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Review: Operation: Endgame by Christi Snow

18 Nov


3.5 out of 5 scoopers

Operation: Endgame by Christi Snow
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 2012)
Trade: $11.99; ebook: $2.99
ISBN: 9781477483787

Favorite Lines: “Jake didn’t respond. He just looked at her with pain-filled eyes which broke Cassie’s heart. She reached up and smoothed his brow where he was frowning at her and then slowly reached up to pull his head down to hers. She gently pressed her lips to his.” (p. 181)

It’s been six months.

Six months since Jake Madsen let Chris Robertson die.

Six months since the passion between Jake and Cassie, Chris’ sister, stepped over the line.

But now Cassie’s being stalked and it’s time for Jake to swallow his guilt, grief, and lust so he can save her life, even if it’s a life without him. He owes it to his dead friend and he owes it to Cassie. He’s fallen in love with her, but she doesn’t have to know that for him to keep her safe.

Book one in Christi Snow’s Mission Ends trilogy introduces us to the Robertson siblings. All are military trained and form a tight unit. Operation: Endgame takes us into their world and that of close family friend  Jake Madsen. This is a friends become lovers, contemporary romantic suspense.

What I liked: Being able to see the characters meet as children and see their history made it possible for me to understand the deep bond the characters share. They’d do anything for one another and I definitely believe Jake and Cassie could make it as a couple.

What I disliked: Since the characters were so deeply intertwined I had a hard time with the way others reacted to Cassie’s take on her brother’s death. We are told of Cassie and Chris’s bond over and over, but no one was receptive to the vibes Cassie was putting out. I don’t want to ruin the story so I’ll leave it at that, but it really irritated me.

Villain: I like me some delusional villains, especially when they are stalkers. I didn’t have a hard time picking out the bad guy; I did have issues figuring out why he had fixated on Cassie. I didn’t see the deeper connection until it was all laid out in front of me.

Overall: I didn’t love or hate Operation: Endgame. It was okay. I’m rather ambivalent about reading more. I wouldn’t purposely seek it out or avoid it. If you can get an e-copy, go for it. Otherwise borrow it from the library.

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Review: How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren

13 Nov


3 out of 5 scoopers

How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren
Carina Press (Nov. 19, 2012)
ebook: $1.99 (38,000 words)
ISBN: 9781426894664
Excerpt

Favorite Lines: “Even through the sheet she sparked with energy, with life. He brought his other hand up and slowly raked his fingers from her palm to her wrist and down to her elbow.” (p. 16, e-galley)

The Beast

Scarred. Damaged. Living with a terrible secret. Agent of the Underlight Wesley “Hauk” Haukon has nothing left but the fight for liberty against the oppressive Order of Ananke. He’s starting to lose hope…and then he sees her.

The Beauty

Despite her night job as a burlesque dancer, grad student Jolie Benoit has always played the mostly good girl. That all changes following a scorching sexual encounter with a stranger whose face she doesn’t see. After she’s kidnapped by thugs and rescued by a man with a very familiar voice, Jolie becomes a pawn in a struggle she never knew existed.

Hauk knows he cannot have her, and resolves to protect his heart and his secrets. But as they work together and grow closer, he finds new reason to keep fighting. Dare he risk hope in a new life, one where Jolie can see past his ravaged face and where their friendship can grow into something more?

I knew from the get go that How Beauty Met the Beast was going to be a novella. I wasn’t sure how long 38,000 words would show on my nook. It turns out to equal 110 pages. For me, it was just long enough to whet my appetite and as soon as things started getting good the story was over. The good news is that it is part of a three story series and book two, How Beauty Saved the Beast will be released in February 2013.

I had a little bit of trouble staying in the world. I knew the hero was a member of an anarchist group called the Underlight. Then I read about him being a soldier who was disfigured fighting in Afghanistan. When you add in a steambike, metal leg/foot, and people who worship old gods (think Thor), you’ve got me thinking okay it’s a steampunk book. But then I considered the heroine who drove a Nissan coupe, has Celiac’s disease, and attended the University of Texas and felt like I was reading a contemporary romance. By the end I was thoroughly confused when it came to the world building, but satisfied by the introduction of two characters to one another and myself.

How Beauty Met the Beast is…different. It’s not bad, just not what I expected. The characters though, they are what hooked me. For example, it’s not the “norm” to have the heroine of a romance work as a burlesque dancer. The scenes in which she struts her stuff and belts out tunes before meeting the hero behind the animosity of a sheet hit home her adventurous nature. Hawk is introduced by his actions as well. The reader is shown Hawke on the run with a buddy and his willingness to sacrifice himself in order to protect his pal. We get to travel into his mind where he considers the reactions others have to his disfigured face and watch him have a healthy interaction with a beautiful woman before we are told the extent of the damage done to him. When the author gets descriptive and I’m able to visualize what this man looks like it’s too late to walk away thinking the man is “gross.” By then I’ve half fallen in love with the man.

Obviously there were parts of the story that I was invested in, however when the world which confused me is added to what felt like a third of one complete story, I’m left feeling so-so about it all. I like to read complete stories in one book. I think there are way too many series and trilogies floating around. Sometimes it’s necessary, but other times it feels like a reason to suck money out of readers. If the Tales of the Underlight trilogy unfolds the way I expect, the division will be a way to give the characters time to get to know one another. That’s understandable, but does nothing to absolve my irritation for a story that ends just when it starts getting good. That said, I don’t regret reading How Beauty Met the Beast and plan to read the next book in the series.

Review: Claimed by the Highlander by Julianne MacLean

8 Oct


3 out of 5 scoopers

Claimed by the Highlander by Julianne MacLean
St. Martin’s (Reissued-August 2012)
Mass market: $4.99; ebook: $4.99
ISBN: 9781250016270
Excerpt

Favorite Lines: “Sometimes, I need you so bad, I just want to drop my sword in the middle of a training exercise and leave the men to their own devices, so I can take you to bed. But when I think about you coming to any harm, I want to pick up my sword again. You pull me in two directions, lass” (p. 170-1)

NIGHT OF CONQUEST
With his tawny mane, battle-hewn brawn, and ferocious roar, Angus “The Lion” MacDonald is the most fearsome warrior Lady Gwendolen has ever seen—and she is his most glorious conquest. Captured in a surprise attack on her father’s castle, Gwendolen is now forced to share her bed with the man who defeated her clan. But, in spite of Angus’s overpowering charms, she refuses to surrender her innocence without a fight…

PRISONER OF PASSION
With her stunning beauty, bold defiance, and brazen smile, Gwendolen is the most infuriating woman Angus has ever known—and the most intoxicating. Forcing her to become his bride will unite their two clans as one. But conquering Gwendolen’s heart will take all his skills as a lover. Night after night, his touch sets her on fire. Kiss after kiss, his hunger fuels her passion. But, as Gwendolen’s body betrays her growing love for Angus, a secret enemy plots to betray them both…

Claimed by the Highlander is the second book in Julianne MacLean’s re-issued Highlander trilogy. It’s told in the third person and set in 1718 in the Scottish highlands. Featuring an alpha warrior, Claimed by the Highlander is about the prodigal son returning home and finding redemption and love.He finds it with an innocent but feisty heroine who happens to be the daughter of the man who killed his father.

Gwendolen is a lot smarter than I initially gave her credit for being. She wanted to fight, but soon realized there was another way to get what she wanted. For the most part she didn’t try to be sneaky or self-serving. She went with the flow and just went after what she wanted–love. It isn’t easy because she seems to have been paired with a man with a stone instead of a heart.

Angus warmed up to Gwendolen before the midpoint of the story. He’s a man who rarely lowers his guard, but when he does it’s magnificent. Unfortunately Angus is just as quick to raise his guard which is frustrating. Happy moments aren’t as pleasant because he’s wondering when a blow is going to strike out at him. I wanted Gwendolen to make him suffer or be spiteful, but she isn’t me.  She stayed true to character which made the happily ever after factor real. I believe that the hero and heroine are the perfect match because they fit together. They know, understand and respect each other by the end of the tale.

Claimed by the Highlander was initially published in March of 2011. It was repackaged, along with the rest of the trilogy, at a cheaper price and released in the fall of 2012. Its passion filled pages made the romance an enjoyable read. I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed it as much if I’d read book one-Captured by the Highlander-in which the hero betrays his best friend. But that’s a moot point, as I didn’t read that book.

This book is a solid romance. It isn’t my favorite, but it isn’t the worst I’ve read either. I recommend Claimed by the Highlander to those in need of a historical Scottish romance. It’s not action packed, but it is filled with lust which turns into love in the highlands.

Review: Temptation in a Kilt by Victoria Roberts

27 Aug

Temptation in a Kilt by Victoria Roberts
Sourcebooks (Sept. 1, 2012)
Mass Market: $6.99; ebook: $6.99
ISBN: 9781402270062

Favorite Lines: “Suddenly anxious to escape from his disturbing presence, she spoke hastily. “Pray excuse me. I believe my monthly courses have arrived.” Pulling herself to her feet, she bit her lip to keep from crying out in pain. Holding her ribs, she walked stiffly into the trees. She was running out of diversions.

Did she actually tell him her monthly courses had arrived? She was at a loss for what to say and had to think of something quickly so she spoke the first words that came to mind. That tactic usually worked on James. In fact, it would stop him dead in his tacks and he would always stop questioning her if she broached the subject. She could never understand why men were so adverse to womanly nature. They had no trouble bedding women, but mention a woman’s time or birthing…” (p. 42, e-galley)

She’s On Her Way to Safety

It’s a sign of Lady Rosalia Armstrong’s desperation that she’s seeking refuge in a place as rugged and challenging as the Scottish Highlands. She doesn’t care about hardship and discomfort, if only she can become master of her own life. Laird Ciaran MacGregor, however, is completely beyond her control…

He Redefines Dangerous…

Ciaran MacGregor knows it’s perilous to get embroiled with a fiery Lowland lass, especially one as headstrong as Rosalia. Having made a rash promise to escort her all the way to Glengarry, now he’s stuck with her, even though she challenges his legendary prowess at every opportunity. When temptation reaches its peak, he’ll be ready to show her how he really is…on and off the battlefield.

Temptation in a Kilt is a book that made me verra, verra happy. It’s exactly what comes to mind when I think historical Scottish romance. It’s set in 1603 and begins in England but quickly travels to Scotland.

I liked the story as soon as it began, but it was when the heroine showed her spunky behavior that I knew Victoria Roberts is an author to follow. The heroine, Rosalia, is running from abusive parents and an arranged marriage. She has been beaten mentally and physically her entire life. She is a virgin and verges on perfect, but that never bothered me. She is kind and “real.” She isn’t looking for a knight in shining armor. Thankfully a Highlander wearing a kilt decided she needed him.

Ciaran is the alpha stuck with a fulfilling a promise to his dying father. He agreed to ensure his youngest brother become a steadfast man instead of the drunkard and womanizer he has turned out to be. Until his brother is settled he feels that he cannot be happy in a marital relationship.This is a major roadblock for his deepening feelings for Rosalia because he feels that his own future must stay on the back burner until his brother mans up.

Temptation in a Kilt will make you smile as you watch Rosalia and Ciaran dance around their burgeoning romance. There is no sex and had there been–it would have been gratuitous. There is plenty of sexual attraction and it’s shown by the intimate situations and touches, as well as the heat generated by the glimpses of nudity that are shown. The danger to the couple comes from more than one source, which added drama to the love story.

My only complaint–it’s very minor–has to deal with the heroine’s family situation. Her parents seem to take a back burner and when they pop back into the picture it’s only to be told about them by secondary characters. I can live with it, but it seems anticlimactic. Also, we are told early on that there was an unknown reason why Rosalia’s father and grandmother didn’t speak which is never explored to my satisfaction.

I hope that book two in Roberts’ Bad Boys of the Highlands series will be about Rosalia’s cousin and will address the reasons why Rosalia’s father bailed on his family in favor of his English wife’s wishes. Yes, I will be reading it.

Review: Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady

1 Aug

Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady
Kensington (Aug. 7, 2012)
Mass Market: $6.99; ebook: $5.99
ISBN: 9781420124569

Favorite Lines: “I will carry you when you grow weary…I will warm you when you are cold…I will shelter you when you seek refuge…I pledge my body to your protection, my soul to your happiness,  and my heart to your keeping.” (p. 327, ARC)

Nurse Kayla Friday has dedicated her life to science and reason. But for her, Seattle is a place of eerie loss and fragmented, frightening memories. And now the only clue to her sister’s murder reveals a secret battle between two ancient mythologies…and puts Kayla in the sights of lethally-sexy werewolf mercenary Hart. He’ll do whatever it takes to obtain the key to the Gate of the Land of the Dead and free what’s left of his soul. But seducing the determined Kayla is putting them at the mercy of powerful desires neither can control. And as the clock ticks down to hellish catastrophe, the untested bond between Kayla and Hart may lead to the ultimate sacrifice.

Book one in Kira Brady‘s romantic Deadglass trilogy, Hearts of Darkness, is a new take on the paranormal world. In Brady’s world there are dragon shifters (Drekar) who lack souls and feed on humanity and shapeshifters (Kivati) on the verge of extinction who are battling the dragons. The shifters are also supposed to protect humanity, but that’s not high on their priority list.

Hearts of Darkness combines Babylonian, Native American and Norse mythology to create a world on the verge of destruction. Though set in the present day, the world has a steampunk feel due to the monocles, steam engines and clothing worn by the Kivati. There is a crack in Seattle’s Gate to the Land of the Dead. Damned ghosts and evil wraiths slip through the crack into Seattle longing to touch and feel again. Those spirits are capable of possessing humans, turning them into walking zombie-like creatures.

The paranormal aspects of life in the corrupt city of Seattle remains unknown to most of humanity, but Kayla is not allowed to keep her head in the sand. She want to find her sister’s killer and her very human attempt at compassion has placed her in debt to the Kivati. She is given three days to find an item her sister hid or face the consequences of not upholding her side of an agreement with the Kivati. She’s not what I consider a kick ass heroine, but an everyday woman thrown into a “crazy” situation. Kayla is pretty naive for being the woman who always cleaned up after her little sister. She takes things at face value, never looking below the surface which kept placing her in danger.Especially when it comes to the book’s hero, a Kivati man named Hart.

Hated by his fellow Kivati, Hart is enslaved to the leader of the Drekar. He is filled with self-loath and has little choice in many of the actions he is forced to take. He clings to threads of honor, unwilling to become completely warped by the evil he has been associated with for over 15 years. Hart wants to be a better man, however until his debt is paid off, he can do nothing but follow orders.

Hearts of Darkness is filled with suspense and action. I never became enamored with the romance thread though. I know Kayla and Hart were attracted to one another, but I didn’t see the appeal for more than a sexual relationship. It’s a book in which a man can earn redemption and love can be found and recognized in the darkest of situations. I enjoyed both the suspense and the happy ever after ending despite my ambivalent thoughts on the romance. I will be reading the next book, Hearts of Shadows, because its main characters (Grace and Leif) really interest me.

Review: The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens

19 Mar

The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens
Harlequin/MIRA (March 27, 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9780778312772
Excerpt

Favorite Lines: “Did I cross his mind now and then? Not that it mattered. He was a man haunted by his dead wife and daughter, and I was a woman who saw ghosts. For as long as he clung to his past–and his past clung to him–I could not be a part of his life.” (p. 8, egalley)

Deep in the shadowy foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a dying town…My name is Amelia Gray. They call me The Graveyard Queen. I’ve been commissioned to restore an old cemetery in Asher Falls, South Carolina, but I’m coming to think I have another purpose here.Why is there a cemetery at the bottom of Bell Lake? Why am I drawn time and again to a hidden grave I’ve discovered in the woods? Something is eating away at the soul of this town—this withering kingdom—and it will only be restored if I can uncover the truth.

The Kingdom is Amanda Stevens follow-up book to the creepy book entitled The Restorer. Both are part of the Graveyard Queen trilogy. According to Stevens’ blog she has just sold another trilogy in the Graveyard Queen series to MIRA. It will follow the same heroine, Amelia.

The story picks up months after Amelia was almost murdered. She has resumed her life as a graveyard restorer and accepted a job in a small town called Asher Falls. Once there, she learns she is not alone in her ability to see ghosts and discovers her hidden past.

The book is not as creepy as The Restorer, but it is full of slow burning tension. Unlike the first book, it doesn’t take long to realize where the danger is coming from. I was okay with that because I knew there was something going on that would hit Amelia on a personal level–much deeper than a possible new romance with a man named Thane Asher.

While book one felt like cold breezes in a silent night, The Kingdom felt like the intro to a new horror movie. The horror is in the descriptions used to instill a sense of dread. There were no OMG bloody sections, but it was the mind games sort of horror. I’m not a fan of horror, but Stevens managed to suck me in and hold my attention. That said, I had a huge issue with the heroine.

I don’t remember Amelia being quite so angsty. And I most definitely don’t remember Devlin the way she did:

“I wasn’t over Devlin, might never be over him, and an attractive stranger could do nothing more than momentarily ease my intense longing.”–p.15

Yes, she was interested in Devlin, but she didn’t have much time with him and she knew going in that he was haunted and harmful to her continued existence. I don’t get why all of a sudden Amelia is so obsessed with him. Devlin is blatantly unhealthy for her and the new love interest isn’t any better. It feels out of character for a successful woman who has had to be on guard all her life to fall for dangerous men within moments of meeting them during a few months time. There was never any information about that being a habit of hers. You’d think she’d be more careful after the events of book one.

Overall, I liked the slow burning tension in The Kingdom. I was happy Amelia was away from Devlin and hoped she’d learned sometimes what you want isn’t good for you and you have no choice but to stay away. I’m not so sure she came to that realization. As Amelia’s family history unraveled it became clear that much more was going on than the reader was exposed to.  I’m looking forward to reading the conclusion of the trilogy, The Prophet.

Review: Run From Fear by Jami Alden

12 Mar

Run From Fear by Jami Alden
Grand Central Publishing (March 1, 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9780446572811

Favorite Lines: “She scrambled off him and backed clear to the other end of the studio.

“Sorry,” he muttered as he got slowly to his feet. He felt the heat rise in his face and hoped maybe that would mean some of the blood would leave his dick. No dice. He was still tenting out the front of his shorts, and Talia was staring with what he wished was awe but was probably closer to disgust. “I can’t exactly control it.” He picked u pa bottle of water. Maybe it would cool him off.

Yea, maybe if you pour it on your dick.

She blinked, her cheeks going red as she pulled her gaze up to his face. “I know, I mean, not exactly a virgin here. I know how those things work. Friction and all,” she said with a nervous laugh.” (p. 71, egalley)

More than anything, Talia Vega wanted to leave behind her harrowing past. Moving 800 miles away, she succeeded . . . until the one man who knows her darkest secrets wanders into the restaurant where she works. Now the agonizing memories come crashing back—along with an undeniable desire for Jack Brooks, the ex-Green Beret who rescued her from a sadistic monster two years ago.

Jack Brooks knows that showing up unannounced is a purely selfish move. Talia doesn’t need his protection anymore, but he can’t get the raven-haired beauty out of his mind. And when a twisted madman is hell-bent on resurrecting her tortuous past, Jack vows to do anything to keep her safe–even risk his own life to save the only woman he’s ever loved.

I loved the first book in Jami Alden’s romantic suspense trilogy. That book, Beg for Mercy, followed a woman determined to prove her brother innocent of a brutal crime before he is executed by the state. In it we meet Run for Fear‘s heroine, Talia Vega. I didn’t feel much sympathy for her at the time, but enough time has elapsed since I read that book and began reading Run for Fear for me to overcome my initial feelings. I did not read book two (Hide from Evil); I wasn’t interested in the plot idea.

That said, I had no problem whatsoever reading Run from Fear.

Once I started reading the book I could not put it down. It went on bathroom breaks with me and I ate while I read it. Run from Fear was creepy even though the reader is told who the villain is early on. The back story is given so even those who have never picked up a book in the series can understand what’s going on. The tension between the hero and heroine slowly builds in a manner that matches the building situational tension. I kept wondering, “is it gonna happen now?”

One thing I did not like was how Talia’s little sister Rosario, aka Rosie, acted. I know Talia protected her from as much of the evil that stalked the sisters as possible, but Rosie’s behavior was that of a girl who never had a care in the world. She was living trauma free despite knowing the abuse that had been heaped upon her sister. That unrealistic attitude about drove me batty.

The brutality in the book is a much tamer version of that introduced in Beg for Mercy, but it added validity to the “crazy killer” idea.

Run from Fear takes a bitchy scared woman introduced early in the trilogy and portrays her as a different woman. It was necessary to show how being terrorized, abused and tortured can transform the strongest person. No longer a woman who uses her wiles, Talia tried to become a woman who could save herself if ever threatened again. She is challenged to do so in Run from Fear, but she isn’t the only one threatened this time.

If you’re looking for a straight up romantic suspense you may enjoy reading Run from Fear. Things are pretty much exposed early on which means the stress I felt came from waiting for bad things to happen. I knew they were coming and how bad they would be, however I never knew when it would hit.