her, way down as he was so very tall, with bloodshot blue eyes. “You can’t be the housekeeper.”

He did not slur a word, although his breath nearly knocked her over. She would light no matches anywhere near him or he’d go up like a Guy Fawkes effigy.

“I can indeed, sir. I have a reference from Lady Pennington.” She pulled the forged letter from her reticule.

“How old are you, Mrs. Mont? Twelve? And where is Mr. Mont?”

Evangeline had wanted her to lie and say she lost her husband at Waterloo—which would have made Anne a fourteen-year-old bride—but the man in front of her had probably lost his arm to war so that did not seem at all sporting. Anne knew she looked young—she was young, her freckles forever marking her just a step from the schoolroom. She had decided to be reasonably honest. If Major Ripton-Jones dismissed her, she’d go back to Evangeline and try for something else. Tightrope walker, street walker, it really didn’t matter as long as she escaped her father’s predatory attentions and beatings.

“Housekeepers are always addressed as ‘Mrs.,’ Major Ripton-Jones. Surely you know that. And I am old enough. I’ve been in service for—ages.”

Ever since she had walked into his house, anyway.

Anne is wrong about how Gareth lost his arm. He served fifteen years in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and survived unscathed. He shattered his arm when he fell off a tenant’s roof a year ago and had to have it amputated at the elbow.

The last year has not been kind to Gareth. His father died and left him mortgages against Ripton Hall Gareth can’t pay, the love of his life whom he was to marry dumped him when he lost his arm, she was then murdered and everyone thinks Gareth did it. He has coped with all this by letting Ripton Hall fall to pieces as he remains constantly drunk.

Gareth allows that Anne may stay though he tells her he probably can’t pay her and returns to his gin. Anne begins to clean house. The two have several amusing encounters over the next few days and then Anne gets a brilliant idea.

The fork she was holding dropped to the slate floor with a clang. Lord but she was a nitwit. The major needed a rich wife, and she needed her money to become independent. Major Ripton-Jones could marry her! Not a real marriage, of course. She hardly knew the man and what she did know did not bode well for any Mrs. RiptonJones. Who wanted a sot for a husband? For all his assurances that his habits were harmless most of the time, she was suspicious. He had a melancholy look about him quite apart from any depression he felt over the loss of his house. He was too lean (and wouldn’t be apt to fatten up from her ministrations unless she studied her cookery book with more diligence) and darkness hung over him like one of the ever-present Welsh clouds.

Anne presents her proposal to Gareth with one condition: he must give up drinking. She also tells him this will be a sex-free arrangement. Gareth agrees to the former condition and decides he’ll try to seduce her out of the second.

Anne and Gareth work as a couple despite the difference in their ages and backgrounds. Although Anne hasn’t told him about her father, Gareth realizes something has made her afraid to be touched by a man. He does work to seduce her, but does so with gentleness and intelligence. He allows Anne to reclaim her sexual self (her father just groped her; she left before he could take her virginity) slowly and on her terms. Their love scenes are sweet and sexy.

I also enjoyed their partnership outside the bedroom. Anne can’t cook to save her life, so Gareth takes over that responsibility. The two talk and argue, always treating the other with respect and often humor. It’s easy to see them as a couple who could share a life–they develop an easy rapport and work together to make Ripton Hall a safe, clean, pleasant place to live.

Neither of them is portrayed as perfect. Gareth does not completely give up drinking and, when in his cups, says some rather snotty things to Anne. For her part, Anne doesn’t tell Gareth about her past (she behaved scandalously in London in a failed attempt to make herself less attractive to her father) even when she knows she should. I liked that they were flawed and that the problems in their relationship stemmed from their behavior rather than from some outside force.

I admired the romance in this book more than the mystery. The identity of the villain wasn’t hard to deduce and the motive for murdering Gareth’s old lover and attempting to kill Anne is rather thin.

Lady Anne’s Lover is entertaining as long as one doesn’t think too hard about the serious subjects it handles so lightly. I give it a B-.



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REVIEW:  I Dream of Danger by Lisa Marie Rice

REVIEW: I Dream of Danger by Lisa Marie Rice

Dear Ms. Rice:

If you’d asked me before I read I Dream of Danger if you could beat the over-the-top wackiness of the first book in your Ghost Ops series, I’d have said no.  I mean, come on, that book, Heart of Danger (reviewed here by Jane), features heroes from the “famed SEAL Team Six” that took out Bin Laden. Ten years after Bin Laden’s death, a subset of Team Six is now an elite secret military unit called “Ghost Ops.” The men were framed for an illegal attack on the US and were court-martialed. Before the trial, the entire group vanished, and are now considered hostiles by the US government.  Several of them made their way to a place deep in the mountains of Northern California and created a completely hidden from the world oasis funded by money (called, duh, Haven) stolen from evil drug lords. Other non-Ghost Ops folk who needed to disappear have found their way to Haven which has futuristic technology, delicious organic food, and anything else one could want other than the ability to leave. In Heart of Danger, so many crazy things happened in such a short period of time–it was like watching a Michael Bay movie on fast forward. I Dream of Danger is like watching a Michael Bay movie on fast forward while riding a roller coaster equipped with laser guns and water balloons. (This exists.)

I Dream of Danger by Lisa Marie RiceThe heroine, Elle Thomason, is a neuroscientist who works for Arka Pharmaceuticals, an exceedingly evil company run by lunatics. Elle, like most of the other brilliant scientists who work for Arka, has no clue the head honcho, Dr. Charles Lee, is trying to make a drug enhanced cadre of super warriors so he can help China rule the world and become a high-ranking official in Beijing. Elle’s area of study is telekinetic powers, specifically Astral Projection, which she can actually do.

Elle has spent her entire life hung-up on Nick Ross. Her father raised him but Nick disappeared when Elle was sixteen (she suddenly turned into a hottie and he got a boner so he had to move out). He returned five years later to attend her father’s funeral, take her virginity and show her where her clitoris was, and vanished again. Despite not having seen Nick for ten years, Elle dreams (astrally stalks) about him constantly. She’s also doesn’t date because

…it seemed that the sex she’d had with Nick was exclusive to him. To her horror, nobody came even close to making her feel the way he did. Elle had actually felt repulsion with a lot of guys, not even wanting to be touched.

She wasn’t gay, so that was out. She was a heterosexual lock—and the one key that opened her was gone, forever. So she came home every night to her pretty, tiny apartment and tried not to wish that she were not so relentlessly alone.

While Elle pined, Nick joined the Rangers, moved up in the military, killed the most wanted terrorist ever, and became an outlaw in Haven. He’s obsessed with Elle and has spent years trying to find her but can’t (despite the internet) because she changed her name.

One night, after a grueling day at work–Elle’s both a researcher and a research subject which she knows is unprofessional but she does because doing so is helping to scientifically prove paranormal abilities are real–Elle gets a panicked video call from her co-worker Sophie. Their other co-worker/guinea pigs have all been rounded up by some goons at Arka and no one knows where they were taken. Plus, this thingee all the scientists have implanted in their arms for research purposes is really a tracking device. Elle can see figures surrounding Sophie and suddenly their connection goes dead. Terrified, Elle cuts the sensor out of her arm–it appears to be alive–runs out of her apartment, evades the four bad guys now chasing her, and checks into a seedy motel (in Palo Alto).

And who’s she gonna call? A GhostOpper! (Surprisingly, there isn’t a giant marshmallow man in this story.)

And it was because she was so weak and so depleted, because she reached some dark place of despair that held her deepest truths, that it slipped from her.

Something she’d sworn she’d never do, something that in any other moment she’d rather die than think, came welling out.

From deep inside her, it came. Totally unstoppable, torn from her.

A call so strong it was a scream inside her head.

Help me, Nick.

Nick, who had been sleeping naked in his bed at Haven, jumps up, throws on his clothes, pushes (for the first time ever) the emergency button, dashes to Haven’s situation room, and throws a fit.

“Elle.” It was the only thing he could say. His head was going to blow up. Every single danger hormone in his body was awake with nowhere to go. He was a guy built for action, and he always knew which action to take. To be so primed, so pumped, so fucking scared and dying to race to the rescue but have no idea where was driving him bat-shit crazy.

However, with a little bit of help from the pregnant psychic heroine of Heart of Danger, super special spy equipment, and Google maps, Nick locates the exact hotel Elle is hiding in. He can also see she’s being hunted by large men in combat gear. He yells “Send me a drone,” jumps in his hovercar and zooms off to save Elle.

So here’s the thing: if this story is working for you, read I Dream of Danger. If you don’t mind the spectacularly unbelievable and the theory that really hot sex increases a person’s ESP, this book is tons of fun.

I particularly enjoyed the zany science and technology.  It reminded me of the scene from Thank You for Smoking where, when the scientific properties of oxygen mitigate a scene Rob Lowe wants, he says, “But it’s an easy fix. One line of dialogue. ‘Thank God we invented the… you know, whatever device.’” I Dream of Danger is full of such devices: gadgets, drugs, and weapons that only exist because this book says they do. Need a handheld device that is “the electronic equivalent of radar to detect any hidden detonators or trip wires” with “a radius of 500 meters”and a screen that stays blank? No problem. Jon, another GhostOpper, invented one. Looking for a drug that distills “parts of the brain into a liquid that can be injected”? Arka Pharmaceuticals is on it.

I Dream of Danger has an undercurrent of glee to it missing in many of Ms. Rice’s books. I prefer to think she’s laughing with us and not at us.

The plot–zombies! a mystical Faraday cage! the Governor of California is a Speilberg!–hurtles along. The sex, though restrained by Ms. Rice’s standards, is torrid, and Elle is one kick-ass neuroscientist. Plus it ends in a frenzy. The last lines are: “Let’s get going. We have a world to save.”

(From the zombified San Franciscans who just ate Anderson Cooper.)

Still amused,



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