>> Thursday, February 20, 2003

Hi everyone! Just here in the cybercafé for a quick e-mail check and I thought I'd check in here and let everyone know I'm still alive. I'm having a wonderful time so far, even though I've had like 2 decent beach days since I came here last week. The weather seems to be improving though, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

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>> Tuesday, February 11, 2003

I'm leaving for La Floresta in a couple of hours, right after work. I'll do my best to post (something!) in the 3 weeks I'm gone, but I can't promise any lengthy book discussions. However, I can promise some monster updates when I get back on March 5th.

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Tonight or Never, by Dara Joy

Yesterday I finished Tonight or Never, by Dara Joy (the site is very Java-rich. If you want to go straight to where you can find most goodies, go here). I'd read only one of hers before, High Energy, and though it was nice, I thought it had too much sex and too little plot. I liked Tonight or Never much better.

Chloe - part French by birth, very French in temperament - has been in love with her friend Viscount John Sexton for years. Being a determined woman, who knows to get what she wants takes some risks, Chloe removes herself from his circle for a year and a half, time for her to mature from girl to woman, so that she can return as something more than a friend in John's eyes.

John, the 'Lord of Sex', but not much else as his father gambled away his inheritance, is a rouge and libertine. He is well known amongst the ton for his affairs, and his nickname is of long standing. Chloe has always been dear to John, and is very much valued as a friend. He is startled by her transformation, but stunned by her admission that she wants to be just like him - in effect, Lady Sex.

Chloe manipulates John into agreeing to marry her, so that she will be free to follow this path (never for one minute actually planning to go through with it). John agrees, because he cannot countenance Chloe putting her proposal to anyone else. And once he views Chloe as a sexual being, he finds he wants her for himself, and not to share. With Chloe comes her house, estate and charming, naughty grandmother, and household of eccentrics - all of whom John realises have made him feel at home. But not as much as Chloe does.

This book was a B+ for me. It was light, farcical, frothy nonsense, but of the kind that is delightful to read.

I adored John. He's a bit oversexed, yes, and I was a bit doubtful when in the first scene we see him having sex with some lady or other and it's revealed that he's a real slut, but he's an adorable, sweet, boyish puppy, really. He's a very rare hero, who doesn't mind being gently led around by the nose by his wife.

And Chloe was no TSTL twit. She decides on what she wants, goes for it and never gets cold feet in the process. Loved her.

Most of the book is Chloe and John making love (really steamy scenes, too) and some fun nonesense about a Black Rose superhero who's rescuing members of the French aristocracy from the guillotine. Nothing much comes of it, but it was fun to read.

The book's main problem is its resolution. Much too rushed, and not enough payoff for the reader who's expecting to see a big scene when John finds out Chloe wants him and only him.

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Born in Ice, by Nora Roberts

This weekend I also reread Born in Ice, by Nora Roberts. This is book #2 in Roberts' Irish Trilogy, right after Born in Fire.

Brianna Concannon is a woman with a rare gift for creating a home, and she makes use of this talent by running a bed-and-breakfast in a picturesque corner of Ireland. Mystery writer Grayson Thane is an American who grew up in an orphanage and has spent his life alone. A restless wanderer with a painful past, Grayson arrives at Blackthorn Cottage intent only on soaking up the Irish atmosphere and writing his next novel, but he finds far more than he bargained for.

The beautiful, calm Brianna soothes his disquiet soul, and in her Grayson finds the home he hadn't realized he needed. Brianna knows that by falling for him, she risks her heart, already bruised and scarred by a young love who left her at the altar. But the yearning to let the American melt the ice around her cold exterior is irresistible. Unless Grayson can let go of his past to forge a future with her, Brianna may have gambled her heart in vain.

I enjoyed this book, but it wasn't as good as Born in Fire. My basic problem was Brianna. I almost feel guilty about this, but she just irritated the hell out of me. Saint Brianna, the passive - aggressive martyr, who feels guilty about doing anything enjoyable, who is her mother's doormat, who actually likes doing housework (yuck!). Ok, that last isn't irritating in itself, but on top of everything else... Plus, she's the type who'll refuse to use a dishwasher and prefer to clean the floor on her knees, even if a dishwasher will leave the dishes perfect and using a mop will work just as well as scrubbing with her bare hands. Just loves being a martyr. The worst thing is, I found her boring, and I've no idea what Gray saw in her, except some sort of mother figure.

Gray I did like. He's the kind of hero I love... easygoing and kind, and still very, very sexy. Remarkably untortured, after a bad childhood, though he does have some issues, like his committment-phobia. I actually saw a lot of myself in Gray, like his reluctance to assume the responsability of owning and then having to care for stuff, like a car, or a home. I'd like to live his life, travelling light, from one place to another, at least for a while, anyway.

As an aside, something that has nothing to do with my liking Gray but that I found interesting: I think I'd hate his books. All that emphasis on the bloody, gory murders and the mind of the psychotic killer. No way. I have read a couple of books like that, where the author almost revels in describing the violence, and I just found it sickening.

Born in Ice has a slow pace, but never gets bogged down. Stuff happens, important stuff, but it just doesn't speed upt the action. They go to New York and buy trinkets, they go to a wedding in Dublin (I LOLed when Gray and Rogan wake up with the hangover from hell and 80 year old Uncle Niall is "fit as a fiddle"), Brianna fights with Maeve (I still hate the bitch), they discover they have a brother or sister... Lots of other things too, but it's all relaxing and soothing. This was the perfect book to read sitting in my porch in La Floresta, listening to the birds chiping.

In spite of my dislike of Brianna, I really liked it, so I rate it a B+

PS - There were some details which irritated me. I may be wrong, but I don't think an Irishwoman would say "soccer", and I don't think a 10 year old Irish boy would be an American football fan and have a beloved football he carries around cradled in his arms. Or rather, I'm sure there are some such boys, but if Roberts wanted a typical boy, she should have had him kicking a football of the rounded kind. And wasn't the president of Ireland a woman, around the time when this was written? Mary Robinson?

Update:I'm such a nerd that I had to check. Yes, Mary Robinson was president of the Republic of Ireland from 1990 to 1997 (Born in Ice has a 1995 copyright). Interestingly, the current president, who came right after Ms. Robinson, is also a woman: Mary McAleese.

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The Ties That Bind, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Monday, February 10, 2003

After that, I read an old Jayne Ann Krentz category, The Ties That Bind, from 1986.

Finally Shannon Raine decides to stop speculating about her dark, brooding neighbor on California's rugged Mendocino coastline -- and just introduce herself. But the last thing she expects to find in this enclave of artists and writers is a Silicon Valley mogul. Garth Sheridan is cool, sensual and intriguing. And immediately Shannon knows the passion that flares between them will become intense and all-consuming.

But the more intimate their desire becomes, the more Garth's life seems hidden from Shannon. She longs to understand this man and the other life he leads, far from the scenic haven they share. Somehow she has to convince Garth that he can trust her with the part of him that rules the ruthless, high-stakes arena of big money and corporate power. For only then can their two worlds become one.

This one was like Gambler's Woman in reverse. Here it's the heroine, Shannon, who worries about being apart from the rest of Garth's life, about being a weekend lover. I found it interesting that while I enjoyed seeing Jordan steamed about the situation in G'sW, I was absolutely outraged when Shannon was in the same position. Doble standard? Me? LOL!

Anyway, maybe because of this, TTTB wasn't too good. Basically, Garth was a jerk... a patronizing, condescending jerk. He's the stupid, oblivious idiot who thinks that if a woman makes a friendly overture to him, she's a slut who wants to have sex with him, and he gets angry at her (huh? even if she did want to have sex with him, why the anger?). He's the self-righteous prig who sees nothing wrong in demanding of a couple he's just met why they're having a child without getting married. Oh, and let's not forget the paranoid jealousy.

However, the thing with JAK's jerk heros is that they usually do realize they're doing something wrong and apologize (after a fashion).

I did like Shannon, and appreciated the fact that she didn't tolerate most of Garth's idiocies. She confronted him and told him she wouldn't stand for certain things. She was a bit too forgiving for my taste, though, and I really didn't see what she saw in Garth.

The plot about industrial espionage was pretty ludicrous, as was the "villain"'s reasoning for going after Shannon. Why would he assume what he did assume? No reason. And Shannon should have handled the confrontation differently... maybe even going with the truth? (or at least a big part of it?) None of this made sense, and (this is nit-picking!) neither did Garth's business' name: Sherilectronics? Huh?

For all the things that I didn't like, there was enough here to keep the book a C+, though. The supporting characters were well done, as were the atmosphere and setting. I LOLed at the reworked version of "The Taming of the Shrew", and would love to see it. And the protagonists did have chemistry between them. So, this wasn't a total bust.

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Mystique, by Amanda Quick

Continuing with my reread of Amanda Quick's books, it was Mystique's turn this weekend.

"Lady Alice approached the fearsome Warrior who had swept into Lingwood Manor like a storm. Dark and forbidding, with hair as black as midnight and eyes of molten amber, Hugh the Relentless seemed aptly named. Yet to Alice, adept at driving off suitors and handling her insufferable relatives, Sir Hugh was not someone to dread, but the answer to her dreams.

He had come for the mysterious green crystal, and would be greatly displeased to learn that it was no longer in her possession. But Alice was certain Sir Hugh could be coaxed into a deal that would benefit them both. In return for a dowry large enough to free Alice and her brother from the grasp of their conniving uncle, she would lend her powers of detection to Sir Hugh's knightly skills and together they would recover his treasured stone.

With a tongue as sharp as a dagger, the flame-haired Alice filled Hugh with fury...and a growing fascination. He accepted her terms, with one alteration: Alice must agree to a temporary betrothal and spend the winter in Hugh's great stone fortress, Scarcliffe Keep.

The bargain is struck and the adventure begins. But Sir Hugh's lifelong enemy is plotting against them, stirring up a whirlwind of treachery that threatens their fragile alliance."

Having just finished Wicked Widow, reading Mystique made it very clear to me what it is that's lacking in Quick's more recent work. Hugh and Alice share a closeness and emotional intimacy that Madeline and Artemis in WW just didn't have. This is exactly what I'm missing now.

This is a very light Medieval and like her one other book in that genre, Desire, it barely touches on the violence and grittiness of the period. It's quite cozy, with almost no traipsing around. In fact, a big part of the book describes the process of improving Scarcliffe Keep. This makes the book develop at a leisurely pace, and was something I enjoyed. I'm surprised I like this type of thing. I absolutely hate housework of any kind, but I always love to see the process in books.

I loved Hugh, especially how he gives Alice authority and supports her decisions, even when he doesn't agree with them, and then he doesn't try to punish her for it. He's a strong enough man that he doesn't mind appearing to give way to before his wife in front of his men, and I found that very attractive.

Alice I liked too. She's strong and intelligent (she's pretty much the one who solves the mystery) and a perfect match for Hugh. I loved the scene where she comes to his rescue at the fair, demanding the troubadour change his song! This book receives an A- from me.

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>> Friday, February 07, 2003

I've just added a new feature to this page. If you're interested in receiving an email whenever I do an update, enter your address in the little box on the top left of this page, right under "Archive". You'll get an e-mail asking you to confirm you joined the list (by clicking on a link on the e-mail text) and then you're in.

I promise not to share the e-mail addresses of people who join the list with anyone, and to use them only for update information.

Remember I'm going on vacation for three weeks, starting next Tuesday, and I probably won't be updating much (if at all) during that period. If you want, you can join the Notify thingie to know when I get back and then e-mail me to get you off the list when I return.

Thank you Marina for the idea and the technical help!

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Wicked Widow, by Amanda Quick

Yesterday I read Wicked Widow, by Amanda Quick. I've had it in my TBR shelf for ages, because I wasn't crazy about her previous 3 books (Affair, With This Ring and I Thee Wed). It seemed to me her best books were the first 12 (the four trios with one-word titles, starting with "S", "R", "D" and "M"), so I wasn't in a hurry to read Wicked Widow.

Madeline Deveridge is aware of the whispers behind her back, the rumors that she dispatched her husband to the next world and concealed her crime. But she has a far more pressing problem than her reputation as the Wicked Widow. It's impossible to believe that her late husband is haunting her and her aunt, but something odd is happening, and Madeline doesn't dare take chances. Summoning the brilliant, reclusive Artemas Hunt, secret owner of London's favorite pleasure pavilions and master of arcane talents, she blackmails him into providing help.

As soon as the bargain is struck, Artemas and Madeline find their arrangement complicated by searing desire, and the frightening recognition that the ghost poses a very real danger. Now they must plunge into a world of intrigue and ancient mysteries, where a calculating killer--and a tantalizing passion--will not be denied.

I enjoyed this one, yes, but I'd rate it only a B-, a good grade, but low for her. The same elements I enjoy in her other books are here, but the problem is the suspense is more emphasized and the romance less. The characterization also suffered, IMO. I didn't know too much about Madeline's and Artemis' motivations when I finished the book, whereas I always did in previous Quicks.

I really liked some details. Some people might feel Artemis having spent 5 years plotting to avenge his former lover is a turn-off, but I thought well of him for it. Very often, the hero's behaviour towards his mistress (even the fact that he has one) is less than heroic, IMO. Artemis cared for her and is willing to go to some lengths for her.

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Moving Target, by Elizabeth Lowell

>> Thursday, February 06, 2003

Yesterday I finished Elizabeth Lowell's Moving Target. This is a pretty recent Lowell, from 2001, and it's Romantic Suspense.

"When you read this, I'll be dead...." These are the troubling words Serena Charters's grandmother has written on a note accompanying four pages of a centuries-old illuminated manuscript delivered after the old woman's passing. That the strange inheritance has considerable worth seems obvious -- but what Serena doesn't realize is how many secrets it hides...and how many lives it has already cost.

Seeking answers, she turns for professional help to Rarities Unlimited, and specifically to Erik North, a reclusive manuscript appraiser with a passion for the past, its people, and its treasures. But Erik's careful examination of the vellum pages and the agonized jottings of a medieval scribe is raising perplexing questions -- about the true importance of Serena's legacy, the possible location of the remainder of the lost manuscript...and the senseless murder of an eccentric old woman in the blistering beat of California's Mojave Desert.

Suddenly, without warning, Serena and Erik find themselves thrust into the center of a lethal firestorm that rages between two worlds...between a past long dead yet living on in an ancient text and a contemporary landscape fraught with peril and terror. Now there is no one they dare trust except each other as they make their way across the concrete and neon deserts of Palm Springs and Los Angeles, getting closer by the minute to a shocking revelation about what really is at stake and how far a killer will go to possess a vanished treasure. In the blink of an eye, Serena Charters and Erik North have become targets of an unseen and determined stalker. And their only hope of survival is to keep moving....

From what I've read, this is a kind of sequel to the Disputed Lands trilogy, set in 12th century England. Apparently there was a character named Erik whose story everyone wanted to read, but Lowell's contract is only for contemps, so she wrote the story of a descendant / reincarnation of the Medieval Erik. Me, I don't mind not having the original Erik's story, basically because I've read only one of the books in that trilogy, the first one, Untamed, and it was only ok for me (a B), so I didn't have much invested in it. Also, I think most of the stuff about Erik is in book #2.

I liked the way the part of the story about the Medieval Erik was presented. It was original and interesting: no boring lengthy flashbacks to get you out of the story! It also helped that the story was interesting. However, at some points, I felt the author assumed we readers already knew quite a bit about it, and left some details out. I didn't, so I really wanted a bit more. I inferred lots of stuff, but it still felt incomplete when I finished the book. In the same vein, there was a pointless visit from characters from the Donovan series, which was pretty irritating for me (I've also read only 1 book in that series).

I enjoyed this book in spite of not being a big fan of the "international intrigue" type of thriller. If you're going to have a suspense subplot, I much prefer more cozy ones (no hitmen, for instance!). This one was halfway through between cozy and international thriller, so I was pretty ok wiht it.

There were three elements which made this book:

  • The protagonists and their relationship. Erik was a sweetie. He was a Beta (a Fuzzy in Rarities Inc-speak, more about that later) by choice. He's a strong character who is great at more violent, dangerous pursuits, but prefers to concentrate on his manuscripts. He's also a nice guy, who's always behaves kindly towards the heroine. Serena was great too. She has issues with trust, which could have made her a very frustrating heroine. She isn't. She realizes she has issues and deals with them pretty reasonably, trusting Erik with lots of information she wouldn't have if she'd followed her paranoid grandma's instructions. She's also very sensible when it comes to her safety, with no TSTL moments. Their relationship is lovely, if a bit understated (ah, the demands of romantic suspense). I especially enjoyed their banter. Only one problem: why don't they share the fact that they are having visions until the end. Both accept that they are and suspect the other is having them too, but they never talk about it.
  • Information about Medieval manuscripts. This was at times presented a bit heavy - handedly ("I've done all this research and, by God, I'm going to use all of it!"), but it was so fascinating I didn't mind. When reading a book sends me running towards my computer to look for more info and pictures of what the characters are talking about, it's good :-D
  • Rarities Unlimited, the company Erik consults for. Yes, it's the "gimmick" which holds the series (this is the first book) together, and I usually despise most gimmicks, but this is a good one. The company sounds fascinating, and I loved Erik's bosses. They're so well developed, I suspected they might have their own book (do they? I haven't been able to find it.)

My final grade for this one is a B+

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>> Wednesday, February 05, 2003

In response to the PS to my post yesterday, where I asked "What is it with Nora and friends and family kissing each other on the mouth, "long and hard"? Do people do that in your family?" , Marina has answered: Nope, we don't kiss each other on the mouth in my family. Not even in a "short and soft" way."

Well, neither do we in my family, and noone I know does. And this even though Uruguayans greet each other in what one could call a Continental European manner: with a kiss on the cheek. You get introduced to someone, you kiss on the cheek. That's the way it's done, period. But kissing in the mouth always has sexual connotations. Even a little peck, which is why when Nora had Maggie and Murphy kiss (and didn't Roarke kiss Peabody in the In Death series at least once?) it felt weird to me.

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Someone To Watch Over Me, by Lisa Kleypas

I've just finished reading Someone To Watch Over Me, by Lisa Kleypas

She couldn't remember who she was...

A temptingly beautiful woman awakens in a stranger's bed, rescued from the icy waters of the Thames, her memory gone. Told that she is Vivien Rose Duvall, one of London's most scandalous beauties, she finds herself under the protection of enigmatic, charming Grant Morgan. Her life is in his hands. Deep in her heart, she knows he has mistaken her for someone else...

He was the only man she could trust.

As one of London's most eligible and unattainable catches, Grant Morgan is a man who has known every kind of woman. And the one in his arms now seems so innocent, so vulnerable, that he can't help but be enchanted. And as his love for this mysterious beauty grows, he's determined to unravel the secrets of her past and discover the truth -- no matter what.

Amnesia and all, this one was quite enjoyable, but had some problems. A B- for me.

I really liked having a Bow Street Runner as a hero. Sure, I like reading about the nobility, but it's also nice to sometimes read about the common people. Merchants, bankers, etc., why aren't they considered viable romance protagonists?(Note: the author makes some interesting comments about the book here).

My main problem with the book was that in some ways, it seemed to equate innocence and naiveté to goodness. She's innocent, she's shocked by reading about sex, she can't be that selfish, evil Vivien! But, the author redeems herself somewhat by having Grant accept he's in love with Victoria when he still thinks she's Vivien.

To be honest, I never really liked Victoria. Too goody-goody, actually. She has her moments, like when she reads Grant the riot act about his original plans to humiliate Vivien, and she's very definitely not TSTL, but all in all she's much too passive for my taste. And I hated the epilogue. Basically, Victoria's intention when marrying Grant was to be the "perfect wife", and her concept of that was being a doormat. Not nagging if he gets in danger (despite having promised he wouldn't), not complaining if he prefers to spend his evenings carousing with friends instead of with her... She's lucky that Grant doesn't want a slave but a partner, otherwise she would have been resigned to be a victim. Grrrr!

The suspense subplot was interesting, and fast paced throughout most of the book. Problem is the climax of this story comes a bit too early in the book, so the last 50 pages are spent tying up loose ends, and this is boring.

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Born in Fire, by Nora Roberts

>> Tuesday, February 04, 2003



My second reread of the weekend was Born in Fire, by Nora Roberts.

In this first novel of a planned trilogy, Roberts tells the story of a girl from an Irish village who gains international acclaim as a glass sculptress. Margaret Mary Concannon is sent to Venice by her doting father, Tom, to study glassblowing, even though every penny he spends on his beloved daughter is begrudged by her churlish mother. Tom's untimely death and his wife's ongoing bitterness prohibit Margaret Mary from reaching success in either art or marriage until the wealthy manager of an art gallery helps her to attain international acclaim and wealth; he also falls in love with her and plans to change her commitment to her art alone. Roberts' tale of passion in the Irish art world is a beguiling one.

Brianna, sister of the sculptress, is a more devoted daughter and makes a home for her carping mother in her bed-and-breakfast in the Irish village. Brianna's story of love is promised in the sequel, Born in Ice. The adventures of Tom Concannon's illegitimate daughter are to be told in Born in Shame.

Yesterday I filled out a survey where one of the questions was which were my 3 favourite romance novels. Born in Fire was #1 (#2 was Shining Through, by Susan Isaacs and #3 Winter Garden, by Adele Ashworth)

I adored Maggie! She's as strong as Eve (from the In Death series) but with a less sour disposition. This is a heroine who is an artist and actually wants fame and fortune (though she won't compromise her art for it!). She's neither an inexperienced virgin nor promiscuous, and she'll actually make the first move with a man. She sometimes, when the situation merits, gets a little drunk celebrating. She's no martyr, and doesn't feel she has to be a doormat to her mother simply because she's her mother (Brianna does, which is probably why I like Born in Fire much better than Born in Ice). I love this woman and want to be like her when I grow up!

Rogan is adorable, but anyone would pale next to Maggie. He's great, a yummy hero, but I feel he's there to serve as a foil for Maggie... I mean, he's so perfect! I found it terribly romantic how he immediately fell for Maggie and acknowledged that he loved her very fast. The "hero as pursuer" is one of my favourite themes in romance.

This is straight romance (no external conflicts, like villains plotting to kill Maggie or stuff like that), but it never feels padded or runs out of steam. There's enough fascinating info about glass blowing and art, and 2 secondary storylines which are given just the right amount of space and never overwhelm the protagonists.

This one's the perfect book, IMO. A grade of A+

PS - What is it with Nora and friends and family kissing each other on the mouth, "long and hard"? Do people do that in your family? Weird!

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Mischief, by Amanda Quick

>> Monday, February 03, 2003

This weekend I concentrated on rereads. First, Amanda Quick's Mischief:

Imogen Waterstone has always prided herself on being a thoroughly independent young woman, but now she needs a man of implacable will and nerves of iron. That's why she invited Matthias Marshall, infamous Earl of Colchester, to her home in Upper Strickland. Who better than the legendary explorer to help her lay the perfect trap?

Her scheme is simple, really: She plans to let it be known that when she inherited her uncle's collection of antiquities, she also inherited a map to a fabulous ancient treasure. She's sure that her enemy would risk financial ruin in pursuit of the mythical artifact. And to make doubly sure the scoundrel took the bait, she wants Colchester to pretend that he's out to seduce Imogene so that he, too, could get his hands on her map.

Yet in all of her plotting, Imogene never anticipates Colchester's violent reaction to her request or her own electrifying reaction to him. Neither does she expect that a malevolent threat would emerge from the labyrinth of London--sinister enough to endanger her and Colchester's lives.

This one was quite similar to Deception. A hero who everyone believes is cold but the heroine thinks has delicate nerves and sensibilities, an emphasis on travel and exploration (a lost civilization here, a treasure in Deception), a story which starts in the country and then moves to London, H/h caught in a compromising position and forced to marry. For all that it was derivative, I still liked this book. A B+

Imogen was ok, though I didn't really "get" her need to get revenge for her friend Lucy. Very admirable (even if everyone but her knew Lucy hadn't been much of a friend), but I never saw any real grief for her friend in Imogen, or any rage when she confronted Vannick. Given the apparent shallowness of her feelings for her friend, it seems strange that she would have gone to so much trouble to avenge her.

Matthias was a very appealing hero, one of JAK's typical lonely guys. When they realize the heroine "keeps the ghosts at bay", what can I say? That gets me every time.

All that stuff about Zamar felt a bit wasted on this story. An adventure novel about the discovery of Zamar would have been nice (I'm a sucker for stories where the H&h go looking for a lost civilization), but here it was used solely as wallpaper.

The suspense subplot I felt was a bit obvious, but that was probably because it was a reread. I don't know if I would have caught the little clue at the beginning if this had been my first read.

Oh, and a short note about Imogen's landlady! I loved her very apropos little storys about debauchery among the ton!

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I'm back! Only 7 working days to go until I go on vacation. This was a really ugly weekend: rain and hail, of all things, after a week of scorching sun. I did run down to the beach long enough to swim for a little while when the rain stopped for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon, but the rest of the weekend I spent inside the house.

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>> Friday, January 31, 2003

I really don't know what grade to give Death in Holy Orders. It's fascinating as a character study (though some things bothered me), but IMO, it fails as a whodunnit.

The best thing here is the painstaking care the author takes when drawing the characters. These are real people. I like some, dislike others, but they're always real and they act real, except for the one case which makes the whodunnit not work.

However, I'm not sure I like the characters the author would want me to like. Dalgliesh, our protagonist, for instance, came across to me as very judgemental, and I never liked him much. The scene where he interviews Eric and Karen Surtees is a perfect example of this. He's terribly hostile to them, especially Karen.

The worse thing is that this is the same character who doesn't turn a hair when hearing one of the priests there served time for sexually abusing minors. That bothered me, how everyone seemed to take the view that Father John was to be pitied and somehow hadn't deserved to suffer. And it wasn't just one character who seemed to feel that, there were enough that I'm pretty sure I know what James' position is, and I don't like this at all.

I also felt James was too heavy handed when characterizing all believers as good and all non-believers as bad. Every atheist or agnostic here is morally bankrupt, maybe except one of the other detectives. As an agnostic myself, this was a big turn-off.

The resolution of the murders was foolish. I never believed the murderer would have done what he did for the reasons stated. It didn't make any sense.

I'd give this an A- for the setting and atmosphere and the characterization and a C for the resolution of the murders. Final grade: B

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Too hot today. Temperatures are predicted to go up to 40ºC (over 100ºF, I think). Already at 9:30 AM we had 35º. And I have to drive to Floresta at 3:30 PM!

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>> Thursday, January 30, 2003

Oh dear, it seems I'll be eating gnocchi (or ñoquis, as they're sometimes called in Spanish) till kingdom come. It's a Uruguayan tradition, see? Every month, on the 29th, you have to eat gnocchi and put money under the plate. That way you won't be short of money the following month. Not that I believe in it, of course. This falls under the "it does no harm anyway, so why not do it?" category. Plus, I actually like gnocchi, so it's not a great sacrifice! :-D

Problem is, I'm home alone for the summer, so there's noone else to eat them with me. Best choice would have been to buy a serving from the pasta restaurant a few blocks from my house, but I didn't realize it was the 29th, so I didn't think to tell the lady who comes to clean my house and sometimes cooks for us not to make them. I got home and there was this big platter of gnocchi... enough for 3 or 4 meals. They're so good I refuse to throw some away, so I'll just have to eat them all.

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Death in Holy Orders, by P.D. James

>> Wednesday, January 29, 2003

After reading a very good book, I always try to start something completely different, otherwise what I read feels a little disappointing. This time, I started a mystery, Death in Holy Orders, by P.D. James.

Asked by a wealthy businessman to investigate the "accidental" death of his adopted son Ronald, a student at a small theological college in East Anglia, Dalgliesh willingly returns to St. Anselm's, where he had spent happy summers as a teenager. But what was a casual investigation turns into official police business when the archdeacon, another weekend visitor, is found brutally murdered in the locked church.

Is his killing related to Ronald's death or to the recent fatal "heart attack" of the housekeeper who discovered Ronald's body? Or was the archdeacon murdered because he threatened to close the college down? In their usual methodical and careful manner, Dagliesh and his team, Detective Inspectors Kate Miskin and Piers Tarrant, seek answers and a murderer.

To tell you the truth, I don't know why I like James's books so much. Actually, yes, I know, she's a genius at characterization, but the thing is, I always feel depressed when I finish her books. And yet I keep reading and enjoying them.

Posted later...

I really don't know what grade to give Death in Holy Orders. It's fascinating as a character study (though some things bothered me), but IMO, it fails as a whodunnit.

The best thing here is the painstaking care the author takes when drawing the characters. These are real people. I like some, dislike others, but they're always real and they act real, except for the one case which makes the whodunnit not work.

However, I'm not sure I like the characters the author would want me to like. Dalgliesh, our protagonist, for instance, came across to me as very judgemental, and I never liked him much. The scene where he interviews Eric and Karen Surtees is a perfect example of this. He's terribly hostile to them, especially Karen.

The worse thing is that this is the same character who doesn't turn a hair when hearing one of the priests there served time for sexually abusing minors. That bothered me, how everyone seemed to take the view that Father John was to be pitied and somehow hadn't deserved to suffer. And it wasn't just one character who seemed to feel that, there were enough that I'm pretty sure I know what James' position is, and I don't like this at all.

I also felt James was too heavy handed when characterizing all believers as good and all non-believers as bad. Every atheist or agnostic here is morally bankrupt, maybe except one of the other detectives. As an agnostic myself, this was a big turn-off.

The resolution of the murders was foolish. I never believed the murderer would have done what he did for the reasons stated. It didn't make any sense.

I'd give this an A- for the setting and atmosphere and the characterization and a C for the resolution of the murders. Final grade: B.

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Bridal Favors, by Connie Brockway

>> Tuesday, January 28, 2003



Ok, about Connie Brockway's Bridal Favors.

Late one night, young Evelyn Cummings Whyte bumps into Justin Powell as he exits a married woman's bedroom. Evelyn agrees to keep silent about the indiscretion, and Justin is left in her debt. Now, ten years later, Evelyn calls in the favor. Ever since her aunt eloped to France, Evelyn has been trying to keep Whyte's Nuptial Celebrations running smoothly, and now has one last chance to keep the company solvent. A wealthy American client insists on holding her second wedding at North Cross Abbey, which just happens to be Justin's ancestral estate. Justin agrees to let Evelyn use his digs on one condition: he'll be on the premises. Thinking that the wedding offers the perfect cover for his plan to ferret out a dangerous enemy spy, Justin quickly discovers just how challenging, yet enjoyable, it is keeping Evelyn unaware of his real plans, and out of danger.
What a beautiful, delightful book! An A+. It's difficult to write about an A+ read without gushing like a crazed fangirl, so I'm not even going to try. :-D Here goes: I enjoyed every word of it. I actually read all of it with a smile on my face, even LOLing quite a few times. This is really the type of humor I adore.

And Justin! One of the best heros I've read in ages. Wonderfully funny and adorable, and so, so sexy! I loved his courage and the fact that he accepted being considered a useless parasite by everyone as a cover for his very heroic activities. And the way he fell for Evelyn... oh, so romantic! And how he wanted to protect her but still accepted her help in unmasking the spy. I even enjoyed the way he spoke while doing his "useless Justin" persona. I must say, he spoke just like some of the MM Kaye characters!

Evie was great too, but every other character just paled next to Justin. She was a teeny bit too much of a stereotype, the heroine who believes she's ugly and noone will ever love her. But I forgive her ;-)

After Justin, my favorite character has to be Beverly, the mysoginist butler. OMG those scenes with Justin! I just love humor which tickles my sense of the ridiculous.

I even loved the spy subplot. Brockway was able to keep a very convoluted situation simple, and the dénouément was delightful. Like Christina Dodd's My Favorite Bride, told in the villain's POV, and very funny. Hmmm... there are actually quite a few things in common between those 2 books, from the titles to the spy subplots. Completely different stories, but a couple of coincidences. Aren't these 2 authors friends, or something?

This is the way a light, funny historical should be done. Period.

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In the last days, I've been trying to read as many 2002 books as possible, preparing to vote in AAR's 7th Anual Readers Poll. Yesterday I finished reading Bridal Favors, by Connie Brockway, an A+ 2002 book which will likely be my choice for both Favorite European Historical and Favorite Funny. These were 2 categories I'd been having some trouble with.

In European Historicals, I hadn't read any books that had really rocked my boat. The only 2002 books in that category that I'd read had been:

  • Lord of Ice, by Gaelen Foley, just an ok read, a B.
  • Lady Sophia's Lover, by Lisa Kleypas, only a C+, probably my disappointment for the year
  • Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, by Julia Quinn, which I loved when I read it (I gave it an A-), but which doesn't look so great when I look back on it.
  • No True Gentleman, by Liz Carlyle, a B, which competes with Lady Sophia for the title of Disappointment of the Year.
  • The Bride Thief, by Jacquie D'Alessandro, a nice little book, a B-, but nothing much.
  • My Favourite Bride, by Christina Dodd, you know my opinion.
  • Dangerous, by Debra Dier, a D+, didn't like it at all.
I was probably going to go with the Julia Quinn book, but now I'm definitely voting for Bridal Favors.

As for the Favorite Funny, I was going to go with George and the Virgin, by Lisa Cach, but it wasn't really my type of humor. More on Bridal Favors in my next entry.

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Gambler's Woman, by Stephanie James (JAK)

Sunday morning I read an old JAK, written under her Stephanie James pseudonym. The book was Gambler's Woman, and it was a B- for me.

Jordan Kyle is a professional gambler, a good one. He is a man who can calculate the odds and win or lose at his discretion when he gambles. Alyssa Chandler is just as good as Jordan. For Jordan, gambling is how he makes his living. For Alyssa, gambling is fun. A fantasy she indulges on weekends.

When they meet, Jordan knows that Alyssa is his. But Alyssa only has room for Jordan on a part time basis. In Alyssa's real world, she has a job that would be endangered by her gambling hobby. So her hobby must remain secret and so must her relationship with Jordan.

Jordan is not happy with his role in Alyssa's life. He doesn't want to be part of her gambling fantasy. He wants to be very real to Alyssa and hold a real place in both of her worlds. So when she cancels on him because of a previous engagement, he makes his presence felt in her other life.

This one was a guilty pleasure. I enjoyed it in spite of myself. The problem was basically the hero, who was perilously close to being an alpha heel. Jordan's the typical "you are mine" insanely jealous hero, who suspects every interaction the heroine has with another man. That might work for me if he realizes he's being unreasonable and he apologizes after the fact, but I never felt that with Jordan. After he ran off a guy who'd come to return some money to Alyssa and accused her of practically prostituting herself, he did listen to her explanations, but his attitude wasn't "I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions. I'm sorry; I'll never do it again", but "I never again want to see a man giving you money. No wonder I thought what I did".

What didn't help this problem I had with the hero was that this book was written wholly from Alyssa's POV. We never saw anything from Jordan's, or rather, we saw one lousy paragraph from his POV. That was weird, actually. It wasn't even a particularly relevant paragraph. Anyway, if we'd seen what was going on in his mind, it might have been possible to forgive him some things. The way the book was written, no way.

Alyssa helped not make this a wall-banger. She forgave some attitudes she shouldn't have tolerated, but she wasn't usually a doormat.

What I liked about this book was its very original setting and plot. No cowboys and virgin brides here. In fact, it would have even been original for a single title, like many old, 1980s categories I've read. Plus, and this is why I call this one a guilty pleasure, on some level I do enjoy those heroes who just have to have the heroine. I prefer it when they are done in another way, but as always, there's something about JAK's writing that draws me in. Plus, I actually did sympathise with Jordan's frustration about being stuck being a weekend fantasy for Alyssa.

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>> Monday, January 27, 2003

I think I'm going to start keeping a list of the worse romance novel titles ever. Looking at someone's trade list, I found 3 examples of the worst the genre has to offer:

  • Millionaire Cop & Mom-to-Be, by Charlotte Hughes
  • The Sheik & The Virgin Princess, by Susan Mallery
  • The Millionaire's Pregnant Bride, by Dixie Browning
Aren't they awful? Unless I read a glowing review of them at someplace I trust, I wouldn't touch one of these with a 10-foot pole.

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All Night Long, by Michelle Jerott



The second book I read this weekend - and boy, am I glad I did - was All Night Long, by Michelle Jerott, now writing as Michele Albert.

A forever kind of guy tangles with a rolling stone kind of woman: On a hot July night in 1832, a young infantry officer disappeared. Almost 170 years later, the search for what happened to him -- and why -- draws Annie Beckett and Rik Magnusson together in a passionate affair. She tells herself she can't stay. He decides he won't let her go. Annie and Rik are determined to overcome the painful obstacles of their pasts to find happiness, but history is about to repeat itself as timeless constants of human behavior -- love and honor, friendship and rivalry -- threaten their fragile bonds of love and trust.
This one was a reread, but I didn't remember it was so great. I mean, I knew I'd liked it, but I didn't remember how utterly re-readable it was. Anyway, I just loved it, and it gets an A+.

This one's just the kind of book I prefer. It concentrates on the romance (no gun-wielding villains here), but still has a neat little mystery to add that "something extra" to the book. The characters are excellently drawn, and very likeable. Rik's been burned by his ex-wife but doesn't hate all women, and Annie has some issues with commitment, but this isn't drawn out too long.

Rik and Annie together are very believable. Their relationship progresses slowly, and never feels rushed. And those love scenes! Full of humor and laughter and very, very hot.

I found the storyline about Lewis, the lost infantryman, fascinating. I don't know if it was believable that it would have garnered that much media attention (though I wouldn't think so), but I liked it and Jerott made good use of it to show us more about Annie.

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Deception, by Amanda Quick

Ok, my reading last weekend: First, Deception, by Amanda Quick.

Although several generations have passed since Captain Ryder buried his treasure somewhere in the West Indies, the Flamecrest clan consider themselves to be dashing adventurers, worthy of carrying on the buccaneer tradition. All except for Jared. Jared is the businessman of the family and his relatives find him quite staid--useful only in petty matters like keeping them solvent.

When the Lightbourne diary, which contains clues to the location of the treasure, falls into the hands of Olympia Wingfield, Jared unromantically decides to purchase it instead of seducing the information out of her as his family urges.

But matters go awry when Jared meets Olympia--a self-proclaimed "woman of the world" who has lived most of her life in Upper Tudway. Attraction flares between them, and Jared promptly throws all thought of buried treasure out the window and does the first impractical thing of his life: he pretends he is the new tutor for Olympia's three nephews and installs himself in her chaotic household.

Nice book. Not her best, but a B+ none the less. The best thing here was Jared and how he worried that he was always the one rescuing other people and who was going to rescue him? I tend to go for these vulnerable heros... the uncomplicated alpha does absolutely nothing for me.

Olympia was the typical AQ oblivious bluestocking. I loved the dynamics of her relationship with Jared: he took care of business so that she had time to devote to her work. That implies a healthy respect for her work on his part, and this is something that's not too common in romance novels.

Extra points for the positive portrayal of homosexuality, and for the neat little mystery. However, I found it strange that Jared and Olympia decide not to go on the ship to look for treasure. Wasn't one of Olympia's dreams to travel the world?

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Another weekend at La Floresta, and this time we had wonderful weather. :-D I actually watched the sunset on Saturday from inside the sea. Next weekend I'm going back, but this time I'm going to the house my parents rented for the month. That means less packing, because for most of the bulky stuff (like towels, bathrobe, etc.), I'll have a duplicate there. I'll probably even leave some clothing there. I'm thinking I'll have to pack only a little backpack, half of it books.

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