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

Michelle-Reid

What Jane’s Been Reading,  week ending September 15

What Jane’s Been Reading, week ending September 15

Lord of the Abyss by Nalini Singh. This is a December release. It’s a full fledged fairy tale with an ugly heroine (described as having a hook nose, walks with a limp, and a misshapen body) and a somewhat virginal hero. He’s been Lord of the Abyss for as long as he can remember and has had no woman in that time. I read no other books in the series and wasn’t lost at all. I was disappointed in a reveal at the end and that marred my enjoyment of the overall story. Full review to come in late November.

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Ravenborne by Chandra Ryan.  This is an alternate reality paranormal romance which had intriguing world building but suffered from either a lack of focus or an attempt to shoehorn too much into one story.  I did go and buy a second story in this series which predates “Ravenborne” but have not yet read it.  The story opens with a scene in which a dragon shifter on the losing side of a war but with much power is condemned to live a number of lives before she can be free of her servitude.  She is called the Oracle because of her ability to foretell the future and to measure the power of others.  Magic flows through some families and it is the strength of magic that determines the rulers of the kingdom.  Saraphina Raven is conscripted into the king’s guard because he wants her to use her telepathic ability to suss out those that might be plotting against him. Kavin Hunter, the head of the king’s guard, and old friend of Saraphina is ordered to bring her to the castle.   The journey is beset with challenges to Saraphina’s life, betrayal, and a growing but improper attraction.  I liked the world and the concept but felt the romance was shoehorned in.

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Hot as Hades by Alisha Rai.   This is an erotic take on the Hades and Persephone story.  Hades is a misunderstood lord of the underworld and Persephone is unclear of her power.  They must be separated, per the myth and Rai colors in the reasons why. It’s a short story and a decent read, but doesn’t have much staying power for me.

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Altered Destiny by Shawna Thomas. This is a high fantasy story set in a land where they use horses (middle earthian?) There are two basic types of folks: humans and Svistra. Svistra are bloodsuckers. They are great fighters but small in numbers. They had been hired by the human kings to fight in battle with them but given their predilection for blood, they are cast out and driven back to a northern, inhospitable climate. The Svistra, however, are tired of being outcasts and are mobilizing an army. Selia is a human that owns a tavern. She stumbles upon a wounded Svistra and nurses him back to health. Her world is upended by the coming war, the conscription of her adopted brother, and her growing feelings for the Svistra. The book kind of peters out toward the end because so much denouement is stuffed into the last two chapters. Full review to come.

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Deadly Descent by Kaylea Cross. Years ago I read an article about these awesome female helicopter pilots and I thought it would be great if one of them were the basis of a romance heroine. “Deadly Descent” features a female soldier in the Army who pilots Black Hawks on extract missions. I thought the military parts were really well done in this book and I certainly felt like I was amidst the action. However, in reading articles about females in combat there has been a concern that the males in combat would be endangered by their own protective instincts toward the females and I felt that the story actually fed into that belief rather than combatting it and that was unfortunate. Full review to come but it is a book I would recommend with some provisions. Full review here.

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Cover of Darkness by Kaylea Cross. After I had read “Deadly Descent”, I wanted to read another Cross romantic suspense book and I remembered that she had sent me a book for review last year. According to my gmail archives that book was “Cover of Darkness”. The good news is that Cross has really grown as an author. The bad news is that I had a hard time reading this one (and I suspect that is what happened when I first received the book for review) and ultimately I have to score this as a DNF for me. In the first chapter, the heroine is saved by a team of SEALs in the Middle East. She’s injured and placed in a military hospital along with a wounded SEAL. A medic on the SEAL team comes in and just lays a big fat sloppy kiss on her while she is recovering from her wounds and her father is elsewhere, likely dying. I wanted to put the story down right there, but given that I had liked Cross in the past, I thought I would give it more of an effort. Unfortunately, the story really didn’t improve for me. Instead, I met more testosterone who were obviously sequel bait and the insta lust between the two characters continued apace. I did skim through the book to find out what happened but I wasn’t interested in reading the rest of the series. I’ll wait for more Cross books from Carina Press.

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The Crown Affair by Lucy King.  There isn’t anything particularly wrong with this story. The hero wasn’t a huge asshole and the heroine wasn’t too much of a doormat, but I was never engaged by this couple.  Neither had an interesting storyline and even though the story was about the heroine remaking herself from being passive to more aggressive, I never bought into that transformation.

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Sex, Gossip and Rock and Roll by Nicola Marsh.  This was an opposites attract story but the insta-lust between two people who didn’t like or trust each other was tiresome.   Charli Chambers manages rock stars and other celebrities for a man who saved her from the streets.  Luca Petrelli has been asked by the same man (and also his purported grandfather) to step in and manage the money for the tour of a rock star that Charli is managing. Both believe the other is ripping off the old man.  I stopped reading after the fourth chapter. DNF.

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The Kanellis Scandal by Michelle Reid.  I love Reid’s books but this one was a big disappointment.  Neither character was likeable. Anton Pallis lies and virtually kidnaps Zoe Ellis from her home when her parents die because she is the guardian of the heir to a fortune.  Zoe’s father was the son of a wealthy Greek man who was disowned when he married against the wealthy man’s wishes.  Now Zoe’s father is dead and the wealthy Greek man wants his heir and sends Anton to fetch the both of them. Zoe spends most of the book alternating between ripping Anton’s clothes off and insulting him greviously. She was 23? in the book but acted about 16. It was a chore to spend time with either character.

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Doukakis’s Apprentice by Sarah Morgan.  Sarah Wendell suggested I read this and it was as enjoyable as she suggested.  Polly Prince’s company is taken over by Damon Doukakis who believes that everyone on the payroll, particularly Polly, are lazy and incompetent.  The Prince company must have at least one creative talent, however, because it is stealing ad campaigns from the Doukakis firm.  Damon knows it isn’t Polly though, who wears loud stockings to work, and allows her co workers to have plants on their desks.  Of course, Polly is the creative genius behind the Prince firm and has been for a long time.  I think someone at DA will review this next week. Full review.

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Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis.  Jade Bennett is only in Sunshine, Idaho, temporarily. She suffered something bad back in Chicago and she ran and ended up in Sunshine 18 months ago. She promised her family she would return after a certain time and her deadline is approaching.  As the deadline is approaching, Dell, her boss, and Jade decide to embark on a temporary affair, mostly because Jade believes that Dell can’t make an attachment.  This is something that is repeated throughout the story but the problem is that the declaration didn’t match the text.  He was devoted to his brothers. He took in Lilah, a woman in town and treated her like his sister. He had a solid vet practice and had his own pets. Everything about him screamed permanency. So while I liked both characters, I felt that neither characterization was very authentic.  What Shalvis told us we should believe wasn’t what she showed us.

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Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis.  After I kind of complained about “Animal Attraction” on Twitter, a bunch of readers told me to try Head Over Heels out.  So I did and I liked it a ton better.  The hero is  Sheriff Sawyer Thompson who used to be a rotten teen and turned his life around. He’s all about permanence, stability, and up right citizenship.  Unfortunately, the one woman in town that really turns his crank is Chloe Traeger, the youngest of the three sisters featured in the Lucky Harbor series, who is nicknamed the Wild Child.  I hadn’t read any in the series before so I hadn’t any feelings toward Chloe one way or another. Apparently she is a pill in the previous books.  In any event, I thought that there romance was quite sweet.

One huge problem for me was that Chloe didn’t want to change from being wild, coloring outside the lines, in order to be loved.  Yet, in the end, she opted for a very conventional life with the sheriff, enforcing exactly what she struggled against.  If the message was that you didn’t have to completely remake yourself  to find true love, I felt that message wasn’t delivered in the end.  That said, I loved both characters.  Sawyer is the tall, silent type (and I love that type) who needed a person like Chloe in his life.  You could really see in the text of the story that these two were a good pair, that they balanced each other.  And Sawyer is a really loving guy.   This is a late November release which I plan to review.

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The Sweetest Thing by Jill Shalvis.  I liked Head Over Heels enough to go and purchase The Sweetest Thing which I kind of regret because I saw that Forever is re-releasing the first two in the Lucky Harbor series as one volume for the price of $7.99. Curses.  Anyway, I didn’t love it as much as The Sweetest Thing.  Ford is an olympic medal winning sailor whose home base is Lucky Harbor.  Tara is his teenage sweetheart.  Their teen romance ended badly but their feelings for each other haven’t ever wholly died.  Ford knows that Tara’s time in Lucky Harbor is temporary (does that remind you of any plot?) but pursues her avidly.  Why?  So that they could have casual sexy times. I didn’t really understand either characters’ motivations.  Tara says she didn’t want to stick around in Lucky Harbor but I wasn’t shown that she had a good life away from there.  She was presented as this woman who was so amazing that she had two awesome guys pursuing her.  The best part of the story was the competition between Ford and Tara’s ex husband.

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Season for Temptation by Theresa Romain. This came to my attention in a glowing post by Courtney Milan. I wrote the publicist immediately for a copy but even before I received a response,  Ms. Romain kindly sent me a copy. It was a nice historical but not much agnst. Sarah Wendell calls these types of books “visiting” people and I think that is what it was. Admittedly I like more romangst in my historical romances. Full review to come in October.

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Clearly I need to read more historical romances. Again.

What Jane Has Been Reading, Week of August 29

What Jane Has Been Reading, Week of August 29

Like my previous post, this is actually a retrospective list of what I had read the past couple of weeks:

Mistress Bride by Michelle Reid – A discussion of Reid’s books prompted me to pull out this favorite of mine.  I really like how Reid uses societal constraints to keep the protags apart. She did this in the Sheik’s Chosen Bride by having the loved wife of a prince of an Arab principality leave her husband because of infertility.  In Mistress Bride, the Arab Sheik is supposed to marry a nearby Arab heiress but has instead carried on a public affair with a wealthy Englishwoman.  The question of why the Sheik never asked Evie to marry him before she becomes pregnant is never satisfactorily answered.

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The Father of Her Child by Emma Darcy – Michael Timberlane is a famous Australian literary agent whose marriage fell apart when his flighty society wife starts flinging bits of wisdom from some Lauren Magee with whom she works.  When Lauren and Michael meet each other Michael has every intention of eeking out some revenge but after one night together, Michael realizes that his conclusions regarding Lauren were wrong and that they are meant to be together.  Their HEA is put in jeopardy when Lauren realizes Michael obfuscated his identity and by Lauren’s ex husband.  I liked that the two had to confront their own biases conclusions about each other that they formed from other’s hearsay and accusations.

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The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark – this was a decently written UF but it’s not got the romance that I like in a cross over book and because of that, I’m not compelled to read the second.  Much of the story is setup as well.  I’ll write a full review later this month.

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Too Proud to be Bought by Sharon Kendrick – very silly story.  Zara is a waitress who catches the eye of Russian Billionaire, Nikolai Komarov.  She resists his advances and thus places herself in the whore category in Nikolai’s eyes.  She would also be in the whore category if she accepted his advances.  No winning with Nikolai.  His own desire for her is blamed on her whorishness.  So Nikolai arranges for Zara to be his personal waitress when he travels. She also eventually falls into his bed, thus confirming her whorishness. Somehow she becomes a whore no longer, but I wasn’t sure at which point she crossed over that line for Nikolai.

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I realized I hadn’t read (or purchased) Thread of Fear and Whisper of Warning by Laura Griffin. After reading those two, I went on to re-read Untraceable, Unspeakable, and Unforgivable. I generally agree with Jayne’s reviews here. It was because of Jayne’s reviews that I read these books. She isn’t a regular reader of romantic suspense and when Snapped came to my door, I finally broke down and read her. It was great and I had to buy her backlist titles. Thanks Jayne!

Cover Me by Catherine Mann – I bought this because I wanted to read more romantic suspense. This book had 23 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4 and 1/2 stars. The story features a heroine who lives in an off the grid community in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and a pararescue Army person. I probably won’t read another Mann story. Her writing style doesn’t appeal to me. She info dumps and overexplains all the time. At one point, late in the book, she has one pararescue guy say to the other while they are searching for explosives: “I think the explosive sniffing dogs have found something.” Plus, she was always violating the rules she had set up. I.e., no one who left the Islands could return yet when the heroine is taken off the Island, she doesn’t question that she’ll return at all. The off the grid community is comprised of about 150 people but they all have their own business and seemingly a lot of ready cash. What does an off the grid community need with cash and how do they get it if they are off the grid?  Ironically, the villain in this story does everything for the love of a woman which made me think of last week’s op ed post.

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In looking over my list of September book reviews, I realized that my historical reading was way, way down so I read three historicals:

One Night in London by Caroline Linden – The 1st half of the story was bit irritating because so much of the internal monologue was spent on the mental lusting between the characters. What made this so irritating, beyond the obvious, is that the hero had  been jilted by a woman that he professed to love. It wasn’t until about the midway point that he began to think about his feelings of loss and betrayal.   the 2nd half of the story however picked up quite a bit and I ended up liking the book much more than I thought it would.   Full review here.

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Whisper of Scandal by Nicola Cornick.   I’ve wanted to read Cornick ever since I talked to her editor Tara Parsons at RWA this summer.  I choose  Whisper of Scandal because it’s an adventure book that takes place, in part, in the North Pole.    The book had several three-star reviews at goodreads that read like 4 or 5 star reviews which I found baffling until I read the book.  Cornick is a smart writer  and she’s got great dialogue. The story was unusual but part of it wasn’t completely satisfying. I know I’ll read her again because her voice is good and her plots feature different types of characters.

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In the Arms of the Marquess by Katherine Ashe.   Much of the conflict in the story depends upon the hero’s willful misunderstandings of the actions of the heroine.  While the prose is lovely, the hero is one of those who thinks all women are jades and whores.  He seduces the heroine when she is purportedly engaged to another to prove to himself and to her that she’s just like every other woman he has bedded and who has wanted to bed him. My enjoyment of the prose wasn’t able to overcome my dislike of the way in which the angst was contrived.  Full review here

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The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin.  I liked the world and the characters but the denouement was a let down, much like I felt the denouement disappointed in Butterfly Swords.  Full review to come.

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Blood of the Demon by Rosalie Lario.   This is the first book I’ve read from the new publisher Entangled Press, and I liked it.  My  biggest problem was that the story felt short for a paranormal.  It’s around 74,000 words and there definitely was room for more development of the characters.  Full review here.

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Mark of the Sylph by Rosalie Lario.   This October release is the 2nd in the series and while it’s full of interesting and weighty ideas that are never fully explored.  Much of the story is spent on the 2 characters coming onto each other and resisting each other’s advances and ultimately falling in bed.   I really had to force myself to finish this one as I didn’t  feel like it advanced the world that was set up in the 1st book.  I’ll probably read one more in the series to see if this author is one to watch.  Full review to come.

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Fighting Fair by Anne Calhoun.  This is a self published short story that is under 15,000 words and deals with marriage in trouble.   Calhoun has a great voice and her characters feel modern and real.  Unfortunately, I felt that the length of the story was too short for the subject matter.   The story opens with the characters in couples’ therapy  which the husband doesn’t think that they need. One of the impediments to their relationship is the husband’s work and I felt that that was too easily resolved which allows the characters to fall to bed with each other.   I wasn’t convinced that their marriage troubles have been resolved and thus found the story unsatisfying. It’s more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” here, I think.

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