Review: Wicked Abyss

Review: Wicked AbyssWicked Abyss (Immortals After Dark, #18) by Kresley Cole
Series: Immortals After Dark #18
Published by Gallery Books on April 25th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A adventurous, angst filled, humorous entry in the Immortals world, this book expands the scope of the Immortals world but also gives us a beauty and the beast retelling with a twist.

THE STORY: Ten thousand years ago, Abyssian Infernas was betrayed by his fey mate. He has never forgotten and has waited for her resurrection in order to get his revenge. Now the demon king of hell, Sian has his opportunity. Princess Calliope Bardot is brought by bounty hunters to Sian’s domain where he keeps her prisoner. She has her own purpose as well: to gather information against Sian and his alliance in order to protect her people.

OPINION: I immediately got sucked into this book although I haven’t read an Immortals book in a while. The humor and drama and just great storytelling keeps me returning book after book.

This book is an Immortals retelling of Beauty and the Beast including a curse, an enchanted castle and an incredible library. Of course, the castle is in hell and the beast is a demon who is slowly devolving into his demonic form. The beauty is an exiled fey princess who wants to return to her realm.

Although this story has fated mates (who already had one bad lifetime experience), the development of their relationship is given a tremendous amount of time to develop and grow. I loved the interaction between Sian and Lila as the two of them fall in love. But there are secrets that each is keeping and a past that torments Sian and makes him wary of trusting Lila again.

My favorite part is that Lila is a badass in this story. She is not going to sit around and allow Sian to dominate her or destroy her. By the end of the book, she clearly has evolved to his perfect mate.

This book is nicely paired with SWEET RUIN and keeps on the “dark side” of the coming battle. A small but significant appearance by Nix keeps the overarching storyline going.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are appearances from Rune and Jo from SWEET RUIN. And if you don’t recall Sian, he’s in that book as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED ABYSS is the eighteenth book in the Immortals After Dark series. This series is much better if read in order, but this book can be read as a standalone if character appearances from prior books and references to the overarching story line of the series don’t both you.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Beautiful Tempest

Review: Beautiful TempestBeautiful Tempest (Malory-Anderson Family, #12) by Johanna Lindsey
Series: Malory Family #12
Published by Gallery Books on July 11th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I completely satisfying book that I approached with trepidation.  I love, love, love the book about Jack’s father and I feared that this book wouldn’t live up to my expectations.  Instead, this book went in a different direction than I expected, but I loved these characters and their adventurous romance.

THE STORY:  Jacqueline Malory is the darling daughter of James Malory.  When Jack returns from escaping her kidnapper, James and his family are determined to take care of their enemy and sail for the West Indies to confront an old enemy.  Jack is angry that her father has left her in London while he confronts the man that kidnapped her. When a mysterious man approaches her at a masquerade ball, she is intrigued but realizes that he might actually be her kidnapper.  Instead of capturing him, Jack once again ends up in his clutches at sea.  But this time, things are different between them.

OPINION:  This is a book that I approached with trepidation.  GENTLE ROGUE (the story of Jack’s parents) is my all time favorite romance book.  Whenever an author extends the story of characters there is always the possibility of a letdown.  My concerns: Will Jack’s book be as compelling as her parents? How will the characters of James and George be presented? Will this book diminish my enjoyment of the original?  I’m glad to report that I was completely satisfied by this book.  As good as James and George’s book? No, but this book is filled with adventure and strong active characters — including Jack who seizes her own destiny.

Johanna has been writing for a long time (and I’ve been reading her for most of that time!).  Her books began in the time of bodice rippers and I found this book to be an interesting flip of many of those books.  Scenario:  heroine kidnapped and taken on the high seas as part of revenge against her father, hero is attracted to her and she is reluctantly attracted to him. The book also contains threats of rape, adventure and exotic locations.  In a prior book, the heroine would be a woman to which the action happens.  But those heroines of the past are not Jack Malory.

Jack is a woman who takes the reigns of her sexuality. She is determined, and takes all the autonomy that her brother does.  While she has a different sensibility, she refuses to be shamed or deterred by her male family members.  Ultimately, she navigates respect and care for her father and brother with her own self-determination. I really liked her own sense of self and her active nature.  Even as the times and protective nature of her male relatives dictate that she should be submissive, she (and the women of her family) are strong and independent.

Lindsey knows these characters so well and it was a joy to get an update on Malory family which contains a very colorful collection of characters that has engaged me since I was a teenager.  These characters are larger than life. While the story doesn’t have emphasis on historical accuracy and detail, I have always enjoyed how Lindsey places her iconic characters in the tapestry of history without becoming overly engaged in that history.  (There are other authors who are masters of weaving their characters into time, but that is clearly not Lindsey’s goal).

The hero Damon is an interesting contrast to Jack.  He has murky motivations but as things become clearer, I loved him more — and so did Jack!  I thought he was an interesting match for Jack. Sweeter in many ways — although he is definitely not a beta hero.  I love these shipboard romances and this one has some twists that kept me reading quickly to find out how things were resolved.

I loved this book and think that anyone who follows the Malory series will be especially pleased with this entry.  Probably my third or fourth favorite in the series overall…which says a lot considering how much I love this series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book brings up characters that are candidates for future books in the series.  One can hope!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BEAUTIFUL TEMPEST is the twelfth book in the Malory Family series.  The book is a standalone, but is connected with its immediate predecessor STORMY PERSUASION and, of course, the heroine Jack is the daughter of James Malory from GENTLE ROGUE.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Tangled

Review: TangledTangled (Tangled, #1) by Emma Chase
Series: Tangled #1
Published by Gallery Books on August 2nd 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 254
Goodreads
four-stars

“Good guys are boring. You need a little bad to keep things fun. And nice guys? Nice guys have something to hide.”

FINAL DECISION: Funny and fresh with a player who is truly shattered by falling in love.  Drew fights love until it knocks him flat and then has to find a way to win his way back to the woman he loves.

THE STORY:  Drew Evans thinks he has everything.  He is accomplished, handsome and can have any woman he wants.  Until he meets Katherine Brooks.  Kate is beautiful and ambitious and engaged.  Drew and Kate start a rivalry that sets Drew on edge.  The two fight and are desperately attracted to one another despite themselves.  All this results in Drew ending up locked in his apartment for a week claiming the flu but suffering from love sickness.

OPINION:  If you are going to read this book just accept that Drew is one of those jerks who will ultimately get his comeuppance.  Chase brilliantly places that moment at the very beginning of the book.  So while Drew is a jerk, jumps to conclusions, often treats Kate very poorly, the reader always knows that he is going to pay…and, oh, how he does pay.  The beginning of this book is perhaps one of the funniest and saddest scenes I’ve ever read.

Drew is a man convinced of his place in the world and satisfied that he is on the top and invincible.  Then he meets Kate who is unlike any woman he has ever been attracted to.  First, she rejects him.  Second, she is just as ambitious as he is and may end up just as accomplished.  Third, he can’t stop thinking about her despite himself.  Because the book is told from Drew’s point of view, we get to see all his warts, but also his struggle with falling in love.  And when he falls, he does it completely and is as dedicated to proving himself to Kate as he was fighting his feelings.

The humor in this book also keeps Drew from being unbearable.  In the first person narrative, Drew directly addresses the reader which makes it difficult to judge him from a distance.  Instead, he maintains the naughty bad boy who is lovable because of his flaws.

Kate is amazing because she puts Drew in his place.  It is clear from the beginning that Kate is the person to manage Drew.  The road would have been easier if Drew did not make so many mistakes.

WORTH MENTIONING:  While subsequent books also deal with Drew and Kate’s relationship, this book is complete in itself.  A reader could stop here and have a complete story.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  TANGLED is the first book in the Tangled series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Make Me Love You

Review: Make Me Love YouMake Me Love You by Johanna Lindsey
Published by Gallery Books on July 5th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-half-stars

“You are as stuck with me as I am with you, no matter how much we both hate it.”

FINAL DECISION:  Rather bland characters and story make this a book that was okay to read but not one I will rush to pick up again.

THE STORY:  Brooke Whitworth is ordered by the Prince Regent to be sent to marry Lord Dominic Wolfe, the enemy of her hated brother in order to settle a dispute which has led to three duels between the men.  If either family does not participate, their lands and titles will be forfeit. Brooke’s brother is happy to send her believing that Lord Wolfe will reject her as a bride.  The Wolfe, however, intends on frightening her away. What he doesn’t expect is that Brooke is happy to marry a man far away from her hated family and she will do everything to make him accept her.

OPINION:  I am a big fan of Johanna Lindsey. I’ve been reading her books for thirty years, but this one was a disappointment.  There was nothing bad about the book, it just consisted of such a bland story and bland characters that it is utterly forgettable.

I liked Brooke as a character.  She refuses to be cowed by her circumstances or her unhappy fiance. She is determined to make things work for her.  She is clever and kind.  Unfortunately, she was the best part of the book and was not unique enough to support the entire book.

Dominic was the biggest disappointment. His character was just bland and unimpressive. There didn’t seem to be anything to his character except his vendetta against Brooke’s brother.  My reaction to him was just a big yawn.

The story was resolved in too pat a manner. Too much easy happy endings where things were too broken to be so easily resolved. I just felt a big lack of any intense emotions, even passion in this book. There was one obligatory love scene that wasn’t particularly interesting either.

The story wasn’t horrible, but just so bland that I would just recommend reading one of the amazing Lindsey books instead of this one.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The funniest part of this book is when Dominic keeps getting his face slapped “propositioning” new mistresses.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  MAKE ME LOVE YOU is a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: Appealed

Review: AppealedAppealed (The Legal Briefs, #3) by Emma Chase
Series: The Legal Briefs #3
Published by Gallery Books on January 19th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Second Chance Love is Spicy and Funny and Sometimes Sad

“Once upon a time she was my best friend. For a hot moment she was more. After that, she hated me. And then she was just . . . gone.”

FINAL DECISION: Managing to be funny and heartbreaking at the same time, APPEALED reminds us that we all make painful mistakes but that sometimes a second chance can be even better.

THE STORY: Brent Mason is a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. Now that all his partners are married, Brent is alone living the single life. At that moment, Kennedy Randolph re-enters his life. Brent and Kennedy grew up together. Friends, then almost lovers, then enemies, then nothing. An amputee at a young age, Brent has learned to keep his distance from people, but he always had a connection with Kennedy. Kennedy is now a prosecutor who arrives in D.C. just in time to be opposing counsel on Brent’s new case. Battling in each on the case and also the past, the two get a second chance to find the connection that has always existed between them even despite a 14 year absence.

OPINION: I read the three books in this series quickly because I found them unique, funny and yet incredibly emotional. What I loved about his book is that Brent has always loved Kennedy but he didn’t do the things he needed to do to keep her. Youth, immaturity worked to drive Brent and Kennedy apart and yet there has always been something to connect them.

Sometimes I think it is strange to read a book that consists only of the male point of view and yet I never failed to understand Kennedy’s perspective. As with the other books in the series, giving the hero’s point of view prevents him from appearing to be a jerk. I liked that I could understand his confusion, his pain and his motivation. Even as he sometimes does stupid things, I can appreciate that he is human and not being malicious. For example, at one point in the book he makes an ultimatum that Kennedy rejects. Brent ends up miserable and ends up conceding entirely to Kennedy’s viewpoint because he was wrong. I liked him better because I understood what drove him to make the mistake and then his ability to apologize and concede entirely. That makes him a strong compassionate man who I liked more because of his imperfections.

The characters feel human, real, fallible but their relationship is infused with joy. The battle of wills is good natured between these two. I like that their relationship always appears a connection of equals. Their courtroom fights were especially ones that I liked because I appreciate a clever legal tactic.

One of the best things about this series overall is how likeable the characters are. In addition, each of the stories is unique and doesn’t follow a standard formula. The challenges each couple faces is unique and yet the entire series is infused a hopeful attitude.

The book has a lightness, a freshness and an effervescence that compelled me to rush through this book. My biggest disappointment was that there isn’t a next book. I especially found the voice of this book, the writing and tone to be attractive. I’m going to try another series by this author to see if I enjoy it as well because this series was fantastic.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book includes an extended epilogue that will please those who have read the entire series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: APPEALED is the third book in the Legal Briefs series. It can be read as a standalone but also gives glimpses of series favorites for fans to enjoy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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four-half-stars

Review: Sustained

Review: SustainedSustained (The Legal Briefs, #2) by Emma Chase
Series: The Legal Briefs #2
Published by Gallery Books on August 25th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 267
Goodreads
four-half-stars

I Love This Male Point of View Romance

“A knight in tarnished armor is still a knight.”

FINAL DECISION: I love how this book is told from the hero’s point of view. The true journey to be made here is the hero’s and I like that I could understand and emphasize with him instead of thinking him a total jerk.

THE STORY: Jake Becker is a criminal defense attorney who “likes things a certain way”. He is disciplined and some say even cold, but in him lurks a reformed bad boy. When Jake’s freewheeling single life is abruptly halted he meets Chelsea McQuaid — a woman in need. Chelsea is raising her six orphaned nieces and nephews and one might expect that a large family has lots of crazy happenings. In fact, Jake and Chelsea meets when her nephew attempts to lift Jake’s wallet. Despite Jake’s desire to keep himself detached, he can’t help but come to the rescue of the McQuaid family again and again. Finding himself needed, Jake’s insecurities begin to reveal themselves and make the budding relationship between Chelsea and himself much more difficult.

OPINION: I loved the total baffling of Jake. He keeps getting pulled into Chelsea’s life and can’t figure out what is motivating him. I also loved how he falls in love not only with Chelsea but also each of the kids. For a book where six kids are a big part of the story, their characters and their connection with Jake are vital. He just feels like a good man who was looking for his place in the world.

I think it is essential to the story that it is told from Jake’s point of view. The book chronicles his journey and he is so often a jerk that only knowing his confusion and pain makes him a good hero. The book is a great combination of humor and deep emotional connection that feels fresh and keeps me wanting to read more of the series.

I really like how the characters in this series are good people with reasonable motivations. They make mistakes — especially the men — but they feel real and the kind of mistakes that can be corrected.

Lively, sexy and fun, I really enjoyed this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of the series will be pleased to see significant appearances by the hero and heroine of OVERRULED.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SUSTAINED is the second book in the Legal Briefs series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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four-half-stars

Review: Overruled

Review: OverruledSustained (The Legal Briefs, #2) by Emma Chase
Series: The Legal Briefs #1
Published by Gallery Books on August 25th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 267
Goodreads
four-half-stars

So Many Reasons I Shouldn’t Like This Book, and Yet I Did

“You’re so stubborn — you’re so stuck in what you think is supposed to be, that you’re missin’ what’s right in front of you.”

FINAL DECISION: I book I put off reading because it has two things I really tend to dislike lawyers and a hero who believes he is in love with someone else — yet somehow I found this book compelling. I couldn’t stop reading it. My only complaint is that I wanted more.

THE STORY: Stanton Shaw, a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. is known as “The Jury Charmer” because he is a man it is hard to say no to. He has a plan for his life. Although he lives in D.C. his heart is in MIssissippi with his childhood sweetheart and their daughter. The two had a child as teenagers and although they were in love, they kept postponing their life together. Stanton, however, believes that they have a special and immutable connection until he gets an invitation to her wedding to someone else. Stanton is determined to go home and convince her to call of the wedding. He decides to bring along with him Sofia Santos who is also an attorney at the firm he works with. Stanton and Sofia have been friends with benefits neither wanting a more serious relationship. While Stanton works to recover his past love, he can’t seem to forget the woman of the moment.

OPINION: I’ve had this series on my radar for a while. People keep recommending the books to me, but I’m generally not a fan of lawyer books. Being an attorney myself, I often don’t find the tone and voice of the book to fit in my experience. Finally, this book had been recommended one too many times and I was looking for something new to read and I started this book with low expectations. And then I couldn’t put it down.

I was attracted by the tone of the book. The book begins with the first person narrative of the hero and then switches between the first person of Stanton and Sofia. This book is really Stanton’s story because it is his continued expectation of his relationship with his childhood sweetheart that animates the story. Although I am generally not a fan of stories where one of the characters believes themselves in love with someone else, I thought it worked here because of the first person narrative. Having access to Stanton’s thoughts gives readers an understanding of how he actually feels for Sofia and for the woman he insists he loves. I just had to smile at his blindness of his own true feelings. Stanton also is incredibly honest in recognizing his mistakes by the time he acknowledges he loves Sofia that I forgave him for his stupidity throughout the book.

This book felt deep and emotional and I felt so connected to the characters and felt their connection to one another. The book tackles difficult issues of first love and coming to terms with the loss of young dreams and I ended up loving it.

I give high marks to a book that was much more than what I thought when I read the description.

WORTH MENTIONING: Warning that the hero spends almost the entire book believing he is in love with his childhood sweetheart.

CONNECTED BOOKS: OVERRULED is the first book in the Legal Briefs series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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four-half-stars

Review: Manwhore +1

Review: Manwhore +1Manwhore +1 (Manwhore, #2) by Katy Evans
Series: Manwhore #2
Published by Gallery Books on July 7th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars

Finally a Resolution to the Story!

“I have never been so aware of how deep he’d let me in until I stood before him today, completely cast out of what had become my own personal paradise.”

THE STORY: This book continues the story of Rachel and Malcolm from the first book in the series. When this book opens, Rachel’s lies and betrayal of her relationship with Malcolm has been revealed. Rachel is a reporter who had been assigned a secret expose of Chicago’s manwhore bachelor. In the process of getting to know her subject, she ended up falling in love with him. Malcolm is a private man and Rachel’s betrayal hits him hard. The question that begins this book is whether Rachel can show Malcolm that what they had was real.

OPINION: I liked this book better than the first in the series. The story is more complex and Malcolm seemed more real. I think that that first person narrative makes it difficult to understand Malcolm as a character. Rachel views him in an idealistic way and that makes him seem like a idealized person rather than a real one. Here, Malcolm explains more of his thoughts which makes him more appealing. I also liked that Rachel’s issues are addressed more in this book. Her own fears are a great deal of the problem that this couple ends up having. I really liked her character’s decisions in this book. Instead of taking the easy way out, she fights for her relationship with Malcolm. Her feisty nature and determination are what made me like her more here than in the first book.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is told in the first person so readers only get Rachel’s view of the story.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book a bit more than the first in the series probably because of the resolution to the story. I also felt that Malcolm was better represented as a character in this book because he opens up to Rachel more.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MANWHORE +1 is the second book in the Manwhore series. This book really operates as a part two to the story and the first book should be read before this one.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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four-stars

Review: The Master

Review: The MasterThe Master (The Game Maker, #2) by Kresley Cole
Series: The Game Maker #2
Published by Gallery Books on February 17th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 448
Goodreads
five-stars

Wow! A Hot Book With a Hot Russian

“Never, never, never trust another man.”

THE STORY: Catarina Marin is desperate. She has been on the run for years from her murderous husband. She needs to flee Miami and needs money to do it. She decides to agree to be a substitute escort for one night in order to make enough money to leave. Her client is Maksim Sevastyan. Maksim is a rich Russian politician and also Mafiya. Cat is nothing like the woman that Maksim ordered but she is appealing to him in ways he doesn’t expect. Their experience is more explosive than either expects and both are drawn to one another in ways that two solitary people never expected.

OPINION: I loved this book. It is hot and full of angst. Cat is a great heroine who takes control of her own life even while it is a mess. Maksim is sexy and filled with his painful past. Cat and Maksim are wonderful together as these two people who have no trust to give one anyone find something special together. This book works so well together. This book is definite erotica, but even though sex is an important and central part of this book, the relationship is never overshadowed by the graphic sexual depictions. This book worked much better as a whole than the first in the series. After finishing this book, the reader is left with the strong characters as the focus rather than the erotica. The book was filled with witty conversations and sweet emotions for two people who don’t expect it. This was a book that grabbed me from the beginning and I loved just about everything about it.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of THE PROFESSIONAL will get to attend the wedding of Aleks and Natalie.

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book and found Cat and Maksim to be a great match in every way. There was enough drama and angst and hot sex to keep the story interesting without overwhelming the romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE MASTER is the second book in The Game Maker series. It can be read as a standalone although characters from the first book make significant appearances here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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five-stars