Review: Rising Tides

Review: Rising TidesRising Tides (Chesapeake Bay Saga, #2) by Nora Roberts
Series: Chesapeake Bay Saga #2
Published by Jove on August 1st 1998
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 330

FINAL DECISION: One of the best of Nora Roberts’ family dramas, this romance has a languid build between these two friends. The pace feels just right for a real relationship as these two overcome the pain of their pasts.

THE STORY: Ethan Quinn stayed at home when his other brothers roamed. Steady as the bay in which he works, Ethan hides turmoil and pain from his youth. Working with his brothers to raise the boy that their father took in before his death, Ethan plans to focus on their new business. But the woman he has known for years, Grace Monroe, won’t seem to let him go. Determined to keep his distance from the young mother to protect her, Ethan can’t seem to resist Grace’s pull.

OPINION: This book is a perfect example of the best of Nora Roberts’ work. The story has a tremendous feeling of place where I can almost smell the bay. The entire family of characters are three dimensional and interesting in their own right. They feel real and genuine. These are characters without the easy crutch of wealth and power.

This is one of my favorite books of Roberts because everything just works in this book.

Grace is a woman who is struggling but has pride in being independent and taking care of her daughter. She has flaws — the primary one being that she is incredibly stubborn.  She also fundamentally doesn’t know or understand the struggles that Ethan is going through. She makes assumptions without seeing the dark undercurrent of his life.

Ethan is a man good at hiding his pain and self-loathing. He has had his eye on Grace for years but has kept his distance because he doesn’t see himself as being worthy of her. But he is a good man. He is strong and reliable and everything that society sees as manly. Which makes the complexity of his character work so well. He is such a wonderful hero.

I loved these characters and the slow unfolding of their relationship works so well here. The book takes it time in showing their relationship and letting the crisis points come and pass with a natural and real timetable. This is my favorite book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The overarching story line with Sean doesn’t progress much in this book which means that everything is set up for book three.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RISING TIDES is the second book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga. While each book has a separate couple and thus can be read on its own, there is an overarching story line dealing with the family and thus I believe it is better to read this in order as part of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Shadow Reaper

Review: Shadow ReaperShadow Reaper (Shadow, #2) by Christine Feehan
Series: Shadow, #2
Published by Jove on May 30th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 480

FINAL DECISION: This was really enjoyable — perhaps more for the suspense and action part of the story than the romance. Nevertheless, I think this is a fun (not funny) action story with an intense “fated” romance.

THE STORY: Ricco Ferraro is a shadow rider. The shadow riders are assassins who do justice by using their ability to travel via shadows to do their work. Ricco has been becoming more reckless and that worries his family. When he meets Mariko Majo, Ricco instantly knows that she is a woman who is special because she is one of the few women who can mate with a shadow rider and produce children. Mariko’s mysterious background intrigues Ricco, but the question is why has Mariko come to Ricco and what danger has she brought to the Ferraro family?

OPINION: This was an adventurous story as the Ferraro family is under attack and the question is why and who is behind it. I thought the pacing and depictions of the family was a highlight of the story. The story is suspenseful and also a bit graphic at times because this family is not sitting around doing knitting. The story is gritty and dark at times with a lot of violence.

Ricco is a playboy who has gotten bored with his own life: fast women and fast cars. When he meet Mariko, things begin to change for him. I do like that Ricco is certainly a family man who loves and cares for his family. That quality is important especially because the family verges on being an organized crime family (or at least that is the way they are viewed by outsiders).

Mariko is a woman who has been ground down by everyone around her for most of her life. Yet she is a woman of integrity. Like many of Feehan’s heroines, she is sexually inexperienced and sometimes quite a bit naive about her sexuality. There is quite a bit of dominant alpha male and submissive woman in this book although the book acknowledges a sense where the roles are reversed — even though Ricco is ostensibly in charge, he is only responding to Mariko’s wishes. This is most clearly expressed in the Japanese rope bondage that the two engage in. This was a kink that I haven’t read about before in romance books and I thought it was well explained and used through the book especially because it is clear that there is an artistic side and a sexual side and the book explores the characters moving from one vision to another.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’m still waiting for the Romeo and Juliet story that has to be coming later in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHADOW REAPER is the second book in the Shadow series. This book can be read as a standalone although the world building descriptions are in the first book so a reader would have to figure that part out.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Illusion Town

Review: Illusion TownIllusion Town (Ghost Hunters, #13) by Jayne Castle
Series: Harmony #13
Published by Jove on July 26th 2016
Genres: Futuristic
Pages: 340

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable read, but not the best of this series.  The characters were more engaged in the storyline than any personal relationship and I prefer my books the other way around.

THE STORY: Hannah West wakes up lllusion Town married to her client Elias Coppersmith but neither of them can remember what prompted them to marry.  But they do remember that someone was after them.  The two end up retracing their steps to discover who was trying to capture them and what is threatening them.  On the planet Harmony, these two high talents need to solve the mystery and also manage to discover whether their marriage of convenience might be something more.

OPINION:  I have been a Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick/etc, etc. fan for many years and have read everything she has published.  For me, while this book was a good read, there was nothing about the book that would compel me to read it again.

I’ve loved these paranormal stories since she was writing the Arcane series that crossed her various pen names.  The Harmony series has been fun and sexy and have some of my favorite books.  While this book has many of the elements that I have enjoyed in this series, I didn’t think this book is one of the better ones in the series.

I prefer my books to be about the characters rather than the mystery or the story. While I want a good story to propel the characters arc, I prefer to know about the characters emotions, feelings and thoughts.  When the story is the focus, the characters often feel interchangeable, unimportant and I can’t get engaged in their romance because the characters remain cyphers.  Unfortunately that is the case here.  While I enjoyed the book as a whole, I never felt any connection with the characters and thus their story just didn’t matter as much to me as I want.

There wasn’t any serious conflict between the characters or even within the characters.  All the conflict was external with the situation and thus the characters remained generic and their romance was rather banal.  The biggest plot twist — waking up married was quickly defused as a plot point as the two almost immediately determined what had happened and moved on.  I was disappointed that there was not more to that part of the story.

That being said, the book was well written and I enjoyed the overall story.  I just want more romance in my romance books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There is a nice reunion of dust bunnies and humans towards the end of the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ILLUSION TOWN is the thirteenth book in the Harmony series.  It can be read as a standalone with the caveat that the book does assume some knowledge of the Harmony world.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Shadow Rider

Review: Shadow RiderShadow Rider (Shadow, #1) by Christine Feehan
Series: Shadow #1
Published by Jove on June 28th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 480

“I can’t believe Stefano Ferraro claimed you.”

FINAL DECISION:  Fascinating beginning a new series about a family that lives in the dark and manipulates light and dark in order to protect others.  I loved this book except that I thought that the heroine needed more strength and backbone than she demonstrated for most of the book.

THE STORY: Stefano Ferraro is the oldest sibling and head of the Ferraro family.  Controlling and protecting the Little Italy portion of Chicago, the family is rich, famous and has a secret dark side.  The members are Shadow Riders who are able to manipulate light and dark.  Stefano believes that only his family has this ability until he sees a woman on his streets that silently calls to him.  Francesco Cappello is at the end of her rope.  Broke and desperate, she has come to Chicago at the beckoning of her friend who promises a job.  What Francesca doesn’t expect is to have a handsome, formidable stranger immediate claim her for his own.

OPINION:  I found this book very enjoyable.  It was well written in the suspense arena. I liked how the mystery of what exactly is going on with the Ferraro family is spaced out throughout the book which keeps the reader guessing as to what is going on.  After reading this book, I want to read more about this family, so I believe it was a great success.

Francesca has secrets when she arrives in Chicago:

“She filled out the application, leaving just about everything blank.  Her name. Her social security number. That was it.  There was nothing else she could safely tell him.”

My one complaint is that Francesca demonstrated too many doormat tendencies at times.  She has incredible strength at times and I wish I could have seen more of that personality when she was with Stefano.  Just because he is domineering alpha doesn’t mean that she can’t be a strong match for him.

Stefano is one intimidating dude.  When Francesco first sees him, she describes him as follows:

“God, but he was good-looking.  Italian American.  Olive skin. Gorgeous blue eyes and thick black hair that made a woman want to run her fingers through it.  No man should be able to look like he did.  She tried to look away from him, but something in his steady gaze warned her not to and she didn’t dare defy him.  She couldn’t imagine anyone crossing him.  He didn’t exactly walk up to her.  He stalked, like a great jungle cat emerging from the shadows.  Silent.  Fluid.  Breathtaking.”

I found Stefano and his siblings very intriguing.  They have a unique “power” that I look forward to learning more about in future books.  I especially liked how family oriented Stefano is and how important Francesca is to him and his family.  It was funny and sweet how everyone wants to meet Francesca because she gives them hope.

My favorite part of this book was the world building involved and the fascinating set of powers this family has. There are also threads that will obviously be continued in future books in the series and I look forward to seeing this series develop.

WORTH MENTIONING: Now I really want to read the book about the sister because I already think I know who her match will be.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SHADOW RIDER is the first book in the Shadow series about 5 brothers and a sister in the Ferraro family.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.


Review: The Wicked Duke

Review: The Wicked DukeThe Wicked Duke (Wicked Trilogy, #3) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Wicked Trilogy #3
Published by Jove on May 31st 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400

“He was not really a wicked duke.  Well, not with the daughters of country neighbors. Not normally, at least.”

FINAL DECISION: A book about connections with people and the pain and joy they bring, THE WICKED DUKE has a sexy and moody Duke and the woman who brings lht and joy into his life.  Loved it and found it a fitting end to a wonderful series.

THE STORY:  Lancelot Hemingford, Duke of Aylesbury, is suspected of having poisoned his older brother in order to inherit the title.  Forced to give up his hellraising ways in London to “behave” in the country, Lance meets Marianne Radley who breaks through his ennui.  Blackmailed into pursuing the intriguing woman, Lance ends up finding out that pursuing Marianne is not onerous at all.  Marianne believes the wicked man might be responsible for the seduction of her young cousin, but finds herself accepting his proposal of marriage to protect her family but also because she is tempted by this bad man.

OPINION:  The third book in the Wicked Trilogy lives up to the promise of the previous books.  Lance and Marianne dance lightly around one another and find an acceptance and happiness that neither expects as their marriage begins.  I’m a big fan of romances where the couple marries and then has to go deeper into the relationship to find their ultimate happiness.

Lance is moody and feeling constrained and depressed through most of the book.  His dead brother haunts and diminishes his life. The second son who always was considered less than the heir — even if the heir was mean, petty and destructive.  The complexity of the reality is that Lance, even knowing how his brother was, still has some ambivalent feelings toward his brother.  He cannot shake that minimal familial connection until all has been revealed at the end.

The sense of connection with family even when they are wrong, evil, and destructive is explored in intriguing ways in this book.  It is not always easy to cut people out of our lives even when we know that they are destructive and not nice.  Shared history, family ties and even futile hope keeps pulling us towards people who we might “know” are not worth our efforts.

At the same time, as this novel explores, these people can cause tremendous damage.

Lance and Marianne both suffer because of relatives and yet, they are brought together by those same people. Marianne is a perfect complement to Lance.  She is open and caring and loving.  She is willing to sacrifice herself for others and that is what leads her into marriage with Lance.  This is the opposite of Lance, who has shut himself off from others except for his younger brothers.  And that is where both Lance and Marianne have similarities. They both deeply love those close to them and will do everything to protect them.

One thing I have loved in this series is the sibling relationship between the three brothers.  Affection, annoyance, caring and bossiness.  These men demonstrate a relationship that kept me interested in knowing them and their stories.

Marianne brings lightness into Lance’s life.  He clearly teeters on depression but Marianne opens him up.  The sexy flirting — and perhaps the hottest hand kissing scene ever — show Lance to be dangerous to Marianne’s virtue and yet these two end up with the most conventional courtship of any of the wicked brothers. That itself is amusing for a man who proudly proclaims himself wicked.  As they fall deeper into the emotional connection with one another, the two find a satisfaction and joy that they didn’t expect.

The two have hurdles to overcome as they both have secrets to be revealed and the possible murder of Lance’s brother to solve.  Yet, even as the mystery begins to be unraveled, the book never loses sight of the centrality of the connection between Lance and Marianne.

For me, a five star book is one I immediately want to read again.  After completing this book, I can’t wait to start the entire series over again.

The three books of this series are the first I have ever read by Madeline Hunter.  I enjoyed them tremendously and look forward to reading more.

WORTH MENTIONING: I don’t think the blurb of this book accurately depicts the plot. I seems to suggest that Marianne marries Lance in order to trap and expose him.  That is not what occurs at all.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE WICKED DUKE is the third book in the Wicked Trilogy.  This book is self contained and can be read as a standalone although the characters from the first two books are important here and also this book resolves the questions regarding the mysterious death of the oldest brother.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE:  I received a copy of this book from the author in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.


Review: Down the Rabbit Hole

Review: Down the Rabbit HoleDown the Rabbit Hole (In Death, #41.5) by J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Elaine Fox, Mary Kay McComas, R.C. Ryan
Published by Jove on September 29th 2015
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 432

Weird and Fun Collection of Five Novellas

This collection is of five novellas that have as a starting point Alice in Wonderland. The stories are not retellings of Alice in Wonderland but rather have some thematic connection to that novel.

WONDERMENT IN DEATH by J.D. Robb — In number 41.5 in the In Death series, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is investigating a murder suicide. She takes the case because the victims are close to her friends Dr. Louise and Charles. Once Eve begins to investigate things become strange. Although the case should easily be explained away, something bothers Eve. Her investigation leads her to the Mad Hatter and a man who believes death is his domain. I didn’t think this novellas was as strong as other novellas in the series. The mystery is given away from the beginning and there is little intriguing interaction with Eve’s supporting cast to sustain the story. I prefer stories focusing on Eve and Rourke, but this one is mostly case investigation. Rating: 4 stars.

ALICE AND THE EARL IN WONDERLAND by Mary Blayney — This is a companion novella about time travel. This is the story of the Earl Weston and his love Alice Kemp who are transported from the 1800s to present day. Alice has refused to marry Weston because her parents are divorced and thus she will causes scandal. Weston is determined to take this opportunity to convince Alice to marry him. This story wan’t that interesting to me. The whole story is about the two finding out that in modern times things are different about women’s roles and divorce. I didn’t feel any connection between the characters and found the whole story pretty dull. Rating: 1.5 stars.

ILOVE by Elaine Fox — Jeremy Abott and Mary Serafini breakup because Mary thinks Jeremy pays more attention to his cellphone than her. Jeremy gets sucked into an alternate world where he is trapped within the Wonderland of his cellphone. He needs to have a true relationship in order to escape. Can he convince Mary to give him another chance? This is a strange little story. It has in interesting premise but it reads more like a complaint about cellphone addiction than a romance. Rating: 2 stars.

A TRUE HEART by Mary Kay McComas — Elisa is a woman who is guarding herself from fears of being hurt and disappointed. She has just broken up with Max who she liked but was unwilling to risk herself. When she steps into a costume shop, she falls into a world where with the help of a costume guide she uncovers what is actually in her heart. I really liked this story. Really a story of self-discovery, with a touch of a Christmas Carol, this novella tells the story of a romance from a different perspective. Rating: 4 stars.

FALLEN by R.C. Ryan — Beth Campbell, a lawyer, is sent by her aunt’s firm to negotiate the sale of a piece of ancestral property from Colin Gordon in Scotland. On the way there, Beth hits her head and falls into a whole and awakens in the past amongst the Highland clans. In a magical world where people transform and dangerous plots emerge, Beth learns about what is important to her heart. This was my favorite of the anthology. It is romantic and clever with a lot of story and romantic connection in the short novella. The story ultimately resolved differently than I expected and I like when a story can surprise me. The story has a dreamy fairy tale quality to it. It also manages to be sad and then resolve so perfectly that I walked away from the story with a smile. Rating: 4.25


Review: Whisper of Sin

Review: Whisper of SinWhisper of Sin (Psy-Changeling, #0.6) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #0.6
Published by Jove on February 25th 2014
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 88

Novella Prequel to Psy-Changeling Series

THE STORY: Ria Wembly is attacked. She is saved by leopard shapeshifters known as changlings. Emmett is a leopard changeling and he immediately knows that Ria is important to him. He is determined to find out who is trying to hurt Ria and to eliminate that threat. Emmett is possessive and dominating and Ria lives with a family that has tried to control her for too long. Can she deal with Emmett?

OPINION: I liked this novella. Singh has created an interesting world and set of characters and I look forward to reading the actual novels in the series. The story between Ria and Emmett is fast and intense. I really enjoyed the glimpses into her family who are a unique bunch. I recommend this novella whether or not you have read the other books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: I read this book before any of the major novels in the series. While I suspect that there are lots of cameos by characters that appear in the series, I did not feel that I had missed anything. I understood what was happening in the story.

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this story and can’t wait to read the full length novels in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This novella is 0.6 of the Psy-Changeling series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Tall, Dark, and Wicked

Review: Tall, Dark, and WickedTall, Dark and Wicked (Wicked Trilogy, #2) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Wicked Trilogy #2
Published by Jove on October 6th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400

Loved This Intricate Historical Story of a Lawyer and the Daughter of a Defendant

“This lawyer was not merely handsome, but handsome in a way that made fools of women when they saw him.”

FINAL DECISION: I loved the story of Ives and Padua. There is a twisty mystery along with an intense romance between Ives and Padua. I love the romances where everything seems hopeless but then things work out in the end.

THE STORY: Lord Ywain “Ives” Hemingford is the younger brother of a duke and is a barrister who often works as a prosecutor for the English Crown. Padua Belvoir comes to Ives to ask him to represent her father who has been arrested and thrown in Newgate. Ives must say no because he has been engaged as the prosecutor against her father. Although Ives knows that he cannot risk having anything to do with a defendant’s daughter, he cannot resist the prickly and intelligent teacher Padua.

OPINION: I loved this story. Ives is a man who engages his romantic liasons logically and with much planning. Padua blows apart his ordered life and makes him take risks that he never would have expected himself to take. Her influence on his life is demonstrated by his brothers’ surprise at his actions. Padua is a woman who doesn’t fit into the social constraints of the day. She is a radical in her own small way and refuses to be shoved into a category or to be protected. She insists on making her own way even when it gets her into trouble. But she owns her mistakes and does not blame others. She challenges Ives but she also fits right into his desire for justice and doing right. Their romance is hot and also seems doomed even as Ives begins to realize that he wants more for Padua than he has ever wanted from a woman before.

WORTH MENTIONING: As with the first book in the series, I especially liked the relationship between the three brothers which is funny and caring and feels like a brotherly relationship with all the squabbling and affection one might expect.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TALL, DARK, AND WICKED is the second book in the Wicked Trilogy. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: His Wicked Reputation

Review: His Wicked ReputationHis Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy, #1) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Wicked Trilogy #1
Published by Jove on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 401

Intriguing Mystery with a Sensual Romance

“His air and manner, the very way he sat on that horse, announced he would be nothing but trouble for a woman.”

FINAL DECISION: I absolutely loved this book. The relationship feels natural and well written. The mystery was intriguing and integral to the story without overwhelming the romance. The characters are fun and survivors and very wicked.

THE STORY: Gareth Fitzallen is the bastard son of a duke. He has a good relationship with two of his half brothers and upon the death of the heir, the remaining brothers are allowed to resume their relationship and draw closer to one another. Gareth’s lawyer brother Ives asks for his assistance in uncovering some missing artwork. Traveling to the house that he inherited, Gareth encounters a local spinster, Eva Russell, who intrigues him. As Gareth is drawn deeper into a relationship with Eva, what he doesn’t know is that she may hold the clue to uncovering the missing artwork.

OPINION: I loved the humor and sexiness of this book. Often books with wicked in the title fail to live up to that designation. Gareth is shown from the beginning to have wicked tendencies (along with his brothers) and thus the name is well placed. He is also a very good man. His relationship with Eva always comes from a position of equality. The two become involved with one another, but they are adults about their relationship. I loved how Gareth is confused by his reaction to Eva as he is unable to place her into a neat category in his life. There is great sensuality and humor in this book even as the mystery works its way out. This book is incredibly well paced and the pages turn effortlessly. I look forward to reading about the other brothers because they are intriguing characters themselves.

WORTH MENTIONING: I absolutely loved the relationship between the three brothers who are the heroes in the three books in this trilogy. Funny and loving and very masculine, these brothers have a special relationship with one another that was enjoyable to read.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HIS WICKED REPUTATION is the first book in the Wicked Trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.