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Nalini-Singh

What Jaclyn Is Reading, September 2011

What Jaclyn Is Reading, September 2011

I read a lot in September, like holy-guacamole a lot. There is a letterpress broad side on the wall of my office with a quote from Erasmus that reads, “When I get a little money I buy BOOKS; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” I think Erasmus and I would have understood one another. I wonder if he would have enjoyed reading romances?

Curio by Cara McKenna. Over in Twitter-land Ms. McKenna’s story, Willing Victim, was much discussed earlier in the year. Since I read it last December I’ve gone on to read about two-thirds of Ms. McKenna’s backlist. There’s something that I find so compelling about her books, even when I don’t really like the stories themselves. When I read Skin Game, which I did not like—it read like a series of character sketches set amidst a weird Survivor-like game—I finally understood that Ms. McKenna writes her characters with so much compassion and clarity; she treats them with respect and they shine regardless of what’s going on in the story. Back to Curio. Didier is a former model turned prostitute who is patronized by Caroly, a 29-year-old virgin who wishes to finally have sex. The story is told over five encounters as they begin to form a friendship and become lovers. Ms. McKenna is masterful at using the sexual encounters of her characters to further the emotional drama she’s woven and I continue to be utterly compelled by her books. Curio has a hope filled HEA and I was charmed.

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Summons: A Goblin King Prequel by Shona Husk. The pissy reviews on Amazon made me want to read this. A couple readers were bugged that this is essentially a short lead in—more like a prologue—to the book, Goblin King. I find these little shorts are a great way to sample if I like the characters and the author’s writing style. I’m glad I read this before reading Goblin King because the start of that book made more sense for having read this.

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Goblin King by Shona Husk. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Goblin King features and heiress trying to escape her abusive, black-mailing, cheating boyfriend and some sort of Celtic warrior cursed by a Druid. I generally like these stories where the heroine grows a pair and tells her abusive boyfriend where to stick it before finding love with a decent guy. The story wanders in places which led me to skim read from time to time and the police were very sympathetic to the heroine despite the evidence that has been used to blackmail her for a couple of years. Basically some of the plot points are too convenient. But the love story is sweet and the angst lasts until the final five pages.

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Taken by the Cowboy by Julianne MacLean. Oh time travel, you offer so many opportunities for wacky stories. Heroine is in car accident, flung back in time, mistaken for a gun-slinging badass, meets a fellow time-traveler, falls for the Sherriff (and vice versa), is accused of murder, and wants to find a way to get back home. Some of the events are too convenient; for instance, she meets a fellow time-traveler who just happens to be the attorney she demands after being jailed? Really? Uh-huh. At times I just wasn’t compelled to keep reading and I picked up a couple other books while meandering through this one, but I did finish it and found the ending bittersweet. I’d be curious if others who’ve read this also read Jude Deveraux’s Knight in Shining Armor and what you thought of the endings in comparison to one another. I hate with stabby-eye-rays-of-death the ending of KISA; Taken by the Cowboy doesn’t evoke that sort of strong hateration but like KISA, it’s tinged with sadness.

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Bound to the Prince by Deborah Court. Ms. Court emailed Dear Author asking if anyone wanted to review her book. I like fae stories so I bought a copy and started reading. I’m about 2/3 of the way through this book and just not sure if I’m going to continue. The heroine is a doormat and the story is bloated. I kept thinking it needed a ruthless substantive edit to remove extraneous scenes that probably don’t feel extraneous to the author but bogged down the pace and caused my attention to wander. There’s something not bad buried in here, but I’m just not sure it’s worth the time of skimming through the bloat to find it. DNF for now.

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Future Tense by Carolyn Jewel. I’m a glom reader for the My Immortals series. I like that demons are the “good” guys, it fits my philosophy that in life there’s often no clear demarcation between good and bad, we’re all constantly moving on the gray spectrum; sometimes we’re better or worse than others. One of the things about paranormals in general that I like (and in sf and fantasy, too) is the mythology that comes with the world-building. What these people believe in fascinates me. I hope Lys, the heroine, shows up in future books, I’d like to see what happens with her witchy power of connecting to the future—the ending of this short story left me with a lot of questions.

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Good Girls Don’t by Victoria Dahl. Ms. Dahl shatters my heart with pretty much every book, and she does it while delivering humor, insight, drama, and love. Tessa and Luke both have Issues. Their lives collide when Tessa’s family business is vandalized and police detective Luke is sent to investigate. Tessa’s manic drive to keep her family together was emotionally wrenching. I felt her fear and despair when she thought it was all unraveling around her.

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Bad Boys Do by Victoria Dahl. I often hear women say ‘it’s the quiet ones you need to watch out for’, but Jamie Donovan proves that the smooth, easy-going, laughing ones might have hidden depths, too, if you bother to look. Olivia is a woman finally breaking out of the mold created by her parents, and then her controlling husband. Watching a shy/repressed/timid lady evolve into a woman of confidence (whether it’s quiet or brash confidence) is something I like best about romance novels.

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To Tempt a Scotsman by Victoria Dahl Yeah, so I maybe glommed on Ms. Dahl’s books in September. Lucky me. J I hated the hero for a good part of this book. What a dumbass. The heroine is a woman of intelligence and courage and she deserves better than she got from all the men in her life; it all worked out in the end and as long as the hero doesn’t revert to his dumbassery then I’m happy for the heroine to get her HEA with her hero. But by God he had better spend the rest of their lives proving he’s worthy of her. Humph.

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I froth at the mouth waiting for the next time I can have my heart smashed to pieces and put back together by Victoria Dahl. I’m already getting a little manic for Real Men Will. Only a couple weeks to go. Alas.

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Trouble in Paradise by Susan Connell. I came across this book while scrolling through page after page of books online. It’s a breezy, entertaining, sexy story set in a Central American rainforest. I enjoyed it but I never became wrapped up or emotionally invested in the characters.

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Silver Shark (Kinsmen Series) by Ilona Andrews. I’m fascinated with this world Ms. Andrews has imagined. The characters are part of a rare group of humans known as psychers—they live as much in a mental world (accessed through technology, I imagine sort of like in the Matrix) as they do in the physical world. Claire, the heroine, is hiding her true identity and enormous power in the wake of a war that her side lost. When she’s transported to another planet she continues to hide for fear that she’d be deported or executed if discovered. She’s hired by Venturo as his secretary and events conspire to reveal Claire’s true identity leaving Venturo with a dilemma about what to do with Claire. I hope there are more Kinsmen books coming.

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When in Rio by Delphine Dryden. Jack and Katie work together, in fact, he’s her boss. And on a business trip to Rio he becomes her Dom, though Jack is mostly into the D/s thing for the spanking. If we set aside the problem of doing the horizontal mambo with your boss, then this is a satisfying emotional story about two people who’ve grown to respect and admire one another over two years of close association and have decided to add sex and emotional intimacy to their relationship. At the end, when their fledgling couple hood is tested by Jack’s past I found myself irritated by the assumptions Katie made and the very easy resolution to the misunderstanding. But overall this was a good story about friends becoming (kinky) lovers. (Reviewed by Jane here)

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Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh. Janine has already reviewed this for Dear Author. I bring it up only because the more time passes since I’ve read this book the more dissatisfied I become with the truth about Honor’s identity and Dmitri’s evolution through the story. The violence is staggering and I just don’t see how the woman Honor is today and the woman she once was meld into a unified whole. At the same time I don’t know if I believe that Dmitri loves Honor—that is, the woman she is today. I might need to read this again; certainly I can’t stop thinking about it.

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Angels of Darkness by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook, and Sharon Shinn. I’m writing a review of this for Dear Author.

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Believe it or not, dear readers, there are more, but this is probably more than enough for this post, yes? Have you read any of these? Did you like/dislike them? I hope someone has read Curio and will tell me if they found Didier and Caroly as compelling as I did.

Happy reading,

Jaclyn

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.